Known as the worst day in Army Special Forces history, was a night attack by a PAVN sapper unit on a SOG headquarters.

On this day in U.S. Army SF history…….23 August 1968: Worst Day in Special Forces history. A large force hit a MAC-V SOG FOB and mission launch site on Marble Mountain in Da Nang. The attacking NVA numbered at least 100 and were armed with AKs, grenades, satchel charges, and RPG-2 launchers (or B-40s as they were called in Vietnam).

Most of the attacking NVA died in the three-hour attack, but they killed over two dozen Americans and over 40 Montagnards who manned the Recon Teams or the Hatchet Force alongside Americans.

The best accounting of the attack to date is in the book On The Ground: The Secret War in Vietnam by John S. “Tilt” Meyer, himself a SOG veteran. The fact of August 23rd is that SF was small in 1968. Some of the killed were first-term troops; others had been around a very long time, like Secor and Norris. But almost every man in SF personally knew someone who’d bought it beneath Marble Mountain.

The SF Soldiers’ casualties included:

1. Talmadge H. Alpin, Jr, SSG E-6, FOB4
2. William H. Bric, III, PFC E-3
3. Tadeusz M Kepczyk, SFC E-7
4. Donald R Kerns, SFC E-7
5. James T Kickliter, SGT E-5
6. Charles R. Norris, MSG E-8
7. Richard E. Pegram, Jr SGM, E-9
8. Paul D Potter, 1LT, from FOB2 (Kham Duc) at CCN for a conference
9. Rolf E. Rickmeyers, SFC E-7
10. Anthony J Santana, SP/4
11. Gilbert_A Secor, MSG E8
12. Robert J. Uyesaka, SGT E-5
13. Howard S Varni, SSG E-6
14. Harold R. Voorheis, SFC, E-7
15. Albert M. Walter, SFC E-7
16. Donald W. Welch, SFC E-7

You can hear more about it on the SOGCAST found wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

15 Comments

  1. RSR says:

    Probably in terms of US SF losses, but the 1966 Battle of A Shau and 1968 2nd Battle of Lang Vei both produced greater # of total US and coalition losses.

    For both, the NVA’s attacking forces numbered at least 2k, and overran the SF A Camps… Probably others I’m forgetting offhand, but both of above had near or at 100% US SF casualty rate, but few US SF deaths IIRC.

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    1. Shawn says:

      it says. ” loss of US special forces” not US losses

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      1. RSR says:

        Don’t see your quoted ”loss of US special forces” in excerpt.

        It says “the worst day in Army Special Forces history” and then references ~65 KIA. Noting that that total KIA is far from the worst in US SF history, when accounting for indigenous/coalition personnel, given that over 200 US SF and attached CIDG troops were killed in at least the two instances shared when bases were overrun.

        Given that SF A teams were 13 men IIRC at the time (CO x1, XO x1, Civil Affairs/PsyOps Officer x1, Team Sgt x1, Intel Sgt x1, Weapons Sgt x2, Comms Sgt x2, Demo/Engineer Sgt x2, Medic Sgt x2), it was rare for more than 13 SF soldiers to be in same locale…

        FWIW, my Gpa was an SF Team Sgt in Vietnam, combat-disabled in Vietnam. Not at either of those battles shared, but when his base was also overrun due to recently arrived in-country CO and XO discounting his warnings of an imminent attack and failing to put the camp on alert after my Gpa warned he’d been a week-long fight w/ forward elements of division-sized force…
        He considered his CIDG troops to be like family/no different than anyone under his command, since he first went to combat in the Korean War…

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        1. Shawn says:

          probably safe to assume its not the worst day in SF history because they all stubbed their toes

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  2. RSR says:

    “Base” should be “A Team Camp” for precision in words…

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    1. Shawn says:

      it wasnt a team camp. it was the base for CCN SOG did not use the A Team system

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      1. Pathfinder says:

        Wow, I didn’t know that the history of SF A teams was completely wrong.

        Lots of books need to be re-written and quite a few of the vets need to be told.

        More patience than me Shawn.

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        1. Shawn says:

          are you being an sarcastic asshole? SOG was not a 5th special forces group unit, the green berets in SOG where not there assigned to the 5th group and were not organized into A-teams and FOB4 was not an A team camp. I dont know how many “needs to be told” Im teling you what SOG vets have said in books, on podcasts and in the private vets group on facebook. if you dont like that then take it up with them

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          1. RSR says:

            Pathfinder — what about my comments are you taking issue with? The casualties of the Battle of A Shau and the 1968 Battle of Lang Vei are both well-documented. And my Gpa’s base being overrun is detailed in the US Army’s Vietnam SF History study: https://history.army.mil/html/books/090/90-23-1/CMH_Pub_90-23-1.pdf

            Sean — Not all MACV-SOG were formally SF, but all were SOF, right? I know many were GB-qualified, but just wondering. Two in list above weren’t sergeants, so might not be GB/SF-qualified.

            The only points I was intending to make here are
            1) if all 16 who were killed are GBs, this probably is the highest number of GBs killed given that it’d be relatively rare to have more than one full team of GBs in one place at one time considering how they are intended to operate, and
            2) b/c of 1, I think overall/combined casualties of GBs and their indigenous forces are equally deserving of recognition.

            And in no way is either intended to diminish the sacrifice of those in the incident you shared.

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            1. Shawn says:

              the 16 SOG men filled in August of 1968 were all Special Forces Green Berets. more people died that night but that is a list of only the Green Berets who died. The indig SOG hatchforce and recon team members that died that night were probably triple that number but I dont think anyone has a count or names for them. My original point was that SOG was US Army Green Berets but not organized into A-camps or A teams.

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            2. Shawn says:

              to add to that, by that time of the war US Army Special forces accepted guys who were not sgts yet. Several times in the SOG Cast John S Meyer says he became a green beret under the accelerated program that they referred to as the ” baby green beret program” I think John Plaster join SOG as a green beret not even as a spc4. That should explain the ranks of the KIA for you .

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          2. Pathfinder says:

            Pure sarcasm.

            No worries. It was a riff on the comments being made, not by you.

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        2. Shawn says:

          if i got the tone of of your comment wrong then I apologize but it comes off as sarcastic and condescending

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          1. Pathfinder says:

            Sorry for that, it wasn’t directed at you.

            I agree with everything you have stated here.

            Poor choice of trying to be sarcastic as tone doesn’t come across with written words.

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      2. RSR says:

        *I was referencing here, see caps: “… my Gpa was an SF Team Sgt in Vietnam, combat-disabled in Vietnam. Not at either of those battles shared, but when his CAMP was also overrun …”

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