1st of the 2nd, The
Black Scarf Battalion
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
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.
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
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
I treasured those artifacts, but during one of my many
military moves they were lost - or so I though.
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
weren't culls on 25 August, 1966. C
Company and B Company were wiped out that day."
the peak of the Vietnam monsoon season, the 1st Brigade of the 1st Infantry
Division began a routine road clearing operation. Operation Amarillo, as it was called, was
intended to remove mines and IEDs along several roads in Binh Long and Binh
Duong Provinces. Most of the clearing
would occur along Highway 16 between Phuoc Vinh, the brigade base camp, south
to Di An, the division headquarters. The
first two days were uneventful. On the
night of August 24th, Capt William Mullen sent out a fifteen man patrol from C
Company, 1/2 Infantry. They were to stay
over overnight and listen for potential movement of enemy forces.
next day dawned clear, a respite from the monsoons.
The patrol soon walked into the middle of a North Vietnamese base camp, that until that time had remained undetected.
As the patrol realized their mistake, they
sent out an urgent call for help.
minutes half were dead and the survivors were fighting from abandoned NVA
Five hundred men of the Phu Loi Battalion
of the NVA army were swarming to the attack.
Only artillery fire called in on their own position by the patrol kept
the enemy at bay.
Pvt. John Johnston
of Little Rock, Arkansas was a baby faced 18 year old rifleman in C
Company. He, along with the remainder of
C Company and a platoon of the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment (1/4 Cav)
loaded on one M48 tank and seven M113 armored personal carriers and sped to the
rescue. As the relief force neared a
large clearing in the NVA camp, the enemey ambushed C Company.
|Photo courtesy of John Johnston|
Lt James Holland,
on his first combat operation as a platoon leader remembered, "When
we were about 400 meters from them all hell broke loose. We deployed off the
cav vehicles and we all returned fire. Our fire suppressed the VC and my
company commander told me to take an A Cav and a tank, mount my platoon and go
get the squad. We pulled out of the perimeter and headed for our objective.
When we were about 400 hundred yards out the company and the vehicles we left
were hit hard. I was ordered to return. As we turned the tank threw a track.
Because it would have taken to long under those conditions to repair it we had
to leave it. After destroying it we headed back in to the fight." Lt Holland was wounded and three of his vehicle
commanders were killed immediately as mortar and heavy machine gun fire tore
through the column. Casualties mounted
as C Company engaged the Phu Loi Battalion.
the leader of Troop C's 2d Platoon, Sgt. Wilbur J. Barrow, reported,
"Every time we tried to get out, we were hit by mortars and hand
grenades." As the commanders fell, Barrow continued, "privates were
taking command of the tracks and calling
me to ask for help. My answer to them was to pick up their wounded and
take salt pills and drink water, and pray, pray, pray! There was no help for
"We were in
their base camp and they wanted in and we didn't let them."
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."
continued to mount, and no one knew how long it would take for help to
arrive. Mullen recalled: "While
talking on the radio, I heard someone say, 'Charlie Six.' I looked up to see
Specialist Tommy Freese, the only man in his platoon who was not a
casualty. As bullets few all around,
Tommy stood in the open with a 60mm mortar on one shoulder and a sack of
ammunition on the other. 'Sir' he said.
'The fourth platoon is ready.
Where do you want me to shoot?' "
|From: Combat Operation: Stemming the Tide - May 1965 - October 1966. |
John M. Carland, Office of the Chief of Military History, Govt Printing Office
Pvt John Johnston
paints a vivid picture of the fight. "It was a bad day that burned
in my mind. 24 hrs of fear despair and
anger. We shifted around all day, trench
to trench. I used lots of grenades. There was a continuous roar. Gunpowder and the smell of soured blood. Powder burns on my arms from buddies
weapons. Hot rifle shells going down my
collar. Hot. I don't know how we survived."
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
Help was coming,
but could Charlie Company hold out?
