May 29, 1966
Laugh, Then Weep
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Charles
Black, Enquirer military writer, is now in the field with troops of the
1st Cavalry Division in Viet Nam. His reports on the war in
Asia will continue daily in The Enquirer.)
By CHARLES BLACK
Enquirer Military Writer
BINH DINH - They came to him -
his friends - kneeling to hold his hand or pat him on the head.
Some hugged him and he mixed tears with laughter.
For PFC Dave Rose of Philadelphia, it was a day he will never
forget. And it was the climax of an ordeal which started at 2:15
p.m. May 15 on a mountain ridge near here in the rugged terrain of
South Viet Nam.
Rose was one of a squad of 1st Cavalry Division soldiers who had fought
a heroic battle against a Viet Cong platoon, and although outnumbered
three to one, the handful of GIs had kept the VC from surprising and
overrunning the rest of their company.
Rose’s squad lost heavily in the hand-to-hand battle - four men were
killed and only one escaped unhurt. Rose was wounded in the arm
and from 2:15 p.m. May 15 until 6:30 a.m. the next day his ability to
“play dead” kept him alive.
The Viet Cong searched his clothing and rolled his body about on the
ground. One of Rose’s buddies lay by him, also
wounded. He moved and the Viet Cong shot him.
Rose remained motionless until the VC left the battle area and then hid
until he was rescued by a patrol.
In the uneasy safety of the rear area, Rose sat quietly while his wound
was bandaged. His buddies looked on and then they touched him, as
if they couldn’t believe he was there. They were very tender and
very profane as they talked to him.
And Rose cried and grinned in turn.
The company of air cavalrymen had been engaged in a fight which led up
to the big battle to follow in “Happy Valley.”
Company B, Second Battalion, Eighth Cavalry, commanded by Capt. J. D.
Coleman, fought the VC for more than five hours before reinforcements,
under the command of Lt. Col. Rutland Beard, were flown to the scene in
CH47 Chinook helicopters.
The helicopters flew back to An Khe with the dead, wrapped in
ponchos and poncho liners. There were two rows of those who had
paid the price for a remote ridge in Viet Nam.
Rose was luckier than his poncho-covered comrades. He sat on a
muddy Vietnamese hillside and mixed tears with laughter.
And his friends were doing the same.