Platoon Sergeant Edward Arnold Birmingham, a native of Rutland, Vermont, was serving in Germany when he was reassigned to tile 327th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division operating in the I Corps area of Vietnam. Birmingham arrived in Vietnam 8 November 1966 and soon after led his platoon into action in the Chu Lai area. The twenty-seven year old, eight year Army veteran received the Bronze Star for valor in action against the enemy in May 1967.
Then on 2 October 1967 Sergeant Birmingham lead his platoon to the banks of a swirling river deep in enemy territory. In the northern provinces of South Vietnam, the high mountains shield the coastal plains from the rains brought in by the wet monsoon which occurs May to October. October is the beginning of the dry monsoon — a form of persistent drizzle accompanied by treacherous fog that the French call “Crachin.” These fogs, which materialize suddenly, often slowed down overland movement. Coupled with the monsoon-swollen rivers, such conditions can turn muscles into cords of aching stiffness and tax both men and equipment to their limits. It was under such conditions that Birmingham and his men trudged through thick wet jungle and heavy fog only to be stopped by the dangerous currents of the isolated river.
The platoon slung ropes across the river to ford the barrier, but Viet Cong lay concealed in the mist on the opposite bank. As the first few men entering the water clutched the ropes to brave the current, the enemy opened up with small arms and automatic weapons fire. One of the platoon members became entangled in the rope while the enemy leveled fire at the men on the life line. Platoon Sergeant Birmingham plodded into the river to save the endangered man. During his rescue efforts Sergeant Birmingham was swept away by the powerful current. It was not until days later that his body was found down stream. By that time his family had been notified that he was missing in action and presumed dead. Ten days later Platoon Sergeant Birmingham's body was returned for a military burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard