The mission was to move to Hill 783 and make assessments of B-52 strikes there.  Tracer-5 remained about three hundred meters in front of the company throughout the movement.  At approximately 1100 hours, the team arrived at the first bomb crater along the planned route of travel.   The team proceeded in a zigzag fashion, after being informed that they were entering an area containing an enemy bunker complex which was spotted from the air.  As the team proceeded up the side of a small ridge, a team member spotted approximately twelve enemy about one hundred meters to the team’s right flank.  Specialist Franklin and the team opened fire, as the enemy began an all-out assault on the team’s position.  Although completely exposed to the enemy’s savage fire, Sp4 Franklin and his team were able to kill seven of the enemy and send the remainder of the hostile force into disorganized retreat.  After only moments of quiet, the team noticed sniper positions in the trees and in spider holes along a ridge about one hundred and fifty meters from the team’s position.  The enemy was firing on the company to the team’s rear.  Sp4 Franklin helped in the direction of helicopter gunship runs across the enemy positions, despite the knowledge that his position would be compromised.  Company A was forced to drop back about three hundred meters, leaving a distance of approximately six hundred meters between the company and the team.  Tracer-5 held its defensive position for about three hours, then decided to return to the company’s position. 

The team began its movement.  Approximately two hundred meters had been covered, when a member of the team detected some enemy bunkers.  Sp4 Franklin checkout out the area, discovering that the team was upon a well camouflaged bunker complex which had been partially exposed by the heavy gunship fire.  (Apparently, the enemy allowed the team to pass through the complex earlier in hopes of engaging the larger force to their rear.)  After checking about six bunkers, Sp4 Franklin detected an NVA soldier in one of the bunkers and eliminated him.  A large tunnel opening was found and a grenade dropped inside.  An NVA started out of another bunker, and another team member eliminated him.  Immediately, the team began receiving heavy sniper fire.  The team moved quickly for about fifty meters and then resumed their normal pace.  As the team neared the first bomb crater site, it came under intense machinegun and small arms fire.  Sp4 Franklin doubled up and rolled into the foxhole, but was only faking.  When another member of the team followed him into the hole, Sp4 Franklin was told that the other team members were no longer with them, being split up because of the intense fire.  They were in an enemy crossfire, receiving two explosive rounds, B-40 rockets, which hit approximately fifteen meters from their position, in addition to machinegun and small arms fire.  The team leader called the company and gave them their status.  The company replied that they were sending a platoon to assist.  Still under fire, Sp4 Franklin and his comrade hurled grenades at the machinegun position, silencing it and the small arms fire.  Two enemy soldiers were spotted and the team leader eliminated them.  Then minutes later, Sp4 Franklin and the team leader crawled to the machinegun position, finding three enemy dead.  From that position, Sp4 Franklin and his comrade detected, engaged and killed three more enemy.  The company raised them on the radio, telling them that it was imperative for them to reach the company’s location before dusk.  As Sp4 Franklin and his comrade moved toward the company’s location, they again came under intense fire from an enemy position about twenty five meters to their right.  The man threw grenades, silencing the machinegun, but they continued to receive small arms fire from enemy in two spider holes.  The team leader was able to kill one of the enemy, but the other had Sp4 Franklin pinned down.  He was wounded severely in the kneecap.  Despite his wound, Sp4 Franklin helped his comrade adjust helicopter gunship fire and eliminate the enemy.  Ten minutes later, the platoon from A company radioed the men, informing them that the platoon was taking heavy casualties and was turning back.  The two men crawled to the bomb crater and waited there until dusk.  Sp4 Franklin had lost a great amount of blood and was unable to travel quickly, so the two men moved slowly through the enemy infested terrain.  After only a very short distance, the team leader picked up Sp4 Franklin, carrying him, both rifles and the radio.  After about fifty to seventy five meters, they were both physically unable to go further.  They rested there for approximately fifteen minutes.  Sp4 Franklin volunteered to crawl behind the team leader, and they covered another hundred meters in this manner.  Suddenly, the two men came upon an enemy bunker.  The team leader engaged the enemy he had detected and killed him with a burst of rifle dire, but an undetected enemy in a bunker heaved grenades at the men, endangering both their lives.  Sp4 Franklin was becoming extremely weak from loss of blood, his eyesight was failing.  He knew that he couldn’t make it, and he was sure that if he couldn’t, his team leader would.  With every bit of strength that he could muster, he crawled to the bunker and killed the enemy with his only weapon, a grenade.  The explosion amputated his right arm, and he was bleeding to death.  The team leader stayed by his side, but Sp4 Franklin insisted that his comrade move to the company location.  Finally, the team leader left and the next morning was able to return, but Sp4 Franklin was then beyond help. 

Specialist Four James A. Franklin displayed courage and professionalism while trying to return through the enemy infested territory, and made the greatest sacrifice to save his fellow soldier’s life.  His actions are consistent with the highest and most cherished military traditions and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the United States Army.




James A. Franklin Awarded the Distinguished Service Cross  

click to see eyewitness reports

eyewitness Chietzburg        eyewitness Pizarski       eyewitness Joslin

Thank you  from the men of the A-1-8

Specialist Four James A. Franklin distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism on 12 March 1969, while serving as assistant team leader for a reconnaissance team, Tracer-5, acting as point for his unit, A Company 1/8th Infantry, near Polei Kleng, in the Central Highlands, Republic of Vietnam. 

James Franklin Vietnam 1969
James Franklin 1969
James Franklin and Runkle Vietnam 1969
James Franklin and Runkle Central Highlands 1969