"I was just doing my job, something you felt like you just have got to do. It was nothing extraordinary."
Dennis Dix always knew he wanted to be a Green Beret. Growing up, he'd read everything he possibly could about them, and when he turned 18 in 1962 he immediately went down to the local recruiting office and told the dude behind the counter that he wanted to kick as many asses as possible in as short a time as possible. The recruiter put him into the 82nd Airborne.
Dix served three years with the 82nd, including a stint in the Dominican in 1965 where he helped crush out a nascent Communist revolution by kicking a bunch of pinko Russkie sympathizers in the throat with a steel-toed boot, and his skills in destroying everything in his path quickly got him recruited into the American Special Forces. He went through the grueling training program, received the coveted green beret he'd waited for his entire life, and then promptly received orders to deploy to the Mekong Delta for a lovely beach party in the tropical paradise known as South Vietnam. Working with the CIA on a bunch of insanely super-secret Mission: Impossible-style "the government will disavow all knowledge of your existence" shit, Dix was tasked with tracking enemy troop movements along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Cambodia, and when he wasn't flying solo sneaking around enemy positions hundreds of miles behind friendly lines trying not to get shot this guy was living in the city of Chau Pau, setting up an infrastructure aimed at convincing the Vietnamese people that Communism was bullshit and Democracy was like an adorable pixelated Pop-Tart cat flying through space on a rainbow of happiness.
It was around this time that the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive – one of the largest and most well-coordinated multi-front offensives ever launched against the United States. The short version of the Tet Offensive goes like this: both North Vietnam and South Vietnam came out and said that they were going to enforce a two-day cease-fire for the national holiday Tet Nguyen Dan, but instead of kicking back and eating fondue for Vietnamese New Year the North Vietnamese (and guerilla troops of the Viet Cong) launched a mega-balls-to-the-wall coordinated sneak attack that simultaneously murder-boned over 100 cities and towns across Vietnam – including 36 of the 44 provincial capitals and the capital of South Vietnam itself. So, in effect, the peaceful people of Chau Pau, South Vietnam, went to sleep on January 31, 1968 with dreams of sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads, and woke up the next morning to find enemy troops in their base killin their d00ds.
The Tet Offensive.
Now, Dix had sort of had an idea that some obscene shit was about to go down in the near future – when the first North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops were running around like maniacs detonating Capitalists on the sidewalks of Chau Pau, the 23 year-old U.S. Army Staff Sergeant was on patrol in the waters of the Mekong Delta with a two-man Navy SEAL team, trying to recon enemy positions to figure out what the damn hell was going on. When the team received word that Chau Pau was being sneak-attack dickpunched by two full battalions of North Vietnamese Army regulars and an unknown number of Viet Cong guerillas, this guy figured, "hm, that's probably exactly what we're looking for." He pulled the handbrake on his inflatable motorized raft, kicked up a fucking sweet sheet of water, and hauled ass back there like Vin Diesel chasing after that biological missile submarine at the end of XXX.
But even getting to Chau Pau wasn't exactly like strolling into a lovely tea party with six-year-old-girls and pink stuffed animals and ordering a hot cup of invisible Chamomile – as Dix and the SEALs approached the shores of the besieged town they found sandbagged heavy machine gun emplacements and searchlight teams sweeping the water with thousands of rounds of ammunition, but even faced with a solid wall of lead death these hardass commandos didn't even fucking blink – they just crashed their ship onto the shore full-speed and sprinted into the city under intense fire from every direction. Dix says, "It was a little like Normandy", though I think I'd have to disagree because at Normandy the Germans had a hell of a lot more to shoot at than just three Special Forces operators in an inflatable motorboat. Either way, Dix somehow fought his way into the city, looked around, and astutely observed that everything was on fire, shit was blowing up like everywhere, and there were something on the order of a thousand enemy troops running through the streets circle-strafing everything that moved with a double-shot of automatic weapons and incendiary hand grenades.
It was time to go to work.
Did I mention that Chau Pau was known as "River City"?
Aided by the two SEALs, Dix took his tiny squad and rushed a house where he had heard an American nurse was being held captive by NVA (North Vietnamese Army) soldiers. Charging through the fires, guns blazing, the team busted through the defenses, cleared the house of enemy troops, found the nurse, and got her the hell out of there in one piece. Shortly after this, the SEALs had to move back to regroup with the rest of their unit, so Dix started grabbing every South Vietnamese man he could find who was armed with something bigger than a Phillips-head screwdriver and directing them in how to fight off the attack – everyone from regular front-line ARVN (South Vietnamese regular army) troops to civilians armed with hunting rifles flocked to Dix's command, since it was pretty friggin' obvious even in the early hours of the Tet Offensive that this dude was the only motherfucker in Chau Pau who knew what the hell he was doing.
