After Action Reports 1 | After Action Reports 2 | After Action Report 3 | After Action Reports 4 | After Action Reports 5 | After Action Reports 6 | After Action Reports 7 | After Action Reports 8 | After Action Reports 9 | After Action Reports 10 | After Action Reports 11 | After Action Reports 12 | After Action Reports 13 | After Action Reports 14 | After Action Reports 15 | After Action Reports 16 | After Action Reports 17 | After Action Report 18 | After Action Report 19 | After Action Report 20 | After Action Report 21 | After Action Reports 22 | After Action Reports 23 | After Action Reports 24 | After Action Reports 25 | After Action Report 26 | After Action Report 27 | After Action Reports 28 | After Action Reports 29 | After Action Report 30 | After Action Reports 31 | After Action Reports 32 | After Action Reports 33 | After Action Reports 34 | After Action Reports 35 | After Action Reports 36 | After Action Reports 37 | After Action Reports 38 | After Action Reports 39 | After Action Reports 40 | After Action Report 41 | After Action Report 42 | Afer Action 43 | After Action Report 44 | After Action Reports 45 | After Action Reports 46 | After Action Reports 47 | After Action Reports 48 | After Action Report 49 | After Action Reports 50 | After Action Report 51 | After Action Report 52 | After Action Report 53 | After Action Report 54 | After Action Report 55 | After Action Report 56 | After Action Report 57 | After Action Report 58 | After Action Report 59 | After Action Report 60 | After Action Report 61 | After Action Report 62 | After Action Report 63 | After Action Report 64 | After Action Report 65 | After Action Report 65 | After Action Report 66
After Action Reports 28
DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE
HEADQUARTERS 377TH COMBAT SUPPORT GROUP (PACAF)
APO SAN FRANCISCO 96307
MAR 9 1968
ATTN OF: BSP
SUBJECT: Combat Operations After Actions Report (RCS: MACV J3-32)(U)
1. (U) Type Operation: Mortar, rocket, automatic/small arms, and ground attacks against Tan Son Nhut Air Base and the Tan Son Nhut Sensitive Area.
2. (U) Dates of Operation: 0320 hours, 31 January 1968 through 2100 hours, 31 January 1968. Small arms/automatic weapons fire and probing actions on various parts of the perimeter continued through 9 February 1968.
3. (U) Location: Tan Son Nhut Air Base, RVN, and the adjacent Tan Son Nhut Sensitive Area. The major ground penetration was centered from the 049 Bunker to the 051 Gate on the west perimeter, Enemy ground penetration attempts were also conducted at O.F. 10 (Gate 10, Southeast Perimeter) and MACV Annex (Adjacent to Gate 10).
4. (U) Command and Control Headquarters: Joint Defense Operations Center Tan Son Nhut Sensitive Area.
