Billy Waugh and the Battle of Bong Son: Inspo for the Purple Heart DEMO
The first one-of-a-kind custom DEMO edition is inspired by Billy Waugh's purple heart(s) gained in Vietnam, and sold within 20 minutes of going live. He earned a total of 8 Purple Hearts throughout his military career, for wounds in combat. It was during the Battle of Bong Son that he sustained multiple shots and was left for dead; earning his 6th purple heart and inspiring us to create this special knife.
“I took another bullet, this time across the right side of my forehead. I don’t know for sure, but I believe the bullet ricocheted off the bamboo before striking me. It sliced in and out of a two-inch section of my forehead, and it immediately started to bleed like an open faucet,” Waugh wrote. “It sounds like the punch line to a bad joke, but you know it’s a bad day when the best thing about it is getting shot in the head.”
June 18th of 1965, Waugh found himself in the fight of his life. His A Team (A 331) was camped near Bong Son. What they had thought was a small encampment of the enemy turned out to be a much larger force to fend off that epic day.
A detailed recount of Waugh's involvement is shared below from Iron Mike Magazine article:
By 1965 his A-Team, A331 was camped near Bong Son. Bong Son was in the northeastern corner of II Corps near the coast. From here the team would recruit local men as mercenaries to assist them in fighting the Viet Cong. On a recon patrol to an area set for a future raid his team was discovered. They fought their way out and prepared to raid the same area in the coming week. On June 18th 1965, Billy found himself in the fight of his life. With 90 men they moved out to attack the enemy stronghold a few kilometers east. Along the way they found an NVA sentry fast asleep. Capturing the soldier they realized they were not going to be hitting their normal Viet Cong force. This was a much more imposing force. It was going to be a serious fight. Farther along the path the team approached a man and woman cooking for the enemy camp. They were neutralized quickly and quietly and the team moved on. The men began to spread out among hooches where NVA soldiers, unaware of the threat upon them, lay sleeping. The attack was started with grenades and immediately followed by bullets. A few escaped out the back of the huts. They took the enemy weapons that were spread out in the kill zone and gave them to the team’s mercenaries. While celebrating a well executed attack Waugh froze. Out of the jungle the sounds of bugle calls filled the air. The huts which they attacked were just a small component of a much larger encampment. In 1965 American forces rarely had seen NVA units. This was an unexpected change of enemy strength. Waugh would later learn that over 4,000 NVA soldiers had been sent to the camp a few days prior to the attack.
Waugh continued the attack before the enemy could group and prepare a counter attack. He threw grenades into every hut he approached and unloaded his rifle in every direction. It was time to get out. He signaled with a red flare for his men to move back to a cemetery where they had predetermined as an exfil rallying point. Out of ammunition and grenades Waugh made his way sprinting across a dry rice paddy to the cemetery. He was immediately hit by a Russian RPK in the right knee. He crawled to an irrigation levee. He then made his way to a pit in the middle of the paddy. He found himself face to face with a water buffalo. He made his way out of the pit and continued to crawl to rallying point where they could call for airstrikes on enemy positions. He was hit again, this time in right foot and ankle. He continued to crawl in excruciating pain. He was able to get to his medical bag and gave himself morphine with little effect. His teammate Paris Davis attempted to rescue him but was wounded when he reached Waugh. Davis returned back to the cemetery to plan their next move. Through ground panels and mirrors they signaled a U.S. pilot monitoring the battle. The pilot, an Air Force Forward Air Controller, guided strike aircraft into the battle to drop ordinance on the NVA positions. The air strikes provide some protection and prevented the NVA from advancing closer to the team still trying to gather at the rallying point for extraction.
Billy Waugh was struck again in the forehead by a bullet that had ricocheted off some nearby bamboo. The wound was enough to cut him good and the blood poured down his face. He was knocked unconscious and this possibly saved his life. He laid there most of the day unaware of the activity around him. He had been stripped naked and left for dead by the NVA.
Ten hours had passed and the battle was still raging. Helicopters made attempts to bring new communications gear and some reinforcements to the team. Hearing the helos Waugh again tried to crawl to safety. It was no use his injuries had been too much. Sgt. First Class John Reinburg, one of the men brought in by the helicopters made his way to help Billy. Reinburg grabbed him and began to drag him up the hill to the rally point on the hill where they could get on the HU-1D waiting for them. Davis eventually was able to get them and assist in carrying him up the hill. As they crested the hill Reinburg was standing above Waugh trying to catch his breath. At that moment a bullet struck him right above his heart. As he fell another struck below his heart piercing his lungs. While Davis loaded Billy onto helo the door gunner took a round in the arm. The shot almost severed his arm at the elbow. The Huey took off and Waugh finally felt that he had a chance.
He was off the battlefield but he was not out of the battle. Even though he suffered so many serious wounds his mind was still in the fight. He contacted his radio operator, monitoring the fight from camp, telling him to send machine guns out on the next chopper. The team on the ground needed them to hold off the NVA who were close to overrunning the team still on the ground. After giving this order the helicopter headed to the MASH unit where Waugh would begin his long recovery from the battle.
Bong Son was an unexpected epic battle early in the Vietnam War. A surprise movement by the NVA into the area had turned a quick raid into a fierce battle that almost wiped out the Special Forces Team and their mercenaries. One team member was killed and only fifteen of the eight six mercs survived. Almost every man on the raid was wounded in the battle of Bong Son. In the end a Ranger unit was sent into the area to finish off the fight.
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You can read more about this battle, and many other stories from Billy Waugh's extensive military career in his book, Hunting the Jackal.
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