Chip Maury in Vietnam with SEAL Team ONE

This is an excerpt from Navy Cross Recipient Barry Enoch's book, "TEAMMATES: SEALs AT WAR" (pages 174-178)...

"It was December 19, 1968, when Lieutenant Bliss issued the patrol order. Our objective was to destroy the VC village and to bring back it civilians for questioning and then relocation to a safe area under government control. The platoon was inserted by two Army slicks with an additional two Cobra gunships flying support. This would be a daylight operation with time on target set for 1200 hours, or noon straight up. Mr. Bliss had conducted a helicopter reconnaissance flight of the target area and told us to expect it to be completely defoliated.

Twelve SEALs would participate in the operation. This would include Mr. Moses, David Wilson, and Chip Maury. The first Huey was to take Mr. Bliss, Frisk, Beanan, Crawford, Chip, and myself. Our squad would be the strike force tasked with taking out any armed or evading VC. The second helicopter's personnel was tasked to round up the civilians after searching/destroying the village. Mr. Lyon was in charge of Second Squad which included John Ware, Bud Gardner, Hubbard, Wilson, and Mr. Moses.

After the patrol order was given I told Chip this was his big chance to take pictures. I added, however, that any time I looked behind me when we were on the ground I wanted to be able to see and touch him. It wasn't that I didn't trust Chip as an operator because I did. Rather, he hadn't operated with ALFA platoon until now and didn't know our standard operating procedures (SOPs). So, I wanted and needed him close by.

The only problem with my decision and his compliance was that every time I turned around I got my picture taken.

The platoon checked their equipment and mustered on the flight deck by our helicopters. During our inspection I noticed that Chip was wearing the same type of life jacket I was. These jackets were actually a camouflaged load bearing vest which consisted of two CO2 cartridges meant to inflate rubber lungs on either side of the vest. There were magazine and utility pockets on the outside of the vests for just such ammo and gear. Chip was carrying a standard ammo load for his CAR-15 plus cameras and film. The SEALs were carrying an extra hundred rounds or so for the automatic weapons and every hundred rounds or so for the automatic weapons and every other man carried an LAAW (light antiarmor weapon) to use on any bunkers we might find.

ALFA loaded up on the Hueys even as their engines began to whine and the rotors began spinning. I've always enjoyed the exit our helicopters made when leaving the deck of a ship and today was no exception. The nose seemed to drop and the tail would lift, giving you the impression you were going to take a dive into the sea below. It was a great feeling and soon enough we were on our way.

Our Huey flew just off the water's surface until we reached Square Bay, then it climbed for altitude. We were glad to see the two Cobra gunships had joined us by now. Passing over the chemically scarred forest below us the helicopters came down to treetop level. Not one green leaf had survived. It was like losing the color on your television. Huge mangrove trees were dead, still standing on their exposed roots like withered giant octopus. Operation Ranch Hand and its herbicides had done some kind of job. It had been said Agent Orange would kill an entire forest in a month and now I believed it.

Mr. Bliss was watching every turn on the river below us and following our route on his map. He had positioned himself on his knees between the pilot and copilot so he could communicate with them and point out the village as it came into view. When the target was sighted we knew we were going in hot. Chip smiled at me and I slung my legs out of the Huey's open door and pushed the safety of my Stoner forward. There was a large Vietcong flag flying in the breeze over the center hootch in the village and we could see armed VC running swiftly below us as the choppers rushed over them. Our door gunners with their M60s opened up on the enemy troops and we SEALs joined in the fray too.

cropped photo of "THE DIRTY DOZEN", far right kneeling, Barry Enoch, far right standing, Chip Maury

Our pilot set us down in the middle of the village. The second Huey was right behind us and everyone was out of the helicopters and on the ground firing and running before their skids actually touched the earth! We claimed targets of opportunity and moved on them. I heard Steve Frisk fire an LAAW and a hootch went up in flames right in front of us. Two VC ran for the river with Beanan in hot pursuit. Frisk went to join him in the chase. When the two SEALs reached the riverbank the Vietcong were already halfway across, swimming like crazy. Beanan let off with a long burst from his M60 and the two enemy soldiers dove underwater. Frisk fire another LAAW, this time into the river, and our two divers never surfaced after its explosion.

I spotted movement ahead of me and went to investigate its source. There was a small canal with a sampan moving on it but no one was onboard. When I reached the stern of the boat I noted something strange in the water. It looked like some kind of muddy seaweed. A closer look revealed what I was seeing was the top of someone's head all covered up with mud! I called out to whoever was below the surface and a young boy of about fourteen years came up out of the water. Taking him prisoner I asked why he was where he had been hiding. He told me the VC had ordered him to hide in the river until we left and then to bring the sampan across to get them. There were two boxes of ammo and a case of canned milk under a canvas in the sampan. We sank the boat and took the boy with us.

The bunkers in the village were large and made up from six- to eight-inch thick logs and mud. They were built outside the hootches and camouflaged with dead tree limbs. The hootches themselves were elevated aboveground to keep the water out when high tide came in. The entire village was filled with deadwood and uprooted trees from Operation Ranch Hand.

We checked out some of the larger bunkers and then called for extraction. Our young boy was joined by a Vietnamese woman, and a little girl and boy. The boy was only about three years old. We loaded them into our helicopter. A quick head count and we were out of there! As soon as the Huey lifted off the little boy grabbed me around the neck and didn't let go until the flight was over. The woman kept her eyes shut the entire time but the young girl seemed to enjoy the ride very much.

As we lifted free from the ground and gained altitude I could see all the hootches were burning. We were still taking light arms fire from the VC who'd hidden or gotten away, but the Cobras went to work and soon suppressed their newfound courage. The raid had only taken fifteen minutes to conduct. We captured documents, destroyed a VC village, captured a VC flag, and removed civilians to what would hopefully be a better environment. A good day's work.

The civilians were flown to a Chinese settlement called Ha Tien. It was located up by the Cambodian border and there was a small runway from which our folks could be flown out to a government controlled settlement. The woman kept pointing to her wedding band, which made me wonder what the VC might have told her about Americans. The people we'd just liberated explained the Vietcong had kidnapped them and forced them to work the rice fields for food meant for the VC. We waited until they were safely aboard their aircraft before returning to the LST.

The ship was underway when our helicopters rendezvoused with it. As we unloaded Chip was taking pictures. He asked us to pose for a group shot with the captured VC flag. Giving his camera to a nearby sailor Chip asked him to shoot the photo and joined us. Years later this picture would appear in a Time-Life series titled "The Vietnam Experience." It was used to advertise the books and a new handle was hung on us as a result. The caption read "The Dirty Dozen - Vietnam Style." Part of the nickname remains with us today as our old teammates now refer to ALFA platoon as THE DIRTY DOZEN."

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