SECTION   5

Vietnam

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The Battle Of FSB Gold - Soui Tre

Thirty four years ago, on March 21, 1967, the 3-22 and 2-22 Infantry, along with 2-77 Artillery and 2-34 Armor, earned the Presidential Unit Citation for their actions that resulted in over 600 NVA and VC killed in action. US casualties were 31 KIA and and 187 WIA.  In summary, LTG Jonathan M. Seaman in his commendation to the Battalion states: " I want to extend my congratulations to you and your magnificent troops for their major victory at FSB Gold on the 21st day of March. Fighting against a numerically superior and well equipped foe, elements of the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, with supporting elements, inflicted a devastating defeat on major elements of the 272nd Main Force Regiment. This is the most decisive defeat the Viet Cong have suffered in the III Corps Tactical Zone in my 18 months in Vietnam.

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FSB Gold

From: Dave Gehr, C/3-22, 66-67

On March 19, 1967, while participating in Operation Junction City, Phase II, the 3-22 Infantry made an air assault landing into LZ Gold to secure a forward support base for the 2-77 Artillery. A perimeter defense was established with Company A assuming responsibility for the western sector and Company B assuming responsibility for the eastern sector.

Three batteries of 2-77 Artillery occupied 18 firing positions in the center of the perimeter to support the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Task Force. During the period of March 18 - March 20, 1967, the Battalion's elements constructed defensive bunkers, planned and rehearsed contingency defensive actions, conducted aggressive daylight patrolling within the defensive tactical area of responsibility and established night ambushes.

On March 20th, while scouting the area with his command helicopter, COL Garth, Brigade Commander, saw 30 to 40 Viet Cong in an open area. He quickly radioed to LTC Bender at FSB Gold. This was the first sign that trouble might be at hand.  At 0635 hours, March 21, the defensive perimeter came under heavy enemy ground and mortar attack. The first indication of the impending attack came at 0631 hours, when elements of the approaching VC assault force were engaged by a twelve man ambush patrol from B/3-22.

Simultaneously, FSB Gold began receiving heavy mortar fire from VC 60mm and 82mm mortars located in firing positions to the northwest and southeast. About 0635 hours, the Recon Platoon 3-22, which was located to the southeastern portion of the perimeter, engaged a large VC force which had approached to within 35 meters of the friendly positions. Within minutes, the entire perimeter was attacked by wave after wave of VC firing recoilless rifle, RPG-2 rocket launchers, automatic weapons and other small arms.

As the attack continued, the three Artillery Batteries began counter firing in an effort to neutralize the VC mortar concentration, which continued to rake the entire fire support base. During the initial assault, Company B reported that its 1st Platoon positions (southeastern perimeter) had been penetrated and that the reaction force from the 2-77 Artillery was required to reinforce this section.

At 0701 hours, this reaction force began moving towards the 1st Platoon's positions. In the meantime, the remainder of the perimeter kept the enemy at bay with a continuous barrage of small arms and machine gun fire. Supporting fire from two 105mm Howitzer Batteries and a Battery of 155mm Howitzers, self propelled (SP), was called in at a range of less than 100 meters from the outer perimeter.

At 0711 hours, the Company B Commander reported that his 1st Platoon had been overrun by a human wave attack and that the Platoon was surrounded. Air strikes were called in to the outer edge of the perimeter and along the eastern wood line.

A forward air controller (FAC) arrived on the scene in a Cessna O-1E Bird Dog at 0714 hours. The Cessna was shot down by heavy machine gun fire while flying low over the perimeter after directing only one air strike. Both the pilot and the observer were killed.

At 0752 hours, B Company's Commander requested that 2-77 Artillery fire beehive rounds " A hitherto classified anti-personnel shell that spits 8,000 finned flechettes (steel darts) each an inch long, whose lethal stings turn an ordinary artillery piece into a monster shotgun" into the southeastern and southern sectors of the perimeter. A twenty man reaction force from A Company was sent to reinforce B Company's northeastern perimeter, which had been penetrated by another human wave attack.

Two more Cessna O-1E's showed up at 0755 hours after being scrambled from Ben Hoa. F-100's and F-4 Phantom's were arriving by the squadron. Bombs were bursting at the edge of the perimeter. An AC-47 Dragon Ship showed up with gatling guns blazing into the enemy who were caught in the open.

By 0840 hours, the northeastern, eastern, and southeastern portions of the perimeter had fallen back to the preplanned secondary defensive line around the guns of the Artillery Batteries. During this time, the VC penetrated within hand grenade range of the Battalion Command Post (CP) and within five meters of the Battalion Aid Station.

To counter this new threat, a continuous and devastating hail of small arms and automatic weapons fire was directed at the frenzied VC attackers, while the remaining 105mm Howitzers of the Artillery Battery began firing beehive rounds "direct fire" into the attacking VC masses. Bombs were dropped within 50 meters of American positions and supporting 105mm and 155mm Batteries threw up a continuous wall of high explosives.

When the 2-77 Artillery ran out of beehive rounds, High Explosive (HE) rounds at charge one were fired into the charging VC at point blank range. At 0900hours, the situation, though tense because of ammunition shortages, was still under control. The northern, western and southern portions of the perimeter were intact and under moderate pressure from the VC who had worked their way up to within fifteen meters of friendly positions.

By now there were 85 fighter planes on the scene. The aircraft played a major role in breaking the attack. Although pushed in, the northeastern, southeastern, and eastern portions of the perimeter were still intact.

At 0901 hours, a relief column led by 2-12 Infantry broke through from the south and linked up with the besieged defenders. Joining force, 2-12 Infantry supported B Company's counterattack from west to east to reestablish the original perimeter.

At 0912 hours, a Mechanized Infantry and Armor column from 2-22 Infantry and 2-34 Armor broke through from the southwest and began sweeping forward along the tree line toward the northeast. By 0928 hours, the original perimeter had been reestablished and mopping up operations had begun. By 1045 hours, medical evacuation of friendly casualties and ammunition resupply had been accomplished. The battle area had been secured ! Artillery and air strikes continued to pound the route of withdrawal of the broken and routed VC attackers. For four hours, 400 men of this Battalion held off a determined attack by 2,500 hard core guerrillas consisting of six Battalions controlled by the 272nd NVA Regiment. At present, known VC casualties include 654 KIA - body count. 200 KIA - probable, and 11 VC captives.  US casualties were 31 KIA and 187 WIA. 

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FSB Gold

James Hardin C/2-22, 67 Wrote :

March 21, 1967 started like most. We went to 100% alert (Stand To) before dawn, then got ready for another day of patrolling. We had been doing this to the point, that the days seemed to run together. As it got light I noticed there was an overcast, so maybe it wouldn’t be too hot. Our squad was nearly at full strength, with 8 men and 2 Combat Engineers attached. These 2 fellows were great, they stood watches with us and helped out wherever they could. As we started to move out, we could hear a battle going on in the opposite direction. As we took position near the end of the column we couldn’t find out any information as to what the battle was about. It didn’t settle too well with the squad, to be driving away from a fight. Shortly the order came through to reverse direction and clear the trail so the two M48s could take the lead. While waiting we found out that the 3/22nd was engaged at Fire Support Base Gold and we were going to help them. By now the battle had been raging for a half hour, so we figured that it was going to be over by the time we got there, as we had done so many times before. The jungle was very heavy and the tanks were very slow. We got a message that the situation at FSB Gold was critical and we were to bypass the tanks and make trail for them. Since we started at the rear, we were now near the front of the column. We moved around the tanks and formed a staggered column widening the track as we pushed ahead. We ran at full throttle, clipping a few inches off the trees to widen the path for the tanks. Our V8 Chryslers were turning at redline in 2nd gear (20mph) and we were falling behind. We tried 3-4 range but after an initial burst of speed we would slow and have to drop back into 1-2 range. We had been told that slow or disabled PCs would be left behind. Our transmission was weak, but the driver (Willie) managed to keep us in the race. The jungle was getting thinner and we could see light ahead. We took some small arms fire as we ran through the VC at the edge. We fired some to the flanks, but basically ignored the incoming and just swept on through. As we entered the clearing, I was struck by the sights before me.

Artillery was pounding the flanks to the East, while at the same time I saw F-100s strafing the North side. In the middle of all of this, helicopter gunships were also strafing! Normally the Air Force won’t come anywhere near supporting artillery and the gunships stay clear of close air support. Not today! A water trailer flew by, streaming water like smoke. We pulled to the far edge of the artillery positions and stopped on line to dismount. I stopped the 2 Combat engineers and told them to stay on board and keep the .50 supplied. We had about 3,000 rounds of .50 but 600+ were in "spam cans". Spam cans were for quad 50s. They held 105 rounds, 5 too many to fit in a regular .50 ammo box. To compound the problem, the wrong end of the belt was on top! They had a key and opened like a can of spam, unless the tab broke, which it usually did. For a quad 50 they the "wrong end" of the belt was started into the magazine and the belt cranked in to load it. We used a P38 can opener to open the bottom of them then topped off our regular ammo cans. I hit the ground, with my fireteam on the left front of the PC. When Crum (our gunner) would, fire the muzzle blast rattled me so hard that I couldn’t see. I finally backed up till I was slightly behind him. I couldn’t get low enough, and decided that my ammo pouches were holding my posterior up too high. I unbuckled my web belt and pushed them to the side. With that part of anatomy safe, I fired two 20 round magazines of grazing fire into the wood line. We were taking a lot of incoming, but I couldn’t tell from where, nor did I know if any frindlies were in front of us. It was a gamble. A squad member ran over and flopped beside me. He wanted to know if my M16 had jammed. It hadn’t and I had always claimed that a properly cleaned M16 would not jam. Little did they know how I despised that black piece of junk! He looked disappointed and told me, his had. We laughed like two fools, while I got out my cleaning rod to clear the stuck case. It took several tries but we finally got it to fire a whole magazine without a jam. While doing this I noticed the two combat engineers popping up out of the cargo hatch with their M14s and firing. An artilleryman slid up beside me asking for 7.62 ammo. I apologized that all we had was linked. He didn’t care, the choice was linked or none! The engineers threw out a case and off he went. He was back a minute later for grenades. Another case and off he went. There was a large sandbagged position to my left, and I could see what looked like 10 men frantically de-linking the 7.62 belts and loading M14 magazines. As fast as they would fill a magazine, two fellows would pop up with M14 Autos and empty them! They also went through that case of grenades as fast as they could open them. Two of them started forward but one stopped and turned around when his sergeant demanded to know where he was going. He was explaining that there were still VC in a hole they had been trying to grenade. About then an RPD light machine gun peeked out of the ground and the soldier fell. I called for a medic who came with another man from the squad to our right. No questions asked, Doc and his ‘guardian’ took off. As they ran to the fallen artilleryman, Doc emptied his .45 into a dead(?) VC. His ‘guardian’ stopped and looked, then shook his head and caught up with Doc. While Doc worked on the man the ‘guardian’ crawled over to the hole where two VC were hiding, and in a reverse move, pointed his M16 into the hole like a pistol and emptied it. He pulled the RPD out and came back with Doc. He was excited with his souvenir that he wanted to take home and asked me what it was. I told him it was an RPD and I doubted that they would let him take it home. I asked Doc about the fellow he treated. He said he thought he would be OK, but the kid was recently married and worried about his wound, the bullet exited just above his family planning. As for the .45 shooting, Doc explained he was taking no chances!

By now the rest of the PCs and tanks had caught up and were on line. I saw a blur come out of the woods and fly at one of the tanks. It bounced off the turret and sailed off into the woods to explode. The PCs started moving ahead on line. We got up to move alongside but the incoming was too heavy. Our squad and the one to the right of us were left behind. VC that were hiding in the many holes and folds of the ground started to get up and run. I laughed as one PC chased a VC. The .50 was firing away, but couldn’t hit him as the PC bounded along. Finally the driver caught him.

As the incoming fire dropped off, our two orphaned squads got online and moved forward. We came across pieces of a quad 50. It had been overrun and as the VC tried to turn it around, a 105 howitzer took it out! Doc’s ‘guardian’ had stayed with a friend in my fireteam, and as we paused in a small ditch, I heard a shout to my left followed by the ‘thump’ of an M79. I checked and found that a VC and come around a corner in the ditch and nearly bumped into these two. The ‘guardian’ pulled his trigger, only to find out he was empty and let out the shout. My grenadier turned and fired his M79. Too close to arm, the half pound 40mm took off the VC’s arm and most his right shoulder.

We passed through the overrun positions of the 3/22, then turned left and started checking bodies. No one knew how to do that but we weren’t taking blood pressure! We fixed bayonets and probed them. Finger on the trigger, safeties on Auto. We didn’t run them through, just probed at sensitive spots to see if they flinched. At one point we came across a squad of VC, spread out evenly and on line. All were dead. We didn’t look too closely but I guessed from the lack of apparent wounds, they had been cut down by a 105 beehive. I took an RPD from one and noticed that it was clean oiled and had never been fired. The squad leader spotted a 7.62 Tokarev pistol on one VC. He wanted it but was afraid of booby traps. I can’t remember the sergeants name, but he was a huge fellow with a Swedish name. He got the pistol out of the VC’s hand, then took off running. When he reached the end of the lanyard the VC owner was snapped into the air like a puppy on a leash! We laughed till tears came.

The PCs returned, Plt Sgt Kay was furious that we had stayed behind. We were furious that he had left us. He had called to mount up but we never got the word. My heart sank when I saw one of the combat engineers at the .50. Willie, the driver, wouldn’t even look at me when I told him to drop the ramp. The inside was a shamble of casings, links, empty ammo boxes, spam cans and personal gear that had gotten in the way. In the front on the bench seat was Crum, pale white and without a helmet. I called Doc over. He checked him out and filled out a evacuation tag while I got the story from the combat engineers. As they were clearing the area, Crum was reloading the .50 when he fell inside. His helmet had a bullet hole in the front, with an exit hole at the rear! Crum had felt his head but found only a tiny scratch. He put on the helmet and went back to work. The bullet had traveled around between the helmet and the liner to exit at the rear. After firing another box or two through his .50, the full gravity of what could have happened sank in and he slumped inside in deep shock. Doc got him evacuated, while I started barking orders to the squad to cleanup the mess. They used entrenching tools to rake out the brass and links. A Chaplin from 3/22 came by, probably attracted by my NCO language, and thanked us for coming.

