Pat Mclaughlin's Account of Actual Attack on the NDP Nov. 2,1967                        1/18th Battalion commanded by Richard Cavazos

1 November 1967

It was Charlie Company’s turn for patrol and we were joined by one of the other companies—I believe Alpha. The Battalion Commander would be with us as we all expected some action. I was called up to Lima’s CP and Annan told me that Dogface 6 had again directed that First Squad, Lima Platoon take the point. This was highly unusual for one squad to be singled out when there were so many others that had not yet had their “turn” on point—particularly since we were in a very bad neighborhood.

I viewed this as the ultimate compliment by LTC Cavazos, and CPT Annan, yet felt that we were being asked to carry a bigger load than any other squad in Charlie Company or, likely, the Dogface Battalion. Walking back to brief First Squad I wasn’t sure how the guys would react. They let me know.

“What, are we the only squad capable of taking the point in the company?”

“SGT Mac, this is unfair.”

“The ‘old man’ is asking more of First Squad Lima than of any other squad.”

I couldn’t challenge the merits of any of the comments. When they were done I simply pointed out that we were given the point because we were the best and it was vital to all that the best take the point out. I asked one or two of my most experienced guys if they wanted the point, and none did. No problem, I’ll take it.

When we stepped off, with the scent of death floating in the air, the two Dogface Companies were in a single file column and not in an inverted “V.” Nor did we have guys out on the flanks which would be typical. We were expecting trouble.

The unknown always accompanies the point. The Point Man understands that with the heightened danger comes a heightened responsibility. More than just self preservation drives the man on point. He knows that his ability to discern, to analyze, to comprehend, and then to react is fundamental to the well being of the unit. It is best when the man on point wants to be there.

As I led the column through the Rubber I was in a zone. Blocking out the noises behind me my senses were locked on the sights and sounds to my front and the periphery. Safety off, my 14 was at the ready. I glanced at the compass, spotted my target to work toward then scanned the terrain to choose the best path to reach my compass point. We had gone a thousand meters or more when I spotted movement to my right and up a hill which we were navigating around. Holding the patrol I froze to take stock.

Seconds passed as I zeroed in on the area where I discerned movement then I saw them as they stepped into the open at the crest of the hill. Three NVA soldiers in uniform and helmet, wearing backpacks, carrying AK-47s remained standing and glared down at me. Fine, I’ll take a shot. Just as quick as I brought the 14 to my shoulder to draw a bead the 3 soldiers ducked out of sight. “Coleman, I need the radio.”

“Lima 1 to Lima 6, over.”

“Lima 6, over.”

“I’ve got 3 enemy soldiers in uniform and backpacks, with AKs, up the hill to right front, around 2 o’clock. They wanted me to see them before disappearing, over.”

“Lima 6, roger, checking with Charlie 6.”

“Charlie 6 to Lima 1, over.”

“Lima 1, over.”

“Lima 1, tell me what you have, over.” I advised situation report as requested, then asked, “Do you want First Squad to go up and check it out, over?”

“Wait one, checking with Dogface 6, out”. I didn’t wait long.

“Charlie 6 to Lima 1, over.”

“Lima 1, go.”

“The ‘old man’ wants clarification. Are you certain that they wanted you to see them, over?”

“Affirmative, they made sure that I saw them before they ducked out of sight, over.”

“Charlie 6 to Lima 1, over.”

“Lima 1, go.”

“Dogface 6 says this is a trap. We are cutting a new azimuth and calling in artillery. Charlie 6 out.”

We headed off in a new direction while Dogface 6 called in artillery on the hill and surrounding area. The two companies of infantry “snaked” our way back to the perimeter. Another day, another patrol--otherwise uneventful-- or was it?

It was Lima Platoon’s turn for ambush patrol, not an entirely happy fact considering that there were a bunch of angry NVA and VC fellows in the area with unpleasant designs on us. It was Second Squad’s rotation. Sergeant O’Brien and Lt. Zima returned from the CP after briefing and O’Be began to brief his guys. I walked over to listen in as did John May.

It was important to know where Second Squad would be positioned. This also placed a burden on First Squad as we would need to fan out and occupy Lima’s positions over the platoon front. We would be spread too thin. Especially since Lima Platoon on the north side, and the Battalion’s Recon Platoon on the south side, protected the artillery and mortar positions so vital to the overall operation. Staff Sergeant May and I worked out how First Squad would “fill-in” the vacant Second Squad bunkers.

