Larry Heen

Fall in. Answer up. Be accounted for. Post a memory, photo, greeting or question. If nothing else, post that you are still alive because some of us are likely to be glad you did.
User avatar
Niner Alpha
Site Admin
Posts: 4020
Joined: Sun May 05, 2002 7:48 pm
Location: Alabama

Larry Heen

Postby Niner Alpha » Tue Jul 21, 2020 9:45 pm

We just discovered something about one more on the obituary list. Larry Heen was in Alpha Company when the 6th of the 31st closed shop. Like a lot of others he went to another outfit in Vietnam. He landed with the 1/327th, 101st Division. On Christmas Eve of 1970 an artillery error was made and one round of what should have been a defensive tarket round landed in the middle of his ambush position in the A Shau Valley. Nine men were killed and 9 wounded. Larry was one of the dead. He is buried in King County Cemetery, Washington State.
User avatar
Niner Alpha
Site Admin
Posts: 4020
Joined: Sun May 05, 2002 7:48 pm
Location: Alabama

Re: Larry Heen

Postby Niner Alpha » Wed Jul 22, 2020 2:59 pm

The actual town he was from is Duvall Washington. He had come in country in April of 70. I don't know what platoon he was assigned to in the 6/31st. Apparently, from someone who knew him in the 101st he had just learned that he was the father of a new born baby two days before his death. Anybody remember him or what platoon he was in? This was a photo I found from apparently high school days.

http://6thofthe31st.com/gallery/index.p ... mpany/keen
User avatar
Niner Delta
Global Moderator Sponsor 2011-2017
Posts: 481
Joined: Sat Aug 24, 2002 12:54 pm
Location: Sequim, WA

Re: Larry Heen

Postby Niner Delta » Wed Jul 22, 2020 10:08 pm

Duvall rang a bell so I looked it up. It's on the eastern edge of Seattle, about 60 miles from me.
Small town, only 600 people in 1970, about 8000 now.
He is listed being buried in King County Cemetery, since there 40 cemeteries in King County, I found that he
in actually buried in Novelty Cemetery in Duvall, King County, Washington.
9 died instantly and 3 more died of their wounds in the next couple of weeks.
His grave marker says "Vietnam BSM - AM" ...would that be Bronze Star Medal and Air Medal?
More information about him here.....

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/530 ... chael-heen

.
Vern.
User avatar
Niner Alpha
Site Admin
Posts: 4020
Joined: Sun May 05, 2002 7:48 pm
Location: Alabama

Re: Larry Heen

Postby Niner Alpha » Wed Jul 22, 2020 10:20 pm

Bronze star medal was probably awarded by the 101st at his death. The Air Medal was probably from the 9th. The 101st, operated differently than the 9th because of the geography. Were he was killed south of Hue was all small mountains covered with lots of trees and thick canopy of limbs and leaves. Troops were generally inserted after a time on target arty barrage so slicks could get close to the ground. The companies wandered around for a two or three weeks at a time and then were extracted for a stand down for a week before doing it again. They did resupply dropped by rope or cutting down some trees for a chopper to get in. They had a hard time getting 25 combat insertions by air to earn an air medal.
User avatar
Niner Delta
Global Moderator Sponsor 2011-2017
Posts: 481
Joined: Sat Aug 24, 2002 12:54 pm
Location: Sequim, WA

Re: Larry Heen

Postby Niner Delta » Wed Jul 22, 2020 10:35 pm

Wouldn't he get a Purple Heart even though it was friendly fire??

.
Vern.
User avatar
Niner Alpha
Site Admin
Posts: 4020
Joined: Sun May 05, 2002 7:48 pm
Location: Alabama

Re: Larry Heen

Postby Niner Alpha » Thu Jul 23, 2020 9:38 am

Doesn't seem fair does it? This particular case interested me because when it happened I was back in the "world. About three weeks before I was in the 101st and I had had the job of clearing grids for fire in any battalion AO occupied by the 3/506. At the time the story made the news, a day or two after the event, the battalion wasn't mentioned. After I heard about it wondered if it was in my 101st battalion or if the guy who took my place had played any part in what happened. I never knew what unit until the other day when Jerry came up with the question about this man's death date and I took a look at the Coffelt Database.

A couple months before the incident some brass hat, at Brigade level or higher, decided that every infantry unit in the field needed to fire in one non combat defensive target every night, even if they weren't moving any place. Even if it announced to a wide area of jungle that they were there and maybe provided the enemy with a pretty good guess where. This nonsense even extended to small six or so man recon elements who operated...or were supposed to operate...on stealth. I remember one senior officer in the rear telling the infantry battalion officer on duty in the battalion TOC one of his recon elements wasn't firing his Defensive Target and he was upset. I volunteered a suggestion to the duty officer. I talked to the guy in the field leading the recon element and I just plotted a target a couple thousand meters from him for him to direct a one shot firemission and thus appeased this rear area ticket puncher.

From what little evidence seen on the Coffelt database, this was one of those totally unneeded fire missions. Not only that, but a 24 hour Christmas truce and checkfire of all activity was supposed to happen within a few hours of when the tragedy occured.

