Fire Support Base Dinh
April 18th, 1970 (0305 hours)—Battery A, 2d Battalion, 35th Artillery located at FSB Dinh II (YT819368) was attacked by the NVA’s 2d Battalion, 33d Regiment that employed indirect fire from 60mm and 82mm mortars firing from three different locations, 75mm recoilless rifles, B40 rockets (RPGs) and .51 caliber machine guns.
An estimated 200-300 mortar rounds were fired by the enemy.
The ground attack followed the indirect fire.
Alpha Battery was equipped with 155mm self propelled howitzers. Several of which were hit by RPGs and put out of commission and wounding the personnel inside.
Along with the howitzers firing essentially “point blank” and crews from damaged howitzers manning ground defensive positions, they were able to repel the attack—not before the enemy penetrated the perimeter and killed several in the command post.
Dustoff33 with Aircraft Commander CW2 Rob Spitzer and CE SP4 John Sabanosh flew into FSB numerous times in order to rescue the wounded soldiers. John Domina and Dan Woods came to our 2019 Nashville reunion to thank Rob and John specifically for rescuing them but extending that thanks to all Dustoff crewmembers.
John Domina’s Statement made at our 2019 Nashville Reunion.
Good Morning: Let me start with a Thank You for giving us your time this morning. My name is John Domina, my tour of duty in Vietnam was September 1969 to September 1970. Then I was a “Spec 4” (E-4) with A Battery, 2d Battalion, 35th Regiment, Field Artillery.
I am now the Commander of Chapter 252 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Department of Illinois.
The reason I mention that, it is the reason that has brought me here today.
Our Chapter recently gained a new member. He was an Army Captain who served with the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam. He had been wounded twice and was medevac’d by the same Medevac crew both times. So as he was telling his story, I started feeling pretty bad that I had no clue what unit came for me and at least 25 other wounded men that early morning of April 18th 1970.
So using the internet, I put some info out and then got a response from Mr. Cliff Adams, Mr. Logan and Mr. Vermillion.
“It was us, the 45th out of Long Binh co-located with the 93rd Evacuation Hospital.”
In those words, you could almost feel the pride they have for their unit. And a few days later, I get an email with the Pilot’s name. Robert Spitzer, call sign Dustoff 33.
Then Mr Spitzer and I exchanged some information and some memories. He told me that you could see the explosions from 8 to 10 miles out.
That’s what the crew of Dustoff 33 was flying into.
On April 18, 1970, Fire Support Base Dinh was attacked. It started with a rocket and mortar barrage. An estimated 200 mortars were dropped on Fire Support Base Dinh, followed by heavy machine gun fire and RPG teams.
Our men on the berm that morning reported hearing bugles and whistles before the ground attack from all sides.
I am sure you know the story of pilots Ed Freeman and Bruce Crandall, both Medal of Honor recipients for their actions during the battle of the Ia Drang Valley.
That story starts out, you are a 19 year-old kid, seriously wounded lying on the jungle floor some twelve thousand miles from home. Your unit is taking heavy fire and you are greatly outnumbered.
At Fire Support Base Dinh, I was that 19 year-old kid, our unit was outnumbered at least four to one. Except for some flares and the glow from explosions, it is pitch black outside. The incoming enemy fire is intense and relentless.
You start thinking, we are not getting out of this one. No one can get here and for sure, not in time.
On that morning there were roughly 140 to 150 US troops at Fire Support Base Dinh. Reports estimated enemy strength at 400 to 600 NVA.
So as I lay there wounded, I knew that this is the place and the day I am going to die. The firefight lasted hours which seemed like a lifetime.
Then you hear, “Hang on Dust-Offs are coming.”
We didn’t now then it was Robert Spitzer and the crew of Dustoff 33. It was ironic that Dustoff 33 was coming to save us, because it was the 33rd NVA Regiment that came to kill us. The 33rd is a very revered, decorated and hardcore North Vietnamese Army Unit. It was their 2d Battalion along with several support company’s and Sapper units that engaged us.
Like all of you, Danny and I consider our unit the best because we know on April 18, 1970, we gave better than we got.
And now almost 50 years later, we gather at our reunions and our wives and families attend and they get to sit there and listen to us veterans tell stories of our Glory Days.
So having just told the story of A-Battery 2/35th and Dustoff 33, I have a question for the wives and family members of the Vietnam Dustoff Association. Do you really realized the heroic actions performed by the men in this room—the men sitting next to you. Like Dustoff 33 and others, they would fly into hell and sit there waiting for the dead and wounded to be loaded on and often under fire.
That morning Dustoff 33 went back to Fire Support Base Dinh for more wounded. A second ago, I mentioned Ed Freeman and Bruce Crandall both Medal of Honor recipients. I believe you deserve the Medal of Honor and I say that because their actions were no greater than yours and your no less than theirs.
This morning, SGT Dan Wood and I are here with our wives. I wanted my wife to be here in the company of real heroes. My wife is my high school sweetheart. We have two great children and we have awesome grandchildren. We have had a good life.
I didn’t die on that jungle floor, I got to come home. And I know that God and Dustoff 33 had a hand in that.
So in closing, I have two things to say: I apologize for not doing this sooner and the words Thank You at times just don’t seem to be enough. But those are the words. So, from the deepest part of my heart, Thank You. Thank you for being on station April 18, 1970.
“So Others May Live.”