The Story of Team 1-5 (This story also appears in the back section of I Served)Patrols # 195 and 196. Operation Toan Thang II.Story submitted by Les Ervin, with additional information from Dave DeShazo, Henry Bonvillain, and Bill Houser. Edited by Don and Annette Hall.Team 1-5 and 2-2 were inserted late in the evening on 12 August 1968, near the Vam Co Dong River in Cu Chi. Teams 2-2 and 1-5 had worked in tandem before so the teams worked well together. What happened to teams 1-5 and 2-2 is chronicled in this story:On 12 August 1968 at 1435 hours, recon team 1-5 was inserted with five men. Sergeant Richard Diers, their regular team leader, was on R&R, so Spec-4 Hendrickson was substituting for him on this mission. He reported a secure insertion and they laid dog. Two hours later, they moved to their POI (point of interest).At 1626 hours, team 2-2 was inserted. Team members were team leader Sergeant E-5 Dave L. DeShazo, assistant team leader Spec-4 Henry Reed Bonvillain (the old man in the team at twenty-seven years of age), rear security Spec-4 Les W. Ervin, point man Spec-4 Steve J. Miles, and on the M-60 machine gun, Spec-4 Mack J. Henderson. Both teams were situated close to one another and their mission was to monitor the river. At 1646 hours, Spec-4 Hendrickson, team 1-5’s team leader, announced over the radio, “Contact!” Moments later, radio contact was lost. Team 1-5 had moved into a bunker complex near the LZ where an estimated thirty-five to forty heavily armed NVA, dug in and waiting, had met the team with heavy volume fire from AK-47s, light machine guns, and SKSs. Team leader Hendrickson, the RTO, and the point man had been killed immediately. One man from team 1-5 was finally heard on the radio. He reported that only he and one other man were still alive. He had fought forward to the dead RTO to retrieve the radio. He was a new man in the company and had received very little training prior to being put out in the field. As a result, in the heat of battle, he couldn’t remember what team he was on or where they were. This young man fought courageously and desperately to save what was left of the team, relaying over the radio what information he could. Team 2-2, just half a klick away from team 1-5, was situated in a large artillery crater that had taken out part of a dike. The crater, deep enough and big enough to hold the entire team, separated them from a river that was about 25 to 30 meters across. Team member Steve Miles had spied a docking area across the river from the team. They relayed their find to TOC and requested Aloft to fly over and give them exact coordinates in case they needed to call in air or artillery support. Shortly thereafter, they relayed that they heard team 1-5’s firefight and requested to go to the team’s aid. LTC Joseph Zummo denied their request and ordered team 2-2 to remain in place. Team leader Dave DeShazo had already ordered his men to pull in their claymores and prepare to move out. Sergeant DeShazo ordered his team to redeploy their claymores and trip flares, and, reluctantly, they stayed where they were. They all sat in stunned silence listening to the murderous firefight five hundred meters away with a sense of hopelessness and sorrow for their brothers from the first platoon.While team 2-2 stayed in place in their artillery crater, W.O. Gary Lucas, piloting one of the support Cobra gunships, arrived and opened fire with his rockets and mini-guns on the enemy near team 1-5, driving the VC and NVA from their bunker systems. A reactionary force of thirteen men from F Company filled up two slicks and were inserted to assist team 1-5, followed by a reactionary company from D Troop, 3/17th Cavalry. Sergeant Bill “Teacup” Houser, one of the men from F/51st who was the first to hit the ground, found his best friend, Willie Whitfield, Jr., a member of team 1-5, dead. At 1745 hours, F Company’s reactionary force was extracted while D Troop, 3/17th Cavalry, cleaned up the enemy that still remained. The results of this disastrous mission were three U.S. killed in action and one seriously wounded, who died the next day. Only one man survived the mission. At his debriefing, he described what had happened to team 1-5. Most of the men of F/51st wanted to shake his hand and say goodbye, but never got the chance. According to military standard operating procedure, the one surviving man, whose name is unknown because he was so new to the unit, was transferred to another unit. The men never had a chance to get to know the man, and wonder to this day what became of him.After what was left of team 1-5 was rescued by the F Company reactionary force and by D Troop, 3/17th Cav, team 2-2 remained in the field. Still mourning the loss of team 1-5, team 2-2 continued their mission. Steve Miles, a strong swimmer, took it upon himself to swim across the river carrying several pounds of C-4, wiring, and blasting caps. Miles buried the explosives at the docking site across the river and swam back to the team. He reported fresh Ho Chi Minh sandal tracks on the river’s bank. Accompanied by Henry Bonvillain and Dave DeShazo, Miles went back out to reconnoiter the area across the river. They observed a huge enemy bunker system beyond the landing dock area. The voices of Vietnamese soldiers inside the bunker complex sounded like a hornet’s nest of activity underground. DeShazo, a devout religious man, knew he had some tough choices to make in the ensuing hours. Later that night, team 2-2 heard laughter and Vietnamese voices across the river. Flashlights flickered as if a party were going on. The team heard Vietnamese voices calling back and forth to one another as they approached from down the river, paddling in multiple sampans toward the docking area. The Vietnamese were in