Bunker Hill-10
TET 1968
Biên Hòa Air Base
3rd SPS

Reginald Victor Maisey, Jr.
Capt, U.S. Air Force
17 Nov 34 - 31 Jan 68
Sonoma, California
Panel 36-E, Line 023


Capt. Maisey was awarded the Air Force Cross: Citation.

We are all indebted to Chaplain Sheehen for this stirring account of Captain Maisey's heroic death.
DONALD C. SHULTIS, Colonel, USAF Director of Security Police, TIG
At a time when bravery was common,
Captain Maisey's bravery under fire was uncommon and contagious...
After the battle... 153 NVA were found KIA, and 25 were taken POW.


Biên Hòa --- Around 9 p.m. on January 17, Captain Reginald V. Maisey of our 3rd SPS here at Biên Hòa AB
, stopped by the chapel in his jeep and picked me up. Earlier in the day I had asked if I might join him that night on his inspection round of the perimeter guard. "Love to have you, Father" he said. "The men are a bit jumpy. They'll appreciate seeing a chaplain."  While accompanying Captain Maisey on his security inspection trip that night, I noted that the men were much more reassured by seeing Captain Maisey than by seeing an unarmed chaplain. I know why now.

That night I spent about four hours with Captain Maisey, being briefed at the Command Post, driving around the perimeter of the base, and visiting all the posts. His presence visibly reassured the men we visited in their isolated locations. At one stop, he climbed the ladder to visit a guard in his lonely watch on a metal roost some 30 feet above the ground. At other stops he checked the security of a bunker or the placement of a machine gun. Along the road he halted the jeep frequently to chat with a K-9 sentry. You could see that Captain Maisey troubled himself for his men. He was a professional.

At 3 a.m. on the 31st of January, the communists launched their 'Tet Offensive' against Biên Hòa AB. It commenced with a ten minute rocket bombardment that sent men scurrying for protective shelter. The bombardment was followed by enemy sapper teams breaching the perimeter of the Air Base on the east end.

The next time I saw Captain Maisey I did not recognize him. I can't recall just what time it was during the eventful morning hours of the 31st of January that I conditionally absolved and administered the Last Rites to an officer who was dead on arrival at the dispensary. I do remember someone at one time informing me that Captain Maisey had been killed at Bunker Hill-10.

Bunker Hill-10 is a reinforced concrete structure, built many years ago by the French. It is situated on the edge of the east perimeter road, a few hundred yards beyond the end of our runway. Immediately after the rocket attack the morning of the 31st, a large number of well-armed, pajama-clad communist troops penetrated the fence northwest of Bunker Hill-10. They spilled out into the fields to the left and front of the old French bunker. The enemy subjected Bunker Hill-10 to the most intense fire imaginable, using their automatic weapons, as well as the devastating and destructive RPG-2 and RPG-7 rockets. At the outset of the battle, Bunker Hill-10 was manned by two Security Policemen, Sergeants Neal Tuggle and Marshal Gott , and an augmentee, A1C Neil Behnke.

When the enemy attack started, Captain Maisey was at the western end of the base. He immediately sped in his jeep to the Central Security Command Post. Realizing how critical holding Bunker Hill-10 was, Captain Maisey volunteered to go there to direct the defense of that area. Shortly thereafter, he arrived at the bunker and took charge of the small band of men from the 3rd SPS in the vicinity of Bunker Hill-10. The communists attacked the bunker with a vengeance. They knew it was the key to overrunning the east end of the field and the maintenance hangers, and other vital areas of the Air Base. The enemy hit Bunker Hill-10 with everything they had. About 12 direct rocket hits at pointblank range were recorded by the enemy. On top of the bunker, one rocket put Sergeant Tuggle's machine gun out of action. Sergeant Tuggle went below, grabbed another weapon, and continued to fight from within the bunker. The augmentee, A1C Behnke, remained on top of the bunker, and continued to fire his M16 at the enemy enveloping the bunker.

