Air-Cav Meets Iron-Cav

By David E. Wright

K Troop, 1966, M Co, 1966-67, M Co, 1968-69

In February 1969, I was serving my second tour of Vietnam with M Company, 3rd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry. One day we were informed that we would be moving out to support the 1st Cavalry Division near the Song Be bridge. The only route into the area was along a two-lane concrete highway that the jungle had overtaken. We only had a well trodden footpath to follow. About two and a-half miles from the LZ that we were going to, the lead tank hit a mine. It was damaged, but repairable, so we towed the tank on into the LZ. As we arrived at the LZ we were greeted by several "Sky-soldiers." They offered us cold beer and sodas, which we gladly accepted, and a friendship was quickly formed.

Later that day I was informed that myself and the Platoon SGT were to set up a mounted ambush on the road to Song Be bridge. We moved into position and were setting up our claymores when a platoon of "Sky-soldiers" came by. They were setting up an ambush patrol in front of my position. I asked them if they still wanted me to set out the claymores and they okayed it. A few minutes later, a couple of the men from the platoon came up to my tank and asked if I could spare some water. They said they only had a couple of canteens to fill and would only fill them half way. I told them to bring all of their canteens and fill them completely up. When I informed them that I had eight, five gallon cans of water, they ran back to get the remainder of the canteens. I asked them if the wanted some C-rations to go with their LRRP's and they quickly agreed, especially when they found out that I had sixteen cases on board my tank. I was told by the patrol leader to sleep good that night because they were going to make sure that I was covered all night.

The offer didn't last long because I heard on the radio that the "Thunder Run" to the bridge had been hit while it was returning to the LZ. The Platoon SGT and I were the closest to the ambush site and immediately pulled out to make the run to the ambush site. As we were in route, we heard that some of the "Sky-soldiers" on board had been wounded and needed to be evacuated. The one vehicle in the "Thunder Run" did not have enough firepower to cover an LZ for the med-evac. As the Platoon SGT and I rolled into the ambush zone, we started firing everything we had. We slowly moved and fired until he was on one side of the track and I was on the other. As night was falling rapidly, we called for the "Dust-off" and provided cover for the wounded to be evacuated. We remained in position all night. The next morning, the "Sky-soldiers" sent out a recon team to check the area. Our tank guns had cleared an area about two hundred yards off the road. The recon team found blood trails and signs that bodies had been dragged off. Nothing else happened after the ambush and the remainder of the days with the "Sky-soldiers" went by pretty quickly. As our tank company departed the LZ, the Cav waved a sad farewell. We would later work with the "Sky-soldiers" out of Quan Loi, An Loc and Phouc Phen.

The friendship that was developed at Song Be may never be rekindled as strong as it was then, but I can still see the looks on the faces of the soldiers that I gave water and C-rations to. They could not believe that I had so much on board my tank. They soon realized that my tank was my home away from home, my ruck-sack, my sleeping quarters, and my foxhole to fight from, all rolled into one. I'll never forget those "Sky-soldiers". In 1993, I met some of those "Sky-soldiers" at the 1st Cavalry Division Reunion in Killeen, Texas. They remembered the "Iron-Cav" and made me an honorary member of their platoon.