Mel Feather, Leland Bryant, Rod “Hogie” Hogevoll, and John Santy served in D Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, in the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam, and all survived the Battle of Firebase David on June 14, 1970. Feather had entered the Army in September 1968, Santy in October 1968, Hogevoll in February 1969, and Bryant in 1969 as well. They all had several months “in country;” Feather and Santy were about three quarters done with their tour, but Bryant was only a quarter into his year in Vietnam. The area from Tay Ninh in the south to Loc Ninh in the north and the Song Be river in the east roughly outlined the area of operations for 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry. It was a buffer zone between the Cambodian border and Saigon. For years, North Vietnamese troops had been traveling down the “Ho Chi Minh trail” in Laos and Cambodia, free from American interference and able to project force into South Vietnam all along the nation’s western border. American forces were frequently drawn into combat in the border region, attempting to prevent North Vietnamese infiltration. The battalion headquarters was at Quan Loi basecamp (nicknamed “Rocket City”) south of Loc Ninh. The area was full of heavy jungle, open areas, and rubber plantations. In May and June 1970, elements from the 1st Cavalry Division, the 25th Infantry Division, and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, along with units from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, crossed the border into Cambodia in an effort to find and destroy North Vietnamese staging areas close to Saigon. Operations focused in the areas known as the Fishhook and the Parrot’s Beak, and a key target was “The City,” a fortified North Vietnamese supply depot. Firebase David was built 19 miles into Cambodia in an open area along a natural trench. Several 105mm howitzers were air-lifted onto the firebase to provide artillery support for troops operating in the area. During the time of the Battle of Firebase David, the weather was foggy and rainy, limiting air support. On the night of June 14, 1970, North Vietnamese sappers tried to infiltrate the firebase, but an alert American Soldier, Leland Bryant, saw the sappers crawling towards the wire and opened fire with his machine gun.
In this interview, the four veterans provide their recollections of the Battle of Firebase David, including detailed descriptions of their actions on the night of June 14, 1970. They briefly explain how they entered the Army and were assigned to D/1-5 Cavalry. They provide an overview of the operation that brought them to Cambodia and Firebase David. They discuss how the battle unfolded, what they did during the confused combat that night, and how they recovered the next morning. They contextualize each other’s story with supporting details of their own. This interview offers a unique perspective on an intense battle during the Vietnam War and the Cambodian incursion in 1970.