Second Squad was uneasy about this ambush, and rightly so. O’Be calmed his guys and Porky provided seasoned leadership to the newer soldiers. In the end you b---hed, shook it off, and carried on with the mission. That’s what Second Squad did. As Second Squad lined-up, single file, grunts double checking weapons, ammo, frags, and claymores I poked, “Hey, O’Be.”

“Yea, Mac.”

“Don’t start anything you can’t finish out there.”

“We’re just going out to make a little fire, toast marsh mellows, and tell some ghost stories. Wanna come?”

“Appreciate the invite but someone’s got to hold this perimeter while y’all out camping. See you in the morning.”

As light was fading, O’Be and his men, twelve strong, headed north into the Rubber. If the enemy challenged these men they would have one hell-of-a-fight on their hands.

Lima also had listening post (LP) so O’Connor and two others were out less than a hundred meters to Lima’s front, directly west of the artillery. The terrain to our front was clear then somewhat abruptly sloped down to a larger valley which appeared to be thick jungle. Off in the distance was Cambodia. Coleman handed Lima 1’s radio to O’Connor so the LP could communicate with Lima 6 and Charlie 6.

0030 hours on 2 November 1967

If I was dreaming at all, it must have been about Sydney. Coleman had watch, and I was napping in the sanctuary of the sand bags stacked 3 high extending behind our bunker. “We’ve got incoming”, shouted Coleman. Yes, we did. Explosions were loud and frequent. Shrapnel ripping everywhere. Coleman climbed into the bunker, as I shook the sleep off.

At this point O’Connor hauls ass back to the bunker and dives into the sanctuary of the sleeping area. Coleman takes the radio back, “I felt naked without it.” I suggested O’C take shelter in the bunker. “No way, I’ll stay here.” He reported that when the first mortar rounds hit, unable to reach Lima 6, he radioed Charlie 6 who directed that the LP get back to the perimeter.

We kept a low profile, but eyes to the front expecting an assault when the mortar attack ceased. The mortar rounds rained on us, Oscar’s mortars, and the 105’s. Whoever was directing the incoming knew what he was doing. If the enemy followed the mortar barrage with a ground assault Lima was in trouble with Second Squad on ambush.

Sitting in the well of the bunker I caught a piece of shrapnel in the upper left back. O’Connor was behind me and hollared, “Mac, there’s a piece of shrapnel sticking out of your back.”

“Well, pull it out Johnny!” O’Connor did causing burns on his hand from the hot shrapnel. The wound was a modest one, nothing to worry about. Someone must have called our medic and Doc Houchins showed up.

“Mac, are you hit?”

“Doc, I’m fine. Get back to your bunker, it is too dangerous for you to be out.”

The mortar attack was slowing. Stuffing two magazines in my pants side pockets and a frag grenade in my shirt I told O’Connor and Coleman that I am checking on the CP bunker. Keep a keen eye out to our front as we may get a probe or ground assault at any time.

The sleeping area at the CP bunker had taken a direct hit. Our Platoon Sergeant, John May, died instantly. Paul Zima, Platoon Leader, was seriously wounded. Lima 6 RTO, David Estus, was hit with multiple shrapnel wounds in the upper and lower back. In the bunker next to the CP, Ken Gardellis was on guard sitting on the sand bags. The first round coming in had struck the CP bunker and Ken was hit with shrapnel knocking him to the ground. Lima grunt, Dennis Beal, was also wounded during the mortar attack.

I needed to get back to my radio and report to Charlie 6. As I turned from the CP bunker, or what once resembled a bunker, my attention was drawn to the “ammo pit” that Lima dug to hold our extra M14, M16, M60, and M79 rounds along with frag, Claymore, and smoke grenades. The pit was round and about 4 to 5 feet deep. It, too, had taken a direct hit. There was some fire in the pit and a couple rounds “cooked off” drawing my attention. This is not good.

Stepping back to the rear of the CP bunker I located a 5-gallon can of water and dragged it over to the pit keeping as low a profile as possible. As I stood and tilted the water can to attempt to douse the rising flames rounds cooked off right and left, with increasing rapidity. Seeing the grenades and “thump gun” rounds in the midst of flames my thoughts were rather uncomplicated: “I don’t know if I am going to be alive when the sun comes up, but I’m damn sure not going to die with this water can in my hands.” I moved on.

