U.S. Army – Vietnam
The terrain in Vietnam varies from the broad, flat flood plains of the Mekong Delta to the mountainous terrain of the central highlands, covered with triple canopy jungles. Miles Bradley Hedglin of Mercer ended up in the latter when he was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry [photos] in Kontum Province, in January, 1969.
We can get a sense of what he went through there by reading the memoirs of Robert Granger, another soldier who was there at the time. He tells of the things you would expect: night patrols, incoming mortar and artillery rounds, close calls, enemy attacks on their base camps.
But Granger also tells of other aspects of jungle combat in Vietnam. In March, 1969, encamped on a hill designated as Hill 467, Company B was bombarded with artillery, mortar, and rockets for days. A sniper wreaked havoc on them; an airstrike failed to silence him, and patrols sent out to locate him could not do so. Water and food were getting low, and enemy fire prevented helicopters from resupplying them.
Three soldiers brought back several ammo containers of water from a stream that wasn’t far away.
“We were given two canteens each,” Granger wrote. “I filtered the leaches and algae out through the top of a dirty sock, then added the iodine tablets. Later in the day, one of the guys from another platoon offered me $480 for a canteen of my water. I turned him down.”
Granger’s descriptions of events on March 25 are gruesome. Granger sums up the events of March 25 in a few words: “Haven’t had any sleep to speak of in days. The lack of water and food and constant shelling is taking its toll on everyone. A five minute nap is about all I can get at one time. The night time probing and hearing the digging, moaning of their wounded and movement just outside the wire, with it dark enough not to be able to see a thing keeps everyone alert every minute.”
He attributes his survival to his guardian angel, since a B-40 rocket and a hand grenade exploded close to him without even inflicting a wound. PFC Miles Hedglin’s guardian angel must have dozed off. Miles was killed while providing cover fire to free others in his unit.
To get a sense of what PFC Hedglin experienced during his last few days, you can read an after action report covering the 2nd Battalion 8th Infantry from March 17 through March 21, 1969, just a few days before PFC Hedglin was killed.
On the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Panel W28 Line 36