Rank / Branch:
SP5 E-5, U.S. ARMY
FIRST AVIATION BRIGA
Date of Birth:
HOSTILE, SMALL ARMS
Awards & Decorations:
See Alphabetical list
list by County
ROSENDO MONTANA, SPECIALIST FIVE, U.S. ARMY, BIG SPRING, HOWARD COUNTY, TEXAS
AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
Combat Infantryman's Badge, Aviator Crewman's Badge, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star with "V" and Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Commedation's Medal with "V" device, Air Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, RVN Military Merit Medal, RVN Cross of Gallantry with Palm, RVN Campaign Medal.
Rosenda was born in San Antonio, Texas. He was the son of Josephina Esparza and Eustavio Montana. He spent his youth in San Antonio, attended Moye Military School in Catroville, Texas. He also attended Peacock Military Academy in San Antonio and after the family moved to Big Spring, he attended Big Spring High School. He was married to Mary Molina of Big Spring and had been in the Army since 1961.
Rosenda started his second tour in Vietnam on August 5, 1969. He was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 52nd Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group, First Aviation Brigade. He was assigned as a "Pathfinder" and was a member of the 52nd Aviation Battalion Security Detachment. He was woiunded in September, 1969 and had spent time recuperating in the 24th Evac Hospital in Long Binh.
In the second week of 1970, the NVA were building up forces around a Special Forces Camp of Dak Seang, 20 miles north of Dak To. This build-up coincided with the NVA's attempt at taking over Cambodia and was a means to keep the Americans occupied to prevent interference in Cambodia. Intelligence indicated that a possible NVA division size unit was involved. A plan was devised to insert ARVN troops into an area known as LZ Orange. LZ Orange was a an old Night Defensive Postion. It was the highest point on the dense jungle mountain. This area offered a an excellent vantage point for observation and control for the forthcoming battle and it was determined it was essential in the battle plan.
Trinity Memorial Garden's Cemetery, Big Spring, Texas
On April 15, 1970, the 170th Assault Helicopter Group began an operation to insert the 3rd Battalion, 42nd Regiment of the Republic Vietnam, (ARVN) into the LZ. At 0600 hours the flights with gunship support began their insertion. The lead ship with Specialist Montana and Cpl Herndon A. Bivens and six ARVN's landed and were deposited on the ground uncontested. Specialist Montana was carrying the radio and he ran about 15 feet and landed inside a bomb crater and busied himself with the radio. The ARVN's set up security. Cpl. Bivens then started to direct the second UH-1H, tail number 68-16203, into the LZ and as the ship carrying its crew and six ARVN's approached and started to land about 50 feet from landing, they were met with a hail of gunfire that came from 360 degrees around the LZ. The aircraft taking the hits, crashed. The crew of the helicopter consisted of WO1 Albert L. Barthelme, pilot; co-pilot Roger A. Miller (two weeks in country); SP4 Vincent S. Davis and SP5 Donald C. Summers. Two ARVN troops were killed in the crash. Specialist Montana was hit in the first volley of gunfire and managed to get off a radio transmission that the LZ was taking heavy fire. The second volley of fire concentrated on Specialist Montana and he was killed. Cpl Bivens raced to a bomb crater and started to return fire, but was out of ammunition very quickly. The ARVNS sought cover and never returned fire.
Meanwhile the survivors of the helicopter crash were attempting to extracate themselves. Bivens, out of ammunition, raced back to the helicopter under fire to assist. The pilot, WO1 Barthelme had been shot several times and WO1 Miller pulled him away from the crash. Sp4 Davis, also ran to the site with WO1 Miller to assist WO1 Barthelme. Cpl Bivens was able to pull SP5 Summers out of the tangled wreckage and maze of bodies in the helicopter.
During the course of the ensuing engagement, the Americans were abandoned by the ARVN's who disappeared into the jungle. Several attempts were made by other choppers to come in for a rescue but each attempt resulted in heavy ground fire. Two of Bivin's and Montana's team members back at the base camp volunteered to accompany a team of Montayards to be inserted closeby to fight their way into the LZ. Two Air Force Jolly Greens also came in for a rescue attempt. The first helicpoter was shot down resulting in the death of the co-pilot and two badly burned crewmembers and the pilot. The other jolly aircraft went into to rescue the survivors of this crash. One of the crew members from the Air Force Jolly Green on the ground died later at the 71st Medevac hospital. Attempts by other helicopters were being made, each time resulting in significant aircraft damage, one chopper crashing in a nearby jungle area and the crew members were shot up. The group of Montyards accompanied by the two Americans who inserted were killed as they fought their way toward the LZ.
Finally a team of two helicopters came into the LZ together, one was able to land on the ground and take on the survivors. SP4's Davis and SP5 Cunningham managed to get to the helicopter and boarded, both were badly wounded. The helicopter took several hits and one hit caused a fuel leak and the helicopter was losing fuel at a high rate. Cpl Bivens had situated himself in the hull of the crashed helicopter and he was laying down suppressive fire with the machine gun from the crashed helicopter. The NVA were rushing the area from all sides. Sp4 Davis and SP5 Cunningham both, now on board the rescue helicopter were wounded several more times, but they continued to fight on with their weapons. WO1 Miller was unhurt and was able to get WO1 Al Barthelme onto the aircraft. The aircraft commander thinking everyone was on board and began his ascent out. At that time, WO1 Miller left the chopper to go assist CPL Bivens, who was still in the hull of the crashed helicopter providing covering fire. WO1 Miller indicated he was not leaving him CPL Bivens behind. WO1 Barthelme, though seriously wounded attempting to help, fell out of the helicopter to the ground. He was dead soon after. The helicopter left the L.Z. WO1 Miller and CPL Bivins were left on the ground. Both were captured by the NVA the following day as they attempted to evade the NVA. CPL Bivins was shot several times when they were jumped by the NVA. WO Miller was imprisoned and made his way to Hanoi, where he was released from capitivity in 1973. WO Miller indicated he last time he saw CPL Bivins was after their capture by the NVA and he was being taken out of the area on a stetcher. He was told four days later by the NVA, that CPL Bivins had died.
A U.S. Search and Recovery team were able to get to the site on April 29, 1970 and they recovered the remains of Specialist Montana and WO1 Barthelme.
Specialist Rosendo Montana's remains were buried in the Trinity Park Memorial Cemetery in Big Spring, Texas in May 1970 with full military honors.
For additional information on the incident and rescue attempts, see