Captain Stuart's Feb 6, 1968 Report
on Feb 1 Mortar Attack on French Fort
At 1930 hrs, 1 Feb, 1968, Fort Courage XS896616, came under enemy mortar attack. A prior attack had occurred at 1857hrs. Estimates of the total rounds received were approximately 7 during the first attack and 5 during the second.
As the first rounds hit, the officers exited their bunker and took up positions to observe muzzle flashes of the enemy fire. As the rounds approached, the company's mortars opened fire and individual gun crews began the counter mortar drill. After about 6 rounds were fired from number 1 gun, a failure to fire occurred. The gunner felt the round hit the base of the tube, but heard no explosion. The round left the tube with a fizzing sound. He immediately called "short round" and ducked for cover. At approximately the same time, there was an explosion on the northwest parapet in the vicinity of the BOQ. Not known at that time whether enemy or friendly. Consensus of witnesses was incoming round. In any event, there were no further explosions after the explosion near the BOQ. OPINION: Incoming round.
1. The Artillery FO saw two enemy muzzle flashes on an azimuth of 5500 mils, 4 to 5 seconds apart just prior to the explosion. The first explosion occurred 250 meters to his front on an azimuth of 5500 mils and the second , 4 to 5 seconds later, to his immediate rear. ( on the BOQ.)
2. The mortar tube which fired the suspected round was initially laid on a preferred azimuth of 1800 mils and elevation of 1265. Allowing for the fact that the gunner was making deflection and elevation changes from this setting, it is apparent that such elevation and deflection would have projected a short round over the northeast corner of the BOQ rather than the northwest.
3. Charge 5 was being fired by gun number 1. Had the round fired properly, this charge would have been sufficient to propel the round 1500 meters. It is readily conceded, however, that the round did not discharge properly. The gunner states, though, that he felt the round hit the base of the tube indicating that the ignition charge did ignite. If this fact is accepted, then the round would have carried a minimum of 350 meters or at least 150 meters beyond the north parapet where the explosion actually occurred.
In view of the available evidence, and the best statements of witnesses, I must conclude that the round which killed CPT Reed, 2LT Boardman, 1LT Small, 1LT Sevick and wounded 1LT Saldivar and SP4 Langley, was caused by hostile, incoming, enemy mortar fire.
Robert S Stuart, CPT,
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