I got an inventory of ammo, 300 rounds of .50 remained. That meant we went through 2,700 in less than a half hour!!! At that point we were called to reinforce recon platoon. They had gone out to recover the bodies from a L19 forward observer aircraft that was shot down during the battle. On the way they encounter the retreating VC who were still full of fight and took them on! That turned out to be a non-event but with only 300 rounds of .50 left, our pucker factor was way up there.

When we got back to FSB Gold we found that the M88 VTR from the 2/34th Armor had scooped out a mass grave. We got to do police call. I don’t know who did the body count or how they counted some of the pieces I threw in but 650 seems to be about right. I saw the weapons pile aside the grave and decided that this was the time to get a few pictures. I always sent my film to be developed, then home. Since they went home, I never took any "hamburger" pictures. This day was significant, so I would break my standing rule. I reached for my camera but it was gone! Both shirt pocket buttons were still buttoned but I managed to push the camera out when crawling around. It was inexpensive, but I hope someone found it and got some use from it.

We formed a perimeter near the edge of woods for the night. We were winding down when we got a call to take cover, they were going to detonate an unexploded bomb. There was a boom and something big landed to our front. We reported it and a half hour later we got another Fire in the Hole. This time everything went black as the concussion swept over us. Not good for our rattled nerves.

At dusk, I got tagged to take out the Listening Post. I wasn’t too keen on that, we had heard that 3/22 had lost most of their LPs. I ended up with a reinforced squad, complete with an M60 and 800 rounds. We were all very edgy. As I chose a location, a trip flare went off behind us. One fellow started back toward the PCs. I got him stopped, but we gritted our teeth waiting for the .50s to open up. No one fired, even edgy they kept their wits. The VC weren’t coming back that night, but they sent their mosquitoes. Somehow didn’t have any insect repellent, so I passed around a can of weapons oil as a substitute.

This is about all I can remember of that day. If anyone has any pictures I would gladly pay for reproductions.

There is one other story about this battle that I haven’t heard anyone mention. Many months later, I was talking to a fellow from 3/22. He said that at one point that morning a B52 made a low pass over FSB Gold. It didn’t drop anything, just flew by and pulled up into the clouds. My guess is that it was a pathfinder. By flying over the battlefield and marking his position, the others could set their radar bombing controls. I suggest that this was the final option. Had FSB Gold been overrun the B52s would have be cleared in to bomb. If anyone can confirm this, one way or the other, I would like to know.

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The Battles of Ap Bau Bang II, Suoi Tre, and Ap Gu Ap Ban Bang II

 
 
At 1150 on 19 March 1967, A Troop, 3d Squadron, 5th Cavalry Regiment, commanded
by Captain Raoul H. Alcala, deployed within the perimeter of Fire Support Base
20. A unit of the 1st Brigade, 9th Infantry, attached to the 1st Infantry
Division, the 129-man company had six tanks, twenty M-113 armored personnel
carriers, and three 4.2-inch mortar carriers. The unit formed into a circular
(wagon train) perimeter defense with the mission of secur-ing the base for B
Battery (105-mm.) of the 7th Battalion, 9th Artillery, commanded by Captain
Duane W. Marion.
Fire Support Base 20 was located in relatively flat country 1,500 meters north
of Ap Bau Bang immediately west of QL 13. To the south of the position was a
rubber plantation, while wooded areas were prominent to the north and west. An
abandoned railroad track ran parallel to and thirty meters east of the highway.
(Map 15)
Intelligence sources had indicated that the Ap Bau Bang area was infested with
local force guerrillas; they had also pointed out a well-used trail to the north
which ran east and west. Captain Alcala sent his 2d Platoon commanded by First
Lieutenant Harlan E. Short to establish an ambush along the trail at a point
1,500 meters north of the fire support base and approximately 350 meters west of
Route 13. The ambush was to be in position by 1800. The perimeter was manned on
the west by the 1st Platoon, commanded by First Lieutenant Roger A. Festa;
occupying the eastern portion was the 3d Platoon under Second Lieutenant Hiram
M. Wolfe, IV.
At 2250 that night a Viet Cong probe signaled the start of the second battle of
Ap Bau Bang. The probe was spearheaded by a herd of fifteen belled cattle being
driven across Route 13 at a point 150 meters northeast of the perimeter. Ten
minutes later the Viet Cong started raking the northeast section of the
perimeter with a wheel-mounted .50-caliber machine gun located on the railroad
track embankment. Specialist Four Eugene W. Stevens, command-
ing one of the tanks, trained his searchlight on the Viet Cong position and
returned the fire with all his weapons. The fire fight was joined by the weapons
of three of the APC's and continued for about three minutes. The enemy gun
sprayed the perimeter with only five separate bursts of fire before it was
silenced by the response of A troop.
During the lull that followed, the units, including the 2d Pla-toon still
manning the ambush site, assumed a state of increased readiness. Reconaissance
by fire was conducted by Lieutenant Wolfe's tank along the wood line to the east
beyond the railroad. At 2310 Captain Alcala reported: "Firing has ceased now, we
are using infra-red to scan the area for movement. . . ."
At 0030, 20 March 1967, the Viet Cong attack resumed as Fire Support Base 20 was
hit with mortar rounds, rifle grenades, rockets, and recoilless rifle fire. The
beginning of the main phase of the battle had been signaled. Lieutenant Festa's
track was hit, wound-ing his sergeant. It was apparent that the Viet Cong were
well zeroed in. The fire was now coming from the west. Captain Alcala requested
artillery support from the battalion he was securing and from Lai Khe.
Brigadier General James F. Hollingsworth, assistant division commander of the
1st Infantry Division, later described this phase of the battle:
Their mortar positions were located from 1500 to 2000 meters west of Ap Bau Bang
in and around an old village that had been destroyed. The mor-tar positions were
located by radar from the Lai Khe artillery base. . . .
I understood the counter mortar radar played an important role in pick-ing them
up. However, the most accurate way of picking up the mortars during this battle
was by two airborne artillery observers who could see the flashes from the
mortars. I think that a combination of both brought about their location.
As the instensity of the fire increased, another M-113 was hit. Then another APC
received direct hits in the front and left side from recoilless rifle rounds;
three of the crew were wounded and the vehicle was set afire. Two of the 3d
Platoon tanks were hit; however, both remained in the battle.
Throughout the mortar and antitank bombardment, Captain Alcala maintained radio
contact with his squadron commander, Lieutenant Colonel Sidney S. Haszard,
located to the south.
Within twenty minutes of the beginning of the mortar attack, the Viet Cong
ground assault began with the main attack coming from the south and southwest
and with a secondary attack from the north. The massed troops of the 273d Viet
Cong Regiment emerged from the rubber trees and moved steadily forward
under a base of fire. The enemy soldiers were wearing black pa-jamas or dark
colored fatigues and sandals, and carrying indi-vidual weapons. The attack was
co-ordinated with the mortar fire, and not until the enemy came out in the open
was its magni-tude apparent.
Captain Alcala advised his headquarters at 0050 that he could handle the attack,
but asked that a ready reaction force be set up in case it was needed. Colonel
Haszard acknowledged the message and alerted the 1st Platoon of B Troop to the
north of Ap Bau Bang and the 3d Platoon of C Troop to the south to move to Fire
Sup-port Base 20. He gave Captain Alcala permission to alert his 2d Platoon at
the ambush site to prepare for movement back into the perimeter. Colonel Haszard
noted the growing size of the enemy offensive and decided to move with his
command element to A Troop's position.
In the 3d Platoon sector on the eastern side of the perimeter, Lieutenant Wolfe
detected Viet Cong movement and requested night illumination from a 4.2-inch
mortar. As the light from the flare swung across the area, it was possible to
see Viet Cong troops crossing the highway from east to west. The platoon
commenced firing and the enemy movement stopped. Staff Sergeant George Hua
reported, "I got two hits on top of my turret from 60mm mortar rounds, 2 rounds
struck the gun shield below the gun tube. . . . Another round hit the main gun's
blast deflector, so we opened fire with everything we could lay our hands on."
At 0100 Captain Alcala was advised that a flareship-Spooky 742-armed with
miniguns, and a light fire team of helicopter gunships were on the way.
The enemy troops on the southwest portion of the perimeter were starting to
swarm over some of the APC's. A voice from Track 10 came to Staff Sergeant
Dorren in Track 17: "They are swarming all over my track. Dust me with
canister." Sergeant Dorren hesitated, concerned about the effects of canister on
the crew. Once again came the plea, "My people are down, shoot!" Several rounds
of canister wiped out the enemy in the area of the overrun track. Staff Sergeant
Ramos-Rasario also called for a dusting by canister. Sergeant Dorren fired
several rounds in front of Track 11, eliminating the Viet Cong. Another call for
help came from Track 10. Sergeant Dorren fired again and then watched the track
burst into a ball of fire as enemy mortar rounds scored direct hits. The wounded
crew escaped, but Private First Class Steve Lopez died later of his wounds.
Two more armored personnel carriers were hit, one of them Lieutenant Wolfe's
track. Because the Viet Cong were in so close
to his line of APC's, Wolfe had to pull back about twenty-five or thirty meters
and realign the platoon, completing the move by 0115. Lieutenant Wolfe's track
was hit a second time by an RPG2 rocket. The entire crew was wounded and
evacuated to the medical clearing tent in the center of the perimeter.
The troop's 2d Platoon came charging down Route 13 from its ambush site, the men
firing intermittently as they came. The troopers, after arriving at the fire
support base, manned the gaps in the hard-pressed southern half of the
perimeter. As they took their positions, they were hit with recoilless rifle
fire and grenades.
The elements of B and C Troops alerted earlier received the order to move and
immediately raced to join the battle. The 3d Platoon of C Troop, attacking up
Route 13 from its troop's position five kilometers to the south, ran through a
barrage of enemy fire before reaching the perimeter at 0127. At the direction of
Captain Alcala, the platoon swept 1,500 meters south of the defenders along the
rubber-grove tree line. Firing continually during their sweep, the cavalrymen
swung west, then north, then doubled back and entered the perimeter from the
southeast. The vehicles pulled into positions between A Troop's vehicles on the
eastern portion of the perimeter defense.
At this same time the 1st Platoon of B Troop was tearing down Route 13 from its
position eight kilometers north. After blasting through a hastily built ambush
just north of the perimeter, the troopers moved around to the south, firing as
they went. Moving into the perimeter, the platoon took up positions between A
Troop's vehicles on the western half of the defensive ring.
The perimeter now contained the artillery battery, all of A Troop, and the two
relief platoons-a large quantity of armor for the size of the perimeter. Captain
Alcala expanded the perimeter by forty meters with a counterattack at 0220.
Two of the tracks hit previously continued to burn throughout the engagement.
Lieutenant Festa moved forward with two APC's to evacuate the wounded lying
nearby. Several Viet Cong at-tempting to remove the .50-caliber machine gun from
one of the burning tracks were killed, as were others attacking the foxholes
containing the wounded. Lieutenant Festa and Specialist Four Abelardo Penedo,
while under intense fire, dismounted and loaded the wounded into Festa's
personnel carrier.
Meanwhile Colonel Haszard, in an APC followed by another M-113 bearing his
command group, moved up Route 13 to the perimeter. Just short of the perimeter,
Haszard's track was hit and disabled. Captain Alcala sent a tank out of the
perimeter to assist the disabled track. Colonel Haszard dismounted in heavy
small arms fire and, warding off the Viet Cong, attached the towline. The command
track, with its valuable communications equipment, was pulled into the
perimeter.
At 0300 another attack was developing to the south of the perim-eter. It
appeared to Captain Alcala that this attack was an attempt by the Viet Cong to
recover bodies. Behind a line of skirmishers, unarmed troops advanced carrying
ropes and wires with hooks attached to recover the bodies left on the
battlefield. The attack-ing force was stopped within fifteen meters of the
perimeter.
During this attack, and for the next four hours, miniguns and air strikes
pounded the Viet Cong from above. An Air Force flare-ship kept the battle area
continually lighted. Initially the artillery covered the northwest, west, and
southwest sides of the perimeter while aircraft attacked on a north-south axis
east of Route 13. Later a switch was made and the aircraft attack runs were made
from east to west on the south and southwest sides of the perimeter.
During the battle, resupply and "Dust-off' (medical evacuation) missions
continued under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel Paul F. Gorman, G-3 of the
1st Infantry Division. Because of the nature of the battle and the preponderance
of automatic weapons on armored vehicles, two and in some cases three basic
loads of .50-caliber and 7.62-mm. ammunition were expended during the fight. At
0330 the enemy fire slackened; resupply of the units and evacua-tion of the
wounded was completed during the next hour and fifteen minutes while the
artillery and air strikes continued. Twenty-six of the sixty-three men wounded
were evacuated; many of the slightly wounded chose to stay in their positions
and man their weapons.
By 0450 it was noted under the illumination of flares and tank searchlights that
the enemy was massing for an attack on the south and southeast sides of the
perimeter. The Viet Cong started their attack at 0500; the artillery shifted its
fire to the west, and aircraft dropped cluster bomb units followed by napalm and
500 pound bombs on the attackers. The final assault of the Viet Cong was blunted
and the noises of battle subsided. At 0700 the final air strike and artillery
rounds were placed on the withdrawing enemy.
Colonel Haszard delivered the following message to the men who had taken part in
the battle:
I am extremely proud of every man in this unit for [his] actions last night.
However, there are still many VC in the area. Therefore, you must take all
precautions. I want you to have reaction forces ready for all ele-ments in the
way that you did today. . . . Sweep operations tomor-row must be done
thoroughly. Insure that perimeters tonight are the best possible.
The battle of Ap Bau Bang II1 resulted in 227 (known) enemy dead, 3 prisoners
taken, and the capture of much enemy equipment and weapons. Blood trails stood
as mute evidence of the many bodies hauled away by the Viet Cong. Although more
enemy than usual are killed by small arms when attacks are made on cavalry and
armored units, the majority of enemy deaths in this battle, as in others,
resulted from artillery and air strikes. In this instance, 29 air strikes
delivered 29 tons of ordnance, and the artillery fired nearly 3,000 rounds. U.S.
battle losses were 3 men killed and 63 wounded. Enemy prisoners identified the
attackers as the 2d and 3d Battalions of the 273d Regiment of the 9th Viet Cong
Division. Intelligence experts believed the whole regiment participated.
As a result of the battle, General Hay wrote a letter to the 9th Division
commander. Printed in Vietnamese in leaflet form, it was dropped into the enemy
area. Translated, the text of the letter read:
This is to advise you that during the battle of Ap Bau Bang on 20 March the
Regimental Commander of Q763 (273d Regiment) and his Battalion Commanders
disgraced themselves by performing in an un-soldierly manner. During this battle
with elements of this Division and attached units your officers failed to
accomplish their mission and left the battlefield covered with dead and wounded
from their units. We have buried your dead and taken care of your wounded from
this battle.
The letter bore the signature of General J. H. Hay.

