1st Battalion 22nd Infantry
Chu Moor 1/22 Infantry Battle Reunion
April 27 - 30, 2006
The following is the After Action Report on the reunion written by John McKee.
Photos by Ronnie Colson, Rainer Guensch and Charles Shyab
A little history:
This all began about a year ago when Rainer Guensch, Mike MacCallum and Doug Stanek met at Doug's place in Vancouver, WA, and put forth the idea of a reunion for the veterans of the Battle of Chu Moor. Some chatter ensued on the Yahoo "Chu Moor" group begun previously by John Piraino, but nothing really progressed until this past November, when, through discussions with Wayne Raymond, I came to realize that I had a personal connection to Chu Moor that was much greater than I realized. My lone somewhat frequent nightmare over the years has involved the loss on 22APR68 of a 20 year old guy every one in the platoon knew as "Herbie" whose bad fortune it was to be walking point on an 8-man patrol a few klicks south of a hill called Chu Moor. Our patrol's path crossed that of an NVA element that was headed east, and an exchange of fire between Herbie an the NVA resulted in Herbie being mortally wounded. Following the rescue of Herbie and his med-evac, the NVA pursued and re-engaged our small party, attempting to surround us. We managed to E&E back to our patrol base, and sometime during that E&E, my mental recording device tripped to the "off" position. My next recoverable memory was o/a 5MAY68 when the battalion evacuated the FSB just ahead of the B-52's that were to rain on the NVA's parade in the Chu Moor AO.
So, I was there on the hill called Chu Moor, and I know this only because my brothers-in-arms have told me I was. This revelation that I was part of the Chu Moor battle was what motivated me last November to assume the mission of bringing about the reunion we've just experienced. This mission soon became almost an all-consuming one, and caused Annie to wonder, at times, if I had gone off the deep end. I very well might have, but her strength and understanding helped me to maintain a healthy balance between my search for answers as to what happened 38 years ago, and my present responsibilities as husband and father.
I found my old RTO, Ronnie "Georgia" Colson still living in the Savannah, GA area, and with the great help of his wife (Missy) we began searching for all of you on the internet. Wayne Raymond put me in-touch with Charlie "Doc" Shyab who lives in the DC area, and Doc and I spent a few days at the National Archives reviewing and copying hundreds of documents that have enabled me to better understand what happened at Chu Moor. We know a great deal about the experiences of Charlie and Delta companies from the Duty Officer's Journals, but, even there, some information is lacking, i.e. the journals are missing. After 27APR68 and through the entire month of MAY68, there is no written (or typed) record of what transpired at Chu Moor except for some terse records from the journals of 1st Bn/14th Infantry whose four rifle companies where under the operational control of 1/22 for several days during the period of the missing 1/22 journals. The experiences of Alpha and Bravo companies on Chu Moor from 28APR68 until the evacuation of the FSB are presently not available in the official record, but, hopefully, can be filled in by the stories of members of both companies who were there (once we find some of them) or by locating the missing journals. The search for and "enlistment" of more personnel who were there in an effort to complete the record of the Chu Moor battle is what lays ahead, and is the motivation for a future reunion.
The Reunion: I only need one word to describe the reunion held at Circus-Circus this past weekend - WOW!
Day 1 - 27APR06
Anne & I flew from PHL to IAH where we linked-up with Ronnie (D/1/22) and Missy Colson for the second leg to RNO.
Once we got to the hotel, we had a couple drinks and a bite to eat. Then Ronnie, Missy , Anne and I picked up supplies at the liquor store and headed for the Truckee Room at Circus Circus. We also picked up the supplies that we brought with us and began setting up the room for the reunion. We had an olive green banner to " Welcome Chu Moor & Tet Veterans Reunion 2006 " , daily maps of the battle, name tags etc. Missy and Ronnie brought all 77 tee shirts with them from Georgia . As we set up the room , the guys started arriving. It did not take long to realize that this was going to be a good thing. Ray Diepenbrock (E/1/22 - 4.2 Mortars) and Phillip Seals (a medic from C/1/12) who came in from Northern California ( Chico ) arrived first, followed quickly by Tom Hildebrand ( Reno resident from C/1/12), who saw the reunion announcement in the Reno newspaper and just decided to show up. Conversation came easily with these guys as it did with the guys who showed up next. Hugh Crumpler had left a note on the sign outside the door, so he left the casino when he got our voice mail that the reunion had begun. Dave (D/1/22) and Dawn Wetherbe arrived from Florida, and were accompanied on this special trip by their friends Mary and Mike. Although Vic Garrison (D/1/22) wasnt at Chu Moor because he was wounded in Kontum Tet 68 and sent back to "the world" , we were so happy that he came to participate . When Wayne Raymond (D/1/22) and John Bobb (C/1/22) arrived from their sojourn from the Dallas area, the level of energy increased.
