About thirty miles southwest of DaNang, on August 19, an American helicopter was shot down with eight men aboard. The men were reported to be presumed dead. The 3rd Battalion of the Americal Division began moving towards the wreckage.
By Friday, American casualties had risen to 27 killed and 150 wounded. The NVCA chose to stand and fight and began to rush troops to the area. By Saturday, over a thousand American troops were locked in combat with an equal number of NVA.
American casualties rose to between 35 and 40 killed and 160 wounded.
Reports began to appear from AP that some American infantrymen were questioning their rising casualties. One man was quoted as saying, "If those guys would have a chance to be alive (the helicopter crew) we would have fought even harder than we did and maybe we would have gotten there already. But these guys are dead and I think their families would understand that we don't want to die for them, now."
On Sunday the helicopter was finally reached an d six bodies were found. The hill nearby, the NVA were reported to have dug in, was occupied by the Americans, who found it without a single NVA dead or alive. One platoon leader said, "This really shoots morale to hell we don't even know if we accomplished anything with all this."
The story did not make front page headlines, however, until the next day. That was the day that A Co. 3rd Btn of the Americal Division, refused to fight.
Lt. Eugene Shortz, the Company Commander, got on the radio and told his battalion commander, Lt. Col. Robert Bacon, that his men refused to go. They had been ordered to move down Nai Lon hill into the NVA bunkers and trenches just as they had done five times before. Each time they had been thrown back and the company had received 50% casualties.
"Have you told them what it means to disobey orders under fire" the Colonel asked.
Lt, Shortz replied, "I think they understand."
The Colonel then told Lt. Shortz to tell the men that to the best of their knowledge the bunkers were empty. He also told the Lieutenant to take a head count of the men who really did not want to go. The Lieutenant came back and said he did not ask for a hand count because he was afraid all the men would stick together.
The Colonel told the Lieutenant to move out with his CP and leave the men there.
Col. Bacon then sent a Major and a Sergeant to the hill to talk to the men. "Give them a pep talk and a kick in the butt," said the Colonel.
Sgt. Blakenship found a dirty, tired, emotionally spent bunch of men who were sick of the endless battling and the constant danger of sudden firefights by day and the mortaring and enemy probing by night. With the danger of annihilation facing them they would go no further.
The Sergeant began arguing, and one of the men shouted that his Company had suffered too much.
When all else failed, Blakenship knowingly lied to the men, telling them that "another company was down to fifteen men and still on the move. Maybe they have got something a little more than what you have got."
"Don't call us cowards," a man shouted, and Blakenship began to walk away.
The men picked up their rifles and began to fall in, possibly because they thought the fifteen men needed their help, possibly because these combat veterans resented being called cowards.
However, for the first time when American men in Vietnam refused to fight, a reporter was present. Now the world could know that the American GI in Vietnam doesn't believe in the war and its goals and is starting to stand up for what he believes.
The Ally, no. 19