excerpts from the 25th Infantry Red Book 1965-1970, and Patrick McKeand
"Tropic Lightning" History-Vietnam
In the Beginning 1965
In a Moment, the sounds of hell will shatter the solitude of A Peaceful day. Bullets will rip through soft breezes while tense bodies advance in search of danger. The crude contrivance of an ingenious enemy will split the formation, disrupt the activity, whet the appetite.
An Inspired soldier will answer the call to arms and boundless energies of a razor-sharp force will be unleashed against the ruthless opponent.
The rapid response from the alert rifleman…
The sudden burst of artillery…
The devastating air strike…
The sun will seep along its westward path and the darkness of night will prevail upon vigilant eyes…
Eyes which know the ugly face of death, know the end results of an aggressive tyrant, know the rewards of a world where choice and freedom dictate the way of life.
The triumphs of each day will build the faith of an imperiled society, strengthen the cause for freedom, instill the hope of ultimate peace..
This is the story of the 25th Infantry Division, written by the man who wears the “Tropic Lightning” patch, skilled through the rigors of intensive field training, matured by the strains of combat…in three wars.
It’s a story of dedication, determination…and courage.
They call it “Hell’s Half Acre” because of the fierce fighting which has taken place where the 25th Infantry Division now has its base camp.
Before the “Tropic Lightning” arrived, it was a sanctuary. The Viet Cong came to the Cu Chi area to rest and relax after a hot battle in the field. It was a good base of operations for “Charlie,” only 20 miles northwest of Saigon. Other soldiers had passed through the area but none had attempted to stay. And when the 25th Division tried to do what no other division had yet done, they found that it was not an easy assignment. Stories of the valiant soldiers in Vietnam are repeated over and over again.
There is the story of Danny Fernandez, a rare young man admired by his contemporaries - quite cheerful, competent, unselfish. While on a search and destroy mission with C company, 1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry, Fernandez and his buddies were in a battle position when a grenade came flying in. Fernandez immediately jumped on it and covered it with his own body, shielding the others from the blast.
Acts and deeds of heroism are recorded wherever “Tropic Lightning” operates in Vietnam.
The latest chapter in the story of the 25th Infantry Division begins in a land where tanks meet ox carts at every crossroads, a country where war has become a way of life, a nation on the threshold of progress and prosperity. “Tropic Lightning” soldiers in Vietnam contributed to the cause for freedom, the hope of peace, the triumph over communism and victory in the Cold War.
The Honolulu Advertiser (September 10, 1964 issue) carried a story that read in part…”Combat troops for the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii,” are being sent to Vietnam to serve as machine gunners aboard U.S. helicopters, Army spokesman disclosed here yesterday.
“This is the first acknowledgment by a U.S. agency that some American troops are being committed to the Vietnam War in capacities other than advisors.”
Today, the story, as is the name, Is antiquated. The nickname “shotgun riders” is taken from the Wild West days when shotgun-carrying guards accompanied stagecoaches on cross-country runs.
The quick draw of those shot gunners was replaced by the :"Tropic Lightning” draw of the 25th Infantry Division soldier who rode “Shotgun” in Vietnam from January 1963 to January 1966.
To kill a tiger, learn the ways of the tiger.
That was the theme of the program for training “shot gunners” - or officially, Aerial Door Gunners - those tough, skilled soldiers who, in the tradition of their counterparts on the stagecoaches of the old West, protected their UH-1 “Sky-coaches” while flying over South Vietnam.
It was fall of 1962 when the U. S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, asked the Department of the Army for help in protecting the troop-carrying helicopters being used to fight the Viet Cong. By January 1963, the 25th Infantry Division had responded to the call and had sent the first group of 100 volunteer Aerial Door gunners to Southeast Asia.
Three years and 2,200 men later, the “Tropic Lightning” Divisions highly regarded “Shotgun” program came to a close. Its members had compiled an enviable record of combat in a modern application of the stagecoach shot gunners of Wild West days.
In a speech before the Senate, and recorded in the Congressional Record, Senator Daniel K. Inoye of Hawaii said, “Within the 25th Infantry Division there is the elite corps of officers and men carrying on the finest traditions of the American fighting man. They are called shotgunner by their friends, and a far worse name by the Viet Cong they volunteer to fight. They know who the enemy of world freedom is; they believe in what they are doing, and as a 25th Infantry Division motto states, they are “Ready to Strike, Anywhere! Anytime!”
It was a quiet and peaceful Sunday morning at Schofield Barracks. The usual pastoral scene. There was no suggestion, no possible intimation to outsiders of Quad I how 22 August 1965, was being honored by “Charlie” Company 65th Engineer Battalion.(See Photos Above)
It happened fast, yet free from noise and disturbance. More than 170 fully-equipped men were assembled, roll was called, then all hustled into waiting buses.
Forty-five minutes later: Pier 40. The proud company banner was carried aboard the Military Sea Transportation service transport, General Edwin D. Patrick. Destination - Southeast Asia.
A few hours later, the Patrick sailed out of sight. The engineers who landed 7 September 1965 at Cam Ranh Bay, a former French resort area, found little to be reminiscent of home, other than the attitude of the friendly, but reserved Vietnamese people.
The more than 170 men dug in on a plain-like area similar to the way Hawaii's Plains of Waianae, home of Schofield Barracks, must have looked around the turn of the century: hot and devoid of water.
But American ingenuity and the powerful U.S. supply line into this beleaguered country served the men well in turning a desolate field into a base of operations for construction, reconnaissance and rehabilitation work.
Tanned from the beaches of Hawaii, where the division had been stationed since 1954, and lean from the months and years of tough jungle training, the men looked the part of the gallant combat veterans they were to become in the early moments ahead.
At the Pleiku Airstrip there was no time for small talk; no time for stretching legs after the long Pacific flight. As Colonel Stoutner loaded his men on convoys for the trip to their new home, a barren patch of land nestled in the Vietnam countryside, a crew of men unloaded the mass of equipment the men brought with them.
The 3rd Brigade, however, was also greeted with the sounds of war, as Air Force A1E “Skyraiders” dropped their 250 pound bombs, released napalm and fired rockets at a Viet Cong platoon skirting the brigades perimeter, while the long truck convoys pulled into their new “home.”
Command and pup tents went up immediately. Barbed wire barricades surrounded the encampment. In a few short minutes, mortars were pointing at the lurking enemy.
The Pleiku and Cu Chi based “Lightning-aires” stripped down to their green T-shirts and began digging the soldiers second friend - his foxhole. His best friend, the rifle, was always within reach.
In both brigade areas, the problem of dust brought back to the “Tropic Lightning” soldier memories of his training days in the lava beds of Hawaii. Those training days are gone and again the 25th Infantry Division has been called upon to add its “Tropic Lightning” attack to the battle.
Before the dust settled in the two brigade camp areas, the famed Hawaiian-based division welcomed a contingent of troops from Division Artillery, Support Command, and Division Headquarters in March.
The final move from Hawaii for the 25th Division was in April 1966 when the1st Brigade arrived at Vung Tau and moved to Cu Chi to take its place along side other elements of the division in combat.
WAR! Three magnanimous alphabetical characters that achieved a stark realism for the men of the “Tropic Lightning” Division in an untamed and sniper infested island in the middle of a sea of Viet Cong guerillas.
Before elements of the 2nd brigade could settle back and claim their new piece of real estate at Cu Chi, Vietnam, the entire area had to be cleaned out, and the Viet Cong dragged out of the intricate tunnel complexes which honeycombed the base camp area.
Northeast of the base camp stand the infamous HoBo Woods, a patch of heavy forestation that even crack U.S. airborne troops haven't been able to deny to the Viet Cong.
To the north lies War Zone C, reported to be the Viet Cong command center for the whole country, and to the west of the base camp the Vam Co Dong River flows blandly, carrying infiltrated men, supplies, and equipment between the Viet Cong bases.
The unsung war chant of the 25th Infantry Division immediately struck a “We Belong here” note.
In a series of moves designed to root the unwanted guests from the 25th Divisions newly adopted homeland, Operations “Bobcat,” “Taro Leaf I and II,” “Clean Sweep I and II,” “Paddy Bridge,” “Search Out.” “Flush Out,” and “Kolchak I” slashed through extensive Viet Cong emplacements during the months of January and February 1966.
The once besieged wooded and seemingly impenetrable jungle camp area was leveled and made comparable to a golf course. Elements of the 2nd brigade cut a swath through the area in an effort to destroy extensive Viet Cong tunnels and fortifications and expand the perimeter. Insurgents were destroyed, enemy ammunition and supply caches were confiscated, mines and booby traps were uncovered and neutralized.
After two months of pounding the enemy “round-the-clock”, the 25th Divisions enclave at Cu Chi was firmly established.
Also, during January and February 1966, 250 miles to the north of Cu Chi, the 3rd Brigade Task Force at Pleiku was making history by opening the Viet Cong controlled highway 19 during Operations “Kamehameha” and “Taylor.” Once opened, the tons of supplies vital to wage successful battles began pouring into the 3rd Brigade base camp.
While the swinging picks were still hacking into the dusty ground at Cu Chi, putting the finishing touches on tent kits, mess halls and working areas. Operations “Del Ray,” “Circle Pines,” “Akron,” and “Asheville” continued to eliminate moderate to heavy Viet Cong resistance. Meanwhile, the stage was set at Pleiku for the 3rd Brigade Task Force undergoing Operations “Garfield,” “Lincoln,” “Longfellow” and “Paul Revere.”
Operations “Fort Smith,” “Fresno” and “Sante Fe,” area pacification missions conducted by “Tropic Lightning,” were combined with conventional military operations during June.
“Fort Smith” provided the villagers in the Ap An Binh area the opportunity to learn of their government’s fight against communism through the thousands of leaflets dropped by American aircraft and by word of mouth from ARVN civic action workers and their fellow countrymen.
Operation “Fresno” resulted in “Tropic Lightning” soldiers capturing nine Viet Cong through the defection of a Viet cong platoon leader. The platoon leader resettled with his family in one of the government’s “new life” hamlets and began supporting, instead of defying, the government.
“Sante Fe” consisted of civic action programs, road construction, “Helping Hand” operations, and the construction of an Army of the Republic of Vietnam compound.
In what was described as one of the largest single hauls of prisoners, enemy arms, and ammunition in the III Corps area by any U.S. unit, as the 1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry, conducted a hard-fisted search and clear operation tabbed “Makiki.”
The 2nd Brigade mission in Hau Nghai Province netted an ammunition supply depot containing Russian carbines, Chinese carbines, German Mausers, Chinese submachine guns, and Chinese anti-tank rockets.
During mid-June the 3rd Brigade Task Force continued to sweep the area west-southwest of Pleiku on Operation “Paul Revere.”
Since the operation’s inception, elements of the brigade accounted for 279 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong killed.
Most of the action occurred during an encounter earlier in the month which saw men of the task force in heavy engagement with what was later estimated as a North Vietnamese regiment. The communists broke contact and withdrew to the west.
Notable operations for the Cu Chi based 25th Infantry Division during the same time included “Joliet,” “Fargo,” “Helemano,” “Nogalis,” and “Ehu.”
June 1966 closed with the 1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry, severing a path through the HoBO Woods on Operation “Coco Palms.” In addition to large stores of small arms ammunition, hand grenades, antitank mines, claymore mines, and rifle grenades were taken.
The operation yielded 10 Viet Cong killed and two confirmed Viet Cong captured. The ensuing month saw the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, on Operation “Ewa,” 23 miles southwest of the “Tropic Lightning” Division’s Cu Chi base camp. The “Wolfhounds” conducted the search and destroy operation for five days, killing 14 Viet Cong and capturing six.
By the end of July, the “Tropic Lightning” at Cu Chi had accounted for more than 1,000 dead Viet Cong since their arrival in Vietnam.
Operation Attleboro (14 September - 25 November 1966) was a large Search and Destroy operation that was initiated by the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, but eventually was expanded to include not only the 196th, but also elements of the 1st Infantry and the 25th Infantry Divisions who joined forces to conduct combat sweeps and assaults over a wide area of War Zone C. A description of the 25th Divisions operation follows:
On 7 November, following heavy contact by elements of the 1st Division northeast of Soui Da, the decision was made to pursue the Viet Cong 9th Division. The 25th Infantry Division was given a segment of the operation. In response to a II Field Force directive, the division ordered the 2nd Brigade to move its headquarters and the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry to Tay Ninh. This was accomplished on 8 November. On 9 November, the Division Forward Command Post along with the Artillery Command Post displaced to Tay Ninh. The Division Forward CP assumed control of the operation at 0930, 10 November. The division mission was to destroy elements of the 9th Viet Cong Division in War Zone C. At this time it was believed the Viet Cong 271st Regiment was located in the woods northeast of Bau Co. An order was passed to the 2nd Brigade to conduct search and destroy operations in the area to destroy the 271st Regiment.
Brigade Headquarters, 1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry and the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry moved to establish a fire support base at Bau Co. The 1st Battalion, 8th Artillery then displaced to Bau Co. The 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry was still attached to the 1st Division and the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry secured the Tay Ninh Base Camp. A decision was made to open the road from Soui Da to Bau Co to save helicopters. General Weyland was concerned with the threat to the 25th Infantry Division rear from the Boi Loi-Hobo complex. He therefore detached the 2nd Battalion (Mech), 22nd Infantry from the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division (now 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division) and moved it to Cu Chi. The battalion was attached to the 25th Infantry Division at 0800, 11 November 1966, and arrived at Bau Co along with two batteries of artillery.
A series of operations was conducted from this base. The 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry, conducted operations from 11-13 November east of Bau Co. The 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, conducted a combat assault on the 12th and established a base to search out an area hit by a B-52 strike. It was expected back on the 13th. The 1st Battalion (Mech). 5th Infantry, conducted a search and destroy operation north of Bau Co and established on 12 November a base which was later called Fire Support Base 1. On 13 November the 1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry, exploited a B-52 strike. The 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry, moved to the Bau Co base on 12 November. On 12 November, all elements of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade had been released from control of the 1st Infantry Division. The 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry, moved east of Nui Ba Den on 12 November to remain until 18 November, with the mission of securing the road. On the 12th, it established three company sized bases north of Go Dau Ha and Bao Don with the mission of conducting operations south of the Boi Loi Woods. At early light it was given orders to secure the Route 22 bypass In the vicinity of the Cau Khoi Plantation after the decision was made to open the road from Dau Tieng to Tay Ninh. The 2nd Battalion (Mech), 22nd Infantry, made this move on the 13th. On 13 November, the division mission changed before it could completely search out its area of responsibility.
From search and destroy operation, the division’s mission was changed to reconnaissance by force. The 2nd Brigade was then directed to conduct operations astride Route 4 to Kontum and be prepared to move north and seize objectives near The Cambodian border or to move southeast to seize Bo Duc. This resulted in the 2nd Battalion (Mech), 22nd Infantry being attached to the 2nd Brigade on 14 November, and the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry, under the 196th Brigade, took over the mission of guarding the route 22 Bypass, and the plantation. Fire Support Base 2 was established by the 1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry, and the 2nd Battalion (Mech), 22nd Infantry, on 15 November. Two batteries of artillery were moved into this area. The 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, secured Fire Support Base 1 and was later joined by the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry on 16 November. Two batteries of artillery were also located in this base. Local operations were conducted in the vicinity of these bases for several days. The base at Bau Co was closed on the 17th and the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry, moved back to Tay Ninh. On 18 November the 1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry, drove north and arrived near the border on the 19th. Company A had a firefight en route resulting in 11 Viet Cong killed by actual body count. The 2nd Brigade was then given an order to conduct a recon north and northwest of Katum and be prepared to recon east of Katum, conducting operations in this area through the 22nd. The 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, then moved from FireSupport Base 1 to Fire Support Base 2 on the 18th. A series of combat assaults were conducted from the 20-23rd. The 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry, conducted one on the 20th in the area where the 2nd Battalion (Mech), 22nd Infantry, had the sharp fire fight on the 19th. . They conducted another on the 21st to establish a temporary Fire Support Base to support the aero-rifle platoon which was to exploit a B-52 air strike next to the border on that date. The 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry had a combat assault on the 21st and another on the 23rd. The decision was made not to move the 1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry southeast of the Bo Duc area. Instead the 2nd battalion, 27th Infantry, conducted an air assault into this area on the 22nd. On the 23rd, the 1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry, moved back to Fire Support Base 1 and then secured Fire Support Base 2 with one company on the 24th. The majority of units moved back to the base camp on the 24th and the operation ended on the 25th for all units except the 1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry, which conducted deep reconnaissance east of Trai Bi.
After the operation, division officials felt that the main Viet Cong Force in its area was the 70th Regiment which is a Recon and Security unit of COSVN (Central Office for South Vietnam). The forces in both the 1st and 25th Infantry Divisions areas of operations were the 70th Viet Cong Regiment and the 101st NVA Regiment....To learn More click link to story (Operation Attleboro-Stag magazine Article),1st / 5th Mech Operation Attleboro After Action Report,Mike Force During Attleboro After Action Report, 145th Aviation , After Action Report,
2nd Brigade, After Action Report
Operation Cedar Falls (8 January-26 January 1967) was a blocking, and search and destroy operation along the Saigon River to prevent ex-filtration from the Thanh Dien Forestry Reserve and the Iron Triangle, denying the use of the Saigon River in the sector to Viet Cong/NVA forces.
