A Carter Countian, who now lives in El Paso, Texas, and the Green Beret unit which he served with in Vietnam is the subject of a book by Joe Kubert entitled “Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1965.” The book written in 2010 and published by DC Comics of New York tells the story of 12 men that comprise a Special Forces A Team, destined as advisers in the small war-torn country of Vietnam.
One of those men was Harold Crowe, who formerly lived in the Valley Forge Community. He was the son of the late Ed Crowe and Elsie Williams Crowe Bradley, and the grandson of Mrs. Caroline Williams, long-time Valley Forge resident.
In the book, Crowe is known as Carter as each of the men were given other names.
Crowe was a member of the Special Forces Detachment A-342, 5th Special Forces Group. The team’s mission, not unlike tasks assigned other such units located throughout the Republic of Vietnam, included training duties, assistance to various Montagnard tribes, and combat operations with members of the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) along border infiltration routes. Detachment A-342 was trained in the field of intelligence, operations communications, weapons, medical and combat engineering, and all members were combat infantrymen or medics who accompanied indigenous forces on their missions.
According to Kubert’s book, in late May1965, the team moved to Dong Xoai, a village bout 50 miles north of Saigon, to establish a new CIDG and serve as advisors to the local district officials, a Vietnamese Special Forces unit, and CIDG contingent. In addition to varied training and civic action tasks, Crowe and his Special Forces team was given the mission of conducting operations against the infamous Viet Cong havens known as War Zones C and D.
Prior to going to Dong Xoai, Special Forces Detachment A-342 had served at Bu Gia, where Crowe and another A-342 member had accompanied a patrol on a mission to interdict the Viet Cong to the southest of Bu Gia. An account in Kubert’s books notes that the patrol made contact with elements of a Viet Cong company, and after a brief fire fight and assault by CIDG forces, the enemy withdrew. Crowe’s partner led the CIDG in the assault and Crowe provided suppressive fires with the support element. It was for that brief skirmish that Crowe received the Army Commendation Medal-V.
At Dong Xoai Detachment A-342 was involved in one of the most significant battles of the Vietnam Conflict. For 14 hours, the Detachment, its supporting Seabees team, and small forces of Vietnamese and Cambodian defenders held at bay a multi-regimental Viet Cong attack against Dong Xoai on June 9 & 10, 1965.
Three members of the Detachment were killed at Dong Xoai. Crowe, who served as the communications NCO for Detachment A-342 was wounded at Dong Xaoi and was later awarded the Silver Star for gallantry. Radio communications at Dong Xaoi were the lifeline of the Detachment. Crowe in a recent telephone conversation said when the command post came under attack, he was able to get a brief message off by radio before enemy fire destroyed the USSF billet structure and single sideband communications there. The initial fire, he said also severed the phone line to the District compound. He recalls that fighting along the berms was violent and continuous. Crowe managed radio communications, which were absolutely critical in the defense – coordination of air strikes and link to higher headquarters.
In addition to the three Special Forces soldiers killed in the battle at Dong Xoai, the other eight were wounded. Among the Seabees, two men were killed and the remaining seven wounded. Additionally, there were deaths among the U.S. Air Force and Army helicopter crews, and US ground advisors. About 700 Viet Cong died that day. Other accounts had more.
Crowe was treated for his injuries at a hospital Saigon and continued to serve in operational Special Forces detachments. After returning to the states, Crowe served as an infantry captain and completed a second tour in Vietnam as company commander with the 173rd Brigade. After retiring from the Army, Crowe served as Range Safety Office at Fort Bliss, Tx., after which he opened a computer service in El Paso, where he has lived for 30 years.
Crowe in a telephone conversation said he has attended a couple of reunions with the remaining members of Detachment A-342, and they keep in touch. “War has a way of giving you friends for life,” Crowe said, noting that the Detachment did not fight a long war together. “In fact, we served together only about nine months, five stateside and four in Vietnam. After the Battle of Dong Xaoi, we were dispersed to a variety of ther combat and staff duties to complete our overseas tour. Two left the service to return to civilian life, but most continued their military careers,” Crowe said.
The book notes that Detachment A-342 and its supporting Seabees were awarded two Medals of Honor, three Distinguished Service crosses, six Silver Star Medals, and a number of Bronze Stars. All the Americans who defended Dong Xaoi on the ground received the Purple Heart for wounds.
Crowe served in the U.S. Army from 1957-1977, serving in Germany, Japan, and Korea in addition to Vietnam.
Today, Crowe is almost blind and has a hearing impairment. He has also undergone heart surgery. Crowe said he and his wife of 53 years, the former Doris Williams of Elizabethton have been able to travel the world together. He has fond memories of growing up in Elizabethton. “It was my first home and will always be special,” he said.