Battle of Nam Dong
Nam Dong is situated 32 miles west of Da Nang in a valley near the Laotian border; it was manned by South Vietnamese personnel with American and Australian advisers, and served as a major thorn in the side of local Vietcong militants.
The Viet Cong struck at the camp at 2:30 a.m. to achieve the element of surprise, and reached the outer perimeter where South Vietnamese special forces managed to hold out. The battle lasted for five hours when the Viet Cong decided to abort the mission, fleeing into the jungle at sunrise. At 9:45 a.m. six USMC helicopters arrived to extract the special forces. At the end of the battle, a total of 373 allies (twelve American Green Berets, 300 South Vietnamese, sixty Nung soldiers, and a single Australian military advisor) held off deadly attacks against 900 NVA and Vietcong, often pinning Viet Cong groups in the narrow cliffs leading into the valley, where they were easily targeted by artillery.
Captain R. C. Donlon became the first American to be awarded the Medal of Honor in Vietnam for valiantly killing two Vietcong sappers and thereby preventing them from breaching the Nam Dong base, while sustaining shrapnel wounds in the process.
For his actions during this battle, Warrant Officer Kevin Conway of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV), was cited by his commander—then Colonel Ted Serong—for a Victoria Cross, the highest gallantry award for Australian service personnel. Conway was in a forward weapon pit with an American Master Sergeant, Gabriel Alamo, who was killed in the North Vietnamese assault. Conway alone fired his mortar upon the assaulting enemy in ever decreasing range fire until he was forced to bring his mortar fire upon himself to save the perimeter of the base. Conway has never received the cited award for valour. He was the first Australian to be killed in action in the Vietnam war. Serong stated that it was US Special Forces politics that denied Conway his Victoria Cross. Sergeant John L. Houston, Radio Operator, was also killed during the action on 6 July 1964. Alamo and Houston were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Sergeant Terrance D. Terrin, U.S. Army Green Beret Medic, was awarded the silver star for gallantry in battle.
The Green Berets
A key battle scene in the 1968 film The Green Berets was based on this battle.
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