U.S. Army's 6th Battalion/14th Artillery Regiment

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The 6/14 Arty is officially open but is still a work in progress. We hope that it will soon take form and someday proudly stand as a testament to the brave men of the 6th Battalion 14th Artillery Regiment.

A Dak Seang Story - by Frank DeLong












The 6/14

     Here are a couple of photos for you. The one from Vietnam (on the left) was taken a couple of months before I went to Team 23 in Tan Canh and 42nd RGT. It shows me and my counterpart, Lt. Thuy, who was aide to the ARVN II Corps Commander in Pleiku. It was taken in Ban Me Thuot just ourside the MACV compound which was then located in "The Lodge", an old hunting lodge used by Teddy Roosevelt and others when on Safari. (It burned down in 1970 by accident.)
     The other photo (on the right) shows me and my 82 yrs. old father Frank W. DeLong Jr. Dad was in the Army Air Corps in WWII. He was stationed at desert tactical airfields in North Africa and Palestine and flew heavy bombers (B-17 & B-24) on raids against occupied ports along the North African coast and targets across the mediterranean in Italy and Germany.
     Take care and stay in touch.
                       Bro. Frank

A Dak Seang Story - by Frank Delong
 One Saturday afternoon last August I was working in the yard when my wife brought the cordless phone out the front door. The fellow on the other end said:  "Mr. DeLong, you don't know me, but I was going through some things of my dad's last week, and I came across a letter you sent to our family."  I said: "I know who you are.  You're Tom Kelly's brother." I sent a letter to his family from Vietnam in 1970. I was the last one to see Tom Kelly alive. 

 Tom was the FO with our battalion advisory team at the battle of Dak Seang in April 1970.  There were four of us with the 1st BN 42nd RGT ARVN.  Tom and his RTO made six.  Since the beginning of April 1970 the Dak Seang Special Forces Camp had been under siege by elements of the 28th NVA RGT, supported by the 40th NVA Artillery RGT.  Our battalion was inserted in a helicopter assault just southeast of the camp on April 12, 1970.  After about five days of fighting, the battalion moved to a hilltop a klick north of the SF camp and was attempting to push further north with no success.  For the next six days, the 1st BN 42d RGT was surrounded on that hill.  That's when I met Tom.  Up to that point, I had been with the battalion's lead company, while Tom stayed with the battalion commander and my boss, MAJ Noll.  But when we were no longer able to move, all units were pulled back into a rough perimeter on the hilltop.  Then we hunkered down and started calling in artillery and air support morning, noon and night. 

 Tom and I became friends during the six longest days of our lives. 

 I will never forget the first time I laid eyes on him.  It was the morning of April 13th.  He was sitting cross-legged on the ground next to his RTO, studying a folded map.  He had a red bandana around his forehead, almost resting on the top of his glasses, and he looked over at me with this look of utter calm and acknowledged me with his open palm.  I had not yet met him.  I was rushing back to the lead company after running out to a resupply helicopter to hand the door gunner a letter to mail for me.  I do not recall seeing him again until dusk on April 18th, when our lead company returned to the battalion hilltop perimeter.  The next day, Tom helped me dig in, between mortar attacks, during which we crouched together in his hole counting down the rounds.  During a break, we brewed up my last packet of hot cocoa in a canteen cup, but before we could sample it, the NVA began to mortar us again.  We scrambled into his hole, and eased the canteen cup back and forth between us, trading sips.  Then one round exploded nearby and dislodged an egg-sized chunk of red clay from the edge of the hole. It fell squarely into the middle of the cocoa.
Tom looked straight at me and said, through clenched teeth: "OK.  That does it.  Now they've made me angry!" 

