ADA Order of Battle

Sgt. Mitchell W. Stout

The U.S. Army outpost at Khe Gio Bridge on Highway 9 near the DMZ was overrun by North Vietnamese troops on 12 March 1970. Of the 14 Americans who fought in this battle, 2 were killed, 5 wounded, and 1 captured. The ARVN garrison had 6 dead and 9 wounded. The NVA lost about 40 men.

From a tactical perspective, the attackers neither damaged the bridge nor dislodged the garrison. But the enemy’s real objective was to inflict American casualties, in the hope of hastening the U.S. withdrawal already underway in northern I Corps, and in pursuit of an overall strategy to win the war in America’s living rooms. To this end, the NVA would accept high relative losses.

In another context, the U.S. losses comprised 9% of the 33 Americans killed in Vietnam this day. The enemy profited more, without cost, from the loss of 14 men of the 25th Infantry Division in a non-hostile helicopter accident later in the day. But every loss devastated the families and communities back home and increased the cumulative effect on the U.S. populace, which was growing tired of losing sons.

The enemy’s plan was to sneak into the perimeter, pin down the defenders with rocket and mortar fire, and kill them in the bunkers with grenades and explosives. The strength of the assaulting force was in the range of 150 to 400 troops. For the 11 U.S. survivors, 4 of whom would have died if a squad leader had not sacrificed himself to save them from a grenade, it was a terrifying experience.

The U.S. casualties were:

2d Lt. Gary Bernard Scull, 30, Advance Team 3, MACV, from Harlan, Iowa, assistant advisor to the 2/2 ARVN Regiment, who by a stroke of incredible bad luck arrived at the bridge only a few hours before it was attacked. He had been in Vietnam since November 1969.

Sgt. Mitchell William Stout, 20, C Battery, 1/44 Artillery, from Lenoir City, Tennessee, who was five weeks into his second Vietnam tour, having served previously with 1st Platoon, B/2/47 (Mech), 9th Infantry Division.

Sp/4 Terry Lee Moser, 21, also of C/1/44, from Barto, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Philadelphia), who had been in Vietnam nine months and undoubtedly was looking forward to going home.

Except for Lt. Scull, the U.S. personnel were from 1/44, an Air Defense Artillery (ADA) battalion attached to 108th Artillery Group and headquartered at 3rd Marine Division’s large base (pop. 30,000) near the village of Dong Ha on Highway 1 north of Quang Tri City. Lt. Col. Richard L. Myers and Capt. Douglas Mehle were the commanding officers of 1/44 and C Battery, respectively.

After Khe Sanh was deactivated in 1967, Highway 9 beyond Camp Carroll was kept open to support operations in northwestern I Corps. Khe Gio Bridge, about 20 miles west of Dong Ha, one of 49 bridges on this road, was guarded by two dusters from C/1/44, a searchlight from G/29 (a 1/44 line battery), and 40 or so men of the 2/2 ARVN Regiment. Getting there wasn’t easy because the road went through rugged country, had to be swept for mines, and was subject to ambushes. I made this trip on 28 Sept 1969 and 5 April 1970 riding with a couple tons of ammunition and watching artillery rounds impacting along the road ahead of us.

To protect the bridge, the weapons and camp had to abut the road, which followed the low topography through the hilly terrain, giving the high ground advantage to the enemy. Wooded ridges concealed their advance, provided mortar positions looking down on the target, and masked the line-of-sight fire from our dusters. The living quarters occupied a small compound on a hill above a road-cut through a ridge. Vehicles could get up there by a short access road. On the opposite side, an easy slope fell to the river which could be waded nearly everywhere. The defenses consisted of a “cow fence” and apron with limited concertina and some trip flares in the wire. I felt the place was exposed, and have been reminded of it every time I’ve seen the movie “Apocalypse Now”.

