|Name:||David Richard Reynolds|
|Rank/Branch:||Private First Class/US Army|
173rd Airborne Brigade
|Date of Birth:||28 February 1949|
|Home of Record:||Buffalo, NY|
|Date of Loss:||21 November 1967|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
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|Status in 1973:||Killed/Body Not Recovered|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||(none missing)|
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 Battalion, 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, the 2nd Battalion sustained heavy losses and was pinned down by intense and accurate enemy ground fire.
On 20 November 1967, Companies A, B and C, 4th Battalion, 173rd Airborne Division arrived in the assembly area to reinforce the remnants of the 2nd Battalion. As soon as they arrived, members of the 4th Battalion filled in the gaps in the American frontline where needed.
The area was subjected to sustained artillery and airstrikes before the Americans initiated another attack against the NVA bunkers. After the barrage was lifted, Companies A, B and C, 4th Battalion were ordered to move up Hill 875. With the intent of encircling the hill, the lead element of two squads from Company A moved around Hill 875 on the left flank and Company C with its own lead element of two squads movied around it on the right flank. Company B fanned out across the center between Companies A and C before it moved forward in a line formation.
Once the NVA opened fire, the Americans were ordered to dig in a mere 20 to 25 meters from the NVA perimeter. Some of the soldiers found natural depressions to use for shelter while others dug shallow foxholes. Further, the pointman and squad leader for A Company, Sgt. Tom Mauritz, dug his foxhole the closest to the enemy positions on the east side of Hill 875. It was approximately 20 inches in diameter and only deep enough for him to squat down in and pull his rucksack in over him to protect his back from the shrapnel that was falling from the mortar rounds which were exploding overhead in the trees.
Early on the morning of 21 November 1967, the NVA initiated a sustained mortar barrage for over an hour. The Americans answered with a massive air and artillery barrage of their own with smoke and high explosives (HE) from Fire Support Base (FSB) 12, which was located at the eastern-most point of the long ridge line leading to Hill 875's summit. When the barrages were lifted and the Americans moved out of the foxholes, Sgt. Mauritz discovered a communist 88mm mortar round embedded in the soft dirt he'd piled at the edge of his foxhole when digging it. The dud was painted white with two red stripes painted around the tail fins.
Later that day the 4th Battalion was ordered to again assault the NVA's positions. Due to the intense enemy small arms, automatic weapons, hand grenades and rockets being used against the advancing Americans, a full encirclement was not achieved. This time Company B, to which PFC David R. Reynolds was assigned, was in the center of the formation, Company A was covering the left flank to the southwest and Company C the right flank to the northeast.
When the advancing Americans reached a predetermined point, NVA gunners opened up with a withering volley of small arms, heavy weapons, grenades and rocket fire. They caught US personnel in a coordinated crossfire from well-entrenched and hidden positions located within their base camp stronghold. In the initial burst of fire, David Reynolds was struck in the chest at close range by automatic weapons fire cutting him in two at the waist. His body immediately fell to the ground and into the shallow foxhole dug by Company A's pointman, Sgt. Mauritz, the day before.
By approximately 1730 hours, the point squads breached the NVA's perimeter in the southern portion of Hill 875. At 1900 hours, the lead elements were ordered to pull back down the hill to the assembly area for the night. The assembly area was also the original jumping off point for Operation McArthur. Tom Mauritz and his radio operator were in an NVA bunker when the order was issued by the Battalion Commanding Officer. Under the circumstances of the intense give and take battle, the location of troops and lack of communication, it was very difficult and confusing to get the order to all of his squad members. As the soldiers pulled back under intense small arms, heavy weapons and mortar fire, they were forced to leave the bodies of their dead where they fell.
During the US withdrawal, the squad leader was separated from his radio operator who had begun moving back down the hill to the assembly area. Roughly an hour later, Tom Mauritz found himself in the vicinity of this old foxhole, which was now slightly inside the assembly area perimeter. At times it was also part of the American's front line depending on how the battle lines shifted. As he approached his old foxhole, Sgt. Mauritz saw another soldier from Company B next to it. The soldier was shaken by the day's events, but uninjured. Tom Mauritz asked him if he knew the identity of the dead man who was in his foxhole. The reply was "yes, it's PFC David Reynolds."
According to Sgt. Mauritz, he did not remember seeing the dud 88mm mortar round on the evening of 21 November. His belief is that it was detonated by another rocket, mortar or small arms fire during the fierce fighting that day. He added, "If this was the round that killed PFC Reynolds, no one will ever know."
Hill 875 was subjected again to massive air strikes that began late in the afternoon of 22 November and continued off and on through the night. 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."
During a thorough search of the entire area, no trace of David Reynolds or his equipment was found. Of all the soldiers killed in the battle for Hill 875, only David Reynolds' remains were not recovered and identified. At the time the formal search was terminated, David Reynolds was listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.
There is no doubt that David Reynolds died of wounds sustained during the battle for Dak Mot Lop, Hill 875. Under the circumstances of loss, and given the fact that the enemy was in control of his remains when they overran his position, there is only a very slim chance that his remains are recoverable. However, as an American soldier, he 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.