One Hero At Ia Drang

There were many hero's in the battle at LZ Albany.  The following is the citation for Willard Bennetts award of the Silver Star in 1999, much deserved and many years late.

Colonel Willard Bennett

"On 17 and 18 November, 1965, while serving with Company C, 229th
Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, (Airmobile) in
Vietnam, Major Bennett distinguished himself by extra-ordinary
heroism at risk of life so notable that he set himself apart from his
comrades at Landing Zone Albany. On these dates he participated as a
UH-1D helicopter command pilot and flight leader. The 2nd Battalion,
7th Cavalry Regiment, had been ambushed by an almost overwhelming
regiment of North Vietnamese, determined to annihilate the Americans
when Major Bennett led his flight of 12 aircraft to land emergency
reinforcing troops into the besieged landing zone (LZ). He tried on two
approaches to land, but had to abort due to the intensity of enemy fire,
causing aircraft to be hit. On the third approach, he divided his flight
into sections of two aircraft; each then led his flight through enemy
tracers to land troops to avert the LZ from being overrun. After
midnight early on 18 November, he volunteered to lead two volunteer
aircraft to extract severely wounded soldiers from the LZ (Albany) after
Med-Evac aircraft had refused due to the risk involved. He flew down
through enemy tracers, landing to a handheld flashlight on the
battlefield, next to the fighting infantry and began to pick up wounded.
Mortar fire began to hit the LZ . Having boarded most of the wounded,
he quickly picked up his aircraft and moved it 100 yards away, still
remaining on the LZ. He remained on the ground exposed to enemy
fire, until his crew could crawl and reboard, dragging another wounded
soldier with them. Only then did he lift off and fly out again, through the
enemy tracers, to lead the two aircraft carrying the wounded to medical
aid. Major Bennett's extraordinary heroism at risk of life is in keeping
with the highest traditions of military service and reflects great credit on himself, the 229th Assault Helicopter
Battalion, the 7th Cavalry Regiment, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), and the United States Army."
This writer can verify the above statement and the heroism of this fine soldier and his equally brave crewmen. I
vividly remember that night. The illumination being fired from LZ Columbus and the two helicopter crewman, one on
each side of a wounded trooper, running to put that last trooper on board. Why do I remember this event? I was
that last trooper! As they threw me in on the floor of that chopper, we immediately lifted off. As the chopper came
under increasing fire, we banked away at a sharp angle. Laying on the floor of that chopper, I lifted my head and
looked down between my legs and could see the rifle flashes shooting at us. I started sliding out the door and
reached out with my hand and some wonderful person grabbed my hand and held on until we landed at Plekiu.
I salute Col Bennett and his crew. I simply can't find the words to properly express my thanks! Thank you Sir!
A humble and grateful Brian D Ripley, D Co., 2nd Bn, 7th Cav, 1st Cav Division, (Airmobile)