5. (U) Unit Commanders Engaged in Operations:
a. Lt Colonel Luu Kim Cuong Comdr, 33rd VNAF Wing
(Comdr., TSN Sensitive Area)
b. Major Phung Van Chieu Comdr, TSN Sensitive Point
Dep Comdr, TSN Sensitive Area
c. Colonel Farley E. Peebles Comdr, 377th Combat Support Gp
d. Colonel Luther J. Miller Senior Advisor AFAT #1 33rd Wing
GROUP - 4
Downgraded at 3 year intervals
Declassified after 12 years
(This Page is Unclassified)
e. Lt Colonel Bernard L. Garred Jr. Senior Advisor TSN Sensitive Area
f. Lt Colonel Billy J. Carter Comdr, 377th Security Police Sq
g. Lt Colonel Peter P. Borowski Comdr, MACV Annex
h. Major Ronald K. Kollhoff Comdr, Armed Helicopter Plt,
120 Aviation Company
6. (U) Units Engaged:
a. 2nd Services Battalion (ARVN)
b. 8th Airborne Battalion (ARVN)
c. 53rd Regional Force Battalion (ARVN)
d. 1st Marine Battalion (ARVN)
e. 4th Marine Battalion (ARVN)
f. 377th Security Police Squadron
g. Task Force 35
h. Task Force Peter
i. A Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment
j. 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry 25th Division
k. 1st Battalion, 18th INF, 1st Division
l. 2nd Battalion, 27th INF, 25th Division
m. 2nd Battalion, 327th Regiment, 101st Division
n. 1st Battalion, 27th Regiment, 25th Division
o. 1 Platoon Armed Helicopters - 120th Aviation Company
p. 3 Counter Mortar Radar Sites
q. Provisional Battle Group - (Hong Tong Tay Depot Area)
r. 1 Platoon 105mm - ARVN Artillery (TSN) - JDOC
s. 1 Platoon 155mm - ARVN Artillery (Co Loa) - JDOC
t. 1 Composite Rifle Company, 33rd VNAF Wing Defense Control Group
u. 1 Tank Platoon, 33rd VNAF Wing Defense Control Group - JDOC
(This Page is Unclassified)
v. Miscellaneous R.F. and P.F. Elements throughout TSNSA - JDOC
w. 150 USAF Augmentees to 377th Security Police Squadron (Law
Enforcement Section for escort of personnel from Saigon Area).
x. VNAF and 7th AF TACC
y. 1 Battery 105mm 25 INF Division
z. A Troop, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Division
aa. Tan Son Nhut Sensitive Area Advisory Team 7.
7. (C) Intelligence:
a. Pre-attack Intelligence:
(1) Intelligence reports plus raw information received by JDOC 30 days prior to the attack indicated to this level of command that some kind of enemy action would occur during the TET holiday season. The intelligence estimate of the situation gave the enemy a capability of mounting a large scale rocket or mortar attack plus a ground attack with a strength of not more than a reinforced battalion. A training exercise was written on 24 January 1968 and distributed to the Commanders concerned for appraisal and subsequent implementation on the night of 26-27 January 1968. The exercise was designed to test the capabilities of all security forces assigned to the TSN Sensitive Area. The 051 Gate, considered the most vulnerable point of the perimeter and the anticipated enemy avenue of approach from the Cambodian border was selected as the practice enemy point of penetration, Practice condition YELLOW was initiated at 0025 hours, 27 January 1968. Exercise TET was conducted, including a commanders' critique at 0500 hours at the JDOC Command Post.
(2) The intelligence situation for the days immediately preceding the attack remained relatively unchanged from the normal. There was no significant input of information indicating that an enemy attack on Tan Son
Nhut was imminent. Intelligence collection agencies identified no significant
changes of the location, posture, or strength of the enemy forces in the area.
(3) At 1020 hours, 30 January 1968, the Commander,, 377th Security Police Squadron, declared Security Alert Condition Grey in effect for his unit in reaction to the increased enemy activity during the TET truce and the decrease of the Vietnamese Defense Force units due to the holidays.
(4) At 1732 hours, 30 January 1968, the 377th Security Police Squadron was placed in Security Alert Condition RED (Option I) by order of the Commander, Seventh Air Force. The Joint Defense Operations Center (JDOC) tried to confirm the unilateral Air Force Security Condition RED (Option I) through U.S. Army channels with negative results, All forces within the TSNSA remained in Security Alert Condition White except the 377th Security Police Squadron and Task Force 35, which were in Condition RED, and all other TSN Defense Forces which were in Condition YELLOW.
b. Post-attack Intelligence Information: The following information has been collected from numerous intelligence sources, including Seventh Air Force, MACV, and agencies directly supporting the Tan Son Nhut Sensitive Area.
(1) The attack on Tan Son Nhut Air Base was an integral part of the enemy offensive against the Gia Dinh Province and the government of the Republic of South Vietnam.
(2) It has been asserted that plans for the attack of Tan Son Nhut were formulated and discussed by the Viet Cong cadre as early as 22 December 1967. In subsequent meetings, the attack was planned for the period preceding the TET holidays.
