The Tyler Morning Telegraph has posted a story about Vietnam War Purple Heart recipient Virgil Melton Jr. recalling his service as a Marine Corps tank commander in the Vietnam war. Melton earned his Purple Heart on Aug. 15, 1968 at the age of 19 at an action near the Ben Hai River called Operation Lam Son 250. According to the article:
“We smelled food,” Melton said. “We smelled cooking, we were that close. They were eating breakfast. … We could see their chow lines.” Enemy fighters spotted the tanks lined along the ridge and began shouting in alarm, sending troops scrambling for cover and weaponry. “It was a total surprise; they never thought we would go that far in the DMZ (demilitarized zone),” Melton said. “They knew they were caught.” The tanks began firing, destroying the enemy’s light artillery. They responded, shooting off rocket powered grenades, mortars and machine guns before scattering in all directions, pursued by the Americans. “We fought from daybreak that morning when we could hardly see, until late that evening,” Melton said. “Then it started getting dark, fast, and we knew we needed to get out of there.” The tankers tried to make a hasty getaway to safer territory, but two crafts inadvertently rolled over hidden land mines.
The article does not specify what sort of tank Melton served in, but judging from the details provided in the article, it is possible the “tanks” referenced in the article are actually LVTP-5 Amphibious Armored Personnel Carriers.