Next time: Part two http://erasgone.blogspot.com/2012/11/with-black-scarves-at-bong-trang-part-2.html
i was with b company 1st platoon 2nd squad leader. we only had 2 squads which equaled 1 infantry squad. sgt. Rodriquez was 1st squad leader with 7 men while i had 5.ReplyDelete
THE 1/2 and 2/2 were not originaly the 1st infantry div. two battalions of armored infantry were left behind as they could not use apc in rice paddies. they stayed behind and the 1.2 and 2/2 went from fort Devins Ma. in there place as a spec 4 machine gunner in co b. 1st platoon i left with the rest for California and a leisure cruise to beatiful Vietnam. Harry Guenterberg. 1st plat. 2nd squad co b 1/2 inf.ReplyDelete
Mr. Guenterberg, thanks for your comment and for your service. I'm an old Infantryman, but never had the misfortune of being shot at (my service was between the wars). Even with my experiances in the 1/2 Infantry of my generation, I can never appreciate what you, John Johnston and the other men went through that day. "Duty First!"Delete
I was in the 1/2 black scarves bravo in 1977- 1979 God bless the Big Red One.ReplyDelete
Not in Vietnam, The Big Red One Colors came back home on March 17, 1970.. My tour Mar. 19, 1969 to Mar. 17, 1970Delete
Sir, thank you for your service. I was a couple of years behind you and served in the 1/2 Infantry from 1981-1984ReplyDelete
Dave Sexton here. I was a machinegunner with the squad that first made contact with the enemy. A day that will I will never forget as long as I live. GOD bless all of you and welcome home to all of you that made it.ReplyDelete
Dave, my neighbor was in C Co during this battle as well....his name is Robert Graber....it would mean the world to me if I could help him reconnect with his friends....please feel free to contact me at email@example.com , I am currently active duty army and have been in for almost 16 years and after 4 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan I know all too well the bond that is made in combat between brothers in arms.Delete
Dave, thanks for your comment and your service. Every veteran of Bong Trang that I have communicated with shares your feelings of that day. It was a turning point in the lives of many of the survivors in that they measure their lives from before and after August 25, 1966.ReplyDelete
I was with the 1/4 Cav in '77 at Ft. Riley.That would explain the pride that they showed. Also the need for constant training and field exercises. I transferred out and wished I never had.ReplyDelete
I was on point when call came in , c,co. was in trouble i was with aco we circle around the other side as a blocking force , we set up a line to were the nva were at ,there was one tank side had run in a bonker ,apc was off to the right side just wanted to let b co & cco that they were not alone E4 james holland Aco 1/2 1inf div.ReplyDelete
My name is Raymond Davis, I have served in the Army for 16 years as of now.....I have the distinct honor of having one of the brave men who fought in this battle for a neighbor....I don't know that he would comment on here himself but it would mean the world to me and I am sure him if there was anyone reading this from Charlie Company could contact me. I would love to help him reconnect with any old friends. ....having served 4 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan myself I know all to well that the bond made in combat is one of the most sacred. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.orgReplyDelete
Mr Davis, thanks for your comment and your service. Many of the men that survived August 25th frequent a Facebook page devoted to the 1st BN, 2nd Infantry, including John Johnston and Harry Guetenberg I suggest you join that page and introduce yourself. Hopefully this link will work. https://www.facebook.com/groups/213786211704/ReplyDelete
Thank you so very muchDelete
Dracula Alpha Kilo here.ReplyDelete
I also was a Black Scarve in 1966/67.
Spec 4 Hanson
My dad served in c.Company 1/2 Ramrods black scarf battalion.1966 his name is Volney Purser, he is from Oklahoma.Delete
Dracula Alpha Kilo here.ReplyDelete
I also was a Black Scarve in 1966/67.
Spec 4 Hanson
My dad was in C. Co. 1/2 Ramrods black scarves at phuc Vinh in 1966.Delete
Anyone know spec 4 John Francis Doyle? 1/2. He was KIA in Bong Trang. He was my cousin. I served in the Gulf War. C/101. The 1/4 Cav ang 26th was with is my Guard platoon was assigned to C/101. I also was a medic in 2/102inf 71-76.ReplyDelete
Anyone know Spec 4 John Francis Doyle 1/2? He was KIA in Bong Trang. He was my cousin. I am a Gulf War vet. My Guard platoon served with. C/101 1st ID. The 1/4 and 16th were with us also. I also served as a medic in 1971-77 in 2/102inf.ReplyDelete
Any know Sgt Lewellyn Bragdon he fought and was injured during the Battle of Bong Trang. 1/4 Cav 26th. I have an article written about him from that day. Thanks to all serve and have served, may God bless youReplyDelete
Looking for anyone that might have known,or remember's my uncle..ReplyDelete
Johnny Paul Grissom
Black Scarf Co.D. 1/2
was KIA March 8 1969 in a ambush.
He would have been Mostly remembered for him Love
of singing and Playing his Guitar.
Nick named Johnny Cash. My info. E-mail Moma.d1968@yahoo, thank, Nancy Denise Grissom Griffin
I was the senior medic for C co on 25 aug 1966 I would like to hear from all the men who were there that day,my E MAILS were lost.ReplyDelete
My dad was charlie Co.1/2Delete
. Phuoc Vinh base camp 1966
I was the senior medic for C Co all my E Mails were lost would like to hear from men who I fought withReplyDelete
that day I was hit twice that day
Hello, I was in Vietnam 12/67 to 12/68. I was in bravo company 1/2 black scrafs.ReplyDelete
I was there at the same time. Company BDelete
I was in B 1/2 Oct66 to Oct67 I was Nov 6 kilo third platoon my last name was E.Simmers god bless you allReplyDelete
I was there at that time with B Company 1/2 Jan 66-Jan 67ReplyDelete
i was in b company 0ct 66-67 rto for 3rd plt dan storns, rto nov 6 kilo clarence eugene simmers.. anyone out there? dan storns was kia on july 18,67Delete
Alpha co then bravo 2nd platoon 1/2 inf july 67. _ JUNE 68ReplyDelete
I'm Edward Anthony (Tony) - "A" Co. 1st. Platoon 1/2 (Feb.'66 - Feb. '67) I was point-man for A Co. when we went into get the rest of the Bn. out on 1/4 horse Tracks. I was on that lead track and blown off when it caught a mortar round in the open hatch behind me. Hit a tree with my head, woke up in the middle of the night, found two guys from the BN. (don't remember any names of unit) one died during the night and the two of us were found by 1/16th. I think. (Just not sure) evac. to 3rd. field Hosp. in Saigon. Was back to A Company sometime in the middle of Sept. Went back to our 4 man team (Recon/Advance point/romad) till rotation in Feb. '67...ReplyDelete
I PCS Served 76-79 1st Platoon 1/2 Black Scarves Bravo Co.ReplyDelete
2nd attempt to post. My father in law was in B 1/2. A M60 gunner. Was wounded by an RPG at some point. May have been there for a few tours?? . Oscar Byrd. Often went by Kenny. From Ohio.ReplyDelete