Lang Vei - Almost There
The exact date is unknown. I presume it was during the heaviest part of the battle of Lang Vei. That puts it at about 7 Feb 1968. In the book Night of the Silver Stars by William R. Phillips, on page 89, he alludes to 0245hrs, stating "This was the last transmission monitored from any station in Lang Vei camp by outside radio operators." In thinking about the situation now, some 33 years later, I do seem to recall these activities as being in the middle of the night.

I was stationed at Nha Trang, in the Signal Company Maintenance Shop, but had the job of 'Roving Radio Repairman' and travelled extensively (mostly north from Nha Trang) to fix radio equipment in the field that could not be spared to send it back to our shop.

At the time of this incident, I was in base at Nha Trang. We had been hearing of skirmishes in the Northern provinces and knew that something was going on. The Tet Offensive had begun 8 days earlier.

The Meatgrinder I was summoned to report to the Comm Center with weapon, ammo, and field gear ready to go on a mission. When I arrived, a deuce-and-a-half was parked in front with its engine running. In the back was the equipment a morse operator (I don't remember his name) and I were going to take to Lang Vei to assist in their defense. Reportedly, they were under seige and had lost all their normal SSB equipment and electric power. We were taking a full AN/GRC-109 setup, including the "meat grinder" hand-cranked generator. Since I didn't know Morse Code, I would have the honor of cranking that thing while the morse operator did the important stuff of communicating with the other units. Although I was a repairman, the 109 almost never broke down, so it was easy to figure out the job ahead of me.

I threw my rucksack on the truck and stood around with the others in front of the Comm Center to find out just what was going on.

As we were just about ready to leave for the airbase, someone came out of the Comm Center and informed us that the mission had been scrubbed: Lang Vei had fallen.

I had little or no realization just how bad the situation was. That is as close as I ever hope to come to such a dangerous situation. I came home 17 days later.

Samuel J. Cook (formerly SP5, SigCo, 5th SFGA)
MOS 32C20 (leg)
(True story to the best of my knowledge. Written 12 April 2001. All rights reserved by S.J.Cook.)

     Night of the Silver Stars by William R. Phillips
     Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 1997
     ISBN 1-55750-691-4