My friend, Ken Ervin, was a skilled point man when serving with the Ivy Dragoons of the 4th Infantry Division. In this story, he relates a couple of unusual events that occurred while walking point on a mission. He also cites that his experience in recognizing an enemy trap prevented an ambush as befell his sister company a short distance away. In some units, squad leaders placed Cherries on point after only a couple of weeks in-country instead of using skilled and seasoned volunteers. How did your unit operate?
I served in the 3rd Battalion/8th Infantry/4th Infantry Division which operated from the Ia Drang Valley westward through the mountains between Dak To and the Cambodian Border.
On this particular operation, Bravo and Charlie companies remained about 500 meters apart while conducting recon patrols through an old French Rubber Tree plantation in Plei Ya Bo; I was walking point and leading the 3rd Platoon of Bravo company. The plantation was located within the single canopy of the Ia Drang Valley in the Central Highlands and held many secrets. As the point man, my responsibility was to count steps while watching the ground cover to my front for booby traps and signs of the enemy. My bud, George Talton, was always my #2 man behind me. His job was to help me count our steps, keep me moving in the right direction, and to scan the trees for snipers. Our group was a closely-knit one as George, me, and several others in the platoon completed Basic and AIT training together and arrived in-country at the same time. We had the utmost trust in one another. A sudden thought popped into my head…
Periodically, the NVA used a trail watching tactic where they would show themselves to our point man and then run from us in hopes that we’d chase them right into a larger units ambush. (Something similar occurred in the movie, We Were Soldiers…, when an LT ordered his platoon to chase after a single soldier after landing in the Ia Drang Valley and then getting trapped). Today was July 25, 1967, and soon, we’d encounter the famous 32nd NVA Regiment.
Huey Dustoff chopper retrieving our dead and wounded on 7/25/67
My recollection of what happened next had faded over the years so I did some research to see if it would help me remember. I went back and read our Chargers “after-action Report” – shown below, in part. Sure enough, a single platoon of “C” company fell for the ruse and was massacred after being led into an ambush.