Making the round of Lima bunkers, stating the obvious, the guys were definitely “up and alert” gathering ammo and grenades to their person. The M60 team, with a new gunner, was ready. Bob Duncan injured his knee during the battle on October 29th and it swelled double normal size. He couldn’t walk much less carry Lima’s M60. Over his objection, he was dusted-off on October 31st. Kimball Myrick, from Mississippi, took over First Squad’s Gun. The Gun was in good hands.

The fire and explosions from the ammo pit lit up the area which allowed any enemy watching to view us, the bunkers, and the 105’s. I prayed that they could not discern that the Lima bunkers were scantily manned.

Back at my bunker Coleman radioed Charlie 6 Kilo to advise that Lima 1 wanted to speak with Charlie 6. Coleman handed me the radio. “Charlie 6, over.”

“Charlie 6 this is Lima 1 with a SitRep, over.”

“Roger, go Lima 1.”

“Lima 5 is KIA, Lima 6 is WIA, needs medic, others WIA. I am taking command of the Platoon, over.” My hope was that my voice did not expose to the Company Commander the fear that I felt at that moment.

“Say again, over.”

“I am taking command of Lima. Lima 5 is KIA, Lima 6 is WIA , others also wounded, over”

“[Pause], I read you Lima Charlie. Charlie 6, out.”

0100 hours on 2 November 1967

The word went out that Lima Platoon had casualties. Doc Simpson grabbed his medic bag and hustled over to Lima. Arriving at the CP bunker he first spotted Lima 5. Simpson reached down to attend to SSG May, observed that he had died instantly, then was blown back landing aside the bunker and on top of Paul Zima. Dazed and shaken, Doc wondered what had just happened. It was the ammo pit, grenades had exploded. Quickly looking himself over Doc had escaped any shrapnel wounds. He turned his attention to Paul Zima. Lima 6 was unable to speak due to wounds to his face and head. Another medic arrived and assisted Simpson in attending to Zima and to Lima 6 Kilo, David Estus. Doc advised Charlie 6 that Zima required MEDEVAC now, couldn’t wait for the morning sun.

Dogface 6 couldn’t get a MEDEVAC to come in but a supply chopper did. O’Connor and I ran over to assist the medics in carrying Paul Zima and placing him on the Huey. The slick touched down, we placed Zima in and shouted “Get him out of here!” As we did they were kicking boxes of ammo and grenades off the supply slick. Supplies Dogface would need. Not appreciating the seriousness of his wounds, and in the hurly-burly of the night and fast changing events, Estus wasn’t dusted-off till November 4th.

John May had been very excited as he was leaving the field on November 2nd to head back to Dian and from there to Hawaii. He was meeting his wife on R&R. We never learned whether Mrs. May was informed of her husband’s death before she left her young children to travel to Hawaii to meet John. Death is tragic and cruel.

The Ambushes’ Blow

Monitoring the radio traffic, Coleman advised that the Second Squad was reporting movement coming up through the Rubber.

Suddenly, to the south, the Alpha Company ambush blew their claymores and headed up a small road inside the Rubber which ran straight through the NDP. A Recon Platoon bunker on the west edge of the road awaited the ambush patrol, as did the Alpha bunker on the east edge. As the approaching dark silhouettes took shape they hollered, “Ambush coming in!” A soldier standing by the edge of his bunker shouted back, “Ambush come on in.” The Recon grunts began the count as the Alpha ambush reached the NDP: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, and twelve. Ambush accounted for—wait. Coming up the road is another silhouette yelling in perfect English, “Ambush coming in. Ambush coming in.” The Recon grunt glanced at his bunker-mates and instantly they communicated, although not a word was spoken. One grunt hollered back, “Ambush come on in.” When the dark shape was within feet of the sentries guarding access to the Dogface perimeter he was cut down in a barrage of fire.

When the morning sun intruded on the horizon the enemy soldier could be viewed. He had been struck by an M79 “thump gun” round in his head, caving in the side of his skull. The round had not exploded since it failed to travel the required distance to arm itself after exiting the barrel. I observed the enemy body and the unexploded M79 round and asked one of the Recon guys about it. The conversation went something like this: I asked, “How could you be so sure that you counted twelve men?”

“I counted twelve”, he stated.

“Obviously,” I said, “but it was dark and the situation was not conducive to absolute certainty.”

Again, he simply said “I counted twelve, and the other guy coming up shouting ‘ambush coming in’ was thirteen. He wasn’t getting in.”

Minutes after number thirteen was gunned down the Delta Company ambush, positioned to the east, blew their claymores and headed back to the perimeter.

