11TH FINDS ARMS BONANZA–62 WEAPONS IN TWO DAYS FROM THE SOUTHERN CROSS FOR MARCH 2, 1969.
Electronic copy of article provided by Leslie Hines
By SPEC. 4 TONY SWINDELL
CHU LAI, Vietnam (Special) — The Viet Cong made a mistake when they tried to kidnap Platoon Sgt. Enrique Perez.
Perez leads the 1st Platoon, A Co., 3d Bn., 1st Inf., operating off LZ Cork, in the 11th Inf. Brigade's Operation Vernon Lake II.
His platoon was in bunkers on the southern perimeter of the fire base. Perez a hefty six-footer weighing 200 pounds, moved from position to position checking on his men during the early hours of the night. Just before 11 p.m., he returned to his bunker. Shortly afterwards Viet Cong sappers attacked the LZ with satchel charges, grenades, and 60mm mortars.
"They came from all directions," Perez said. "And I heard explosions everywhere. I started to leave the bunker when I heard Vietnamese voices right outside. Someone was apparently leading the attack, because every time he said something. "I heard a grenade or satchel charge go off."
Perez's bunker was open on one end, facing the perimeter, and he had stretched a poncho over the opening as a curtain. When he heard the voices, he arose and stood next to it and waited for the VC to leave.
"I figured my time had come," he said, "and was I was about to jump out and get as many of them as I could with my M16 before they got me. But then they left and I didn't hear any more voices."
Just as Perez started to pull the poncho back, he heard a thump and a jarring explosion beside his bunker. Three more times he heard grenades hit the poncho, drop then explode. Perez's life had apparently been saved four times by the poncho which had bounced the grenades back into a depression directly in front of the bunker.
He waited a few moments after the last explosion, leaped outside and sprayed a magazine to his front. While he was in the process of inserting a new magazine, two VC jumped him from the side. The VC who were wearing only black shorts and tee shirts, grabbed him by the right shoulder and left leg throwing him off balance. As the VC attempted to drag Perez down the hill, they screamed "Didi! Didi! Didi! (Move! Move! Move! Move!), into his ears.
The rain-slick hill, however, foiled their attempt to keep Perez off balance and under control. As Perez struggled, all three fell and rolled wildly down the slippery hill to within a few feet of the concertina wire forming the perimeter.
"The first thing to come into my mind," he said "was the fact that I had been suckered outside my bunker to be kidnapped. Apparently, the VC had scouted the area and singled me out as some kind of a leader. Otherwise they could have easily thrown one of the grenades into my bunker instead of bouncing them against my poncho."
About half way down the hill, Perez lost his weapon, and the struggle turned into a hand-to-hand combat match. The husky sergeant pummeled the VC with his fists, and they staggered under his blows. When the trio began receiving fire over their heads from AK47s, Perez broke away from his would be captors and began crawling quickly back up the hill. The VC were either unwilling or unable to follow him.
"When the AK47s started firing," Perez explained, "I thought more were coming to assist the two who had grabbed me, and it was getting time to clear the area. I made every motion a human being could make getting back to my bunker."
The next morning it was determined around 20 VC had penetrated the wire. Sweeps into the immediate area revealed enemy positions in support of the attack, indicating it had been well planned. AK47 brass was found in several places.
As for Perez, he doesn't care to participate in any more wrestling matches with the enemy.