David Larsen Took On 50 Enemy Troops With Just An M60 Machine Gun

Photo Credit: 1. PhotoQuest / Getty Images 2. Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Photo Credit: 1. PhotoQuest / Getty Images 2. Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

When an ambush turned sour, Petty Officer David Larsen took up arms to provide support for his fellow servicemen. Taking on an enemy force of between 35-50 enemy troops, he saved the lives of multiple Marines and changed the course of an encounter that looked like it was going to end poorly for the Americans.

David Larsen was a member of a US Navy patrol team

US Navy sailors manning weapons onboard a Patrol Boat, Riverine (PBR)
Crewmen onboard a US Navy Patrol Boat, Riverine (PBR), 1969. (Photo Credit: National Archives / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

During the Vietnam War, Petty Officer David Larsen was a member of the US Navy, serving as a gunner’s mate third class with River Division 593, River Patrol Flotilla FIVE, Task Force 116 (TF-116). His team was part of the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) and operated aboard River Patrol Boat 775 (PBR-775), which consisted of a two-boat guard post along the upper Saigon River.

On August 2, 1969, Larsen’s team was tasked with transporting a six-man (some say seven-man) ambush team up the river to set up a position along the riverbank. Their mission was to provide security for the guard post. As the day turned to evening, they were dropped off and settled into their positions. Later that night, the ambush team engaged four enemy troops, not knowing what they were actually about to find themselves in.

Enter David Larsen and his M60 machine gun

American soldier wading through a rice paddy while holding an M60 machine gun
American soldier with an M60 machine gun in Vietnam, 1966. (Photo Credit: PhotoQuest / Getty Images)

It turned out the enemy troops were part of a 35- to 50-man force that immediately engaged with the ambush team. They began using accurate rocket and small-arms fire against them, killing half of the Marines and seriously wounding two more. Only one member of the team remained relatively unscathed.

During the deadly encounter, someone was able to call back to PBR-775 and request support. David Larsen quickly armed himself with an M60 machine gun and plenty of ammunition before leading a small force to where the team was positioned. Seeing that the enemy troops were about to overrun those who remained standing, he began firing his weapon.

Changing the course of the encounter

David Larsen’s assault on the enemy was enough to hold them off and, ultimately, put a stop to the attack. He provided enough cover for the wounded to clear their positions, and he killed at least one enemy soldier. While waiting for help to arrive, he set up a one-man perimeter, despite being under enemy fire, and held off any further attacks.

Larsen was able to save three members of the ambush team and maintained his defensive position to protect the medical evacuation helicopter and its crew. By this time, however, he was armed with three different weapons.

More from us: Despite Being Up Against 2,000 Enemy Troops, Bernard Fisher Risked His Life to Save a Fellow Airman

When asked by the Smithsonian Channel what was going through his mind during the encounter, Larsen calmly responded, “At the time, it just comes to you that you need to do it to get the job done.” For his bravery, he was awarded the Navy Cross.

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!