Fire Base Illingworth: An Epic True Story

Posted: Oct. 7, 2013

Fire Base Illingworth by Philip Keith Fire Base Illingworth is an epic, never-before-told true story of a North Vietnamese Army attack and how the men of this nearly overrun Fire Base survived.

In the early morning hours of April 1, 1970, more than four hundred North Vietnamese soldiers charged out into the open and tried to over-run FSB Illingworth. The battle went on, mostly in the dark, for hours. Exposed ammunition canisters were hit and blew up, causing a thunderous explosion inside the FSB that left dust so thick it jammed the hand-held weapons of the GIs. Much of the combat was hand-to-hand. In all, twenty-four Americans lost their lives and another fifty-four were wounded. Nearly one hundred enemy bodies were recovered. It was one of the most vicious small unit firefights in the history of U.S. forces in Vietnam.

As in his acclaimed book Blackhorse Riders, a finalist for the prestigious Colby Award, Phil Keith uncovers a harrowing true story of bravery and sacrifice by the men who fought valiantly to hold FSB Illingworth—a tale never-before-told and one that will not be soon forgotten.


This like many books about Vietnam is hard to read or maybe frustrating or both. First let me say this is a very good book and the men, yes men for what they went through and continue to go through from that night. They are men. Mr. Kieth does a good job in giving you all of the information leading up to the night of the battle. He goes into detail about why these fire bases were set up and who's idea was it. That a few nights before this fire base was attacked another not to far away was attacked. The commanding officer of this fire base asked to vacate since they were down troops. That request was denied. They were sitting ducks. The Viet Cong by this time had study each base and knew after each attack how to improve. Now they were waiting. At this same time someone decided to house an additional 40 tons of ammo for artillery. This would be a curse and a blessing. Some of the things that saved some of the men was that at the first sight of movement in the jungle the commander had everyone get into place. At the other fire bases when they were attacked they had to run from there bunks. Here when the first rockets were fired they returned fire. The big problem was that the first few rounds took out the com center and mortar pits.Then they focused on there big guns, all the while attacking the brim. Men were firing back but were losing the battle. Finally two things happen, one a gunship helicopter showed up and was able to rely radio signal back to the main base for fire support while giving support itself. Second an 11 man recon patrol showed up outside of the fence line this helped as well. One man a Peter Lemon, was awarded the Medal of Honor. What he did was un- believable but like many soldiers today still living with the pain from that night. The ammo in the middle of the base exploded and everything stopped a cloud of dirt was in the air for minutes. But that ended the attack. The Viet Cong were dragging their wounded back to the jungle and the Americans won another battle. An under sized force took on over 200 Viet Cong and won, made them retreat, for me that was a victory. But by the time the sun was coming up the powers to be were trying to save there jobs and make it like these men and the commander was wrong.What a crock of s...t. Then on top of everything else these men who could still walk and stand had to spend another night at the fire base because they did not have any one to relief them. What a joke. I was amazed that some of these higher ups were able to get a star and some two. Talk about not caring for your troops and your fellow officer. Any way this is a good book about a equally great generation of young men who felt like they were doing the right thing but did not have the support. We one more battles than the press wants people to believe and usually we were out numbered that says something to men who were there. I proud to have a uncle who fought there. This is a good book about one battle. I got this book from Net Galley.

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