(3) Intelligence sources reflect that an estimated nine enemy battalions were in the greater Saigon Area, and at least seven of them were involved in the attack on Tan Son Nhut Air Base. The enemy battalions in the greater Saigon area were augmented and supported by approximately twelve identified companies or larger-size elements of the 5th Division of the North Vietnamese Army.
(4) Although all units involved in the attack on Tan Son Nhut Air Base have not been clearly identified, specific actions of the enemy and the designations of the attacking units have been established. The roles of enemy units and their identities are discussed below:
(a) Unidentified elements of the enemy directed automatic weapons fire onto the installation in the direction of the POL Storage Area and the C-130 Parking Area. This fire came from an off base position on the east end of the airfield near the runway approaches.
(b) Heavy pressure from enemy elements of the C-10 Sapper Battalion and the 2nd Local Force Battalion was exerted on the Joint General Staff Headquarters, located adjacent to the southeast perimeter of the installation, and a subsequent penetration by these units was made through the southeast perimeter fence of JGS.
(c) Heavy small arms fire was directed towards Gate #2 by unconfirmed enemy elements. These elements were probably assigned to the 2nd Local Force Battalion and the C-10 Sapper Battalion.
(d) Enemy elements, probably from the 6th Local Force Battalion and the C-10 Sapper Battalion, assaulted the south entry control point of the MACV Annex, approximately 250 meters southeast of the of the base perimeter fence. This enemy force is estimated to have been a reinforced company (200+).
(e) Enemy forces estimated at four reinforced battalions mounted an offensive against the west perimeter of Tan Son Nhut Air Base. The units involved and their probable tactical deployment are indicated below. The three principal, battalion-size units were positioned in column at the time of the assault.
1. Elements of the C-10 Sapper Battalion approached the fence line via Lambretta taxi on National Highway #1. The sapper elements dismounted the vehicle and detonated what is believed to have been a Bangalore Torpedo on the fence line. The explosion opened a section of the outer perimeter fence, and the breach was used continuously by the enemy forces for entry onto the installation. The same elements of the C-10 Sapper Battalion remained with the initial assault force and penetrated the perimeter. The staging area of the sapper element was in the vicinity of Phu Cuong Village, approximately fifteen Kilometers north of Tan Son Nhut Air Base.
2. The 267th Viet Cong Battalion (Main Force) composed of approximately 25 per cent NVA, was the lead battalion and the major assault force in the penetration of the west perimeter. This battalion, like all of the attacking battalions, had a strength of 450 to 500 men. Members of this unit made the deepest penetration into the installation. Its staging area was approximately six Kilometers south of Due Hoa Village, approximately eighteen Kilometers west of the base.
3. The 16th Battalion, Viet Cong (Main Force) AKA D-16 (NVA), was the second unit in line of the assaulting forces. Numerous KIA from this unit were identified inside and immediately outside the perimeter fence. It is probable that this battalion was co-located with or at least in close proximity to the 267th Battalion identified in paragraph (a) above, since the delineation
of their lines could not be clearly identified and their dead were co-mingled. The greatest proportion of this unit was NVA.
4. The 269th Viet Cong Battalion (Main Force) was the rear unit in line. It's bivouac area prior to the attack was in the immediate area of Duc Hoa. This unit was engaged from its eastern and southern flank by elements of the 53rd Regional Forces Battalion prior to their arrival at the perimeter fence.
5. The 90th Battalion of the 1st NVA (Cover Number KB-604) Regiment was located in the VINATEXCO factory northwest of the breached perimeter fence. This battalion had 12 mortar positions to the immediate north, west and south of the factory and probably rendered support fire to the assault forces often referred to by interrogated prisoners. This unit sustained 170(+) KIA primarily during the air attack on the factory during the day of 31 January 1968. It has been reported by Vietnamese intelligence sources that among the many casualties in the factory there were 7 NVA pilots and 15 NVA aircraft technicians.
