Alpha Co. – Feb 26, 1971
In early 1967 the Cu Chi basecamp and surrounding area was still growing and hardly a day went by without some contact with the Viet Cong. In most cases it was the Viet Congs 165th Regiment, one of the best of the enemy main force units. On Sunday night, 26 Feb (1967), the men of Alpha Company detected an unusual amount of activity in the woods. The two platoons of Alpha company had been conducting a routine mission providing security for units of the 65th Engrs. repairing a road which leads through the Filhol Plantation and past the village of Phu Hoa Dong. The defense that night was more or less drawn up in an arc facing north, with Alpha Company's 1st Platoon at the top or the north side, the 2nd Platoon on the right or the east, and the ARVN unit on the left, western side of the line. Within the protective semicircle were the engineers with their bulldozers and gasoline supplies and the company command post. Late that night the Viet Cong attacked. The assault, which was later termed as "human wave," began at approximately 12:30 a.m. when the enemy poured in mortar, rifle grenade and machinegun fire from several positions surrounding the platoons' perimeter.
Using Chicom Assault rifles, carbines and machine guns, the enemy force, 300 strong, charged the camp while the Manchumen fought from their bunker positions. The first wave fell to the claymore mines and machinegun fire, but were quickly reinforced. Enemy bodies later found inside the camp perimeter and just a few feet from the bunkers, gave evidence to the closeness of the enemy attack. Several machetes, and packets of narcotics were found on the ground near the enemy bodies. Artillery rounds from the 7th Bn., 11th Arty., landed within 25 meters of the camp perimeter warding off the brunt of the attack. Gunships from the 25th Avn. Bn., and the 116th Avn. Co., also lent support to the battle. Contact was finally broken at 1:15 a.m. when two platoons of reinforcements from the 3rd Sqdn., 4th Cav., and a platoon of Manchumen from Co. B, arrived on the scene. Air strikes were called in on the fleeing enemy. The action also netted captured documents, medical supplies, small arms ammunition and grenades.
Hundreds of mortars rounds , rifle grenades, re-coilless rifles, hand grenades were rained down on the besieged company. "A hell of a lot of it." according to Col. Frank Conaty, commander of the 1st Brigade, who helicoptered into the area at first light. "In my experience I've never seen as many rifle and hand grenades, just judging from the number of duds." Conaty waited an agonizing hour before sending a reserve unit to the rescue, fearing the attack on Alpha Company might only be a decoy for a major attack on division headquarters at Cu Chi, only a few miles away, and then only lightly protected since many of the units were engaged further north in the huge Junction City Operation. The fight went on, sometimes at a range of 10 feet, until nearly 5 a.m. First Sgt. Maximo Yabes ventured out and silenced a Communist machine gun that had been tearing up the command post, and was killed trying to get back. Capt. Yamashita, who had taken over the company less than a month ago, was hit by grenade fragments in the right arm and knee. He was bleeding badly but managed to keep control of the company, even when it mean crawling in and out of the bunker. Helping him call in the helicopter gun ships, air strikes and artillery support that saved the day was W-O John Lowe of Homestead FA, a helicopter pilot who had been in Vietnam only two weeks. He had decided to spend a few days with a rifle company to "find out just what kind of support I was supposed to give them." Lowe won a Silver Star for his bravery and accurate shooting with a borrowed M14 rifle.
The two platoons of Co. A, 4th Bn., 9th Inf., "Manchus" killed 92 Viet Cong, spoiling an estimated battalion-sized enemy unit from overrunning their position. One Viet Cong was taken prisoner and two more detained for questioning.
There were many instances of personal heroism that night, judging from the medals presented including the Medal of Honor, six silver stars, seven bronze stars, and the many purple hearts bestowed by Maj. Gen. Fred Weyand, the division commander.
Medal of Honor
The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to
Rank and organization: First Sergeant, U.S. Army,
Company A, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division.
Place and Date: Near Phu Hoa Dong, Republic of Vietnam, 26 February 1967.
Born: 29 January 1932, Lodi, Calif.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. 1st Sgt. Yabes distinguished himself with Company A, which was providing security for a land clearing operation. Early in the morning the company suddenly came under intense automatic weapons and mortar fire followed by a battalion sized assault from 3 sides. Penetrating the defensive perimeter the enemy advanced on the company command post bunker. The command post received increasingly heavy fire and was in danger of being overwhelmed. When several enemy grenades landed within the command post, 1st Sgt. Yabes shouted a warning and used his body as a shield to protect others in the bunker. Although painfully wounded by numerous grenade fragments, and despite the vicious enemy fire on the bunker, he remained there to provide covering fire and enable the others in the command group to relocate. When the command group had reached a new position, 1st Sgt. Yabes moved through a withering hail of enemy fire to another bunker 50 meters away. There he secured a grenade launcher from a fallen comrade and fired point blank into the attacking Viet Cong stopping further penetration of the perimeter. Noting 2 wounded men helpless in the fire swept area, he moved them to a safer position where they could be given medical treatment. He resumed his accurate and effective fire killing several enemy soldiers and forcing others to withdraw from the vicinity of the command post. As the battle continued, he observed an enemy machinegun within the perimeter which threatened the whole position. On his own, he dashed across the exposed area, assaulted the machinegun, killed the crew, destroyed the weapon, and fell mortally wounded. 1st Sgt. Yabes' valiant and selfless actions saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers and inspired his comrades to effectively repel the enemy assault. His indomitable fighting spirit, extraordinary courage and intrepidity at the cost of his life are in the highest military traditions and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
Alpha Company Casualties
Ovie Earcil Blankenship, E-3 - age 20
Harry Phillip Brightman, E-3 - age 24
Larry R. Butcher, E-4 - age 20
Vincent Junior Cannizzaro, E-3 - age 20
Robert Thomas Carnoske, E-3 - age 22
Bradley Chavis, E-4 - age 21
Theodore H. Davis, E-6 - age 32
Robert Leon Harvey, E-4 - age 19
Lynn Elmo Hunter, E-5 - age 22
Allan Harvey Katz, E-3 - age 20
Donald Eugene Madden, E-3 - age 19
Hugh John McCormack, E-4 - age 22
Arthur Alan Niedermeier, E-3 - age 21
Ray Nixon, E-5 - age 36
Matthew Theodore Orton, E-3 - age 23
Wayne Keith Sippey, E-3 - age 19
Richard Tomasini, E-3 - age 19
Jack Riley Trim, E-3 - age 24
Maximo Yabes, E-8 - age 34
Did South Viets Turn On Them? Did the friendly Vietnamese troops open fire on
American positions? Did the Vietnamese interpreter assigned to the company kill a U.S. platoon sergeant?