high spirits and were celebrating what they had done to the Lurp team earlier that day. They thought they were secure and were talking out loud and yelling to one another. Meanwhile team 2-2 was preparing in the dark. The team observed and heard numerous NVA moving down to the landing dock across the river to greet their approaching comrades. Their laughter and talking continued to echo loudly across the river.Les Ervin, overwhelmed by everything that had happened that day, began to cry quietly when the team heard the voices and laughter. Les’s thoughts went back to his nightmare experience on Hill 875 in DakTo. He heard in his mind the unforgettable and utterly overwhelming noise of battle, punctuated by the screams and wailing of hundreds of dying and wounded men. The tremendous din of modern warfare cannot be easily described. To Les, the only analogy he could think of to describe what he heard on Hill 875 during those five days of hell was to compare it to the sound of a thousand roaring locomotives. Henry Bonvillain, the oldest man in the team, was like a father to Les. He talked calmly to Les, asking him if he was all right with the plan. They were, after all, on recon, not on ambush patrol, and didn’t have to do what they were preparing to do. Les Ervin regained control of his emotions and prepared himself mentally for combat. He came to grips with the fear and said to Sergeant DeShazo, “You can count on me, Dave.” The anticipation of combat is the hardest part. Once engaged, an eerie calm overtakes an experienced soldier, which quite literally is the body preparing to deal with possible wounds or death. It is a surreal time only a few men will ever know.At 2008 hours, team 3-7, positioned north of team 2-2, reported another large boat heading toward team 2-2’s position.At 2018 hours, team 2-2 reported another sampan passing their position. DeShazo let the boat pass and waited for the possible landing of a sampan at the dock across from the team’s position. The team laid low and waited, shivering in the cold rain that had begun to fall. The team members quietly said their prayers; moist hands gripped their weapons; hearts beat hard inside their chests. They took their dextroamphetamines and codeines to get their bodies ready to deal with whatever was coming. The waiting is the hardest, when each man performs his own internal gut-check and wonders if he’ll be brave or a coward. The jungle noise grew steadily louder with each passing minute.Sergeant Dave DeShazo quietly and calmly went over the plan with the team again. “Throw the grenades after you’ve counted to three-one-thousand. Don’t open fire until we absolutely have to.” Everyone knew what they had to do. When it came to hurling grenades, it would be good old American baseball-thawing skills that would send the grenades unerringly to their targets.At 2330 hours, the team heard more Vietnamese voices across the river. Team 3-7 alerted team 2-2 that there were four large sampans with four to five NVA soldiers in the boats heading toward the team. Flashlights wielded by the enemy across the river flickered over the team’s position. The C&C and Spooky (aka Puff the Magic Dragon) were gearing up off in the distance. WO Gary Lucas, in charge of the three Cobra gunships that were preparing to move out, got his men ready with their game plan. LTC Joseph Zummo was sober this night and was getting ready to do his job.At 0003 hours, team 2-2 set about to ambush the approaching twenty NVA and called the C&C ship, which was now flying high overhead. The four sampans on the river docked and were greeted with cheers and laughter by the NVA onshore. They were so happy over their victory earlier in the day and were cheering each other. As the sampans docked across from the team, flares were dropped from the C&C slick over team 2-2’s position. As the first flare lit up the night sky, the NVA were starkly illuminated in a weird tableau of immobility as they were caught in their vulnerable positions out in the open, at the landing dock. Hands still waving to each other, flashlights flickering, the enemy was caught in the unworldly glare. Just as a deer freezes in shock the moment it’s caught in the glare of oncoming headlights, the enemy froze, just for an instant. Before they had time to think or to act, Team 2-2 acted.Sergeant Dave DeShazo whispered over the radio, “Charlie, 2-2, contact.” Dropping the radio handset to the ground he stood up in the center of the bomb crater and fired his M-79 at the cluster of stunned and confused NVA in the four large sampans and at the landing dock. He scored a direct hit on one of the sampans, blowing it in half, sending bodies hurtling into the water. The enemy soldiers, still confused and in shock, were trying to figure out what had just happened. Then the second M-79 round blew apart another sampan. This galvanized the enemy and they began to return fire. What they received in response was another killing blow. Like many American boys with throwing arms strengthened by years of playing baseball, the Lurps could accurately throw a grenade a long distance. To give the enemy no time to react when the grenades hit, the team pulled the pins and first counted to three-one-thousand before unleashing a deadly fusillade into and around the throng of panic-stricken enemy soldiers. The NVA could do nothing but watch in utter confusion as grenades splatted in the mud all around them and then immediately exploded. Spec-4 Steve Miles blew the C4 charges he had hidden in the riverbank. The enemy that hadn’t been killed outright staggered away from the blast, heading into the water, trying to get away, returning fire.The gunships swooped into the panicking NVA and caused eight secondary explosions with their first gun runs