“… The medics at the L.Z. cut off my boots and put bandages on me. My wounds were in pretty bad shape. You know what happens when you take raw meat and throw it on the ground on a sunny day. We were out there for 24 hours, and Vietnam is nothing but one big anthill.
I was put in a MedEvac chopper and flown to Pleiku, where they changed dressings and stuck all sorts of tubes in my arms. At Pleiku I saw Gruber briefly. He was a clerk in the battalion, and my Army buddy. We talked until they put me in the plane. I learned that Stern and Deschamps, close friends, had been found dead together, shot in the backs of their heads, executed by the Cong. Gruber had identified their bodies. Everyone was crying. Like most of the men in our battalion, I had lost all my Army friends.
I heard the casualty figures a few days later. The North Vietnamese unit had been wiped out—over 500 dead. Out of some 500 men in our battalion alone, about 150 had been killed, and only 84 returned to base camp a few days later. In my company, which was right in the middle of the ambush, we had 93-percent casualties—one half dead one half wounded. Almost all the wounded were crippled for life. The company, in fact, was very nearly annihilated.
Our unit is part of the 7th Cavalry, Custer’s old unit. That day in the Ia Drang Valley history repeated itself.
After a week in and out of field hospitals I ended up at Camp Zama in Japan. They have operated on me twice. They tell me that I’ll walk again, and that my legs are going to be fine. But no one can tell me when I will stop having nightmares.”
—Jack P. Smith (1945—2004)
SOURCE: Death in the Ia Drang Valley