6. Supporting elements of these battalions or elements of other unidentified battalions provided supporting artillery fire for the attacking hostile ground forces.
8. (C) Security Police Status:
a. The total Security Police assigned strength at the time of the hostilities was 890 personnel. Of this total, 75 personnel, or eight percent of the assigned strength, were TDY, R&R, hospital, or emergency leave status or awaiting completion of in-country training. (The TDY personnel included approximately fifty men assigned to three detachments at remote sites.)
The present for duty (PFD) strength was 815 personnel, 56 percent (457) of which were physically on post at the time of the attack. As a result of being placed on Red Alert at 1730 hours, 30 January 1968, eight 13 man Quick Reaction Teams (QRTs) were formed, equipped, and readied for immediate response in the event of attack. This totaled 104 men, or 13 percent of the PFD strength. The 262 remaining Security Police Personnel, or 32 per cent of the PFD strength, were armed and billeted in the squadron barracks for immediate recall.
b. Upon implementation of Condition RED (Option I), three platoons of U.S. Army personnel (Task Force 35) were alerted and placed on five-minute standby status as augmentation reserve forces for the 377th Security Police Squadron. These platoons, composed of 30 men each, were immediately placed under the operational control of the Commander, 377th Security Police Squadron, in accordance with published and approved base defense plans.
c. In accordance with existing procedures, the squadron was divided into
two flights. The night flight, which was on duty at the time of the attack, consisted of two officers and 446 airmen. Manning was as follows:
(1) Security Flight
1. Flight Commander (1st Lt) 1
2. Assistant Flight Commander 1
3. Joint Defense Operations Center 3
(Liaison and Alternate CSC)
4. Communicator/Plotter and Clerks 4
5. CSC Standard SATs (2) 6
(b) Alpha Sector
1. Sector NCOIC 1
2. M-16 Bunkers 23
3. Tower Guards 12
4. Special Posts (Entry Controllers) 14
5. SATs (2) 6
6. MIR M-60 Bunkers (2) 4
(c) Bravo Sector
1. Sector NCOIC 1
2. M16 Bunkers 7
3. Tower Guards 6
4. Area Guards and Entry Controllers 24
5. SATs (2) 9
6. MLR M-60 Bunker (4) 8
(d) Charlie Sector
1. Sector NCOIC 1
2. M-16 Bunkers 9
3. Special Posts and Entry Controllers 17
4. SATs (3) 6
5. M-60 Bunker 2
(e) Delta Sector
1. Sector NCOIC 1
2. Entry Controllers and Revetment Guards 27
3. M-16 Bunkers 15
4. M-60 Bunkers 8
5. SATs (2) 6
(f) Echo Sector
1. Sector NCOIC 1
2. 051 Bunker 5
3. Tower Guards 5
4. M16 Bunkers 12
5. Revetment, Entry Control, and Special Posts 14
6. M60 Bunkers 3
7. SATs (2) 7
(g) Foxtrot Sector
1. Sector NCOIC 1
2. Tower Guards 2
3. M-16 and M-60 Bunkers 4
4. SATs (2) 5
(h) Reserve SAT 12
TOTAL SECURITY FLIGHT 293
(2) K-9 Section
(a) NCOIC 1
(b) Supervisors 2
(c) Armed Patrol (SAT) 6
(d) Kennel Support 2
(e) Sentry Dog Team 47
TOTAL K-9 SECTION 58 58
(3) Taw Enforcement Flight
(a) Flight Commander and Assistant 2
(b) Desk Sergeant, Desk Clerk, and Communicator 4
(c) Patrols (4) and Joint Patrols (2) 12
(d) Entry Controllers (Gates) 15
(e) Entry Controllers, Cantonment Areas, and Special 29
(f) Seventh Air Force Compound Security Guards 12
(g) Quick Reaction Team 13
(h) Customs and Terminal Security 8
TOTAL LAW ENFORCEMENT 101
(a) Weapons Systems Security Operations Officer 1
(b) Armory 4
TOTAL OTHERS 5
TOTAL ON DUTY 457
(5) Fight 13 man Quick Reaction Teams 104
