The Havens Family

Our Little Cabin in the Big Internet Woods

A Sad Day

Bob Kolling

By Bob Kolling

One of the guys I was hanging around with on the LZ was Ken Havens. He lived on a farm in upstate New York before being drafted. We would play cards and tell stories. Even though I was never out on patrol with him, we became friends. Ken was promised a position in the Radar Section and was waiting for an opening in radar school in Long Binh. In his last letter home, he wrote that he was very excited about that because it meant an end to the daily patrols in the jungle. He would be safer.

At dusk on October 21, 1969, Ken led his squad out on a routine last-light patrol around a quarter-section of the LZ. The squad leader (Sgt. Loren Housh) stayed behind on the LZ to monitor the patrol over the radio. Sgt. Housh only had a few days left in-country and was grooming Ken to take over the squad. Ken was walking point with his radio man (RTO) (Nevin Farnsworth) trailing and four other troops behind that. Several weeks previous Lee Dworshak was the squad RTO and would have been in the second spot carrying the radio but was now assigned to the Radar section. Midway through their patrol Ken detected movement in the nearby jungle. They called in and reported the movement over the radio and were told to terminate the patrol, skirt around the movement so as not to make contact and make their way back in to the LZ as quickly as possible. Ken took a route back in to the LZ that not have been previously planned for them to take. Ken had taken the new re-entry route to avoid any possible contact with the NVA. The fear was that they would run into a much larger force than they could handle with six men. There had been quite a bit of activity around the LZ the last couple of nights and things were pretty hot. On their way in, with Ken walking point, the squad set off a booby trap. It was a claymore mine tied to a trip flare. The US-placed booby trap was designed to detonate one or two claymore mines once the trip flare was set off - instantly. The booby trap had been set up by the line company on the LZ and its location was no doubt unknown to Ken and his squad. The intention of the booby trap was to provide early warning for the LZ during the night in lieu of three man Listening Posts (LPs) which were normally used to detect enemy sappers attempting to crawl into our perimeter.

Ken Havens 1969I was inside the radar hooch playing cards when I heard someone call for a medic. I ran over and grabbed a stretcher (the one I used for a bed) and headed out through the wire with a number of other guys to the woodline. They yelled for more stretchers. I helped carry four troops in. They were just lying in a pile of arms and legs and blood. I helped carry Ken’s body in. I don’t know if he was still alive when we brought him in or not. He had some blood on his face and all over his waist, and I could tell that both of his legs were broken. We set him down in the aid station and they covered him up with a poncho liner. I was later asked to identify the body. Turns out that both Ken and Nevin were killed instantly by the blast while the remainder of the squad survived.

It was just two nights before that I had taught him how to play a new version of double solitaire that I had just learned. We stayed up almost all night playing. We were planning on playing Monopoly when he returned from last-light patrol. I never thought he wouldn’t make it back alive. He was a real good guy and got along with everybody. Ken had just turned 23 years old the day before. It’s usually the real nice guys that got the worst end of the deal. The whole squad got hurt bad. Two guys died and 6 others were seriously wounded.

The next day, my platoon leader asked me if I wanted to escort Ken’s body home if he could get the Colonel’s approval. I told him I didn’t think so – I’d rather not. I was so angry, I felt that if I got all the way back to the states, they would have a hard time trying to get me back. We held a memorial service for him on the LZ, though.

First Person Account

Bob Kolling was one of Ken's Vietnam friends. This account describes in some detail the events of the day of Ken Havens' death, October 21, 1969.

Ken Havens in Vietnam