In late April 1968, I was awaiting orders for a transfer from HHC, 11th Brigade, to Company E, 51st Inf. (LRP), when I happened to run into Pfc. “Butch” Gruver, whom I had known in Hawaii. Gruver told me he had been assigned to C Company, 1st of the 20th, until April 1, when he transferred to the unit that I was headed for. During the course of our conversation, he told me the first of many reports I was to hear of “Pinkville.”
“Charlie” Company 1/20 had been assigned to Task Force Barker in late February 1968 to help conduct “search and destroy” operations on the Batangan Peninsula, Barker’s area of operation. The task force was operating out of L.F. Dottie, located five or six miles north of Quang Ngai city on Vietnamese National Highway 1. Gruver said that Charlie Company had sustained casualties, primarily from mines and booby traps, almost everyday from the first day they arrived on the peninsula. One village area was particularly troublesome and seemed to be infested with booby traps and enemy soldiers. It was located about six miles northeast of Quang Ngai city at approximate coordinates B.S. 728795. It was a notorious area, and the men of Task Force Barker had a special name for it: They called it “Pinkville.” One morning in the latter part of March, Task Force Barker moved out from its firebase headed for “Pinkville.” Its mission: destroy the trouble spot and all of its inhabitants.
When “Butch” told me this I didn’t quite believe that what he was telling me was true, but he assured me that it was and went on to describe what had happened. The other two companies that made up the task force cordoned off the village so that Charlie Company could move through to destroy the structures and kill the inhabitants. Any villagers who ran from Charlie Company were stopped by the encircling companies. I asked “Butch” several times if all the people were killed. He said that he thought they were, men, women, and children. He recalled seeing a small boy, about three or four years old, standing by the trail with a gunshot wound in one arm. The boy was clutching his wounded arm with his other hand while blood trickled between his fingers. He was staring around himself in shock and disbelief at what he saw. “He just stood there with big eyes staring around like he didn’t understand; he didn’t believe what was happening. Then the captain’s RTO [radio operator] put a burst of 16 [M-16 rifle] fire into him.” It was so bad, Gruver said, that one of the men in his squad shot himself in the foot in order to be medivaced out of the area so that he would not have to participate in the slaughter. Although he had not seen it, Gruver had been told by people he considered trustworthy that one of the company’s officers, Second Lieutenant Kally (this spelling may be incorrect) had rounded up several groups of villagers (each group consisting of a minimum of twenty persons of both sexes and all ages). According to the story, Kally then machine-gunned each group. Gruver estimated that the population of the village had been three to four hundred people and that very few, if any, escaped.
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