PFC Bruce Martin Benzing
Here's the information I've been able to compile thus far. Note that anything that is either speculative or not properly sourced will be in italics.
Private First Class (Specialist?) Bruce Martin Benzing was a third-generation combat veteran, his grandfather Matthias serving in the Spanish American War and his father Martin serving in Korea.
He was attached to 2nd Platoon, Alfa Company, 2/503rd Infantry Division, 173rd Airborne Brigade. The 173rd has a storied history - it was activated at Okinawa in 1963, and nicknamed "Tien Bien" or "Sky Soldiers" by the Nationalist Chinese paratroopers. In 1965 the brigade became the first major unit of the U.S. Army to serve in Vietnam, and in February 1967, it conducted the only combat parachute jump of the war.
Bruce was the grandson of Matthias (Mat) and Mary Jane Benzing. Mary Jane lived to be 95 years old, and was at the time of her passing a 51 year resident of Dade County. At the time of Matthias's passing, their family was comprised of sons Martin W., Manuel E., Marcus O., Maurice A., and daughters Mae C. Dukes, Mayme Greer, Mildred Thibodeaux, Manda Sistrunk, Marcella Bostic (all of Miami) and Mable Deyo of Fitzgerald, GA. The family footprint in Miami-Dade County was significant.
Bruce's father Martin W. married his mother Natalie (Parker) Benzing on August 2, 1942. She was 19, he was 29. Nine months and nine days later, Bruce was born - May 8th, 1943.
While Bruce had plenty of family in Miami-Dade, it appears that he spent time in Georgia as well. Tragically, his mother Natalie died in Columbus, Georgia in 1965.
The records are sparse in confirming his connections to the local Miami Springs community, apart from these two:
Bruce's uncle, Marcus O. Benzing, was married to the eldest daughter of Albert A. Legge, former Chief of Police for Virginia Gardens.
Bruce married Dorothy Alice Love on September 28, 1966 at Miami Springs Methodist Church (now known as Poinciana United Methodist Church.) Dorothy was a graduate of Miami Jackson High School, and daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Love of 181 Navajo Street.
On November 19th, Benzing was leading his team down the western side of the ridge of Hill 875 (see battle map at right) when his platoon was hit by a coordinated flank attack by the NVA. Benzing laid down a base of fire to protect his pinned-down team and killed 5-10 attackers before being felled by a bullet. His actions and those of his comrades allowed time for the rest of the platoon to form a defensive perimeter.
What follows here is speculation - records indicate Benzing was hit on the 19th, but perished on the 20th, so we don't know precisely when in the course of the following events - which are taken from accounts of what then befell Alfa Company, and 2nd Battalion - Benzing died following his wounding.
The Battalion continued to be hit by infantry assaults, mortar, rocket, and automatic weapons fire. Realizing that the Battalion was running low on ammunition and water, they called for resupply. The 335th Assault Helicopter Company, nicknamed "Cowboys" repeatedly attempted to resupply, but intense ground fire kept the choppers away. From November 19-21, the Cowboys would have 9 helicopters suffer extensive combat damage, and 10 aircrew wounded. They succeeded in dropping one pallet of supplies, but were unable to land to evacuate wounded. Sometime after 1835 Hours (6:35 p.m.) a Forward Air Control pilot radioed to his relief pilot the Battalion's position, using a small fire on the side of the hill as a reference point for the bombers to use in dropping their ordnance. Unknown to the FAC, the original fire had gone out, and a new fire had started further down the hill. Shortly thereafter, a Douglas A-1 Skyraider passed over the perimeter and dropped two 500-lb bombs on the Battalion, with one hitting within the perimeter. The explosion killed 42 men and wounded another 45. Of 290 men in the battalion, over 100 were dead and over 50 were wounded. Of 16 battalion officers, 8 were dead and the other 8 were wounded; of 13 medics, 11 were dead, and two were wounded. At 1730 hours on the 20th, Bravo Company/4th Battalion, which had been dispatched to relieve 2nd Battalion, reached the first dead of Alfa Company, who lay where they had fallen. [Editor's Note: among these might have been the body of PFC Benzing.] The first choppers were not able to land to evacuate 2nd Battalion's wounded until 12 noon on the 21st.
PFC Benzing was lost November 20, 1967. He was 24.
It is not clear what became of Mrs. Dorothy Love Benzing - but Bruce was survived by his father, Martin W., and two siblings, Linda J. Benzing and Dana C. Benzing.
Bruce is buried at Parkhill Cemetery, Columbus, Georgia, and he is honored on the National Vietnam Memorial, at Panel 30E, Line 037.
If you have photos, memorabilia, or further information regarding Bruce or his family and their time in South Florida, please let me know, you can email to firstname.lastname@example.org.