The duster was a powerful weapon. It could fire 240 explosive rounds per minutes to an effective range of 2,000 yards, and unlike field artillery, could rapidly shift fires to engage moving targets. Although obsolete as anti-aircraft weaponry, and not needed in Vietnam for air defense, it was ideal for smashing ground attacks, thus in demand for protecting truck convoys and small firebases such as Khe Gio Bridge. Duster crews had plenty of confidence in their weapon, and the men at the bridge expected the dusters to deter attacks.


The weather in early March was scorching and humid with dense fog at night. During the night of March 7, artillery at Quang Tri shot aerial flares to mark a flight path for a medevac mission up north near Gio Linh; the night of March 12 was foggy again, and the NVA columns approaching the bridge were aided by poor visibility. They walked into the camp, reached occupied structures, and were climbing through windows and doors when our guys awoke and began shooting from their bunks.

Back at Dong Ha, I was in the radio shack with RTO John Goss when Khe Gio’s perimeter exploded and he received the first distress calls from the bridge. The frantic voice, heavy explosions, and stuttering gunfire mingled with radio static are forever etched in my memory. The time was 1:30 a.m., and nobody at battalion headquarters would get any more sleep that night.

The NVA had set up a dozen or more rocket pads and mortar tubes in the surrounding hills, and when the firing began inside the camp, they laid a barrage which killed many of their own men but also pinned the defenders inside the bunkers. A letter I wrote later that day, after hearing four survivors tell their story, states “the rain of shells was so heavy no one could go outside without being killed instantly.”

Sgt. Stout, in a bunker down by the road with Jimmy Silva and Robert E. Foster of C/1/44 and Richard E. Dunn and John H. Laughridge of G/29, picked up an enemy grenade and carried it outside where it exploded at the same time a mortar round landed nearby. He died instantly, but this act spared the four other men, who all survived the war and made it home. Moser was killed by a mortar burst during this intense bombardment as he sprinted across open ground for a duster.

There were two dusters at the bridge, but an RPG destroyed one before it could be manned. The other got into action after the incoming fire slackened but one of its guns jammed immediately. So the battle was fought with only one of the four 40mm Bofors guns counted on for the defense of the camp. The crew fired until the barrel burned out, which probably didn’t take very long, because with NVA running everywhere and mortars firing from numerous emplacements, it’s a safe bet they were slamming shells into their only gun as fast as they could and firing automatic.

During the night, Headquarters Battery was assembled and 50 men were recruited for a reaction force. We were 104 enlisted strength at the time, and all stepped forward. Venturing into pitch darkness to confront enemy forces of unknown strength is nobody’s idea of a good time, but we’d go wherever our guys were in trouble, it’s real basic. The reaction force got ready but never left Dong Ha because the embattled survivors saved themselves.

With both dusters out of action, the camp could no longer be defended, so the C/1/44 men shot their way out and fled to Camp Carroll two miles away. Some escaped on a deuce-and-a-half, whose driver had been hit and slumped unconscious over the wheel upon getting there. Someone drove the duster through the camp under fire picking up wounded, then crashed the perimeter at Camp Carroll, where the vehicle was seen in the morning draped with barbed wire. The battle had lasted three hours, and the enemy hurried off the battlefield leaving some of their dead, as they wanted to get away before daylight brought jets and gunships.

An officer’s daily log entry by Major David W. Wagner, the S-3, identifies the dusters in the battle as C-122 and C-142. The destroyed duster probably was C-122, which is recorded in unit records as a “total loss,” so the fighting duster (and the one reaching Camp Carroll) must have been C-142, which was booked as “salvage” and used for parts.

An ARVN company with U.S. advisers who reached the camp at 0700 searched in vain for signs of Lt. Scull. A detail from Dong Ha arriving at 0845 reported finding “enemy 14 KIA and still counting.” My letter states they recovered 17 NVA bodies and estimated from drag marks that 40 enemy troops died inside the perimeter. This number is based on statements made to me by witnesses. I’ve heard claims, then and recently, that ARVNs had shot at Americans; but when the battlefield was seen in daylight, ARVN and NVA bodies were found on top of each other, indicating they had fought to the death in hand-to-hand struggles. The camp itself was a shambles and had to be completely rebuilt.

