On March 5, 1969, Specialist Don Bosch and 109 other soldiers were dropped on the west side of Hill 947. The Vietnamese had reportedly wiped out the alpha company, and they were to look for survivors.
Bosch was pulling point as they marched across the hill. Heading down the steep grade of the other side, an American soldier came running up the hill screaming at them to turn around.
“There’s hundreds of them,” he shouted.
Just as Bosch and the others got behind the trees the Vietnamese opened fire. Bosch began throwing his half a dozen grenades down the hill and, before he knew it, the other soldiers nearby began rolling up their grenades for him to throw.
They managed to run back to the top of the hill, where a bomb had previously created a crater. It was there that they set up headquarters, and the soldiers were told to start digging in. They dug three-man foxholes all around the perimeter of the hill.
From there, they would fight for 2½ days straight.
Bosch said, as it neared evening, the Vietnamese would drop mortars on the hill. Then they would start to come up. The trees were tall, making it dark. Not being able to see, they had to listen for the Vietnamese soldiers.
Nine men were killed in the battle, 39 stayed on the hill, the rest of the 109, including Bosch had to be medevaced out. Reinforcements were brought in to replace half the wounded.
Bosch’s injury came when engineers were using explosives to drop trees so the helicopters could come in. One of the charges was set off early and Bosch was thrown down the hill. The engineers carrying the explosives were never found.
At 19, Bosch had been drafted and left for basic training at Fort Lewis in Washington. He hadn’t thought about college so the military took him. He was then shipped to Fort Polk in Louisiana to be made into an Army infantryman.
Arriving at Fort Lewis, everyone had told Bosch he didn’t want to be sent to Fort Polk, known as Tigerland. Of 160 men, he would be the only one to go. After getting out of the war, though, he saw Tigerland as a blessing.
“I think the training was better; I was ready when I got there,” he said.
When Bosch was sent out, the Vietnam War was at its height.
He had been in Vietnam two weeks and the first two times he was in a helicopter he was shot at, the second time going down. The Chinook crashed through the trees and split in half. Crawling out of the cabin area, he saw the back end on fire and the aircraft would blow up not long after. All but one of the 10-man crew escaped.
The rescue helicopter dropped Bosch and the others in Pleiku. Coming across the tarmac, he ran into Johnny Green of Johnny Green and the Greenmen and his then-girlfriend, Marilyn Winters. Bloody and beat up, Bosch’s infantry badge was hanging from his uniform. When Winters asked him about it, he gave it to her.
Bosch would later run into Green at a show in Mandan. He told Bosch Winters still had a board of Vietnam memorabilia, his medal included.
Stationed in the Central Highlands with the Fourth Infantry Division, Bosch bonded with two other soldiers: Ralph Marquez, “He was my brother,” and a Native American man from Oklahoma they called “Indian.” The three often went out on four-man patrols together.
They would take C-rations for three days and Bosch said they always had 21 magazines of M16 ammunition with them.
“You carried so much ammo because you never wanted to run out,” he said.
In small groups, they would sneak through the brush rather than taking trails to avoid detection. It was on one of these patrols that Bosch stepped in a booby trap, a hole with sharp bamboo shafts. He had to be medevaced out and treated four days for blood poisoning.
Another time, Bosch and his friends had been in camp. Another 10- to 12-man group had gone out on an ambush in the middle of the night and fell under attack. When asked for volunteers to go find the injured group, Bosch agreed to go. Marquez and “Indian” were right behind him.
Bosch was in Vietnam for 11 months. He took a job driving a truck the last couple weeks rather than taking a short leave so he could go home sooner.
“I didn’t want to stay a day longer; I thought I’d be pushing my luck,” he said.
Upon leaving the military, Bosch went to work for Midwest Motor Express in Bismarck, driving a truck for 20 years. Then he worked for OK Tire another 20 years delivering tires and still delivers auto parts three days a week to stay busy.