On 6 January, the division , under the guise of normal operations, deployed the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, which at the time was attached to the25th Infantry Division. The 2nd Battalion (Mech), 22nd Infantry moved from Dau Tieng along the southern edge of the Boi Loi woods to an overnight position. At the same time the 1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry with Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry attached moved into the area north of the Trung Lap Ranger Training Center, to initially open a route and secure artillery support bases. The 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry and supporting artillery, consisting of the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Artillery, and A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 77th Artillery, was lifted into these bases. The 196th Light Infantry Brigade Command Post and elements of the 3rd Battalion, 13th Artillery and 2nd Battalion, 32nd Artillery moved by convoy to Trung Lap. On 7 January, the 1st Battalion, (Mech), 5th Infantry secured a Landing Zone for the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry. All elements less the fire support base security forces moved to blocking positions along the Saigon River at the same time the 2nd Brigade moved to blocking positions along the Saigon river north of the Filhol Plantation and Nha Viec. They deployed with Task Force 2nd Battalion , 34th Armor in the north, Task Force 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry in the south. During the nights a maximum amount of ambushes were placed along the river. During daylight minimum forces secured the river, allowing extensive search and destroy operations in the Viet Cong base areas. Control of traffic on the river was the responsibility of the 25th Infantry Division, while the 1st Infantry Division was responsible for the control at the junction of the Saigon-Thi Tinh Rivers. The 1st Infantry Division with the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the 11th Cavalry Regiment blocked enemy escape routes across the Thi Than River, executed an air-mobile assault north of the Iron Triangle, and then executed search and destroy operations south through the area.
Totals for the 18-day operations were 331 Viet Cong killed by actual body count, 39 Prisoners of War captured, 147 Hoi Chanhs rallied, and 147 detainees held for questioning, seven M-1 rifles, 10 Mausers, six AK-47 assault rifles, 18 pistols, two shotguns, one pellet gun, three rocket launchers, two BARs, three rounds of rocket ammunition were captured, along with numerous miscellaneous explosives, bangalor torpedoes and grenades. The confiscated 21,385 tons of rice. Air support sorties numbered 409 and five B-52 bomb strikes were made during the operation.
To learn More click link to story (After Action Report) ,After Action Report (196th LIght Infantry) ,2nd Brigade Cedar Falls ,Lessons Learned -Cedar Falls ,
Operation Gadsden (2-21 February 1967) was a multi-brigade search and destroy-blocking operation conducted in Tay Ninh Province along the Cambodian border. The operation was designed to expose and deny Viet Cong infiltration and ex-filtration along well established routes across the border in War one C.
The operation was kicked off on 2 February by elements of the 25th Infantry Division and II field force. On 3 February the 2/22nd Infantry engaged an estimated Viet Cong platoon. The Viet Cong fought from concealed positions and maintained contact for several hours. Also, on 3 February, the Reconnaissance 1/5th Platoon received small arms, automatic weapons and recoilless rifle fire from 15-20 Viet Cong. The Viet Cong wore mixed camouflaged uniforms and black pajamas, and fought with considerable determination, exhibiting good discipline and fire control. On the evening of 4 February, the 2/1 Infantry received 50 rounds of 82mm mortar fire in their battalion base area, sustaining light casualties. Earlier in the day Company A, 2/1 Infantry captured a training model of a rocket launcher. This was the first of several indications that the area of Operation Gadsden was a primary training ground for Viet Cong main force units. On February, A/4 31st Infantry received small arms (SA), automatic weapons (AW) and rifle grenade fire from 8-10 Viet Cong. After a moderate exchange of fire, the Viet Cong withdrew. On 5 February A/1/5 Infantry received heavy SA, AW and rifle grenade fire from an unknown number of Viet Cong. Fifteen Viet Cong were KIA as a result of this action. Captured on the field was one Chicom heavy machinegun, type 57, which indicated a company size unit or larger, but no unit identification could be made from the equipment or documents captured in the area. On 5 February, A/2/22 located a large cache which contained numerous documents identifying elements of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 70th Viet Cong Regiment. On 6 February, 2/22 Infantry received AW, SA and rifle grenade fire from an unknown number of Viet Cong. The Viet Cong were fighting from underground fortifications and put up a determined effort prior to breaking contact. That same day Recon 1/5th Infantry captured documents in a Viet Cong base camp identifying another local guerilla unit that operated a dispensary in the area, This dispensary’s presence, coupled with the discovery of numerous medical facilities and medical supply caches, indicated the Viet Cong were using the area as a rest and recuperation center. On 7 February, Companies A and C 1/5 Infantry received rifle grenades and heavy SA and AW fire from an estimated Viet Cong platoon. air strikes and artillery supported this action resulting in 20 Viet Cong KIA. Fortified bunkers and 18 tons of rice were located in the area. Also on 7 February, 2/1 Infantry located and destroyed a Viet Cong training area consisting of an extensive obstacle course, stockade and an elaborate land navigation course. Documents located at the site and in a supply cache nearby, identified the 680th training Regiment and elements of the 3rd Battalion, 272nd Viet Cong regiment which was suspected of conducting training in the area.
During the period 8-12 February, the TeT Truce, US combat elements occupied their battalion bases astride Viet Cong supply and infiltration routes and conducted extensive patrolling within their areas of responsibility to deter Viet Cong activity during the truce period. There were a total of six truce violations against US ground forces; one involving fire on US ground forces from the Cambodian side of the river. On 8 February, 1/5 Infantry was engaged by an unknown number of Viet Cong. Documents captured on the battlefield following the action made reference to a local medical facility. The 1/5 Infantry also discovered a company-size Viet Cong base camp and a supply cache containing documents referring to what was believed to be the 680th Viet Cong Training Regiment. On 8 February, Recon 4/23 Infantry located a small ammo and medical cache and documents referring to a local Viet Cong Finance and Economy Agency. On 10 February, 1/5 ;located a very sophisticated training area consisting of 44 structures and fortifications, two class rooms, two mess halls, and a 75X30 meter rifle range complete with silhouette targets. On 11 February, 4/31 Infantry located documents revealing strength and armament figures on a recoilless rifle company of the 271st Viet Cong Regiment.
The final phase of Operation Gadsden consisted of attacks and sweeps in the area in response to intelligence information regarding Viet Cong activities. On 13 February, 1/5 Infantry destroyed an ordinance facility containing numerous bombs, artillery rounds, and grenades, as well as tools and molds for fabrication of ordinance items. This again pointed out the importance of this area to the Viet Cong as a logistical base. On 16 February a Chieu Hoi rallied to the 2/22 Infantry. He supplied the US forces with valuable intelligence information regarding local guerilla activities. On 18 February, 2/77 Arty and 2/22 Infantry received 50 rounds of 82mm mortar fire, On 21 February, 3/22 Infantry engaged an unknown number of Viet Cong. Documents captured on the battlefield contained several references to the 70th Viet Cong Regiment. Also Identified was a medical unit.
During the 19 day operation, six AK-47s and M-79s. Two sub-machine guns, six carbines and Mausers, one M-14, one shotgun, three rocket launchers, 7,850 rounds of small arms ammunition, seven pounds of TNT, assorted communications equipment, 19 bicycles, and large amounts of kerosene, tar, clothing, and maps were captured. In addition 161 Viet cong were killed and two POWs were taken. There were 347 sorties flown in air support, and numerous B-52 bomb strikes were used during the operation.
To learn More click link to story (Operation Gadsden), After Action Reports for these units, 25th Arty , 65th Engineers , 125th Signal , 196th LIght Infantry
Operation Junction city (22 February-16 May 1967) was a wide-ranging search and destroy operation employing the 2nd brigade, 25th Infantry Division, 3rd brigade, 4th Infantry division. 196th Light Infantry Brigade (the latter two units were attached to the 25th Infantry Division at the time), 9th Infantry Division, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, and the Vietnamese Marine Brigade, consisting of the 1st and 5th Vietnamese Marine Battalions.
The operation kicked off on 22 February when the 196th Brigade, employing the2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry conducted an airmobile assault to establish a fire support base near the Cambodian border. The 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, and 4th battalion, 31st Infantry conducted further airmobile assaults and established fire support bases to the northwest of the2nd battalion, 1st Infantry. These three battalions of the 196th Brigade began conducting search and destroy missions to the southeast. At the same time, 3rd brigade, 4th Infantry division established fire support bases to the east of the 196th Brigade with the 2nd battalion (Mech),22nd Infantry, 3rd battalion, 22nd Infantry, and 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry. These Battalions assumed blocking positions and began search and destroy missions in their respective zones. The 2nd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division set up fire support bases along the southern portion of the division area at Trai Bai, with the1st Battalion, 27th Infantry on the west, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry in the center, and 2nd Battalion 27th Infantry to the east. The 1st and 3rd Squadrons 11th ACR occupied positions to the southwest, and the 4th Battalion (Mech), 23rd Infantry established a base camp near the 1st Infantry Division boundary.
On 23 February the 2nd Brigade, and 11th ACR began attacking to the north while the 196th Brigade and the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division maintained blocking positions and continued search and destroy operations in that area.
The next day the 1st and 5th Vietnamese Marine Battalions were airlifted from Trai Bai to an area already secured by the 196th Light Infantry Brigade and began an attack to the east.
On 26 February the 11th ACR conducted a sweep to the north in support of the Vietnamese Marines. There was little contact until Company B, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry engaged an estimated Viet Cong Company. The ensuing fire fight resulted in 11 Viet Cong KIA by body count and 19 WIA. The search and destroy operation continued and Viet Cong contact was again made on 28 February when Company C, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry received small arms and automatic weapons fire from an unknown size Viet Cong force. The Infantrymen, supported by artillery and air strikes, killed nine Viet Cong by body count, while the 11th ACR engaged and killed five Viet Cong in a nearby battle.
Company C, 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor, was conduction a road-securing operation on 1 March when they were attacked by an estimated Viet Cong battalion. Withering fire from the tank company along with Air Force air strikes, artillery fire, and helicopter gunships, drove off the Viet Cong force. The Viet Cong lost 13 guerillas, but there were no US soldiers killed. Blood trails and bandages found in the battle area indicated that there were many more Viet Cong casualties.
On 5 and 6 March, the 196th Brigade, and the 2nd Brigade, 4th Division were re-positioned within their area of operations. New base camps were set up, from which combat patrols and search and destroy operations were launched. The same day the 1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry received 120 rounds of 60mm mortar fire from unknown Viet Cong forces. The battalion returned the fire and made a combat sweep of the suspected mortar positions, Viet Cong losses were unknown. There were five US WIA.
The following day the 11th ACR and the 3rd Brigade, 4th Division took up new blocking positions along the Cambodian border. A task force comprised of Vietnamese Marines and th4e 1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry conducted new search and destroy operations in that area. On 8 March 1967, the task force located and destroyed a Viet Cong Base camp containing over 150 bunkers. During the combat assault on the camp, a helicopter from Troop D, 1st Squadron 11th ACR was hit by an RPG-2 round resulting in major damage and five US WIA. At the same location Troop A engaged an unknown size Viet Cong force, resulting in one Viet Cong KIA and the capture of a Viet Cong Prisoner of War.
On 11 March, the Vietnamese marine Brigade terminated its participation in Operation Junction City. The 3rd Brigade and 11th ACR continued their search and destroy operations. Troop B, 1st Squadron, 11th ACR made contact with a Viet Cong company along the river border of Cambodia. The guerillas attempted to flee across the river but helicopter gunships and air strikes blocked their passage. As the battle progressed Troops A and C were heli-lifted in to assist troop B. Contact continued all through the night, and flare ships were employed to provide continuous illumination. The fighting died down at dawn, and a sweep of the battle area was made. There were 28 Viet cong bodies found, and blood trails indicated there were many more enemy casualties. Twenty-eight carbines, one heavy machine gun, two anti-tank weapons, two printing presses and one electrical generator were captured.
On 19 March, Company A, 2nd battalion, 22nd Infantry received heavy small arms (SA) and automatic weapons fire from a large Viet Cong force. The fire was returned with SA, AW, and M-79 grenade launchers. The short but fierce battle resulted in five US KIA and eight US WIA. Viet Cong losses were unknown, but blood trails indicated they had taken many casualties. On the same day, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry was heli-lifted into a Landing Zone. As the battalion set down, they received fire from five command detonated mines. Three helicopters were destroyed and six more were damaged. The supporting aviation units suffered 10 KIA and 16 WIA. The battalion completed the landing, and after a fierce fire fight with an unknown size Viet Cong force, secured the LZ. During the battle, a large Viet Cong Claymore mine was detonated against company C, 3rd Battalion, resulting in five US WIA. The 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry then landed in the LZ and the two battalions set up a forward base.
On 6 April 1967 the 196th Brigade moved to Trai Bai. Troop F, 17th Cavalry, while on a search and destroy operation, received 25 rounds of 60mm mortar fire. They returned the fire with SA, AW, and M-79 grenade launchers. Artillery and helicopter gunships were also called in to assist in the attack against an estimated Viet Cong company. In the ensuing battle, eight Viet Cong were killed.
From 8 April to 16 May, Operation Junction city was gradually phased out, with no significant enemy contact reported during the period.
During the 84 day operation 314 small arms weapons, 30 crew-served weapons, 1,193 artillery shells, 156 mortar rounds, 60 anti tank rounds, 331 mines, 559 grenades, 41,482 rounds of small arms ammunition, 120 bicycles, and large amounts of clothing and food were captured. 1,757 air support sorties were flown in 741 missions for the operation. 1,648 tons of bombs and 1,104 tons of napalm were dropped. Fifteen B-52 bomb strikes were also used during the operation. A total of 947 Viet Cong were killed, 18 prisoners of war captured, 61 detainees held, and 183 Hoi Chanhs rallied to the Government of Vietnam.
Soui Tre, also known as Fire Support Base (FSB) Gold, began at 0430 hours on 21 March. At that time a night patrol from Company B, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry operating just outside the 2nd Battalion, 77th Artillery’s camp reported movement in front of and around their ambush position. However, no further movement was detected and at 0630 the patrol prepared to return to camp. One minute later FSB Gold came under heavy enemy 60mm and 82mm mortar attack and the 3rd Platoon ambush patrol was attacked by a large Viet cong force. Within five minutes the patrol was overrun, and all personnel were killed or wounded. At 0635 a Reconnaissance Patrol from 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry engaged a large Viet cong force which had approached within 35 meters of the camp’s southeast perimeter. shortly thereafter the entire perimeter came under attack by waves of Viet cong firing recoilless rifles, RPG-2 rocket launchers, automatic weapons, and small arms. The heaviest attacks were concentrated on the northeastern and southeastern portions of the battalion defensive perimeter around the FSB. As the attack increased, the three artillery batteries of the 2/77th Artillery began firing counter-mortar fire in an effort to neutralize the heavy Viet Cong mortar concentrations which continued to pound the entire US camp. During the final assault, Company B reported that 1st platoon positions on the southeast perimeter had been penetrated and that a reaction force was needed to reinforce that sector. Soldiers from the 2/77th Artillery responded to the call rushing to the perimeter to help repulse the continuing enemy attacks. At 0700 the first of the Forward Air controllers (FAC) arrived overhead in )1-E light observation aircraft. He immediately began directing Air Force air strikes against the attacking hordes of Viet Cong. At the same time supporting fire from two batteries of 105mm howitzers located at forward FSB’s nearby was brought within 100 meters of the battalion perimeter. At 0711, Company B reported that it’s 1st Platoon had been surrounded and overrun by a human wave attack. Airstrikes were called in all along the eastern woodline to relieve the pressure on Company B’s perimeter. The FAC directing these strikes was shot down by heavy automatic weapons fire. At 0752, the Company b commander requested that 2/77th Artillery fire "beehive" rounds into the southeastern and southern sections of his perimeter. At 0756, Company B reported that complete Viet Cong penetration had been made in the 1st platoon sector and that they were desperate for ammunition re-supply. Ammunition and a 20 man reaction force from company A were sent to Company B. At 0813, the northeastern section was also overrun with another human wave attack. At 0815, Company A, which had established a night ambush position just outside the perimeter, charged into the camp’s perimeter. Somehow all the personnel had managed to elude the surrounding Viet Cong. At 0818, Company A’s commander reported that the Viet Cong had penetrated the northern section of the perimeter. Ten minutes later a quad .50 machine gun located in the northern sector of the camp was hit by RPG-2 rocket rounds and its crew killed. As the attacking Viet Cong swarmed over the weapon and attempted to turn it on GI positions the gun was blown apart by a well place round from the 105mm howitzer crew who had witnessed the whole action from their position some 75 meters away. By 0840 the northeastern, eastern, and southeastern portions of the perimeter had withdrawn to a secondary defensive position around the guns of the artillery batteries. The northern, western , and southern sectors had managed to hold firm despite intense pressure from from large numbers of Viet Cong who had advanced within 15-20 meters of the defensive positions. The attacking guerillas were within hand grenade range of the battalion command post, and were only five meters from the battalion aid station. To counter this new threat, the remaining howitzers of the 2/77th Artillery began firing "Beehive" rounds into the attacking Viet Cong. Air strikes were brought in within 50 meters of US positions and supporting 105mm and 155mm batteries threw up a continuous wall of high explosives around the battalion perimeter. When the 2/77th Artillery had exhausted its supply of "beehive" rounds, they began to fire high explosive rounds at point blank range. By 0830 the situation had worsened. The northern, western, and southern sectors of the perimeter were still under intense Viet Cong pressure. The northeastern. Southeastern and eastern perimeters had been pulled in even closer, and we were still undergoing Viet Cong human wave attacks. At 0900, a relief column from the 2.12th Infantry were able to counter attack and re-establish the original perimeter. The Viet Cong continued their mass attacks, many of them advancing wearing bandages from earlier wounds. Some of the enemy, so badly wounded that they couldn’t walk, were carried piggyback into the assaults by their comrades.
