"COMPROMISED, FIGHT TO THE DEATH!'

This story is is extracted from http://www.valorremembered.org/RPB_WrightsTeam.htm fro and published here under the titile of "COMPROMISED, FIGHT TO THE DEATH!' as it is the typical situtation that many of the sog teams found themselves.

IN MEMORY
of
WRIGHT'S TEAM
Detachment B-56
5th Special Forces Group

Leroy Wright and five members of his team died
on their patrol, May 2, 1968. The six survivors
of the team were all wounded.
This article is dedicated to the memory of
Leroy Wright's team.

 

WRIGHT'S TEAM

Detachment B-56 Base near Ho Ngoc Tao, on Highway One between Saigon and Long Binh. Home base for Leroy Wright's team.  Photo: 240th AHCThe Team. The reconnaissance team that Roy Benavidez helped rescue was led by Sergeant First Class Leroy Norris Wright, US Army Special Forces. Like Benavidez, Wright and the American members of his team were assigned to the Fifth Special Forces Group's Detachment B-56. The team was composed of three Americans, two South Vietnamese Army officers, and seven CIDG members.

The Americans. Leroy N. Wright was the team leader, or One-Zero. His assistant team leader, the One-One, was Staff Sergeant Lloyd Mousseau, US Army Special Forces. His radio operator, or One-Two, was Spec. 4 Brian O'Connor. Wright was killed during the action and Mousseau died of his wounds before reaching the hospital in Saigon. The only American survivor from the team, Spec. 4 Brian O'Connor was severely injured and was apparently not debriefed on the mission by his superiors.

The CIDG. The team had nine allied members. Seven were simply described as members of the CIDG - Civilian Irregular Defense Group. They might have been Montagnards - mountain tribesmen from the surrounding regions of Vietnam or Cambodia, Nungs of Chinese extraction, Cambodians, Bru, or others. In all of the published accounts of the Benavidez action only the name of one of these brave soldiers has been recorded - "Chin" the interpreter.

South Vietnamese Army. Two members of the team were Vietnamese Army Warrant Officer interpreters. One may have been the interpreter "Chin" mentioned above..

 
 

Sergeant First Class
Leroy Norris Wright
USA Special Forces
Distinguished Cross Recipient
Killed in action
May 2, 1968
at the age of 38
Cambodia

LEROY NORRIS WRIGHT was born on June 4, 1929 and joined the Armed Forces while in NEWARK, NJ. He served as a 11F4S in the Army. In 16 years of service, he attained the rank of SFC/E7.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Panel 54E, Row 22.

Leroy Wright was survived by his wife Heja and his sons Dorian and Darryl.

Leroy Wright with his two sons.  Photo: RPB

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The Distinguished Service Cross
America's second highest award for valor in combat

 

Staff Sergeant
Lloyd F. Mousseau
USA Special Forces
Distinguished Cross Recipient

Died of wounds received in action in Cambodia, May 2, 1968
, at the age of 24,
Saigon, Vietnam

LLOYD FRANCIS MOUSSEAU was born on January 29, 1944 and joined the Armed Forces while in Cudahy, CA. He served as a 11F4S in the Army. In 6 years of service, he attained the rank of SSGT/E6.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Panel 55E, Row 26.

Mousseau was survived by his daughter, Kathy, who was three years old at the time of his death and living with his mother in California. A few days after his death Kathy received a birthday card that her father mailed to her just before going on the May 2 mission that cost his life.

Staff Sergeant Lloyd Mousseau, KIA on the Benavidez MOH mission.  Photo: PRB.

See Lloyd Mousseau
Photo Album and History


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The Distinguished Service Cross
America's second highest award for valor in combat

 

FOUR CIDG AND ARVN TEAMMATES
Killed in action in Cambodia
May 2, 1968


Other members of the team may have died subsequently from the wounds received May 2, but reports of those deaths are not available.

We regret that we cannot list the names of the four CIDG and ARVN teammates from Wright's team who died May 2, 1968 because their names are not recorded. This picture at the right is of another team. Hundreds of such teams fought loyally by our side throughout the Vietnam War. America, and all free men, owe a debt to men such as these.

Photo: A Typical CIDG Reconnaissance Team. Photo: Brendon Lyons, Jr.

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MISSION COMPROMISED!

The Mission
Leroy Wright's twelve man special operations recon team inserted secretly by helicopter into Northern Cambodia about 60 miles NW of Saigon. His mission was to capture a North Vietnamese Army truck and return with the truck to Vietnam with a load of supplies as physical proof to the world press that the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army were being supplied through Cambodia.

All Quiet
Unfortunately Wright's team was landed in the midst of a large force of NVA regulars who deployed in great depth around their landing zone. They had flown over much of the enemy force on their way in, but the enemy did not fire a shot as the American helicopters passed overhead. At first all was quiet and it seemed that the enemy was unaware of the position of their landing. The team began moving toward its primary objective, but soon they were compromised! Two NVA soldiers discovered their point team. Lloyd Mousseau, assistant team leader and one of the CIDG killed these men silently with their knives but one of the NVA got off a shot, alerting the other NVA in the vicinity.

Wright requested permission for extraction, as was the standard procedure when a team is discovered by the enemy, but amazingly he was ordered to continue the mission by his superiors back in Vietnam. After some discussion on the radio with his commander Wright agreed to continue the mission and once again moved towards his objective. Soon he encountered a patrol of about 12 NVA soldiers and in a brief but noisy fight his team wiped out the NVA patrol without any casualties to his team. Now his situation was critical and once again he called by radio for emergency extraction as he rushed the team to the planned pickup zone - a large crescent shaped clearing in the forest about one hundred meters long.

