“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.
For hours that must have seemed an eternity, Beck operated the machine gun while NVA charged him from a tree line 100 yards away. “There was a lot of noise and helicopters and some Air Force planes firing rockets nearby. Guys were screaming.”
For almost an hour, significant help came from an Air Force A-1E Skyraider that made repeated firing passes on the NVA. Then, the A-1E was hit, possibly by shrapnel from its own ordnance. It passed in front of Beck gushing flames. The aircraft piled into a clump of trees, killing pilot Capt. Paul T. McClellan, Jr.
After hours of fighting, Beck’s platoon, company, and battalion still held against the North Vietnamese.
Over the next two days, Beck was caught up in close-quarters fighting with NVA. More Americans were killed near him. During an assault across the same creek bed, he watched a U.S. soldier ram a bayonet into an NVA trooper’s chest, then take wounds himself.
When the shooting stopped, an American army of draft-era citizen soldiers had battled North Vietnam’s most experienced troops and prevailed.
During an assault across the same creek bed, he watched a U.S. soldier ram a bayonet into an NVA trooper’s chest, then take wounds himself.
“In later years when we talked about it, the colonel said I’d held the flank of Landing Zone X-ray in exactly the way Chamberlain’s 24th Maine soldiers secured Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg,” said Beck. “North Vietnamese regulars were rushing out of the woods, pouring right into us, and they had just one purpose, to overrun us and inflict a battalion-sized defeat on the United States Army.”
In recent interviews, Beck said he never learned the identity of “Doc” Nall, who helped save Adams. He would like to find Nall.
Beck left the Army as a specialist four. In 1996, after three decades of bureaucratic delay, Beck and Adams were awarded the bronze star with “V” device for valor. Others say Beck should have gotten a higher award.
Today, Beck lives in Camp Hill, Pa. A free-lance artist since 1972, he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder but, “day by day, I’m handling it,” with help from his wife of nine years, Jennifer. He sees fellow veteran Russ Adams occasionally.