Sure, someone calling in the fire mission might have given his own location thinking the firemission would be plotted for him a safe distance away and some battery didn't realize what was happening and thought it the a grid for fire. Sure some LNO operative might not have been in the loop or didn't notice because the element in the field was in direct contact with the battery. But, to my mind, some mastermind in the rear deserves most of the blame for what happened.

I look at old newspapers now and again. I looked up the Mobile paper around that time. One AP story, published on Christmas Eve, was bragging how in the last week America lost fewer combat deaths than in several years with a number something like 24 total US troops in all Vietnam.
User avatar
Niner Alpha
Site Admin
Posts: 4020
Joined: Sun May 05, 2002 7:48 pm
Location: Alabama

Re: Larry Heen

Postby Niner Alpha » Sat Jul 25, 2020 11:26 pm

The rest of the story. ROTC Lt. 1000 meters off in reporting his location for one reason or another.

https://www.327infantry.org/homescreami ... -memories/
User avatar
Delta75
Gobal Moderator and Site sponsor 2012
Posts: 947
Joined: Fri Aug 02, 2002 3:59 pm

Re: Larry Heen

Postby Delta75 » Sun Jul 26, 2020 3:44 pm

Excellent information!
User avatar
Niner Alpha
Site Admin
Posts: 4020
Joined: Sun May 05, 2002 7:48 pm
Location: Alabama

Re: Larry Heen

Postby Niner Alpha » Sun Jul 26, 2020 6:13 pm

Trying to boil this down. To set the scene, Bastogne was a firebase on a mountain surrounded by thick woods and other mountains and valleys. Bastogne was where the battalion HQ of the A company 2nd platoon of the 1/327 involved was located. That TOC kept track of the reported map locations for all of their men in the field down to night locations as they were set. It was the location of the LNO arty approval authority as well.... something I did for the 3/506 just weeks before. The arty LNO operative determined by rules what is or isn't safe to fire based on infantry locations. At least two companies, B and A, were in night locations near Bastogne with individual platoons in different locations. The 101st had put in place an order that all night locations had to fire in at least one night defensive target as a matter of SOP. The arty apparently couldn't come from Bastogne because it was too close to the locations drawn in relatively close because of the Christmas 24 hour cease fire. In the 101st all arty was high angle fire. If the troops were relatively close to Bastogne they couldn't be supported by Bastogne arty fire. So the fire came from another base, Birmingham to the East of Bastogne. I had been on both of these bases in the proceeding months with the 3/506. It was the rainy season in that area south of Hue. Although no note in the story is that this was happening. It was also pretty chilly out in the mountainous region of the A shau, which this was, during this time of year. It also could get pretty foggy.

Now we add in the fact there is a new lieutenant for A 2nd platoon fresh from the world. He's out in the field as a brand new leader and is expected to act like he knows what he is doing. A guy like that needed some serious help from whatever he had for experienced NCO's. Nobody knows if he asked for any. He is reported to have been "anxious to adjust in a couple of defensive targets prior to the cease fire". Somehow, although possible, doesn't seem to ring entirely true.. unless prodded by someone higher ranking.

Then there is the B company FO directing in a DT right on top of the A company platoon. More versions say the A company new lieutenant brought the fire upon himself. I think that the likelihood of a B company FO bringing in rounds right on top of the Alpha position unlikely. The LNO operative wouldn't likely have cleared such a round that close to another element unless it was a contact round. But...it fits the marking round followed closely by the HE.

The Alpha lieutenant could well have brought in a DT at 1000 meters or closer to his own position with no clearance problem as long as other elements were clear. That he was able to misjudge his position by a 1000 meters and bring it in on his own men is problematic. The battalion HQ would have his reported location on a map. The LNO operative would have the same location. Those locations would have been reported as true by the individual leaders of the field elements. Whatever position the TOC had for A 2nd platoon it was someplace apparently a thousand meters away from where the rounds landed. Could it be the LT plotted his DT and plotted his night location at the same time before calling any of it in. Could he have given the TOC his preplotted DT location as his night location by confusion of grease pencil marks and they recorded it. Then could he have given the battery his DT as his actual location written in grease pencil on his map. What would have happened then is a case of lack of scrutiny by someone who should have been watching closely. Could the battery on Birmingham fired without checking the LNO at Bastogne? Could whoever was monitoring the LNO job at Bastogne not checked his map closely? Could the clearance gone back to arty brigade for checking and they hadn't updated their maps?

The mysterious thing to me is the marking round. If there was one....and there certainly should have been....the Lt would see the error of his ways all of a sudden and wouldn't have said fire for effect. But some report no marking round was fired because of a lack of them at the firing battery. This seems unlikely though. A smoke round instead of a marking round? Not likely either. Unless the Birmingham battery fired the mission as an H&I mission instead of a defensive target mission. No marking round would be fired in such case.