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Suoi Tre
 
The target for the helicopters was an egg-shaped clearing close to Suoi Tre,
near the center of War Zone C and ninety kilometers northwest of Saigon. It was
just three kilometers away from the area in which, during Operation ATTLEBORO
four months earlier, the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry, of the U.S. 1st Division
had defeated elements of the 272d Viet Cong and 101st North Vietnamese
Regiments at the battle of AP Cha Do. Events would reveal that the 272d had
returned.
On 19 March, in an area surrounded by a tree line of sparse woodland which had
been blighted by defoliants, U.S. helicopters
1Ap Bau Bang was also the site of the first major Vietnam action in which the
1st Infantry Division participated on 12 November 1965. In Ap Bau Bang I the
272d and 273d Regiments of the 9th Viet Cong Division attacked the 2d
Battalion, 22d Infantry (-), defensive perimeter and were repelled with the
assistance of air strikes and direct fire artillery at the cost to the Viet
Cong of 198 killed.
airlanded the 3d Battalion of the 22d Infantry and the 2d Battalion, 77th
Artillery (-), led by Lieutenant Colonels John A. Bender and John W. Vessey,
Jr., respectively, under the control of the 3d Brigade, 4th Infantry Division
(Colonel Garth). Their mission was to establish a fire support base (GOLD) in
support of Phase II of JUNCTION CITY. Heavy action was not expected. However,
from the outset it was apparent that things would be different at Suoi Tre. (Map
16)
 
As the three lifts of choppers touched down, five heavy command-detonated
charges were set off by the Viet Cong in the tiny clearing. Three helicopters
were destroyed and 6 more damaged with a toll of 15 killed and 28 wounded.2 A
Viet Cong claymore-type mine was also detonated against C Company of the 3d
Battalion, wounding 5 infantrymen.
Company B of the 3d Battalion, 22d Infantry, was assigned the east portion of
the defensive perimeter, Company A the western half. Later that day the 2d
Battalion, 12th Infantry, landed at Fire Support Base GOLD and moved to the
northwest. Its last lift drew enemy fire, and another seven choppers were
damaged.
Work progressed rapidly on 20 March to improve the fire support base perimeter
defenses, and fortunate it was for the occupants of the base. The battle of Suoi
Tre was to begin the next day.
At 0430 a night patrol from Company B operating outside the battalion perimeter
reported movement around its ambush site. Minutes-then hours-passed and no
further movement was detected. At 0630 the patrol prepared to return to camp.
One minute later the area exploded as the base came under heavy attack from
enemy 60-mm. and 82-mm. mortars. At the same time the patrol was attacked by a
massive Viet Cong force. Within five minutes the patrol had been overrun, and
all of its men were killed or wounded.
The first enemy mortar round had impacted on the doorstep of a company command
post; seconds later another exploded outside battalion headquarters. In all, an
estimated 650 mortar rounds fell while the Viet Cong advanced toward the
perimeter. As they moved closer, enemy machine guns and recoilless rifles joined
 
2 On the following day, 20 March, a similar misfortune might well have
occurred in the 1st Division's area. There the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry,
had moved by foot to seize Sroc Con Trang which was to become Fire Support
Patrol Base C for Phase II of JUNCTION CITY. It was unusual for the forces of
the Big Red One not to make an airmobile assault into such an area. However,
on 30 June 1966 the 1st Division had captured a Viet Cong plan to attack and
annihilate a U.S. battalion on a landing zone at Sroc Con Trang. After the 1st
of the 26th had secured the area, the 36th South Vietnamese Ranger Battalion,
among other units, occupied and helped secure it. On 21 March the 36th Rangers
discovered batteries and a wire in the wood line near the fire support base;
following the wire, they found four holes filled with explosives. There was a
center hole, and radiating from it was wire leading to three other holes at a
distance of about twenty-five meters. In each hole were the necessary
detonating caps. In the center one were also the following rounds: eight
75-mm., seven 81-mm., fourteen 60-mm. and 105 pounds of TNT. The other holes
had similar but smaller loads: only 35 pounds of TNT each and various numbers
and types of U.S. ordnance. It was all set to be command deto-nated. From then
on the Big Red One, when it placed artillery and air strike preparatory fires
around and into any landing zone into which it was bringing troops, always
used a number of instantaneous fuzed bombs to strike the planned landing site
of its chopper lifts in order to cut any wires and yet not chew up the terrain
so much that it would be difficult to land and traverse.
the attack. The Viet Cong made final preparations to assault the position.
Within minutes the entire perimeter came under heavy attack by waves of Viet
Cong emerging from the jungle and firing recoil-less rifles, RPG2 rockets,
automatic weapons, and small arms. The heaviest attacks were concentrated on the
northeastern and southeastern portions of the defensive perimeter. As the attack
increased in intensity, the three artillery batteries initiated countermortar
fire in an effort to neutralize the heavy mortar concentrations which continued
to rake the position. During the first assault Company B reported that its 1st
Platoon positions on the south-eastern perimeter had been penetrated and that
the reaction force from the 2d Battalion, 77th Artillery, was needed to
reinforce that sector. Artillerymen responded to the call, rushing to the
perim-eter to help repulse the continuing attacks.
At 0700 the first forward air controller arrived overhead in a light observation
aircraft and immediately began directing Air Force strikes against the
attackers. At the same time, supporting fire from two batteries of 105-mm.
howitzers located at nearby fire support bases was brought within one hundred
meters of the battalion's perimeter. At 0711, Company B reported that its 1st
Platoon had been overrun and surrounded by a human-wave attack. Air strikes were
called in all along the wood line to the east to relieve the pressure on the
company's perimeter. The for-ward air controller directing these strikes was
shot down by heavy automatic weapons fire. At 0750 the Company B commander
requested that the artillery fire its "beehive" rounds (canisters filled with
hundreds of metal darts) into the southeastern and southern sections of his
perimeter. At 0756 Company B reported that complete enemy penetration had been
made in the 1st Pla-toon sector and that they were desperate for ammunition
resupply. Ammunition and a 20-man reaction force from Company A were sent to
assist B Company. At 0813 the northeastern section of the perimeter was overrun
by another human-wave attack. Two minutes later, elements of Company A which had
established an ambush just outside the perimeter the previous night charged into
the camp's perimeter and assumed defensive positions. Somehow all of the men had
managed to elude the surrounding Viet Cong.
The commander of Company A reported the Viet Cong had penetrated the northern
sector of the perimeter. Ten minutes later a quad-.50 machine gun located in
that sector of the base was hit by RPG2 rocket rounds and overrun. As the
attacking Viet Cong swarmed over the weapon and attempted to turn it on the
friendly positions, the gun was blown apart by a well-placed round
from a 105-mm. howitzer crew who had witnessed the whole action from their
position some seventy-five meters away. By 0840 the northeastern, eastern, and
southeastern portions of the perimeter had withdrawn to a secondary defensive
line around the guns of the artillery batteries. The northern, western, and
southern sectors were managing to hold despite intense pressure from large
numbers of Viet Cong who had advanced as close as fifteen meters from the
defensive positions. Attackers had infil-trated to within hand grenade range of
the battalion command post and only five meters from the battalion aid station.
The howitzers of the artillery battalion, with their tubes lev-eled, began
firing beehive rounds into the Viet Cong. At point-blank range, round after
round of direct fire was delivered, each round spewing 8,000 finned steel
missiles into the enemy.
Air strikes were brought within as little as fifty meters of U.S. forces, and
supporting artillery batteries threw up a continuous wall of shrapnel around the
battalion perimeter. When the artillery inside the perimeter had exhausted its
supply of beehive rounds, it began to fire high explosive rounds at point-blank
range. By 0900 the northern, western, and southern sectors of the perimeter were
holding but still under Viet Cong pressure. The positions on the east had
withdrawn even closer, but the line was still intact.
The 3d Brigade headquarters had earlier alerted its other units which were
conducting operations to the west. They were the 2d Battalion, 12th Infantry;
the mechanized 2d Battalion, 22d Infan-try; and the 2d Battalion, 34th Armor
(-). When word of the attack reached these forces, they reacted immediately. The
2d of the 12th moved from the northwest traveling cross-country and avoiding
traveled roads and trails. The mechanized infantry and armor battalions moved
from the southwest until they reached the Suoi (stream) Samat. An intensive
search revealed only one suitable fording site.
At 0900 the relief column from the 2d of the 12th broke through and linked up
with the battered Company B. With the added forces and firepower, the units were
able to counterattack to the east and re-establish the original perimeter. But
the Viet Cong were still attacking. As they advanced, many of the soldiers could
be seen wearing bandages from earlier wounds. Some, so badly wounded that they
could not walk, were carried piggyback into the assaults by their comrades.
Twelve minutes after the first relief unit arrived, the mech-anized infantry and
armor column broke through the jungle from the southwest. With their 90-mm. guns
firing canister rounds and all machine guns blazing, they moved into the
advancing Viet Cong,
cutting them down. Shortly thereafter, the enemy began to withdraw. By
0930 the original perimeter had been re-established and by 1000 resupply
choppers were arriving and began evacuating the wounded. By 1045 the battle of
Suoi Tre was over. Elements of the mechanized and armor battalions pursued the
fleeing enemy, and artillery and air strikes continued to pound routes of
with-drawal. Sporadic contact continued until noon.
The attacking unit had been decimated; 647 bodies were recovered, 7 prisoners
were taken, and 65 crew-served and 94 individual weapons were captured. (Of the
weapons captured, 50 were RPG2's, a small bazooka-type antitank weapon.) U.S.
losses were 31 killed and 109 wounded.
Documents found in the area showed that intensive planning had been made by the
Viet Cong before the attack. The attacking force was identified as the 272d
Regiment of the 9th Viet Cong Division reinforced by elements of U-80 Artillery.
The 272d was considered one of the best organized and equipped enemy units and
was one of the few Viet Cong units that dared to make day-light attacks. But at
Suoi Tre its troops had been scattered in a disorganized route to the northeast
with artillery and air strikes pounding at their heels.