At 0912, a mechanized infantry and armor column from the 2/22nd Infantry and 2/34th Armor broke through the jungle from the southwest. With their 90mm guns firing canister rounds, and all machine guns blazing, they swept into the advancing Viet Cong, chopping them down by the score. Shortly thereafter, the guerillas began to withdraw and by 1045, the Battle of Soui Tre was over.
The crack 272nd main force Viet Cong Regiment had been decimated, leaving behind 647 bodies. Documents found intimate showed that intensive planning had been made by the Viet Cong before the attack. The elite 272nd, one of the best organized and equipped guerilla units, was finished as an effective fighting force. It had been long known for its fighting ability and was one of the few Viet Cong units that would engage in daylight attacks. Its troops had been scattered in a disorganized rout as artillery and air strikes pounded at their heels.
Nine Viet Cong were captured, and an arsenal of over 150 weapons of all types were collected. Huge piles of enemy equipment, clothing, and documents were collected and evacuated.
During th ebattle,2,200 rounds of US artillery was fired and a total of 57 air strikes supported the action. American casualties were 31 KIA and 109 wounded.
To learn More click link to story (After Action Report) (After Action Report 2/77th Arty) , (Story Of Soui Tre)
Operation Makalapa (18 March-21 April 1967) was a multi-brigade, two phase search and destroy operation conducted in the Duc Hoa area to destroy local Viet Cong forces, and eliminate the area’s effectiveness as a safe guerilla haven by destroying enemy bunkers, tunnel, and huts.
During the first part of the operation, the 1st Brigade of the 25th Infantry along with the 1-50th ARVN Regiment and the 25th ARVN Division (-), established blocking positions east of the Vam Co Dong River and conducted airmobile assaults froem their established staging areas.
In the second phase of the operation, the 1st 1st and 2nd Brigades of the 25th Infantry division conducted airmobile assaults in the Luong Hoa area, initiated search and destroy operations in the zone, and blocked the Viet Cong exfiltration routes to the north and east. The ARVN Task Force continued to hold their blocking positions on the east bank of the Van Co Dong River, in addition to conducting ambushes, and combat sweeps in that area.
On 18 march, company C, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry moved by motor convoy from Cu Chi to near Vinh Loc and began setting up a battalion base camp. Prior coordination had been made with the Vietnamese district chief, and throughout the operation the spirit of cooperation between the US forces and the local population remained high.
The next day the Battalion headquarters moved to Company C’s location and this became the Battion Command Post on that date. Also on 19 march, Company A, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry moved by helilift to establish a company base camp near the village of Ap Tay. That night Company’s A and C began heavy saturation patrolling in the areas around their camps. Late in the evening of the 19th, an ambush patrol from Company A engaged a squad size Viet Cong force. In a brief fire fight the killed on guerilla, wounded three others and captured one Chicom carbine.
On 20 March, company B completed their move by helicopter to a company base camp north of vinh Loc. This move completed the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry’s deployment to its area of operations (AO). The battalion remained generally in the same position until the initiation of the second phase of Operation Malalpa on 8 April. During this time they conducted numerous combat sweeps and ambush patrols near their base camps.
On 24 March, company C, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry made a combat assault into the notorious "Pineapple Patch" area along the Kinh Xang Canal. They made no enemy contact as they swept both sides of the canal, but one member of the patrol detonated a booby trap resulting in one US WIA. The sweep accounted for the destruction of two bunkers and the capture of two ANPRC-10 radios, one hall craft radio, and two Chicom carbines. Assorted amounts of ammunition, documents, clothes, and food stuffs were also captured.
A cordon and search of the village of Ap Tay began on 26 March 1967. The operation was conducted following an intelligence lead from a Viet Cong prisoner, who told his captors that various guerilla agents hid in the village during the day. As the cordon was being emplaced, two men, presumably Viet Cong, ran from the village and escaped. The remaining males were interrogated and six were discovered to be Viet Cong.
Patrolling and local security operations, supplemented by MEDCAp’s and other Civic Action programs, continued throughout the rest of the month. Company B, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry and Company A, 4th battalion (Mech), 23rd Infantry conducted fast moving search and destroy operations in the area of Viet Con. During this period an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) from the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry was badly damaged by an anti-tank mine, but there were no US casualties. On 27 March Company B, 4th Battalion, (th Infantry received 6-8 rounds of mortar and recoilless rifle fire resulting in one US KIA and 12 US WIA. The fire came from a Viet Cong force just across the Kinh Xang Canal from the companies position. The enemy was engaged by artillery, Air Force air strikes, and helicopter gunships, which killed 12 Viet Cong.
On 3 April another APC from Company C, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry was damaged by an AT mine. Again, however, there were no US casualties.
On 8 April the second phase of Operation Makalapa began. Elements of 2nd Brigade established a brigade command post at Duc Hoa. Shortly there after, units from the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry and 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry were airlifted into position southwest of th ejunction of the Cau An Ha and Kinh Xang canals, and began combat sweeps to the southwest along the Zinh Xang Canal until 11 April. Enemy contact was limited to sporadic sniper fire but literally thousands of bunkers were destroyed. Demolition teams worked day and night destroying enemy fortifications, and used so much explosive that special supplies if it had to be helilifted in.
Beginning on 12 April, the 1st battalion, 27th Infantry fiorst engaged an estimated Viet Cong platoon, and the n a company, just north of Rach Gau. The guerillas were engaged without automatic weapons, small arms, and artillery. During the fierce firefight 22 Viet cong were killed and four prisoners taken. Later in the day, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry uncovered and extensive weapons cache. A total of 74 weapons were captured, including one 81mm mortar, two 60mm mortars, two 75mm recoilless rifles, two 57mm recoilless rifles and three light machine guns. The weapons were found in 55-gallon drums and metal boxes hidden along the banks of a canal in dense brush.
On 18 April 1967, the 1st Brigade terminated its participation in Operation Makalapa, and returned to Cu Chi Base Camp. The 2nd Brigade continued combat assaults by the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry in the area until 21 April, at which time Operatation Makalapa was concluded.
Division totals for the 35 day long operation were: the capture of 13 Chicom carbines, three Browning sug-machine guns, 16 Thompson machine guns, two French rifles, two light machine guns, one Russian sub-machine gun, one Mauser rifle, one Enfield rifle, 13 M-1 rifles, one Russian carbine, eight Chicom rifles, 15 M-3 submachine guns, three ANPRC-10 radios, one French light machine gun, two 81mm mortars, two 57mm recoilless rifles, three 60mm mortars, two 75mm recoilless rifles, one Browning submachine gun, four shotguns, 50 60mm mortar rounds, two M-60 machinegun tripods, seven viet Cong gas masks, 151 pounds of documents, 104 pounds of medical supplies, 1.521 hand grenades, 10,854 rounds of small arms ammunition, 151 claymore mines, eight pounds of Viet cong uniforms, five civilian radios, 100 gallons of gasoline, 50 gallons of diesel fuel, 15 gallons of motor oil, 50 pounds of black powder, 5.5 tons of rice, one outboard motor, and one barber kit.
Material and structures destroyed included 3,131 bunkers, 91 foxholes, three tunnels, 55 sampans, one boat, 253 booby traps, eight M-79 rounds, two 155mm rounds, 12 75mm rounds, two 105mm rounds, 27 60mm rounds, 70 20mm rounds, 1.323 rounds of small arms ammunition, 10 Claymore mines, 144 hand grenades, 100 blasting caps, two anti-personnel mines, two anti-tank mines, two 750 pound bombs, 175 pounds of TNT, 200 pounds of sodium nitrate, 511 Viet cong gas masks, three motors and 51 grenade castings.
Although the total number of Viet Cong killed was only 47, Operation Makalapa was one of the most successful operations conducted by the division. The destruction of 3,000 bunkers denied the Viet Cong forces operating in the area all of their effective fighting positions. The advent of the monsoon season in April made the reconstruction of these positions practically impossible, thus blocking long-established guerilla routes into the Saigon and Tan son Nhut area and disrupting Viet Cong plans for attacks on these objectives. In addition, the destruction and/or capture of large amounts of enemy supplies, weapons, and ammunition sharply reduced the guerilla’s battle effectiveness in the area.
To Learn More: Quarterly Period Ending 30 April 1967
Operation Manhattan (23 April - 7 June 1967) was a multi- brigade search and destroy operation conducted to destroy Viet cong forces in the Boi Loi-Ben Cui area. The secondary mission of the operation was to destroy Viet con facilities and fortifications in the Boi Loi Woods.
Intelligence reports indicated that the area of operation contained numerous important enemy base camps which were used for logistical and command purposes. There were indications that one complete Viet Cong battalion and part of another were operating in the area.
The Boi Loi woods was characterized by heavy secondary forest and dense undergrowth. There were some area of wetland rice paddies and a large area of non-producing rubber plantation.
Operation Manhattan began on 23 April when the 4th Battalion, 23rd (Mech) Infantry moved to secure Landing Zones (LZ‘s) for the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry and 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry. After landing and securing the areas, the units began conductiong local search and destroy operations. That same day the 1st Battalion (Mech) 5th Infantry secured an LZ for the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry while the 34th ARVN ranger Battalion established a blocking position along the Saigon River. The 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division conducted search and destroy operations southeast of Dau Tieng.
The following day the1st Brigade conducted search and destroy operations in their sector. During the afternoon Company B, 2nd battalion, 14th Infantry received small arms and automatic weapons fire from an unknown number of Viet cong. The fire was returned with small arms, M-79 grenade launchers and artillery. The fierce firefight resulted in one Viet Cong killed, and no US casualties. Later in the evening Company B, 2nd Battalion 14th Infantry came under a mortar attack from an estimated enemy platoon. They countered with small arms, automatic weapons and artillery. The fight lasted about 10 minutes; and one US soldier was wounded. The American counterfire blasted the enemy positions, but Viet Cong losses could not be determined. Late that evening, an ambush patrol from Company A, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry engaged an unknown number of guerillas. Ina short but heavy firefight, two Viet Cong were killed; there were no US casualties.
On the afternoon of 26 April, company B, 1st Battalion, (Mech) 5th Infantry engaged and killed a Viet Cong sniper who had had been harassing their position. Company C, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry conducted two air mobile assaults. Their first landing zone was "cold", but the second time they sat down they came under small arms fire from an unknown number of Viet
Cong. The Infantrymen returned the fire with small arms and automatic weapons killing two Viet cong. All during the day, US units encountered many booby traps and mines. Though they moved cautiously, one soldier was killed and 12 were wounded by the booby traps.
Between 27-30 April, all brigades continued to conduct search and destroy operations in their sectors. On 27 April, company A, 2nd battalion 14th Infantry discovered a largeife weapons cache containing 105 rifles and pistols, 12 machine guns and over 100,000 rounds of ammunition. This cache was located in a complex with many bunkers and tunnels which was believed to be a base camp and supply point for a Viet Cong unit that had been reported operating in that area.
On 28 April 1967, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry positions received small arms, automatic weapons and 82mm mortar fire from an unknown size Viet Cong force. Fire was returned with small arms, automatic weapons and artillery, resulting in one Viet cong being killed. A sweep of the area following the battle revealed a number of blood trails and bandages, indicating that there were additional enemy casualties. There were no casualties among US forces. Early the next morning Company B, 4th battalion, 23rd (Mech) was hit by a large Viet Cong force. The enemy employed small arms, mortars, and rifle grenades in their attack. The infantrymen returned the fire with small arms, automatic weapons, and artillery. As the battle continued, the guerillas fire on the unit with RPG-2 rocket launchers, but only one APC was hit. Close support air strikes were called in, after two hours of intense fighting, the Viet Cong broke contact and withdrew, taking their killed and wounded with them. One US soldier was killed and five were wounded. The only equipment damage was an APC, which was destroyed. Scattered enemy contact by 1st and 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry and 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry resulted in four Viet Cong killed and one Viet Cong captured during the period.
During the next five days, all units continued their combat sweeps, with the exception of 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry who provided security for the engineer jungle clearing operation. On 1 May, Company A, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry engaged an estimated Viet Cong platoon with small arms and automatic weapons. The short firefight resulted in two Viet Cong killed and no US casualties. The same day Company A, 2nd battalion, 14th Infantry discovered a huge cache containing 35 tons of rice. The rice was evacuated for distribution to Vietnamese refugees. Troops A and D, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry were making sweeps back and forth across the southern edge of the area of operations to spot and engage any Viet Cong who might try to flee that way. They mad three contacts with the enemy during the first week of May, resulting in two Viet Cong killed and five Viet Cong captured. Throughout the Boi Loi Woods, and especially in the southern sector, a great many booby traps and mines were encountered, resulting in numerous US casualties.
During the period 6-10 May, all units continued search and destroy operations in their assigned sectors. The 2nd battalion, 27th Infantry conducted several combat assaults and the 1st battalion, 25th Infantry teamed up with the ARVN River Assault along the Saigon River.
Starting on 11 May 1967, the main focus of attention was directed at the 65th Engineer Battalion jungle clearing operation. Thirty "Rome Plows" hacked away at the dense undergrowth and tangle of trees in the very heart of the Boi Loi Woods. The emphasis of Operation Manhattan now shifted to providing local security for the engineers through local search and destroy missions and ambush patrols. In addition to the jungle clearing, the engineers also tackled the task of improving and upgrading the roads throughout the operational area. This project had a two fold purpose; one , it increased the mobility and cut the reaction time of the US forces, and two, it would be of long term benefit to the local Vietnamese, who use the roads to travel throughout the area, and for transporting their products to market.
Between 16 may and 6 June, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry elements continued to provide engineer security and conduct local search and destroy operations. On 22 May, the battalion began a five day operation in which they inserted and extracted Popular Forces Reconnaissance units, and in conjunction with them conducted combined search and destroy operations and night ambush patrols. On 28 May the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry relocated with the engineer elements to continue security for base camp, and at 2400 hours, Operation Manhattan was terminated.
During the 45 day operations, 36 medical civic action programs (MEDCAP’s) were conducted, treating a total of 5,433 patients. In addition, 20 short term, high-impact civic action projects were completed. Schools were repaired and refurbished; refugees were given clothing, cooking utensils, and food; Vietnamese Popular forces outposts were constructed; and large quantities of food-stuffs were distributed to Regional and Popular Forces families. At the request of ARVN authorities, 82 refugee families were relocated to Dau Tieng and furnished clothing, shelter, cooking and eating utensils, and commodity support. All civic action, even though initially undertaken to gain population acceptance of US presence, supported the Revolutionary Development Program. A total of 20 miles of road was upgraded by engineers, giving area residents full access to population centers and market outlets. Large areas of jungle were cleared providing local inhabitants with 4,200 acres of additional farm land.
In psychological operations, 3,545,500 copies of 43 different types of leaflets were airdropped. Loudspeaker Chieu Hoi broadcasts totaled 1,725 minutes.
There were 74 Viet cong killed, 19 captured, and three Hoi Chanhs rallied to the GVN; 201 small arms weapons, 18 machine guns, 42 rounds of artillery ammunitions, 671 mortar rounds, 293 mines, 901 grenades and booby traps, 400,543 rounds of small arms ammunition, 168 cluster bomb units, 3,200 blasting caps, 2,300 feet of detonating cord, 1,800 pounds of TNT, and 2,278 pounds of black powder were captured. In addition, US forces confiscated 34 sampans, 400 pounds of clothing, 443 pounds of medical supplies, 250 tons of rice, 5.5 tons of assorted food stuffs, 398 pounds of documents, 12,760 feet of communication wire, 30 pounds of punji stakes, 17 pounds of tools, one telephone, seven protective masks, two plows, 108 bicycles, one oxcart, six generators and six outboard motors. There were 461 huts, 1,594 yards of tunnels, 1,163 bunkers, 421 foxholes, 5,635 yards of fighting trench, seven base camps, one radio, one bicycle repair shop and two small hospitals destroyed.
Operation Manhattan inflicted severe logistical loses interview Cong/NVA forces in terms of food, supplies, ammunition, and weapons captured or destroyed. The large number of base camps, bunkers, and tunnels destroyed also constituted a major setback to enemy forces. The clearing of extensive areas of jungle denied the Viet Cong a safe haven, and seriously reduced the enemies’ capability to conduct offensive or harassing operations in and around the Boi Loi Woods sector.
Learn More: From 2/14th Historical Suppliment
When the Tropic Lightning Division’s 27th year began, anniversary celebrations had to take a back seat to the business of war. The 25th division pressed four operations simultaneously as its birthday passed.
