NOVEMBER 28, 1969
"IRON BUTTERFLIES" PACK POWERFUL STING
Jumping from his river patrol boat, the young gunner's mate and two other River Division 593 sailors dashed up the night-shrouded riverbank and into the dense undergrowth, firing as they ran.
Dodging a hail of Viet Cong rocket-gmnade and machine gun fire, they found the entrenched and battered U. S. Army reconnaissance team, three dead and three of them wounded, and carried them back to the PBRS.
An enemy element almost 50 strong had hit the recon troopers only minutes after their midnight insertion on the upper Saigon River soue 25 miles north of the capital city.
They were only seconds away from being over-run when the sailors pulled them from the jungle to safety.
Now the two boats, reinforced by four more RivDiv 593 PBRS, were firing into the bank, uppressing the enemy fire. Artillery fire was called in, and helos arrived to redevac the Army casualties.
This was an unusual action for River Division 593, but it' s in di cati ve of the courage found in the men of the division, known as the "Iron Butterfly".
Seven bronze stars were awarded for this action, and the 54 officers and enlisted men of rivdiv 593 have won a combined total of 131 silver stars, bronze stars, navy commendation metals, and navy achievement Metals and Vietnamese crosses of gallantry since their formation in may 1968.The men have received 57 purple hearts; five of them were awarded posthumously.
Obviously, the rivdiv 593 sailors easily recognized by their yellow and black "Iron butterfly" shoulder patches, is a combat unit in which heroic action is the rule, not the exception. As in any such unit, individuals stand out. One such is chief signal man Bob Monzingo of Ft. Worth, Texas, who was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and navy commendation metal after two fires fights on the upper Saigon River last September in which he and his Crewmen killed 39 enemy soldiers.
Appropriately, chief Monzingo, one of several rivdiv 593 "old-timers", was involved in the division's first official contact with the Viet Cong, back in May, 1968.His sailors killed five enemy soldiers in a Fire-fight on the Long Tau river, the twisting shipping channel southeast of Saigon, only a few days After the division was formed.
The Long Tau river runs through 593's official home, the treacherous Rung Sat Special Zone, a humid maze of jungle and water here the division has killed 40 elusive enemy residents.
Other 593 campaigns include operation Giant Slingshot, where "Iron butterfly" patrols helped suppress enemy infiltration along the two strategic rivers running northwest of Saigon, The Vam Co Dong and the Vam Co Tay. Rivdiv 593 sailors counted 95 firefights with the enemy here, and killed 70 Viet Cong in the process. Twenty large enemy weapons caches were uncovered.
But river division 593 will always be remembered for its relentless campaign against the enemy along the upper Saigon River, where they accounted for 134 Viet Cong dead. They assisted U.S. first infantry division and fifth ARVN division Troopers in killing 50 more. Like all in-country Navy Men, the sailors of 593 are planning ahead for the day when their assets, nine battles proven PBRS will be turned over to the Republic of Vietnam navy. "Iron butterfly" Sailors have trained 61 Vietnamese navy personnel since they received the first class of 11 seamen in March 1969. 21 trainees are currently with the division. The Vietnamese sailors eat, sleep, work, and fight alongside their American counterparts, sharing the victories and hardships of men at war, while proudly wearing the famous "Iron Butterfly" shoulder patch.