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Ap Gu
 
On 26 March the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry (the Blue Spaders), commanded by
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander M. Haig, was alerted to prepare for an assault
deeper into War Zone C and near the Cambodian border. At that time the battalion
was attached to the 2d Brigade of the 1st Division and was located at Fire
Support Patrol Base C at Sroc Con Trang. There it was engaged in perim-eter
defense, road security, and occasional search and destroy operations. Now
Colonel Haig turned his S-3 loose on the plan-ning for the assault. It was to be
made in late morning on the 30th into Landing Zone GEORGE, some fourteen
kilometers to the west in Operational Area Sioux. The Blue Spaders would secure
the zone for a follow-up landing by the 1st Battalion, 2d Infantry, and then
conduct operations in their assigned sector. Intelligence indicated that they
could expect to make contact with the enemy in that area. (Map 17)
On the day scheduled for the assault, poor weather delayed the preparatory air
strikes around and on the landing zone, resulting in a two-hour delay in H-hour.
(The assault of the 1st of the 2nd was postponed a day. It was not until early
afternoon that the initial elements of the battalion touched down at GEORGE.
(The landing
zone terrain consisted of open fields covered with tall, meadow-like grass. The
area was surrounded by medium to heavy jungle.)
The remainder of the battalion
closed within an hour. Upon landing the battalion immediately dispatched
cloverleaf patrols to seek the enemy. The patrols uncovered fortified positions
in and around the landing zone; however, they made no contact. That evening the
unit organized its night defensive position in the vicinity of the zone.
Fighting positions were dug as always with full overhead cover and interlocking
fires all around. Listening posts were established and ambush patrols sent out.
No significant contacts occurred that night.
The next morning, 31 March, the 1st Battalion, 2d Infantry (Lieutenant Colonel
William C. Simpson commanding), was air-landed in GEORGE without incident. Upon
landing, the 1st of the 2d moved to a position two kilometers southwest of the
landing zone. The 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, began search and destroy
operations in the surrounding area. Company A went south and C Company east. B
Company remained in reserve, manning and patrolling the battalion perimeter at
the landing zone.
The battalion's reconnaissance platoon was searching the woods northwest of the
perimeter. There it became obvious that the Americans were expected: from the
trees hung small signs written in English warning that Americans going beyond
the signs would not return.
At 1300 the platoon moved farther to the north into a wooded area and was
approximately five kilometers south of the Cam-bodian border when first contact
was made. The platoon's point man was hit by enemy fire. First Lieutenant
Richard A. Hill, an infantry officer experienced in Vietnam combat, went forward
to check the situation and was hit and mortally wounded. Only Hill's radio
operator was left in contact with the battalion S-3. Before being hit, Hill had
advised the battalion that the platoon was heavily engaged with automatic
weapons, small arms, and gre-nades. Colonel Haig had called for artillery
support and, when advised that the platoon leader had been hit, immediately took
action to co-ordinate the artillery fire and air strikes in support of the
platoon.
At the same time, B Company was just closing on the perimeter after a sweep of
the battalion's defensive area. When advised of the reconnaissance platoon's
desperate position and that its leader had been hit, the commander on his own
initiative swung his company to the north and proceeded to the assistance of the
embattled platoon.
Colonel Haig boarded his helicopter, and it was not until he was airborne that
he learned of B Company's move north. As Haig pointed out later, while this move
to extract the platoon was neces-sary, the lack of accurate control of artillery
fires and air support complicated the problem. As a result, B Company had
entered the engagement without sufficient preparation and found itself heavily
engaged along with the reconnaissance platoon.
The B Company commander confirmed that he was confronting at least a
battalion-size enemy force. His initially optimistic reports became
progressively more pessimistic; the company was pinned down by heavy machine gun
fire, rockets, mortars, and recoilless rifles, and was running low on
ammunition. Colonel Haig realized that he must reinforce and extract the units.
Company A was alerted for action and moved forward to pass through and relieve B
Company.
Colonel Haig landed near the point of contact and had his battalion operations
officer go airborne to control fire direction. Haig found Lieutenant Hill dead
and the B Company commander wounded and in mild shock. Electing to stay with his
units, Colonel Haig was joined by the A Company commander who had moved his unit
through B Company and gained fire superiority over the enemy force.
The intensity and accuracy of artillery and air strikes increased, permitting
all units, except initially two platoons of A Company still in contact, to be
extracted. As the units moved back, the Viet Cong left their bunkers and moved
forward to maintain contact; they were finally forced to terminate the
engagement because of exposure to the incoming bombardment. Contact was broken
at 1705. The engagement resulted in seven Americans killed and thirty-eight
wounded. Enemy casualties were unknown at that time.
Meanwhile the division commander, General Hay, had ordered reinforcements into
the area. At 1555 the first element of the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry, minus C
Company, touched down at Landing Zone GEORGE under heavy sniper fire and
occupied posi-tions to the west and northwest of the 1st of the 26th. The
battalion, under Colonel Lazzell, established its night defensive positions. The
two battalions co-ordinated defensive plans, improved their fighting positions,
established listening posts, and sent out ambush patrols.
During the night, friendly harassment and interdiction artillery and mortar
fires were placed in the area around the perimeter. From midnight until 0400 on
1 April, listening posts to the north,
east, and south reported some movement to their front; however, there a as no
significant contact. Mortar fire was directed into areas of suspected enemy
activity.
At 0455 a single enemy mortar round exploded to the front of the perimeter of
the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry. Colonel Haig heard it and correctly
interpreted it to be a registration round for a Viet Cong mortar attack. He
immediately ordered all of his companies to a full alert posture and directed
them to take cover and be prepared for an attack. He also recommended that the
1st of the 16th follow suit. Colonel Lazzell's "Rangers" concurred and manned
their fighting positions.
Colonel Haig immediately requested artillery fire for east of his position.
Five minutes after the enemy registration round had detonated, the first of
several hundred rounds of 60-mm., 82-mm., and 120-mm. mortar rounds were fired
into the northern portions of the battalions' areas. The rounds came from a
position estimated to be a thousand meters northeast of the defensive perimeter.
The mortars were so close that the U.S. troops could hear the rounds being
fired. So many mortars were firing at once that the noise they made "sounded
like loud, heavy machine guns." Because of the early warning, the rapid response
to the first enemy round fired, and the defensive strength of the fighting
positions, only twelve men were wounded.
At the same time the mortar attack opened on the units in Landing Zone GEORGE, a
co-ordinated attack started on Fire Sup-port Patrol Base C, where much of the
supporting artillery for the 1st of the 26th and the 1st of the 16th was dug in.
With the incoming mortar and 75-mm. pack howitzer rounds exploding around them,
the artillerymen were not so efficient as usual in getting off the requested
fires. However, they did not cease firing. In addition, the artillery that had
moved into Fire Support Patrol Base THRUST on 29 March was not under incoming
mortar attack so that it could- and did-provide the usual support to Colonels
Haig and Lazzell. Why the enemy did not bring this base under attack has never
come to light, but it was a mistake on his part.
When asked later about his immediate response to the regis-tering mortar round,
Colonel Haig replied that he had sensed the ultimate ground attack, but not its
extent or the size of the force involved. He felt, as he was sure the Viet Cong
commander felt, that they had unfinished business as a result of the action the
day before. "There were indicators available to both sides that follow-up action
might be appropriate, and in the VC's case, especially in view of the fact that
he had four or five battalions to employ
. . . I [also] was set to exploit what I thought had been a fairly successful
action the day before." There was little question that another engagement was
imminent; if not instigated by the Viet Cong, then Colonel Haig would have taken
the initiative.
The heavy mortar attack on the two battalions ended at 0515. (It lasted an hour
longer at Fire Support Patrol Base C.) During this time flareships, a light
helicopter fire team, and forward air controllers were requested from and
furnished by the 2d Brigade tactical headquarters. Seven minutes later the Viet
Cong launched their initial ground attack against the northeast edge of the
perimeter.
The attack hit primarily B and C Companies of the 1st Battal-ion, 26th Infantry,
and A Company and the reconnaissance platoon of the 1st Battalion, 16th
Infantry. As the soldiers manning the friendly listening posts withdrew to the
perimeter, the enemy had followed them in.
Private First Class William Trickett, a fire team leader in C Company, described
the attack:
When the listening post came back in, they hit their [own] trip flares. . . .An
[enemy] automatic weapon opened up on them and I fired my M-79-I believe I hit
and silenced her. [The VC] came on in and wound up in the 1st Platoon area. It
was a mix up after dark. The next thing we know they're sprawling all over the
field. Some way or another they came through our trip flares and were already in
the field digging positions.
. . . We lost one of our machine guns that was hit by a mortar. The other one
kept firing, but considering the people we had on the listening post and
everything, our positions were just under strength-we just got hit. They
realized our weakness and came through us.
It was apparent that the co-ordination of mortar fire with the unobserved
movement of the enemy through the woods and tall grass immediately ahead of C
Company had permitted surprise in their attack resulting in the capture of three
bunkers and a penetration roughly forty meters deep and a hundred meters wide in
the C Company sector. Decisive hand-to-hand fighting was taking place in the
penetration.
(Colonel Haig later indicated that he had known from the day he selected the
night defensive position that the natural wood line-leading into the northeast
portion of the perimeter was the most vulnerable portion of his perimeter. He
realized that he was up against a very intelligent enemy when the commander
picked this spot for his attack.)
As described by Captain George A. Joulwan, S-3 of the battalion, the Viet Cong
". . . walked right through our mortar fire and artillery fire-they just kept
coming so we knew we had a very large force out there. Charlie Company was
fighting hand to hand
 
in the bunkers as was our Bravo Company. . . . We organized about seventy-five
meters back . . . consolidated the line, and held."
The commander of Company C, Captain Brian H. Cundiff, without regard to the
intense enemy fire, moved among his men and mustered an effective defense which
held the shoulders of the penetration. During this time he also killed six of
the attacking enemy in hand-to-hand combat. Although wounded three times, he
refused medical aid and continued to fight and rally his force.
At 0630 the reserve of the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, the reconnaissance
platoon, was moved into a blocking position behind C Company and, along with B
Company, fought to re-establish the perimeter. Meanwhile the enemy was launching
diversionary attacks from the east and west.
The Air Force air strikes were now arriving over the target area at the rate of
one flight each fifteen minutes, thus providing con-tinuous air cover. Initially
there was some difficulty in getting the flights armed with cluster bomb units.3
It appeared that slowly the main Viet Cong attack was begin-ning to falter under
the heavy volume of fire placed upon it. Light and heavy helicopter fire teams
were firing rockets and miniguns on the wood line to the northeast; artillery
was massing fires along the east flank and in depth to the east. As the flights
started arriving with cluster bomb units on board, the jets began striking
within thirty meters of the American positions, littering the entire area on
both sides of the perimeter with enemy dead.4 As the ordnance began taking its
toll, the Viet Cong started to run, many of them throwing down their weapons.
In the meantime, Captain Cundiff led elements of C Company, reinforced by the
1st Platoon of B Company, in a massive counter-attack which was pushing the
remaining Viet Cong back into the deadly artillery barrages and air strikes. By
0800 the perimeter was restored.
As the Viet Cong broke contact and began withdrawing, the 1st of the 2d and 1st
of the 16th passed through the 1st of the 26th to pursue the enemy to the east
and northeast. However, no signifi-cant contact was made. Artillery and air
strikes (including two
3Cluster bomb units were badly needed since they were the most effective
ordnance for the situation which existed: enemy troops in the open, echeloned
in depth, and in contact with our own troops. Since the pilot can release the
small bomb units from their cannister at low level, he can drop them within
thirty meters of our own troops, and, when they explode on contact, our troops
are unharmed, since the lethal radius of the ordnance is slightly less than
that distance.
4After the battle there was one string of twenty-nine enemy dead in a line 150
meters long; a duster bomb unit run had literally curled them up.
B-52 strikes) were shifted to likely routes of withdrawal and known enemy base
camps in the area.
After contact was broken and the enemy routed, the Blue Spaders began to police
the battlefield, evacuate casualties, and bury the Viet Cong dead. Four hundred
ninety-one bodies were found among their defenses and those of Colonel Lazzell's
battalion. After sweeps around the area had been made, the known enemy dead
totaled many more. During the two-day battle, the enemy (all three battalions of
the 271st Regiment of the 9th Viet Cong Division and elements of the 70th Guard
Regiment) lost 609 killed, 5 captured, and over 50 weapons of all types. U.S.
casualties were 17 killed and 102 wounded.
During the mortar attack on Fire Support Patrol Base C (where the 2d Brigade
command post was located), Colonel Grimsley was wounded and evacuated; command
of the brigade was assumed by General Hollingsworth. Later that day, command was
turned over to Colonel Haig.
During the fight artillery units of the 1st Division had fired
some 15,000 rounds into the battle area, while Air Force jet fighter-bombers
logged 103 sorties with over 100 tons of ordnance in support of the ground
action.
Asked at what point the pendulum of victory had swung in his favor, Colonel Haig
replied:
In the subjective sense there's no question: with the arrival of the air,
tactical air and especially the ordnance, the CBU ordnance was the main factor.
However, this is subjective . . . and while it was the straw that broke the
camel's back, I would be very remiss if I didn't say that the artillery . . .
our mortars, and our own automatic weapons were major factors. And had not all
of these been employed to their utmost, and closely coordinated, and well
integrated, no single factor by itself would have changed the outcome. . . . As
it turned out, the amount of fire that we had falling by way of artillery and
our own automatic fire and infantry weapons, [and,] may I add . . . the CBU,
with the enemy configured as he was, that is, stacked in depth, in the open, and
moving forward, [it was this] combination of things that really made the
difference.
Colonel Haig had this further thought about the battle of Ap Gu:
In this particular attack, I think, as in ATTLEBORO last fall, when you get
belly to belly with a large VC force, they are not sufficiently flexi-ble to
react especially intelligently. They are going to react like most soldiers and
that is to attack. In this case, we were right on their doorstep. We found them
by aggressive reconnaissance, the order was called, and the battle was started.
. . . I think this was a case of being in their back-yard, confronting the
commander . . . with a basic problem: When the enemy [the U.S. force] is there,
do you run? If you run on top of the series of defeats, where do you stop? When
do your men finally realize this is a lost cause? I think this commander was
confronted with that very tough decision and he came down hard on the wrong
side-at least from the perspective of his future effectiveness.
Back near the Cambodian border that Viet Cong commander probably would have
agreed.

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The Battle Of FSB Burt - Soui Cut

Thirty years ago - on the night of January 1 - 2, 1968 , the 2-22 Infantry (Mechanized), 3-22 Infantry, and the 2-77Artillery were involved in a massive human wave attack by four battalions of NVA and VC at a place called Fire Support Base Burt in Vietnam. Throughout the night, the 22nd Infantrymen, supported by their artillery brothers and helicopter crewman from the 187th and 188th Assault Helicopter Companies fought back against the determined enemy assault. When the firing stopped between 0530 and 0600 the next morning, The Americans were victorious in repulsing the attack. Over 401 NVA and VC were killed with American losses at 23 killed and 153 wounded.

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One Of Many Letters Sent On The Anniversary Of FSB Burt

 

From : Dennis Adkins, C/3-22, 67 - 68

Dear John, I sit here in awe after reading the accounts of men I have never met but who were beside me and above me the night of January 1, 1968 at FSB Burt.

The dust kicked up by armored personnel carriers hung in the hot, still, humid air like a red veil. Upon arriving at FSB Burt you could feel the uneasiness of the area like some sinister, invisible force trapping you in its cloak. You knew this place was bad.

Charlie Company, 3/22 Infantry had come to join the rest of the battalion , as 3rd platoon leader I was assigned the last five positions on the south edge of the perimeter ending on the east side of the road that led out of the fire support base. The next position on the other side of the road was a platoon of APC's from the 2/22 Infantry.

The foxholes we inherited were poorly dug, lacking depth and overhead cover, due to the extremely hard digging conditions. Entrenching tools seemed to bounce off the cement-like earth yielding only a chip of dirt with each tiring heave of the shovel. The heat of the day increased the men's frustration and grumbling. "This is deep enough, lieutenant." No, it's not. We'll keep digging until dark if it's necessary. Besides, the dirt that comes out of that hole is needed to fill sandbags for your overhead cover." I was not a popular man that afternoon.

Heavy foliage encroached this section of the perimeter and even with brush cutting we were only able to clear a maximum of 15-20 meters field of vision before beginning to lose light at days end. Using the cover of dusk, the men put out a heavy concentration of trip flares and claymore mines in front of our five positions on the perimeter. Darkness would soon be upon us.

One by one, as the men rotated from their foxholes through the chow line several rounds of incoming mortar fire interrupted the evening meal. I remember the secure feeling I had during the massive counter-mortar fire barrage that encircled us for what seemed like more than a half hour. "That kind of firepower ought to settle things down for the night," I said to my platoon sergeant, SSGT Alfred Beebe, as I curled up for the night.

Just as I was about to fall asleep, around 2300 hr.'s, I heard the cries of "Incoming!" and the unmistakable "bloop,bloop, bloop" of incoming mortar rounds. Everyone was diving for cover in their foxholes. This time, instead of just a few harassing rounds of fire, there came a relentless rain of explosions and hot, jagged steel. As the bombardment began, the three man listening post one hundred meters out in front of our perimeter called in a report of massive movement all around them and then silence...this was the last radio contact we would have from them.

Fifteen minutes into the shelling the M-60 machine gun positioned at my left most bunker opened fire with a fury. Before I could check what was going on the radio crackled with a call from the company commander, Cpt. Fishburne, screaming to find out what was happening. As I looked out the ground level firing port of my command post, trip flares began popping to my front like popcorn, washing the jungle in a sea of white light. The foliage transformed into a moving wall of humanity as thick as any mob of shoppers in the mall the day before Christmas. In an instant, my middle bunker immediately in front of me went up in an explosion and the firing enemy soldiers poured through the gap the way a mighty flood races through a failed levee, engulfing everything in its path. As they swarmed over us, screaming and firing wildly into the night, some would stop and try to enter our bunkers from the rear only to be met with a frantic hail of gunfire from the defenders inside.

The radio crackles again, Fishburne screaming for help! "The VC are on the roof of the CP firing down through the sandbags. They're trying to come in the back door! Help! Send somebody to get them off of us!..." The radio went silent.

All defensive integrity of the perimeter in my sector was gone. Each of my remaining four bunkers had become an isolated pocket of American resistance fighting for their lives, firing in every direction. There was no way to approach them. Since I was the only one in my CP who clearly knew the location of the Company command bunker I instructed Sgt. Beebe to take charge. I told my RTO, David "Smitty" Smith, to leave his radio, grab his weapon, bandoleers of ammo and some frags and follow me.