Each of the operations, Barking Sands, Kolekole, Diamondhead, and Atlanta, increased the pressure on Charlie and added luster to the arms of the division.
Reaching furthest back into the old year was Operation Barking Sands. Begun on 18 May 1967, it proved to be a highly successful test of airlifting batteries of light artillery to exploit intelligence targets. Operation Barking Sands included four sub-operations one of which was Kunia, began and ended during the divisions 27th year.
Operation Kunia was the phase of Operation Barking Sands assigned to deal with long-time Communist sanctuaries in the Ho Bo Woods and destroy Viet Cong and North Vietnamese units in the area.
Beginning the operation the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Manchus and the 2nd battalion, 14th Infantry Golden Dragons swept through the dense woods without making much contact. Meanwhile Rome plows from the 27th Land Clearing Team, secured by the 4th Battalion (Mech), 23rd Infantry Tomahawks, downed more than 90 percent of the13,000 acre Viet Cong jungle sanctuary in 56 days.
Helicopters finished off the secondary growth with defoliating chemical spray.
Extensively booby-trapped, the area was a honey-combed with trenches, bunkers and tunnels. One multi-level underground complex covered 2,000 meters and yielded cameras, film, printing presses and type in addition to the usual caches of weapons and ammunition.
When the final score was in on Operations Barking Sands to include Kunia, 480 enemy were known dead and 463 individuals weapons and 29 crew-served weapons captured. Food caches had yielded 196 tons of rice. Learn More: Barking Sands-After Action Report
One of the more important functions of Operation Kolekole was to help sedcure polling places during the South Vietnamese general elections. Kolekole was the longest running, most significant operation undertaken by a single Tropic Lightning brigade during the year.
Behind the shield provided by the 2nd Brigade soldiers conducting Operation Kolekole, civic actions projects were pushed forward with greater energy and results than previously possible. And, in the final accounting by war, the brigades soldiers killed 797 Viet Cong and took 150 prisoners.
Most of the operation took place during the rainy season, adding to the difficulties but not subtracting from the effectiveness of the brigade.
Beginning in May 1967, south of the Vam Co Dong river in Long An Province, Operation Kolekole expanded into Tay Ninh Province with fighting along the Cambodian border before it ended in December.
The pattern for firefight with the enemy was established 16 May when the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Wolfhounds made eagle flights to assist a CIDG unit in contact with a Viet Cong company. The Wolfhounds handled the enemy roughly killing 14.
The next day the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Wolfhounds went one up on their brother outfit when they killed 15 members of a Viet Cong company and captured five weapons during the assault. Throughout the operation, Charlie preferred to run rather than fight, and he was never contacted in groups larger than company size.
In the area of civic actions no less than 10 projects were completed with the 2nd Brigade’s help during Kolekole. Among them were: improving the appearance and sanitary conditions of the Hoc Mon maternity ward, renovation of two buildings to the Bao Trai hospital and aiding in the construction of the Bao Trai High School dedicated 16 December 1967.
Toward the end of the operation, the First Wolfhounds were protecting polling places by keeping Charlie busy outside of town with a series of combat assaults. Eight miles south of Tay Ninh they had a chance to show their spirit. Following an exchange of gunfire, 17 wolfhounds chased 15 Viet Cong 400 meters and killed them all. Wolfhound casualties were only two wounded.
The First Wolfhound’s commander seized a chance to cut off a Viet Cong platoon of 20 as it tried to reach the Cambodian border. With two Alpha Company platoons converging on the enemy, LTC David R. Hughes and his staff debarked from the helicopter to personally direct the assault.
One captain was dispatched to make sure an incoming platoon got started in the right direction, and then the colonel, his S-3, an artillery observer, and a PIO camera man left their chopper and set out on foot after Charlie.
The Viet Cong tried to scatter; five escaped the main assault, but another platoon accounted for them.
During Operation Kolekole 34 Hoi Chanhs rallied and more than 50,000 rounds of small arms ammunition were captured. Other indications of success were the capture of 202 tons of rice and the destruction of 577 tunnels.
See Quarterly Report 31 July 67 ,
Operation Diamondhead was mounted by the 3rd Brigade as part of the Tropic Lightning’s 1967 monsoon campaign from 14 May to 7 December. Contact during this period was minimal, but the pressure of Diamondhead kept the enemy off balance, forced him to disperse still further and prevented him from taking large scale offensive action.
From May through September the brigade carried out security and reinforcement missions in the Tay Ninh area, once combining with eight companies of Vietnamese Popular and regional forces for search and destroy missions west of the Vam Co Dong River.
Sniper and booby-trap incidents, which had increased during Vietnam’s elections, tapered off during the last 38 days of the operation. Largest single incident in this period occurred when an ambush patrol from the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regulars killed eight Viet Cong on 24 November.
As a security measure, villages in and around the Michelin rubber Plantation were cordoned off and searched several times. Several families were moved to areas of greater security in order to cut off Viet Cong who may have pressured them for supplies.
During Operation Diamondhead, the enemy lost 269 killed and 33 captured. Allied forces also captured 34,000 pounds of rice, 1,500 pounds of salt, 10 AK-47s, 32 pounds of documents, and a small ford tractor that the Viet Cong had diverted from its task of nation building.
Destroyed during the operation were 30,000 pounds of rice, 1,900 bunkers and 929 meters of trench.
From 18 November to 23 December 1967, the division mounted Operation Atlanta. Atlanta's primary objective was to uproot the enemy in the Iron Triangle and deny him sanctuary.
This turned into a major project for the 65th Engineer Battalion who rafted vehicles into and out of action, and, after some experimentation, destroyed nearly two miles of enemy tunnels.
Atlanta proved as expensive for the Viet Cong as it was rewarding for Tropic Lightning. A body count of 1,467 was amassed during the operation, but no big firefights took place; 123 enemy small arms were captured and more than 350,000 pounds of rice were taken.
Enemy cleverness in the construction and concealment of tunnels proved to be a step or so behind the ability of the engineers who destroyed the subterranean refuges.
Some were demolished by cratering charges placed every 40 meters, and when this method, though effective, proved burdensome, it was decided to try flooding the tunnels in hopes they would collapse.
First jungle had to be cleared from the water source to the mouth of the tunnel to be flooded. When a shortage of pipe developed, the engineers simply ditched the water source closer to the tunnel. Flooding however, did not completely destroy the tunnels and the engineers floated explosive charges into the passage to finish it off.
The final incident of Atlanta was also an engineering feat. A tank boarding a raft was damaged by a mine and went down like a U-boat. The engineers waited until low tide, pulled it out, and wrote finis to Atlanta.
Underway nearly two months before the Tet Offensive, Operation Saratoga increased pressure on the enemy and then foiled his plan to isolate and interdict Saigon. One of the widest ranging operations yet undertaken, Saratoga saw Tropic Lightning soldiers engaged from the Cambodian border to Saigon itself.
In Tay Ninh and Binh Duang provinces stood the 1st Brigade. Their Participation lasted from 25 February to 24 March. In spite of alert and aggressive combat sweeps, the brigade made little contact. Charlie's battle plans had drawn him to the south where Saigon loomed like a glittering prize. By 24 March, the body count for the 1st Brigade was 58. Three enemy soldiers had been captured.
Posted in the Hoc Mon area to dispute Viet Cong passage and to keep the way open for civilians and Free Worlds Forces, the 3rd Brigade found far more enemy to deal with than had the 1st Brigade.
Action flared up early during the afternoon of 9 February 1968, the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Wolfhounds were attacked by and estimated battalion of Viet Cong. The firefight claimed 102 enemy lives.
At about the same time the next day a task force composed of two companies of the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Wolfhounds and a company from the 3rd Squadron 4th Cavalry came under fire form a Viet Cong force of undermined size. The force was large enough, however, to leave 105 bodies in front of the task force's guns. It complemented their effort of the previous morning when the task force killed 176 Viet Cong.
After 3rd brigade dominance of the area had been proved again, action tapered off too harassing fire and skirmishing. Nonetheless, the 3rd Brigade killed 768 before the enemy fled altogether.
Even before Tet began, the 2nd Brigade seemed to be the eye of the storm for Operation Saratoga. The first significant contact of the operations was also the first contact against North Vietnamese soldiers in Hau Nghai Province. The 101st NVA regiment launched a night attack on the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Wolfhounds. In this encounter 39 North Vietnamese were killed and the remainder of their force withdrew into the HoBo Woods.
The Second Wolfhounds next ran the NVA force aground on 21 December when one of their base camps was discovered. In a daylong action the Wolfhounds killed 43 but found the NVA somewhat tougher customers than their Viet Cong counterparts.
Tougher or not, the First and Second Wolfhounds found more NVA members of the 2nd Go Mon battalion, in base camps on the western bank of the Saigon River near Trung An and killed 89.
On 10 January 1968 the 7th Cu Chi Battalion, then nearly half NVA, launched a human wave assault on the night position of the First Wolfhounds. It cost them 108 dead.
In the middle of January, the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Tomahawks came upon an unknown number of entrenched Viet Cong in the lower Ho Bo Woods. In a two day operation 49 Viet Cong were killed.
Then came Tet. In the first major action of the Tet Offensive for the 25th Division troops, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, sent its columns steaming down Highway 1 toward the heavily besieged Tan Son Nhut Air Base. In brutal fighting the cavalrymen, aided by air strikes and artillery, pried the enemy away from the vital base. More than 300 enemy bodies were counted.
Meanwhile, the 2nd Brigade was drawn into the cauldron of fire near Hoc Mon as the enemy approached Saigon. There the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry White Warriors killed 22 Viet Cong in a short, sharp fight. The same day the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry killed 30 enemies near Ap Cho. The Third Regulars also figured in a 10-day battle to prevent Charlie from cutting Highway 1. The Regulars won and Charlie lost, among other things, 219 of his best fighters.
Contact continued almost daily with well armed and disciplined Viet Cong and NVA soldiers. But when the operation ended, Tropic Lightning soldiers had claimed more than 3,000 enemy soldiers.
In the course of Operation Saratoga, Tropic Lightning also captured a quarter of a million rounds of small arms ammunition, identified huge enemy tunnel complexes and generally destroyed much of the enemy's combat effectiveness.
A new enemy, the NVA, had appeared on the scene, but the courage and the professional skills of the Tropic Lightning soldiers had again won the day.
Learn More: After Action Report-30 Mar 68-Outside Cu Chi,After Action Report Operation Saratoga, After Action Report 1st Brigade 25 Feb- 10 Mar 68,After Action Report 2d Brigade 8 Dec 67 -10 Mar 68,After Action Report 3/22 26 Jan - 10 Mar 68,,After Action Report 3/4 Cav 21 Jan - 10 Mar 68,
From early December 1967 to late February 1968, Tropic Lightning troopers faced some of their sternest tests at the hands of the Viet Cong and paid them back four fold in operation Yellowstone.
The Viet Cong were decisively defeated in each of the more than 60 engagements fought during Operation Yellowstone. One of the Yellowstone's engagements, the Battle of Soui Cut at Fire Support Base Burt, went into the books as the biggest single action of the year 1967 for a 25th Division unit.
Yellowstone was on a large scale from the beginning. The 3rd battalion, 22nd Infantry Regulars found 15,000 Viet Cong grenades buried in 50 gallon oil drums in the dense jungle west of Dau Tieng during the first week.
On 19 December the enemy launched a furious night assault on the night location of the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Manchus south of Katum Base Camp.
At dusk the Viet Cong began bombarding the 1st Brigade soldiers. Shortly after midnight two reinforced battalions of Viet Cong hurled themselves on the perimeter. Typical of the hand-to-hand combat which occurred that night was the GI who attacked an enemy with his empty M-16, battered him to the ground and killed him with a blast from the Viet Cong's own AK-47. At dawn the enemy force fled, leaving 40 dead comrades.
The Viet Cong paid most dearly for violating their own truce to attack Fire Support Base Burt 1 January 1968. Secured by elements of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 22nd Infantry Regulars, the fire support base was only three days old when it became the setting for the Battle of Soui Cut.
At 1:30 a.m. the main enemy force made its move. Second Regulars Charlie Company absorbed the main thrust of their attack. As the fanatical human wave surged closer to the perimeter, the bases cannoneers from 3rd Battalion, 13th Artillery fired round after round of beehive ammunition into the attackers.
After a brief lull, the Viet Cong renewed their assault all along the perimeter. Again the artilleryman fired over open sights. Air strikes pounded the enemy within 100 meters of the embattled Tropic Lightning troops as the volume of fire reached a crescendo. Suddenly all remaining Viet Cong were going the other way.
As dawn broke, the weary, tested and alert defenders of Burt gazed over blasted landscape to a tree line that had been all but leveled by their fire. Strewn around the base were 382 Viet Cong bodies.
Though battered and beaten, the enemy was still not close to paying the bill Yellowstone presented him. Slashing through jungle north of Tay Ninh, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Manchus killed 70 Viet Cong as they overran and destroyed several large base camps.
Back at Fire Support Base Burt, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regulars came upon an ammunition cache just 1,500 meters from the perimeter, liberating 156 60mm mortar rounds, 13,000 rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 41 cases of TNT, 24 cases of C-4 and 14,000 non-electric blasting caps.
Having lost much ammunition, Charlie could look forward to shorter rations also. The 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry White Warriors uncovered a 231-ton rice cache four kilometers from the Cambodian border in Tay Ninh Province.
The biggest find of the operation came when PFC Donald Wadlington literally stumbled over the door of another Viet Cong cache. The tunnel yielded 220 82mm mortar rounds, 75 fuses, 101 75mm recoilless rounds and 11,000 small arms rounds.
Operation Yellowstone still had almost a month to run when another first occurred. During 30-31 January 1968, Camp Rainier, temporary home of the 3rd Brigade, was hit by eight 107mm rockets, one of the first times these munitions had been used in South Vietnam.
February continued action in Operation Yellowstone, but the engagements were on a gradually smaller scale. By the time Yellowstone closed, the units of the Tropic Lightning had reasserted their mastery over the Viet Cong in even the most desperate situations.
More than 1,400 Viet Cong had been killed and 400 tons of rice captured from their stunned and shattered units. Learn More: From 2/14th Historical Summary After Action Report Headquarters 1st Brigade ,Headquarters 3rd Brigade ,2/12th Infantry, 3/22nd Infantry ,3/17th Cav ,Battle Of Sui Cut(FSB Burt) ,2/22 FSB Burt- Prek Lok, 2/77th Arty Account of FSB Burt,
During the last half of December 1967, the Tropic Lightning's 2nd and 3rd Brigades mounted Operation Camden plus 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry in Tay Ninh Province, the Trapezoid, and the Ho Bo and Boi Loi Woods. Before it was all over, Camden's fire fights yielded 136 enemies by body count to the combat power of Tropic Lightning.
Skirmishing began early and continued throughout the operation for the two Wolfhound battalions, but no significant engagements developed during Camden. A typical day was 18 December. The Wolfhounds twice received sniper fire during the daylight hours and 25-30 rounds of mortar fire during the night.
On 21 December the Second Wolfhounds got into the most excitement the 2nd Brigade produced during Operation Camden, when an unknown number of Viet Cong took them under fire shortly after 9:00 a.m. It proved to be the last mistake 29 Viet Cong ever made.
For the 3rd Brigade the story was much the same; Charlie would harass on a small scale and fade into the foliage. On some occasions he didn't fade fast enough, and the 3rd Brigade ran up a body count of 10 and captured two.
The Three-Quarter Horsemen meanwhile killed 27 Viet Cong on numerous sweeps, none of which provided a major engagement.
One of the highlights of operation Camden was that it cost the enemy much in food and ordinance. Over 65,000 pounds of rice and 100 pounds of soybean oil were taken from scattered enemy caches.
Camden forces captured more than 1,500 rounds of small arms ammunition and 20 weapons. Approximately 500 bunkers were destroyed. When the operation ended on 28 December 1967, Charlie was a little hungrier, a little less sheltered and fewer in number than he was before.
Operation Wilderness was a month-long effort in which the 1st Brigade soldiers went hunting an enemy who seemed to prefer hiding to fighting.
Nonetheless, a month of scattered engagements in Tay Ninh Province ands along the Cambodian border produced a body count of 280 Viet Cong.
The operation got underway on 11 March 1968, and the next day the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry captured 5,000 pounds of unpolished rice. This established the pattern of operation; caches, bunkers and base camps were found in abundance, but Charlie kept himself hidden.
Among the items too big to hide were three-quarter ton trucks discovered by supporting helicopter crewmen of Charlie Troop, 3rd squadron, 17th Air Cavalry when they followed fresh tracks leading from Cambodia toward Dau Tieng. Charlie Troop marked the trucks, which were the first found in South Vietnam, and called in air strikes and artillery to destroy the vehicles and their cargos of ammunition. The target practice produced 150-foot high pillars of smoke and flame.
On 16 March 1968 the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Manchus apprehended a woman with no ID card but carrying 6,000 piasters. After deciding that she was carrying the payroll of a Viet Cong unit, the Manchus detained the suspect and confiscated the money. It is not known which Viet Cong near Ap Hiep Thuan skipped a payday to help resolve an inflated Vietnamese economy.
All told the enemy lost 13,000 rounds of small arms ammunition, four tons of rice, 3,825 meters of tunnels and 725 pounds of documents to the sweeps of Operation Wilderness.
