Claymore mine hidden along the side of a trail.

What Rick Said

An Automatic Ambush consisted of one or more Claymore mines spread several meters apart on the side of an enemy trail. Each mine contained two pounds of plastique explosive embedded with 700 lead pellets. A trip wire,connected to a firing device,was strung across the trails width. At the slightest touch the mines exploded. Instantly legs were blown off,bodies were peppered with holes and otherwise mangled. Survivors were few and severely maimed.

In 2003 Medic found Rick,a grunt with Delta 1/7 First Cavalry ‘70. In Vietnam Rick witnessed an event he felt was partly his fault. Medic and Rick exchanged emails. Among them here is what Rick said:

Sgt Scott Hayes was killed and three or four men were wounded when he walked second platoon into its own Claymore mines. I’ll explain exactly what happened:

We were humping along the trail,having a hard time finding a turnoff point for the night. We normally turned off the trail and went up the side of a hill,found a flat spot,then bedded down. That night we kept going. I remember our commanding officer was a Major. He was replaced later with a Lieutenant. Finally, we found a beaten down path, which led up the side of a hill. My guess is we went up the path one hundred fifty yards,found a spot and settled in.

It was about 5:30 pm and getting dark. Our CO Soldiers on patrol. Photo: Charlie Haughey.Vietnam 1969told my squad (led by Scott) and another squad to go down and set up the claymores and trip wire,ie the Automatic Ambush. Our method: We would go back down the hill. When we hit the trail one squad would go right, the other left. We were supposed to go exactly one hundred fifty steps,stop and set up the claymores. No more,no less.

We went left,Scott walking point. I brought up the rear. The other squad went right. We counted out one hundred fifty steps,then two of our guys set up one claymore on each side of the trail. By the time we got down there,set up our claymores and started to head back,it was really dark and it had started to rain hard.

Our method was: Whatever order you went down in,you came back in reverse order. Since I was the last I went first,leading the way back to the cutoff trail. All of a sudden,Scott and the other sergeant passed me at a quickened pace. I remember asking Scott what the big hurry was. He told me it was raining harder, and he wanted to get back up to camp so he could set up his poncho tent before he got soaked.

Well,we kept walking. Finally I realized we had walked too far and must have missed our cutoff. Obviously,no one (including myself) bothered to count the one hundred steps back. Everyone was in a hurry and we figured we’d see the trail but we didn’t see it in time. Before me or anyone else could pass this on to Scott,he had tripped the wire to the booby trapped claymores. I was looking right at it. It was a thunderous explosion, followed by an orange-red ball of fire. I saw Scott’s body fly five or six feet in the air.

At that point everyone hit the ground. We had no idea what had happened. We all thought Charlie had ambushed us,maybe had us pinned on both sides. Me and a few guys just opened fire into the jungle,not up the trail. Then it was dead silence.

It must have been two minutes or so when we realized no one was shooting back. We carefully made our way up to Scott. We were still confused. Just didn’t know what the hell was going on. Then the other two squads showed up ‘behind’ us and reality sank in. Now we knew for sure that we had missed our cutoff,and Scott had walked into the claymores.

But we weren’t far enough past the cutoff path to be one hundred fifty steps. It wasn’t until after we talked to the other squad leader that we found out he got lazy that night and only went down the trail about fifty steps. He said because it had started to rain,he decided to cut it short,set them up and get back to camp. It was just a series of horrible mistakes. If it hadn’t started raining Scott wouldn’t have hurried. If someone had actually counted the steps we would have stopped sooner. The squad leader should have gone the full one hundred fifty steps.

We wrapped Scott’s body in a poncho liner and put it off the side of the trail until the next morning. The rest of us went back up the hill to our campsite. Other than Scott and that sergeant,who was in real pain,I do not recall anyone else being injured. In fact, that sergeant stayed with me that night in a tent I made from our ponchos. Neither of us could sleep,especially him. He had severe ear problems from the Claymore blast.

It’s very possible one or two others suffered head/hearing problems from the blast. It was real chaotic. I felt the concussion myself. My ears were ringing for a couple of days. A couple of years after I got out of the Army I ended up with tinnitus (constant ringing in my ears) and a high frequency hearing loss.  I suspect but can’t prove that the concussion from that explosion damaged my ears and it just took time to finish the job.

I remember our CO screaming up a storm at that other squad leader,asking him why he didn’t go the full one hundred fifty steps. Why he cut it so short. Looking back,I cannot and will not ever fully know how bad that squad leader felt. He’s probably still carrying that around with him. I wish I could remember who it was. I’d like to speak to him and tell him it was just a series of unpredictable events. We were all to blame,not just him.

Anyway,four squads of men were milling around in complete shock…just numb. Everyone really liked Scott. He never complained. Just did his job like a pro. I remember the medic,I think it was Doc El,when he came down he tried to save Scott. Someone had a flashlight on Scott. All those BB holes. About 2,000 or so I believe. One thousand in each claymore if I remember. I could hear that horrible gurgling sound. I just closed my eyes and turned away.

So,in all the confusion and numbness,it’s possible others could have been injured, and simply went back to camp and dealt with it. I remember the next day,we must have spent three hours chopping down that damn forest so the helicopter could get in. God it was thick.

All I can remember during that time is dead silence. I remember helping to load Scott’s body on the helicopter,and that sergeant getting on,but I don’t remember anyone else getting on,but after all these years,I could be wrong.

I may have forgotten some names and other things that happened over there but I can assure you the incident I just described happened exactly as I wrote it. I remember it like it happened yesterday.

Anyway,I’m sorry this is such a long email,but I thought maybe you would like to know exactly what happened that night.

Again,thanks so much for all your help,Doc!



In 2005 Medic found the mother of Sergeant Hayes.He gave Rick her contact info. Before calling her Rick was overcome with anxiety. Would he know what to say? Would he know how to say it? Their conversation lasted nearly two hours;both found it rewarding.

Since then Medic has located three more grunts with first hand knowledge of that fatal patrol. Like Kirk,some felt Scott was a tough leader who prided himself on a job well done.Others recalled him as bossy,stubborn,arrogant. Some mourned his death. Others did not.

(all names changed)