Defense Media Network

Ia Drang Valley: Pvt. Bill Beck’s Battle

An air cavalryman in an iconic fight

“We were outnumbered 10 to 1.”

“We were outnumbered 10 to 1. I followed Taft. The lieutenant got hit. Then [Spc. 4] Jerry Kirsch was hit by automatic weapons fire.” Kirsch survived, but Beck came upon another soldier who was already dead and saw still another take wounds.

To his right, Beck watched Spc. 4 Bob Hazen attempting to give first aid to Taft. North Vietnamese bullets smashed into the radio on Hazen’s back. Hazen’s efforts could not save the lieutenant.

“The rest of our platoon was in the jungle and we were on flat ground on the flank. We fought there, on and off, for an hour.

“I went back near the LZ to get some ammo. On the way back, I came across Lt. Raul Taboada and gave him first aid.” Taboada was badly wounded, but survived.

Battle of Ia Drang Valley

Maj. Bruce Crandall’s UH-1D Huey climbs skyward after discharging a load of infantrymen while under fire during the Battle of Ia Drang Valley. Crandall was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Ia Drang Valley. U.S. Army photo

“While returning to Russ Adams I encountered two NVA. I dropped my ammo box and used my .45 [automatic pistol] to fire at two NVA who popped up near me. I apparently hit both of them.

“I got back to Russ just as an NVA bullet hit him in the head. It was a hideous wound.”

Virtually every American Beck had seen since arriving at LZ X-Ray was now dead or wounded, except for a medic named Nall who appeared to help Adams.

Beck took over the M60 machine gun.

“The fighting lasted all night. We used everything – rifles, grenades, bayonets – doing some of the fighting in the glow of flares and some of it in pitch darkness. At one point I braced my rifle on the body of a dead NVA and sighted over top of him to shoot at his comrades.”

“Russ was laying there with his head open. That was the most afraid I ever was in my life. Everything I’d seen up to then was my guys wounded and killed. The only people left were me and [medic] Nall and I figured, we’re next. The fear is ice cold and it numbs the hell out of you but you know you have to act.”

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Robert F. Dorr is an author, U.S. Air Force veteran, and retired American diplomat who...

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    Jack French

    They are all heroes–even to this day. The Ia Drang will never be forgotten. I was not there. I know some of the heroes personally, and have touched the names of those Cav guys on the WALL who gave their ALL for us.
    Best to Bill and the rest of the Ia Drang troopers. Your efforts and sacrifices are not forgotten.
    From a comrade-in-arms of the 282nd Avn Co (RW) Blackcats.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-202">

    To those who gave all for their country. I applaud you with all my heart and soul. You are the reason that our country still stands today. Don’t feel that you gave your lives, blood, and sweat in vain for you are the ones that make our country strong. Don’t let anyone take your honor away for you fought with dignity and courage. God bless you all and forgive those who make judgement upon these brave men.

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-208978">

    Ive known Bill “satch” Beck for over 30 years. I am only 43 so I was’nt even around when this battle was fought. I have read many different things about Viet Nam but may I say this is the most impressive thing I have ever read. Satch never speaks of this bexause of his humility but one thing I will say is how proud I am to tell people that I know this hero and I call him friend.