This left Second Squad as the sole ambush out, but not for long. The guys reported back that heavy movement was approaching the perimeter, in the Rubber, from the north and northeast. Charlie 6 directed them to blow the ambush and get back in to the NDP. The blasting claymores rocked the brief stillness and seconds later automatic weapons, on both sides, ripped the night. From my bunker I could see the green tracers coming into and over the Charlie Company line. The Second Squad was firing and maneuvering to reach the safety of their bunkers. Mike, November, and Oscar Platoons opened fire on the enemy muzzle flashes and I was horrified with the certainty that the Second Squad was caught in the crossfire. I feared that the entire Squad would be wiped out or suffer massive casualties. The crossfire was intense, green tracers inbound and red tracers outbound, like ships passing in the night oblivious to one another— each randomly seeking a target.

As fate would have it the terrain presented a recess allowing the Second Squad to dip below the ground level and work their way over to the road leading south into the Dogface position. Mercifully, under the cover of night, this positioned the squad out of the thunderous crossfire. Out of breath, adrenalin pumping, Lima 2 radioed over that the Second Squad was back—twelve men present and accounted for. O’Be had monitored my earlier transmission to Charlie 6 and was aware that Lima had suffered casualties during the mortar attack. Still today, I rejoice at the indescribable sensation of relief, and disbelief, that the twelve emerged from that crossfire and were back with Lima. I told O’Be to get his men settled in and ready for action.

“How was your camping trip, over.”

“We ran out of marsh mellows. You got any coffee on over there, over.”

“Negative. We haven’t been focused on coffee. I’ll make some rot-gut when the sun comes up, over.”

“Roger that, Lima 2 out.”

0200 hours on 2 November 1967

After the three ambush patrols were back with Dogface there was an eerie silence, akin to being in the “eye” of a hurricane. We all knew it was coming. We just didn’t know what “it” was. Then, breaking the silence, over on the east side of the NDP there was a “pop”, like a fire-cracker, then illumination. It was one of our trip flares put out for just this purpose. A second “pop”, then a third, a fourth, a fifth, merging into a string of fire-crackers creating an illumination effect exposing all engulfed therein stretching from the northeast around to the south of the NDP. The advancing enemy soldiers hit the ground awaiting the trip flare burn out but Dogface had been warned. The enemy assault was directed at Alpha, Delta, and that portion of Charlie located in the rubber.

Like so many other moments in war, throughout history, opposing ground forces met on a battlefield where quarter was neither asked for nor given. The intentions of the combatants hadn’t changed, only the weapons used to fight and defeat the enemy. Each man present, regardless of uniform, knew to a certainty that this fight was without quarter.

0230 hours on 2 November 1967

On the ground, infantry elements of the 273rd VC Regiment advanced on the Dogface NDP. The mortar platoon and gunships put out flares which provided some illumination, although distorted by the shadows projected by the Rubber trees. As the enemy advanced automatic weapons exchanged fire and grenades tossed about. The VC utilized RPG rockets to attempt to knock out the grunts embedded in the defensive bunkers if the bunkers could be spotted. Claymores out to the immediate front of the bunkers were blown as the assaulting forces neared the perimeter.

The VC came at Dogface with flamethrowers. The flamethrowers required ignition which in the night drew the attention of the intended recipients. The enemy soldiers must have appreciated that they would be the number 1 priority of US troops once they were observed and identified as carrying flamethrowers. According to grunts on the scene, when the first flamethrower was ignited all within eyeshot promptly diverted their attention from whomever they were engaged and fired upon the guy with the flamethrower. Red tracers erupted from all types of weapons, up and down the line, converging on the soldier carrying the flamethrower. Both it and he exploded. A second flamethrower was ignited and just as quickly incinerated. Three additional flamethrowers were captured and identified as Soviet models.

The Dogface Battalion did not carry flamethrowers, and I can’t recall even employing them in advanced infantry training, but all Dogface soldiers knew what those cataclysmic weapons were capable of doing to a man. Whatever it took—kill the flamethrowers!

Oscar Platoon, commanded by LT Emmett Smart from Texas, fired illumination and explosive rounds at a blistering pace. Fired with minimum charge, the explosive rounds were landing within 50 meters outside the NDP. Smart would soon be reassigned to become Lima 6.