The 101st did less than fully thought out things. One of the things the 101st did was have hundreds of potential H&I targets that had to be cleared or denied every night. All the targets were marked on acetate maps with red ink or green ink or black ink. Every night when all the battalion locations had been marked on the big wall map the acetate maps came out and a list of targets denied were called in to brigade by whomever was operating for the LNO that night. One night an FO in the field called me in the TOC and says he is getting arty fire from some place. I ask him what it sounds like.... 105's 155's, something else. He doesn't know only that it is sometimes close and sometimes further away. Then it struck me... somebody screwed up the color plan. I call somebody on the secure back at Brigade. I tell them to check fire color plan ...some color... and gave them the infantry colonels initials as authority. After a few, the guy on the other ends says.... we can't check fire any of the color plans. We don't know who is firing. Lucily the platoon in the woods didn't get hurt by any of it.

My guess bottom line is this. New ROTC lieutenant who is in way above his head calls in a plotted DT mistakenly for his night location. He gives the battalion his DT mistakenly as his actual location. Because the battalion TOC is at Bastogne and the companies are close the fire mission for the DT is given to a battery at Birmingham. How that information is transferred there is no telling. The Birmingham battery fires the mission like it was an H&I mission using the confused DT information. It is cleared from arty brigade. No one in the field is directing it or knows it is coming when it is fired. No marking round. The friendly fire happens.
User avatar
Niner Delta
Global Moderator Sponsor 2011-2017
Posts: 481
Joined: Sat Aug 24, 2002 12:54 pm
Location: Sequim, WA

Re: Larry Heen

Postby Niner Delta » Sun Jul 26, 2020 8:45 pm

That is quite a story, a very sad thing to read. I don't remember any of this as I was discharged and home
six months before this happened, and trying not to think about VN any more.
Read somewhere that many disasters are a series of small errors, instead of one big mistake.

.
Vern.
User avatar
Delta75
Gobal Moderator and Site sponsor 2012
Posts: 947
Joined: Fri Aug 02, 2002 3:59 pm

Re: Larry Heen

Postby Delta75 » Sun Jul 26, 2020 9:49 pm

Thanks for the detailed information.
User avatar
Niner Alpha
Site Admin
Posts: 4020
Joined: Sun May 05, 2002 7:48 pm
Location: Alabama

Re: Larry Heen

Postby Niner Alpha » Mon Jul 27, 2020 7:29 am

Another thought after sleeping on it overnight. In the general run of things the company commander of Alpha company should have known where his 2nd Platoon was at all times, particularly in a night location. The defensive targets would generally be plotted and given the platoons by the official company FO because of concern for gun target lines and proximity to other elements. The battalion or the LNO section wouldn't know what those DT's were beforehand and the LNO would only know if one is called for fire and the TOC wouldn't be informed at all. So the question would be....what did the CO of Alpha think his 2nd platoon's location was before the incident? Did the FO give the fatal DT grid?

Usually the FO of the company would plot the DT's for all the platoons and call them in early to the support battery so they could work up the data and have them on file. The platoons leaders would be given target numbers for different directions of approach to their positions. In this case the usual support battery wasn't their battery at Bastogne. Did the FO call the targets to Birmingham?

The mistaken fire mission call for fire was probably made by somebody in the battalion TOC and no DT's called to Birmingham by the Alpha FO. The firing battery probably didn't realize it was a DT and treated it like an H&I target. The Division DT requirement only required one round or battery of three on the ground. It wasn't like an actual contact mission. I'd surmise that some officer in the TOC gave the wrong target data to Birmingham ...possibly from mistaken information from the platoon leader.

At this juncture nobody will ever know what exactly happened that night.
User avatar
Niner Alpha
Site Admin
Posts: 4020
Joined: Sun May 05, 2002 7:48 pm
Location: Alabama

Re: Larry Heen

Postby Niner Alpha » Sat Aug 01, 2020 8:18 pm

Got this email today:

Hello Robert,

My name is Mike Carretero and my buddy Paul Shaffer sent me this email that he received from you. I was on Firebase Bastogne when the incident happened. I had just transferred from Alpha Co. 3rd Herd to TOC as an S2 Clerk the week before Thanksgiving before the Christmas Eve incident. I have been in contact with numerous Vietnam Vets who given me their stories of what they remember of what happened that day.

One good source of information is Michael Bertell, who was with the platoon when the artillery shell landed in their NDP. He has posted on the 327th website his account of the accident. Here is the link: https://www.327infantry.org/1970-christ ... -survived/

From what we gathered from reports is that the Platoon Leader from 2nd Platoon didn’t know how to read a map. When he reported his location to TOC he was about a klick off from the location he recorded. Which was too near Bravo Company. Alpha Co did not have a FO in second platoon at the time, but Bravo Company did. As soon as the marking round went off above Alpha Co. 2nd Platoon’s position, the FO for Bravo company had given the command to fire for effect for the HE.

I will give you correspondence that I received from various Vietnam Vets about the whole situation if you would like. I will send them in later email..

I am going to enclose some pictures of Larry Heen that was given to me by Paul Shaffer. In the second photo is Larry Heen on the right with his head cocked back.



Above the Rest, ABU!! J

Michael Carretero


Photos:
http://www.6thofthe31st.com/gallery/ind ... aulShaffer

http://www.6thofthe31st.com/gallery/ind ... ackRow_unk

Return to “Alpha Company”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest