In the March/April 2013 print edition of The VVA Veteran we ran a feature story by Arthur G. Sharp that looked at 21-year-old Army Special Forces Captain William Albracht and his heroic actions in late October and early November of 1969 at Firebase Kate in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam near the Cambodian border. More than 5,000 NVA troops mounted a ferocious assault on the precariously situated firebase and its 150 American and South Vietnamese troops, primarily Montagnard special Civilian Irregular Defense forces.
“Albracht’s troops suffered a growing number of deaths and injuries,” Sharp wrote. “Morale plummeted as food, water, ammo, and medical supplies dwindled drastically. Albracht had taken shrapnel in his arm on October 29 as he directed a medevac helicopter attempting to land at the firebase. He was given the opportunity to leave with the other wounded, but refused—choosing to stay at Kate to lead the remaining besieged troops.” After more intense bombardment, Albracht led the men to safety through a long, treacherous trek through NVA lines under withering enemy fire.
The article went on to explain that Albracht, an active member of Vietnam Veterans of America’s Quad Cities Chapter 299 in Iowa, received a Silver Star for his actions that day. The men who served under him, though, began pushing in 2011 for him to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. That action is still pending.
Albracht receiving the Silver Star—his third—at a ceremony at the Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., on December 15, 2012
Sharp’s new book, The Siege of LZ Kate: The Battle for an American Firebase in Vietnam (Stackpole: 256 pp., $24.95), tells this story in expanded form. It focuses on details of the escape and also looks at broader issues, such as the newly implemented Nixon administration’s Vietnamization policy.
Another book is due out on the same subject next February: Abandoned in Hell: The Fight for Vietnam’s Fire Base Kate, written by Albracht and William J. Wolf, with an introduction by Joe Galloway