Saturday, March 18, 2006

Chapter 9: Ambushed

Early in the morning on October 31, 1968, our platoon was on patrol searching a heavily wooded area. I was assigned to walk left flank for the first time. That means another guy and I walked out maybe ten meters to the left side of the main column. Just far enough so no one sneaks up too close the main column, but near enough so we don’t get separated from the group in case of trouble. The right flank does the same thing on the other side. There are also point men that walk a little ahead of the main column for the same reason.

We were walking through the area and came across a few huts that were unoccupied and didn’t find anything. You couldn’t see very far around us so we stayed pretty close to the main column. Suddenly there was an explosion up front. We got down then moved quickly over toward the main group. I heard some of our men return fire and then someone called for a cease-fire and they stopped. The whole thing took 30 seconds, maybe even less.

Next I heard the call, “MEDIC! MEDIC!” I knew someone had been hit. The medic gets up and runs crouched over up forward. Then they call for the M-60 machinegun up front. The machine gunner yells, “Let’s go!” He starts moving toward the front where the fire came from and I follow him along with the second ammo bearer. Not too far up ahead we run past the medic (Doc as medics were called) tending to someone. It was Sergeant Cox, our platoon sergeant. He had volunteered to walk point that day. He volunteered to walk point quite often. He said he liked walking point, but I think he really did it when he wasn’t comfortable letting someone else do it because he felt there might be trouble. That’s the kind of man he was.

We got into position, the gunner in the center and ammo bearers on either side. I toss off my backpack with the ammo and put it in front of me in case it’s needed. The gunner always kept some ammo with him just in case so mine wasn’t needed right now. I search the area looking for movement and see someone moving over to my right. I turn quickly but see it’s one of our men getting into position. More men are now also moving into positions around us. I’m really expecting all hell to break loose at this point but nothing happens. Things are pretty quite and still no shooting. I just hear the sounds of our own guys moving around and talking excitedly very quietly among themselves.

I soon hear the radio operator (RTO) call for a dust off (medivac chopper). We held our positions and waited for the chopper to pick up Sargent Cox. When the chopper got close, they tossed out a smoke grenade to identify our position and then carried the sergeant out to an open area and when the chopper landed, they put the sergeant on. They were taking him to the 12th Evac Hospital at Cu Chi. The same place they had taken me a day or two ago. This is what it had in the operational report about this incident.

At 0844H vic XT513197, Co B detonated a claymore mine positioned in a tree. Results, 1 US WIA (dustoff).

This was what it was usually like was while I was there, snipers would lie in wait for us and when we got close, they opened fire with small arms or explosives. This time it was a claymore mine positioned in a tree. Then the snipers usually disappear into thin air.

We continued our patrol that day without any more trouble, but we did manage to capture one Viet Cong soldier that afternoon, I don’t remember how though. When we got back to the base camp, we turned over the VC to the MPs and they flew him into Cu Chi for questioning.

At 1400H vic XT519201, Co B apprehended 1 male detainee who was evac to IPW.

The next day we found out Sergeant Cox sustained severe head wounds and died.

I did a search of the Internet for information about Sergeant Cox and here is what I found.

On the Vietnam Memorial web site each person listed on the wall has an information page. Here is what little bit of information is listed for James.


SSGT - E5 - Army - Selective Service
25th Infantry Division
21 year old Single, Caucasian, Male
Born on Apr 21, 1947
Length of service 1 year.
His tour of duty began on Jul 01, 1968
Casualty was on Oct 31, 1968
Body was recovered

Panel 40W - - Line 63

I also found a web site that has rubbings of the names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Here is a rubbing of James’ name.

I clicked on a link on the Vietnam Memorial web page that took me to a page where I could leave a comment or pictures. I found this note from the daughter of one of James’ best friends’ back home in Queens.

Paula Miller
Daughter of good friend
65 Blossom Hill Road
Lebanon, NJ 08833 USA
Jimmy Cox was a good friend of my father's in New York. I know little about him, but I do have the honor of holding his army green jacket with his name on it. I say I know little about him but I feel the impact of his tragically short life on my father. My father is not an emotional man, and I have never seen him cry about anything save Jimmy. I can see through my father's eyes and the tears, how wonderful this young man must have been. To Jimmy and my dad, thank you, I love you.

I sent Paula an email on Saturday to the address she posted offering to tell her what little I knew about James. I’ve read so many entries similar to hers on so many different Vietnam related web sites from people crying for any little bits of information about someone that they knew that served in Vietnam. Maybe I can help her fill in some of the blanks. I hope she writes me back.


Fred said...

I am Paula's father. I was one of jimmy Cox's best friend before he went to Vietnam, My name is Frederick Miller. Jim and I went to college together at Queens Borough Community college in Queens New York. I am still in contact with his mother and sister. I will let them know of Tony Chliek and this site. You can contact me at

Anonymous said...

wooooooooooooooooooooow I can't read anymore... the tears wont stop...