1st Platoon Company A 3rd Battalion/1st Infantry Regiment 11th Infantry Brigade Americal Division
May they be remembered. On this day, August 13, 1969, Jerry Ofstedahl, Richard Wellman, and Robert Swindle were killed by an enemy ambush outside Quang Ngai. Frank Brown (no photo of Frank available) was critically wounded.
Moving through the fields and hedgerows on August 13, 1969, the point man engaged several NVA soldiers. Jerry Ofstedahl, SSG Robert Swindle, and Richard Wellman moved toward the sounds of the weapons firing to locate the enemy positions. A large enemy force in a well-concealed ambush opened fire, with AK-47s, Rocket-Propelled Grenades (RPG), and a 51 caliber machine gun, on the platoon, killing Ofstedahl, Swindle, and Wellman in seconds. The enemy wounded Frank Brown as he moved toward the sound of the weapons firing. Mike Dankert and a medic administered lifesaving first aid to Frank Brown during the attack.
Jerry Ofstedahl, 2nd Squad Leader on FSB Debbie.
Specialist 4th Class Jerry Ofstedahl, from Napa, California, was the squad leader for the second squad. Jerry had arrived at the platoon in December 1968, which made him an old-timer with experience. He’d married Claire, his longtime girlfriend, while on Rest and Recuperation (R & R) to Tokyo, Japan, the month before; he had no children. I found Jerry to be an outstanding leader, someone I wanted to emulate. He always shared his experiences
and knowledge to help us survive our year in Vietnam and treated the
squad members without favoritism.
SSG Robert Swindle after getting resupplied, in the hills off Highway 1.
Staff Sergeant Robert Swindle was from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was married to Celsa and had a son. Staff Sergeant Swindle, a career soldier, had arrived at the platoon in June 1969 and was assigned as the platoon sergeant. His assignment to Vietnam was in February 1969, but I’m not sure what his first job was. I didn’t know him personally but respected him as our platoon sergeant. He was aloof but maintained a professional relationship and didn’t socialize with the members of the platoon. He was a caring leader and always looked out for our welfare and safety. Swindle had my respect because it wasn’t often a career noncommissioned officer was assigned to the platoon or Company.
A photograph Richard “Rebel” Wellman had taken and sent to his family while in Vietnam. Photograph provided by Brenda Jones (Rebel’s sister).
Private First Class Richard Wellman, was from Gastonia, North Carolina, and had a Southern drawl. That’s how he got the nickname “Rebel.” He was 20 and had married his wife, Deborah, before coming to Vietnam. He’d received his assignment to the platoon March 1969. Rebel was quiet but always willing to speak if you engaged him in conversation. He proved himself during his first six months while in the first squad and was assigned as the platoon sergeant Radio Telephone Operator (RTO) after Terry Daron left for a rear job. Rebel was well-liked and trusted by the men of First Platoon.
This is the approximate location today where Jerry, Swindle, and Rebel were killed, and Frank Brown wounded. Where you see the water was a trench used by the NVA in August 1969. The photograph was taken by Glyn Haynie in June 2018.
When I Turned Nineteen Soldiering After the Vietnam War