3rd Platoon, C Company, 4th Battalion, 47th Infantry Dinh Tuong Province – October 6, 1967

Written by Steve Hopper on June 6, 2010, D-Day – a fitting day to remember soldiers lost so many years ago, but never to be forgotten. . .

I wanted to provide my words about October 6, 1967. . . the day I lost Gale Alldridge and Danny Burkhead. Danny had been transferred into Charlie Company and was assigned to the 3rd Squad of the 3rd Platoon of which I was squad leader. I remember Danny well as we had many talks. I learned he had been a truck driver prior to transferring to Charlie Company and what I remember most and learned about him is he was a very caring and upstanding individual and an excellent soldier. The type of person anyone would want in their squad, platoon or company. Unfortunately Danny Burkhead was killed on October 6, 1967. Here’s a bit of what happened.

My squad was on point for the 3rd platoon and Charlie Company on October 6, 1967. My squad had just stepped 100 yards or so out of the tree line into the middle of rice paddies. As we did we could hear a firefight off to our right, possibly a 1/4 mile away or so. I don’t recall who was in trouble at that time but we were asked to hold in place and await new orders. As we did so I ordered everyone in my squad to kneel down and take cover…. unaware that just to our right enemy VC were dug in. We waited a couple of minutes and recieved orders to turn right to assist the unit in trouble. Gale Allridge was on point and my squad spread nicely across a couple of rice paddies as we moved towards the gunfire in the distance. It was then all hell broke loose. We were ambushed and under fire from three different directions. As the initial enemy burst of fire took place my squad quickly hit the rice paddies with little to no cover. My radio operator Ybarra was wounded. I relieved him of his radio, grabbed him and called out orders for the entire squad to stay down but move forward to seek protection behind a dike just 40 feet or so in front of us. We did so but I found myself and my radio operator literally 10 feet from one of the bunkers. One of my squad members Horney was to my left and he and I kept fire on that bunker attempting to keep the VC down. As we did so we received more fire from another dike directly in front of us. Burkhead, along with everyone else in my squad fought like good troopers and returned fire. At one point a grenade was tossed from the bunker 10 feet from me and my radio operator. How in the hell a VC tossed a grenade through a 3 inch hole I will never understand but it landed literally two feet from me. I was between the grenade and Ybarra and I told him to stay down as I knew if we stood up we would be shot. So we quickly curled up in the water with the grenade just behind me. It never went off…. indeed a lucky day. I then popped smoke on the dike and called in a gunship with instructions to place a rocket at the intersection of the two dikes 10 feet east of the smoke. As we watched the chopper set up, their first pass pummeled us with machine gun fire. Luckily, no one in my squad was hit. I then called then back on the radio and said we do not want machine gun fire, we want a rocket at the intersection of the two dikes, a bunker is located there and we cannot take it out with rifle fire. Burkhead was beside me at that moment and we again watched as the chopper fired one rocket directly into the intersection. Perfect hit. Burkhead and I then tried to get a head count as I could account for everyone in my squad except Alldridge. We had not seen Alldridge since the opening fire. We both knew he was the point man and Danny volunteered to check on Alldridge. My squad provided cover fire as Burkhead made his way over the dike and into the open rice paddy to find Allridge. A minute or two later Burkhead returned and gave us the sad news that Gale Allridge has been killed. As this happened Danny was still on the enemy side of the dike directly across from me. Only a foot of mud dike separated us and when Danny raised his head to tell me about Alldridge, at that moment Burkhead was shot in the head. The emotions were everywhere. We were sad, we were hurt and we were so pissed as he took a huge risk to check on another soldier and in doing so lost his own life. Having seen where the shot came from I loaded a clip of tracers into my M16 and let all 20 rounds go directly into the bunker that had just fired upon Burkhead. That was the last we heard from that bunker.

As darkness approached I pulled my squad together and as a team we low crawled for what seemed to be a hundred yards or so back towards our unit. They knew we were on our way and were on the lookout for us. As we did so we again received enemy fire. We were fortunate as no one else was hit but the enemy fire was close enough to splatter mud onto our faces. It was as this point with only 50 or so yards to get back to our platoon, I grabbed my radio operator, we stood up, returned fire and ran the last 50 yards to rejoin our platoon with reasonable cover. It was then I learned that Lt. Charles W. Davis had not been seen since the opening of the firefight. I told our platoon sergeant that he was not with us and what we learned the next morning is Lt. Davis for some reason had moved in behind my squad and was shot in the leg when the battle first started. He bled to death and no one could get to him.

Once rejoining the platoon, I stayed with our Platoon Sergeant Joe Marr and the two of us called in artillery to the area just in front of where we lost Burkhead and Alldridge. Joe had already been wounded in the hand and as we called in artillery, I caught a piece of shrapnel in the shoulder. However, we pummeled the area where the enemy had been and hoped like hell we were taking a few more enemy in the process. The rest of the night was spent watching for enemy movement while illumination rounds popped overhead all night long. One of the longest nights I will ever experience.

October 6, 1967 is a day that I will never forget. It was such a loss losing Burkhead and Alldridge but our only solace at the time was that we did not let it happen without taking “an eye for an eye”. Nevertheless, we lost three good soldiers and brothers that day. Young men doing what they had been asked to do; young men following orders; young courageous men risking their lifes to make a difference and at times for the simple reason that others might make it home.

May this piece of history simply serve to recognize Danny Burkhead, Gale Alldridge and Lt Charles Davis for their heroic deeds and ultimate sacrifices. May they never be forgotten. May their efforts and sacrifices always be remembered with pride and admiration. They were simply great soldiers serving their country.

On their behalf. . . sincerely submitted,

Steve Hopper

3rd Platoon, Charlie Company

Danny Burkhead’s squad during AIT. Photo taken at Fort Riley’s Custer Hill facility in the summer of 1966. Danny is sitting at the left (Robert Eldon Broyles is standing).
Danny is sitting at the right and Robert Broyles is sitting on the floor – don’t know the 3rd soldier.
Gale Alldridge – Basic Training Training – 1966
Steve Conto on his Final Bridge Project found Gale’s grave.