BY DUANE ALLEN VACHON, PH.D. Bennie G. Adkins was born Feb. 1, 1934 in Waurika, Oklahoma. He was drafted in 1956, and was assigned to a garrison unit in Germany, with a follow-on assignment to the 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga. After attending Airborne School, he volunteered for Special Forces in 1961, serving with Special Forces for more than 13 years with the 7th, 3rd, 6th and 5th Special Forces Groups (Airborne).
Command Sargent Major Bennie Adkins by the numbers:
175 number of enemy soldiers killed by Adkins.
18 number of wounds received by Adkins.
38 Number of hours the battle raged.
48 Number of hours Adkins spent in the jungle evading the North Vietnamese troops.
1 Tiger who could smell Adkins blood and was stalking him.
Adkins of Opelika, Alabama, was honored for his actions in Vietnam’s A Shau Valley more than 48 years ago. Then a 32-year-old sergeant first class, Adkins was among a handful of Americans working with troops of the South Vietnamese Civilian Irregular Defense Group at Camp A Shau when the camp was attacked by a large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force on March 9, 1966, according to an Army report.
“Adkins rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position defending the camp,” the Army report says. “He continued to mount a defense even while incurring wounds from several direct hits from enemy mortars. Upon learning that several soldiers were wounded near the center of camp, he temporarily turned the mortar over to another soldier, ran through exploding mortar rounds and dragged several comrades to safety. As the hostile fire subsided, Adkins exposed himself to sporadic sniper fire and carried his wounded comrades to a more secure position.”
Later, under enemy fire, some of it coming from South Vietnamese allies who had defected to the North during the battle, Adkins took wounded troops to an airstrip outside the camp for evacuation and drew enemy fire away from the evacuation aircraft. He went outside the camp again to retrieve supplies from an airdrop that fell into a minefield. And that was just day one.
“The bottom line is that it was just not my day to go,” Adkins said in an interview at Fort Benning, Georgia, last week.
The fighting, and Adkins’ heroism, continued in the early morning of March 10 when the North Vietnamese hit the camp with their main attack, according to the Army report.
“Within two hours, Sergeant First Class Adkins was the only defender firing a mortar weapon. When all mortar rounds were expended, Adkins began placing effective rifle fire upon enemy as they infiltrated the camp perimeter and assaulted his position. Despite receiving additional wounds from enemy rounds exploding on his position, Adkins fought off relentless waves of attacking North Vietnamese soldiers,” the Army report says.
After falling back to a smaller bunker in Camp A Shau, Adkins killed more enemy troops with small arms fire, destroyed equipment and classified documents to prevent them from getting into North Vietnamese hands, and led a group of soldiers in digging their way out of the rear of the bunker and escaping the besieged camp.
But Adkins’ ordeal was not over. Because he was carrying a wounded comrade, he and his small group couldn’t get to the evacuation helicopters sent to pick up the battle’s survivors. The band faded into the jungle, avoiding their North Vietnamese pursuers for 48 hours.
And that’s where the tiger comes in.
“The North Vietnamese soldiers had us surrounded on a little hilltop and everything started getting kind of quiet,” Adkins is quoted as saying in an Army report. “We could look around and all at once, all we could see were eyes going around us. It was a tiger that stalked us that night. We were all bloody and in this jungle, the tiger stalked us and the North Vietnamese soldiers were more afraid of the tiger than they were of us. So, they backed off some and we were (able to escape).”
Helicopters rescued Adkins and the rest of his group on March 12.
The Army says Adkins killed 135 to 175 enemy soldiers during the Camp A Shau battle. He suffered 18 wounds during the 86-hour ordeal.
Forty-eight years later, Adkins doesn’t cite those numbers but two others.
“I’m just a keeper of the medal for those other 16 (U.S. troops) who were in the battle, especially the five who didn’t make it,” he told Army News Service.
“I can tell you every man who was there and the five who lost their lives. I can tell you how that happened. It diminishes, but it does not go away,” Adkins said.
And he remembers the South Vietnamese who stuck by his side.
“There were about 410 indigenous Civilian Irregular Defense Group soldiers there with us, and of those, only about 122 survived, and most of those were wounded. It was a horrible, horrible battle. There was valor on all sides, not only from the Americans, but from the CIDG soldiers also,” he’s quoted as saying in an Army report.
Medal of Honor citation
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to
SERGEANT FIRST CLASS
BENNIE G. ADKINS
UNITED STATES ARMY
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Sergeant First Class Bennie G. Adkins distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an Intelligence Sergeant with Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces, during combat operations against an armed enemy at Camp A Shau, Republic of Vietnam from March 9 to 12, 1966. When the camp was attacked by a large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force in the early morning hours, Sergeant First Class Adkins rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position continually adjusting fire for the camp, despite incurring wounds as the mortar pit received several direct hits from enemy mortars. Upon learning that several soldiers were wounded near the center of camp, he temporarily turned the mortar over to another soldier, ran through exploding mortar rounds and dragged several comrades to safety. As the hostile fire subsided, Sergeant First Class Adkins exposed himself to sporadic sniper fire while carrying his wounded comrades to the camp dispensary. When Sergeant First Class Adkins and his group of defenders came under heavy small arms fire from members of the Civilian Irregular Defense Group that had defected to fight with the North Vietnamese, he maneuvered outside the camp to evacuate a seriously wounded American and draw fire all the while successfully covering the rescue. When a resupply air drop landed outside of the camp perimeter, Sergeant First Class Adkins, again, moved outside of the camp walls to retrieve the much needed supplies. During the early morning hours of March 10, 1966 enemy forces launched their main attack and within two hours, Sergeant First Class Adkins was the only man firing a mortar weapon. When all mortar rounds were expended, Sergeant First Class Adkins began placing effective recoilless rifle fire upon enemy positions. Despite receiving additional wounds from enemy rounds exploding on his position, Sergeant First Class Adkins fought off intense waves of attacking Viet Cong. Sergeant First Class Adkins eliminated numerous insurgents with small arms fire after withdrawing to a communications bunker with several soldiers. Running extremely low on ammunition, he returned to the mortar pit, gathered vital ammunition and ran through intense fire back to the bunker. After being ordered to evacuate the camp, Sergeant First Class Adkins and a small group of soldiers destroyed all signal equipment and classified documents, dug their way out of the rear of the bunker and fought their way out of the camp. While carrying a wounded soldier to the extraction point he learned that the last helicopter had already departed. Sergeant First Class Adkins led the group while evading the enemy until they were rescued by helicopter on March 12, 1966. During the thirty eight hour battle and forty eight hours of escape and evasion, fighting with mortars, machine guns, recoilless rifles, small arms, and hand grenades, it was estimated that Sergeant First Class Adkins killed between one hundred thirty five and one hundred seventy five of the enemy while sustaining eighteen different wounds to his body. Sergeant First Class Adkins’ extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces and the United States Army.
//Barrack Obama// President
CSM Adkins has been married to his wife, Mary, for more than 50 years, and they
have four children.
He retired from the Army in 1978 as a Command Sergeant Major.
He earned three degrees from Troy State University, started his own accounting service in Auburn, and taught at what is now Southern Union State Community College and Auburn University.
Over the years as I have prepared these articles I am always looking for a common denominator that the men I write about share. CSM Adkins has shown me one more characteristic all of these heroes have in common, commitment. Adkins like the rest of the heroes I have written about are committed, to this country, and the men they serve with. As long as America continues to produce men like Atkins we will remain the greatest country in the world.
The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external. Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.
If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran