by Gary George Nichols
Detachment B-52, (Project Delta) 1966-1970
At the end of my seventh month in the reconnaissance section, I decided
a move was in store before my luck ran out. On one recon patrol SFC
Odorizzi (Communications Supervisor) had come along to test the Radio Set
AN/PRC 64 (smaller than a shoe box, and requiring a 150 foot long-wire
antenna, it was used solely for sending Morse code). I talked to him about
working in the commo section and he agreed, if my Morse code was up to
snuff. So, I diligently practiced on the oscillator. But when the time
finally came in October of 1966, I made the decision to move to the
My first mission with the Rangers definitely was an eye opener. Where I
expected skills acquainted with stealth, I looked on a group of
individuals with balls like gorillas. With pots and pans tied to their
rucksacks, they sounded like a gypsy caravan moving through an area.
Picking plants and shrubs along the way, they would tear a piece off
anything that happened to pass by for lunch. I came to believe they were
the baddest bastards in the jungle or the craziest. I found out in short
time, Deltaís Ranger Battalion was definitely bad.
Project Delta was working III Corps, in the western area of Tay Ninh ,
when I deployed with the 5th Ranger Company on my first mission. We were
air lifted to Tay Ninh and on landing received orders to establish a base
camp in a rubber plantation a few miles down the road from the FOB. With
little to do but wait, it didn't take long before everyone was bored.
Recon teams had been inserted as scheduled and initially things were
I can't recall why but there was a scarcity of food. Rice was always
available but meat and vegetables were a different story. So when an old
Moma Sanh appeared out of nowhere with some ducks draped over her
shoulder, she looked like an angel from heaven. It didn't take long for me
to decide we would be dining well that night (cost me my issued Seiko
watch). I didnít think to ask, at the time, if anyone knew how to cook a
duck. Once on the spicket and over the flame, so much fat was flowing, it
caught fire. I've never eaten duck again to this day.
Shortly after the duck incident, we were alerted that one of the recon
teams had come across traces of a large enemy concentration and that the
5th Ranger Company would be inserted at the same time the recon team was
extracted. As I recall it was a beautiful day, so nice a day, it was hard
to believe anything bad could happen. We were inserted without a problem.
Once on the LZ, a HQ Captain tag-along, SP4 Dyer, who was the medic,
Corporal Benjamin, myself, and approximately seventy Rangers prepared to
move. Cpl Benjamin and me, with me carrying the radio, went with the first
squad, and hadn't moved 50 meters when the column stopped. Word passed
back that the point man had come across a fresh steaming pile of shit. I
knew we had made too much noise getting to this spot.
As we started moving again we received sporadic small arms fire. After a
brief exchange, everything became quiet, so we tactically advanced and
soon found ourselves in a large cleared area, under a triple canopy. There
were huts, caves, tunnels, a mess-hall with a 6 foot diameter rice tub,
Two ammo dumps, a whore house (identified by perfume, underwear and other
unmentionables), Philips radios and numerous other creature comforts (This
was later identified as a regimental headquarters).
We moved through the area, set up security and started a systematic
search. I turned my attention to the huts and located the NVA operations
tent, with a hoard of secret documents in a cache beneath the floor. I had
three Rangers empty their rucksacks to make room for the documents. On Top
of the cache was candy bar size chewing tobacco sticks, which I discarded
to get to the documents, I filled my rucksack with documents and when I
turned around, found the Rangers had filled theirs with chewing tobacco
(opium) (which they refused to dump for documents). The Ranger Commander
suggested we find a more suitable place to set up a defense and wait for a
decision from Headquarters on what they wanted us to do (I couldn't help
but notice that every rucksack was stuffed with booty).
So off we went into the jungle (Keep in mind, from entering the site to
exit was no more then 15 or 20 Minutes). On moving, we didnít get more
than 25 meters before we started taking small arms fire, and word came
back that the point man was hit. Everyone took cover and we brought the
point man back for the medic to take care of him.
When we started moving again, all hell broke loose, and a couple more
rangers were KIA, with two or three more wounded. What was left of the
first squad, dragged their wounded back, and started to help form a
circle. The Commander came forward with the other squads and closed the
flanks and the rear. We knew we had just met the NVA Regiment whose home
we had just left.
The jungle screamed with the sounds of whistles and horns, and thatís all
I could hear as they came at us from all sides. We used the dead for
cover. The wounded had to tend themselves as best they could. The NVA
didnít hide behind trees or seek cover, they just kept coming. I fired at
least 10 rounds into one guy before he fell (I believe they were high on
opium). With each surge forward we inched backward, trying to drag the
dead and wounded with us.
Fear has a way of changing a persons outlook on life. I canít give a
reason for what took place next. Maybe thinking this was the end of the
line, and wanting forgiveness if captured, the Rangers who so rapidly
looted the NVA Regiment just minutes before, started taking things from
their rucksacks and throwing them out in front of the firing line. The
Phillips radios and all the other stuff. They even started giving back
things they hadnít stolen.
I remember thinking, ďUnless something miraculous happens now, thereís no
hope for usĒ. The straphanger Captain from Headquarters was trying to dig
a hole to China, and the rest of us were trying to hold our own. The noise
and confusion all around made it impossible to do anything else. I had
continuous communications with FAC until things went to hell, and then
self-preservation kicked in. I abandoned talking, and concentrated on
FAC knew the situation and was working on getting fast movers on site.
However, with everyone so close together, it was hard for him to direct
the gun runs. I gave him smoke and he placed his marker as close to us as
he could, with the understanding that without the air strikes, we would be
Things started to get better once the fast movers made their runs, and the
air became filled with the sounds of helicopters bringing Ranger
reinforcements. I don't think the Ranger reinforcements ever received such
a greeting from a bunch of grateful men as they did that day.
Once we got some semblance of sanity restored, the reinforcements helped
us with the evacuation of dead and wounded. We then moved to secure the
landing zone and waited for extraction. Later, the 5th ARVN Division was
air lifted into the area to relieve the Rangers. They secured the NVA
camp, and during the next few weeks, uncovered large quantities of
weapons, munitions and other supplies.
Compared to that experience my other missions with the Rangers were
routine, even when we made enemy contact. But one other mission with the
Rangers is well worth telling.
Late afternoon on the third day, in especially hot and dry weather, we
filled our canteens at a stream then proceeded to the top of a nearby
mountain. It took most of our water before we reached the crest at dusk.
When everyone was settled in and it was time to put some groceries under
the belt, I heard a hell of a commotion, and suddenly a wild pig darted
past me with a platoon of Rangers on his ass. One Ranger grabbed hold of
its tail, another held onto a leg, and I swear, I've never seen anything
butchered so fast and clean in my life. The squeal was still in the air
when the last piece was taken. As I mentioned earlier, get too close and
Gary Nichols Photo Collection