At some point during the fight word reached Lima and Recon Platoons that the 105’s were locked and loaded with “beehive” rounds. The 105mm version contained about 8,000 “Flechettes” each about 1-inch long, pointed at one end with small fins on the other. If the word came that the artillery guys had to resort to the “beehive” rounds we grunts would get in our bunkers to avoid being wiped out by the “Flechettes” aimed at the enemy ground assault which would have, by then, breached our perimeter and threatened to overcome the artillery unit.

Gunships are overhead directing fire on the advancing enemy infantry. They were joined eventually by Air Force fighter jets. The attacking forces were ready for our air support. During the battle there were twelve 12.7mm anti-aircraft machinegun positions firing upon our air support. The 12.7mm heavy machinegun fired .50 caliber rounds at 600 rounds per minute. From our vantage point in the open, unavailable to our brethren in the Rubber, we had an unimpeded view of the air battle presenting against the night sky. It was an amazing, if frightening, show. The red tracers from above passing the green tracers from below, emanating from multiple sources, and the after-burners of the jets being chased by green tracers were riveting.

The pilots and door gunners above us were presented with an equally amazing show. An infantry battalion NDP under attack from several directions, illumination rounds popping overhead, sinking, then replaced and ground fires within the perimeter invoking a mini-fireworks display all framed by the red and green tracers. Add to this the artillery rounds coming in from the NDP’s within supporting range of Dogface, and the work of our own mortar platoons, and you had a scene that the men fortunate enough to be there would mark as a once in a lifetime memory. One not often repeated in this War.

At one point, framed against the clear black sky to the south of the NDP, I observed an unforgettable scene. The afterburners on the jets permitted us to follow the fighter’s path. When the jets dove to strafe or rocket we could witness the tracers darting to the targets. One flyboy came in on another pass firing down at an anti-aircraft position and the 12.7mm firing up, colors immersed as the rounds seemed to blend together when a midair explosion lit up the sky. Stunned, disbelieving, had the g--ks just shot down our jet fighter? That instant thought highlighted just how isolated we were in this patch of nowhere. Then, I saw the jet’s afterburner pull up and away streaking against the black of night. I concluded then, and remain committed to the thought, that the jet dropped a bomb which was, while on the way to the target, struck by a .50 caliber round detonating the ordinance in flight. Prematurely, that is, if you were among the good guys. If you were part of the anti-aircraft machinegun crew you cheered your victory and savored the time bought by this unforeseen good fortune.

After action reports memorialize that between 0230 and 0430 airstrikes took out most of the anti-aircraft positions resulting in 55 known enemy dead manning those heavy machineguns. I can’t testify to the time interval as we weren’t looking at our watches. However, I’m sure that all Dogface soldiers can testify that the interval between midnight and first light seemed a very long time. The 273rd VC Regiment broke contact around 0415 and withdrew to the southeast. This was, indeed, a very, very long night for the 273rd and its supporting units.

Dogface tested no longer

We stuck around the NDP for five more days but the 165th NVA Regiment and the 273rd VC Regiment no longer savored the prospect of taking a bite out of Dogface. The Battalion had been tested and passed at the head of the class. The enemy had taken on an experienced BRO infantry battalion and suffered the consequences. Initial enemy losses were 220 killed, but after several days of patrols finding more dead the final body count reached 263 from the November 2nd battle. The battle is referred to as “Srok Silamlite III.” As a testament to the “DePuy” defensive fighting positions, and our artillery, mortar, and air support, Dogface losses in that battle were 1 killed and 8 wounded in action. Lima Platoon of Charlie Company had experienced a disproportionate percentage of those 9 casualties.

A day or two after the November 2nd battle two companies went out on patrol. Lima Charlie got a break, we weren’t on the point. But we went up that hill where those three enemy soldiers and I had a brief staring contest on November 1st. This was the staging area for the force that hit us shortly after midnight. Throughout the trenches interlacing the hill and surrounding terrain we observed wire used for communications, multiple rounds of ammunition, food and various military and personal items.

“The old man was right. This was a trap.”

This episode has occupied my mind many times over the years. Although I only served with one infantry battalion in Vietnam I have read a bit and spoken with a number of my generation who paid their dues as combat soldiers in ‘Nam. Is it unfair of me to believe, as I do, that many infantry battalion commanders in Vietnam in 1967, Army or Marine, would have sent First Squad or all of Lima up that hill? They would not have recognized this as a “trap.” Rather, viewed it as an opportunity to engage that enemy but, unforeseen in that commander’s eyes, on the enemy’s terms.

