Master Sgt. Charles R. Norris KIA


On August 23, 1968, the Command & Control North (CCN) MACV-SOG field command compound FOB-4 at Da Nang was attacked by approximately 100 members of North Vietnam’s Special Operation Brigade. Called sappers, they were Hanoi’s most elite commandos. They entered the CCN compound along its 300-yard wide beachfront beginning at 2:30 AM. Their bodies greased to squeeze through fences, they wore only loincloths or khaki shorts and carried AK-47’s, grenades, hand-thrown RPG’s, and woven baskets containing demolition charges. As the intruders opened fire in the camp, the Green Berets poured out of their billets. Many, like SMAJ Richard Pegram Jr. and SSGT Howard Varni, were cut down by the waiting NVA. A sapper squad reached the CNN communications bunker and threw an explosive charge in, killing three Americans instantly. Simultaneous explosions and bursts of fire killed five E-7’s—SFC Don W. Welch, SFC Albert M. Walter, SFC Tadeusz M. Kepczyk, SFC Donald R. Kerns, and SFC Harold R. Voorheis. In another building, 1LT Paul D. Potter was gunned down, the only officer to die, although twelve others would be wounded. Several of the lost Green Berets were young: PFC William H. Bric III (19), SP4 Anthony J. Santana (20), and Sergeants James T. Kickliter (22) and Robert J. Uyesaka (23). Old soldiers died too, SMAJ Pegram (40), MSGT Gilbert A. Secor (36), and MSGT Rolf E. Rickmers (34). Other lost SOG personnel included SSGT Talmadge H. Alphin Jr. and MSGT Charles R. Norris. Despite the carnage, the Green Berets fought back with M16’s, grenades, and AK-47’s taken from dead sappers. Personal heroics were displayed by the men of MACVSOG. One lieutenant raced a jeep repeatedly back and forth across the compound in front of astonished enemy sappers, carrying wounded men to safety and medical treatment. By dawn, the skirmish had ended as the Americans retook their compound. Dead sappers lay in ones and twos everywhere, a total of 38. Sixteen Green Berets had died, the greatest loss of Army Special Forces’ lives in one incident. Another 48 were wounded. In addition, 16 indigenous Allied soldiers were killed. [Taken from and the book “Secret Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines with the Elite Warriors of SOG” by John L. Plaster]

Master Sgt. Charles R. Norris