My 4th Pow/Mia

 

 

CASE SYNOPSIS: LINDEWALD,
       CHARLES WESLEY JR.

Name: Charles Wesley Lindewald, Jr.
Rank/Branch: E7/US Army Special Forces
Unit: Company C, Detachment A-101, 12th Mobile Strike Force, 5th Special Forces
Group
Date of Birth: 30 July 1938
Home City of Record: La Porte IN
Loss Date: 07 February 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 163602N 1064058E (XD795360)
Status (In 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 1
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Personnel In Incident: Dennis L. Thompson; William G. McMurry; Harvey G.
Brande; (all released 1973). Kenneth Hanna; Daniel R. Phillips; James W. Holt;
James Moreland; Charles Lindewald; (all missing); Eugene Ashley Jr. (killed)

REMARKS: OVERRUN AT SF CAMP

SYNOPSIS: The Lang Vei Special Forces camp in the northwestern corner of South
Vietnam along Route 9, a mile and a half from the Laotian border.had been
established in late December 1966 as a result of the Special Forces Detachment
A101 having been moved out of its former Khe Sanh location. It seemed ill fated
from the beginning.

In March 1967, one of the worst tragedies to befall the Special Forces CIDG
program during the war occurred. U.S. Air Force released napalm ordnance on the
nearby village which spewed exploding fire over the camp, landing zone,
minefield and village. 135 CIDG and native civilians were killed, and 213 were
horribly wounded, burned or disfigured.

Only two months later, on May 4, a Viet Cong night attack on the camp wiped out
the Special Forces command group, all in one bunker, and killed the detachment
commander and his executive officer, as well as seriously wounding the team
sergeant. This attack was a prelude to the larger siege of Khe Sanh, and was a
grim reminder of the dangerous neighborhood Special Forces had moved into.

By January 1968, several North Vietnamese Army divisions had encircled the
Marine combat base at Khe Sanh, placing the more westerly Lang Vei Special
Forces frontier surveillance camp in imminent danger. The camp was occupied by
Detachment A101 commanded by Capt. Frank C. Willoughby. Willoughby was
rebuilding and reinforcing the camp at the time, while soldiers and dependants
from the Kha tribal 33rd Laotian Volunteer Battalion streamed into the camp
after being overrun by NVA tanks across the border.

On the evening of January 24, the camp was pounded by mortars in conjunction
with a heavy shelling of the Marine Khe Sanh base, which prevented any
effective artillery support for Lang Vei. 1Lt. Paul R. Longgrear had only
recently arrived with his Hre tribal 12th Mobile Strike Force Company to help
shore up defensive firepower.

The influx of the Laotians caused some problems. For example, the Lao battalion
commander refused to take orders from the American captain, forcing the Company
C commander, LtCol. Daniel F. Schungel, to come to Lang Vei on his first
Special Forces assignment on February 6 to provide an officer of equal rank.

Camp strength on February 6 totalled 24 Special Forces, 14 LLDB, 161 mobile
strike force, 282 CIDG (Bru and Vietnamese), 6 interpreters and 520 Laotian
soldiers, plus a number of civilians.

Shortly after midnight on February 7, 1968, a combined NVA infantry-tank
assault drove into Lang Vei. Two PT-76 tanks threatened the outer perimeter of
the camp as infantry rushed behind them. SFC James W. Holt destroyed both tanks
with shots from his 106mm recoilless rifle. More tanks came around the burning
hulks of the first two tanks and began to roll over the 104th CIDG Company's
defensive positions. SSgt. Peter Tiroch, the assistant intelligence sergeant,
ran over to Holt's position and helped load the weapon. Holt quickly lined up a
third tank in his sights and destroyed it with a direct hit. After a second
shot at the tank, Holt and Tiroch left the weapons pit just before it was
demolished by return cannon fire. Tiroch watched Holt run over to the
ammunition bunker to look for some hand-held Light Anti-tank Weapons (LAWs). It
was the last time Holt was ever seen.

