Ambush Survivors Reunited 45 Years Later: Memories from August 18, 1968

8-18 survivors
From left to right: Larry Reid, Cleve Chick, David L. Cowley, Larry R. McCormick, Wendell Affield

(To put this blog post in context, please read the August 18 post.)

Reunions can be poignant, frightening, illuminating. This past week my wife, Patti, and I attended the 2013 Mobile Riverine Force Association Reunion held in Indianapolis. I was saddened to see how age and Agent Orange illnesses have ravaged our ranks. One of the founding members of the MRFA stoically told me, “The doctors give me about twelve months.”
But there were moments of disbelief, too. About a year ago, Larry Reid, Nashville, Tennessee, an army veteran who had been riding our boat when we were ambushed on August 18, 1968, discovered “Muddy jungle Rivers” on Amazon and purchased it. Over the past twelve months we’ve been in touch. On the first day of the reunion he introduced himself. We compared notes on how our lives have evolved over the past four decades. The second day of the reunion Larry came up to me and said, “I found three guys who were in the well deck on August 18.”
It was an intense experience.
Larry R. McCormick, Amarillo, Texas, looked at me, frowned, and shook his head. “I thought you were dead these past forty-five years.”
“Why would you think that?” I said
“Because of all the blood dripping down from your cox’n flat above me. And the boat kept running into things.”
“Each time rockets hit my armor plating I kept getting knocked down,” I told him.
He asked an unusual question then—one I’ve never thought about. “How many times were you hit?” I have always considered the ambush one action—not multiple injuries. I thought back for a time and told him, “Four, I suppose.”
We all visited then and recalled that hot Sunday afternoon and I thought again how each of us remembered differently yet there were some memories held by all. David L. Cowley, from “The Great State of Texas” brought up what we all remembered most vividly.Blood splattered everywhere. Blood trickling across the welldeck deck. Heroism of already wounded men, cradling smoldering crates as they struggled across the slick deck to throw grenades and ammo overboard before it exploded.
I brought up the black army sergeant who had come up to man our abandoned .50 caliber machine gun. I told again how he had been severely maimed when a B-40 rocket burned through the armor and he took a direct hit. Cleve Chick, Elkridge, Maryland, recalled that he was a career man who had recently joined the platoon. Most of the men didn’t know him. “Thomas,” Cleve said. “His last name was Thomas.”
Larry gave me a list of twenty-three army men who were on ATC 112-11 who received a Purple Heart for wounds received on August 18. Two names are missing: Hector Lugo-Mojica who was Killed in Action, and the black sergeant named Thomas.
I wonder if Sergeant Thomas was the senior man on board ATC 112-11 on August 18. I believe in the chaos of the day his act of heroism went unnoticed and unrecorded. I would very much like to identify the sergeant. If he did not survive his wounds, his family deserves to know of his actions. If he did survive, and is still alive, I would very much like to meet him.
I am humbled that “Muddy Jungle Rivers” was the catalyst that brought us together. Each of these men has a story of that afternoon and if they would like to write it, I will post it on this blog.

9 Comments

  1. Elsie Pernat says:

    What a great reunion…

  2. Phyllis Reid says:

    Wendell, Thank you for telling these stories. Larry Reid is my brother and I was completely captivated as I listened to each of you share your memories of that day. It was like watching a patchwork quilt being assembled or a puzzle being pieced together. It’s natural to expect each person on ATC 112-11 that day to have their own perspective but some memories truly are, as you say, “held by all”.

    It was the next day before I realized you all finally found each other so close to the anniversary, these 45 years and 11 days later

    I am beyond grateful for the healing that is taking place as a result of your book. It was an honor and privilege to meet you and I look forward to seeing you and your wife again.

    Safe travels and take good care!

  3. Larry Reid says:

    Thank you for writing “Muddy Jungle Rivers” Wendell. I have read tons of personal accounts of our war and prize the truth above all else. Not only have you left a footnote about our story, you have also provided a framework for understanding the “lessons of Vietnam.” It was healing for me to meet Ed “Buddha” Thomas at the MRFA reunion in Chattanooga, TN, many years ago. His absence is felt by many. It was a joy to meet you and your wife at the 2013 reunion. It was hard to believe that there were 5 of us in attendance who were on your ATC that terrible morning. It is an honor to finally meet you. I will always consider us to be brothers in arms.

  4. Donnie Leggett says:

    Wendell, I was the cox’n on Tango 112-10, one of the flat tops that medi-vac’d a bunch that day. My memory isn’t all that good but reading your book helped me piece meal some things together.

    Thank you for writing the book. If the good Lord is willing, maybe I can make it to one of the reunions and meet you.

    Donnie

  5. Bob says:

    I cannot believe after all these years I am revisiting your book. By strange chance my daughter asked me if I ever read Muddy Jungle Rivers and was stunned to find it was being used as a teaching tool at Indiana University’s sociology program. What an excellent teaching tool and a guide to understanding PTSD. I really enjoyed conveying your story and the emotion she showed listening to your story. I truly respect and honor you and your fellow soldiers for serving our country in a war that was misunderstood, mishandled and never recognized properly. God bless and care for all of our veterans. You should be proud.

  6. Ron Stevens says:

    not fun to remember and cry!!!

  7. dennis polisano says:

    we are planing our 50 army reunion on coranao as a part of the moble riverine force, A CO 4/47th delta 66/67

  8. Lourdes Kemper says:

    I was the closest to a sister Hector Mojica-Lugo ever had. On August 18, 1968 he was killed in action. While his legal address was in Cataño, Puerto Rico
    We grew up in, Bronx, NY. That year he was supposed to attend my wedding in February but all I rec’d was a letter of regret he had written which was forwarded to me by the military after he perished. Two things I would like to know is 1. what happened that day. 2 Did he ever receive a purple heart. Any information will be greatly appreciated.

  9. Larry Reid says:

    Lourdes Kemper – I was with Hector that day. I wrote down what I could remember and would be glad to send it to you by email. I looked at my papers awarding the Purple Heart from that day and don’t see his name on it. That doesn’t mean it was not awarded later. My email address is: gaian2000@yahoo.com

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