Oct 9, 1965

Black Says Viet Nam Battle ‘Brutal Hell’

 (EDITOR’S NOTE:  Enquirer military writer Charles Black is carrying out his assignment in Viet Nam, moving with the troops, sharing their hardships and writing about the combat soldier.  Following are excerpts from a personal note he wrote Ben Walburn, managing editor of The Enquirer, after accompanying American troops into battle east of An Khe.)

By CHARLES BLACK

Enquirer Military Writer

“I was out on that operation 15 miles east of here.  Pure old brutal hell.  I got on the wrong end.  I walked four days and am proud of doing it. . .We killed a lot of VC.  I got shot at. . . wet and tired, just like the rest of them. . .

“Your letters are heartening as the devil.  Thanks, I’m putting all words I can into stories as it is very hard to work here.  GIs have a work hut.  I have a box and a piece of a tent here with a bunch of radio, TV, and etc. reporters trying to read my notes to each other. . .

“I could beat all of them if I was cabling, Ben.  They wait like buzzards for set-ups.  I had that big battle taped for sure.  Only other guys near it were photographers.  Two guys covering the thing on each end with the troops could tear this country up for stories.  You put one with the assault, one in the blocking force.  If they had guts they’d have one every time!  You can see what I mean in the enclosed copy, the last columns. . .

(One of the columns referred to by Black will be found on Page 7 of today’s Enquirer.)

“We got two people killed last night 300 yards from here.  VC probed.  Army says VC threw grenade.  I know what happened.  One of our grenades hit a tree and bounced back.  Guys in next hole said that was it.

“I saw 120 tore-up VC three days ago.  Beautiful!

“We tore them up with artillery and air; they fought like hell man-to-man.  They put a grenade 20 feet from me and about five rounds of automatic fire into the ground by me on a night march we made to block a pass.  It is a poor way to spend your mellowing middle years. . .

 “I lost some good friends on this last thing.  A crew chief on a Chinook, Harry Truendale, was killed.  Major Dexter and Capt. Rawlings, both 101 (101st Airborne Division), drank coffee with me at 11 p.m. at the briefing and they were zapped on the LZ.

“I just intend to stay out in the brush, come in and write, and go back until I’m convinced the thing is written. . .

“Got to get busy - writing opportunities are too hard to get now to waste on letters, Ben.  It is pure luck to get a place out of the rain to run a typewriter.  The operations take three or four days usually and it has to be written as best I can until they get some tents up.  Twenty-five people stayed in this one last night.  You have a tough time concentrating with that much company.  I’ll see you.”

                                                                              Charlie

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