Johnny Warner Lindsey was killed in battle in South Vietnam in the Sa Thay district, 10 kilometers west of Dak To on 19 January 1968.
Johnny was my 2nd cousin (my father’s cousin) in a very tightly knit family in rural western Kentucky. My Dad, Staff Sergeant Oscar Hoover Linzy, had just returned from Vietnam in early 1967. My father was especially close to Johnny’s parents, his Uncle Warner and Aunt Hazel, who had helped him through some difficult times in his early years. Uncle Warner’s part of the family spelled our family name differently for reasons that I am still not entirely sure of, but there have always been family stories that their’s was the correct spelling and ours the result of a phonetic spelling on some deed in our pioneer past.
Johnny was a member of Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division. From October 1967 through January 1969, the 4th Infantry conducted Operation MacArthur in South Vietnam’s Central Highlands near the the point where Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam came together. The purpose of Operation MacArthur was to keep the area clear of ambushes and secure the main supply roads that ran through the area. Being so close to the Ho Chi Minh trail, there was constant infiltration into the area from the north. At the end of 1967, 4th Infantry intelligence began noticing a build up of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) units in the area where only Viet Cong (VC) units had previously operated. The 4th Infantry operations beginning in mid-January 1968 in the 3-12 Infantry’s sector were designed to clear the area between Ben Het and Dak To of potential ambushes.
Bravo Company’s role in the 3-12 Infantry’s operation was to search and clear the ridge line northwest of Fire Support Base #25 with the primary objective being the hill at grid reference YB 874295, known as the “Peanut.” A little after noon on 19 January 1968, Bravo Company was moving toward the Peanut when they were attacked by a NVA company. The fire was intense from multiple directions and was joined by NVA mortar and rifle grenade fire. Bravo Company was caught in an ambush itself. Johnny Lindsey was killed by multiple fragmentation wounds early in the battle. Bravo attempted to recover the wounded and dead and call in close range artillery, but the NVA blocked their withdrawal route. Eventually relieved by Charlie and Delta Companies, Bravo had 1 killed (PFC Johnny Warner Lindsey), 28 wounded, and 6 missing that day. Reports are conflicted, but it seems like 5 of the missing in action were found dead over the next few days and weeks in the area of the Peanut.
The area between Dak To and Ben Het around the hill called “Peanut” remained heavily contested throughout the rest of January and February 1968. 3-12 Infantry was in constant contact with the enemy during this time, but never was moved from the area by the NVA, much like the rest of the northern swathe of South Vietnam. Unknown to the 4th Infantry, the buildup of NVA in their area of operations in mid January 1968 was happening all along the northern part of South Vietnam. The buildup was in preparation for the combined NVA and VC offensive that came to be known as the Tet Offensive. Although Tet was a complete failure for the North Vietnamese’s operational objectives, American media reporting of it in the USA made it seem as if the USA was losing the war. Tet became the greatest strategic victory for the North Vietnamese due almost entirely to the American news media’s inaccurate reporting. As a result, American public opinion turned decisively against the war after Tet. The USA began its long, painful disengagement from Vietnam from 1969 to April 1975.
Johnny was 22 years old on the day he was killed. He was loved dearly by his family, especially his parents, Warner N. Lindsey and Hazel M. (Mitchell) Lindsey. He is buried with his parents in the Dycusburg cemetery in Crittenden County, Kentucky. Johnny Warner Lindsey‘s name can be found on Panel 34E, Line 79 on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.
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