I visited Khe Gio Bridge again three weeks after the battle. It was considerably beefed up with more wire, especially concertina, overhead cover for gun pits, and two replacement dusters. The tenants were understandably nervous, but this was locking the barn after the horse is gone. The NVA did not risk impulsive attacks; they spent weeks or months planning and rehearsing this type of operation. At that moment, Khe Gio Bridge probably was the safest place in I Corps.

We eventually turned it over to the ARVNs, who ran like hell, and the NVA recorded their deed without a fight. You can go there as a tourist now, but Highway 9 is still primitive and infrequently traveled. The wartime bridge and camp are gone. I don’t know if there is any trace of the battle, but I’m tempted to wonder whether ghosts of the 48 people who died there return on dark, foggy nights.

The survivors who returned to Dong Ha on March 12 thought Lt. Scull was killed in the fight, but an ARVN officer reported his bunker was hit and on fire, and he was led away by NVA soldiers. U.S. intelligence analysts concluded that a report by a former NVA officer in December 1974 about a U.S. POW he saw in June 1971 matched Lt. Scull’s disappearance in terms of description and incident. Nothing else has been learned of his fate. On October 16, 1978, the U.S. Government changed Lt. Scull’s status from “missing” to “died while missing” and upgraded his rank to Major, as was always done for MIAs to maximize government benefits to their families. He is survived by his mother and sister. A memorial web site and photo may be seen at http://www.flash.net/~azgecko/scull.htm

Rumors started circulating at 1/44 headquarters before the sun had set on the day of battle that Sgt. Stout would be recommended for the Medal of Honor. Lt. Col. Myers signed the paperwork, and Jack Stout and Faye Thomas went to Blair House on July 17, 1974, during the last days of the Nixon Administration, to accept their son’s medal from Vice President Ford. Jack Stout donated it in 1991 to the National Medal of Honor Museum, where it is on permanent display. Buddy White, a childhood friend, organized a fundraising drive and Mitch’s home town built a hero’s monument over his grave. A major building at Fort Bliss is named for him, along with the I-75 bridge across the Tennessee River and the Mitchell W. Stout Medal of Honor Memorial Golf Tournament, an annual event in Lenoir City. He also is survived by two sisters. A memorial web page may be seen at http://members.tripod.com/~msg_fisher/moh.html




I am seeking information about Sp/4 Terry Moser.

I’m proud to have served in 1/44 with the men who fought at Khe Gio Bridge and other battles in the Vietnam War’s most honored artillery battalion. My time with them shaped my character and life.

Sources and acknowledgements:

The author served with HHB/1/44 as the intelligence and operations clerk and other duties as assigned from April 1969 to May 1970. The author’s letter of March 12, 1970 describing the battle is a primary source of material for this article; a copy has been donated to the National Medal of Honor Museum. The author was a newspaper reporter before the war and for the last 25 years has been a lawyer residing in Seattle, Washington.

The following individuals cooperated in providing information, photographs, and contacts:

Gary Puro of the National Dusters, Quads, and Searchlights Association; Ed Hooper of the Tennessee Star Journal and National Medal of Honor Museum; the Harlan (Iowa) Tribune News, Col. Dave Althoff (USAF, retired), Harold “Doc” Peterson (2/47 Mech, 9th Infantry Division), M/Sgt Danny L. Fisher (USA, Retired), John Goss (HHB/1/44), Ben Johnson and Windell Crowell (C/1/44) (military ranks are given where known).

I sincerely apologize if I inadvertently left anyone out. Research of this story is an ongoing project and anyone knowing the names of battle participants, possessing photographs of the camp and battle area, or any information about the battle is encouraged to contact the author at [email protected]

Copyright © 1999 by Don Wittenberger, All Rights Reserved

Brief excerpts may be quoted for non-profit educational, scholarly, or historical purposes.

