During the Vietnam War, 241 Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded. The First Cavalry Division had 25 recipients. These 25 recipients reflect the highest amount of Medals of Honor awarded to any single Army unit during the war. The following recounting concerns one of those recipients and the men who died or were wounded during this firefight.
The information for the following recounting was compiled from the Medal of Honor Citation for Lt. Leisy and the daily Battalion Journal for the 1st Battalion 8th Cavalry 1st Cavalry Division.
The morning of December 2, 1969 was like any typical morning for an infantry company in the 8th Cavalry. Troops were up at the crack of dawn preparing breakfast and retrieving their claymores and trip flares that had been set out the previous evening. By 7:10 A.M. Bravo Company was on the move in a search and destroy mission in the Phuoc Long province, Republic of Vietnam.
Later that afternoon, Bravo Company sent the 2nd Platoon out on a recon mission. The men of the 2nd squad discovered a bunker complex that was still under construction. The squad proceeded North into the area where they engaged an unknown size enemy force to their Northwest. An immediate exchange of automatic small arms fire resulted in the deaths of two American soldiers.
2nd Platoon, lead by 2nd Lt. Leisy, along with the remainder of Bravo Company rushed to the contact area in an attempt to reinforce the 2nd squad in their firefight. As 2nd Platoon approached the contact area, they came under intense enemy fire to their front and both flanks. Lt. Leisy moved from position to position deploying his men to effectively engage the enemy. Lt. Leisy had moved to the front with his radio operator when he spotted an enemy sniper in a tree firing a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) at their position. Unhesitatingly he moved in front of the radio operator, protecting him and the radio. He took the full blast from the RPG, saving the life of the radio operator. Lt. Leisy continued to direct his platoon fire despite his mortal wounds. Lt. Leisy refused medical treatment until the most seriously wounded soldiers around him were treated. His display of extraordinary courage and exemplary devotion to duty provided the inspiration and leadership that enabled his platoon to successfully withdraw without further casualties.
Bravo Company had also come under heavy fire from machine guns and B-40 rockets (RPGs). The Company had deployed two air strikes and artillery fire against the enemys positions. It became apparent that the company would not be able to join up with the 2nd Platoon. It was up to the men of the 2nd Platoon and the 2nd squad to make their way back to the company. The 2nd squad was forced to leave behind the two troopers who were killed during the initial firefight along with equipment including a radio and an M-60 machine gun. All the men from 2nd Platoon were finally able to rejoin Bravo Company by 5:58 P.M. The firefight continued on until about 6:15 P.M. when the firing broke off as darkness approached.
Flareships where called in to provid illumination for Bravo Company to dig in and prepare an LZ for a Medevac helicopter. As Medevac 8 came on the scene and started to load the wounded, enemy snipers opened fire on the helicopter. Before Medevac 8 broke for Quoin Loi, it was struck 4 times and the medic was wounded. Medevac 13 arrived to transport the remaining 5 wounded soldiers.
Preliminary battlefield assessments for the day included 17 NVA-KIAs, 1 B-40 rocket and launcher captured and destroyed. 4 US-KIAs + 8 wounded.
The following morning of December 3, 1969, Bravo Company swept the contact area and recovered the bodies of the fallen soldiers along with the radio and the M-60 machine gun. Neither the fallen soldiers or the equipment were disturbed by the enemy.
Later on that afternoon of December 3rd, five men were wounded by a booby trap made from a B-40 rocket.
Bravo Companys men who died on December 2, 1969
PFC John H. Cheek
PFC Jessie R. Cornelison
PFC Charles R. Franklin
PFC Michael G. Lukish
PFC Nolan McElhannon
PFC Donald McGwire
PFC Reginald E. Thomas
1st Lt. Guidroz
Kit Carson Scout Chung
On December 5, 1969, Intelligence advised Battalion that one of their agents had reported that a firefight with units of the 1st Cavalry Division on December 2, 1969 were in contact with an NVA force of 150 men who were armed with AK-47s, B-40 rockets and (4) 82-mortors. There were 24 NVA soldiers who died in the action and another 18 soldiers were wound and carried to an NVA Hospital.
A special thanks to Paul Grandy for providing the Battalion Journals.
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