Ritsema, Warren Peter, SSG

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Last Rank
Staff Sergeant
Last Primary MOS
Last MOS Group
Infantry (Enlisted)
Primary Unit
1970-1971, 11B10, 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry /C Company
Service Years
1969 - 1971
Staff Sergeant

One Overseas Service Bar

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

Home State
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by LTC Michael Christy (Six) to remember Ritsema, Warren Peter, SSG.

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Casualty Info
Home Town
Last Address

Casualty Date
Mar 28, 1971
Hostile, Died
Not Specified
Quang Tin (Vietnam)
Vietnam War
Location of Interment
Not Specified
Wall/Plot Coordinates
04W 089

 Official Badges 

Infantry Shoulder Cord 23rd Infantry Division (Americal)

 Unofficial Badges 

 Military Association Memberships
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  1971, Vietnam Veterans Memorial [Verified] - Assoc. Page

 Ribbon Bar

Combat Infantryman 1st Award

 Unit Assignments
196th Infantry Brigade (Light) 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry
  1970-1971, 11B10, 196th Infantry Brigade (Light) /HHC
  1970-1971, 11B10, 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry /C Company
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1970-1970 Vietnam War/Sanctuary Counteroffensive Campaign (1970)
  1970-1971 Vietnam War/Counteroffensive Phase VII Campaign (1970-71)
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity


BORN: March 20, 1949

PLACE: Fremont, MI

DEATH: March 28, 1971

UNIT: 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade.

LOCATION: FSB Mary Ann, Quang Tin Providence, Vietnam

VIETNAM WALL: Panel coords 04W 089

I was honored to be the family's Survivor Assistance Officer for Warren Ritsema. He left a young, beautiful widow named Marcia. She and Warren and his family were devote Christians.

The one piece of music at his funeral I remembered was Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." I cannot help of thinking about Warren, Marcia and his family anytime I hear that music.

SSgt. Warren Peter Ritsema was one of two Western Michigan men killed at FSB Mary Ann on March 28, 1971 when 33 Americans died. The other was Cpl. Michael Scott Holloway.


FSB Mary Ann was located in Quang Tin Province, South Vietnam.
The base was manned by 231 American soldiers.

For months leading up to the attack the level of enemy activity in the area had been low and contacts were infrequent, although two weeks before the assault a large cache of enemy supplies was captured. The lack of significant engagements, plus the insignificant position of the firebase, had given the U.S. soldiers in the area a false sense of security.

FSB Mary Ann was similar to other U.S. firebases in South Vietnam, although it occupied a hilltop which looked like a camel with two humps. Running northwest to southeast the firebase stretched 500 meters across two hillsides with twenty-two bunkers. TheTactical Operations Center (TOC) and Company Command Post (CP), and was located at the south end of the camp. The northwest end of the camp consisted of an artillery position with two 155mm howitzers, the fire direction center and the artillery command post. Surrounding the firebase was a trench system protected by concertina wires.

On the night of March 28, 1971, 50 sappers from the NVA 409th Sapper Battalion approached the wires of FSB Mary Ann and took up positions to launch an attack on the men of 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade.

The NVA sappers were equipped with khaki shorts and soot camouflage, an AK-47 or RPG-7 strapped to their back, satchel charges to their chest and grenades around their belt. The sappers moved in small squads of three to six men, and with mortar support they attacked U.S. mortar and artillery positions at 02:30. The NVA had achieved the element of surprise as American soldiers were neither prepared or on alert. Amidst all the explosions, the NVA managed to penetrate the south side of the FSB's perimeter.

By the time the American soldiers inside the bunkers had recovered from the confusion, the sappers were already inside the camp, and hit half the bunkers using satchel charges and rocket-propelled grenades.

The surprise attack by the NVA had the effect of immobilizing the camp's defenders, but those who survived the initial onslaught managed to mount resistance against their attackers. The Tactical Operations Center (TOC) was struck by 82mm mortar shells, which awakened and subsequently incapacitated Lt. Col. William P. Doyle.

Once Lt. Col. Doyle had regained consciousness, an order was made for helicopter gunships and illumination. At that point, the south end of the TOC was burning, after a sapper had set off a satchel charge that caused a case of white phosphorus grenades to ignite. Despite suffering from severe wounds, Doyle made his way out of the TOC and started firing his M-16 at the sappers, but he was knocked out again by a grenade.

At 02:51, radio telephone operator David Tarney managed to raise Landing Zone Mildred and requested artillery positions to adjust their guns and fire at Fire Support Base Mary Ann to save the surviving Americans there.

At around 03:30, the NVA disengaged and withdrew from the firebase trying to drag their dead and wounded comrades through the wires of the firebase, when a helicopter gunship turned up and began firing its guns at the sappers. The wounded survivors of the 1st Battalion were finally airlifted out with the medevacs.

The battle for FSB Mary Ann produced disastrous results for the U.S. Army, which suffered 33 killed and 83 wounded. It was the most deadly attack on a single U.S. firebase during the Vietnam War. The NVA casualties were largely unknown, but 12 bodies were left behind in the aftermath of the attack, and blood trails and drag marks indicated that the Viet Cong may have suffered more casualties.

Colonel William S. Hathaway, commander of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, was relieved of duty, and Lieutenant Colonel William P. Doyle was reprimanded. Doyle remained in service until his retirement but did not receive another promotion.

In July 1971, Maj. Gen. James L. Baldwin was relieved of command of the Americal Division, with military sources suggesting it was because of the attack on FSB Mary Ann.

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