(6) Reserve Security Policemen 254
(7) Three platoons U.S. Army Reserve (Task Force 35),
3C men each. 2 Platoons 69th Signal Battalion,
1 Platoon 53rd Trans Battalion) 90
TOTAL U.S. Security Forces: (377th Security Police Squadron
and Task Force 35 which was under the operational control of
the 377th Security Police Sq) 905
9. (C) Execution: - See Battle Description Atch #1
a. Enemy Losses: The enemy forces sustained 157 KIA (body count) within the base perimeter, and nine POW's were taken by the friendly forces within the same area. Immediately outside the perimeter fence, 267 enemy bodies were counted until the counting action was terminated due to more pressing operational requirements. All of these enemy KIA and POW were probably sustained by the C-10 Sapper Unit, 267th Battalion, 16th Battalion, and the 90th Battalion all of which were identified in paragraph 7b(4)(e) above, The 269th Battalion all of which were identified in paragraph 7b(4)(e) above, which was in ground contact with the 53rd Regional Force Battalion with supporting Light Fire Team dispatched to their area by JDOC, suffered 286 KIA (US confirmed V.C. body count). Friendly elements (2nd Services Battalion and Task Force Peter) operating in the O.F. 10 (Gate 10) area accounted for 82+ enemy dead (body count). The total enemy body count, including the 170+ KIA referred to in para 7b(4)(e)5 above, was 962+.
b. Friendly Casualties:
U.S. Forces Vietnamese Forces
USAF - 4 (Security Police) VNAF - 5
U.S. Army - 19 ARVN/RF - 27
USRAF - 11 (Security Police) VNAF - 12
U.S. Amy - 75 ARVN/RF - 67
TOTAL FRIENDLY KIA - 55 TOTAL FRIENDLY WIA - 163
c. A total of 145 weapons were captured on the installation, 43 of which were crew served. Figures for the offbase collection of weapons are not available.
d. Aircraft Damage:
Type Lightly Damaged Destroyed Total
AC-47 (USAF) 9 0 9
C-47 (USAF) 1 0 1
C-54 (USAF) 1 0 1
C-117 (USN) 2 0 2
VNAF: None damaged or destroyed.
e. Structural Damage:
(1) 4 Conexes of paint burned (Total Loss)
(2) 1 Trailer Van burned (Total Loss)
(3) 1 Trailer House burned (Total Loss)
(4) 1 Shed roof damaged (Repairable)
(5) Approximately 400 ft of electrical power cable to a communications
complex was damaged by a grass fire (Repairable)
(6) Approximately 50 perimeters lights (Repairable)
f. Runway Damage: A 3' x 1' x 3" hole on the edge of the runway was inflicted by ordnance impact. The runway remained operational and the damage was repaired the same day.
g. Enemy Ordnance Collection:
(1) The following ordnance was collected on the installation:
(a) 22 VC booby traps (locally fabricated)
(b) 8 VC DHB claymore mines
(c) 12 VC DH 10 claymore mines
(d) 37 Chicom B40 rocket mortars
(e) 84 Chicom B-40 rockets
(f) 38 USSR PG-7 rockets
(9) 103 Chicom RKC-3TG grenades
(h) 95 VC stick grenades
(i) 40 VC home made grenades
(j) 13 VC plastic explosive charges
(K) 142 Chicom TNT blocks
(l) 17 VC demo kits - satchel charges
(m) 12000 rds Chicom 7.62 intermediate ammo
(n) 2000 rds Chicom 7.62 rimmed ammo
(0) 5 US 81mm mortars, HE
(p) 45 US M26 grenades
(q) 15 US 81mm mortars, illuminating
(r) 65 US 40mm grenades
(s) 19 claymore mines
(t) 5 US 57mm recoilless rifle rds
(U) 47 rds US 50 cal ammo,
(2) USAF Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) units, collecting ordnance off the installation in the immediate vicinity of the west perimeter fence, detonated a pile of enemy ordnance estimated to have a high explosive yield of approximately 100 pounds.
