Cobra gunships strafed the jungle, while the other bases could be heard firing their own salvos.
The 272nd NVA Regiment, with over 400 men, attacked from different positions. Most concentrated on the southwest corner – a terrible mistake as it was the strongest position.
There were so many of them. Ignoring their dead, the Vietnamese breached the perimeter, entered the base, and engaged the Americans in a confusing melee of hand-to-hand combat and weapons fire.
Whether because of the adrenaline, the pot, or both, Lemon was now wide awake. He fired his machine gun till it stopped working. Ditto with his rifle. The NVA closest to him knew exactly where he was… and their weapons were working fine.
Fortunately, he still had grenades. They worked, but there was one survivor left in the NVA group, and Lemon had run out of grenades. He took the man out with his bare hands and then was hit by a massive explosion at a little past 3 AM.
It was the stash of 8-inch ammunition. The mushroom cloud blazed high, pummeling equipment, Americans, and Vietnamese alike.
Equipment, shrapnel, and body parts rained down indiscriminately. After ten minutes of confusion and screaming, sporadic shooting resumed, but the explosion had broken the assault. The NVA began retreating.
When the dust cleared a little, Lemon went to help another injured soldier and dragged him to the medical station. He ran to get more weapons, but bullets and grenade fragments tore into him.
Not all the NVA were on the run. They were about to breach another section, so Lemon ignored his pain, grabbed more grenades, and kept throwing. Still more NVA came in, meaning more hand-to-hand combat until the area was secured.
His adrenalin still pumping, Lemon grabbed a machine gun, ran to an embankment, and fired at the NVA until he finally passed out. He regained consciousness in the medical station but refused treatment – others were in far worse condition.
About an hour later, the 11th Armored reached Illingworth after tearing through the jungle for hours. The medical choppers arrived just before 5 AM and took a still-protesting Lemon away with them.
He so impressed everyone that they had to give him the Medal of Honor and the Outstanding ‘American by Choice’ award.