Military Order of the Purple Heart

Texas Capital Chapter 1919 Austin, Texas

 

BRICE BARNES

 

 

 


9th INFANTRY

DIVISION PATCH

2nd BATTALION, 47th INFANTRY

“PANTHERS”

INSIGNIA


BRICE H. BARNES

Patriot, Chapter 1919

 Army, Vietnam

 

Brice H.  Barnes was born at Fort Ringgold, near Rio Grande City, Texas in 1941.  His family lived in San Antonio during his growing-up years and Brice graduated from Highlands High School there in 1959.  He enlisted in the Texas Army National Guard in 1963, subsequently volunteered for active duty and was selected for Officer Candidate School (OCS).   He completed OCS at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1965, received his commission as Second Lieutenant, Infantry on September 25, 1966, following which he attended the Jungle Warfare Course and other training, and then was ordered to Vietnam.

 

Brice arrived in-country May 18, 1967 and served his first full-year’s tour with 2nd Battalion, 47th  Infantry, 9th Infantry Division. His initial assignment was as a platoon leader in Company B, but; after he was promoted to 1st Lt in September he was placed in command of the battalion’s Scout Platoon.  It was at the beginning of TET-68 when the most memorable action of his career occurred and that resulted in his award of the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart. This is a brief account of that very long day’s action.

 

On the morning of January 31, 1968, after securing the move of the battalion tactical operations center to a position near the II Field Forces Headquarters, Lt Barnes’ Scout Platoon responded to a medic’s call for assistance to a platoon that had run into trouble entering “widow’s village.”  This village of widows and orphans of Vietnamese soldiers located just across Highway 15 opposite from Field Forces Headquarters had been infiltrated by a large enemy force without being detected.  Since it was so near, they arrived within a matter of minutes.  Lt Barnes came upon the four M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers of the Infantry Platoon at the edge of the small hamlet. One of the infantry tracks was in the road blocking the entrance to the village and there was no one in the commander’s hatch.  The commander had been killed and others had been wounded as they were trying to form a fighting position beside the disabled track.  The fight for “widow’s village” then ensued.

 

Lt. Barnes brought the Scout Platoon up on line with the Infantry Platoon and, not using indirect fire support because of the numbers of women and children in the village, they moved forward together by fire and maneuver and took a ditch line to their immediate front, eliminating the enemy fighting positions there.  After sweeping through that area and with him believing it clear, two North Vietnamese soldiers (NVA) suddenly appeared within 10 feet of Lt Barnes.  He shot one, and having emptied his own weapon, knocked the AK-47 from his other opponent’s hands, and took him prisoner.  After overrunning the enemy’s outposts, the attack was continued with a series of successive sweeps forward.  During the action Lt Barnes was credited with personally destroying an enemy recoilless rifle and machine gun position, about which he dismissively says, “I just got lucky with a LAW.”  At one point, a panic stricken Vietnamese woman with two small children appeared on the dirt road directly to his front and then froze, unable to move, so Lt Barnes rushed forward and with small arms fire kicking up the dust all around them, brought all three of them back to safety behind one of the personnel carriers.  Later in the morning two Cobra attack helicopters began circling overhead.  The Cobras were newly arrived in Vietnam and the Scout Platoon did not have their radio frequency or call sign.  Lt Barnes resorted to hand-and-arm signals to the gunship pilots and managed to direct them in making effective firing passes.   Finally, several hours later, elements of  4th Battalion, 39th Infantry had been airlifted in and positioned on the far left flank and a final assault then pushed through the village. All eight of Scout Platoon’s ACAV’s (armored cavalry assault vehicles) and the two M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers of the Infantry Platoon were put on line with dismounted troops in between and they all went forward together with all weapons firing suppressive fire.  In less than ten minutes all resistance was crushed and the fight for “widow’s village” was over.  Medics and MP’s arrived and took charge of treating casualties and securing the more than thirty NVA taken prisoner.

 

After clearing “widow’s village” the Scout Platoon was ordered to move to assist Company C that was in heavy contact with NVA forces around Bien Hoa Air Base. The route to Bien Hoa took them through Ho Nai village, a cluster of tightly packed shops, stores and hootches along Highway 1.  Before the platoon’s eight tracks cleared the village, they were caught in a murderous ambush.  The platoon was cut into three isolated groups, each confronting its own numerically superior enemy force firing heavy machine guns and rocket propelled grenades (RPG’s).  In the lead element, Lt Barnes received fragmentation wounds to the neck and an injured right shoulder and right knee from an RPG round, and the Medic, Keener, took a severe head wound attempting to reach casualties in the middle group.  In the rearmost element, Major Ray Funderburk, 9th Infantry Division Public Affairs Officer (who had linked up with Scout Platoon in “widow’s village” and had hitched a ride) directed the fires of the Scouts there against the enemy attack that was threatening to overrun their small force.  SSG Robert Schultz dismounted and attacked and destroyed successive NVA machine gun emplacements before falling, mortally wounded.

