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Kentucky National Guard Memorial

Honoring Their Sacrifice

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McIlvoy, Joseph Ronald “Ronnie” (P2, C3, L24)

Ronnie McIlvoy editedPrivate First Class Joseph Ronald “Ronnie” McIlvoy, 22, Mackville, Washington County, Kentucky, of C Battery, 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery was killed by a grenade on 19 June 1969 at Firebase TOMAHAWK in Vietnam.

The firebase was attacked during the early morning hours of 19 June 1969 in a pouring rain by North Vietnamese Army (NVA) soldiers. Sappers infiltrated the base and during the attack threw some 150 satchel charges into the bunkers in addition to firing rocket propelled grenades. The battle went on some two hours before the NVA were forced to retreat.

The attack destroyed an ammunition storage area, four of the six M-109 self-propelled howitzers, nine bunkers, the mess hall, dining tent, maintenance building, four ammunition carriers, three 2 -ton trucks, two -ton trucks, and three jeeps.

The Battery had nine men killed; five of them were from Bardstown and the other four were non-Guard replacements from various, non-Kentucky locations. The unit also suffered 37 wounded. A platoon of infantrymen from the 101st Airborne Division was providing perimeter security for the firebase and four of the 101st soldiers were killed and another 13 wounded.



      Heavy Losses to Bardstown-based National Guard

      Unit Mourned as Bodies Come Home for Final Rest

      This Community's heavy hearts have become heavier.

      The Kentucky Standard newspaper July 3, 1969, front page

      Five activated Kentucky Army National Guardsmen of Bardstown-based Company C, 2nd Howitzer Battalion, 138th Artillery, were killed in an enemy attack on Fire Base Tomahawk in Vietnam June 19. The bodies of three were returned to Bardstown early this week and lie in their flag draped caskets awaiting last rites.

      Army officers from Fort Knox notified local families June 25 that the two first reported missing had been killed in action and that another, seriously injured, had died of burns in a hospital in Japan.

      Word of others hospitalized for injuries received in the attack has trickled in. Sgt. James T. Moore, 25, Bardstown, died June 24 of burns which covered 90 percent of his body. He hustled the last of his men out of a burning self-propelled, 105-mm howitzer, then got out too late himself.

      Spec. 4 Ronald E. Simpson, 22, Bardstown, first reported missing after the June 19 attack, was killed in action, as was Spec. 4 Joseph R. McIlvoy, 23, of Willisburg.

      The bodies of Moore, Simpson and Spec. 4 David Burr Collins, 24, whose death was announced four days after the attack, are at the Bardstown funeral home.

      First Sergeant Of Company Lost

      Company C's first sergeant, Luther Malcolm Chappel, of Bedford, Ky., was also among the five who lost their lives. He went to Vietnam as a member of Battery A, based at Carrollton, which also was part of the Federal call-up of National Guardsmen in May, 1968, and had been transferred to Company C. He replaced Sgt. Pat Simpson, of Bardstown, who completed his enlistment and came home several months ago.

      Harned, Janes Brought To Knox

      SFC William Kenneth (Buck) Harned and Spec. 4 Jerry T. Janes are among the group of seriously wounded who have been returned to the States. Both were brought to Fort Knox. Janes has recovered sufficiently to leave the hospital and now is on a 15-day leave at home. Harned is under treatment at a Fort Knox hospital.

      Sgt. Harned's wife, the former Pat Riggs, a registered nurse at the local hospital, learned in a telephone conversation with him Sunday night that he has severe burns on his right leg, burns on his left leg, face and stomach, wounds in the right leg and left hand, and punctured ear drums. He phoned her from Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, as he was enroute from a hospital in Japan to Fort Knox. Five other injured were coming with him to Fort Knox, he said.

      Spec. 4 Janes, Bardstown, and Sgt. Harned arrived at Ft. Knox together. Janes' family had been notified last week of his injuries, but Mrs. Harned says she never received any official word from the Army about her husband. When he phoned her, he thought she had been notified. She first learned about her husband from Janes' father, after he'd had a call from Jerry.

      Hibbs Wounded

      Another Bardstown guardsman injured is Spec. 4 Ronnie E. Hibbs, 25, son of Earl Hibbs, High Grove. His wife, the former Libby Rouse, who is with her parents at Solitude, learned of his wounds in a letter dated June 23, saying he is 40 miles from Tokyo, at Keshne, Japan, in the 106th General Hospital.

      At 1 a.m. Monday, the wife, father and uncle, A. V. Hibbs, Bardstown, talked to Ronnie in the Japan hospital. The time was 12 noon there. Hibbs told his family he was in Battery C's 105 Howitzer when the attack started. When their guns were knocked out, they fled to their bunkers, he said. In the run, he was burned, his clothes and hair on fire.

