The following is a special guest submission from John Stryker Meyer, excerpted from his book “On the Ground.” Major General (ret.) Bargewell passed unexpectedly after an accident on a riding lawn mower. He was laid to rest with full military honors on Thursday, May 2.
The casualty rates for SOG recon teams were the highest for any unit in Vietnam. We all had our close calls and thus each of us was given ample opportunity for the truth of this observation to be incised on his soul. Perhaps none more so than the young, hard-charging One-Zero of RT Michigan, Sergeant Eldon Bargewell. No one who ever met him doubted his professionalism or determination. He was not only meticulous when preparing his team for a mission, and a fearless leader when on the ground, but he also possessed a biting wit and an absolute intolerance when it came to fools and REMFs—fools and REMFs being a redundancy to his way of thinking.
The moment of truth came in March 1969 during a mission in the target MA-14, which was northwest of the A Shau Valley. With Don Sheppard as his One-One and Mike Moorehouse as his One-Two, Bargewell and RT Michigan’s mission was simple: Locate an NVA regimental headquarters and way station, pinpoint the base camp, and then call in a Hatchet Force from CCS led by Jerry “Mad Dog” Schriver, on temporary assignment to CCN.
Upon the team’s early afternoon insertion, a fourth American on the team broke his arm jumping from the helicopter as the NVA peppered the team’s LZ with mortar fire. Bargewell had one chopper return and evac the injured SF soldier. When the chopper left the LZ, the NVA mortars fell silent. Believing the entire team had left the target, the NVA soldiers returned to their regular duties along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. RT Michigan moved out toward what intelligence officers said was the regimental headquarters. After moving only 200 meters, the point man saw an old NVA bunker. Much to Bargewell’s surprise, intelligence was accurate for a change.