Any commercial use of this material without written permission is prohibited.






Hot Pursuit in the DMZ


Alpha One was one of the firebases a few miles south of the Demilitarized Zone ( DMZ), part of the so-called MacNamara Line. The base was built on the highest sand dune about a mile inland from the South China Sea. Most people think of Vietnam being jungle or mountains, but along the ocean there were beautiful beaches and sand dunes. In the hot season it was nearly unbearable, yet in the wet season temperatures could be in the upper 40’s and lower 50’s, a humid cold that chilled our Duster crews, especially those from the south.

After nationalist forces defeated the French in the first Indo China War, the DMZ was established by the Geneva Conference in 1954 as a way of separating the nationalist and communist North from the largely Catholic and non-communist South. The DMZ ran roughly along the 17th parallel, with the Ben Hai River at the center and five kilometers on either side of the river designated as “demilitarized.” In fact the DMZ was a free fire zone, meaning you did not need to seek clearances in advance to bombard anything. The NVA occupied the northern half and had a huge flag that was visible with the naked eye from Alpha Two.* This irritated us considerably, but the US and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVNs) did not have any permanent presence in the southern half of the DMZ.

Our unit, 2nd Platoon, Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion 44th Artillery (Air Defense) had a section of Dusters (two Dusters with a crew of about four each, plus a section sergeant) at Alpha One and other firebases along the DMZ. One Quad 50 crew from G battery, a medic, two advisors to the ARVN battalion, and sometimes a Marine was at the base to coordinate naval gunfire from ships off the coast. This made up the non-Vietnamese population of Alpha One, a total of about 15. My tour was from mid-1969 to mid-1970, which was fairly quiet along the DMZ. Too quiet, perhaps, as boredom, drug use, and racial tensions raised their ugly heads.

Alpha One was home to rotating battalions of ARVN infantry whose job was to prevent or slow down infiltration from the North. Some of the Vietnamese battalions were a sorry bunch, sullen and unmotivated. Other battalions were well-led, aggressive and some of the best infantry I saw while in Vietnam. Some of the worst ARVN troops would steal us blind, sneaking into our bunkers during siesta time to take radios or anything that wasn’t tied down. When caught, ARVN discipline was harsh. Infractions were often dealt with by being beaten with a bamboo stick in front of the assembled troops, then placed for days in the sun inside a barbed wire cage about two feet high and six feet on a side. The only protection from the sun was some cardboard from boxes of C rations. Sometimes our men would give the prisoner some water, which the ARVNs would not dare to do.

While Alpha One lacked mud and dust, living and working in sand had its challenges. Sand would creep its way into our bunkers, beds, food, and boots. And sand could wreak havoc with the 40 mm guns if not constantly cleaned. Drinking water, food, and ammunition had to be flown in by chopper, or by convoy on a difficult and often mined road during the dry season. Food was mostly B and C rations, although later in my tour A rations were sometimes flown in for a welcome hot meal. To bathe, the guys would go outside the wire to an old bomb crater that had filled with water. It was customary to throw in a grenade before bathing in order to kill the leaches, but it also stirred up the muck. Our bunkers were made with stout timbers and covered with sandbags. The firebase was surrounded by concertina wire which often became covered with sand blown by wind. Even with the Dusters and Quad 50, I seriously doubt that the base could have resisted a determined attack, because the wire was so vulnerable and the fields of fire somewhat limited.

My job as platoon leader was to ensure the firebases were supplied, rotations coordinated, conflicts dealt with between our troops and the ARVNs, and otherwise ensure that we were helping to defend the firebases. In some ways we were on perpetual guard duty, hoping that our firepower would deter ground attacks. We rarely got outside the wire on offensive operations. I worked out of Battery HQ in Dong Ha, and often visited the Alpha One and Alpha Two firebases to check on things.