LtCol. Schungel, 1Lt. Longgrear, SSgt. Arthur Brooks, Sgt. Nikolas Fragos, SP4
William G. McMurry, Jr., and LLDB Lt. Quy desperately tried to stop the tanks
with LAWs and grenades. They even climbed on the plated engine decks, trying to
pry open hatches to blast out the crews. NVA infantrymen followed the vehicles
closely, dusting their sides with automatic rifle fire. One tank was stopped by
five direct hits, and the crew killed as they tried to abandon the vehicle. 1Lt.
Miles R. Wilkins, the detachment executive officer, left the mortar pit with
several LAWs and fought a running engagement with one tank beside the team
house without much success.

Along the outer perimeters, the mobile strike force outpost was receiving fire.
Both Kenneth Hanna, a heavy weapons specialist, and Charles W. Lindewald, 12th
Mobile Strike Force platoon leader, were wounded. Hanna, wounded in the scalp,
left shoulder and arm tried to administer first aid to Lindewald. The two were
last seen just before their position was overrun. Harvey Brande spoke with them
by radio and Hanna indicated that Lindewald was then dead, and that he himself
was badly wounded. Daniel R. Phillips, a demolitions specialist, was wounded in
the face and was last seen trying to evade North Vietnamese armor by going
through the northern perimeter wire.
.
NVA sappers armed with satchel charges, tear gas grenades and flamethrowers
fought through the 101st, 102nd and 103rd CIDG perimeter trenches and captured
both ends of the compound by 2:30 a.m. Spearheaded by tanks, they stormed the
inner compound. LtCol. Schungel and his tank-killer personnel moved back to the
command bunker for more LAWs. They were pinned behind a row of dirt and rock
filled drums by a tank that had just destroyed one of the mortar pits. A LAW
was fired against the tank with no effect. The cannon swung around and blasted
the barrels in front of the bunker entrance. The explosion temporarily blinded
McMurry and mangled his hands, pitched a heavy drum on top of Lt. Wilkins and
knocked Schungel flat. Lt. Quy managed to escape to another section of the
camp, but the approach of yet another tank prevented Schungel and Wilkins from
following. At some point during this period, McMurry, a radioman, disappeared.

The tank, which was shooting at the camp observation post, was destroyed with a
LAW. Schungel helped Wilkins over to the team house, where he left both doors
ajar and watched for approaching NVA soldiers. Wilkins was incapacitated and
weaponless, and Schungel had only two grenades and two magazines of ammunition
left. He used one magazine to kill a closely huddled five-man sapper squad
coming toward the building. He fed his last magazine into his rifle as the team
house was rocked with explosions and bullets. The two limped over to the
dispensary, which was occupied by NVA soldiers, and hid underneath it, behind a
wall of sandbags.

At some point, Brande, Thompson and at least one Vietnamese interpreter were
captured by the North Vietnamese. Thompson was uninjured, but Brande had taken
shrapnel in his leg. Brande and Thompson were held separately for a week, then
rejoined in Laos. Joined with them was McMurry, who had also been captured
from the camp. The three were moved up the Ho Chi Minh trail to North Vietnam
and held until 1973. The U.S. did not immediately realize they had been
captured, and carried them in Missing in Action status thoughout the rest of
the war, although Brande's photo was positively identified by a defector in
April 1969 as being a Prisoner of War. A Vietnamese interpreter captured from
the camp told Brande later that he had seen both Lindewald and Hanna, and that
they both were dead.

Several personnel, including Capt. Willoughby, SP4 James L. Moreland, the medic
for the mobile strike force, and Lt. Quan, the LLDB camp commander, were
trapped in the underground level of the command bunker. Lt. Longgrear had also
retreated to the command bunker. Satchel charges, thermite grenades and gas
grenades were shoved down the bunker air vents, and breathing was very
difficult. Some soldiers had gas masks, but others had only handkerchiefs or
gauze from their first aid packets.

The NVA announced they were going to blow up the bunker, and the LLDB personnel
walked up the stairs to surrender, and were summarily executed. At dawn, two
large charges were put down the vent shaft and detonated, partially demolishing
the north wall and creating a large hole through which grenades were pitched.
The bunker defenders used upturned furniture and debris to shield themselves.
Willoughby was badly wounded by grenade fragments and passed out at 8:30 a.m.
Moreland had been wounded and became delirious after receiving a head injury in
the final bunker explosion. Incredibly, the battle was still going on in other
parts of the camp.

