*VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Marty Robbins old hometown, Glendale Arizona--a suburb of Phoenix.
THIS STORY JUST PASSED TO ME.....
April 7, 2012 at 08:08:27 AM by JOHN
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO EARN A SILVER STAR?
HIS NAME WAS GODFREY, A UNITED STATES NAVY SEABEE…
I have a Seabee Story to tell about a Special Forces (Green Beret) Camp Thien Phuoc A-102 in I Corps Tactical Zone, South Vietnam 1968-69.
Intelligence was telling us that there was a huge build up of North Vietnamese Soldiers in and around our Special Forces "A" Team (late 1968, early 1969). Most intelligence indicated that the North Vietnamese were going to launch an offensive during TET of 69 to cut the country into thirds and we were involved in some way, yet our intelligence did not reflect how. .
I kept calling DaNang (C1 our C Team and Higher Hqrs) asking for Engineer support to fix my C-123 dirt runway.
Call after call went in, and finally I threatened to call my Higher Headquarters in Nha Trang for help.
The Combat activity was really picking up and everyone knew something was about to hit the fan. I had taken "Operation Santa Claus" out three weeks late (on 6 Jan 69) and encountered an NVA Regiment moving southeast of our Camp and toward the industrial area of An Hoa, VN. Besides the NVA Regulars there were over 500 slave porters.
After fixing their route we were able to bring in 155 MM Artillery and kill or wound over 1000 enemy troops that day, still not knowing or realizing what was in store for us.
In early 1969 a huge Sikorsky crane flew into our Camp with Engineer Equipment dangling underneath it. The crane let down and placed each piece of equipment on the runway then it landed and a man got out. The crane took off and the man began moving the equipment to the south side of the runway.
I was looking through my binoculars as the rest of my team kept asking, "who is this guy", and commenting that " he is going to get his butt killed".
We all jumped in our jeeps and 3/4 ton trucks; lock and loaded the 30 caliber Machine Guns and proceeded to the runway as fast as we could.
This guy was just getting out of a dump truck when I noticed he had on a uniform I did not recognize with some kind of odd rank on it.
I asked him who he was and he said, "I'm Godfrey, from some unit that I couldn't understand", then I asked him what the heck he thought he was doing and he told me he was there to fix my runway!
I asked him when the rest of the guys were going to show up and he told me, "he was it" the whole enchilada and he would be able to take care of what ever needed to be done.
I must digress, Years before I had an "A" team in II Corps, A-222 Dong Tre and we were kicking Charlie's butt and racking up a high kill count each month. Well General Westmoreland flew in to check us out. After he was satisfied with our briefings he asked what he could do for us to help us continue to kill enemy soldiers. The first thing out of my mouth was, "We Need A Runway".
Well we got it (a C-130 runway) and the Army brought in an Engineer "Company" and a mine sweeping platoon and lots of security. I later found out it takes a platoon to build a runway, but I wasn't complaining.
So here I had "one" guy, with three pieces of equipment, to repair a C-123 dirt runway, full of mortar and rocket holes and surrounded by bad guys.
I finally got around to asking Godfrey what unit he was with, I knew he wasn't Army. He said he was a Seabee and I said, "no kidding", my father told me you guys could build anything". My father (A Navy Guy) spent 8 1/2 years in the Pacific before, during and after the WWII. All he ever did was brag about the Seabees.
So I asked him what his rank was. He told me, and I didn't know anymore than I did before I asked him. Then I said what is that in "E" ranks, for example E3, E4 etc. He said he was an E4.
I then asked him if he was sure he could handle the job. He laughed and said it was a piece of cake. I told him how dangerous it was around there and informed him that a Special Forces "A" Team had two Engineers assigned to them. He accepted that and I immediately assigned both guys to him even though they both outranked him. I also put a platoon of my "Strikers" (Mercenaries) around the field for security.
He worked from daylight to dark everyday and his coming and going got pretty routine. I had forgotten about him until the night and morning of 22-23 February 1969.
Just after 2AM the proverbial crap hit the fan. We didn't know it at the time but we had come under siege by an NVA Heavy Weapons Regiment. We fought all night and into the morning against human wave attack after human wave attack. The Camp held because of the Artillery Battery was firing direct fire into the frontal assaults on our perimeters.
Then after a very bad rocket attack just after dawn on the 23d (my XO and Senior Medic were both seriously wounded) Godfrey came up to me and asked what he could do to help.
He told me his equipment had been destroyed and he wanted to help fight. I asked him what else he could do besides drive heavy engineer equipment. He told me that Seabees were all trained on 50 Caliber Machine Guns and he was an expert. I was ecstatic.
I put Godfrey and my Team Sergeant, MSG Ramon Mori (who was suppose to have left (DEROS) for the US that day, but couldn’t get out of the Camp because of the intense Rocket and Mortar fire). Godfrey and MSG More were located on the eastern side of the Tactical Operations Center covering the high-speed approaches from the East. They had a well constructed Bunker and had tons of Ammo and Extra Barrels for the 50 Cal.
Both of them fought independently as needed and with great Valor for 9 days.
I finally realized that I hadn't seen or heard from them for a long time. At first I remember hearing the 50 going off all the time outside my Tactical Operation Center (TOC), then firing became routine as we received hundreds of incoming mortar and rocket fire rounds followed by human wave assaults. .(It was estimated that over 4000 indirect rounds were fired into an area 200 yards wide during the Siege of Tien Phuoc) and during the first 9 days of the Siege the NVA suffered over 900 killed and wounded.
The Siege continued until 15 July 1969 but Godfrey was medivaced around the 5th or 6th of March after I found out he had been wounded and continued to fight.
We had 784 defenders at Tien Phuoc and we took on 3 NVA Divisions. A total of 30,000 men.
The Americal Division and the 101st Airborne came in and saved our bacon, as did TAC Air from all the Services (Air Force, Navy TAC Air, and Marine Heavy Bombers) and the Americal 155 Battery in our "Camp", but our Special Forces Team took hundreds of the enemy with us and Godfrey was a big, big part of that effort.
I was so impressed with what my Team Sergeant told me Godfrey had done in Combat and in defending my "A" Camp that I contacted his Headquarters in Da Nang and recommended him for the Silver Star and a Battle Field Promotion.
He received a Purple Heart for his Combat Wounds, the Bronze Star w/V for Valor, and was promoted to E5.
I was at the dinner when his Commanding Officer (A Navy Captain 06) and his unit honored him with his combat decorations and his battle field promotion.
My Team and I honor Godfrey to this day as part of my team and as a brother Warrior.
That is my Seabee Story, about a guy named Godfrey.
I never did know his first name, but he was one hellova Engineer.
He fixed our Runway well enough for us to get our resupplies in during a 5 month siege of my "A" Team (Special Forces Camp), and he still had time to kill a whole bunch of bad guys.
John E. Cleckner Sr.
Major, United States Army Special Forces Retired