IN NOVEMBER 1965, the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, led by Lieutenant Colonel Harold G. "Hal" Moore, dropped into the Ia Drang Valley and soon engaged the enemy. The three-day battle pitted about 450 U.S. troops against some 2,000 North Vietnamese Army soldiers. Captain Ramon "Tony" Nadal, 29, commanded Alpha Company. One of his platoons was quickly cut off by the enemy.
I HEARD DEAFENING fire going off in the area of the first platoon when I got a call from Colonel Moore telling us to find that platoon and bring 'em back. I got my soldiers together in the creek bed — I thought they needed a little pepping up. They'd seen their buddies killed. "We've got a platoon out there, and we're going to go get 'em," I said. Their response was wonderful. We'd moved forward about 50 meters. Suddenly, in a grassy area, all hell broke loose. Unknown to us, the enemy had been crawling forward in that grass. In one respect, our launching the assault may have saved the battalion.
It was brutal. One of my sergeants killed a North Vietnamese soldier with his bayonet; another of my men killed one with his .45. One of my lieutenants wore a compass — I saw it explode on his chest. I came in with 95 guys. Eighteen were killed, and another 26 were wounded in two days.