Next, Jim (D/1/22) and Dorothy Dillard arrived from Inglewood, CA quickly followed by John (D/1/22) and Arleen Piraino from Ormond Beach, FL. Henry (D/1/22) "Big Pineapple" and Ruth Berinobis who had arrived on Wednesday from Hawaii, entered the room much to the joy of all who were there. Unfortunately, Henry wasn't feeling well (something in the water?), so he had to return to his room after a short stay. Next to arrive was Lonnie Davenport (D/1/22) from Stockton, CA followed quickly by Chris King (B/1/22) from Meadow Valley, CA, Philip Hanify (C/1/22) from Great Falls, MT, and Claudia Zimmerman of Atlanta, GA.
Later in the evening, Rainer Guensch (D/1/22) and Doug Stanek (C/4/42 Arty) arrived, after enduring a long ride from Doug's home near Vancouver, WA. Their entrance instilled a resurgence of energy to the gathering. Around 2200, Wayne, John Bobb, Annie, Ronnie, Missy, Ruth and I went in search of some Japanese sushi, only to find the restaurant closed, so we settled for pizza. Before the pizza arrived, though, Ronnie, Missy, and Ruth bid the rest of us goodnight. The four of us managed to finish off only one of the pizzas, so we took remaining pizza back to Doug, Vic, Ray, Dave, Lonnie, Rainer, Phil, and Jim who were still going strong reminiscing. Around 2230 (0230 EDT), Ronnie, Missy, Annie and I called it a night, having been awake for 24 hours at that point, leaving the assembled to continue conversation into the night.
Day 2 - 28 APR06
Early on Friday, all of the Thursday arrivals made their way back to the hospitality room to continue getting reacquainted, and throughout the day, most of the remaining folks who reserved a room arrived, each one received by a cry from whoever first noticed their entry and then immediately greeted by old, old friends probably more warmly and sincerely than many had ever been greeted. Those arriving on Friday included Jack (4/42 FO with C/1/22) and Kathy Chavez, Jim (D/1/22) and Pam Demetroulis, Mike Law (C/7/17), Rick Lindsay (4/42 Arty FO), Mike MacCallum (D/1/22), Larry Thorpe (2/D/1/22) with his friend and VN vet Val Pollock (Marines), Charlie "Doc" Shyab (C/1/22 - Medic), and Toby Van Skike (3/D/1/22). As the day wore on, I was busy scanning 194 photos brought by John Bobb, Dave, Vic, Toby, Larry, Claudia and Ray and copying 387 digital images from disks brought by Bob Mason, Jack Chavez, and Chris King. All of these images will be available (once I get them organized) to whoever asks, and will be provided on a CD along with the digitized versions of S3 Radio Logs (Duty Officer's Journals) and marked-up maps that were on display. A food and drinks run was made by Annie and Wayne who returned with small sandwiches and liquid refreshments just in time to provide much needed nourishment to the famished grunts and support troops. Late in the afternoon, folks drifted off in small groups to their favorite restaurant for dinner, and then returned shortly thereafter.
As evening rolled around, the conversations flowed effortlessly as people moved from table to table, interested in hearing stories of other people in other companies and disciplines (infantry, artillery, air cavalry, communications), and the room was filled at times with raucous laughter as each storyteller's tales both entertained and brought back pleasant memories.
Once again, around midnight or shortly thereafter, the old soldiers sought some rest to get ready to face tomorrow's events. The only scheduled event will be Mike MacCallum's presentation concerning present-day Vietnam to begin around 1400 hours. There is also the possibility of a visit by U.S. Congressman Jim Gibbons (R) of Nevada's 2nd Congressional District who was an Air Force fighter pilot in VN about the same time the veterans gathered for this reunion were in-country.
