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Steve Houghton's 71St LRP and M Co 75th Ranger Site
The Fallen
Christmas Day 1968
The road to becoming a LRRP
The Fallen
Unit History
Individual Member Photo Album.
Then and Now
More Photos
Mystery Photo Album
Firebase Barbara Memories
Rick Del Prince's Story
Robert Smalinckas's page.
Things we learned in the Army.
Related Military Links
Contact Me
A Letter Home
Rick Wintermute's Page
Sgt Bill Juechter's Page

"No one has greater love than this, that someone should surrender his life in behalf of his friends" John 15:13

Now those words were spoken by Jesus and recorded by the apostle John. They apply to Jesus. His love for mankind is demonstrated by his life he gave in sacrafice to save us all. No greater act of love can be demonstrated. Nothing we do can compare to that. The deaths of the men listed below, cannot compare to that. Now that being said, the point I'm trying to make is, that there can be "some" comparison. Bear with me.

The loss of someone dear to us, especially in battle is devasting. We try to find meaning in the loss. Survivors want to know what happened. They often seek details to help them make sense of it all. The details are often confusing at best, and may never be completely known or understood.

Every name that appears on a monument or a casuality list somewhere represents a broken or crushed family. To find comfort or condolence is impossible it seems, especially with this war, Vietnam. The fact is we lost this war. Thats makes it even harder to find meaning. The reasons for the loss, will be debated for a long time. The right or wrong of it all, will be debated just as long. Lets take that out if it for now. How the men who died got where they did is as varied as those men themselves. We were young, naive, and certainly inexperienced. We were drafted, we joined up, we caught got caught up. It doesn't matter, we were there. Then we made friends. An author, who I can't remember by name right now, once said that soldiers don't fight and die for their country, they fight and die for their friends.
The dead from the 71St and M Co did not die alone, without friends. They died because they wouldn't let their friends down. We were all in this together. You got off the boat, or chopper, or whatever, and advanced into harms way....because your friends had to......and you weren't going to let them down. There is something of value here. Take the right or wrong of the war out of the issue, and recognize the character of the men who wouldn't let their friends down, wouldn't let them go or be alone in this awlful mess. Rick Del Prince asks why, in his story, Ron Hammerstrom charged down the trail firing his 45 at the enemy after they made contact that December day in 1967. I suspect Rick, he was trying to save his friends. I suspect he loved his friends. And that, in and of itself, has some value in the sight of God.

So with that thought in mind, we will list our lost friends.

SSG Robert Williams Oct 27, 1967
SSG Robert Carmody Oct 27, 1967
SGT Stephen Jones Oct 27, 1967
CPL Linden Brooks Oct 27, 1967
CPL John Turk Oct 27, 1967

SP/4 Ronald Hammerstrom Dec 7, 1967

SP/4 Neal Smith Sept 6, 1969

SSG Robert Oaks Nov 11, 1969

Spec 4 Ron Hammerstrom
Ron lost his life December 7, 1967

In time I hope to post some details about the individuals above who lost their lives while serving in our unit. Obviously the first five died together. Almost a whole team. I don't know the details. I've heard rumor. Rick Del Prince talks about a team who had their claymores turn on them. I've heard that story from two different members of our unit. Jack Fuche has told me a similair version. There must be some truth to it.

Ron Hammerstrom's death is mentioned in Rick Del Prince's story. He lost his life on a training mission.

The last two men listed were M Company Rangers. I don't know anything about their deaths.

Somewhere in the area of 337 Lrrp, Lrp, Rangers, lost their lives in Vietnam. Some units lost as few as 5, while some of the other larger units lost as many as 52. It could be argued that the 71St - M Co Rangers did pretty good, only losing eight......but that was eight to many.

A complete list of KIA's by unit can be found in Gary Linderer's books, "Phantom Warriors" I and II. I got these names and dates from his book.

The following is copied from a publication entitled "Definitions of Valor". Jack Fuche gave it to me. He said he got it from the people who keep the "Redcatcher" web site. It's about the team that suffered five KIA's in October 1967. It reads.

On October 27, 1967 a six man team from the Long Range Patrol Detachment of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade was to remain in an area controlled by the Viet Cong in Gia Dinh Province near Saigon. Because the patrol had encountered two Viet Cong the previous night, Private First Class LaFon and his fellow team members volunteered to remain in the area to determine if they had discovered a Viet Cong infiltration route. During daylight hours they were to observe enemy activity and at nightfall to establish a clandestine surveillance position. At 2115 hours the patrol leader reported by radio that the enemy could be heard moving in the vicinity. As the insurgents approached their position, the patrol leader requested a concentration of artillery fire. Suddenly the enemy using grenades, small arms fire and claymore mines attacked the six men. During the attack, Private First Class LaFon was dazed by the explosion of a hand grenade. By the time he regained consciousness, the Viet Cong had withdrawn, four of his fellow members were mortally wounded, the fifth man was grievously wounded, and the radio communication equipment was damaged. After administering first aid to the man still alive, he collected the radio equipment, starlight scopes, weapons, and the patrol logbook. For over nine and one half hours, Private First Class LaFon calmly comforted his dying comrade as the Viet Cong moved around his position. At daylight, as the gunship helicopter flew overhead, he signaled with a flare. After the mortally wounded Sergeant was evacuated, Private first Class LaFon refused evacuation until the bodies of his comrades were removed. His voluntary actions and exemplary devotion to duty earned him the respect of all with whom he served.

This account was obviously written by a Army public relations type. The expressions and phrases indicate that.

It's unlikely the enemy would withdraw without finishing the job. And just how does one get attacked with claymores in an situation described as such?
It's not like you run forward, place your claymores, run back and then blow them!

The mention of claymores is interesting to note though, it gives credibility to the turned claymore account that has been mentioned earlier. The team probably had them turned on them in the night, and when the Viet Cong staged an attack...the men blew their own claymores on themselves. That could explain the enemy not finishing off the remaining team member, thinking the job was already done. It explains all the warnings we heard about watching that your claymores were not turned on you. I remember those warnings repeated again and again, when I got there over a year after this happened.

This explanation is not ment to detract in anyway from the loss of this team, or the courage show by LaFon. Private LaFon surely had to have spent one long lonely night out there waiting to die, or for daylight, whatever came first.