 

Fighting house-to-house, the lead element successfully linked up with the middle element, retrieved and treated the wounded.  A Dust-Off was called in but was then ordered away when the helicopter encountered intense ground fire on final approach. The extraction process continued with the linking up with the trail element and then calling in helicopter gunships to knock out one remaining enemy RPG position.  With the way clear, Scout Platoon rejoined the battalion and that day’s action was over for them.  The following morning they returned to Ho Nai and recovered the body of SSG Schultz. Vietnamese Catholic nuns, from a church across the street, had placed a beautiful lace handkerchief over his face.  The body was brought out on Lt Barnes’s ACAV.

 

In that day’s actions, among the 40 men in the Scout Platoon and two attached Medics, three were later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, six were awarded  the Silver Star, twenty-two received the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device, and more than twenty Purple Hearts were awarded.  The platoon suffered three killed in action and four of the wounded in action required medical evacuation back to the U.S.  Later reports revealed the enemy force was a battalion of the 88th NVA Regiment augmented with Viet Cong and their losses in “widow’s village” and at Ho Nai were 110 KIA and 33 POW’s.

 

For a more detailed description of that day’s fighting, Brice Barnes has provided an eight-page narrative in his own words, and you may view that by clicking on this link. (Battle for Widows’ Village, Tet 1968).  For readers who wish to examine a wider perspective, a great deal of Lt Barnes material is presented in Chapter 12 of the book, “Battle for Saigon,” by the acclaimed author, Keith Nolan.

 

The citations for the Distinguished Service Crosses awarded to Staff Sergeant Robert W. Schultz and to 1st Lt Brice H. Barnes may be viewed at this link.

 

 2nd Battalion 47th Infantry In Honor of Our Scout's

 

 

   

 

CITATION  

The Distinguished Service Cross

Date Action: 31 January 1968
  Theater: Republic of Vietnam

 

For extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam. First Lieutenant Barnes distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 31 January 1968 as a scout platoon leader while defending against the communists Lunar New year offensive. Enemy forces gained control of Widow's Village and entrenched themselves in its northeast sector. Lieutenant Barnes took command of all friendly forces in the town and launched a fierce assault on the insurgents. Repeatedly disregarding his safety, he braved withering fire to direct civilians in the battle area to safety. Bullets struck all around hi, but he refused to take cover and led a house to house sweep, personally destroying a recoilless rifle and an automatic weapon position. His platoon's aggressive assault and relentless fire forced the Viet Cong to withdraw. Later in the day his unit was sent to the nearby village of Ho Nai. His platoon was quickly engaged by a hostile force firing machine guns, recoilless rifles and automatic weapons. Caught in the murderous crossfire, Lieutenant barnes dismounted his personnel carrier and moved among his men to direct their counterfire on the enemy. part of his platoon became isolated and pinned down by the intense Viet Cong barrage, and he exposed himself to a hail of bullets and shrapnel to direct gun ship strikes on the enemy positions surrounding the beleaguered element. His fearless leadership and heroic actions inspired his men to fight furiously and inflict a decisive defeat on the numerically superior and determined Viet Cong forces, resulting in seventy-seven enemy killed and ten captured. First Lieutenant Barnes' extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United Sates Army.

 

Authority: By direction of the President under provisions of the Act of Congress,

 approved 25 July 1963.

 

 

 

Brice Barnes returned to the U.S. on normal rotation on May 17, 1968.  He was promoted to Captain shortly afterward, and then returned to Vietnam in February 1970 for a second tour, serving as Commander, Company D, 199th Light Infantry Brigade.

 

Brice was discharged from the active Army in San Antonio on July 31, 1973.  He returned to service with the Texas Army National Guard and progressed to command of a Mechanized Infantry Battalion.  In 1986, he left the guard, whereupon he joined the Army Reserves.  During Operation Desert Storm, Brice was on active duty at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California involved with the preparation of reserve components units for deployment.  In 1993, he retired from the USAR in the grade of Colonel.  Brice Barnes has been a Life Member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart since joining Chapter 1919 in 2001.  He and his wife Karen (KC), have five children (two of whom are currently on active duty in the armed forces) and eight grandchildren.

 

“ACAV”

(ARMORED CAVALRY ASSAULT VEHICLE)

THE SCOUT PLATOON’S BASIC VEHICLE WAS THE M-113 PERSONNEL CARRIER WITH ADDED TURRET AND GUN SHIELDS

PHOTO OF SCOUT PLAT, 2-47 INF, SWEEPING THROUGH “WIDOW’S VILLAGE” JAN 31, 1968.

MAJOR RAY FUNDERBURK OF 9th ID PUBLIC AFFAIRS JOINED UP WITH SCOUT PLATOON HERE AND WENT WITH THEM TO HO NAI VILLAGE

RAY FUNDERBURK MOPH, NATIONAL PR DIRECTOR, AT A RECENT SOCIAL OCCASION

Regimental NVA Flag of the 88th NVA Regiment

captured in "Widow's Village" on Jan 31, 1968

 

Brice Barnes made "Honorary Colonel" 47th Infantry Regiment
Reunion Ceremony
April 29, 2010


TOP PHOTO

 

LT. BRICE BARNES

  1968

 


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