Aircraft had been strafing the ravines and roads since 1:00 a.m. Throughout the
battle, the Laotians refused to participate, saying they would attack at first
light. Sfc. Eugene Ashley, Jr., the intelligence sergeant, led two assistant
medical specialists, Sgt. Richard H. Allen and SP4 Joel Johnson as they
mustered 60 of the Laotian soldiers and counterattacked into Lang Vei. The
Laotians bolted when a NVA machine gun crew opened fire on them, forcing the
three Americans to withdraw.

Team Sfc. William T. Craig and SSgt. Tiroch had chased tanks throughout the
night with everything from M-79 grenade launchers to a .50 caliber machine gun.
After it had become apparent that the camp had been overrun, they escaped
outside the wire and took temporary refuge in a creek bed. After daylight, they
saw Ashley's counterattack force and joined him. The Special Forces sergeants
persuaded more defenders fleeing down Route 9 to assist them and tried second,
third and fourth assaults. Between each assault, Ashley directed airstrikes on
the NVA defensive line, while the other Special Forces soldiers gathered tribal
warriors for yet another attempt. On the fifth counterattack, Ashley was
mortally wounded only thirty yards from the command bunker.

Capt. Willoughby had regained consciousness in the bunker about 10:00 a.m. and
established radio contact with the counterattacking Americans. The continual
American airstrikes had forced the North Vietnamese to begin withdrawing from
the camp. Col. Schungel and Lt. Wilkins emerged from under the dispensary after
it was vacated by the North Vietnamese and hobbled out of the camp.

The personnel in the bunker also left in response to orders to immediately
evacuate the camp. They carried Sgt. John D. Early, who had been badly wounded
by shrapnel while manning the tower, but were forced to leave SP4 Moreland
inside the bunker. 1Lt. Thomas D. Todd, an engineer officer in charge of
upgrading Lang Vei's airstrip, held out in the medical bunker throughout the
battle. That afternoon, he was the last American to pass through the ruined
command bunker. He saw Moreland, who appeared to be dead, covered with debris.

Maj. George Quamo gathered a few dozen Special Forces commando volunteers from
the MACV-SOG base at Khe Sanh (FOB #3) and led a heroic reinforcing mission
into Lang Vei. His arrival enabled the Lang Vei defenders to evacuate the area,
many by Marine helicopters in the late afternoon.

Sgt. Richard H. Allen - Survivor
Sfc Eugene Ashley, Jr. - Awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for Lang Vei
Harvey Gordon Brande - Captured - released POW in 1973
SSgt. Arthur Brooks - Survivor
Sfc. William T. Craig - Survivor
Sgt. John D. Early - Survivor
Sgt. Nikolas Fragos - Survivor
Kenneth Hanna - Missing In Action
James William Holt - Missing In Action
SP4 Joel Johnson - Survivor
Charles Wesley Lindewald, Jr. - Missing In Action
1Lt. Paul R. Longgrear - Survivor
SP4 William G. McMurry - Captured - released POW in 1973
James Leslie Moreland - Missing In Action
Daniel Raymond Phillips - Missing In Action
Maj. George Quamo - Killed in Action April 14, 1968
Lt. Quy - Survivor
LtCol. Daniel F. Schungel - appointed deputy commander of the 5th Special
Forces
Dennis L. Thompson - Captured - released POW in 1973
SSgt. Peter Tiroch - Survivor
1Lt. Thomas D. Todd - Survivor
1Lt. Miles R. Wilkins - Survivor
Capt. Frank C. Willoughby - Survivor

Dec 29 1998 -- William Phillips, cousin to Daniel Phillips of refno 1040,
has written a book: Night of the Silver Stars. He has spent many years
researching the loss of his cousin. He states that all 8 men of the 1040
incident were awarded the Silver Star. In fact he claims: There was one
Medal of Honor, 2 DSCs, 21 Silver Stars and 3 Bronze Stars with "V" for
valor awarded. Some were to the MACV-SOG SF rescuers from Khe Sanh.
It is an interesting book for anyone interested in the Battle of Lang Vei.

The Khe Sanh vets have made 7 return trips -- mostly to bring aid to the Bru
people. They were witness to the excavation of the Lang Vei Battleground by
a backhoe and a team of diggers and sifters. Our missing are not there.

Daniel Phillips' mother tried to contact one of the returnees. She got a
letter back from the AG stating he did not wish to communicate with anyone.

 

 

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