Luciani (Louis) James Urso, a 1965 graduate of New Britain Senior High School entered into the U.S. Army on November 16, 1965. The next three years of Louis’s life were filled with combat lessons in survival. Louis trained as a Field Artillery soldier. As a soldier in Fire Direction Control, Louis was responsible for coordinating and directing the fires of his field artillery units. Like most young soldiers in the 1960’s, Louis was given orders for a deployment to Vietnam.
Louis traveled to Vietnam on the General Nelson M. Walker, A U.S. Navy troop ship. Upon his arrival at Vietnam he was sent to “Bear Cat”, a base camp for a brief stay and to receive in-country training. By the middle of November Louis was sent to take part in Operation Attleboro, an operation named after a Massachusetts town where the 196th Infantry Brigade (major unit in the operation) was formed. Louis also took part in Operation Cedar Falls, one of the first large unit operations in Vietnam. This operation took place near Saigon from January 8-28, 1967. Louis next found himself participating in Operation Gadsen , near the Cambodian border and north of Saigon. This was an operation involving more than 8,000 troops and was an attempt to penetrate the headquarters of the liberation forces. The next operation that Louis took part in was known as Operation Junction City.
Operation Junction City began on February 22nd 1967. Louis’s involvement began on March 19th when three batteries of 105mm howitzers and about 450 men were airlifted to a location near a former village known as Suoi Tre. Two of the helicopters were shot out of the sky in route. This new base named Fire Support Base Gold (FSB Gold) was supposed to be a relatively quiet area, and no heavy enemy presence was expected. Later they realized they were amongst more than 2,000 enemy soldiers. Louis was tasked as the Radio Operator in the Fire Direction Control Center. The unit spent two days digging themselves in. On March 21st Louis was on radio watch from 12 noon to midnight. Around 10 pm Louis received intelligence stating that 3 kilometers to the north was a grid of enemy campfires. This information did not get to the Battalion Commander who was John Vessey (Later became Joints Chief of Staff). Louis went to bed after his shift at radio watch.
Louis woke up at about 6:20 am to explosions in the NW corner of the Support Base. Upon running out of his sleeping area he was sent to a gun position. As he was running toward the gun position it was hit and destroyed by an RPG. After that, Louis spent a good deal of time giving help to the wounded and moving them to safer locations. Louis speaks about seeing waves of enemy soldiers attacking the Fire Base. He states that they just kept coming through the clearing with no fear of death, stepping over the bodies of previous waves. Louis states that there were over 600 rounds of enemy artillery and 400 RPGs dropped on the Support Base.
At battle’s end Louis realized that at some point he was hit in the knee. Eleven out of 18 guns were destroyed in the battle. His unit fired 2200 rounds of Artillery during the 4 hour battle. Americans lost 39 soldiers and 190 wounded while 687 enemy soldiers were killed.
Louis ended his tour of duty on November 15th, 1968 when he returned to Connecticut. Among Louis military honors are a Bronze Star and The Purple Heart. His unit was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm. Louis is currently active with the VFW and is an official for youth sports.
Gary Sinise and the VHP
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