On New Year’s Eve, 1968, at the top-secret SOG base camp at FOB 1 in Phu Bai, Camp Commander Maj. William Shelton ordered extra base security based on reports of a planned VC or NVA attack that night. Months earlier, VC agents had placed markers on the roof of the lounge, which VC or NVA mortarmen could use as target guide-ons. A day or two earlier, a Green Beret NCO had found a camp worker carefully counting his steps as he walked away from the clubhouse—a common practice for mortarmen or artillerymen to improve their accuracy against a proposed target.
That night in the Green Beret Lounge, as we prepared to ring in the New Year, the jukebox blared, the drinks flowed, the men played the slot machines, and the pot-limit poker stakes were high. But there was an edge to the evening’s festivities because of the intel reports and Shelton’s order to close it early in case of enemy activity.
Before the club closed, the conversation around our poker table turned to a FOB 4 team, RT Diamondback, that was on the ground in the MA target, in Laos, west of S. Vietnam. The Green Berets on the team, SSG James M. Hall, Specialist Fourth Class Wayne L. Hawes, and Michael J. McKibban, were unhappy about having to run a target on New Year’s Eve. I knew Hawes from our days in Special Forces Training Group and considered him a good recon man. The others I knew only slightly.