When 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry arrived at LZ X-Ray, the Soldiers fanned out to develop a defensive perimeter. One of those Soldiers was SP4 Bill Beck of Steelton, PA. He was a member of an M-60 machinegun crew of Weapons Squad, 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, that included SP4 Russell Adams of Shoemakersville, PA. Adams was two weeks from completing his tour of duty and heading home. Beck noted: "When we first landed, I saw half a dozen guys get killed right in front and beside me before I even saw the enemy. All I saw was guys dropping...."
The companies established their defensive positions as the NVA began moving against them in force. Alpha Company and Charlie Company found a 40-yard gap between them, providing a critical avenue for the enemy's attacks. Beck followed Adams as the machinegun crew rushed forward toward the Chu Pong Massif to take up a position about 75 yards in front of their platoon. They were quickly engaged by masses of the enemy located about 30 yards to their south and west around a dry creek bed that covered and concealed movement. Beck and Adams laid down sheets of fire upon the large force of NVA moving into the gap between Alpha and Charlie Companies. inflicting heavy casualties. The machinegun fire from Beck and Adams was the only thing that kept the enemy from driving a wedge between the companies
and breaking the American defensive line.
Beck assisted medics with wounded men until he heard someone yell that Russell Adams had been hit. He moved to the machinegun to see Adams severely wounded in the head but still alive. The NVA were approaching their position so Beck opened fire on them. With the enemy only 25 yards from their position the gun jammed but Beck calmly cleared the weapon and resumed firing. He noted: "It was lonely as hell up there.... I don't know what the hell's happening. I'm out there by myself. I'm only a twenty year old kid. I don't know what's going on.... Fear, real fear hit me. Fear like I had never known before.... Once you recognize it and accept it, it passes just as fast as it comes.... You just do what you have to do, but you learn the real meaning of fear and life and death. For the next two hours I was alone on that gun, shooting at the enemy.... Bullets were hitting the ground beside me and cracking above my head.... I fired as fast as I could in long bursts. My M-60 was cooking...."
Russell Adams was evacuated from the killing zone and survived his wound. Bill Beck held his position and survived the succeeding days and nights of the battle, returning to the unit base camp when the fighting was over. Beck and Adams survived the war and returned to their private lives.
"When his time came to perform for America and the
men around him, Beck did the job.... Men like Russell Adams and Bill Beck win our wars for us."
LTG Hal Moore
"I can remember the extreme heat and exhaustion taking hold now, like I hadn't taken a breath the entire time. We were soaked with sweat and the sun was very hot as we lay in the brown grass, in the open with really no cover but the grass."
SP4 Bill Beck
We were Soldiers Once.... and Young (1992)