Gen. John A. Wickham Jr., Army chief of staff, recalls how he almost died in October 1967 while commanding a 1st Cavalry (Air) battalion in Quang Ngai Province:

"The North Vietnamese got into our fire base about 3 in the morning . . . . They were wearing U.S. cavalry uniforms.

"Before we were infiltrated, we had a very severe mortar and rocket attack. A rocket went off about two feet from me. It killed my S3 operations officer, filled me up with fragments, broke both eardrums.

"I rolled out of the tent and got into a foxhole. I tried to stop the bleeding in there. I noticed a movement at the edge of the foxhole. It was a North Vietnamese. He put his AK47 assault rifle in and emptied it. I thought I was gone."

"I never passed out. But I thought it was all over. I had never been wounded before. I didn't know what to do about all that.

"I asked God for two things: Take care of my family and give me enough strength to save this battalion through the night.

"And from then on, I felt no pain. I don't want to hype it in any way, but it's the truth. I felt no real pain.

"I stayed conscious until about 6:30 a.m. . Somebody brought in a radio. I got on it and brought in defensive fires that we had already preplanned and prefired the night before to protect the perimeter.

"Nobody could get in. We continued to get sporadic mortar fire. I continued to hear the North Vietnamese moving around on the perimeter.

"I even searched around to try to find a knife . . . . I wasn't going to go peacefully.

"About 5:30 in the morning, helicopters started coming in to evacuate the battalion . . . . I got out of there about 6:30. I later learned that, at the brigade aid station, because of the severity of the wounds, the chaplain had given me the last rites . . . ."