It was every man for himself. Capt Forrest, the A Company CO, from the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, had been heading for the meeting that the Battalion commander had called, but when the firing started he headed back for his company. He stopped briefly behind the anthill where we were at, looked out to where the firing was coming from, and dashed for the end of the column where his company was at. He later formed the other perimeter at the end of the column. From that time on for the next couple of hours, the fight was all downhill.
Shortly I saw Sgt Major James Scott running behind me and he stopped maybe 30 to 50 yards behind me and started hollering, "Friendly troops over here!" That was the start of the first small defensive perimeter at the head of the column.
The NVA had several targets they considered priority. Anyone carrying a radio or anyone with rank markings such as stripes on the sleeves or anyone appearing to give orders. That radio on my back was why I was getting so many shots directed at me from somewhere up in the trees.
I eventually made it into that first small perimeter with my .45 pistol, an M-79 grendade launcher and bandoliers of its ammo, an AN/PRC25 radio, two M-26 grenades and four ammo pouches filled with clips of .45 ammo. Someone in the perimeter took the folding antenna from my backpack radio and used it as a stick to tighten a tourniquet on my badly bleeding leg. Someone took my M79 and the extra rounds I was carrying and I passed out all the extra .45 ammo, keeping only the pistol and a few rounds for myself. From where I was at, I saw only one NVA after that with an AK47, hiding behind the same ant hill I had first used as cover. One of the A1E's got him on a strafing run and then laid napalm on the same position. We all let out whoops of joy when that napalm hit right on target. About this time, I lost track of what was happening and only remember bit and pieces from then on.
So looking back from this time so many years after the ambush, from my lowly position as an SP4 with the Delta Company mortar platoon, I can still see things that helped put us where we were.
1. Loss of the Battalion Commander due to illness just before the campaign.
2. Poor training and preparedness. (Not combat ready due to rapid deployment)
3. No sleep for three days and two nights before the ambush, degrading our combat readiness.
4. Not walking covering artillery fire in front of our line of march in an enemy held area .
5. Poor or non-existent intelligence on where the enemy was and what he was doing.
6. All Officer slots not filled.
7. Poor or non-existent communications with the lower ranks.
8. Telling the enemy where we were at by burning the huts.
9. New Battalion Commander not ready for combat command.
10. No Company Commanders at the most critical time.
11. Total loss of leadership and unit breakdown at all levels.