Shot out of the zone
At the pickup zone Wright encountered disaster. The approaching extraction helicopters were shot up before they reached his position. The six helicopters had begun to receive heavy fire five miles from the pickup point, and one of the escorting helicopter gunships was shot down. One of the transport slicks was severely hit also, wounding two crewmen, one mortally. Only one lone slick made an approach to the pick up zone, and it was misdirected by its C&C aircraft to land in a pickup zone that was controlled by enemy troops. Leroy Wright watched from about 100 meters away in horror as an NVA stepped into the landing zone and directed the helicopter with hand signals to a landing spot, and it's doom. Wright's only recourse was to open fire immediately on the NVA beside the helicopter. Fortunately the slick escaped this trap, but now the enemy knew exactly where Wright and his team were, and they attacked him in force. Soon hundreds of NVA troops surrounded Wright's position and they became locked in a fierce fire fight.

Wright's Sacrifice.  Clay sculpture of Leroy Wright moments before rolling himself onto a live grenade to shield his teammates from the blast.  Statue by Mark Austin Byrd.  MABS photo.Wright rolls onto grenade saving teammates.
Wright moved about his beleaguered team encouraging them and repositioning them to defend the extraction landing zone. While redeploying one group of his men he was hit by enemy fire and lost the use of his legs. Then two enemy grenades fell between Wright and his teammates, endangering them all. Wright threw one grenade back at the enemy but only had time to roll his body onto the second grenade before it exploded lifting him into the air as if kicked by a giant foot. Wright survived this explosion and fought on for a time firing his weapon until he was killed by a shot in his head. With Wright's death, assistant team leader Lloyd Mousseau took over command of the team and together with radio operator Brian O'Connor, they begin to call in fixed wing air strikes to stop the horde of enemy that was now moving to surround them.

Roy Benavidez - One Man "Bright Light Team"
Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez was assigned to support duties at the camp from which Wright's team had been launched. Over the radio he heard that the team was surrounded by hundreds of NVA, six team members were dead and the six survivors were all wounded. He heard the distress calls of the shot up and crashing helicopters that had been on the failed first extraction attempt.

Benavidez was a close friend of Leroy Wright and felt that he owed his life to Wright from an earlier incident in which Wright took great personal risk to save him. It may have been thoughts of this that inspired Benavidez to rush to join the second rescue effort by the already battered helicopter flight from the 240th Assault Helicopter Company. Unfortunately, when Benavidez arrived at the scene his friend Leroy Wright had already been killed.

Benavidez ultimately received the Medal of Honor for his actions on that day. He never spoke of the incident without praising the valor of those who were there. He particularly praised Wright's valor and leadership of the team.

Leroy Wright - Medal of Honor? Leroy Wright gave his life unselfishly in a desperate attempt to protect several team mates who happened to be indigenous mountain tribesmen and an ARVN interpreter, from the blast of a grenade. Some have asked why Wright was not awarded the Medal of Honor for this particular self sacrificial act. The officials writing his citation for the Distinguished Service Cross were apparently not aware that Wright sacrificed himself on the enemy grenade! Brian O'Connor was the only surviving American witness to Wright's act of self sacrifice. His eyewitness account did not come to official attention until many years after the event.

Valor Remembered plans to memorialize Leroy Wright for his part in the Benavidez Medal of Honor event, both by creating artworks representing him, and also by collecting and preserving the individual histories associated with his military service. To do justice to this project we need more information about Leroy Wright. He left a widow Heja and two sons, Dorian and Darryl who we wish to communicate with them if they can be located, and if they are willing.

 

 

O'CONNOR'S REPORT

Brian O'Connor.  Photo: RPB. Years after the rescue of his team on May 2, 1968, O'Connor provided to the Army a ten page typed account of the events of his patrol. This report was the key evidence that induced the Army to award the Medal of Honor to Roy Benavidez. He had been severely injured and was apparently evacuated from Vietnam before his superiors could fully debrief him on the mission. O'Connor only learned that Benavidez was alive by chance - he saw a newspaper story about Roy Benavidez, published by Roy's home town paper in El Campo, Texas. The story had been picked up by the international press and found its way to Australia and thence to O'Connor who was living in the Fiji Islands. When O'Connor saw the story he was amazed to learn that Roy Benavidez had survived his wounds. He picked up the telephone and called his old friend.

Shortly thereafter he submitted his account, confirming the witness reports that had already been accumulated by others, providing the one ingredient that had been missing - an American eyewitness on the ground. Soon thereafter Roy Benavidez's Medal of Honor was presented.

Roy Benavidez and Brian O"Connor.  O'Connor's eyewintness account was instrumental in convincing the Army to award the MOH to Roy.  Photo: US Govt. All published accounts of the ground action prior to Roy Benavidez joining the team have been based primarily upon O'Connor's statement. His account of Benavidez's action confirmed the reports of others and provided crucial new information.

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On May 2, 1968, (which incidentally was my birthday), I was forming a similar operation in Vinh Binh Province (IV Corps). As POIC of the province, I was in my usual stressed out worries about the outcome, as we were planning it, with my PRU as the assault force (the action arm of Phoenix).
I wish to convey to the NIK, although belated this long, my most sincere condolences, and for a "job well done"and indeed, a true hero of the 5th SF Grp.------"LEAST WE FORGET!"
His wife and children should definitely be proud of such a hero and soldier, a true representative of the Special Forces and the dedication and loyality to his team and men under him.
He, and the men mentioned herein, all deserve the recognition and citations they so justly deserve. Again: "LEAST WE FORGET!"
For such men of heroic caliper, we still have our "Freedom", for which they paid the ultimate sacrifice,
GOD BLESS THEM, AND MAY THEIR SOULS REST IN PEACE FOR ETERNITY!
Captain James L. Baker, US Army Special Forces (Retired)
(SFA-D-2253/SOA-210Life)