We were into a pretty good routine, when a new ARVN mechanized infantry battalion rotated into Alpha One. This looked like a crack outfit, and I got along well with the American advisors. One day they radioed and asked me to come to Alpha One from Dong Ha for a discussion. I feared there was some problem, and managed to catch a chopper ride after sitting on the landing zone for about three hours. But instead of a problem, they and the ARVN commander had a plan. The idea was to send a platoon of ARVN infantry on foot into the DMZ at night to attempt to make some hostile contact at daybreak. Then, acting under the “hot pursuit” doctrine, a company of ARVNs on armored personnel carriers (APCs) would venture into the DMZ to “rescue” their comrades and pursue the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops. NVA troops were often infiltrating south through the DMZ, and the advisors suspected that there was a system of bunkers and a cadre to support NVA infiltrators. They argued that if they were attacked, it was permissible to engage in hot pursuit. Would we be interested in coming along to provide some extra firepower?

I had never heard of the hot pursuit doctrine, but the plan sounded good to me. I and most of the Duster crews were fairly bored with the routine and going into the DMZ sounded like a serious adventure. But I knew that going into the DMZ was not a decision a first lieutenant could make alone. I caught a ride back to Dong Ha to discuss the request with my battery commander and the battalion XO. They said “sure, why not?” We began by moving another section of Dusters and an APC to Alpha one, going overland and on some primitive roads. (The only other way to get to Alpha One in the wet season was to take a US Navy Landing Ship Transport from Dong Ha to the mouth of the Cua Viet River, then go up the coast on the beach, then back inland.)

Guns were cleaned, extra ammunition was stocked in the APC, tracks were maintained, and we waited nervously while the ARVNs were seeking contact. Sure enough, by mid-morning we got a call from the advisors that the ARVN platoon has made contact, and it was time to saddle up and pursue hotly. The ARVNs had four or five APC loaded with infantry, and some ARVNs piled onto our three Dusters. With the ARVNs in the lead, we headed out the gate going northeast across the sand: The Dusters, our APC, and the ARVN APCs made up our small convoy. I was hoping that we were just dealing with a small element of NVA, because our force was not particularly large.

We had only gone a little ways when I noticed an anti-tank mine just visible in the sand. Looking around, there were lots of them that had been partially uncovered by the wind. We stopped the convoy, and carefully, very carefully backed up the tracks because my lead vehicle had straddled one of the mines. This was not an auspicious start, but we set off again, trying to stay out of soft sand. Later we would find that the minefield was designed to protect Alpha One from NVA attack, but its location had been largely forgotten.

We were again making good time heading northeast toward the beach. . I confess to being both totally exhilarated and quite apprehensive at the same time, a feeling I will never forget. Unfortunately, one of the Dusters tried to shift gears in a soft spot and got stuck. By this time we were cruising toward the beach at a good clip, and the ARVNs did not want to stop to tow the stuck Duster. I looked back to see Lt. Dick Wiedenbeck of Florida and the rest of the crew on the stuck Duster with the most disgusted looks of disappointment. I felt that they could get unstuck and make it back to Alpha One on their own, so on we went.

Our convoy got to the beach, then headed north for a mile or two. There was no sign or marker indicating that we were in the DMZ, but by map and compass I knew we were inside the boundary. The beach did not seem like anything extraordinary, but as soon as we climbed a dune running parallel to the beach, we were really, really inside the DMZ. The Ben Hai river which was at the center of the DMZ was still a bit to our north, and the terrain was still sand dunes, but littered with hundreds and hundreds of rounds of unexploded ordinance: mortar and artillery rounds, bombs of all sizes, and naval gun rounds, including 16 inch shells fired from a US battleship, probably the New Jersey. It was somewhat surreal as we picked our way around the ordinance, and soon located the ARVNs, who had been in a bit of a firefight, but with no serious casualties. The NVA troops, probably a platoon, had retreated out of the sand dunes to the west across some old rice paddies into somewhat fortified tree line.

