An eyewitness account of March 24, 1970
It was myself, Gary Omey (who was wounded) and another Sergeant in the back seat. I’m ashamed to say I don’t remember his name as we had just met at CACO and I believe he, too, was short and waiting to go home.
The CO, I believe, asked for volunteers to take a jeep and go medevac a baby who was very ill. Unfortunately myself and the other Sergeant, who were old timers and “Gungy,” volunteered. I’m not sure why Gary did except we were friends at the time. What I remember about that night follows your story.
We picked up the baby and her dad from the village. Gary was driving, I was in the passenger seat and the Sergeant was in the back seat with the Vietnamese. We were flying down Hwy 1 and nearly got back to CACO when (near a bridge in the distance, unknown name) all hell broke loose.
We received heavy RPG and gun fire from a rice paddy on the passenger side. Rounds were flying everywhere and we kept moving. I returned fire and I believe the Sergeant did also. It was so hectic I don’t remember. By the grace of God all the rounds went around me.
Unfortunately Gary was hit and, at the time, I didn’t know how the Sergeant or the Vietnamese were. Gary was hit so bad he couldn’t drive and had to stop. The bastards were still firing at us but I had to run around to Gary and help him into my seat because I sure didn’t want them to get us.
I got in the driver’s seat and drove like hell back to the CACO. When we arrived everyone met us and pulled Gary out. That’s when I found out the Sergeant was dead. The Vietnamese were unharmed. Gary was flown out and I haven’t heard anything about him since. I’m a little upset that I didn’t remember the Sergeant’s name but after reading your story I believe he was Sgt. Whitmer.
I didn’t consider myself “wounded” during this ambush. The Corpsman thought I was seriously wounded because I was covered with Gary’s blood. After he stripped off my clothes he discovered I only had small wounds on my right leg where pieces of the jeep had hit me when the rounds went through it. He wrote me up for a Purple Heart which I protested to no avail. I have two Purple Hearts in my record book. If asked, I tell people I have only one.
As far as the jeep, I think it had a canvas top on it and a radio was installed on the passenger side above the rear wheel well. I think the radio is what saved the Vietnamese. They were sitting next to it and Sgt. Whitmer was next to them. He must have been hit when he returned fire.
I looked at the jeep the next morning and there were bullet holes all along the passenger side and front. Gary was hit by rounds that went through the grille/hood area. You know on the M-151’s there was a little slide below the seat that you could use to move the seat forward or back? The one below my seat was shot completely off. There were bullet holes also down on the body panel where my feet would be. That must be where my leg got the pieces in it. The radio also was shot up. How I escaped being shot is beyond me. I only wish no one had been …