As we crawled out of the safety of the bunker we entered a world of darkness punctuated with bright flashes, red and green trails of tracer bullets zipping and cracking everywhere around us. The acrid smell of cordite singeing our nostrils and choking our every breath. Trying to avoid detection we only fired at the enemy soldiers that trampled over us as their hordes rushed to the interior of the base. In spite of the confusion our gunfire marked our position and the ground around us erupted in a hail of bullets from a nearby Chi-Com assault rifle. Smitty called out "Hey, there's a hole over here!" In the darkness he had recalled crawling through a shallow depression about four inches in depth a few feet to our rear. Oval shaped, it was large enough for us to lay on our stomachs and intertwine our legs. Smitty facing one direction and I facing the other we engaged an unseen enemy that zeroed in on our position. In an instant, with a blinding flash and a thunderous concussion, the night stopped...the only sensation was that of a great fire in my right leg, dirt in my mouth and nose, and the deafening ringing in my ears. Then nothing...

From the depths of nothingness a distant rumble is detected. As though a volume control knob was being turned, the noise becomes closer and louder. As the mind's confusion begins to clear, a new sensation is felt. Something is bouncing off of my leg. Now the noise is hammering my ears and I realize that it is machine-gun fire. Spent cartridges are bouncing off my leg with every burst of fire. The VC are using me for cover like some fallen log! I lay motionless as in death, trying to conceal the beating of my heart, the function of my lungs. My left arm is trapped under my body and has lost all sense of function. Feeling the presence of at least two enemy soldiers my mind searches for a plan of action. The cacophony of the battle rages on. This time a new sound is added, the impact of incoming artillery rounds. We must have had to call in artillery on our own positions. All sense of time is lost. Somewhere in that timeless state, playing dead, wondering if, for the moment, I am the only American alive, I waited to die.

Again the world is rocked by a massive explosion, mere feet away. The force of the blast throws me into the darkness, again filling my airways with dirt and dust. And again, a force like I've never known delivers me into nothingness. The enemy soldiers that once had used me for cover had now shielded me from the deadly shower of shrapnel from an exploding 105mm round which landed ten feet away.

As consciousness came back to me I listened intently for sounds of life and movement around me. Cautiously, I slowly moved my head. Nothing but the raging sounds of war. In the darkness I slowly surveyed my surroundings. Dead enemy, my helmet, my weapon, and Smitty's cold, lifeless body. I crawled in the direction that I hoped would be toward my platoon CP. Although bullets continued to fly everywhere there weren't any NVA in my path. Stopping a short distance from the silhouette I recognized to be my bunker, I watched and listened for clues that might tell me who occupied it. M-16 rifle fire was coming from it but I couldn't be sure if it was coming from GIs or NVA. From a position of cover, rifle ready to lay down fire, I verbally challenged the hole with our pre-determined emergency password. Thank God, I heard Sgt. Beebe's voice in reply, identified myself and scrambled to safety.

Beebe had given me up for dead hours earlier when I failed to make the company command bunker. The enemy trying to take that position earlier had been killed when the artillery had leveled their howitzers and fired bee hive rounds. He had been unable to leave the bunker and check on the other positions but a reinforcement element was on its way from the Battalion Recon platoon. The platoon medic was wounded but stable, Jimmy Pierce, the other RTO was okay and unknown to Beebe at the time, he had taken a fleschette from a bee hive round through the stomach and out his back.

As darkness was beginning to give way to first light, 12 men from the Recon arrived at my CP. Starting with my first bunker position on the left we re-established our defense, leaving a couple of fresh troops at each bunker. The center bunker that had been blown up at the onset of the attack was still occupied by enemy soldiers. I maneuvered the Recon squad from one angle and had them open fire distracting the enemy while I crawled up on their blind side and pitched in a grenade I had let cook. By the time we had covered and re-established all five bunkers I had counted six MIA's including the three men out on the listening post. We had to fight our way out to the LP through the retreating enemy forces and recovered two seriously wounded platoon members and one KIA. During the reorganizing at dawn, the NVA melted back into the jungle. Through the smoke that covered the land in the morning I found ;my three missing men, away from their positions, dead on the battlefield.

Among the many brave men that were there that night, Mike Balser, 2nd platoon leader, Charlie company 3/22 is the lieutenant who made his way back to the perimeter up the road from south. He had lead an ambush patrol out the night before and was overrun by the advancing enemy forces. He too, has a story from Hell, that will be a part of him for the rest of his days.

As the dust off flights were taking men out I remember sitting on a log looking at the six poncho covered bodies of the men I lost that night. My tears streamed down my grimy cheeks at the loss of such fine men. Somewhere a chaplain appeared and placed his arm across my shoulder and assured me it was all right to let it out.

As I made my way to one of the last dustoff birds out, I was eager to lift off and leave that place forever. The night before we had been a platoon of 29 men. That morning there were six KIA, 16 wounded, and seven left in the field to be the 3rd Platoon of Charlie Company, 3/22 infantry.

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The Battle Of Ap Cho

From : Chuck Boyle, CO. C/3-22, 67 - 68

Large concentrations of Viet Cong soldiers had massed around Cu Chi and were well dug in around the village of Ap Cho. It was a medium sized cluster of perhaps 100 buildings, hootches of thatch roofs and sandy mortar walls. The hamlet was just a few kilometers south of Cu Chi and lay astride the main supply route. The 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, under the command of LTC. Thomas U. Harrold, was called upon to engage the enemy and drive them from their locations. The Battalion was forced to attack it daily until all the enemy were killed.

For a period of thirteen days, the 3-22, supported by other units, moved against the enemy in continual attacks  against these fortified positions. Inch by inch they fought their way through the village, hacking away at the bunkers and routing the enemy in close quarter combat.

It was obvious the North Vietnamese soldiers who had dug in there had no intentions of giving up or fleeing. They were determined to fight to the end, and that is exactly what they did, that is - they all died before the hands of the Infantry and the supporting fires.

Each morning, the 3-22 units would pass the line of departure, fix bayonets, and attack the enemy positions, often without any fire support or promise of success. Little by little, they gained ground destroying the enemy positions and their occupants. Often they evacuated their own dead and wounded by oxcart.

The battle was long and fierce. The 3-22 worked beside the mechanized 4-23 Infantry; units of the 17th and 4th Cavalry; numerous batteries of artillery from the 5th, 8th,77th, and 13th Artillery Battalions: the 116th, 187th, 125th, 205th, 269th, and 242nd Assault Helicopter Companies. Thirty airstrikes initiated the final assault, laying waste to the battle zone as the combined arms team attacked.

After an extraordinary fighting effort by the infantry and tanks, coupled with immense support from the air and artillery, the battle was won. Although the struggle received little notice and was anti-climatic considering that the Tet Offensive was in full swing, the victory marked a major upset to the enemy's plans to severe the main supply route to 25th Division units.

Enemy KIA from the action exceeded 253. Six POW's were taken along with tons of enemy weapons and supplies. American losses were 44 KIA, six more died, not from hostile action, and more than 134 were wounded. For the men of the 22nd Infantry, "The Battle Of Ap Cho" represents another splendid in our gallant history.   "Deeds Not Words" 

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The Battle of Good Friday

From the after action report:

On Thursday, April 11, 1968 the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry, acting on reports of intensive enemy activity, climbed from choppers into a remote jungle area 13 miles north of the Dau Tieng base camp. In the few hours before darkness the Regulars busied themselves by establishing a perimeter of hastily prepared foxholes. As darkness quickly surrounded them, they made themselves as comfortable as possible.

At twenty minutes past four o’clock on a black Good Friday morning, all hell broke loose.

Companies B, C, and D, of the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry had "combat assaulted," into the area designated and carefully swept the outskirts before establishing three ambush patrols and three listening posts. The laager position was arranged in a clearing surrounded by jungle, ranging from single to triple canopy. Scattered trees and anthills caused some obstruction, however, the flat terrain provided good fields of fire.

The Battalion Commander, (then) LTC Roy K. Flint, employed the three companies on the defensive perimeter, holding the Reconnaissance Platoon as a reserve. All elements were arranged to employ interlocking fires.

At approximately 0230 hours on 12 April 1968, Good Friday, the perimeter received light probing fire from the west. The Regulars answered it with small arms, automatic weapons, and Claymore mines.

Between 0330 and 0400 hours, the enemy launched a heavy and accurate mortar attack on the perimeter using 61 and 82 millimeter mortars. Approximately 125 rounds landed inside the perimeter, causing numerous casualties.

The mortar barrage reached peak intensity at about 0405 hours and a massive ground attack followed. Bravo Company received the main thrust of the attack. Charlie Company held the right flank and Delta the left. Using small arms, automatic weapons,

90 mm recoilless rifles, hand grenades and bayonets, the Infantrymen repulsed the enemy as fast as they came on. As the attack grew more intense, LTC Flint called for artillery support and it arrived quickly.

Launching more and more "human wave," assaults, the enemy penetrated the defensive line. Bravo Company was forced to pull back approximately 50 meters as they were being overrun. Elements from the Recon Platoon and Delta Company moved across the beaten zone to reinforce Bravo and deliver ammunition. Charlie Company turned its left flank machine guns upon the advancing enemy as they streamed across Bravo’s bunkers. This crossfire caught the enemy in a vice between Delta and Charlie Companies, as reinforced Bravo Company fought its way back to the main bunker line.

Combined with tactical air strikes, gunships, artillery, and the fast approach of the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry (Mechanized), the foot soldiers or the 3rd Battalion repulsed the enemy and the perimeter was secured by 0630 hours.

Fighting had been extremely fierce during the push to regain the bunker line. Some of the enemy died at a range of 5 meters and in some instances, hand to hand combat occurred. 127 enemy died within the perimeter.

As morning light appeared, the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry (Mechanized) merged into the 3rd Battalion’s perimeter to reinforce. They had battled pockets of resistance through five miles of jungle, at night, to get to their American counterparts. As Captain Bill Allison, Commanding Charlie Company, 2/22 Infantry and his mechanized troopers approached firing their fifty caliber’s, the enemy fled West into the jungle. All contact was broken by 0730 hours. The enemy left behind 153 bodies along with a substantial amount of equipment.

At 0800 hours, 12 April 1968, Brigadier General Gleason, Assistant Division Commander of the 25th Infantry Division arrived to survey the battlefield and present awards. The following men received "impact awards," of the Silver Star; our Nation’s third highest award for gallantry in action: Cpt. Gerald White, Commanding Officer of Delta Company; 1LT Richard Prairie, Commander of Bravo Company; SFC Robert E. Nelson, Company D; Sergeant Edward D. Crow, Company B; SP/5 Carl L. Felgenhauer, Company C Medic and SP/4 David Chedister, Recon Platoon Medic. Captain White’s and SP/4 Chedister’s Silver Stars were later upgraded to The Distinguished Service Cross. General Creighten Abrahms, US Commander in Chief in Vietnam, came to Fire Support Buell in January 1969 to present these two awards.

The following statistical data was submitted shortly after the battle:

1.) 16 US Killed in Action. 47 Wounded.

2.) 153 enemy Killed in Action, 53 additional reported forward of the perimeter by aerial summary and recon patrols.

3.) Weapons and equipment captured:

45 AK-47 Assault Rifles

7 AK-50 Assault Rifles

13 Light Machine Guns

7 RPG-2 Rocket Launchers

2 Bolt Action Carbines

38 RPG-2 Rounds

5 RPG-7 Rounds

93 Hand Grenades

29 Light Machine Gun Ammo Drums.

The Regulars departed the perimeter on the following morning after burying the dead and policing the battlefield. They spent Easter Sunday at their Base Camp, Dau Tieng..

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News Clippings about the battle.  From The Pacific Stars and Stripes.

Headline: GI’s smash Red Attack

Saigon (AP)—Fighting from foxholes at a range of a few feet, American infantrymen repulsed 400 newly-equipped enemy troops who stormed U.S. positions early Friday in War Zone C, 49 miles northwest of Saigon.

After five hours of close-quarter fighting, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong attackers fled, leaving 128 dead and more than 50 weapons on the battlefield. All the enemy dead were killed inside or on the fringes of the U.S. Perimeter . 16 U.S. troops were killed and 47 wounded.

Associated Press photographer Al Chang reported from the battlefield that the fighting was so close at one point the American Infantrymen fixed their bayonets for hand-to-hand fighting as their ammunition got low. They didn’t have to use them. (See following note about the use of bayonets at Good Friday)

Two American Infantrymen were found dead inside their bunker. Around them were eight Viet Cong troops, gunned down by the two before they were killed. A lone radio operator held out against ten Viet Cong until the Company Commander, 1LT Richard Prairie and three Infantrymen reinforced him.

A wounded North Vietnamese prisoner identified his unit as the 245th Battalion of the 271st Viet Cong Main Force Regiment.

(Note: Perplexed by Mr. Al Chang’s comment that bayonets were fixed but not used, it was explained to this writer that it was policy to never admit that American Infantrymen had run so low on ammunition that they were forced to use bayonets. However, the two Bravo Company soldiers that gave their lives while taking out eight NVA, had bayonets on their rifles with blood on them. The enemy dead had bayonet holes in them. The American rifles and magazines were empty.)

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Excerpts From The Santa Cruz Sentinel (California):

Headline: Every Man A Hero As Reds Hit Line.

Capt. Gerald White, of Fresno, commanding a Company that was one of the hardest hit said: "When I heard the small-arms fire then I knew it was a ground attack. Five minutes later, my front lines facing the thick, heavy jungle opened up. From then on it was a lot of shooting."

1LT Richard Prairie, Kangagee, IL, commanding another company said: "The attack pushed into the area of my First Platoon and before long they had only one man left. The Second Platoon was in danger of being overrun and I pulled it back about twenty yards and from there it held."

Sergeant Edward Crow, Columbus, GA said: "I retook a position with four men in my squad right after daybreak so I could see where the Viet Cong were." Crow found himself out of ammunition, picked up an enemy rifle, and killed two Viet Cong. He was one of those receiving The Silver Star, but said he didn’t know why he got it.

Lieutenant Colonel Roy K. Flint in summing up the battle said: "I had a lot of heroes in my battalion. I wish the Americans back home could appreciate the Americans here the way I do. I’ve got a lot of real heroes here. You can’t find better men than that."

This writer remembers. . . .

