In April 1966, Sgt. Harry
Guenterberg watched Ltc Richard Prillaman tear a square of black cloth from a
table in a VC hut to make a sweat rag to go around his neck. That gave the commander an idea. American soldiers working in the tropic
climate of South Vietnam often wore green towels or cloths around their neck to
keep the flowing sweat under control.
Although the practice was “non-uniform” it was tolerated by
leaders. The village of Lo Go, that
Prillaman and his troops had just captured, harbored a large stash of black
cotton cloth, destine to be fabricated into black pajama Viet Cong uniforms. Ltc
Prillaman, commander of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry
Regiment, took the cloth and had it made into something useful, but
distinctive. The whole battalion would soon
sport uniform black neck scarves.
Someone suggested distinctive company embroidery and developed a color scheme to go with it: HHC - yellow, Company A - red, Company B - white, Company C - blue and Company D - green. So was born the Black Scarf Battalion. The battalion continued this tradition until they re-deployed to the United States in 1970. (From "2nd Infantry Regiment" by Larry Grzywinski, http://www.secinfreg.org/2nd%20Infantry%20Regiment%20for%20the%20web%20site(01162015).pdf)
|LTC Richard Prillaman. Prillaman went on to command an Armor Division during the 1980s. |
He retired as a LT General. Photo courtesy Stanley Richards.
|1/2 Infantry, Black Scarf soldiers clean thier equipment after an operation. |
Photo courtesy John Johnston
A Treasure Re-Found
Thirty one years ago I was new 2nd lieutenant getting ready to ship out to the First Infantry Division. The "Big Red One" had a storied history from WWI, WWII and Vietnam. I was very proud to have been assigned to that famous division.
Greg McMahon and Curtis Quickle, my best home town buddies, took me out for a last fling in Little Rock before I departed for Fort Riley, Kansas. At one of our stops, I ran into a gentleman who sported a First Infantry Division pin on his cowboy hat. Next to the division pin was a unit crest for the 1/2 Infantry - the battalion in the First Division where I was to be assigned!
I hailed him of course, and we struck up a great conversation. John Johnston had seen combat with the 1/2 Infantry in Vietnam. I got his address and we corresponded for several months after that. I felt truly humble, and privileged when he gave to me the Black Scarf that he wore in Vietnam and photos of himself taken in country.
I treasured those artifacts, but during one of my many military moves they were lost - or so I though. I mourned the loss of those items for many years, until they recently resurfaced when I found them tucked away in a long forgotten box.
This is the story of John Johnston and the Black Scarf Battalion at the Battle of Bong Trang, one of the fiercest battles of the Vietnam War.
|Photo courtesy of John Johnston|
|Lt James Holland. From: |
The fight turned into a close quarters slug fest. Only artillery support saved Mullen's force from being overrun. Mullen remembered later: "Until 2nd Lt Bruce Robertson, our forward observer was evacuated, he called for artillery fires on a continual bases, despite blood spurting from numerous wounds."
|From: Combat Operation: Stemming the Tide - May 1965 - October 1966. |
John M. Carland, Office of the Chief of Military History, Govt Printing Office
Now C Company and the cavalry needed to be rescued. The remainder of 1/2 Infantry was committed immediately and raced to the fight. Soon, the Brigade commander had all of his battalions moving to the NVA base camp. 1/16 Infantry, 1/26 Infantry, 2/28 Infantry and the remainder of 1/4 Cavalry were moving to the sound of the guns in a hasty attack.
Help was coming, but could Charlie Company hold out?