Tuesday, July 17, 2012

TFH 7/17: Captain David F. Rich, USA

Today's ground warriors of the United States Army and United States Marine Corps have state-of-the-art technology to help them locate and counter enemy mortar and artillery fires, namely the Firefinder radars (AN/TPQ-36 and AN/TPQ-37). These systems allow our gunners to track incoming shells and plot their trajectories back to where they were fired from so our own guns can attack and destroy the enemy batteries.

Reliable and effective counter-battery radars weren't available until the mid-1970s. Before then, counter-battery targeting was much more an art than a science, and a high-risk one at that.

During twelve days in July 1970, an Army artillery officer commanding a fire base in Vietnam established by Battery B, 2d Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment - then part of the 101st Airborne Division - continually exposed himself to enemy fires and ignored his own repeated wounds while commanding the battery and analyzing the craters left by enemy rounds to target his guns back at them.

He was Captain David F. Rich, and his valor was recognized with the second-highest Army award: the Distinguished Service Cross.

From Military Times' Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Captain (Field Artillery) David F. Rich, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Battery B, 2d Battalion, 319th Artillery, 101st Airborne Division (Airborne). Captain Rich distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions while commanding an allied artillery base while subjected to a prolonged enemy attack during the period 5 July 1970 through 17 July 1970. Throughout this period, the fire support base was battered by an intense barrage of enemy rocket, mortar, and recoilless rifle fire. Exposing himself to each enemy attack, Captain Rich skillfully examined the craters left by each incoming enemy round to approximate the enemy location from which it was fired and then directed his men to pound the position with a barrage of artillery fire. Although wounded on seven different occasions, the captain continuously pinpointed enemy positions to his men and assured that all the wounded received medical treatment before himself. During an intense barrage of enemy mortar fire on the final day of the attack, Captain Rich left the relative security of his command post and conducted accurate crater analysis amid the hail of enemy shrapnel. Although painfully wounded in the leg, arm, chest, and eye, he refused to relinquish the command of his battery and continued to direct the defensive fire of his men. Inspired by his tireless and determined efforts, Captain Rich's men bitterly resisted the enemy force while maintaining a high level of fighting spirit throughout the ordeal. Captain Rich's 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 States Army.

David Rich had been born in Buffalo, New York on August 23, 1943. His obituary says he passed away just last year in Maine on November 9, 2011 at age 68. It also says that he attained the rank of Major before leaving the Army and also received the Silver Star for valor in addition to his Distinguished Service Cross.

2nd Battalion, 319th Artillery is no longer part of the 101st Airborne Division. Their M119 howitzers currently provide fires for the 2nd Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.