Captain Maisey seemed to be everywhere. To direct and concentrate the fire power of the 20 or so Security Policemen in the general area on the enemy that was within 200 feet of the bunker, he constantly exposed himself to danger. To communicate by radio with the Security Command Post, Captain Maisey had to leave the relative security of the bunker and expose himself to enemy fire. He did this throughout the battle. Above the noise of the battle, he yelled orders and directions to the men around him. His voice instilled confidence and bolstered the moral of the beleaguered defenders of the bunker.

At a time when bravery was common, Captain Maisey's bravery under fire was uncommon and contagious. Though the small band of men did not know it, their position at times was surrounded by VC. Captain Maisey and the other men continued firing. They kept the enemy pinned down not too far from their original point of penetration. No one knows how many enemy were killed by the men defending Bunker Hill-10. After the battle, over 60 dead VC were found nearby. [Official Records later recorded 153 NVA KIA, and 25 taken POW]

The bravery of the men in Bunker Hill-10 was matched by the incredible valor of other men of the 3rd SPS. Sergeants William Piazza and James Lee did the impossible. Through a withering field of enemy fire, they drove a truck back to the base armory, loaded it with needed ammunition, and returned to their exposed position on the north perimeter road. From there, they proceeded to drive south across what would seem an impassable field  - a field alive with VC. The men dauntlessly drove right up to the besieged Bunker Hill-10, and under constant enemy fire resupplied the defenders of the bunker with enough ammunition to enable them to continue the fight. When one knows the terrain these men passed through, and remembers the confusion at the time, and the danger of their cargo, he stands in awe at their courageous feat. It seems impossible. But brave men made the impossible possible.

At 4: 30 a.m. that morning of the 31st of January, while Captain Maisey was outside the bunker, a direct rocket hit ended his life. He fell on the field of battle. But his men fought on. They never gave up. When the battle ended around noon, the men of the 3rd SPS still held Bunker Hill-10. The enemy never overran this pivotal point of the base's defense.

Some men have asked whether an Air Force installation has ever before been exposed to such a sustained and severe ground attack. That question is best left for Air Force historians to answer. Unquestionably, it was a brutal, savage fight. Because of the valor and courage of a few uncommonly brave men, the fight never progressed beyond a few hundred yards of Bunker Hill-10. The 3rd SPS suffered only two men killed in action, and 14 wounded.

What would have happened if Bunker Hill-10 had fallen?  Would the enemy have gained control of a part of the base, or penetrated the center cantonment area?  I don't know. I don't think anyone really knows. Thanks to the bravery and courage of men like Captain Maisey, we shall never know the answer to that hypothetical question.

The courage under hostile fire of the men of the 3rd SPS at Biên Hòa AB, under command of Lt Colonel K.D. Miller and especially the valor of the men at Bunker Hill-10, is known to only a few. I doubt whether future military history texts will devote many pages to this episode. It will never have the dramatic impact of the American assault on Heartbreak Ridge during the Korean war. But the battle of the 31st of January will be long remembered by those of us who were at Biên Hòa that fateful morning.

Was Captain Maisey a particularly religious man?  I don't know. "Greater love than this no man has that one lay down his life for his friend. "  (Jn. 15,13). If Christ measures all by charity, then Captain Maisey was too big a man to stand measuring. I wear my Air Force uniform just a little more proudly these days because of men like Captain Maisey.

Ch, Capt. Donald J Sheehen
Biên Hòa AB


Five men are known to have died as a result of the TET 1968 attack on Biên Hòa AB on 31 Jan 1968.  They are:

Capt. Reginald V. Maisey - 3rd SPS - AF Cross
SSgt Ralph T. Berry - 303rd Munitions Squadron
Sgt James Des Rochers - 19th TASS
A1C Edward G. Muse - 3rd Combat Support Group - Purple Heart
SP5 William J. Steffes - US Army - 520th Personnel SVS CO

 
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