After losing the initiative with the failure of the Tet Offensive, about 10 enemy units attempted to withdraw through the 25th Infantry Division's tactical area for reinforcement and resupply. To keep Charlie on the move and deny him rest, Operation Quyet Thang (Resolve To Win) was drawn up, and on 11 March Tropic Lightning, Infantry, Armor and artillery under the 2nd and 3rd Brigades pounced upon the “exfiltrating” Viet Cong. Billed as the largest combined operation of Free World forces since the war began, Quyet Thang covered all of III Corps tactical zone.
Second Brigade was first into headlines with the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Golden Dragons who, on 14 March, uncovered a major cache of small arms in the lower Hobo Woods. Two days later they found another cache, this one including 120 82mm mortar rounds and 12 complete 122mm rockets. And, in another eight days, on 24 March 1968, they found Charlie himself.
Spilling out of their helicopters at 8:15 a.m., two companies of Golden Dragons came under automatic weapons fire from an enemy force entrenched in hedgerows near Sa Nho village, eight miles northwest of Cu Chi. The Golden Dragons returned fire, called in air strikes and gunships, and then assaulted the enemy, killing 66 and capturing two. The enemy turned out to be the 7th Cu Chi Viet Cong Infantry Battalion. When questioned, villagers said there had been as many as 400 Viet Cong soldiers in the village.
Next day it was the turn of the Tomahawks of the 4th Battalion (Mech), 23rd Infantry. Shortly after 10:00 a.m. near Trang Bang the Tomahawks brushed up against a well equipped but green enemy force, newly infiltrated into the south. While the Tomahawks were administering severe on-the-job training to the new arrivals, the 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Dreadnoughts were moving to the sound of Tomahawk guns to get a piece of the action.
The Dreadnoughts, however, found another infiltration group and pitched into them. At the end of the day, the two units had the field, two prisoners, 33 weapons and a body count of 111 Viet Cong. Two of the dead were women who had been armed with RPG-2 rocket launchers.
On 26 March 1968 the golden Dragons and the Dreadnoughts pursued the remnants of the infiltration units, and, by early afternoon, were again engaging the enemy. After artillery, air and infantry assaults routed the Viet Cong with practiced professionalism, all the enemy who weren't dead on the ground, and 108 were, was rapidly going somewhere else.
Operation Quyet Thang continued another 12 days to 7 April, but Charlie had had enough of 2nd Brigade. There were no more significant contacts.
Meanwhile the 3rd brigade had experienced less contact, but had not been idle by any means. On 11 March the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry White Warriors, the 1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry Bobcats and the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regulars began pushing into the hedgerows and paddies around Hoc Mon and Tan Binh. Over the next few days other units joined the sweep.
In addition to rooting Charlie out of the area, one of the objectives was to neutralize part of the “rocket belt” around Saigon, and ease the 122mm rocket threat to Tan Son Nhut Air Base.
Even though the Viet Cong tried to keep well clear of 3rd Brigade units, 153 bodies were counted and 10 prisoners taken after 35 engagements. However, the chief blow landed by 3rd Brigade hurt the Viet Cong in matters of food, ammunition and shelter.
As the operation began, a task force from the 3rd Battalion, 4th Cavalry found a cache containing 1,500 pounds of rice.
On 13 March 1968 a company of the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry found 12 122mm rockets buried in a dike, and the next day a task force headed by 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry drove about 20 Viet Cong from an entrenched position in a small but hot firefight.
Found in small caches, the totals of material taken from the enemy began to mount. After the operation Charlie had 11,000 fewer pounds of peanuts, 12,000 fewer pounds of peas, 16,000 pounds less rice, and 10,000 pounds less salt. He was even short 100 pounds of canned tuna fish, and every shelter and bunker in the path of the 3rd Brigade's thrust was destroyed.Learn More:After Action Report #1, After Action Report #2
No Vietnam campaign has more dramatically demonstrated how Tropic Lightning has taken the war into the enemy's backyard than has operation Toan Thang I. This multi-division operation took them to the very edges of the25th Infantry Division's area of operations.
One moment they probed the triple canopied fringes of War Zone C. The next they drew a tight cordon about the gigantic Tan Son Nhut Air Base. Then the men with the Lightning patch firmly stood their ground in the face of withering enemy assault several miles north of the extensive Michelin Rubber Plantation. Moments later, they fought their way across hedgerows and rice paddies a mere five miles south of Camp Cu Chi where a desperate enemy was pinned against an impassable swamp.
During the course of the 54-day operation, 3,542 enemy soldiers fell dead before Tropic Lightning's fury. This fact in itself should prove that the 25th's soldiers left little chance as they tracked their foe the length and breadth of their operational zone.
Running its course from 12 April 1968 to 31 May, Operation Toan Thang I was a coordinated campaign involving US, Vietnamese, Australian and Thailand armed forces. Up to then, it was the largest operation in terms of participating troops that the Vietnam conflict had known.
At 20 minutes past 4 o'clock on a dark, silent Good Friday morning, 11 April 1968, all hell broke loose for the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regulars manning a night defensive position in jungle, 13 miles north of Dau Tieng Base Camp. An unknown number of mortar rounds rained down on the Regulars. As the intensity of incoming rounds increased, a multi-battalion force of NVA and Viet Cong soldiers swarmed toward the perimeter in a virtual human wave.
The Bravo Company sector of the perimeter bore the brunt of the assault. Company Commander 1st Lieutenant Richard J. Prarie later said it looked pretty bad for his men in the early going. The intensity of the attack caused many of his men to pull back from their original positions.
“I pulled what men I could muster back to my CP area,” Prarie said, “and with the support of the recon platoon, as the night progressed, we retook all our bunkers.”
Tropic Lightning soldiers were determined to stand their ground. Aided by artillery, helicopter gun ships, and USAF tactical air strikes, they did just that.
Before the fighting ended, the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry had worked its way through six kilometers of jungle to reinforce their sister battalion.
When the fighting finally subsided, the enemy had fled, leaving 155 dead comrades behind. Sixteen US Infantrymen died in the attack and 47 were wounded.
Tropic Lightning soldiers weren't fighting the enemy alone. The little-hailed artillerymen did his bit as well. Tropic Lightning's big guns slammed a whopping 85,000 rounds into the enemy from 29 April to 12 May. Whether supporting troops in contact, destroying enemy positions and fortifications or harassing and interdicting, Tropic Lightning's Redlegs were also taking the war to Charlie.
A multi-battalion task force of Tropic Lightning soldiers was formed on 3 May and moved before dark into a semi-circular blocking position pinning an estimated 400-500 enemy soldiers against a large, open swamp five miles south of Camp Cu Chi.
Throughout the night and for the next three days Tropic Lightning soldiers-with substantial support from division artillery, helicopter gun ships, and Air Force tactical fighters-kept the pressure on Charlie. By the time they had pushed completely through the enemy position, 285 dead NVA soldiers had been found on the battlefield.
The task force moved on to new and scattered battlefields during the next 19 days, pursuing Viet Cong forces across the division's area of operations past Trang Bang, and into the Boi Loi and Ho Bo Woods. It disbanded 25 May 1968 after having amassed a total of more than 600 enemy killed in 23 days.
Battalion-sized task force elements included the2nd Battalion, 34th Armor; 4th Battalion (Mech), 23rd Infantry; 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry and 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry. Companies from other battalions of the division were assigned to the task force for portions of the operation.
Meanwhile, the Viet Cong had mounted a long-awaited second offensive a long-awaited second offensive on Saigon, meeting much less success than had come their way during Tet. In what was probably their do-or-die final push on the capital city, a Viet Cong battalion locked horns with the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry on 27 May 1968. The Infantrymen's night defensive position, a little over a mile west of the city limits, came under attack before midnight. Supported by division artillerymen, gun ships, and an Air Force “Spooky,” they managed to keep the Viet Cong pinned down overnight.
In the morning, the3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry joined the23rd Infantry in an advance, which carried, through the enemy positions. By late afternoon all resistance had ceased; 218 Viet Cong lay dead on the battlefield, their second offensive having died with them. American casualties were six dead.
Four days later, Toan Thang I came to a close. The men with the Lightning patch had met the enemy on his ground and had whipped him soundly.
Toan Thang II began 1 June 1968 and was in full swing when the Tropic Lightning Division closed out its 27th year. It included a large number of Vietnamese and US forces and the entire III Corps tactical zone.
The second and third days of the operation belonged to 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry gunship crewmen operating along the Saigon River. They turned up an entrenched enemy force and a cache of 27 122mm rockets, and two 122mm rocket launchers. Aided by division artillerymen, the cavalrymen destroyed the rockets, launchers, and 38 Viet Cong.
Three days later 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Manchu's, supported by division cannoneers, turned a hot LZ five miles north of Saigon into a substantial victory killing 36 NVA soldiers.
The Wolfhounds took over. An estimated NVA battalion bombarded a 2nd Battalion 27th Infantry night location seven miles northwest of Saigon and the launched a savage pre-dawn attack. For 2.5 hours the enemy pressed the attack in the face of withering counter fire, which included exploding artillery scant meters before the Second Wolfhounds' emplacements. When they fled, 56 of their comrades were left on the battlefield. One of the Wolfhounds told MG F.K. Mearns hours later that he couldn't understand how he and his buddies survived the fray. Responded the CG, “You're still here because you were better than they were.”
The First Wolfhounds two days later turned up a cache of 32 122mm rocket warheads, 88 82mm mortar rounds, 88RPG-2 rounds and seven RPG-7 launchers. The following day they struggled with an unknown sized Viet Cong force in the same Hoc Mon Canal neighborhood where the cache had been found. Infantrymen, artillerymen, helicopter and USAF pilots together accounted for 44 enemy dead.
Headlines on 21-23 June 1968 concerned the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division; under operational control of the 25th division to re-place the Tropic Lightning's own 3rd Brigade, which had been temporarily attached to the Capital Military Assistance Command (CMAC) at Saigon. Fighting near the Cambodian border nine miles southwest of Trang Bang, the following day they uncovered 110 RPG-2 rounds and 106 recoilless rifle rounds.
The last day of June and five miles north of Trang Bang, the Screaming Eagles fought off an NVA assault on their night defensive position, killing 18 attackers.
Then came a lull, Lightning soldiers searched diligently for the next month and a half, finding tons of munitions, food and clothing. Occasionally they found the enemy but rather than fight, he ran.
As a consequence, the only major conflict during July occurred before dawn 4 July when an estimated two reinforced companies took on Dau Tieg Base Camp. They directed 550 mortars and rockets into the compound. During an accompanying ground attack, five members of the mixed NVA-Viet Cong force cut the wire entanglement on the western perimeter and were racing toward the bunker-line when the defenders felled them
A second wave descended on the eastern perimeter, slinging more than 400 satchel charges on the airstrip. None exploded. When the enemy withdrew he left 10 dead.
The successful defense was a tribute to 3rd brigade support troops who manned the majority of the bunkers. Most of the brigade's tactical units were operating around Saigon at the time, leaving mostly cooks, clerks and truck drivers to keep the home fires burning.
In early August while the fighting lull engulfed South Vietnam, 25th Infantry Division intelligence officers began receiving information indicating a major offensive against Tay Ninh City. Division strategists and ARVN planners drew up a detailed defense plan for the provincial capital and surrounding military installations.
Then the game of hide and seek was over! On 17 August 1968, the 1st Brigade's Tay Ninh Base Camp shook to the sound of exploding mortar and rocket shells. The shelling was apparently from the major NVA-Viet Cong objectives.
Four miles north of Tay Ninh City, Tropic Lightning soldiers at Fire Support Base Buell II were under mortar and rocket attack also. As the intensity of the fire increased, NVA soldiers tried to overrun the American camp.
At 2:34 a.m. more than 3,000 feet above the surrounding lowlands, Tropic Lightning residents of the Nui Ba Den signal facility were also attacked.
Both of these attacks failed. At Buell, 84 NVA attackers perished in three hours and atop Nui Ba Den, 15 enemy soldiers died.
The next morning, an unknown size enemy force was reported in Tay Ninh City, setting several fires in civilian areas.
Tropic Lightning units deployed in blocking positions around the city as Vietnamese forces moved through flushing out the enemy. In the southeastern portion of the city, elements of the 4th Battalion (Mech), 23rd Infantry and the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry killed 12 enemies.
Meanwhile 1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry soldiers departed Dau Tieng Base Camp to clear the road to Tay Ninh. Entering the Ben Cui Rubber Plantation, 2.5 miles southwest of Dau Tieng, the Bobcats encountered an NVA force whose apparent mission was to block any force to reinforce Tay Ninh. For six hours the Bobcats clawed the hapless enemy force killing 42.
The following morning at 9:30 a.m. after an uneventful night, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry troops, moving east down Highway 26 came under fire from an enemy force entrenched in rice paddies along the road; 34 enemy died in the six hour clash.
Before Three-Quarter Horsemen could polish off their foe, the Bobcats were again attacked while moving through the Ben Cui Rubber Plantation. With artillery aid, infantrymen mauled the attackers, 67 of whom perished.
Tuesday, 20 August 1968, a platoon-sized patrol stole the show. It started at 1:05 a.m., when the patrol opened up on six Viet Cong moving in front of their position six miles northwest of Tay Ninh. Immediately the platoon was besieged with small arms automatic weapons and RPG fire from three sides.
When his patrol leader was wounded, Sergeant Paul Lambers took charge. To mark their own position for air support, Lambers directed his men to burn anything they could including personal clothing and boots. After four hours of intense fighting, the enemy force withdrew and 57 of their comrades were found dead immediately after the fighting; 45 more were found during the next three days, bringing the total enemy dead to 102.
Wednesday's activity shifted back to Ben Cui and the 1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry. At 12:54 p.m. the Bobcats were advancing through the rubber when an enemy battalion met them head on. For 90 minutes the enemy launched three human wave attacks on the Bobcats. Supported by artillery, gun ships and air strikes the Bobcats made short work of their foe killing 182.
Two Tropic Lightning fire support bases were attacked shortly after 1:a.m. Thursday, sixty attackers died at Buell II as they charged into point-blank artillery barrages and 25 perished at Fire Support Base Rawlings, two miles east of Tay Ninh City.
Friday, Tropic Lightning got a break, but 20 minutes past midnight Saturday and five miles southwest of Dau Tieng, 62 NVA soldiers died charging Fire Support Base Schofield.
The week finally came to a close. More than 900 enemy soldiers had tangled with Lightning and died.
The new week opened with a mid-day attack on the Cu Chi to Tay Ninh convoy. Elements of 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry, and 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry snapped back killing 103.
Scattered contacts involving Fire Support Base Rawlins, the1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry and the attacked 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne division accounted for more than 190 enemy dead in August's final five days.
The first battle of Tay Ninh was history. The victory belonged to Tropic Lightning.
A brief lull in the fighting ended before dawn on 11 September 1968, when the Ben Cui Rubber Plantation erupted to exploding mortar shells. The night defensive position of the 1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry three miles south of Dau Tieng was the target of an estimated enemy battalion. The Bobcats called in artillery, counter-attacked and in three hours killed 99 enemies.
Two days later the enemy hit Buell II hard. A mortar barrage estimated at more than 50 incoming rounds a minute at peak intensity hit the camp at 1:50 a.m. Waves of attackers flung themselves at the position. More than 1,000 105 mm howitzer shells were hurled into their faces from point-blank range by 2nd Battalion, 13th Artillery. Other defenders from the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry and 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry added firepower. The enemy fled three hours later leaving 76 dead behind.
Another Cu Chi to Tay Ninh convoy was hit on 12 September; the pre-dawn attack routine was re-played against the guns at Fire Support Base Pope 15 miles northwest of Cu Chi. Screaming Eagles from the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne division, still opcon to the 25th Division, conducted the defense. The final count was 131 enemies dead.
The last actions for Tropic Lightning soldiers during their 27th year occurred on 20 September. The day opened with a mortar and ground attack against the Bobcats' night defensive position on the edge of the Ben Cui Rubber Plantation. The attack began at five minutes past midnight, lasted three hours and cost the attackers 37 dead.
Twenty-eight more enemies died the same day in a two-hour battle with 4th Battalion (Mech), 23rd Infantry and 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry soldiers eight miles southeast of Tay Ninh City.
Ten days of moderate activity brought Tropic Lightning's 27th year to a close. More than 3,700 enemy soldiers had challenged Lightning and died since Operation Toan Thang II began.
On 8 December 1968, Alpha and Bravo Companies of the 1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry pulled into their night laager position in the Ho Bo Woods in the midst of a sweep of that area. The enemy, caught in the closing net, attacked at night with rocket propelled grenades and rifle fire. The Bobcats sprung out of their position in pursuit, capturing weapons and engaging the escaping squads. Through the following day and night the enemy was pressed back, stumbling over itself, and under heavy artillery fire dispersed. The main element was located again the next day and the Bobcats moved in backed by air strikes and more artillery in a battle that ran late into the night. The base camp had been discovered: several bunkers and 30 surrounding spider holes. Enemy weapons, ammunition, and supplies were captured as the remnants of the unit fled into the surrounding jungle.
