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Search Techniques
Back To After Action Reports



                                                                                                                                                        5 August 1967

SUBJECT:  Search Technique


     The slogan “Find `Em - Fix `Em - Fight `Em and Finish `Em” is as true today as the day it was first promulgated; however, many units fail to put the sequence in proper order.  So often this is true of our ARVN neighbors, they fix and fight only to learn they have nothing to finish.  The unmatched success of this battalion lies primarily with finding the enemy first through the use of the deliberate search technique before we attempt to fix or fight.  All operations are based on the most current intelligence, admittedly causing frequent changes in plans, but more often than not, yielding tangible results.  The one true indicator of success is the actual number of enemy killed or captured and the number of enemy weapons seized.  Since 10 July, this battalion has killed 260 enemy, captured 47 POWs and seized 108 weapons while suffering only 9 soldiers KIA.  Our high body count and high weapons-to-kill ratio has resulted mostly from locating the enemy in his hiding places.  Once he is located in this hiding place the job is relatively simple because the enemy has fixed himself by choosing a small tunnel with no route of escape.  The enemy in this area has depended primarily on his advanced techniques of camouflage for protection.  Once these passive measures fail, the enemy has no choice but to be killed or captured.  Defense of a small hole, normally 18” by 18” against an American rifle squad is a difficult if not impossible task.  This battalion has capitalized on the natural curiosity of the American by having our soldiers poke and probe every nook and cranny of the hedgerows around a village.  We have learned that the most common hiding place for the enemy is beneath a bamboo thicket with a concealed trap door as shown in the enclosed sketch.  As one can see, unless one actually places his hand on the bamboo stalks and pulls, the trap door will remain undetected.  Some trap doors can be discovered merely by looking, but most are located by probing with hands and bayonets.  To make the most effective use of the manpower available, the searching unit, normally a rifle squad, must subdivide into a search team and a security team.  Naturally, the curious should go to the search team while the less curious provide the security.  The amount of enthusiasm generated by the platoon leader is almost directly proportional to the number of holes located.  Many a hole has been located by the bleeding hand of a lieutenant or captain when the enthusiasm for the search had dwindled to a low ebb.  Such leadership by example rekindles the searchers enthusiasm and the race is on again to see who can locate the next hole.  Once the hole is located, security is placed around the area and a systematic reduction of the area begins by first clearing away enough bamboo to allow the comparatively large American soldier to operate within the confined space.  Next, the hole is opened, normally by shooting through the door with an M-16 rifle.  This is a strong deterrent to those enemy who would toss out a grenade at the unsuspecting soldier standing nearby.    Once the trap door is opened, various American and Vietnamese expressions are shouted into the tunnel exhorting the enemy to come out or be killed.  Frequently, the enemy will give up without a fight, saving us the effort not only of killing him, but of having to dig out the tunnel for weapons and documents.  When all else fails and the hard core VC stays within the confines of his self-created tomb, a few strategically placed hand grenades normal reduces both the VC and the tunnel to rubble, leaving only the messy task of digging out the remains.  The key to the success of this operation lies in the search technique of the individual soldier and his leader.  This search method has paid off handsomely for this unit.  We first “Find `Em” by a slow deliberate search on the small unit level and then methodically “Fix `Em”, “Fight `Em”, and “Finish `Em”.


 (Double Booby Trap)

 (Trap Door)