December 16th, 2020 To: Ken Pool (re Steve Pearce's experience in Vietnam)
I'm glad you got out of there. It was a bad war and we should never have been there in the first place. All four of us Pearce brothers had
joined during the war. In your job I figure you saw a lot. One of
early classmates if you were at Baumun Junior High was KIA in the same
year I was over there. Samual Orlando who is buried at Arlington.
He was a Navy Corpsman who was taking ammo to the Marines he was out
I was telling the lady this morning in answer to her questions that
on about the last day of October 1966 about nine of us had volunteered
on a dirt road to help out an Infantry unit we were told was in big
We flew into the top of a valley from some miles away. It's a long
account of a small action so I won't get into the details as it took
years to unfold as it first started to unfold in those long days in
the hospital back in 1988.
On the LZ where a Chinook with a jury rigged footbridge hanging
below it told us they were going to wait over the stream about a mile
down the valley for us to get down there to guide it in from the
ground using the long heavy rope hanging below the hanging footbridge.
After the Chinook off down the valley I was asked to go alone into
the valley and guide it in while all the others remained up at the LZ
to hold it. I knew none of the others on the LZ ad had not known I
had a brain tumor and had not known how to tell the stressed out
Sergeant that it was not fair that only one soldier go into the valley
as our whole group of about nine was to have gone into the valley.
Anyway I was under heavy fire at about the first half mile and had
started to go into shock in the tall grass that I had jumped down into
as the grass was pinpointing my position changes and rounds were
striking all around me.
I did make it to the bottom of the valley and as I wound through the
tall thick brush near the stream there was no sight or sound of the
Chinook. As I came around a final turn there to my complete
astonishment was the bravest man I've ever met waiting to intercept
In that ten second meeting he told me the Chinook had been taking
heavy ground fire up at it as they hovered over the stream awaiting my
arrival and had pulled out and were waiting my return up at the LZ a
mile back up the trail (I'm guessing at the distance based on the time
it took me to reach the bottom of the valley and discounting the
minute or two I was under fire).
He was completely dry and very calm. I was drenched and I think in
shock. I knew in those few seconds that I was met by a brave man.
Within twenty-four hours the memory of the valley was almost
completely gone and in all the years ahead no one had ever said a word
of the two day mission to me.
By the mid 2000's I wanted to be able to show my then teenage
daughters what I had done so in 2007 after years of ups and downs I
started the years long search for truth and proof.
To wrap this up, by 2008 I found the Sergeant who asked me to go
alone into the valley and by 2009 I found the Officer in the valley (I
thought) but his account was not adding up. But after three years of
my phone question and emails he finally wrote that it was not him but
a Infantry Officer from a nearby Battalion.
From 2013 with the ongoing help of the National Archives and staff
at Fort McNair I was able with their to find the Infantry unit and by
2015 I knew who had met me in the valley at such great risk. His name
was Lt. Colonel Lewis R. Baumann who was the Battalion Commander of
the 2nd of the 18th Infantry who I had never heard of before.
He had died in 1995 so I never had the chance to thank him for
waiting completely alone in that valley for a frightened young kid.
He was one of the most highly decorated Officers in the military with
five Silver Stars Purple Hearts from the Korean War. I did talk with
his adult son in 2015 to let him know of the bravery of his father.
There were two odd things that took place in my last few months that
might have been an effort to get me killed. It made me wonder if the
Captain had taken a huge reaming out over the fact that one one had
gone into the valley.
That the now retired Colonel somehow held that against me. I think
he was a friend of the Sergeant on the LZ who asked me to go alone
into the valley. I hold no ill will towards the Sergeant as it may
have been his first combat mission where he was in charge.
In the last week before flying home I had passed out due to the
effects of the unknown brain tumor and while flat on my back in the
shade a young Officer sitting in the dirt next to me told me when I
reached the States that there was an award pending but I had been too
groggy to ask or care what it was or for.
The National Archives did send me a paragraph about the mission in
2013 but there was almost real useful information in it. I suspect
that it was my ex Captain now the retired Colonel who I found was very
caggy in giving me information. He would have known all the details
of the mission but I think he had left from the dirt road in a convoy
as soon as we were flown off on the mission as we did not be
reconnected with them until the following day where they were waiting
our arrival the next day at a big base delivered by Dan Litynski's
group of about five tanks who had been waiting a few miles away from
the valley to which we were flown to after I came back up out of the
valley that late afternoon and whom we spent the night with. All I
remember of that night was the feeling of great safety sleeping inside
of the small lone circle of tanks who were awaiting our arrival. Dan
is now a retired General and as of 2014 headed a department at WMU in
587 Forest Edge Circle
Woodland Park, CO 80863