Dix's new-found pitchfork-and-torch militia's next target was a large downtown office building that was under attack by heavy machine guns, mortars, and rocket teams. Dix and his South Vietnamese allies charged into the building, fought through the hallways of the office building (for some reason the only mental image I get when thinking about this are scenes from Halo: Reach) cleared the structure, and saved eight civilians by pulling them out of there while mortar explosions ripped through the building around him. Later on, with the South Vietnamese laying down covering fire on another heavily-defended enemy-controlled structure, Dix ran around the back, personally assaulted the fortress by himself, killed eight defenders with his M-16, grenades, and a knife, and then saved two wounded Filipino aid workers by pulling them out of the rubble and dragging them out of the building.
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Now by this point the sun was finally starting to come up, but even though this lone Green Beret John Rambo motherfucker had fought through the night and had already saved 11 non-combatant civilians from falling into the hands of the NVA he still wasn't done – this was some Jack Bauer 24 shit, and he wasn't going to remove his finger from the trigger of his assault rifle until he was absolutely sure that every last fucking Communist in Chau Pau was running off into the jungle telling his buddies horror stories about how Dennis Dix and his ARVN comrades were the most goddamned hardcore bastards south of the 17th parallel.
Dix now had about twenty or thirty Vietnamese warriors with him, each one armed to the teeth with captured weapons and ready to rock faces like a roadie at a black metal festival. Using his training in urban combat , Dix led this makeshift platoon on raids aimed straight at the heart of the NVA occupation force, assaulting the hotel and theater they were using as a base of operations. Rushing through downtown Chau Pau, sometimes fighting house-to-house, room-to-room, Dix and his men cleared the enemy from their city with extreme violence. Whenever they'd break through and capture an enemy structure, Dix would wisely take the wounded ARVN troops and position them in easily-defensible positions so they could cover his flank and keep the NVA from getting the drop on him while he moved on with the rest of the force. Once the rest of the Chau Pau defenders noticed what was happening, they flocked to his aid, and after a couple more hours of intense fighting Dix not only cleared the enemy from their headquarters, but he fucking captured the enemy commander and 19 of his staff officers.
But this insane Staff Sergeant STILL wasn't done. After taking the enemy commander prisoner, Dix learned that the South Vietnamese deputy province chief's house had been overrun by the enemy, and the Vietnamese politician's family were now being held hostage by Communist troops.
I don't think I need to tell you what Dix did when he heard this.
That's right – this dude ran up to the front door, kicked it in, capped every Commie inside, and saved the minister's wife and children, rescuing the entire family without so much as a scratch on any of their heads. I wish I had more detail about how the fuck this went down, so in my head I'm just picturing it like the end of Delta Force 2 where Chuck Norris saves those DEA dudes by shooting up that cocaine dude's house with a helicopter.
Finally, after fifty-six hours of non-stop fighting, the smoke cleared over the South Vietnamese provincial capital of Chau Pau. Over 200 of the enemy lay dead in the streets, with Dix personally accounting for somewhere between 14 and 39 by himself. The enemy commander and 19 of his colleagues were captured. The city was firmly in South Vietnamese hands. Dennis Dix, the lone warrior, had single-handedly coordinated the successful defense of Chau Pau, fighting off a sneak-attack by an enemy force that outnumbered the city garrison thirty-to-one, and personally rescuing 14 civilians from imminent peril in the process.
Dix continued fighting through the war, performing so many insane feats of ridiculousness that in 1969 when he was informed he was going to become the first enlisted Special Forces operator to ever receive the Medal of Honor, he told his commanding officer he wasn't sure specifically which battle he was being singled out for. He remained in the military for 13 more years, including another deployment in 'Nam (this time with the 101st Airborne) in 1971. He retired as a Major, and after the war he worked alongside dudes like Richard Marchinko to help establish U.S. counterterrorism programs. He's now the Deputy Commissioner for Homeland Security for the State of Alaska.
Rocky Mountain News
MoH Citation at PBS.org
Collier, Peter and Nick Del Calzo. Medal of Honor. Artisan, 2006.
Dix, Drew. The Rescue of River City. Drew Dix Pub, 2001.
Farinacci, Donald J. Last Full Measure of Devotion. AuthorHouse, 2007.
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