In the early morning hours of April 1, 1970, more than four hundred North Vietnamese soldiers charged out into the open and tried to overrun FSB Illingworth. The battle went on, mostly in the dark, for hours. Exposed ammunition canisters were hit and blew up, causing a thunderous explosion inside the FSB that left dust so thick it jammed the hand-held weapons of the GIs. Much of the combat was hand-to-hand. In all, twenty-four Americans lost their lives and another fifty-four were wounded.
Nearly one hundred enemy bodies were recovered. It was one of the most vicious small-unit firefights in the history of U.S. forces in Vietnam. As in his acclaimed book Blackhorse Riders, a finalist for the prestigious Colby Award, Phil Keith uncovers a harrowing true story of bravery and sacrifice by the men who fought valiantly to hold FSB Illingworth-a tale never-before-told and one that will not be soon forgotten.
©2013 Philip Keith (P)2014 Tantor
"A harrowing tale that centers on an exhausted, ragtag group of U.S. Army troops as they fought for their lives against a 400-man North Vietnamese Army regiment in a vicious engagement in 1970. The heart of the book is a virtually minute-by-minute description of the fighting." (Publishers Weekly)
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The North Vietnamese attacked and the American infantry fought valiantly but still lost too many men. However, when it was communicated to HQ, the men were not given permission to leave. They were to maintain their readiness to fight and be ready for another confrontation with the NV.
The NV had named the FSB, Fire Base Illingworth, after one of the first American soldier's to die there. It was common to name an FSB after someone who had died and fought courageously. This courage was definitely evident when Illingworth had attempted to place the missile inside the tube so that the other operator would be able to fire the missile. While attempting to ensure its accuracy the missile exploded and Illingworth was killed.
There was yet another battle conducted at Illingworth but it was still deemed by those in command not to allow them to move to another site. The NV knew where the men had their fox holes, where a stockpile of unwanted ammunition had been delivered via hilo. Ammunition was sorely needed but not the kind that was now stockpiled in that one spot. In fact, the NV knew where everything was located at the base. The cafeteria was hit and still the men had to stay. What would it take to allow this beleaguered group of men to move to another site?
The commander who gave the orders to remain at Illingworth was reported to his superior when the soldier's who had not been killed returned to their relief post after the harrowing battles that were allowed to take place at Illingworth.
The true story of Fire Base Illingworth was filled with action, suspense and edge of my seat listening. The book filled me with disbelief, anger, frustration and the inability to understand why those men had been made to stay and fight a losing battle. The soldier's were being picked off by the sharp shooters. While the men hurried to their fox holes they were shot. Why? Because the NV had the site mapped out and knew where each and every fox hole was located. They begged and I do mean begged to leave the site. However, the men would not disobey their commander's orders. Therefore, more soldier's continued to meet their deaths un-necessairly.
Purchase the book, listen and hear the truth of what took place at Fire Base Illingworth. My soul still aches for those men who did not have to die. I don't think I would be able to listen to the book a second time. Fire Base Illingworth would only make me more upset. There were four-hundred North Vietnamese against forty men, tops. Use you imagination and then be sure and listen to a battle that the higher ups wanted to pretend did not happen.
This book and its reading rank as high as any for me, only in part because of a personal connection I have to FSB Illingworth.
Ralph Jones. I can easily relate to him because he is from Cincinnati and was on the 2/32 8 inch Howitzer as was I.
Having been there (April 1st, 1971- exactly one year after the attack on FSB Illingworth) I can picture the entire event. I might not use the word "favorite" though.
My extreme reaction was one of appreciation for the author doing this book. Because I knew of this event, I always felt it deserved this outstanding recognition.
Thank you... this book fills in many gaps to my memories. God Bless.
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