The New Year of 1968 had seen an increase in enemy activity throughout Vietnam and a massive enemy offensive loomed. Additional personnel was added to defensive positions and the whole of Phu Loi base bristled in readiness.
On February 1st, 1968 during the Tet Offensive elements of 273rd. and Dong Nai Regiments of the North Vietnamese Army along with local Viet Cong units established themselves in the village of An-My which was located outside of Phu Loi’s defensive positions near the north end of the runway and just 1 mile from the north gate.
Using An-My as a staging and supply point the 273rd. advancing from the north, proceeded to attack the Reno Sector of Phu Loi’s perimeter with RPG’s (Rocket Propelled Grenades) machine gun and small arms fire.
Company C of the 1st Battalion 28th Infantry and a platoon from B Troop, 1st Squadron 4th Cavalry left Phu Loi on a reconnaissance-in-force mission of An-My. As they approached the village Viet Cong security forces attacked them with Claymore mines RPG’s and small arms fire. Heavy resistance was encountered by the Americans and they were forced to remain in place.
From an airborne observation post, the acting battalion commander directed the ground forces and ordered gunships from D Troop, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry and Company A, 1st Aviation Battalion to attack the enemy. The battle raged until 1800 hours when the 1st Infantry Division’s General Eschenburg ordered them to break contact and return to Phu Loi.
Preparations were now made to engage the enemy with artillery before this could occur permission had to be obtained from the Vietnamese Binh Duong Province Commander General Thuan.
Permission granted a psychological operations helicopter flew for an hour over An-My telling the residents to evacuate the village. After the villages evacuation, artillery fire and helicopter gunships attacked An My and the enemy was forced to withdraw.
The following day two companies of the 1/28th Infantry advanced on the remaining enemy forces with infantry and armoured cavalry meeting heavy resistance. Tactical air and artillery strikes were again utilized and the remnants of the attacking force withdrew under the veil of darkness.
During the two-day battle for An My, a total of 372 enemies were killed, the US losses were 18 killed and 49 wounded.
Some weeks later the 520th Battalion through its civil affairs program made arrangements through the Chau Thanh District advisor in Phu Cong to renovate An My school that had been destroyed during the Tet Offensive.
The removal of debris and the repairing of the remaining structures along with the erection of new structures kept the Battalion busy for several months.
On completion of the building and the reopening of the school, the Battalion distributed 600 sets of shorts, blouses, and shirts to An-My pupils. One year after the battle, prior to the upcoming 1969 Tet holiday, the Battalion gave school supplies to the students.
In December of 1969, my company was invited to visit An-My School for the pupil’s end of year awards ceremony. We enlisted men arrived at the elementary school in the back of a deuce and a half (2½ ton) truck to see the officers had already arrived in their jeeps and staff car.
The teaching staff is there to greet us, they don’t look particularly pleased with our being there. Probably because their menfolk were away fighting U. S. or South Vietnamese forces. The women are wearing an ao dai which is the traditional dress of Vietnamese women. The ao-dai consisted of a brightly coloured silk top worn over loose-fitting silk trousers.
We are invited into the classroom in which there would be up to 50 children sitting four at a time on long wooden tables.
I am curious as to where the hat on the desk came from in this picture.
The date on the blackboard is Saturday, December 20th, 1969 below which is a writing exercise.
Clapping her hands in time this young student leads her classmates in a song for the American visitors. As I recall the G.I.’s were particularly taken with this teacher due to the revealing sunlight flowing through her ao-dai.
At last, it is break time for the excited youngsters and they troop off, boys first, to the treat the Americans have laid on for them.
The boys are followed, in the natural course of thing by, the girls.
The teachers line up the children for probably the first and only time they would enjoy the delights of cake and Kool-Aid! The Vietnamese school official on the right has worn a tie for the occasion. On the left can be seen an American in civilian clothes, a most unusual sight. He is the one most likely to have arrived in the staff car as G.I.’s were not allowed to wear civvies’ off base.
The sign proclaims that this is “The Local Elementary School of An-My.” As patiently as possible the children get in line.
The An-My elementary school teachers serve their pupil’s cake and Kool-Aid, much to the children’s delight. The Vietnamese national is the school’s headmaster who is wearing a tie for the occasion.
More please teacher! The G.I. with the rifle in the background is having his picture taken with a child wearing the mystery hat. The school’s headmaster approaches to maintain order.
What a story she would have to tell when she got home.
These children were village children that did not attend the school but were attracted by the Americans appearance. An My School was a private school and these children were not pupils there.
With eyes filled with curiosity and more than a little envy, these two children, who were not pupils of the school, watch the proceedings. I think the one on the right is smoking a pipe, the one on the left appears to be holding a hand-rolled smoke.
We also attracted the attention of these fellows. They appeared, riding on scooters and bicycles, and are armed with M16’s. They are Regional Forces and Popular Force militia who were tasked within their local area to guard bridges etc. The American acronym for these troops was RFPF so we called them “Ruff-Puffs” and “Cowboys.” There was a great belief among the G.I.’s that they were “Ruff-Puffs” by day and VC by night.
It appears that some of the village children managed to get some cake despite the teacher’s efforts to drive them off.
When the cake and Kool-Aid been finished it was time for the student’s awards to be made that marked the end of the school year. The banner loosely translated reads “Awards Ceremony.”
As the children line up the remains of the old An My High School can be seen in the background.
A mixture of American and Vietnamese dignitaries attend the awards ceremony. Plenty of “Red Hats” (officers) to be seen!
Some of the staff from An My School.
A number of the children performed a song and dance routine to entertain their visitors.
At the conclusion of the festivities, the children were released to play with the soldiers before returning to class. The empty Styrofoam cups were placed inside of each other and the children vied with one another to knock the tower of plastic cups down.
An amusing occurrence happened when we were playing with the children. The rural Vietnamese were not familiar with black people and viewed the black soldiers with great curiosity. One child, taking a black G.I. by the arm spits on his own hand, the youngster then attempts to rub the black off the trooper’s arm.
The children were greatly attracted to the Americans, an attraction that was shared by the G.I.’s. I even got to hold a couple of the little darlings!
Recess and the awards over the young pupils returned to their classrooms to find textbooks given to them by the Americans.
The fruit was given too. It must have seemed like riches galore for these youngsters. You will note that the G.I. is armed, we always had security in some form or another, even when visiting a school!
Behind the school, a pensive David reflects on the day’s activities. To my right are located the battle damaged remains of An My High School.
The remains of An My High School