Forrest B. Snyder, Jr.
Panther 19 - Firebase Charlie
I was at Firebase Charlie when they abandoned it after dark, part of the team of guns that covered the withdrawal. As I recall, we relieved a heavy team of Cougar guns and another team of Panther Guns when they expended. We had followed the battle on FM from Kontum northward and knew things were pretty hot on the ground.
We checked in and were told "You broke the attack! and "Shoot 50 meters from the big fire!" The problem is, we could see no less than three big fires and three or four small ones. Otherwise, the mountaintop was pitch black. We settled things by putting a pair 50 meters from the largest fire in the middle and were told. "That's it Panther - put it right there!" and, a pass or two later. "OK Panther, You broke the attack we’re leaving." and, I believe, a direction of egress, maybe northeast. We put the rest of our load between the big fire and
the assumed position of the friendlies.
The last thing we heard from the out-of-breath, pounding through the boonies voice on the other end of the radio was something like "You broke the attack. We're clear and heading down the mountain," or words to that effect. Then, nothing.
Three or four days later, when the survivors had been recovered, the American sent us a thank-you via Peter Arnett. The message was "The first guns were good -- they broke the attack, but that last team was best. They broke up things and covered our escape!" I believe Arnett came by the Panther “Stickitt Inn” and delivered his message personally.
Bill Reeder, who was part of the first team of Panther guns on station, went back to Vietnam some years later and tells of sitting in the bar at a hotel in Pleiku. Some of the locals were singing. He asked the bartender what they were singing about and was told "They sing about the Heroic Battle of Firebase Charlie, Bill told the bartender "Hey, I was at Firebase Charlie!" After that, he reports, he didn't have to buy a drink for himself all night!
Jack- thanks for the reply and for passing my story on. I've already received a very nice email from Maj. Duffy who confirms that he was the voice on the radio. After 35 years, I'm finally getting to meet some of the guys we covered on the ground and it's good.
Also, thanks a bunch for pointing me to the after action report on the battle of Kontum. I'm just getting started on my read through. At the time, I was only really aware of the relative small part in which I and those around me were participants. Through all of it, I never did have an idea of the larger ground situation and what a close thing it was.
Forrest B. Snyder, Jr.
Forrest B. Snyder, Jr. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
USA - Thursday, August 02, 2007 at 09:25:32 (PDT)