      Guardsman Bobby Stumph threw a blanket over him and saved his life, he said. He expects to be hospitalized 30 to 45 days. Hibbs had asked Spec. 4 Janes to phone his uncle, A. V. Hibbs, when he got back to Fort Knox.

      "The overseas operators were wonderful" in getting the call through to Spec. 4 Hibbs in Japan, commented A. V. Hibbs.

      Harned, son of Austin Harned, Boston, was employed at Skaggs Electric before being called up. Janes, son of Mr. and Mrs. Tommy Janes, was employed at Beam Distillery.

      Harned's enlistment was completed before the unit left Bardstown in the callup last May, and he volunteered to go with the National Guard into service.

      One of the injured has written home that 11 men of Battery C were hospitalized alongside Sgt. Moore, said his mother.

      First Sgt. Chappel didn't have to go to Vietnam. His enlistment in the Guard was completed last August, but he re-enlisted and went with his unit. "Because he was one of them, he thought he was obligated to be serving his country," said his wife, tearfully, recalling the painful decision he had to make. He was drafted in 1956, and served two years on active duty in peacetime. This time he felt he should go, "that he was no better than anyone else," Mrs. Chappel said.

      Company Lost Its Commander

      Battery C also lost its company commander, Captain Lyle J. Thompson, a few months ago. He was in a helicopter on an observation flight of bunkers Battery C. was shooting at. The haze was so dense that the helicopter either hit a mountain or was shot down, said one of the Bardstown men who returned home in recent months when enlistment was completed. Since the helicopter was burned to a crisp, the real facts of Captain Thompson's death were never determined. Captain Thompson had succeeded Captain Tom McClure, of Bardstown, who was the commanding officer of Battery C when the unit left Bardstown. He was transferred to the headquarters battalion some time ago.

      The first fatality of local men in the Bardstown-based Company C, 138th Artillery, was S Sgt. Harold M. Brown, Mt. Washington. He was killed June 11 in a mortar attack south of Chu Lai. His funeral was held June 26 at King's Baptist Church near Mr. Washington.

      Baby Arrives

      Spec. 4 Simpson's wife, the former Deanna Durbin, gave birth to a 6-lb. daughter, Cheryl Lynn, on Sunday, June 29, at Flaget Memorial Hospital, ten days after the death of the baby's father. The couple was married April 26, 1968.

      One of a family of seven children, Ronnie Simpson was graduated in 1966 from Bardstown High School, where he participated in track and won several awards for football. Among them was his selection to the Courier-Journal All-State Class A second team. He was employed at Salt River Rural Electric Cooperative when he was activated on May 16, 1968, with the National Guard unit.

      Made Church Deacon June 22

      The Bardstown First Christian Church, where he was a lifelong member, honored him on June 22 by elevating him from junior deacon to deacon, when word had not been received of his death. A charter member of the Order of Demolay, Simpson was a member of Duvall Lodge of Masons. He is survived by his wife and infant daughter; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Marchel Simpson, Bardstown; three brothers, Robert Lee and Kenneth Russell Simpson, Bardstown, and Marchel Irvin Simpson, Jr., Phoenix, Arizona; three sisters, Shirley Jean, Connie Margaret and Peggy Elaine Simpson, all at home; his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. George Dennis, Bloomfield.

      His body arrived Monday, accompanied home by Sgt. James R. Timony, and will be moved to the foyer of Bardstown High School for the memorial services Friday morning, July 4, at 9 a.m. Interment with Masonic and full military rites will follow in the Bardstown Cemetery. A memorial service was held for him the past Sunday at the local Christian Church.

      Staff Sgt. Moore, a 1961 graduate of St. Joseph Prep School, owned and operated a garage on Chaplin Road in Bloomfield before the National Guard call-up. Their fourth wedding anniversary was June 26.

      He is survived by his wife, the former Patsy Shaw; two daughters, Sheila Renee, 3 1/2, and Carla Michele, 2; one brother, Joseph Moore, and two sisters, Mrs. Leo Mayer and Mrs. Joseph Nally, Cox's Creek; his grandmother, Mrs. Millard Reid, Bardstown.

      Raisor Accompanies Moore's Body

      Sp. 5 Charles Thomas Raisor, who was wounded, but not seriously in the June 19 attack, accompanied Sgt. Moore's body home. It arrived Tuesday morning. Funeral services will be held Thursday, July 3, at 9 a.m. at St. Joseph Church with burial following in St. Joseph Cemetery. The rosary was recited Wednesday evening at 7:30 at the funeral home.

