Personal Account of 21 May 67

Hello Eric, I told you in my last e-mail that I would tell you more about that tragic day, 21 MAY 67.  I will try to remember what I can. When our track (ACAV # K-10) took the first hit, the statements are accurate; Dwayne and Homer Pittman did exactly what the facts show. Royball and I jumped off the blazing track and ducked behind a mound.  


As we rode up to the ambush site I was nervous because I saw a lot of soldiers dressed in what looked like ARVN (South Vietnamese) uniforms. There could have been about 30 or more. After the first RPG hit they dispersed to the trees to our right, Royball and myself jumped on to the first track that came along (K-11). Dennis was the driver. As we climbed on to the back to enter our knees banged together and I looked to the rear and saw 2 uniformed soldiers aim their rifles at us. I knew we were goners but a mortar dropped right on top of them and when the smoked cleared there was only a smoking boot on the road (their own friendly fire). The ACAV continued down the road and we cleared the ambush site only to find a huge ARVN unit truck convoy. As Dennis neared the ARVN Officer standing in the road , he never slowed down and the officer leaped through a jeep to get out of the way!!!! That was when our Lieutenant said,"we have to go back - there are wounded that need help", so we went back into the ambush to save our buddies.

As Dennis drove us down the road we took an RPG through the side. It hit Saenz in the side and killed him instantly. Then Royball was shot in the left temple from small arms fire from our right front. He went down and knocked me down with him falling on top of me pinning me beneath me. I got him off of me and took over the M60. At that time I realized the armor plating wasn’t against the TC HATCH like it should. I moved it and at that same time automatic rifle fire sprayed the armor plating knocking me back about 2 ft. I returned to the M60 and returned fire to that location and the automatic weapon fire stopped. During this time the TC, (I can’t remember his name) was laying down heavy 50 cal. fire. I thought we had them on the run when the ACAV took that fatal hit in the transmission.

We came to a stop and prepared to abandon the disabled ACAV. The TC, and I tossed both M60s and lots of ammo off the track. I sat one up and aimed at where we took enemy fire to the right. As I remember, Dennis took the other machinegun and fired to the other direction at the tree line. As I was laying down a field of fire an enemy soldier ran by with a satchel charge and threw it into the disabled ACAV to my right. I sprayed him with M60 rounds but he kept going away like he was so high on something that he didn’t feel the rounds. I never found his body. He possibly dropped into a spider hole. I fired about 900 rounds through that M60 and watched the barrel turn red and then white and then explode in my face.

I became worried because my gun was disabled and I ran towards the track to get some grenades when our Air Cavalry choppers appeared and engaged the enemy with rocket and machinegun fire. Soon after a jet fighter also came screaming into the battle along with the K-Troop reaction force and the enemy broke contact and ran. As I remember there was five of us there and one was a woman. They were all wounded and so was I but I didn’t realize it because I was to pumped up. After the choppers got there it was over. Later, after I was medivaced home after the 7/21/67 ambush I ran into one of the wounded guys from 21 MAY 67 at Valley Forge Gen. Hospital. He told me that the NVA was dragging him away by the arm; he was unable to resist because he had been wounded by a 50cal. that came through the side of his track. When the gun ships got there and started firing, they dropped him and ran. He was a big guy over 200lbs.

The rest of the guys on Dennis’s track were dusted off along with me. We were remorse about the guys we lost. This I believe is the REST OF THE STORY.    There is probably more other guys remember. Everyone was a hero that day; I was put in for and received the BRONZE STAR for valor and my first purple heart. Well ERIC you are the first person I’ve told this to and I hope it gives you a little more info about the AMBUSH of 21MAY67 (the day after my 20th birthday.  Take care and best of luck!             Tony Puglisi

Homer Pittman, (right) Vehicle Commander meets Tony Puglisi, crewman for first time since Vietnam ambush on 21 May 1967