At 7:30. on the morning of a routine sweep in mid-February, the 3rd Squadron, 4th Armored Cavalry discovered extensive bunkers and tunnels in the Boi Loi Woods, south of Dau Tieng. Efforts to investigate were greeted by enemy rifle and machine gun fire. The cavalry attacked the complex in their tanks and armored personnel carriers, first head on and then from the flank as enemy rifle fire and rocket propelled grenades exploded around them. With the tanks 90mm guns, the cavalry pounded the bunkers and spider holes lining the road, a hand grenade lobbed out of one of the enemy bunkers landed on the road between two tracks. Captain Melvyn Moss of Kingston, New York, pulled the pin on one of his grenades and threw it into the bunker.
The NVA soldier in the bunker threw it back and it exploded in the air. A tank was stopped by an RPG round, until SP4 John Johnson of Philadelphia and PFC Donald Harris of West Point, Virginia, dashed through the heaviest fire to drive it out of the way of the tracks behind. The gunner on the tank never stopped firing.
As Tet 1969 approached, and with it the prospect of a new enemy offensive, the division redoubled its efforts to disrupt and disperse the enemy and capture his supplies. At the heart of the enemy's resupply and reinforcement system in Tay Ninh Province stood Nui Ba Den, a lone craggy mountain on the fringe of the triple canopy jungles of War Zone C. In the thousands of caves which honeycomb deep into the granite mountain the enemy had an ideal center for operations-if he could only get some peace and quiet.
In January 1969, the division's 1st Brigade determined to sweep the mountain. With elements of the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regulars, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry, and tanks from the 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor, the brigade began a systematic search of the mountain's slopes, uncovering supplies and weapons destined for the Tet Offensive, destroying the enemy emplacements in the caves and engaging the fleeing squads. It is significant that during the period of Tet no major attacks were mounted from Nui Ba Den. A division posture was evolving; disrupting the enemy supply channels, searching out his weapons, his ammunition, his food and rushing the position every time a force tried to gather, these tactics were pre-empting battle.
During the period preceding Tet 1969, the principal threat to the 25th Division's area was posed in the northern sectors of the province.
Just over the Cambodian border, the enemy was able to assemble troops and supplies brought down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. A scant 16 miles from Tay Ninh city, the enemy could mount a considerable opposition if he could filter through the Straight Edge Woods, cross the river, and position himself within striking distance of 25th Division installations.
To the north of Tay Ninh City stretched 30 miles of triple canopy jungle, difficult for aerial reconnaissance, uninhabited, and nearly impossible to patrol. The enemy found it convenient to establish training zones for the enemy forces in III Corps. The key to the Allied defense against this ever present threat lay in continuous probes and vigilant screening along the southern borders of War Zone C. This defense harassed the enemy resupply effort and prevented his move out of the jungle to launch his campaign.
In the northeast corner of the division's area of operations, the 3rd Brigade, then stationed in Dau Tieng, faced the difficult problem of finding and fighting an enemy well entrenched in the thickly forested and mountainous areas to the north known as the Razorbacks.
With the enemy already deployed and organized on three sides, the 25th Division and ARVN forces waged a combined active defensive campaign to prevent a major Tet battle.
Probes, followed by aggressive sweeps continually knocked the enemy off balance and prevented him from bringing significant forces into the populated areas in the center of the province. A major effort was made to seek out the supplies, which the enemy had positioned in advance of his attacks. Enemy patrols were interdicted and dispersed and heavy artillery barrages and major air assaults met all signs of enemy assembly in the key areas of the province
As if harassing the enemy was not enough, Diamond and Frontier City blocked and destroyed the last efforts of the Spring Offensive and delivered a crushing blow to the already stunned and defeated enemy.
The regular convoy to resupply the division's 3rd Brigade base camp at Dau Tieng had always been a tempting target for the enemy. In late December and early January, he yielded to the temptation and lost.
On 14 January 1968, in the largest of these attempts, the enemy established an ambush along Route 239 near the Ben Cui Rubber Plantation, less than a mile from the spot where the enemy had failed on a previous attempt.
The convoy was interdicted by RPG and rifle fire as it drew near the plantation, but Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion (Mech), 22nd Infantry roared up in their armored personnel carriers in the first of three assaults on the enemy's position.
“Your men were here so fast they must have come by air,” said a grateful trucker.
Division artillery shifted to the scene of the battle and pounded the isolated enemy as the Triple Deuce continued to fire machine guns and rifles to the position; F-100 Supersabre jets flashed overhead delivering air strikes into the target. Before the battle ended, 115 of the would-be ambushers were eliminated.
In February 1969, the enemy began a series of savage attacks on the villages and hamlets in Hau Nghai and Tay Ninh Provinces in a last ditch effort to find food, shelter and popular support. They lost on every count. Cu Chi District was typical.
There, in a series of victorious night battles, the enemy tried to intimidate the local population and wrest from them the food and medical supplies they so badly needed. In a dramatic testimony to the increasing strength of the Vietnamese government, Regional Forces and Popular forces soundly whipped the enemy. These soldiers stopped the Enemy on the edges of the village in a series of courageous battles fought with American artillery and air support.
Local Vietnamese civilians increasingly volunteered information on enemy caches and movements, and allied soldiers swept in to capture the supplies and engage the frustrated forces.
On 23 February, the enemy launched his much-heralded Tet Offensive. Tay Ninh Base Camp became the target for a massive rocket and mortar barrage that numbered in the hundreds each night for several nights. At Dau Tieng, sappers breached the outer wire and base camp guards and reaction forces engaged them in close fighting. For five hours the battle raged as gun ships and artillery pounded the enemy into defeat.
At Cu Chi base camp, a sapper squad rushed the southern perimeter under a heavy rocket and mortar attack,, throwing satchel charges and grenades onto the airfield. Throughout the area of operations, Tropic Lightning fire support bases, patrol bases and night laager positions were subjected to mortar and rocket attacks.
And yet these attacks represented no substantial enemy force; squads for the most part, company sized units at Dau Tieng and Cu Chi. The ammunition and supplies earmarked for the offensive had long since been captured by the Allies.
On December 18, 1968 the men of the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Manchus constructed a patrol base camp, nine and a half miles south of Tay Ninh City. In a single day, Company A, 65th Eng., transformed 186,000 pounds of building materials hauled in by 27 helicopter sorties into a well fortified position dubbed Patrol Base Mole City. It was located in an area that has been untouched by allied ground forces for over a year and was located in one of the most used infiltration routes in the III Corps.
Three days later, the enemy attacked. During the early morning hours of December 22, 1968, Mole City came under a massive ground assault by the 272d Regiment of the 9th NVA Division. During the battle, the 4th Battalion of the 9th Infantry Manchus killed 106 enemy. The attack began shortly after midnight with a fierce mortar, 75mm recoilless rifle and RPG attack which was followed immediately by a heavy concentration of small arms and automatic weapons fire. "The mortars were coming in so fast you would swear that they were automatic," said Private First Class Walter Schmiel, a grenadier with Bravo Company from Niagara Falls, N.Y. "Approximately 15 minutes after my listening post spotted movement, the ground attack started on Charlie Company's front. Mortars continued to come in along with RPGs. We got them to my front and to the south. Tracers, ours and theirs, were going everywhere in the perimeter. After a few minutes we got our artillery coming to the front of Charlie Company and not long after that gunships and the air strikes. The battle continued for several hours, with the NVA penetrating the trenchline between two bunkers. Once the enemy troops were in the trench, they were picked off by Manchu marksman. The Manchus commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Leo L. Wilson from Salina, Kans., had supervised the construction of Mole City four days earlier and was certain that the base could withstand any assault. "The enemy threw everything they had at us, and we threw everything we had right back at them," said Wilson. A human-wave attack was repulsed by the valiant Manchus by laying down a massive field of fire. So heavy was the volume of fire that four M60 machine gun barrels melted down completely. "Air strikes were right on station after the contact commenced," said Captain Richard E. Foulk, the Manchus' S-2 officer from Twin Falls, Idaho. "They did a real fine job.You name it and we had it out there, everything except the B-52s." "The NVAs were wearing new uniforms and looked well fed. The enemy was armed with brand new weapons and looked like they had come to put up a fight," said Colonel Robert L. Fair, Tropic Lightning's 1st Brigade commanding officer from San Francisco, Calif. "Once they started the attack, we really gave them hell! We put in about 650 rounds of 155 (howitzer) from Bravo Battery of the 3d of the 13th Artillery located at Fire Support Base Austin, six miles to the east, and the local ARVNs fired approximately 400 rounds of 105 (howitzer) for us. In addition we put in eight air strikes on them, used five spookies and two light fire teams." "In my 26 years of service," continued Fair, "I've never seen a fight like this one."
In the eyes of the North Vietnamese army from its sanctuary several kilometers inside Cambodia, the Diamonds must have glittered seductively. Diamond I, and its successor Diamond II, appeared to be tiny positions on an open plain, apparently weak, apparently vulnerable. On 23 February 1969, in the midst of a countrywide attack on allied bases, the NVA assaulted Patrol Base Diamond.
At approximately 2:00 a.m. the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Wolfhounds received rifle and mortar fire from enemy positions along the border one and one half kilometers away. As US troops called for supporting artillery and gun ships, the NVA attack swelled. Two enemy regiments drove up from the south making normal reactionary procedures impossible and forcing the Americans into close artillery fires.
Artillery was called in to surround the tiny base, and the night rang with flying shrapnel. The enemy continued to attack. Two ambush patrols, which had been positioned outside the patrol base, fought for their lives as the enemy swept past them toward the position, but their heroic efforts disrupted the attack. The ambush patrol to the north found itself on the enemy's flank and began calling in devastatingly accurate artillery as the first wave fell on the wire.
The assault broke and collapsed under a hail of artillery and gunship fire and after 10 hours of fierce combat. The enemy had lost heavily in the first of two assaults on Diamond. For 24-hours the Wolfhounds remained alert. Enemy movement was continually sighted on the dry terrain surrounding the patrol base, and regular intervals of artillery fire pounded suspected enemy positions. Then, in the early morning of the 25th, the NVA struck again.
The second battle was a futile attempt by enemy to launch a similar offensive. Crippled by its losses, the NVA met vicious counter-fire and collapsed.
Two lessons were immediately apparent; the battle for Diamond I was no guerilla action. It was in fact a classic set piece in the fashion of the enemy's earlier attacks on the French. It had been staged by doctrinaire NVA officers as a conventional assault by regular troops against what had appeared to be a tactical island, isolated from the heavy guns and rapid reinforcements of the massive allied army. The second lesson was that it didn't work.
The astonishing accuracy of long range Allied artillery and the swift response of armed helicopters and Air Force gun ships threw a wall of impenetrable fire around the position. With nothing to protect them but strands of concertina wire and hastily constructed bunkers, the Wolfhounds had combined the courage of riflemen with the technology and skills of highly disciplined aviation and artillery units to create an instant and invaluable fortress. And a fortress, as Napoleon noted, holds a deadly fascination for the enemy. No matter how hard he is damaged, he will always believe that with a few more men and heavier guns he can take it next time. On 5-6 April 1969 the NVA tried again.
Shortly after 1:00 a.m., on 5 April, the Wolfhounds detected a small group of people 800 meters from the perimeter of their re-located patrol base, Diamond II. Then, at 1:30 a.m. the enemy began mortaring a listening post 200 meters west of the base's wire. This fire was quickly shifted to the perimeter.
From their vantage point, the Wolfhounds saw the enemy thunder at the perimeter in vain as fire from leveled howitzers; air strikes and small arms blunted the attack.
On 6 April, a second but smaller attack was waged against the patrol base and again, under the yellow cloud of dust and artillery smoke, allied guns cut the assault down. They got no closer to the wire than 1200 meters.
It was then that the division realized how important and how effective the concept of the patrol base had become at that particular time. The Diamonds stood squarely between the enemy's massive base camp on the border and the open western flank of Saigon. As strong and mobile positions, these tiny bases could support constant and effective patrolling activities along the border, interdicting the enemy's principal avenue of attack and frustrating the main thrust of the enemy's planned Spring Offensive.
On 24 April, the Wolfhounds dismantled Diamond II and moved it directly onto the enemy main infiltration route.
With only 14 hours of daylight, the Wolfhounds began the frantic race to reposition Diamond. Dismantling the patrol base with the help of heavy Chinooks, the soldiers of Alpha and Delta Companies moved diamond II guns to an open plain six kilometers away. There they carved another patrol base, established the perimeter, and named it Diamond III. At dusk the men were working shifts to throw sandbags into place while others humped ammo into the mortar and artillery positions. The enemy was watching. Diamond III would have to hold
Patrol Base Diamond III, 15 April 1969: Dawn's first light shows sweat, dirt, and exhaustion engraved on all faces. Some of the men try to sleep; others stare blankly into the distance. A few talk, A deep weariness prevails over the combined smell of gunpowder and blood.
Four hours ago an estimated two battalions of North Vietnamese regulars swept across the Cambodian border and hurled themselves at the 2nd Brigade's 2nd battalion, 27th Infantry in this tiny patrol base. The Wolfhounds fought for their lives and now it shows.
The men of Alpha and Delta Companies defeated NVA regulars in a battle they will remember for a lifetime.
At midnight, after a frantic day of relocation, Patrol Base Diamond III was ready. Guards were posted and the infantrymen tried to rest.
As the guard changed at 0300 hours, movement was detected 800 meters to the southwest of the perimeter. The command post was notified and the first of nearly 2,000 rounds of artillery was called in. Gun ships from Bravo Company, 25th Aviation Battalion, were called and the battle began.
Few were injured as an estimated 500 mortar rounds exploded against the overhead cover constructed that afternoon.
A lull fell on the battlefield. The NVA had lifted the mortar attack to allow their assault troops to move closer.
Earlier that evening, three listening posts had been established to the west, north and south. Wolfhounds on the western LP took advantage of the lull to break for the patrol base.
They made it. The post to the north kept low and had no injuries but the post on the east flank became caught between the advancing and retreating enemy and was over-run.
Experienced troopers knew that the time had come to get out of their bunkers and fight from the prepared positions.
The NVA regulars proved themselves creatures of habit as, true to form, they launched the second phase of the attack with a hail of rocket propelled grenades and rifle fire. The NVA battalions had moved forward under the mortar fire and were launching their deadly rockets from within 30 meters of the perimeter.
The men, fighting outside their bunkers, kept the enemy from getting close enough to accurately fire their weapons. Each bunker had an M-60 machine gun and many had 90mm recoilless rifles. The Wolfhounds knew how to use them.
As the rocket propelled grenades rained in, sapper squads closed on the perimeter's defensive wire armed with bangalore torpedos and rifles in a desperate attempt to breach the line.
Flare ships and night lighting aircraft circled overhead constantly illuminating the scene as dust and debris rose from rounds impacting on both sides.
As the fight continued, eight gun ships circled overhead constantly spitting their fire onto the plain below. The Air force came in with jet air strikes on the staging area used by the enemy, while two 105mm howitzers fired an incredible 300 rounds and, during the height of the battle, lowered their tubes and fired point blank into the charging NVA.
The heavy fighting continued until the rising moon warned the NVA of coming dawn. They broke contact and, leaving a few behind to continue the fire, retreated to their sanctuary across the border. The fighting subsided shortly after 6:30 a.m.
The gunships have returned to base, the guns are quiet. Patrol Base Diamond III is intact. The men have a right to be exhausted. They have fought hard. Victory does not come easily, or cheaply.
Thirteen Americans lost their lives in the battle. Learn More:(Tropic Lightning News Article)
The concept of a patrol base on the border had been proven. It was at once an agonizing temptation to the 271st and 272nd Regiments on the border and a completely effective deterrent to their infiltration. The enemy was incensed.
On 24 April 1969, 10 days after the attack on Diamond III, a new patrol base was established by the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry, Manchus, one and one-half mile north of the Angels Wing” along the Cambodian border. In that flat open area, Charlie Company, and Alpha Company supporting, was to build and hold a tiny new patrol base to be named “Frontier City.”
On the morning of the 24th, both companies began, with the aid of engineers and artillery personnel, to line out the perimeter and began to cut them and shape them into hardened fighting positions. Steel plate and beams were flown in as concertina wire was strung out at intervals beyond the bunker line. A CH-54 Flying Crane airlifted a bulldozer in as another dozer was floated down the nearby river on a raft. The area was cleared around the position to give the men the best possible fields of fire. A prefabricated tower was lowered into position at the center of the base and two 105mm howitzers were flown in from 7th Battalion, 11th Artillery to provide organic artillery support. Communications were established and, as darkness gathered, the men settled down to wait.
Frontier City was not hit the first night. The enemy was spotted moving in small groups around the perimeter and engaged with artillery, but there was no attack. On the following day Alpha Company made local security patrols and the heavy bulldozers were moved out of the area.
At dusk on the 25th, the enemy made his move. Small groups were spotted moving to the northeast. The decision was made to hold fire, let the situation develop. By 9:00 p.m. enemy movement was being detected as close as 1000 meters as enemy units positioned rocket propelled grenade launchers and ammunition. Heavy movement began just before midnight to the northeast and an entire enemy platoon was spotted shuffling for position in the wood line. That was the time to make the move.
Flares burst overhead; the bunker line touched off railroad flares and smudge pots to mark their position and two Cobra gun ships from Bravo Company, 25th Aviation Battalion rolled in.