over the enemy and the sampans.Sergeant Dave DeShazo ordered the team to blow their claymores and move to the LZ. After the claymores blew, an enemy soldier crawled over the lip of the bank on the team’s side of the river and moved toward Steve Miles. Les Ervin swung around and shot the NVA in the chest full auto. The last two rounds from Ervin’s M-16 were red tracers, which alerted the enemy across the bank to the team’s location. It was too late for the hapless NVA. The six-man team opened up on the enemy with everything they had. Spec-4 Mack Henderson exhibited his strength, manhandling the Pig (M-60), firing short, quick, deadly bursts.His five teammates opened up with semi-automatic M-16 fire that tore into the enemy. The enemy corpses filled the river’s bank and floated downstream. Gary Lucas’s Cobra gunships roared in, diving in on the enemy from all directions. The distinct burping of their mini-guns sent a tremendous hail of death into the enemy, blowing them to pieces. The radio had stopped working during all the chaos, but team was able to get it operating again and directed the gunships with trip flares thrown from their bomb crater. The Cobra gunships ran in protective circles around the team, firing at the enemy. The enemy was closing fast on the light team only to be stopped by the firepower from the team and the gunships. The gunships soon expended all their ammo and fuel, and the team was preparing for a final stand in the bomb crater when the voice of Smoky, the U.S. Air Force C-47 gunship high above in the darkness, greeted the team, “2-2, this is Smoky. I have 45,000 rounds for you. Where do you want it?”Sergeant DeShazo pulled his strobe light out, turned it on and stuck it in the barrel of the M-79. He handed the weapon to Les Ervin and instructed him to hold it up as high as he could. With AK-47 rounds cracking all around the team, Les thrust the M-79 barrel skyward so Spooky, high above, could fix their location in order to avoid hitting the team in the barrage that was to come. The enemy was closing in fast on the team in their position at the bottom of the bomb crater. “Smoky, 2-2. Strobe is my position. How copy, over?” DeShazo spoke into the radio.“2-2, Smoky. The strobe is the good guys, Good copy. Get your heads down, 2-2.”The team members heard the Vietnamese screaming and shouting orders to get the team on the other side of the river. The NVA were moving in and the Lurps were getting low on ammo. Ervin and the team members could hear the NVA running toward them, AK-47s blazing. The team cut loose with their final burst, screaming back at the North Vietnamese regulars, “This is for team 1-5, mother fuckers!” The team dropped down flat into the crater and covered their heads just as the barrage from Spooky’s mini-guns spewed thousands of rounds all around the beleaguered team, slaughtering the enemy.When the battle was over and the gunships had returned home, LTC Zummo, high above in the C&C ship, instructed Spooky to drop flares to illuminate the site. He contacted the team and instructed them to search the riverbank and canal area for wounded and not leave anyone alive. He said he wanted a body count. The five men crawled out of the muddy bomb crater and searched among the bodies on the battlefield. Zummo wanted his body count and his ranting insistence for exact statistics continued over the radio. The team counted twelve dead enemy on their side of the river. Four wounded enemy were found and immediately killed. The team started to take fire from somewhere across the canal, so Sergeant DeShazo forced everyone back into the bomb crater. Zummo called from the C&C ship asking again for body count. DeShazo responded over the radio that it wasn’t safe exposing his men for the sake of an actual body count. Zummo insisted that the team get a body count and collect any weapons and documents they could find. DeShazo angrily replied to Zummo, “If you want a body count or any fucking thing else, you can get your fucking chickenshit ass down here and do it yourself! We’re almost out of ammo and if we don’t get picked up NOW we may be overrun at any time. There are bunkers, tunnels, and gooks everywhere!”Zummo finally acquiesced and ordered the slicks to pick up the team. “2-2, this is control. Mark position while en route to LZ, guns will cover your movement. Slicks inbound ‘hot’ in 05 mikes. How copy, over?”DeShazo responded, “Control, this is 2-2 team. Marked with strobe light. Good copy, out.”At 0120 hours, team 2-2 crawled out of the muddy bomb crater. Les Ervin blew his remaining claymore. He climbed up the slippery side of the bomb crater, but slipped and fell backward, landing headfirst in the muddy water. Spent ammo cartridges bobbed all around him as Henry Bonvillain pulled him out, laughing, telling Les he had done all right. The team ran the 50 meters to the waiting slick, which was racing toward the LZ with guns blazing. The slick flared, touched town and the team leapt aboard. The slick was airborne again in seconds and took them home. None of them could believe they had made it out alive. Only one of them had been wounded— Dave DeShazo with a piece of shrapnel in his right leg. The men returned to the company area and were greeted by the whole company of jubilant men. The men had all been monitoring the radios, listening to everything that had been happened to team 2-2. They helped the team carry their equipment and what was left of their ammo, and congratulated them for doing such a great job. At first light the following morning, D Troop, 3/17th Cavalry made a combat assault into the site of team 2-2’s battle. They found three wounded enemy, whom they took prisoner, and counted forty dead VC/NVA. LTC Zummo had his body count and team 1-5 was avenged.