On this day 51 years ago, U.S. Army Special Forces SGT Brian Buker was killed in action during the battle for a Viet Cong (VC) mountain stronghold at Nui Khet. For his actions in the three-day battle, Buker would posthumously be awarded the Medal of Honor (MOH).

Buker was born on November 3, 1949, in Benton, Maine, and came from a military background. His three older brothers Victor, Gerald, and Alan had all enlisted, gone to Vietnam, and returned home. Buker joined right after high school at the age of 17. He completed a deployment in Vietnam but volunteered to return for a second tour.

However, when Buker arrived in Vietnam for the second time, he was told he was going to be diverted from the 5th Special Forces Group to the 4th Infantry Division. Buker didn’t want to go to the 4th Division and took matters into his own hands.

He hitchhiked across Vietnam to Nha Trang, where the 5th Special Forces Group had its headquarters. He went with his hat in hand to the Mobile Strike Force Command compound next to the Group Headquarters and got an interview with the company sergeant major. He must have voiced a compelling argument because his orders were immediately changed to the 5th SFG(A) MIKE Force – Detachment B-55.

The Nui Khet Mountain Fortress

In March of 1970, Mike Force participated in Operation INTREPID, the storming of the Nui Khet mountain fortress which was held by 300-400 North Vietnamese soldiers. The fortress was part of the Seven Mountains.

The 513th Company was assigned to be flank security. The 511th and 512th Companies began the assault after an intense bombardment on April 3. They managed a toehold at the crest of the mountain but were driven back by concentrated rocket and mortar fire and hidden troops from 12 concealed reinforced bunkers on the peak.

A second attack began at dawn on April 4. It was supported by Cobra gunships from the 7th Cavalry and the SF mortar crews. The U.S. troops once again managed to reach the top only to be pushed back a second time. The companies dug in short of the summit.

Buker volunteered to bring two platoons to ferry water and ammunition to the dug-in companies. Halfway up the mountain, his men were ambushed. Buker led the first of many counterattacks into the VC positions and he and his men made it to the dug-in companies. Another VC attack was thwarted when Buker personally led a second counterattack through heavy rifle and B-40 rocket fire.