Artillery was coordinated from Fire Support Bases east of Frontier City and soon whole sections to the south were brought under heavy fire.
Major Harry Ray, the base commander, then ordered the 105mm howitzers to fire 360 degrees around the base with canister rounds. The artillery began. The enemy had been caught halfway between his safety areas and the patrol base.
Shortly after midnight the first enemy rounds began raining in on Frontier City. Twenty 107mm rockets and more than 250 82mm mortar rounds fell on the base to provide cover for the assaulting enemy sappers. Gun ships from 25th Aviation Battalion and 3rd Squadron 4th Armored cavalry began sweeping areas of enemy activity, dodging the enemy artillery as best they could. Heavy Air Force gun ships circled the base on high spitting down a cone of fire, and artillerymen on every available gun in the division's area of operation swung their tubes around and began firing in defense of the position.
Then came the quiet; the shift of fires. Just like Diamond III. The enemy had moved to the edge of the base and was about to assault. The Manchu's scrambled out of their bunkers to meet the oncoming sappers with rifles and machine guns. At one point company commander Captain Ramon T. Pulliam rushed to the bunker line and manned an M-60 at the height of the enemy assault.
The enemy staged a battalion-sized attack from the south where they blew a portion of the wire with bangalore torpedoes. Immediately Claymore mines were detonated in the spot and the two 105mm howitzers were fired point blank into the charging NVA. The enemy had been stopped. The fight shifted again, and the rout of the enemy began.
Air strikes were called in to supplement heavy artillery and gunship fires throughout the area. The enemy struggled to get back out of the trap but to no avail. One US soldier was wounded.
The battles on the border mark an unusual period in Tropic Lightning history. Facing a massed enemy operating from positions of relative safety, the division had achieved stunning victories. Infiltration over the border was severely curtailed. The harassment and extortion of local civilians by the NVA was sharply reduced, and heavy damage was done to the enemy's main force elements at an extremely low cost to the allies.
By late May the division was able to move freely throughout the area without fear of small unit contacts. Civic action teams went into the villages to find a mew confidence thee in the allied ability to defend. Vietnamese civilians, no longer faced with the fear of enemy reprisals cooperated with the American and ARVN soldiers by pointing out booby traps, supply caches and enemy bunker complexes.
It was the enemy, though, who paid the final tribute to the division's success. In June, the majority of main force units abandoned their positions along the border and moved north. Unable to establish supply points inside Vietnam, unable to extract support from the local population, and unable to move freely in the area, the regiments pulled away, That, within the context of the Vietnam War, was a particular victory.
According to records I obtained from the National Archives, FSB Dallas was torn down and Frontier City was established April 24, 1969. Charlie Co. tore down Frontier City, with Delta Co. providing security, May 14, 1969. Frontier City, being a patrol base not a FSB, was only around from April 24 - May 14; or 3 weeks. After the battle, Alpha and Charlie Co.'s rotated to another FSB. Alpha went to Stoneman and stayed there until they went to Mole City June 1. Charlie went to Mole City for 10 days and then back to Frontier City until it closed. Bravo took Alpha's place at Frontier City and Delta was there until Charlie returned on May 7th.
Co. D 4/9 69/70 After Action Report
Fire Support Base Crook had been a thorn in the enemy's side since it's construction. Established 19 miles northwest of Tay Ninh city amidst the jungles of War Zone C, the base stood astride several key enemy infiltration routes, effectively curtailing their use and providing massive support to the regular infantry patrols in the area.
It differed from the Diamond's and Frontier City in one important respect: it was a large and long established allied position designed to provide artillery support throughout the area. It was heavily armed.
It was also well constructed. Substantial bunkers and hardened fighting positions had been established, a large swath of clear land surrounded the base, and the men of the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry had spent weeks patrolling the area. Crook was one of the strongest positions in the division's are of operations.
During the early morning hour's of 6 June 1969, in conjunction with several other attacks on the Tay Ninh City area, the enemy attacked FSB Crook. Throughout the previous evening allied soldiers had detected the movement of large groups of enemy to the south and east of the base. Following the lessons of Frontier City, the situation was allowed to develop as the enemy abandoned his cover to move ever closer. At 3:00 a.m. he struck.
A heavy barrage of mortar, rocket and RPG fire rained on the base from enemy positions on all sides.
As the enemy poured from the wood line across the open field toward the base, soldiers from Bravo Company, 3rd battalion, 22nd Infantry and artilleryman from Alpha Company, 7th Battalion, 11th Field Artillery opened up with small arms, automatic weapons, and the artillery positioned on the base. Cobra gun ships circled overhead firing rockets and machine guns at the enemy artillery and staging positions. The Air Force sent C119 gun ships armed with mini-guns to fly high above the base firing down on the attacking enemy. And artillery, both 155mm howitzers and larger 8-inch guns, was zeroed in on the enemy's likely avenue of retreat. Heavy fire was laid down across the wood line to seal off the attackers on the open plain. The attack was destroyed before it could gain momentum. As Bravo company left the perimeter to sweep the area the following morning they were greeted by hand grenade-throwing NVA, tossing the grenades from well concealed spider holes. Bravo Company returned to the perimeter and called for Spooky to make several passes over the suspected enemy positions.
Alpha Company was dropped off four kilometers north of Crook by the 187th Assault Helicopter Company to spoil the enemy's morning retreat. There, following a trail of communication wire, they met head-on with the NVA Regiment's headquarters, and the allied soldiers engaged the enemy in a long afternoon firefight. Darkness forced the company to return to base before the enemy casualties could be determined.
Shortly after midnight, on the morning of 7 June, a fresh regiment massed on the north side of the embattled allied base. It will forever be a puzzle why the NVA did not coordinate those two attacks-perhaps they tried. The fact remains that the two regiments, both apparently designated to attack FSB Crook, were not communicating. As a fragmented and unsupported assault, the second attempt on Crook quickly became a repetition of the first, with the same terrible result.
The heavy barrage of enemy mortar, rockets and rocket propelled grenades began shortly after midnight but even before they had lifted, enemy sappers were embarked on their headlong charge across the open ground toward the base's perimeter.
Essential to the enemy's plan of attack is this small unit “suicide” charge on the perimeter wire. Armed with long tubular explosives called bangalore torpedoes, the enemy reasons that he can blow a gap in the wire allowing hordes of followers to rush through into the position with satchel charges, grenades and rifles. Like so many of the enemy's tactics, this one is expensive and futile. The main guns of FSB Crook were lowered to eye level and fired into the charging sappers.
SP4 Tom Belan of Pittsburgh was one of the first to stop the sappers as they attempted to crawl under the wire on the southwest side of the perimeter. Belan literally burned up the barrel of his machine gun.
The quick thinking SFC Donald Neal of Columbus, Georgia, proved to be fatal for the unsuspecting sappers. Neil grabbed two grenade launchers and several bandoleers of ammo before heading for Belan's position. Together they overwhelmed the enemy with grenades and sent them fleeing back toward the wood line.
A last ditch effort was made from the north where the initial attack had occurred. SP4 Richard Morroquine of Floresville, Texas, turned on the on rushing enemy with his machine gun. The enemy answered 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.
Helicopters dropped illumination all night as the artillerymen fired round after round at the charging enemy. Just as on the previous night, artillery from Tropic Lightning's powerful firebases cut the enemy's path of retreat and pounded his artillery positions while helicopter gun ships and Air Force Spookies swarmed over the area surrounding Crook.
It was a schoolbook study in the defense of a forward position, being taught once again by masters. The enemy paid dearly for the lessons; in two days of fighting 399 enemy soldiers were killed at fire Support Base Crook. One American died.
On the evening of 7 June 1969, as the villagers of Than Son began to trickle back into their homes, the battle for Tay Ninh ended. In Than Son, to the great credit of the ARVN troops, little damage had been done to the village and the province relief organizations were able to assist the villagers in the repair and to pass our food and clothing. The enemy had gone.
American and ARVN troops began to sweep regularly through the area surrounding the city, flushing out stragglers and small units, engaging the enemy where possible and driving him from the city. The ARVN troops were proud, and for good reason; they were anxious that this victory not be turned to a bitter defeat through carelessness.
The enemy had suffered heavy casualties as well as humiliating tactical upset. Three regiments were badly depleted and scattered throughout the outlying areas attempting to regroup, treat the wounded, and bury the dead. Precious supplies positioned in advance of the campaign were consumed or destroyed. The question in the minds of the enemy and the allies was simple: was the NVA willing, even capable, of mounting a second massive assault against the overwhelming odds? Learn More: After Action Report
The Next attack on Tay Ninh City was, if such a thing is possible in war, an “instant replay,” of Fire Support Base Crook. It was as if the NVA commanders dragged out the same old charts and argued once again that such a brilliant plan could not fail, that the disastrous defeat of the first campaign had been due to poor motivation or a lack of resolve. So it was, that 12 days after their first thundering defeat, the NVA, like a stunned dog unable to find its tormentor, came back toward Tay Ninh the same way, with the same units.
One change: the NVA chose to by-pass Fire Support Base Crook in favor of the smaller and hopefully more vulnerable Fire Support Base Washington seven miles northwest of Tay Ninh City. There, shortly before midnight on June 18th early warning devices began to mark the enemy sappers as they crept toward the perimeter. Within minutes flares were up illuminating the flat marshland and clearly defining the sapper squads. Enemy mortar and rockets began to rain down inside the base.
Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry held firm while artillery, gun ships, and Spooky pounded the charging enemy as he came into the open. As daylight came, the NVA fled under cover of sporadic sniper fire. There were no American casualties.
While the Regulars were fighting at Washington, the 1st Battalion, 88th Regiment was making its way from Nui Ba Den toward Tay Ninh City. Under cover of darkness the battalion took up a position on the western outskirts of the city, not far from the Cao Dai Temple.
The Cao Dai are in the minority everywhere in Vietnam except Tay Ninh. The population of the province is more than 70% Cao Dai and their influence is proportional to their size. The sect had its beginnings on the eastern slopes of Nui Ba Den and the founders established a great temple and complex that made up the Holy See early in the 20th century. Composed of features from Christianity, Buddhism and Islam, the main precept of the Cao Dai religion is that each man is responsible for his own actions, that the actions are constantly observed from on high (hence the symbol of the gigantic eye is one of the most significant symbols of the sect) and that patience and virtue will be rewarded. Under such a concept, the sect has shunned its own defensive force since the late 1950's in favor of a small contingent of unarmed Temple Guards. The importance of this great religious shrine to the people was evident. It had to be protected.
Charlie Company, 4th Battalion (Mech), 23rd Infantry sealed off all avenues of approach to the Temple with their APC's while ARVN Airborne troops headed by the province chief moved into the occupied section of the village and made contact with the dug-in enemy. Civilian refugees spilled from the contested area.
Eliminating snipers and engaging in grenade throwing fights, the Tomahawks and Vietnamese soldiers pushed the enemy steadily back. It took a day of fierce house-to-house fighting before the area was quiet again.
The enemy was spotted in the Straight Edge Woods, 19 miles south of the city. Charlie Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry was air assaulted into the area and teamed up with ARVN Marines to engage the enemy in his well-fortified positions. Air strikes and artillery softened the resistance and the Manchu's cut them down. The enemy was from the 271st and 272nd NVA Regiments.
In conjunction with the fighting elsewhere around the city, two local force battalions were moving toward the city on the eastern side of the river, One of the first missions was to ambush the vital convoy that daily makes its way from Cu Chi to Tay Ninh with supplies.
A Kit Carson scout acting on intelligence from local residents had warned the allies of the threat to the convoy and the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry preceded the convoy itself up the supply route. The enemy never fired a shot at the convoy, but was caught off guard by the rumbling tanks. Braving RPG and automatic weapons fire, Bravo and Charlie Troops of the Cavalry raced into the enemy positions.
Then as abruptly as it had begun, it was over. Caught in the south before they could really make their push, overwhelmed at Washington, and skillfully countered on the edge of the city. The NVA had been decisively beaten.
The 88th NVA Regiment, badly mauled after Crook and Washington, limped off toward the mountain. The 271st and 272nd Regiments, after a long spring of heavy contact and continuing defeats, were no longer viable military forces.
Such massive campaigns as these two against Tay Ninh City were perhaps doomed to fail. Crippling miscalculations, faulty communications, and their inability to estimate the allied forces resulted in defeat. The enemy, in the end, was hurling its misinformed soldiers (many seemed to think that Tay Ninh had already been captured by the NVA) against the swift and powerful allied troops in the feverish hope that somehow, against all odds, they might get a taste of victory.
The war had reached the point, in Tay Ninh Province, where the enemy could no longer count on popular sympathy and local guerilla actions. It had become a conventional battle between the North Vietnamese army and the Allied forces. The enemy had clearly become foreign aggressors fighting without cover or support in a strong province resolved to protect its freedom. They were playing a savage and futile game. And they were losing.
One prong of the19 June offensive broke against the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Manchus as they stormed into a hot landing zone 10 miles southwest of Tay Ninh City.
The NVA were in fortified positions with thick overhead cover in the Straight Edge Woods.
The Manchus ran into heavy hostile fire and backed off to call in air strikes. After the airborne ordinance had blasted the enemy positions, Charlie Company and ARVN Marines swept into the wood line. After six hours of hard fighting the enemy was driven out into an open field where the Manchu's Bravo Company had set up a blocking force. Caught between two fires, the enemy force was faced with the choice of running or waiting to be killed, and they dissolved.
In the midst of the attempted ambush of the 3rd Squadron 4th Armored Cavalry south of Tay Ninh City, the commanding officer of Charlie Troop was killed and the lieutenant next in command severely wounded.
Specialist 4 Fred Orgas of El Paso, Texas, thrown clear of the command track by the explosion, quickly assessed the situation. He scrambled to his feet and by hand signals reorganized the unit. Orgas, until that moment had been operating as command track controller, and possessed a clear understanding of the overall deployment of the troop. He grabbed the radio and contacted the squadron commander who was flying over the action in the command and control helicopter. And that, in a small way, was the spirit of the division in 1969.
After the 1969 battle of Tay Ninh, the 88th NVA Regiment escaped to caves that honeycombed the flanks of Nui Ba Den. There they hoped to find solace, several weeks to regroup, resupply, and recover. Essential to this retreat, however, was the need for incoming supplies. Fresh enemy soldiers had to get in the mountain, supplies had to be brought in, patrols had to be sent out. What remained of the 88th Regiment depended completely on this traffic.
Men of the 4th Battalion (Mech), 23rd Infantry, resolved to surround the mountain and barricade the beleaguered enemy. With armored personnel; carriers and tanks from the 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor, the Tomahawks moved into position.
On 27 June 1969 the men of Charlie Company, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry were in a night defensive position within the shadow of the mountain. In the early morning hours the enemy came from his cave attempting to by-pass the position and head north to War Zone C.
They were detected immediately and every asset in the division was put on them. Artillery and gun ships blocked their path back to the mountain sanctuary and Charlie Company was waiting for them to their front.
Two additional companies, A and B, joined Charlie in a sweep of the Banana Grove that lay at the base of the mountain. USAF jets dove through the cloud shrouding the mountain to pound the caves and crevices where the remaining enemy was hiding. In an unusual deployment of artillery, the big self propelled 8-inch howitzers of Charlie Battery, 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery moved right up to the base of the mountain to fire point blank at the mouths of the caves.
Two small contacts the following day eliminated additional enemy.
Two days later the remainder of the decimated battalion attempted to flee the mountain again. It proved a futile attempt. The counter attack by the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry and the 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor cost the enemy additional lives.
Once again all was quiet in Tay Ninh Province. The enemy had been beaten back everywhere, its main force units crippled by staggering losses of equipment and men. It would be months before these units could become effective fighting forces again.
Nui Ba Den
On the summit of this 3,200-foot granite mountain jutting up from the jungle floor, a small company of infantrymen guards a critical signal relay, the heart of the division's communication system. Operating the high frequency and multiple channel radio, the signalmen on the mountain work this lonely position retransmitting vital tactical communications that connect far-flung units with their division command and support.
Throughout July and August 1969, the enemy remained quiet around the foot of the mountain. Contact was sporadic as squads and enemy recon patrols made an occasional effort to move. But during the first two weeks of September, the enemy made an effort to assemble troops in the banana grove at the base of the mountain.
On a morning patrol of the area, soldiers of the 4th Battalion (Mech), 23rf Infantry, and elements of the 688th Vietnamese Regional Forces Company were attacked by mortar and rocket propelled grenade fire. Through the morning and into the early afternoon, the Tomahawks attacked through the banana grove in pursuit of the fleeing enemy company. The NVA scrambled for cover on the mountain. The 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor moved in.
Swinging their main guns around, the tankers began to fire on likely enemy hiding positions. Mortar, .50 caliber machine gun and 90mm cannon fire poured onto the enemy positions.
Five days later, the Tomahawks again engaged the enemy attempting to rally in the banana grove, and again, the allied soldiers gave chase. At one point, self-propelled artillery rolled up to the foot of the mountain and fired into the caves where the frustrated enemy was hiding. In the period of seven days, the 1st Brigade kept great pressure on the enemy and once again asserted its control over the terrain.