      When Jim's mother spoke of her son's helping the others escape, she remarked, "He was always like that, Always looking out for others and not himself." He had said many times he wanted to make a career of it, said his mother. "He didn't like the idea of having to go over there, but he made the best of it."

      Jim had planned to go into the trucking business with his brother when he got back. His 21-year-old wife and two children have been living with his parents on Sunset Drive since he left.

      Cousin Accompanies Collins Body

      Accompanied by his cousin, Teddy Collins, who was in Vietnam but with another unit, Spec. 4 David Burr Collins' body arrived home Monday. Teddy had been scheduled for R-and-R leave July 12-18 and now will have a 15-day leave with his wife, Sherry; and his family. Collins Funeral At Cox's Creek Funeral services for Spec. 4 David Collins, 24, will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, July 3, at the Cox's Creek Baptist Church, where he was a member. Interment will follow in St. Joseph Cemetery.

      The family has asked that expressions of sympathy take the form of memorial gifts to Collins' two-months-old son, David Todd Collins, whom he had never seen.

      He is survived by his wife, the former Patsy Dickerson, whom he married May 3, 1968, and infant son, who are living with her mother, Mrs. Charles L. Dickerson, near Bardstown; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Leon Collins, Plum Run Road; grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. John W. Collins and Mr. and Mrs. George Gordon, all of Bardstown; two brothers, Sgt. Wayne Coleman Collins, 26, who is hospitalized in Vietnam with injuries sustained in the June 19 attack, but not considered serious, and Danny Collins, 14, at home.

      David was a graduate of Bloomfield High School and employed as a diesel mechanic at Grigsby Sales and Service here. His training was at the Diesel School, Nashville, Tennessee.

      He was highly skilled.

      A graduate of Willisburg High school, Spec. 4 McIlvoy was employed at General Electric Appliance Park. He was married in March, 1968, to Mary Elaine Carney, of Willisburg. Besides his wife, he leaves his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph L. McIlvoy, Willisburg; one sister, Mrs. Nancy Perkins, Lexington, and one brother, Tommy McIlvoy, 17, at home.

      He and Spec. 4 Ronnie Simpson were the best of friends, said McIlvoy's aunt, Mrs. C. R. Ratliff, Bardstown.

      "We're not grieved merely for ourselves," said his dad, "We're just grieved for all of them." "We sure lost a fine bunch of boys. I was real close to them." said Joseph Kenny Ice, who completed his enlistment and returned to his home on the Bellwood road here a few weeks ago.

      "I was the platoon sergeant, and some of these who lost their lives were in my platoon."

      Collins, Dickersons Both Hit Twice

      Both the Collins and the Dickerson families have been hit heavy blows. The Collins lost one son and have another wounded. David's young widow's brother, Charlie Dickerson, has a permanent injury to his voice from a wound in the throat sustained last fall in Vietnam. He has a paralyzed nerve in his throat which will make his returning to teaching difficult. Presently, he continues in the service at Fort Campbell, Ky.

      Bardstown Guardsmen, Billy Snellen and Joe Hall, are completing their enlistment and returning

      Home this week.

      Stewart McClaskey, Boston, who was home on a 30-day leave due to illness of his father,

      Booker McClaskey, returned Sunday to Vietnam. He left Bardstown with the National Guard.


      McIlvoy's Funeral Held at Willisburg

      The Kentucky Standard, 10 July 1969, p. 14.

      Funeral Services for Sp 4 Joseph R. “Ronnie” McIlvoy, Willisburg, who was killed in action in Vietnam, June 19, were held Sunday afternoon, July 6, at three o’clock at the Willisburg Christian Church, where he was a member, with burial following in the church cemetery with full military and Masonic rites.

      The John Speed Smith Lodge, No. 298, F &A.M., Willisburg, conducted the Masonic service.

      Prior to being called to active duty May 13, 1968, Sp 4 McIlvoy was employed at General Electric Appliance Park. He was a member of Battery C, 138th Field Artillery, which was caught in enemy attack on “Tomahawk Hill,” June 19.

      Survivors include his wife, the former Miss Elaine Carney, Willisburg; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph L. McIlvoy; a sister, Mrs. Nancy Perkins, and a brother, Thomas McIlvoy, all of Willisburg. His grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. William McIlvoy and a grandfather, Raymond Barr, also survive and one niece.

      McIlvoy would have been 23 Tuesday, July 8.



      Extract from The Kentucky National Guard in Vietnam: The Story of Bardstown's Battery C at War by Anthony A McIntire published in the Register of The Kentucky Historical Society Spring 1992 Vol. 90, No. 2 Pages 140 – 164.


