A Day in the Field
By Robert “Bob” Kickenweitz
It was a typical day of 90 plus degrees with thunder showers every two to three hours. We were beating the bush looking for Charlie or as some of us called him Mr. Charles, in an area known as the Ho Bo Woods, located in Binh Duong Province, Vietnam. We were also providing security for the 984th Land Clearing Company that was clearing the area with Rome Plows. As the 984th clearing operations continued we started to receiving machine gun, mortar, RPG’s and small arms fire from the enemy in the uncut area of the field. We called in 155mm howitzer fire to the area, after the artillery fire mission had ended, F troop made an assault in to the area but was repelled. A second artillery mission had to be called in, F troop made another assault in to area only to have three ACAVs and a Sheridan tank disabled for their afford. Only after a third artillery mission was fired, F troop was able to go in and retrieve the disabled vehicles, as darkness was starting to set in. I was a gunner with F Troop, 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, my name is Bob Cadmus.
It was the 28th of May, 1971, we had just gotten the word to head for the NDP (Night Defensive Position) that we had been using for the last week or so. It had two circular berms one inside the other. We had the Rome Plows in the inner circle for their protection, and E and F troop’s vehicles were positioned in the outer circle along with a Reconnaissance Company of the 25th ARVN Division. After resupplying our munitions and fuel, and checking our weapons, we settled in for the night. No choppers had flown out to our NDP, which meant no hot meals tonight, and no mail call, so we pasted around the “c” rations and if we had them “cigarettes,” you could light them up. Everybody knew what the deal was as to who would be on watch, and at what time.
At approximately 2100 hours the area came alive very quickly as we started to take incoming enemy mortar fire. This was the fifth night in a row and by far the worst that we received at this NDP. One of the first rounds hit the vehicle next to my track wounding all of the crewmembers and starting a fire in that vehicle. One man was in the track which at this time was now on fire and threatened to set off the explosives stored inside. I jumped from my track and entered his vehicle extricated him. I then carried him to the aid station our medics were setting up. Mortar rounds were coming down all around us like rain from a heavy thunder storm. The man had received shrapnel wounds, severe burns and was in a state of shock. One of our medics Gustaf Bernt asked, “Are there any other injured men over there?” I said, “Yes” and with that we both ran back to the track which was now totally consumed in flames. Enemy mortar rounds were still bursting all around our positions as we made it back to the other men of the track. Gustaf started administering first aid to the other three men immediately, while I reassured the men that they would by okay. As Gustaf finished up on each man I brought them over to the aid station to be picked by a dust-off chopper.
After everything settled down and the adrenaline subsided, I pulled out a cigarette, and lit it up. I sat down beside my track, looked around as men started clearing the area and thought to myself, “I helped save one man’s life tonight and helped three others get to safety, it was a pretty good night’s work.” Unfortunately, we found out the next day that the man I pulled from the burning vehicle, SP/4 Joseph Esparza, expired in the dust-off on the way to the med-e-vac hospital. It’s a tough day when you lose one of your own.P.S. From the writer, various people who have witnessed Bob’s lack of fear, and how he compromise his own safety in an effort to save his fellow soldiers, have written statements calling for him to receive the award of the Silver Star. Unfortunately, due to missing paperwork in a time of war or the powers that be didn’t think his efforts justified him receiving the Silver Star. He has never received any commendation for his actions. Whatever the answer may be, I would gladly serve beside this man.