 Our lives depended upon artillery and air support.  Dak Seang was a difficult environment for an FO.  At any one time, there were three to five battalions deployed independently in the area of operations, all requiring artillery and air support.  There were frequent check fires to permit the air assets to provide close support.  Our hilltop was also a difficult location for an FO.  It was moderately wooded, with treetops in the 75 to 90 foot range. The NVA were hugging our position.  They never seemed to attack from the same location. Tom and his RTO worked round the clock, juggling the assets he had available from the 6/14th and directing fire from other units, too, but the bottom line was we were exposed on that hilltop.  Toward the end, it became impossible for us to be resupplied with food, water or ammo.  My boss, MAJ Noll, was wounded by shrapnel in the lower spine when an enemy round exploded in a tree above his hole.  Tom's RTO was wounded by shrapnel from an RPG while trying to help repel a ground assault on the battalion.  Tom's radio was put out of commission.  On 4/23/70, during that same ground assault, the battalion "broke out" and headed back toward the SF camp. 

 Tom and I were together, sharing one radio and one map between us. Heading down a ravine from the hilltop, the battalion came under fire from one or more automatic weapons covering the mouth of the ravine.  My NCO was wounded.  Meanwhile, a medevac came on station, and our senior NCO called him in to pick up our wounded, including MAJ Noll, my NCO, the RTO, and several wounded ARVN soldiers.  There was a small open area on the side of the hill created by airstrikes.  It was amazing that the pilot could find that tiny LZ, much less get the helicopter into it.  The medevac drew machine gun fire before we even got everyone aboard, but the pilot held it at a low hover until he had a full load and then lifted almost straight up, absorbing hits all over his ship.  He was forced to make an emergency landing at the SF camp.
(One of those machine gun rounds hit our senior NCO in the belly, and he died in the RTO's arms before they landed.)

 That left me and Tom laying prone at the uphill end of the tiny LZ.  Several ARVN wounded and a few able-bodied soldiers were in the middle of the LZ.  I said to Tom that we needed to get off that LZ.  Tom, calm as ever, was trying to raise the 6/14th to see if they had a helicopter in the area that could pick us up.  He was twisting the PRC-25 knob to change the frequency when a machine gun began firing at us from behind.  He had us in his sights.  The rounds were kicking up dirt all around us.  We rolled in opposite directions, trying to get out of his target zone.  I rolled across the LZ and into a depression caused by an uprooted tree. Then all hell broke loose with small arms fire raking the LZ, coming from uphill of our position.  I saw several wounded ARVN killed as they tried to return fire from the middle of the LZ.
I never saw Tom again.  I believe he was killed by the initial burst of machine gun fire. 

 Three ATVN soldiers (one of them wounded) took care of the machine gun, though among the 4 of us, not one of us had a grenade. (It was an M-60, at the mouth of a deep bunker.)  The four of us set off downhill, crossing an open area of trees felled by airstrikes. I was attempting to point them back in the general direction of the SF camp (I did not have the map, just a compass), when we were taken under fire again, from uphill.  I got separated from them, too, and was damn near shot at point blank range by a guy in a covered fighting position that I almost stepped on as I turned to follow them.  Fortunately, he missed and (17 rounds later), I didn't.  I then alternately walked and crawled back to the SF camp by early evening and scampered across an open area to a bunker on the outer perimeter. It was manned by soldiers from my own ARVN battalion who were yelling encouragement to me.  Our ARVN A Co. commander (a lieutenant like me) came double-time from around the outside of the concertina, saluted and grabbed and hugged me. 

 For 31 years I have thought about Tom and what happened to us, going over it again and again, remembering how Tom looked grinning from behind his glasses; remembering how he was calm and funny; remembering how he took care of his RTO; remembering how we all depended on him.  Then last August I got that call from his brother.  It was a wonderful thing to talk to someone who knew Tom and to talk about what a great guy he was and how much I have missed him.  I'll bet it is hard for the average person to believe you can feel like that about somebody you knew for just six days, but those were not six ordinary days and Tom Kelly was not an ordinary man. 

Frank DeLong 
MACV Team 23 

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