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War Stories

Craig Peterson - Jul 68

Bill Shaffer- C Trp Cdr


Just recently, I went to the Centaurs page and learned that the MOH efforts for CW2 Craig Peterson, helicopter pilot extraordinarre , were not to happen. I was moved and felt it necessary to relate my contacts with over a long time span with Craig. I am so sorry he is no longer with us but at least he returned from Nam to see his family.

The first contact occurred as a result of an assignment C Troop was executing through the night of July 2 and into early morning of July 3, 1968. C Troop with all available tracks was to escort an empty 6 truck convoy from Tay Ninh to Saigon to keep the Main Supply Route (MSR) from being mined- my opinion was not asked for, it was mandated by Div Hq- and as happened every night. Mines required the MSR to be walked by Engineers and swept for mines each day before supplies could move on the road , which was very time consuming. Various attempts to stop the convoy were tried that night including barbed wire, a murdered village mayor, overturned carts, etc. All was proceeding fairly well until about the midpoint, vic. Go Dau Ha the lead vehicles of the convoy came under heavy fire from an ambush located off our left side as we traveled south. The VC position was tied in to an ARVN compound and you all know they are the original gutless wonders. A few lead platoon vehicles had cleared the VC position and I was following the lead element; ahead of the empty trucks. Most of the Troop was snarled in congestion vicinity of the road and never got into the firefight.The VC must have been looking for the most antennas that night since my C-6 APC was struck by 3 to 5 RPG's. The first and second ones took me and the crew out. I saw all brilliant purple haze with sightless glazed eyes until coming out of my daze in the left rear of the crew area under and all jumbled up with Frank Cuff, my driver. I think I said "Let's get the Hell outa here." Frank had just dropped his seat so he could swing back to the crew area where I was. He opened the door in the ramp and I went first. Landing in a squat with hands on both thighs I could feel blood pulsing under my right hand. One tends to think, Uh-Oh in that situation. There wasn't any pain. Frank got me to the side of the road and called for Medic Russ "Doc" Gearheart. Doc gave me morphine and placed a wrap- around pressure bandage in just the right spot. Undoubtedly that bandage saved my life by slowing the blood loss. Many years later I thanked Doc for saving my life. They gave me 5 units of blood in the 12th Evac before putting me under for surgery. Don't know how much more 'pickle juice' I got there. Dick Thomas, C Troop attached Artillery FO, who had been knocked off the track got back inside and thinking I was dead started to call the shots and guide the Troops return fire. He called for flares and Centaur support before his right arm was severed just above the elbow but the lower hand and arm hanging from 2 tendons after a strike by another RPG.

Several gunships came but by then the very brief fight was over. A couple Huey's picked up our dead and wounded. Another call for more help reached the ears of Craig Peterson flying empty and returning to Cu Chi Centaur base from another mission. I found out later in a conversation with Craig he was over hours and was likely to get into trouble if he responded to the help call but in his mind he Had The Back of 3/4 Cav Troopers in trouble and wasn't going to let a possible ass chewing stop him helping HIS fellow Cav Troopers in trouble. (Personal Note: Thank The Lord Once More for Centaur). He landed by a handheld strobe in a rice paddy on the other side of the road from the ambush and myself, I think Frank and Doc were put on board, maybe others too. Frank's eardrums had been ruptured and his APC was done for. Craig lifted off for Cu Chi in pitch black conditions with some some small arms fire popping. On the way, Doc tried to trade him a fifth of whiskey for that long purple- white banded neck scarf Craig's wife had made and sent him. I don't know who ended up with which. We made triage in Cu Chi and got squired around different places in the hospital. A piece of shrapnel had severed the right femoral artery under where I felt pulsing blood under my hand when we dismounted. I was in fact out-of -action and on my way home. 2/3 of the people that got that wound lost their leg. Mine was saved and functioned normally for walking. The surgery had nipped the nerves of the skin below the cuts. There is no feeling in the front of the leg which made it my briar busting leg while rabbit hunting.

I hunted Craig up at the reunion in 2008 at Ft. Mitchell (Cincinatti); well actually Frank found him. We had a great visit and there I thanked him for saving my bacon back in '68. He remembered the night Medevac and yes he was in trouble when he got back but the he just gave a shrug to his shoulders and we went on. I didn't know he was so sick, he had such a sunny disposition. He remembered Doc Gearheart and the Purple-White scarf/ bottle of booze talk. Then just a short time later he passed.

Now, very fond memories.

Thank God above for men like Craig and all you other Centaurs who always had our Backs !

Very Sincerely and on behalf of C Troop,

William Shaffer, C-6 (then)