|Name:||Benjamin David DeHerrera|
|Rank/Branch:||Private First Class/US Army|
|Unit:||Company C, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade|
|Date of Birth:||19 April 1948|
|Home of Record:||Colorado Springs, CO|
|Date of Loss:||19 November 1967|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Killed/Body Not Recovered|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Jack L. Croxdale and Donald Iandoli (missing)|
REMARKS: REMS TAG'D - NOT IN MORTY
SYNOPSIS: When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.
On 19 November 1967, the 2nd and 4th Battalions, 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Division was conducting Operation McArthur, a search and destroy mission along the ridge line leading to Hill 875 in the Dak Mot Lop area of South Vietnam's central highlands, also known as Dak To. The location of the battle site for Hill 875 was on a dense jungle covered plateau approximately 6 miles due east of the Cambodian/South Vietnamese border, 6 miles southwest of Dak Seang, 9 miles southeast of the Tri-border area and 12 miles southwest of the town of Dak To, Kontum Province, South Vietnam.
Hill 875 was also located on the south side of a primary road running generally east/west from the Cambodian border. Communist forces used this road as an extension of the southern portion of the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail as they infiltrated men and material into the acknowledged war zone. Hill 875 provided the NVA an excellent position to observe and protect their supply line into South Vietnam. The Americans were intent on controlling the hill because it afforded them an equally important position from which they could cut the enemy's supply line.
Operation McArthur was intended to dislodge North Vietnamese Army (NVA) forces reportedly operating in this heavily forested area covered with thick under growth near the tri-border region where South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia join. As the Americans moved through the area from the northeast to the southwest, they encountered well-trained and experienced NVA forces dug in and hidden in a series of camouflaged bunkers near the summit of Hill 875 that offered the enemy an excellent field of fire. During the vicious firefight that ensued, both Battalions sustained heavy losses and were pinned down by intense and accurate enemy ground fire.
SP4 Croxdale, radio operator, and PFC Benjamin D. DeHerrera, squad leader (both from Company C), along with Sgt. Donald Iandoli, squad leader (Company B) were participating in Operation McArthur. In the morning the patrol swept through the forested region without incident. By early afternoon they continued through a fairly flat area on the east side of Hill 875. As the Americans advanced toward the NVA bunkers, the communists opened fire with small arms, heavy weapons, grenades and rockets. Almost immediately the Americans called in airstrikes upon entrenched enemy positions.
At 1435 hours, SP4 Croxdale was manning Company C's communications equipment. This equipment was located in the company's Command Post (CP) in the assembly area located to the east of the American front lines. As the fierce fighting continued, Sgt. Iandoli was wounded and taken to Company C's CP where the medical aid station had also been set up. PFC DeHerrera was in the same area along with other wounded and dead soldiers. At 1850 hours, an American aircraft conducting a close air support mission accidentally dropped a 500-pound bomb on Company C's CP and aid station resulting in additional casualties.
The following day, 20 November, a limited search and recovery (SAR) operation was conducted in and around the remnants of the command post and aid station in an effort to locate the bodies of American dead. During the search, the remains of SP4 Croxdale, PFC DeHerrera and Sgt. Iandoli, along with those of other Americans who were killed when the bomb fell short were recovered, identified, tagged and placed in body bags prior to being transported by helicopter to the US Army Mortuary at Dak To.
As Operation McArthur continued, the Americans were forced to leave the bodies of their dead lying where they fell. Further, the entire area was subjected to numerous massive air strikes and artillery barrages over the course of the vicious give and take battle for Hill 875. On 20 November additional American troops arrived to reinforce those already engaged in the fight. Artillery barrages and airstrikes were called in periodically.
Late in the afternoon of 22 November, US forces were pulled back roughly 100 meters to the northeast of the hill, which was considered a safe enough distance to bring in close tactical air support and heavy artillery shelling. On 23 November, the final assault of the hill was conducted by two waves of troops who followed the foot steps that Company B had made as they moved up the hill on 21 November. This time the Americans were successful in dislodging the NVA and driving them off Dak Mot Lop.
The survivors of Operation McArthur secured the area and began the grizzly task of searching for survivors and recovering their dead. Those dead who where identifiable, were placed in body bags tagged with their names. Those who were recovered, but whose identity could not be determined, were placed in body bags simply marked "unknown."
On 19 November, the body bags containing the remains of Benjamin DeHerrera and Jack Croxdale were reportedly placed on a helicopter with others en route to the Dak To mortuary. Shortly after the last of the dead were evacuated on 19 November, it was discovered that Donald Iandoli's remains were accidentally left behind. Immediately an additional search of the former temporary morgue site was conducted to locate Sgt. Iandoli's body. After the battle, the search continued for Donald Iandoli's remains at the same time the major recovery effort was underway. Unfortunately, the search failed to locate any sign of him.
By 4 January 1968, the situation, which was already complicated, worsened. The US Army Mortuary at Tan Son Nhut, which was located on the northwest edge of Saigon and was the center responsible for processing remains - both identified and unidentified - prior to them being shipped to the US, discovered that not only were Sgt. Iandoli's remains missing, but so were the remains of SP4 Croxdale and PFC DeHerrera. All three men, who were already listed Killed in Action, were now declared Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered and their families were notified accordingly.
There is no doubt that Donald Iandoli, Jack Croxdale and Benjamin DeHerrera died of wounds sustained during the battle for Dak Mot Lop, Hill 875. Under the circumstances of loss, and the fact that their remains were ultimately lost somewhere between the battle site and the US Army Mortuary at Tan Son Nhut, there is only a very slim chance that their remains are recoverable. However, as an American soldier, each man has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country if at all possible. Above all else, he has the right not to be forgotten by the nation for which he gave his life.
For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate could be quite different. Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Military men in Vietnam were called upon to fight in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.