We flew into the clearing late on the afternoon of 11 April 1968. We were delayed getting out of our pick up zone due to a shortage of choppers. A major operation was underway and aircraft were in short supply. The last unit reached the clearing at about 1700 hours. By the time listening posts, patrols, and the defensive line were established, it was almost dark. In fact, Colonel Flint’s "Commanders Call" was conducted in the dark.

Charlie Company was the first to arrive and consequently had more time to dig in. Bravo came in last and faced the task of preparing their positions in dim light. The ground was as hard as a rock and entrenching tool tips were blunted trying to get dug in.

The battalion was postured facing West. Bravo Company had the center, Charlie was on the right, looking west and north, while Delta had the left, facing Southwest. The perimeter was arranged in an arc or semi-circle. Recon Platoon covered the rear.

Normal actions for a defense were accomplished such as LP’s, trip flares, listening devices, etc., but it was difficult trying to clear fields of fire or string barbed wire in the dark. The Charlie and Bravo Company Commanders met at their tie in point and fortunately, there appeared an ideal situation for placing two of Charlie Company’s M-60 machine guns in pairs, their fields of fire grazing across the front of Bravo. Those two guns were able to place grazing fire across the enemy’s penetration into Bravo later that night. Both commander’s were deeply concerned that such little preparation had been accomplished before darkness. They still had rations and water to distribute among the myriad of things required in a defense. Bravo Company men had barely scratched the surface of the cast iron earth before darkness arrived.

Enemy mortars initiated the attack and it wasn’t long before the battlefield was a sea of green tracers. They cut so low you couldn’t get your head up. In minutes they were pouring right through Bravo’s positions. Charlie Company was also heavily engaged but the fact that they had holes to fight from saved them from being overrun. Charlie Company counted 56 bodies laying in front of their positions at daylight.

Delta Company had an ambush patrol stuck out in the jungle between the enemy and their positions. They couldn’t get back in. Delta was also hit hard and soon they were all isolated pockets of resistance.

It didn’t take long to conclude that the main thrust was through Bravo. Colonel Flint was quick to arrange support and within seconds artillery was falling to the front. Lieutenant Mike Donnelley, Charlie Company Forward Observer and Captain Dave Whidden, the Battalion Artillery Liaison Officer from the 2nd Battalion, 77th Field Artillery had laid in defensive concentrations close to our perimeter. They continued to direct it throughout the battle.

A gunship from the 188th Assault Helicopter Company arrived overhead and their red tracers hosed down our front. Soon other gunships arrived from the 116th AHC the 187th. Those brave guys were always there for us. "Spooky," a modified C-47 airplane came overhead and poured all his firepower forward of the perimeter. Air Force fighter bombers came on station and dropped their napalm canisters and bombs as close as fifty meters in front of our lines. The battlefield was a sea of flame, red and green tracers, and white hot steal from the artillery.

Knowing that the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry (Mechanized) was fast approaching from the southeast, the Regulars took heart and met the enemy head on, bullet for bullet, bayonet for bayonet. Lieutenant’s Mike Balser and Dennis Adkins from Charlie Company reacted to enemy troops on top of the Battalion Commanders CP. After they eliminated that threat, they gathered up a couple of men, big James Asher among them, and with machine guns and rifles blazing, they made their way into the center of Bravo’s line. They had the enemy in a cross fire between them and Delta and what was left of Bravo. This combined effort all together killed 127 enemy between Bravo’s line and about 75 feet to the rear of it.

Captain Jerry White was in the middle of it with his Delta Company boys and they brought in ammunition, distributed it and fought the attacking enemy at the same time.

Whatever medals and accolades those fellows got that night, they darned sure deserved them.

By daylight the mechanized infantry had arrived. They were reconing by fire and their big fifty’s were beginning to hit inside our perimeter. The first track to arrive and its gunner, John Marts, called for a cease fire as soon as they broke through. At the Gettysburg reunion for the 22nd Infantry last October, John told me he stopped firing because all he could see were Americans and Viet Cong merged together on the battlefield. "I didn’t know who to shoot at," he said.

By 0800 hours we were stacking the dead. We had to pack dirt into the wounds of some of them to stop the smoldering napalm from consuming their flesh. Father Jim Tobin, the Brigade Chaplain arrived and began to anoint the 16 Americans and pray for them. He told me he was also praying for the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong dead. Let me leave it at that.

This Easter season, let us all remember the 16 brave Americans that gave their lives in that jungle clearing that terrible night. Let’s remember the wounded, some of them amputees, today. Oh yes, as Father Tobin would have it, let’s remember also, the enemy that we killed and wounded thirty years ago this week. As he told me once, there is an old Russian saying: "The only thing different between soldiers is the buttons on their uniforms."

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The Battle of FSB Crook

They Were All Heroes’ FSB CROOK, 7 June 69 .

During two nights of deadly close-in fighting, Bravo Company of the 3d Battalion, 22d Infantry, turned back two NVA regiments. In two separate back-to-back ground attacks Thursday and Friday nights on Fire Support Base Crook, eight and a half miles northwest of Tay Ninh City the outnumbered Regulars held firm and killed off the charging NVA.

Both battles saw the NVA forces soundly defeated. The enemy initially tried to breach the perimeter with sappers but failed. At no time was the Regulars’ bunker line penetrated. Supporting fires for Crook were supplied by Cobra gunships, tactical air strikes, spookie, shadow (C-119 gunship) and a host of artillery batteries. Alpha Battery of the 7th Battalion, 11th Artillery, fired point blank into the on-rushing enemy as rocket and mortar fire slammed into Crook. “Throughout the attacks my men performed remarkably. Even during the height of the in-coming rounds, they got out of their bunkers and fired the guns. They knew they had to do it, so they stayed low and we came out like bandits, taking very few casualties,” said the battery commander, Captain Dick Neal of San Antonio, Tex.

As Bravo Company left the perimeter to sweep the area the following morning they were greeted by hand grenade-throwing NVA who tossed the grenades out of well camouflaged spider holes. Bravo returned to its perimeter and had spookie hose down the area with its deadly mini-gun. Alpha Company was dropped off four kilometers north of Crook by the 187th Assault Helicopter Company to spoil the enemy’s rapid retreat. Following a trail of commo wire they met head-on with the NVA regiment’s headquarters. First Lieutenant William Ervin of Richmond, Va., called for tactical air strikes as he maneuvered his men against the enemy. Darkness forced Alpha to return to Fire Support Base Washington before enemy casualties were known.

The second night of fighting seemed to be an instant replay of the previous night’s action. The only difference was that a fresh NVA regiment hit from the opposite side. As mortars, rockets and RPG’s slashed into the fire support base, First Lieutenant Curtis McFarland of Midland, Tex., readied his platoon. Again the sappers were stopped before they breached the perimeter. On both nights Major Joseph Hacia of Wethersfield, Conn., ran the entire show. He gained the prospective of the situation by rapidly moving between his tactical operations center, tower and bunker line. “I’m really impressed with the men of Bravo Company,” said Hacia, the battalion’s XO. “They performed to perfection and fought just as if they were at a turkey shoot. The real key to our success was early warning. Our electronic devices had them zeroed in several hours before they actually reached the perimeter. We knew they were coming and we were ready for them. The men on the bunker line knew exactly what to do and caught the sappers before they had a chance to do any damage.”

Specialist 4 Thomas Belan of Pittsburgh was one of the first to spot the sappers as they attempted to crawl under the wire on the southwest side of the perimeter. Belan literally burned up the barrel on his machine gun. The quick-thinking of Sergeant First Class Donald Neal of Columbus, Ga., proved to be fatal for the unsuspecting sappers. Neal grabbed two grenade launchers and several bandoleers of ammo before heading for Belan’s position. Together they popped out the grenades and sent the sappers heading back for the nearby woodline.

“They were all heroes,” said Captain Larry B. Thomas of Camp Hill, Pa., Thomas directed his Bravo Company while running back and forth on the bunker line determining where the areas of greatest threat were. “The men knew what to do before I had a chance to direct them. They performed beyond expectations, and I’m proud of every one of them.”

A last-ditch effort was made from the northeast section where the initial attack was fairly light, Machinegunner Specialist 4 Richard C. Morroquine of Floresville, Tex., made an immediate assessment of the situation and turned back the on-rushing enemy with his M-60. The desperate NVA answered his volley with a wave of rocket-propelled grenades. But Bravo had constructed their fortifications well. Many bunkers and fighting positions received direct hits and withstood them. “ I saw them coming,” said Morroquine. “This place was lit up like the Fourth of July and we could spot out targets as they came out of the woodline.” Twelve enemy soldiers were riddled with machine gun bullets in front of Morroquine’s position, and several blood trails led off to the woodline. Battalion Commander Lieutenant Colonel Robert Carmichael of Columbus, Ga., had nothing but praise for his Regulars. “Everybody reacted to perfection to defeat the enemy force. we had one hell of a battle on our hands, and it directly involved the entire battalion. Our support elements provided everything we needed as fast as it could possibly be done.

Alpha, Charlie and Delta companies all got into the action at Crook by sweeping the surrounding woodlines after the battle. Even our recon platoon was out there clearing away the bodies and counting the captured weapons. I’m proud of every man in the unit and especially proud of those men in Bravo Company who pushed back two NVA regiments in two nights.” After two nights of fierce fighting, the number of enemy killed on the battle- marked terrain around Crook reached 400. One GI died in the action and eight were wounded.

Reprinted from  the Tropic Lightning News, June 16, 1969

A Special Thanks to John Otte, B/3-22, 67-68

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"Hoboes"

From : Bob Babcock, B/1-22, 11-65 to 7-67.

Our trained reaction to the first crack of a rifle shot brought us all to the ground. The sound was followed by intense gunfire as we responded to the enemy fire with our own. My heart was pounding. Adrenaline pumped through my body at an ear throbbing rate. I had tried to overcome the initial mass confusion, assess the situation, and determine what to do next.

We had found a number of abandoned enemy bunkers earlier in the afternoon. As I observed where the gunfire had started, it appeared there was a line of bunkers on the small rise in front of us. From where we were, it was impossible to tell how many there were and how many people were occupying them. The sound of the radio interrupted my thoughts.

"Oscar 61, this is Oscar 6. What is the situation?. Over." "We have a line of bunkers in front of us and have received fire. We need a fire mission, over." It took no time to get our supporting 105mm howitzers from Charlie Battery, 4-42 Artillery called into action. The jungle soon shook from the exploding artillery blasts.

As we lay watching the area, and continued to direct our rifle and machine gun fire at the bunker line, we got another radio call."Oscar 6, this is Birddog 19. I have a flight of Hoboes on station. Do you need them? Over."

"Hobo" was the radio call sign of the 1950's vintage, propeller driven, Douglas A1E Skyraiders stationed at Pleiku Air Force Base. "Birddog 19" was the Air Force Forward Air Controller (FAC) whose job it was to direct the fire of all airplanes in the area.

"Roger," was my reply. "We will lift the artillery and you can come in on target." As soon as I called to adjust the artillery fire to the rear of the target area, we could hear the first Hobo screaming towards us from right to left.

The FAC had marked the target with a white phosphorus marking rocket and the A1E released his bomb load right on target. His bombs were Cluster Bomb Units (CBUs) that exploded before they hit the ground, throwing thousands of tiny BB sized projectiles across the target area.

Our position was scarcely 75 yards from where the CBUs were hitting. The shrapnel was ricocheting through the trees above us as well as the target area. The sound of the metal ripping through the trees gave the saying, "Make myself one with Mother Earth" new meaning. The first Hobo was followed closely by a second and then a third as they saturated the bunker line with their CBUs. I had never heard anything like the clatter made as the projectiles ricocheted through the trees.

As quickly as they came, they were gone. As we were getting up to move across the bunker line, we got another call from Birddog 19. "The Hoboes have some 20mm cannons they can help you with. Do you want them to strafe the area before you go in? Over." Again, "Roger." was my reply. (No one ever accused me of not using all the firepower I had at my disposal.)

This time the Hoboes came from our rear and flew directly overhead as they peppered the area to our front with their 20mm cannons. Another reality of war hit me as a hail of spent 20mm cartridge hulls came raining down on our heads. Training had never included getting pelted with the four inch long brass cartridge hulls which fell through the trees. I pulled my helmet down tightly . Those things hurt and were still hot as hell.

As the third Hobo completed his strafing run, we got up and quickly swept across the bunker line, firing into each bunker as we advanced. We moved through without stopping and took up defensive positions fifty yards past the bunkers, waiting for the rest of the company to join us.

As was so frequently the case, all we found were blood trails leading away from the bunker complex. We never knew whether or not we had killed any of the NVA. Fortunately, none of us were hurt. We gained a better appreciation for the Hoboes. We knew they were usually on station to come to our aid when we needed them. They were slow and ugly in comparison to the sleek jets, but they had more staying power and could fly in much nastier weather.

Note: This is a contribution from the authors unpublished book about his experiences in Vietnam. It happened early in his tour with B/1-22 in 1966-67. We gratefully appreciate his permission to print this excerpt of his yet unpublished book.

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                 Any Battles A Big One, If You Are In It.

Bill Noyes, B/2-22, 10/68 - 10/69 Vietnam.

It occurs to me that we Vietnam vets may have tales to contribute, but we also work at a disadvantage. WWII experiences fit better into a larger context, an important battle with a name. A D-Day or Hurtgen Forest is tough for us vets to match, historically or psychologically.

Looking back over my year in the war zone, the only sizable name I have to hook into is Operation Toon Thaung (Certain Victory) II. History is a little slow in coalescing around that one, understandably. Or was it I or III, I don't really know. But big battles are reducible to little affairs, which are the shared experience of a few men only, trying to get the goods on an unknown number of enemy.

They may never know the results of their little skirmish nor the reasons why, especially if history never bothers to put it all into a coherent mix of cause and effect. All wars are more or less like that at the lowest level, the place where the ordnance hits the earth, so to speak.

I can't imagine a group of Toon Thaung veterans sitting around talking about Toon Thaung ; none but the commanders even knew the name at that time. T. T. was an operation that lasted several years and pretty much stayed in the minds of those who conceived it. There wasn't any particular direction that any vet could easily attach his experience to. The goal seems to have been to make it damm hard for any enemy force, large or small, to operate anywhere near Saigon. I suppose that anything that happened in my one year tour could apply toward this enormously complicated operation.

On a hot day in May, 1968, the entire 2-22 Mechanized swept into the jungle area just northwest of the Ben Cui rubber plantation. we'd been into this same area from the west the day before and fought two fire fights. Now we had everything - flame tracks, mortars, the works. All four companies lumbered into the dense jungle from the south, two abreast with B company on the left point. Mech in heavy jungle is a slow, cumbersome process, proof that for Toon Thaung, we would go anywhere, endure anything to get at the enemy.