We advanced more or less on line in the sand when an ARVN APC hit a land mine. All the infantry quickly bailed out, and the APC soon began to burn. Again, no major injuries, but it was sobering. We continued on line to where the sand dunes ended and the rice paddies began. We were about 50 to 75 feet above the old rice paddies, still on sand dunes about a quarter mile from the tree line. The advisors called Quang Tri for a couple of Cobra gun ships, who arrived about 15 minutes later. Meanwhile, we found some recently abandoned bunkers and blew them up with C4 that I had brought along in the APC. (I suppose carrying the blasting caps in a wooden box on the pocket of my flack jacket was not the smartest thing to do.) I was worried that not moving could make us vulnerable to NVA artillery or mortars from the north side of the Ben Hai River, but we were not shelled.

The Cobras raked the tree line, and we could hear the pilots talking excitedly about the NVA that they had spotted, even though we did not see any enemy troops. Then they ran out of ammunition and headed back to Quang Tri to “get a load of nails”, meaning flechette rounds. When the Cobras returned they were asked to circle overhead, as the ARVN infantry and APCs decided to advance toward the tree line. The ARVNs wanted the Dusters to provide covering fire over their heads while they advanced. We wanted to shoot some rounds since we had come this far without firing a shot. So we did as asked. Our APC had a .50 caliber machine gun, and one of our battalion mechanics, who loved to see some action, was manning the .50 and rattling off rounds. The Dusters began accurately pounding the tree line as I directed fire using smoke rounds from my grenade launcher. We had designated guys whose only job was to slap the gunners on the helmet when I gave the cease fire order because the noise and smoke was terrific and the danger of hitting the ARVNs so acute. Our guys did a magnificent job of keeping accurate fire on the tree line. When the ARVNs got close to the tree line, we ceased fire and the ARVNs took it fairly easily with small arms and the M60s on the APCs. I don’t think the instructors at Fort Bliss envisioned 40 mm anti-aircraft guns being used as close infantry support, but it worked.

The ARVN claimed a body count of about 15 or 20 NVA. I could not confirm or deny the body count, but the number seemed reasonable. The ARVNs and the advisors thought it was a good idea to get the hell out of there while we were still in good shape, which is what we did. Everyone made it back to Alpha One safely, and we were wired as we rehashed the days’ events. To this day I carry the vision of the rusty 16 inch shell, fuse intact, laying on the sand. The Duster that got stuck had managed to extricate itself and made it back to Alpha One on its own.

Apparently the ARVNs were impressed, as they threw some medals our way. The Battalion HQ made some reports up the chain of command, and about a week later we got the word that General Abrams had sent a telex message that said that we were “not, repeat not” to enter the DMZ again. No one seemed really upset. Clearly the NVA didn’t worry about being in the DMZ.

Thirty eight years later, as I recall the tale, I am sorry and embarrassed that I do not remember the names of most of the fine men with whom I shared the incursion into the DMZ. And I cannot recall which Dusters went into the DMZ. These were first rate soldiers who had their acts together, and I was proud to serve with them. While I can’t be absolutely positive that I have recalled all of the events accurately, I have made every attempt to do so.

If you were on this little expedition or have information on it, please share your recollections. I would love to make it more accurate and acknowledge those who participated.

Phil Millam
Winthrop WA
[email protected]

*I was not at Alpha 2 on the 4th of July 1970, but it was reliably reported to me that our Duster crew had a few beers and decided to see if they could hit the NVA flag using long range 40mm ammunition (rounds which did not explode when the tracer expired). It was also reported that the flag came down for the duration of the day. Later I saw a news clipping that the NVA had complained to an American journalist that they had been shelled by “light artillery”. I recall that it was the Avenger Section under Sergeant Robinson. Tsk, tsk.


Vietnam Memories

Stories from our Brothers that walked the walk.

Maps and Locations

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