Every Veteran’s Day is an important day, and this year is no different. Our country is at war and our troops are engaged in fierce fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are hundreds of men and women who graduated from Dora High School that have fought all around the world when duty called. Many of these brave individuals gave their lives so that you and I enjoy life here in America.
Greg Phillips who graduated from Dora in 1966 served in Vietnam and was in a battle in the north part of South Vietnam that was unique in that several soldiers from one platoon received the Purple Heart and four were were decorated with medals of commendation including a Silver Star and the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Greg was asked by the 101st Airborne Division Currahee Association to write about his experience at Fire Base Maureen. He agreed and the article appeared in the organizations magazine. Soon afterward, “The Purple Heart” magazine asked to run the story.
Randy Mills who has written a number of books was writing a book about the battle at Fire Base Maureen and heard about Greg’s story and asked permission to use the story in his book. Again, Greg agreed.
When I asked permission to run the story, Greg was a little hesitant. He thought that people might think he was bragging. “A lot of people go through tough times in war,” he said. I persisted explaining that I knew of no one who who believe that he was bragging. He finally agreed. I thank all soldiers for serving our country. I especially thank Greg for sharing this story about one of his experiences in Vietnam.
May 7, 1970
While serving with the 101st Airborne Division with Company D, 1st of the 506th in Vietnam during 1970, I participated in a battle at an abandoned Fire Support Base in the Northern part of South Vietnam, named Maureen, on the morning of May 7th. At the beginning of this battle, my Platoon numbered 20 men. There was a Sapper Battalion (North Vietnamese Army Special Forces) consisting of approximately 320 men and a North Vietnamese Army Brigade (Regular Army) consisting of approximately 1200 men pitted against us.
On May 5th, D Company landed on the abandoned Fire Support Base. As expected by the brass, but unknown to us, we hit one of the hottest landing zones ever–with enemy emplacements surrounding the base. Upon arrival, we were greeted by 51-caliber machine guns, mortars, gas and small arms fire from the North, West and South. During this landing, my Platoon lost our medic to a chest wound. As I recall, D Company had no casualties. The entire Company spent the first night atop Maureen and we never realized what was in store for us over the next two days.
On the morning of May 6th, just before my Platoon did a recon off of Maureen to the South, a new Medic joined our platoon. His name was P.F.C. Kenneth Kays.
When we reached the base of the mountain that Maureen was sitting atop, we found ourselves in an enemy bunker complex and receiving hostile fire at close range. The N.V.A. fired on four of us who were on line going into the complex. Fortunately, only one of our guys was wounded (gunshot wounds to the forearm and upper hip) but, disappointingly no enemy casualties.
Once we removed our wounded buddy from the battle zone, we cleared the rest of the bunker complex and the Company continued our southern advance off Maureen. Barely 100 yards from the first bunker complex and up another mountain we once again encountered enemy resistance. This time, it was fire from a 51-caliber machine gun. After our first brush with this big gun, our Company Commander called in F-4s with 500-pound bombs aboard. I realized how much trouble we were in when one of the F-4s was fired upon immediately after having dropped his payload near this Big Gun! The Fighter Pilot was amazed at this reaction. After several more runs by the F-4s and similar results, it was decided that D Company would withdraw back to the sides and top of Maureen to be re-supplied the following day. My Platoon got orders to go back to the top of the Mountain for the evening of May 6th. We set up as best we could and prepared for the night to come.
During the early morning hours of May 7th, the enemy hit our Platoon from the Northwest and West. There were numerous casualties. We lost seven soldiers including our Platoon leader. Three men lost limbs, including our new medic; our Platoon Sergeant, Stephen “ Greek” Avgerinos, lost his hearing, but thankfully continued to direct the battle– which included calling in artillery and gunship support. One man, Kenneth David, received shrapnel to the back and lost an eardrum. I received hearing loss to my right ear, shrapnel to the left side of my head and a gunshot wound to my left side. While I don’t feel it would be appropriate to go into details of the battle, I will say that it was intense and probably one of the hardest fought battles of the War in Vietnam.
During this Battle, Kenneth Kays, the medic that I mentioned earlier, won The Congressional Medal of Honor (something I didn’t discover until August 22, 2003). The Platoon Leader’s RTO, P.F.C. Kenneth David, won the Distinguished Service Cross (he should have won a Congressional Medal of Honor), Platoon Sergeant Stephen Avgerinos won the Bronze Star with “V” Device and I, then Sp4 Greg Phillips, won the Silver Star. These are the four highest awards for valor that are offered by The United States Army.
While the “Greek’s” medal and mine were not uncommon in Vietnam, the other two medals certainly were and it would be an interesting history lesson to find out if these four medals have ever been won by a single platoon in the same battle. I feel that I can speak for the three of us still living in stating that we would gladly give these medals back for just one less KIA or one less wounded. Additionally, during this battle 13 soldiers won Purple hearts
An author, Randy Mills, who has written several great books including: Honoring Those Who Paid The Price and Unexpected Journey is presently writing a book about the Life of the late Kenneth Kays. I am sure he will be more suited to document the Battle of Abandoned Fire Support Base Maureen than me and I certainly look forward to his book.
Currahee! (“Stand Alone”)
Note: The first thing I did when the battle started was Pray and once the battle was over the last thing I did was Pray.