B-52 strikes had hit the previous day's contact area the night before but we had some dense double canopy to get through first. And did I say it was hot ? Broiling sun above, roaring track engines behind, matted and woven jungle to the front, soon several of our squad were heat exhaustion cases inside the APC. The rest pushed forward as point and flank security, loosing direction easily as we bobbed and weaved and waited to check alignment with other mostly unseen units. The infantry pushed and crawled, the tracks followed as best they could, their engines screaming.

I recall a moment in this T. T. operation when myself and A. Harp at point had no option against the thickets and thorns but to lean our way through. Harp went one way and was suspended in the tangle, I tried the other way with the same result. There we were like flies stuck on paper. The sun felt like a toaster as I lay in my bramble web and watched the track work its way closer from behind. It seemed one of the goofiest situations I could ever get myself into. The track waited like a big dog that didn't know what its master wanted. It idled, the engine roared and it moved a few more inches and waited again.

Well Harp and I finally pushed our way through, as did the rest of the battalion and we got to where we were going. There we met the enemy and fought another Toon Thaung battle; sent another NVA battalion back to Cambodia for repair instead of to the streets of Saigon, but that's another story..

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NAMED CAMPAIGNS - VIETNAM

     Streamers: Yellow with green borders and three red stripes centered

Advisory 15 March 1962 - 7 March 1965
Defense 8 March 1965 - 24 December 1965
Counteroffensive 25 December 1965 - 30 June 1966
Counteroffensive, Phase II 1 July 1966 - 31 May 1967
Counteroffensive, Phase III 1 June 1967 - 29 January 1968
Tet Counteroffensive 30 January 1968- 1 April 1968
Counteroffensive, Phase IV 2 April 1968 - 30 June 1968
Counteroffensive, Phase V 1 July 1968- 1 November 1968
Counteroffensive, Phase VI 2 November 1968 - 22 February 1969
Tet 69/Counteroffensive 23 February 1969 - 8 June 1969
Summer-Fall 1969 9 June 1969 - 31 October 1969
Winter-Spring 1970 1 November 1969 - 30 April 1970
Sanctuary Counteroffensive 1 May 1970 - 30 June 1970
Counteroffensive, Phase VII 1 July 1970 - 30 June 1971
Consolidation I 1 July 1971 - 30 November 1971
Consolidation II 1 December 1971 - 29 March 1972
Cease-Fire 30 March 1972 - 28 January 1973

Advisory, 15 March 1962 - 7 March 1965. During this period, direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam conflict increased steadily as U.S. trained Vietnamese pilots moved Vietnamese helicopter units into and out of combat. Ultimately the United States hoped that a strong Vietnamese government would result in improved internal security and national defense. The number of U.S. advisors in the field rose from 746 in January 1962 to over 3,400 by June; the entire U.S. commitment by the end of the year was 11,000, which included 29 U.S. Army Special Forces detachments. These advisory and support elements operated under the Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, a position established 8 February 1962. The object of American military assistance was to counter the threat to the government of the Republic of Vietnam posed by the insurgency of an estimated 30,000 regular communist Viet Cong and civilian sympathizers among the population. Despite what appeared to be considerable successes in consolidating the population in a series of defended strategic hamlets, and in establishing local defense forces, the U.S. equipped Army of the Republic of Vietnam repeatedly demonstrated an unwillingness to close with the enemy. A corrupt government and bitterly contending Vietnamese political factions further hampered a coherent prosecution of the war with American advisors, who nevertheless continued their efforts well into the period of large scale commitments of U.S. Army forces to the conflict.

 

Defense, 8 March 1965 - 24 December 1965. During this campaign the U.S. objective was to hold off the enemy while gaining time needed to build base camps and logistical facilities. The U.S. also attempted to consolidate its ground operations more efficiently. For this purpose, it organized the U.S. Army Vietnam (USARV). U.S. support in the I Corps tactical zone, composed of five northernmost provinces, was to be primarily a Marine Corps responsibility; the U.S. Army was to operate mainly in the II and III Corps tactical zones which comprised the Central highlands, adjacent coastal regions, and the area around Saigon; and ARVN troops were to retain primary responsibility for the Delta region of the IV Corps.

On 19 October 1965. three VC regiments totaling 6,000 men attacked a Civil Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) - U.S. Special Forces at Plei Me, near the entrance to the Ia Drang Valley, in what purported to be the start of a thrust to cut the country in half.

With the assistance of massive air strikes, elements of the newly arrived 1st Cavalry Division thwarted the enemy in a battle that lasted nearly a month and included several engagements. The Ia Drang Valley action was the costliest in terms of casualties to date. The successful defense of the region improved security in and around the Central Highlands and raised the morale of the soldiers involved.

 

Counteroffensive, 25 December 1965 - 30 June 1966. Following the U.S. victory in the Ia Drang Valley, American forces for the remainder of 1965 and well into 1966 sought to keep the enemy off balance while building base camps and logistical installations. This involved search and destroy operations to protect the logistical bases under construction along the coast and the base camps for incoming U.S. units in the provinces near Saigon.

Also of particular concern to the American military mission was the protection of the government and the people of South Vietnam. To accomplish the tasks outlined U.S. efforts were concentrated in the most vital and heavily populated regions. The III Marine Amphibious Force supported the South Vietnamese I Corps in the northern provinces; the I Field Force supported the Vietnamese II Corps in the central region; and the II Field Force supported the South Vietnamese III Corps around Saigon. Consequently, the major battles of the year occurred in these critical areas. The 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, the Korean 2d Marine Brigade, and the ARVN 47th Regiment began Operation VAN BUREN on 19 January to locate and destroy the North Vietnamese 95th Regiment, which was believed to be in the Tuy Hoa Valley. Their mission included protecting the rice harvest produced in the coastal region. The successful execution of these assignments resulted in serious enemy losses. During 20-23 January, a temporary cease fire was proclaimed in honor of the lunar new year (Tet), although minor clashes continued throughout this period.

During February and March, U.S. intelligence reported heavy North Vietnamese Army infiltration from Laos and across the demilitarized zone into Quang Tri Province. Only the South Vietnamese 1st Division and a single U.S. marine battalion were deployed to the province. However, to defend against this threatened invasion the bulk of the U.S. 3d Marine Division and the first U.S. Army combat units, the 173d Airborne Brigade, were moved into the northern provinces. On April 12, U.S. B-52s based on Guam bombed infiltration routes near the Laos border in the first use of these weapons against NVA. Throughout this phase of the campaign, the enemy continued to take refuge in Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. Driving the enemy back removed the threat of harassment of the populace by North Vietnamese regular forces and curbed local guerrilla activity.

 

Counteroffensive, Phase II, 1 July 1966 - 31 May 1967. United States operations after 1 July 1966 were a continuation of the earlier counteroffensive campaign. Recognizing the interdependence of political, economic, sociological, and military factors, the Joint Chiefs of Staff declared that American military objectives should be to cause North Vietnam to cease its control and support of the insurgency in South Vietnam and Laos, to assist South Vietnam in defeating Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam, and to assist South Vietnam in pacification extending governmental control over its territory.

North Vietnam continued to build its own forces inside South Vietnam. At first this was done by continued infiltration by sea and along the Ho Chi Minh trail and then, in early 1966, through the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). U.S. air elements received permission to conduct reconnaissance bombing raids, and tactical air strikes into North Vietnam just north of the DMZ, but ground forces were denied authority to conduct reconnaissance patrols in the northern portion of the DMZ and inside North Vietnam. Confined to South Vietnamese territory U.S. ground forces fought a war of attrition against the enemy, relying for a time on body counts as one standard indicator for measuring successful progress for winning the war.

During 1966 there were eighteen major operations, the most successful of these being Operation WHITE WING (MASHER). During this operation, the 1st Cavalry Division, Korean units, and ARVN forces cleared the northern half of Binh Dinh Province on the central coast. In the process they decimated a division, later designated the North Vietnamese 3d Division. The U.S. 3d Marine Division was moved into the area of the two northern provinces and in concert with South Vietnamese Army and other Marine Corps units, conducted Operation HASTINGS against enemy infiltrators across the DMZ.

The largest sweep of 1966 took place northwest of Saigon in Operation ATTLEBORO, involving 22,000 American and South Vietnamese troops pitted against the VC 9th Division and a NVA regiment. The Allies defeated the enemy and, in what became a frequent occurrence, forced him back to his havens in Cambodia or Laos.

By 31 December 1966, U.S. military personnel in South Vietnam numbered 385,300. Enemy forces also increased substantially, so that for the same period, total enemy strength was in excess of 282,000 in addition to an estimated 80,000 political cadres. By 30 June 1967, total U.S. forces in SVN had risen to 448,800, but enemy strength had increased as well.

On 8 January U.S. and South Vietnamese troops launched separate drives against two major VC strongholds in South Vietnam—in the so-called "Iron Triangle" about 25 miles northwest of Saigon. For years this area had been under development as a VC logistics base and headquarters to control enemy activity in and around Saigon. The Allies captured huge caches of rice and other foodstuffs, destroyed a mammoth system of tunnels, and seized documents of considerable intelligence value.

In February, the same U.S. forces that had cleared the "Iron Triangle", were committed with other units in the largest allied operation of the war to date, JUNCTION CITY. Over 22 U.S. and four ARVN battalions engaged the enemy, killing 2,728. After clearing this area, the Allies constructed three airfields; erected a bridge and fortified two camps in which CIDG garrisons remained as the other allied forces withdrew.

 

Counteroffensive, Phase III, 1 June 1967-29 January 1968. The conflict in South Vietnam remains basically unchanged. As Operation JUNCTION CITY ended, elements of the U.S. 1st and 25th Infantry Divisions, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, and the forces of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam swung back toward Saigon to conduct another clearing operation, MANHATTAN. This took peace in the Long Nguyen base area just north of the previously cleared "Iron Triangle."

South Vietnamese Armed Forces became more active and capable under U.S. advisors. During the year the Vietnamese Special Forces assumed responsibility for several Special Forces camps and for the CIDG companies manning them. In each case all of the U.S. advisors withdrew, leaving the Vietnamese in full command.

With an increased delegation of responsibility to them, the South Vietnamese conducted major operations during 1967, and, in spite of VC attempts to avoid battle, achieved a number of contacts.

Despite the success of U.S. and South Vietnamese Army operations, there were indications in the fall of 1967 of another enemy build-up, particularly in areas close to Laos and Cambodia. In late October, the VC struck again at the Special Forces Camp at Loc Ninh. Fortunately Vietnamese reinforcements saved the camp. At the same time, approximately 12,000 VC troops converged on a Special Forces camp at Dak To. This camp was located in northern Kontum Province, where the borders of Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam meet. In response to this potential threat, the U.S. and South Vietnam committed a total of sixteen battalions to the region to counter a disturbing enemy resurgence at Kontum and Loc Ninh.

 

Tet Counteroffensive, 30 January 1968-1 April 1968. On 29 January 1968 the Allies began the Tet-lunar new year expecting the usual 36-hour peaceful holiday truce. Because of the threat of a large-scale attack and communist buildup around Khe Sanh, the cease fire order was issued in all areas over which the Allies were responsible with the exception of the I CTZ, south of the Demilitarized Zone.

Determined enemy assaults began in the northern and Central provinces before daylight on 30 January and in Saigon and the Mekong Delta regions that night. Some 84,000 VC and North Vietnamese attacked or fired upon 36 of 44 provincial capitals, 5 of 6 autonomous cities, 64 of 242 district capitals and 50 hamlets. In addition, the enemy raided a number of military installations including almost every airfield. The actual fighting lasted three days; however Saigon and Hue were under more intense and sustained attack.

The attack in Saigon began with a sapper assault against the U.S. Embassy. Other assaults were directed against the Presidential Palace, the compound of the Vietnamese Joint General Staff, and nearby Ton San Nhut air base.

At Hue, eight enemy battalions infiltrated the city and fought the three U.S. Marine Corps, three U.S. Army and eleven South Vietnamese battalions defending it. The fight to expel the enemy lasted a month. American and South Vietnamese units lost over 500 killed, while VC and North Vietnamese battle deaths may have been somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000.

Heavy fighting also occurred in two remote regions: around the Special Forces camp at Dak To in the central highlands and around the U.S. Marines Corps base at Khe Sanh. In both areas, the allies defeated attempts to dislodge them. Finally, with the arrival of more U.S. Army troops under the new XXIV Corps headquarters to reinforce the marines in the northern province, Khe Sanh was abandoned.

Tet proved a major military defeat for the communists. It had failed to spawn either an uprising or appreciable support among the South Vietnamese. On the other hand, the U.S. public became discouraged and support for the war was seriously eroded. U.S. strength in South Vietnam totaled more than 500,000 by early 1968. In addition, there were 61,000 other allied troops and 600,000 South Vietnamese.

The Tet Offensive also dealt a visibly severe setback to the pacification program, as a result of the intense fighting needed to root out VC elements that clung to fortified positions inside the towns. For example, in the densely populated delta there had been approximately 14,000 refugees in January; after Tet some 170,000 were homeless. The requirement to assist these persons seriously inhibited national recovery efforts.

 

Counteroffensive. Phase IV, 2 Apri1 1968-30 June 1968. During this period friendly forces conducted a number of battalion-size attritional operations against the enemy.

Operations PEGASUS-Lam Son 207 relieved the Khe Sanh Combat Base on 5 April and thereby opened Route 9 for the first time since August 1967. This operation not only severely restricted the North Vietnamese Army's use of western Quang Tri Province but also inflicted casualties on the remnants of two North Vietnamese divisions withdrawing from the area. This success was followed by a singular allied spoiling operation in the A Shau Valley, Operation DELAWARE-Lam Son. These two operations prevented the enemy from further attacking I Corps Tactical Zone population centers and forced him to shift his pressure to the III Corps Tactical Zone.

During the period 5-12 May 1968 the Viet Cong launched an offensive with Saigon as the primary objective. Friendly forces defended the city with great determination. Consequently Saigon was never in danger of being overrun. Small Viet Cong units that did manage to get into the outskirts were fragmented and driven out with great loss of enemy life. By the end of June 1968 friendly forces had decisively blunted the enemy's attacks, inflicted very heavy casualties, and hindered his ability to attack urban areas throughout the Republic of Vietnam. The enemy was forced to withdraw to his sanctuaries.

The strength of the U.S. Army in Vietnam reach a peak of nearly 360,000 men during this period.