      Unknown to the men, specially trained soldiers from the Seventy-second Sapper Company, Fourth North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Regiment, wearing only underwear, guns, ammunition, and explosives, used the cover of the heavy rain to slip through the base perimeter and hide. As the 101st Divisional Command put it, "Enemy elements - as was indicated in later prisoner of war interrogation and captured documents - had made a thorough reconnaissance of the fire base for several days to detect weak spots in the perimeter's defenses." None of the men has any doubt about why: Battery C had caused a lot of trouble for the Vietcong and NVA, and they simply decided to take the unit out of action. "This was probably the unit that was doing the most damage to them ... I know of one twenty-four hour period on Hill 88 they fired a thousand rounds; that's a hell of a lot of ammunition," Bischoff points out. And, of course, the layout and location of Tomahawk, bordered as it was by high ground, no doubt provided further incentive to strike.

      The sappers waited until the early-morning hours. Tommy Raisor, on duty in Fire Direction Control (FDC), had gone about his normal routine. Just after 1:30 A.M., he got up and turned off the generator that had been recharging the radio batteries; when he did so, several lights in the compound went out. The NVA knew the base routine, and as he went back into the sleeping bunker adjoining FDC to wake up the next shift, outside a red flare shot up into the night sky. Meanwhile, David Collins had gone to the mess area for coffee that the cooks left out at night. He may well have been the first to realize that something was amiss, that there were people nearby him who were not Americans. Just before the red flare went up to signal the attack, he apparently tried to sound the alarm. The NVA shot him down. The attack began, at 1:45 A.M. …

      Within moments, sappers used a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) to blow up the 101st infantry position on the western end of the perimeter. The RPGs resembled bazookas and could even penetrate armor plate, meaning that they could knock out the howitzers. But over in Number 1 Gun, Janes assumed that they were taking mortar fire, we took three rounds in the side of this gun … one of which was an RPG round. We took two at the bottom of the track, and I thought, 'God, these mortars are close." When he reached out to close the turret hatches and button up the gun, he saw the attackers. "I pulled the hatch on and told the guys, 'Gooks in the perimeter, get your rifles!" At that point, Number 1 Gun had three explosive rounds and two illumination rounds, so they quickly fired both of the illumination rounds - straight up. As he recalls, "we were punching rounds in that tube as the breech was slamming on it and the tube going up. With some light overhead, Janes peered out of the hatch: "There were gooks, gooks were all over the place."

      The Number 1 crew had to evacuate their gun. They had run out of ammunition and had no viable targets. Even worse, they were taking direct RPG rounds. If one of them penetrated and detonated a remaining powder charge, the men would be incinerated in a flash. As Janes recalls, two of the men did not want to leave and would not open the rear door. He said. "We've got to get out of this gun, got to get out!' Because there were powder charges in it and we didn't have any rounds, we couldn't fire it. If we [had] stayed in there and ... taken the right hit, wouldn't any of us [have] got out of there." They escaped, and the other men made it to a nearby bunker, but a satchel charge thrown by one of the NVA soldiers exploded close enough to leave Janes himself dazed. He somehow wandered into a pile of barbed wire near the bunker. With only a .45 caliber pistol, he looked up and saw three NVA on the other side of the wire. Fire from Ronald E. Simpson of Number 3 Gun saved his life.

      Meanwhile, when the firing started, Section Chief Jim Moore woke up instantly and ran for his gun, Number 3. Then the crew buttoned up the gun and started firing, again assuming that the explosions were mortar rounds. But after only a few rounds, Moore realized that this was no mortar attack. Like Janes, he knew then that he would have to evacuate the gun. Yet, even as he pushed his men out the door, the NVA got a good hit with an RPG. It barely penetrated the armor, but the hot metal touched off one of the powder charges stored inside. The resulting flash explosion blew up the gun and burned virtually all of Moore's body. Somehow he lived through it, and one of his men led him to Fire Direction Control. … And he said to me, "Donald, I’m burnt up."

      The firing lasted until morning, although the NVA no doubt pulled out some time before light. Both Parrish and Janes recall a captured NVA lieutenant who said that they originally planned to use three hundred men. …In actuality, they attacked with an estimated 150 men and did much damage. The lieutenant also reported that the NVA commander had fired a green flare, signaling retreat, even while the sappers were still wreaking havoc.

      The NVA sappers killed David Collins. Jim Moore, burned severely, died three days later on a hospital ship off the coast near DaNang. Ronnie McIlvoy was blown up by a satchel charge.

      Ronald E. Simpson, after having saved Jerry Janes with his cover fire, was himself killed. Luther Chapel, in from Battery A, also died from gunfire. (Jim [W]ray had been killed with another unit prior to Tomahawk.) Overall, five Guardsmen and four other army men died that night; nineteen Guardsmen and twenty other army men were wounded.






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