Day 3 - 29APR06
Once again, folks began arriving early (around 1000 hours) to resume socializing, and Annie and Wayne set off to procure rations (small sandwiches, beer, wine, Rum, Vodka, Red Bull, soft-drinks) for the day. Around noon, Norman (D/1/22) and Elain Green arrived from Woodland, CA along with Tom Fretwell (C/1/22, D/1/22, LRRP) from San Francisco. Many had begun to speculate if Norman would show up, so the room once again was filled with cheers at his arrival. Norman brought plenty of photos to share, and they've all been scanned for distribution. As scheduled, Mike MacCallum arrived shortly before 1400, and after getting his projector setup to display his pictures from his laptop onto our makeshift screen (a white table cloth push-pinned to the wall) Mike did an excellent job of presenting a view of present-day Vietnam. Mike began by informing us that approximately 60% of the current population of Vietnam have no memory of the war, and that, Americans (and their $$$) are very welcome. To my alarm and dismay, Mike also pointed out that the sides of the roads remain devoid of vegetation, evidence (as if we needed anymore) of the potency of the "Trail Dust" missions' deadly cargo (Agent Orange) that was dispersed long, long ago.
After many delays due to other commitments, Congressman Gibbons arrived around 1730, and after a very short "welcome home" speech, spent about a half-hour rubbing elbows with his fellow veterans, then joined us for a group photo session. I wound up with two decent shots, but I'm sure there are others out there that may be better - we'll get to that (sharing digital images) shortly. Mr. Gibbons then departed to keep another engagement.
Once again, folks joined each other in small groups, and reminiscing about days gone by resumed and continued late into the evening.
Day 4 - 30APR06 - Goodbyes and the Future
Sunday saw the beginning of departures back to our "normal lives", and the goodbyes were all ending with "til next year". The planning has already begun, and John Piraino has setup a new group site at MSN for us to discuss the details of the next reunion. If you haven't received an invitation to join this group, you will soon as Johnny is sending out individual invitations to join the ChuMoor group at MSN. This is not a public group, so you'll have to be invited. Once you've been invited and accepted the invitation, you will be able to upload your reunion pictures for all to see and download. It's easy to do. The first time you try you'll be asked to install a little application that's provided by MSN. Depending on your security settings in Internet Explorer, you may be asked to allow installation of an ActiveX control. Just permit it, and the installation will be done in less than a minute. Once complete, the application will be looking at your hard drive where you can navigate to where your pics are stored. You wll see thumbnails of the pics, and be offered the opportunity to add some title text to describe each picture before uploading.
Thanks to the generous contributions at the reunion (which covered most of the the cost of snacks and beverages), the reunion planner (me!) is almost whole in terms of out-of-pocket expenses. However, in addition to the short-fall for provisions, late billings for things like name tags and holders, Welcome Banner, Maps (which will be available at future reunions), etc.have left me in the hole to the tune of around $500. I know most have given at the runion, and for that I am grateful, but, if you can afford it, another $20 (except from those who've already given $50 or more - you know who you are) would be greatly appreciated. You can send a check to me at:
891 Ebelhare Road
Pottstown, PA 19465
Any amount in excesss of $500 will be set aside to be used at the next reunion to be held around the same time next year at a place to be determined. There is a strong sentiment to have the next reunion at Branson, MO, and, thinking ahead, the third reunion (40th Anniversary of Tet & Chu Moor) in Washington, DC
This AAR has taken me more than three weeks to complete mostly because I was participating in Run For the Wall XVIII with my journey to Ontario, CA beginning on 12May06 and the return trip to Washington, DC taking place from 17May06 to 28May06. I have to tell you that this "mission" to raise awareness of the POW/MIA issue was very rewarding to me as well as to Annie. I highly recommend participation in this event to any who seek to deal with the emotional scars of how we were received by our country 38 years ago. I can assure you that the "fly-over" part of this country really appreciates our service, and they are not bashful about showing it. Annie and I have already committed to participating in RFTW XVIX next year, and encourage all who can do it to join us. For more information about this cause, go to http://www.rftw.org .
That's it for now ladies and gentlemen.
Please provide some feedback either to me directly or via the Chu Moor Reunion Group (http://groups.msn.com/ChuMoorReunionGroup/) concerning the first reunion, so we may address any concerns and incorporate your suggestions for the next reunion.
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