Action for the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry, through Fall 1969 was typified by the 24 October battle along the southern edge of the Boi Loi and Ho Bo woods. There in a three-day operation, the Warriors of Alpha, Bravo and Delta companies went to the center of a suspected enemy concentration. With support from the116th Assault Helicopter Company, the allied soldiers broke the enemy force in a series of night small unit actions.
For the Wolfhounds of the 1st and 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry, the end of the monsoon season brought little hope for dry socks. They continued to press their aggressive patrolling along and often in, the Vam Co Dong River and its tributaries, in an effort to stop the enemy infiltration.
From their Patrol Base Kotrc, the Wolfhounds battled the enemy throughout July, August, and September in a series of night attacks on the Allied defensive position.
In two days of fighting near the Bo Bo Canal, the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Wolfhounds went to the support of a Civilian Irregular Defense Group unit engaged in heavy contact. Although the NVA pulled back away from the river, the Wolfhounds pursued vigorously and in a period of two weeks took soldiers out of the enemy ranks.
During the months of October and November, the Golden dragons of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry, were busy in Hau Nghai Duong Provinces keeping enemy movement to a minimum.
The Dragons, primarily using ambushes and combined patrols with ARVN forces, engaged the enemy frequently during the two months of action. Dragon recon teams and ambush patrols kept the enemy off balance and at the same time discovered many supply caches.
In early November, on a routine reconnaissance, the Dragons engaged an unknown size enemy force. With help from the 116th Assault helicopter Company, Bravo Company defeated the enemy and captured 4,000 rounds of small arms ammunition, 300 pounds of rice and destroyed three tunnels.
Throughout the two-month period, the Dragons penetrated deep into the Ho Bo and Boi Loi woods and the enemy was finding it increasingly difficult to move around without fear of being detected. This was just a hint of what the trend was throughout the division's area of operation.
As the year 1969 drew to a close, it was obvious that the battle tide had shifted. The enemy was operating in small units against the divisions fire and patrol bases in an attempt to at least maintain presence., The division responded accordingly by emphasizing small unit company and platoon sized operations designed to insure rapid response to these small sized enemy activities.
The success of the division's operations provided more time for active support and training of an increasingly effective ARVN force. Combined small unit operations provided excellent opportunity for the individual soldier to work directly with his ARVN counterpart. The joint effort Dong Tien, “progress together,” produced increasingly effective results.
ARVN forces within the area of operations improved markedly their techniques, professionalism and tenacity under the guidance of their American allies.
The safety and security of the villages and hamlets in the division's area of operations had been upgraded significantly with the ARVN carrying an increasing share of the pacification program.
The Allies worked together to develop new tactics and as the enemy began taking refuge more and more in remote areas, new methods were developed to reach him quickly and effectively.
One of the early innovations in this quick response fighting was an artillery platform that could be air lifted to distant rice paddies and marshes. The mobility of these “paddy platforms” enabled artillery units to be moved rapidly to support ground troops in remote areas.
Howitzers mounted on barges also offered new mobility and range for artillery batteries. Barge artillery units could be moved quickly to new locations on waterways and could even fire while on the move.
Night combat patrols made further use of rivers and canals to reach ambush positions. Their skilled use of detection devices led to new successes in locating the enemy and his equipment hidden in rivers and canals.
Units began leaving their outposts for several days at a time to conduct operations in the remote reaches of the AO. These “bushmaster” operations gave infantry units greater range in locating the increasingly hard-to-find enemy.
Another tactic designed to give infantrymen increased range was called jitterbug. Soldiers aboard helicopters were randomly inserted at suspected enemy locations which they searched until they were extracted and reinserted at another spot.
Rome plows were used more extensively throughout the AO to clear land. The huge plows destroyed enemy hiding places and neutralized booby traps. At the same time they were clearing new land for cultivation
Civil affairs programs added a new direction to operations by including intelligence gathering and psyop personnel with medical team visits to villages and hamlets. The concept was called Integrated Civic Action Projects.
Another civil affairs innovation was the employment of Night Squawk helicopters, which made broadcasts and dropped leaflets on suspected enemy locations at night. The ships also sped to contact locations with their broadcasts and leaflets.
During daylight hours, psyop emphasis was on face-to-face contact. Psyop personnel visited small groups of persons in villages and hamlets that weren't reached buy other means. The new techniques not only prohibited enemy movement and operations but cut off his supplies and unearthed his hiding places at an unprecedented level.
From War Zone C to the marshes of Long An Province, from the Cambodian border to the Boi Loi Woods and outskirts of Saigon, teh25th Infantry division, working with Vietnamese forces, had established a measure of peace and given the people of South Vietnam a renewed confidence and hope in their fight for freedom of choice.
Digging Charlie Out
Fall and Winter 1969 found 25th Division troops digging the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers out of their refuges, the Ho Bo and Boi Loi Woods, the border area to the Vam Co Dong River and the great mountain of Nui Ba Den.
The division's 2nd Brigade conducted extended combat patrols and reconnaissance operations into the Ho Bo and Boi Loi Woods and the Citadel area in the central portion of the division's area of operations.
The 1st Brigade conducted combined operations in the districts around Nui Ba Den and Tay Ninh City in the northern sector of the area of operation.
The division's 3rd Brigade patrolled the southern sector including Cu Chi and the enemy infiltration routes between the Cambodian border and the Vam Co Dong River. Third Brigade maneuvers included extensive operations working with the 25th ARVN Division and local Popular Forces and Regional forces.
October and November 1969 saw operations Cliffdweller I and II dog out scores of Viet Cong and NVA from the slopes of Nui Ba Den and render large portions of the mountainside useless to the enemy.
The chore was accomplished by Task Force Jones, a combined Allied force made up of elements of the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry, “Regulars;” the 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor “Dreadnaughts;” the 4th Battalion (Mech), 23rd Infantry, “Tomahawks,” and two Vietnamese units.
Cliffdweller I, spearheaded by the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry, found Allied Infantrymen dropped on the top of the mountain peak by chopper and descending by foot down the rocky slopes.
While the 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor and a Vietnamese Regional force set up blocking forces around the base of the mountain, Delta Company of the Regulars struggled up the side of the mountain to occupy the pagoda area, where the heaviest action occurred.
Artillery and air strikes harassed the enemy as leg units scoured the slopes for the three-day operation.
Cliffdweller II, several weeks later, saw the task force return to the area of their previous success. Now the Allies met less resistance as the enemy retreated. Learn More:( After Action Report)
Starting off the New Year 1970, the 1st Brigade conducted Operation Cliffdweller IV, the longest sustained battle in months. Bravo and Charlie Companies, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry, were airlifted by Chinook helicopters to the top of Nui Ba Den, and started working their way down in columns over the boulders toward the bottom.
As the two companies moved into sweeping and blocking positions from the top, Alpha Company was moved in from the bottom to seal off the left side of the trap. Recon Platoon, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry and Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry, were airlifted onto the ridgeline of Nui Ba Den's little sister Nui Cau, putting their steel onto the right side of the jaws closing in on the enemy.
Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor, moved in on line with tanks and armored personnel carriers at the base of the mountain, completing the trap. Bravo Battery, 7th Battalion, 11th Artillery towed their Howitzers from Fire Support Base Buell to beef up the line at the bottom. A sky full of artillery shells pounded the enemy positions keeping them down in their caves as riflemen crept through the boulders on the line.
Air Force jets were called in to strafe and bomb the enemy. Dusters, quad-50-caliber machine guns, a self propelled 175mm Howitzer, Cobra rocket and mini-guns plus artillery, tank and Huey gun ship fire from the 116th Assault Helicopter Company raked and pounded the sealed off enemy. There were 186 enemy killed in the eight day operation. Learn More:(After Action Report)
In the spring, the 2nd Brigade moved east to Bear Cat, spreading the division area of operations into an entirely new configuration.
The 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, working with the 2nd Brigade, operated daily RIF's, (reconnaissance in force), into the triple-canopy jungle in the mountainous area south of Bear Cat.
Sheridan's and armored personnel carriers probed into the thick jungle, where troopers would dismount and cautiously search for the well-concealed hiding places of the enemy.
Calm and Caches
January to April 1970 was a relatively calm period for the 25th Division. The enemy laid low while division units uncovered vast caches of enemy arms and supplies.
Rome Plows of the 501st Land Clearing Company charged through the heavy jungle of the Renegade Woods near the Cambodian border.
Armored personnel carriers from the 2nd Battalion (Mech), 22nd Infantry, “Triple Deuce,” secured the plows, unearthing enemy, trails, bunkers, tunnels and fighting positions.
As the plows exposed hidden positions, Triple Deuce destroyed them, thus eliminating an NVA infiltration route from Cambodia.
Bangalore torpedoes enabled the 2nd Battalion (Mech), 22nd Infantry, “Triple Deuce” to remove hundreds of hedgerows and wood lines near the Cambodian border, which the enemy used for infiltration and resupply.
Besides destroying enemy refuges, the torpedoes uncovered many food and arms caches, harmlessly detonated enemy booby-traps and cleared the land for farm use by local villagers.
The 1st Brigade conducted Operation Toan Thang 44, Base area 354, and was the 25th Division's first surge into Cambodia.
At first light on 6 May 1970, assault helicopters at Cu Chi and Tay Ninh lifted off their pads and headed toward Fire support Base Wood, just west of Thien Ngon. Here they picked up troops of the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry for an air assault into enemy sanctuaries south of “The Dog's Face,” the western most sector of War Zone C.
White Alpha, Bravo and Delta Companies of the3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry were airlifted to Tasuos, a village four miles inside Cambodia, Charlie Company secured a bridgehead on the Cambodian side of the Rach Cai Bac River.
First contact was made in an open field outside Tasuos. “They seemed surprised mostly,” said one soldier. “We caught them running across an open field and it seemed like the NVA just couldn't believe we were really here.”
Meanwhile, two mechanized units escorted the 65th Engineer Battalion to the Vietnamese bank of the Rai Cai Bac River. In eight hours, the engineers spanned the river with a floatation bridge and the first tracks of the mechanized unit crossed into Cambodia to secure the bridge for the night.
The next morning, the1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry, and the 2nd Battalion (Mech), 22nd Infantry roared through the dense jungle along the river and across the dusty fields and rice paddies west of the jungle searching out the enemy.
The 1st Battalion (Mech), 5th Infantry moved west to link with 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry before moving further south. Meanwhile the 2nd Battalion (Mech), 22nd Infantry swept south from the bridge in two columns. The 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry was airlifted to a position between the two mechanized battalions and began a careful search of massive training areas and staging points concealed in the jungle.
The brigade elements formed a giant pincer along both sides of a massive jungle sheath surrounding the river. The move drove the bewildered enemy south where the Vietnamese navy stood guard on another branch of the river.
“We must have gone through at least two kilometers of base camps,” said one Triple Deuce soldier. During the first operation, Tropic Lightning troops uncovered more than 270 tons of rice, killed 266 enemies and held 41 detainees. Supplies captured included bicycles, motorcycles, trucks, 221 individual weapons and 22 crew served weapons.
Soldiers were elated as the found and destroyed above ground structures connected by interlocking board sidewalks, Inside were blackboards and benches for classrooms, tables and mess facilities, living quarters with nearby bunkers and evidence of recent enemy activity.
But the enemy was gone. He was sometimes caught in small groups running away, but he fought only if he had to fight. One battalion commander put it this way: “We have destroyed in a very short time what it has taken the enemy months, perhaps even years to build.”
On 14 May the 1st Brigade withdrew from Base Area 354 back to Vietnam to regroup for operations in Base Area 353 the division's third phase of operations.Learn More:After Action Report ,( Commanders Evaluation Report),
Air Support Cambodian Invasion 1970-Project CHECO
Toan Thang 43, 2nd Brigade's first phase of operations in Cambodia, was conducted in Base Area 707, north of the “Dog's Face.”
On 9 May 1970, the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, was airlifted deep inside Cambodia while the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry secured the roadways north from the border.
The following day the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry and the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry were airlifted north of a heavily wooded area while the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry took up positions south and west of the same area. The 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry, rumbled into position east of the woods, enclosing the area.
Inside was believed to be a major enemy headquarters. As the four units closed the sides of the box, they received sporadic contact with enemy trying to escape. The units soon began to report finds indicating the area had housed a large base camp with sophisticated material like that used for a headquarters type operation. The 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, uncovered what appeared to be the headquarters of the base camp complex. First they found a mimeograph machine, two brand new generators, 86 M-1 carbines, three .30 caliber machine guns and three typewriters. Next came two unused 75mm recoilless rifles with carriages, 38 cases of .30 caliber ammunition, 100 81mm mortar rounds, four cases of 3.5 inch rockets, four cases of Soviet made mines, one 60mm mortar tube with bipod and one .30 caliber water-cooled machine guns. There were also 11 bicycles, 11 cases of AK-ammunition, 100 60mm mortar rounds, nine rocket-propelled grenade rounds and 40 hand grenades.
In another part of the complex, the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry discovered what was evidently a hospital complex. Large quantities of medical supplies were found in complexes similar to battalion aid stations.
The search of the area continued for the next week. More and more of the same type caches came to light. But now one thing became most significant-rice. Rice had been found during the early operations, but nothing of such monumental quantity. Moving rice became a new and imposing challenge to Tropic Lightning.
On 14 May 1970, about 17 miles north of Thien Ngon, Charlie Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry found 170 tons of rice, packed in 220 pound bags. The next day the first cache was virtually duplicated when Bravo Troop located an additional 15 sacks, each containing the same number of bags. Within five days, the 25th Division cavalrymen had collected more than 400 tons of rice. Then the backbreaking labor began. Because the rice was found in triple canopy jungle, choppers were unable to get in to pick it up. Much of it was found in jungle to dense for armored personnel carriers. The rice had to be carried by hand to clearings where it was loaded on anything available: a truck, armored personnel carriers, tanks almost anything going to the rear.
The 25th soldiers worked hard evacuating the stockpiled rice. As one soldier put it, “Charlie will at least have to tighten up his belt for quite a while.”
The third phase of the division's Cambodian campaign saw the 1st Brigade travel northeast through Vietnam to Base Area 353, west of Base Area 707, where the 2nd Brigade had been operating. Working side by side, the two brigades operated massive search and reconnaissance operations over a large part of the area referred to by president Nixon as “The Fish Hook.”
On 17 May 1970, the 1st Battalion (Mech) 5th Infantry searching a heavily wooded area uncovered one of the largest communication caches of the war. Included were 135 bunkers, 57 hootches, 10 classrooms, and several tons of radio and electronics equipment. Continuing their search, infantrymen swept through an enemy hospital complex composed of 50 hootches, 130-150 bunkers and three kitchens.
The third phase of operation saw two additional units, the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry and 4th Battalion (Mech), 23rd Infantry, enter Cambodia to replace units that had seen heavy action.
The 4th Battalion (Mech), 23rd Infantry, and 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry tactfully handled a cordon and search operation in the city of Memot by arranging a medical civic action program, including games and food distribution while troops searched for suspected enemy caches of equipment, weapons and food.
The residents of Memot had been told by loudspeaker that with the exception of one person per family, they were all to gather in the town square. The U.S. troops, escorted by a resident, searched each Cambodian house and yard while the families were being entertained and given medical treatment. Where enemy weapons or materiel were found, suspicious persons were taken for questioning.
The search of Memot uncovered many small enemy caches. Among the items found were two 75mm Recoilless rifles, five 20mm magazines loaded with ammunition, a Remington Springfield .30 caliber rifle, three British rifles, 25 anti-tank mines, 188 rifle grenades and 125 pounds of medical supplies.
By 29 June the last 25th division units had pulled out of Cambodia. They were happy to be out. Contact had been heavy, comforts scarce and the monsoon season was quickly gaining momentum. But the men knew that something had been accomplished and they had participated in a significant event of modern history.
The commanding general of the 25th Division, Major General Edward Bautz Jr., lauded the men of Tropic Lightning: “Your dedication, courage and skill have deprived the enemy of staggering quantities of weapons, ammunition, and supplies. You have deprived him of the use of sanctuaries inside of Cambodia, temporarily halting and challenging the communists to undertake the costly and time consuming job of rebuilding. You have captured volumes of important documents that have provided a clearer and more detailed picture of the enemy system of command, control and support from inside Cambodia.
“A partial list of communist arms, ammunition and equipment which Tropic Lightning captured and destroyed inside Cambodia includes more than 700 individual weapons just under 150 crew-served weapons, and over 45 tons of ammunition.”
“You have captured or destroyed more than 1.500 tons of rice, more than 5,600 pounds of communication equipment, 56 vehicles, and almost 1,600 pounds of documents. More than 13,000 pounds of medical supplies will never again be used to sustain the enemy.”
“There can be no doubt that the cross-border operations of Tropic Lightning and its sister divisions have dealt the enemy a severe blow and have brought the war much closer to a successful conclusion.”
Units returning to Vietnam resettled themselves throughout the extended area of operation, including War Zone C. within the next few months, division units moved south from Katum and Thien Ngon as ARVN, Army of the Republic of Vietnam, units moved in.
The returning units took little time to lick their wounds. Mech units took maintenance standdowns to clean the red Cambodian clay from the workings of their tracks and then off they went to new assignments. But the pressure was off. Any place in Vietnam would seem a vacation after Cambodia. (Commanders Evaluation Report), Air Support Cambodian Invasion 1970-Project CHECO,