 

Counteroffensive, Phase V, 1 July 1968 - 1 November 1968. During this period a country-wide effort was begun to restore government control of territory lost to the enemy since the Tet offensive. The enemy attempted another such offensive on 17-18 August but his efforts were comparatively feeble and were quickly overwhelmed by Allied forces.

In the fall of 1968 the South Vietnamese government, with major U.S. support, launched an accelerated pacification campaign. All friendly forces were coordinated and brought to bear on the enemy in every tactical area of operation. In these intensified operations, friendly units first secured a target area, then Vietnamese government units, regional forces/popular forces, police and civil authorities screened the inhabitants, seeking members of the Viet Cong infrastructure. This technique was so successful against the political apparatus that it became the basis for subsequent friendly operations. Government influence expanded into areas of the countryside previously dominated by the Viet Cong to such an extent that two years later at least some measure of government control was evident in all but a few remote regions.

 

Counteroffensive, Phase VI, 2 November 1968 - 22 February 1969. In November 1968 the South Vietnam government with American support began a concentrated effort to expand security in the countryside. This project was known as the "Accelerated Pacification Campaign."

This period covers the election of President Richard M. Nixon and a change of policy brought about by his administration after January 1969 when he announced a coming end to US combat in Southeast Asia and a simultaneous strengthening of South Vietnam's ability to defend itself. Formal truce negotiations began in Paris on January 25, 1969. The period can be characterized as marking time in preparation for an about face. Forty-seven ground combat operations were recorded during this period, the following being the most important:

(1). Operation NAPOLEON in the Dong Ha area initiated previously (1967) by Marine units, terminated on 9 December 1968.

(2). Operation WHEELER WALLOWA by 3d Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division and 196th Infantry Brigade (Light) in north-central Quan Tin Province. This ended on 11 November.

(3). Operation MACARTHUR initiated by 4th U.S. Infantry Division in II Corps tactical zone terminated on 31 January 1969.

(4). Operation COCHISE GREEN conducted by the 173d Airborne Brigade in Binh Dinh Province.

(5). Operation TOAN THANG II consisted of ground operations throughout III CTZ. This was a multi-division operation involving allied forces.

(6). Operation SEA LORDS was a coast and riverine operation. On 6 December Operation GIANT SLINGSHOT was started to disrupt enemy infiltration of materials from the "Parrot's Beak" area of Cambodia. Air operations continued to be important with over 60,000 sorties flown.

 

Tet 69/Counteroffensive, 23 February 1969 - 8 June 1969. From Tet 1969 through the month of June, the enemy again tried to sustain an offensive. His inability to do so can be largely attributed to aggressive allied ground operations. Between 23 February and 8 June 1969, a total of 70 significant named ground operations were terminated resulting in heavy enemy loss of life and materiel. The main operations concluded during this period were:

(1). The 3d Marine Division's Operation KENTUCKY aimed at preventing enemy infiltration through the Demilitarized Zone in central Quang Tri Province. Throughout the early part of January 1969, Viet Cong/North Vietnamese Army forces continued to avoid major contacts with Free World Forces. Their continual movement to avoid friendly forces or to search for food and supplies contributed to a decrease in the enemy-initiated ground attacks and attacks-by-fire in Quang Tri Province.

(2). Operation NEVADA EAGLE, initiated on 17 May 1968 in Thua Thien Province, continued in 1969 as the U.S. 101st Airborne Division continued to defeat enemy personnel, and capture rice caches, material, and installations within its large area of operations, where it undertook offensive sweeps along Route 547 and around Song Bo.

(3). Two battalions of the 4th Marine Regiment were engaged in Operation SCOTLAND II. Initiated on 15 April 1968, this multi-battalion search and clear operation was centered in and around Khe Sanh.

(4). The IV Corps Tactical Zone Dry Weather Campaign began on 1 December 1968 in support of the overall mission to prevent Viet Cong units from interfering with pacification efforts. This operation, "Speedy Express," interdicted lines of enemy communication and denied him the use of base areas. In 1969 the 1st Brigade, 9th U.S. Infantry Division continued the operation in Dinh Tuong Province, using its highly successful night ambush tactics while the 2d Brigade continued its mission with the Mobile Riverine Force. Although engagements in Operation SPEEDY EXPRESS were typically small, the 9th Infantry Division fought several sizable engagements with impressive results.

On 23 February U.S. Navy units and installations at Da Nang, Tan An, Ben Luc, Go Dan Ha, and Tra Cu came under numerous and widespread attacks associated with a new enemy offensive, but since many units in these areas were poised to meet these attacks they caused only minimal damage. April saw the heaviest cumulative enemy activity in the barrier interdiction campaign to date.

 

Summer-Fall 1969, 9 June 1969-31 October 1969. During the summer and fall of 1969, conduct of operations was increasingly turned over to Vietnamese, US troops withdrew in greater numbers amid reaffirmation's of support for the Republic of South Vietnam government. President Nixon announced the reduction of the U.S. military presence in South Vietnam which would be demonstrated initially by the withdrawal of 25,000 troops by 31 August 1969.

American troop strength had peaked at 543,400 in April 1969 but dropped to 505,500 by mid October. More scattered than before, enemy attacks were concentrated on South Vietnamese positions. U.S. combat deaths were down in the early fall as American units switched to small unit actions. The trend was not constant, however, because U.S. troops deaths which had fallen well below l00 a week in the fall, rose above 100 later in the year.

 

Winter-Spring 1970, 1 November 1969-30 April 1970. An increase in enemy-initiated attacks, at the highest level since 4-5 September signaled the start of the first phase of the Communist winter campaign. This was highlighted by intensified harassment incidents, and attacks throughout the Republic of Vietnam. In November-December these were heaviest in Corps Tactical Zones III and IV (around Saigon), primarily directed against Vietnamese military installations in order to disrupt the pacification program. The most significant enemy activity occurred in November with heavy attacks upon By Prang and Duc Lap in CTZ II (Central Vietnam).

By February 1970 the focus of enemy activity began to shift to CTZ I and II. Attacks increased steadily, reaching a peak in April 1970. Hostile forces staged their heaviest attacks in the Central Highlands near Civilian Irregular Defense Group camps at Dak Seang, Dak Pek, and Ben Het in I CTZ. The enemy also conducted numerous attacks by fire and several sapper attacks against U.S. fire support bases. This high level of enemy activity began in I CTZ in April and continued through May.

During the period 1 November 1969 through 30 April 1970 U.S. and allied forces concentrated on aggressive operations to find and destroy enemy main and local forces, the penetration of base camps and installations and the seizure of enemy supplies and materiel. These operations sought to deny the enemy the initiative and to inflict heavy losses in men and materiel. Further progress was made in Vietnamization through improving the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces. As a result of these advances three brigades of the 1st U.S. Infantry Division and several major U.S.M.C. units were withdrawn from Vietnam during this period.

The enemy made several efforts to take the offensive at Dak Seang, which was attacked on 1 April 1970 and remained under siege throughout the month, and at Quang Duc in the By Prong-Duc Lap area which ended on 28 December. Only Vietnamese forces were engaged in both of these operations, the Quang Duc campaign involving some 12,000 ARVN troops. South Vietnamese forces again took the offensive on 14 April in a bold 3-day operation in the Angel's Wing area along the Cambodian border. The Vietnamese Army completed this mission in an aggressive professional manner without U.S. support—further evidence of their growing proficiency.

Sanctuary Counteroffensive, 1 May 1970 - 30 June 1970. This campaign was mainly concerned with the Allied incursion into Cambodia, codenamed Operation ROCK CRUSHER. As American withdrawal from South Vietnam proceeded, increasing concern arose over the enemy's strength in the sanctuaries inside Cambodia. With the emergence in Cambodia of an anti-Communist government under Lon Nol, President Nixon relaxed the restrictions on moving against the bases inside Cambodia. Meanwhile, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong began to move on the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. At this juncture Lon Nol appealed to the United States for help. American and allied Vietnamese forces began large-scale offensives in Cambodia on 1 May. Eight major US Army and South Vietnamese operations took place in Cambodia in May and June with the object of cutting enemy communication lines, seizing the sanctuary areas and capturing the shadowy Central Office for South Vietnam (COSVN) described as the control center for enemy military operations against III CTZ.

 

Counteroffensive, Phase VII, 1 July 1970 - 30 June 1971. Fighting continued in Cambodia during early February before and after South Vietnam began its U.S.-aided drive in Laos, Lam Son 719, the most significant operation during this campaign.

Lam Son 719 was conducted out of I Corps by Vietnamese troops with US fire and air support. Their object was to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail and to destroy enemy bases at Techepone, Laos. The operation consisted of four phases. In Phases I, called Operation DEWEY CANYON II, the 1st Brigade, US 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized) occupied the Khe Sanh area and cleared Route No. 9 up to the Laotian border. In the meantime, the US 101st Airborne Division conducted diversionary operations in the A Shau Valley. The US 45th Engineer Group had the mission of repairing Route No. 9 up to the Laotian border. This lasted from 30 January to 7 February 1971. During Phase II US forces continued to provide fire support, helilift, and tactical and strategic air support for ARVN units. This phase was 8 February to March 1971. Phase III ran from March to 16 March 1971; Phase IV was the withdrawal phase.

Faced with mounting losses, Lt. Gen. Hoang Xuan Lam, the commander of the invasion forces, decided to cut short the operation and ordered a withdrawal.

Lam Son 719, though it was less than a signal success, forestalled a Communist offensive in the spring of 1971. Enemy units and replacements enroute south were diverted to the scene of the action.

 

Consolidation I, 1 July 1971 - 30 November 1971. This period witnessed additional progress in the Vietnamization program which included turning over the ground war to South Vietnam, sustaining the withdrawal of U.S. troops, but also continuing, U.S. air strikes on enemy targets.

South Vietnam assumed full control of defense for the area immediately below the demilitarized zone on 11 July, a process begun in 1969. Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird announced completion of Phase I of Vietnamization on 11 August which meant that the U.S. relinquished all ground combat responsibilities to the Republic of Vietnam. The participation of U.S. forces in ground combat operations had not ceased, however, U.S. maneuver battalions were still conducting missions, and the 101st Airborne Division joined the 1st Army of Vietnam 1st Infantry Division in Operation JEFFERSON GLEN that took place in Thua Thien Province in October. This was the last major combat operation in Vietnam which involved U.S. ground forces. Following the close of Operation JEFFERSON GLEN on 8 October, the 101st began stand-down procedures and was the last U.S. division to leave Vietnam.

U.S. troop strengths decreased during Consolidation I. American battle deaths for July 1971 were 66, the lowest monthly figure since May 1967. By early November, U.S. troop totals dropped to 191,000, the lowest level since December 1965. In early November, President Nixon announced that American troops had reverted to a defensive role in Vietnam.

 

Consolidation II, 1 December 1971 - 29 March 1972. The U.S. continued to reduce its ground presence in South Vietnam during late 1971 and early 1972, but American air attacks increased while both sides exchanged peace proposals.

In early January 1972 President Nixon confirmed that U.S. troop withdrawals would continue but promised that a force of 25,000-30,000 would remain in Vietnam until all American prisoners of war were released. Secretary of Defense Laird reported that Vietnamization was progressing well and that U.S. troops would not be reintroduced into Vietnam even in a military emergency. U.S. troop strength in Vietnam dropped to 136,500 by 31 January 1972, to 119,600 by 29 February, and then to 95,500 by the end of March.

During the last week of December 1971 U.S. Air Force and Navy planes carried out 1,000 strikes on North Vietnam, the heaviest U.S. air attacks since November 1968. Allied commanders insisted that it was necessary because of a huge buildup of military supplies in North Vietnam for possible offensive operations against South Vietnam and Cambodia. Stepped up North Vietnamese anti-aircraft and missile attacks on U.S. aircraft that bombed the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos also contributed to the decision. During January 1972 American planes maintained their intermittent bombardment of missile sites in North Vietnam and on he Laotian border and also struck North Vietnamese troop concentrations in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam.

On 25 January President Nixon announced an eight part program to end the war which included agreement to remove all U.S. and foreign allied troops from Vietnam no later than six months after a peace agreement was reached. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong delegates rejected the proposal and insisted upon complete withdrawal of all foreign troops from Indochina and cessation of all forms of U.S. aid to South Vietnam.

 

Cease-Fire, 30 March 1972 - 28 January 1973. On 30 March 1972 the North Vietnamese Army launched its greatest offensive of the entire war. The enemy deployed the greatest array of troops and modern weapons to date in a major effort to end the war with conventional forces and seized considerable territory in an effort to exercise control of key provinces throughout Vietnam.

During this critical period the Vietnamization program continued in the face of the North Vietnamese invasion and the successful counterattack by the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam. Army aviation units played an impressive role throughout the period, flying reconnaissance, close support missions, and transporting troops. As U.S. combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, the role of helicopter units increased in importance and they responded to the challenge of continuing to support while preparing the RVNAF to assume their function. Similarly, advisors of all services contributed immeasurably to the defeat of the enemy invasion and the continued Vietnamization process. Army and Marine advisors fought side-by-side with their RVNAF counterparts to stop and defeat the enemy invasion, as the Vietnamese counteroffensive gained momentum and the reduction of field advisers continued. The advisory effort shifted to emphasize training and to assure that the VNAF attained self-sufficiency prior to the complete withdrawal of the U.S forces.

Recapture of Quang Tri City on 16 September 1972 marked the complete failure of the enemy to hold any of the targeted provincial capitols. Massive aid replaced materiel lost during the spring counteroffensive. Retraining and reconstruction of selected RVNAF units increased their capabilities. The completion of the massive logistical buildup of RVNAF was accomplished, which enabled the RVNAF to become more self-sufficient as direct U.S. participation diminished. The US ground role in Vietnam was totally replaced by the RVNAF. During December 1972 and January 1973 the RVIVAF flew more than 45% of air sorties within Vietnam. In November 1972, the RVNAF began a C-130 training program and by January 1973 realized a significant increase in their capability. RVNAF forward air controllers began directing USAF and RVNAF strike aircraft in January 1973. The US policy of Vietnamization continued.

US combat and combat support operations were conducted in support of RVNAF ground operations during the North Vietnamese invasion and the counteroffensive including intensive interdiction of enemy supply routes into Vietnam. Since US ground forces had been reduced to seven battalions, the US ground combat role was limited to defense of key installations. Further reduction in troop ceilings led to the re-deployment of all US ground combat battalions, leaving an Army contingent of combat support and service support units. 

 

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