Birth: Apr. 9, 1944 Monroe, Union Co., NC
Death: Nov. 27, 1968 Tay Ninh Province, Vietnam.
SP4 Billy Charles Hunter native of Monroe, NC was a member of the Army Selective Service and a Draftee, 24 years old and was not married. His body was recovered.
Written by: Victoria Mackey, Correspondent
Indian Trail Newspaper
He remembered when he woke up on November 27, 1968, that it was Thanksgiving Day at his parent’s house. He could smell the roasting turkey, the sage laced dressing, the sweet potatoes and the green bean casseroles bubbling in the oven. He could see his mother busy in the kitchen along with his sister Mary Frances helping her. He knew his four brothers were probably watching football on the television. Then his mind drifted back to where he was, the hot steamy jungle of Vietnam, waiting with the other members of his company for the Huey’s to pick them up and take them to the Black Virgin Mountain. It would be the last Thanksgiving the Specialist Four Billy Charles Hunter would remember.
Specialist Four Hunter was drafted into the Army and he told his sister if he died for his country; that was what he was meant to do. He was born in Monroe, North Carolina, the son of Erastus and Jennie Lee Odessa Hunter. He grew up in Monroe, Charlotte, and Dillon, South Carolina. He had one sister, Mary Frances and four brothers, Ralph, RC, Grady, and Frank. His niece stated that the military told his family that he was killed when the enemy shot motor rounds at their helicopter when they were landing for Thanksgiving dinner. When he got to Vietnam, Specialist Fourth Class Hunter was immediately assigned to the “Manchus”. The men of the 4th Battalion of the 9 Infantry were called the Manchus after the fierce Manchu warriors of China.
The Manchus were assigned as a Battalion to Vietnam on April 29, 1966 and they quickly established a base at Cu Chi along with the rest of the 9th Infantry, known as the “Tropic Lightning” combat division. The 9th Infantry was assigned to the 25th Division in Vietnam that was operating near the Cambodian border. Platoon size groups of the Manchu soldiers were deployed in “snatch teams” to find the hiding places of the Viet Cong identified by intelligence sources. The snatch teams traveled in helicopters, which would land them right in the middle of the Viet Cong strong hold.
This deployment of highly mobile platoons that could react on a moments notice proved so successful that many Viet Cong were captured in the Duc Hoa district by the Manchus. In the early afternoon of November 27, 1968, three companies of Manchus at different locations near Tay Ninh, were being airlifted by UH-1 Huey helicopters for an assault into an area near the Cambodian border known as the Black Virgin Mountain. Five UH-1 Huey helicopters based at Dau Tieng were each loaded with six 25th infantry division troops or “electric strawberries” as the other troops called them. The five choppers were rendezvousing with other choppers at a landing zone three miles southeast of Tay Ninh to pick up other members of the Manchus. Unknown to the helicopter pilots, the Viet Cong had been gathering near the landing zone for a mass attack on Tay Ninh. The company of Manchus knew that there were Viet Cong very close to their position however they did not realize that they were right beside a well fortified base camp of the Viet Cong D14 regiment. The Viet Cong had 250 bunkers, trenches, and spider holes that had been prepared for defensive fighting. They were well armed with .51 caliber heavy machine guns, RPG-7 rockets, B-40 rockets, mortars, mines, and AK-47 assault rifles.
As the five Huey’s got near the landing zone, they were peppered with Viet Cong automatic gun fire, heavy caliber machine gun fire, and rocket propelled grenades. As the choppers were shot down, some of the Manchus were able to jump off, before they crashed. The Manchus quickly formed into squads of long lines on the ground. Intense fire suddenly erupted from the Viet Cong, killing all of the officers in Alpha Company, many of the soldiers, and the company’s radios were knocked out. The few surviving Manchus were wounded and pinned down in tall grass, unable to move for the next eighteen hours. They were rescued the following day when tanks and the Manchus from Company B, which included Specialist Fourth Class Hunter, moved into their area. As Company B slowly moved through the area, a sudden barrage of fire power killed many of them. When the firing stopped, the surviving members of Company B found Private Malcolm Lomax, Lieutenant Marcus, and Specialist Four Billy Hunter dead. Lieutenant Marcus’ foot had been shattered and the bodies of Private Lomax and Specialist Four Hunter lay on either side of him. It appeared that Lomax and Hunter had attempted to take the incoming fire to protect the life of Lieutenant Marcus. Fourteen Manchus from Alpha Company, three from Bravo Company, and six men of the 187th AHC Crusaders died.
He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Erastus Hunter (1907 – 1981) of Charlotte, NC. He served with Bravo Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, “Manchus”, 25th Infantry Division, “Tropic Lightning”. He was awarded The Combat Infantryman’s Badge, The Bronze Star Medal, The Purple Heart Medal for his combat related wounds, The Vietnam Service Medal, The Republic of Vietnam Campaign Service Medal, The National Defense Service Medal and The Good Conduct Medal.
Burial: Evergreen Cemetery Charlotte, Mecklenburg Co., NC
Plot: Sect. 2, Lot # 18, Space #12.
(Source: Posted with permission of Tom & Jim Reece, #46857744;
finding NC Vietnam KIA/MIA’s gravesites; Reconfigured and submitted by: Ron Yates)