Many years later, while on a business trip to Texas, the General and I met for breakfast. We had not seen one another, although we had stayed in contact over the years, since December, 1967 in Dian when Dogface 6 said an emotional farewell to Charlie Company as he was being promoted and given a new assignment. I reminded him of the call that he had made on November 1st and mused that had he sent Lima up that hill I wouldn’t be here to enjoy our breakfast together. He remembered the call well.

General Cavazos stated that he knew who was on point and was wise enough to pay attention to what his Point Man reported. When he received my report the picture, to him, was clear. The enemy’s subtle attempt to lure Dogface up that hill signaled a trap and he did not commit his Dogface soldiers unless it was on our terms--not the enemy’s terms. No argument here.

The Commanding General of the Division during the Loc Ninh battles, MG John Hay, congratulated the Dogface Battalion and the other infantry , artillery, aviation and support units participating for our “completely outstanding performance…conducted with power and distinction, contributing immeasurably to victory in Vietnam in the proud name of the Big Red One.” At the conclusion of the battles around Loc Ninh General William Westmoreland, Commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, congratulated MG Hay in praise of the BRO: “This operation is one of the most significant and important that has been conducted in Vietnam, and I am delighted with the tremendous performance of your division. So far as I can see, you have just made one mistake, and that is you made it look too easy.”

Valorous Unit Citation: Binh Long Province

At that breakfast with General Cavazos, I learned for the first time that the battalion had received the Valorous Unit Award for extraordinary heroism in action during the period October 6 to December 10, 1967. To receive this Award a unit must have performed with marked distinction under difficult and hazardous conditions so as to set it apart from other units participating in the same conflict. The degree of heroism required is equal to that which would warrant the award of the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest, to an individual.

The Award’s Citation reads as follows:

“The 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry and its assigned units distinguished themselves by extraordinary heroism while engaged in military operations in the Republic of Vietnam during the period 6 October to 10 December 1967. During this period the Battalion engaged in eight significant battles and several smaller skirmishes with hostile forces in the Binh Long Province. Because of the determined fighting spirit of the Battalion and its superior tactical capabilities, these engagements resulted in severe losses of both men and equipment by the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong forces while the friendly forces suffered only minor losses. Operation Shenandoah II, designed to clear the northern area of hostile operations resulted in approximately 60 days and nights of almost continuous action and daily contacts. At the conclusion of the period, Highway 13 south of Quan Loi was opened and secured. The Battalion’s excellence in both offensive and defensive operations was undeniably proven during this period. Its expert leadership and extraordinary combat effectiveness were responsible for gaining unquestionable superiority over enemy forces in the area, resulting in over 700 enemy killed in action and the capture of numerous weapons and much equipment. The men of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry, 1st Division, displayed extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty which are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon themselves, the 1st Infantry Division, and the United States Army.”

This story, a grunts-eyed view, describes a piece of a portion of the 66-day period during which the Dogface Battalion “displayed extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty.” I’ll leave it to others to tell the rest of the stories.

Staff Sergeant Patrick M. McLaughlin
Class of 2004

Navy Commendation Medal 

United States Army



Staff Sergeant Patrick M. McLaughlin. For gallantry in action against a hostile force:
On 29 October 1967, during Operation Shenandoah II, Sergeant McLaughlin, Company C, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry was serving as a squad leader on a search and destroy mission in a dense rubber plantation near Loc Ninh. A friendly patrol had made contact with a large Viet Cong force approximately 1 kilometer from the battalion’s night defensive perimeter and was in need of reinforcements and supplies. Sergeant McLaughlin immediately volunteered to lead a squad of the relief force. Upon reaching the battle site, they were subjected to intensive rocket, machine gun, and automatic weapons fire. Sergeant McLaughlin unhesitatingly moved through a hail of incoming fire to the front of his squad. With complete disregard for his personal safety, he remained in the open and deployed his men into advantageous firing positions. Ignoring relentless enemy fire, he moved about the area shouting words of encouragement to his men and directing devastating fire onto the insurgents. On one occasion the Viet Cong attempted to breach the hastily formed perimeter. Although the enemy closed to within meters of his position, Sergeant McLaughlin refused to withdraw and engaged them in extremely close combat. After a fierce battle, the hostile force retreated in complete disorder. Sergeant McLaughlin’s dynamic leadership and exemplary courage significantly contributed to the overwhelming defeat of the enemy. Staff Sergeant McLaughlin’s unquestionable valor in close combat against numerically superior hostile forces is in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the 1st Infantry Division, and the United States Army