Orcutt, CA, USA
PFC, 3rd Battalion, 506th Airborne Infantry
05/02/1968, Binh Thuan Province, South Vietnam
The month of May 1968 began with an attack on LZ Betty. On May 2 , 1968 Viet Cong forces launched a ground attack from the coastal side of the base. Members of the LRRP Platoon manning the beach bunkers were successful in helping to repulse the enemy attack, but not without loss of life.
Private First Class Richard Ray Landers was killed during the engagement with enemy forces.
Private First Class Richard Ray Landers was a 19 year old native of Orcutt CA. He was a member of Roy Somers ‘ Reconnaissance Platoon , Echo Company. Landers was among the first group of paratroopers assigned to the 3-506th Airborne Infantry Unit after the battalion was activated on April 1, 1967.
He had been in country 189 days after being struck, and killed by enemy small arms fire on May 2nd 1968 in Binh Thuan Province of South Vietnam, II Corps.
Richard Ray Landers was born in Fresno, CA. on June 18 , 1947 to Clifford, and Buelah Landers. He attended schools in the Santa Maria CA. area then eventually enlisted into the Army. After completing his Basic Combat training, and Advanced Infantry Training, Richard volunteered for airborne training. Upon completion of jump school Richard was assigned to the famous 3/506th Airborne Infantry Unit. His tour of duty in Vietnam began on Oct., 2nd, 1967, when he arrived in country with the rest of the battalion.
At the time of his deployment to Vietnam, Richard was married, and had two sons.
On the day of his death, Private First Class Landers was manning a guard bunker on the beach below LZ Betty, along with fellow LRRP, Tony Martisauskas. As dusk approached the evening of May 2, 1968 the Currahees were driven down to the beach, and dropped off at the guard bunker. This particular position was critical to the safety of LZ Betty from the exposed side of the base facing the South China Sea, typical guard duty for this fortification required two men standing alternate four- hour watches.
As PFC Landers , and PFC Martisauskas readied their weapons and settled into their position darkness rapidly fell on their solitary bunker. Minutes into their watch, PFC Martisauskas noticed a lone sampan drifting about 80 yards out from their position. Fearing the sampans carried Viet Cong guerillas attempting to probe their position , Pfc. Martisauskas fired a burst of rounds from his M-16 over the bow of the vessel. Minutes later more sampans appeared moving alarmingly close to the shore of the beach. The Currahees soon heard a distinctive thump of mortar rounds which were being fired from the sampans.
An attack on LZ Betty was underway. PFC Landers and PFC Martisauskas were greatly outnumbered as another sampan disembarked more Viet Cong enemy about 75 yards down the beach after breaching the mine field. The enemy guerillas attacked firing their automatic weapons continuously. PFC Martisauskas recalls,
“We returned fire, and drew additional enemy fire from every direction. Rich kept breaking , and reloading his M- 79 grenade launcher, while I kept putting a fresh magazine into my M-16 as fast as humanly possible. We were engaged by a superior force, and the outcome looked mighty bleak.”
The Viet Cong guerillas were closing in on the position rapidly, but the two beleaguered paratroopers were able to hold off the enemy, and were hoping reinforcements would soon arrive from LZ Betty to join the battle. Moments later an enemy lobbed a grenade into the bunker. PFC Martisauskas quickly grabbed the live grenade and threw it back at the enemy. In doing so he was hit in the back of the head by an AK- 47 round, and was unaware that PFC Landers lie mortally wounded in the firefight.
Martisauskas recalls he tried desperately to shake the effects of whatever had struck him from behind. Miraculously he survived after being comatose for 2 weeks, and spending almost a year recuperating. He later learned that his LRRP teammate Rich was killed despite the futile attempts by our Battalion Surgeon Dr. Andrew Lovy to save his life.
At the time of his death , surviving family members of Pfc. Richard Ray Landers included his parents as well as his wife Diana , and their two sons James , and Jeffery. Diana was pregnant with their third child when Richard was killed. The daughter he never got to know was named Lisa. Also surviving him are four brothers Leamon, Odel, Alfred, and Harvey, as well as three sisters Patricia , Betty, and Regina.
Richard Ray Landers seemed to be a quiet, shy person at times with a sense of humor, yet serious. He is honored at The Vietnam Veterans Memorial WALL, Washington , D.C. on Panel # 54 , Row # 010
“We few we happy few we band of brothers : For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother “
RIP Rich , We will meet again bro’ Currahee/Airborne !