Dennis Isom ’66 (Ambush in Plei Trap Valley)


Dennis Isom ‘66 was a hard person not to like at PMC. Although small in stature, he was a member of the Ranger Platoon and was remembered for rappelling off the roof of Terrell Hall. He was mentally tough and processed the qualities of being a leader. Upon graduation he was commissioned and joined the infantry.

The Army’s 4th Infantry Division began Operation Wayne Grey in early March 1969. Its mission was to prevent the 66th North Vietnamese Army Regiment from moving into South Vietnam’s Central Highlands, particularly in Kontum province near the Cambodian border. The lead element for the operation was the third battalion, 8th Infantry, comprised of Companies A, B, C, and D. They were deployed by helicopter assault into the Plei Trap Valley, an area northwest of Pleiku and Kontum.

IsomOn the morning of March 3, helicopters dropped A Company, led by Captain Dennis Isom, into the valley to prepare for a night patrol. As the company began to set up their night location, the third platoon, under the command of Lt Buddy Williams, was ordered to go further along the trail.  As the men made their way along a ridgeline, they killed two NVA soldiers, and that’s when the firefight began. A machine gun opened up at close range, killing one soldier and wounding another. Williams and his men took cover and returned fire, but more NVA joined in the fight. When Isom learned of the engagement, he rushed to reinforce the platoon with elements of A Company. Isom immediately calls for air support. At this the radio operator was wounded. When Isom went to his aid, he was killed instantly by a burst of machine gun fire across the chest.