11. (C) Followup Action: Periodic small arms fire, harassment fire, and enemy movement around the installation continued through to the rocket attack on Tan Son Nhut Air Base 18 February 1968. On 10 separate occasions in the four days following the prepenatration, Security Alert Teams (SATs) of this organization made direct contact with enemy positions firing small arms and automatic weapons onto the installation. Two engagements resulted in secondary explosions of the enemy positions. Friendly forces
operating outside the installation made frequent contacts with the enemy near the base. These contacts varied in size, but were all part of the total enemy offensive on Tan Son Nhut and the Saigon area. As of 23 February 1968, 5,519 enemy were KIA (body count) in the greater Saigon area. Sweeping, clearing, and rescuring operations by friendly forces are in effect to this date (4 March 1968). The actions of the enemy clearly substantiate the contention that they have no intention of withdrawing from the area and allowing the installation to revert to its previously secure status. This evaluation is further supported by the fact that postattack intelligence revealed that the Viet Cong attack forces had no plan for withdrawal of their units.
12. (C) Lessons Learned: The concept that Tan Son Nhut Air Base can be
penetrated only by small sapper units and that the enemy has the capability to launch only small scale operations in the Tan Son Nhut vicinity became obsolete with the 31 January 1968 attack and the TET Offensive, and a new type of enemy threat was encountered. A major re-evaluation of present base defense procedures and principles has become an immediate necessity.
a. Security Police personnel and augmentees (TF-35) were well-supervised and well-trained in fire control and discipline and in basic tactics, but were neither equipped nor trained well enough to effectively counter a regiment-size enemy assault. Consideration should be given to Base Security Police receiving more infantry type training prior to assignment in Southeast Asia. Emphasis should be placed on crew served and heavy weapons, assault tactics, and deployment procedures. Existing Air Force training in the ZI and in Southeast Asia is not sufficient to enable Security Police forces to effectively counter forces of this size, equipped as they were.
b. Current concepts of base defense and protection of USAF resources as established by higher headquarter's directives should be reviewed. In our opinion too much emphasis is placed on the closein protection of resources. With the weapons available to the enemy, closein guards are useless. Security forces must be moved from the revetments and other restricted
areas to the perimeter, where they can effectively engage the enemy. Further, we must have the capability to respond with properly equipped reaction forces. In conjunction with this, the existing defense alignment of the installation must be reevaluated and changed in light of the new enemy tactics encountered.
c. Reaction forces were able to respond quickly and halt the enemy advance. This was primarily due to the base defense posture at the time of the attack. Had the Security condition been anything other than RED (Option I) or YELLOW, reaction forces would have had to contain the enemy further inside the interior of the base, probably at much greater loss in lives and USAF resources. It is recommended that a larger standby reaction force be utilized in place of the 12 man Reserve Security Alert Team (RSAT). A fifty man reaction force properly equipped with the same immediate response capability as RSAT would more realistically enable Security Police personnel to halt the enemy at an acceptable distance from priority resources.
d. A free fire zone/clear area must be established around the perimeter of the base. If free fire zones/clear areas had been established the enemy would not have had easy access to the perimeter fence and much of the small arms activity would not have taken place. These zones would also have prevented the enemy from setting up crew served weapon positions and ammunition supply areas adjacent to the base perimeter. Recommend that the free fire zone be extended at least 1,000 meters around the perimeter.
e. Medical personnel should be more readily available to the Security Police. Their training, manning and employment should be such that they would be capable of immediate support to the base defense operation. Entry of medical personnel into the affected area and subsequent evacuation of wounded became an acute problem during the battle. If medical personnel are to continue to be employed in this theater of operation, independent of base defense forces, they must establish and maintain a close liaison with
the Security Police to insure that they are fully aware of the positioning of all defensive units and routes of entry into all areas. In addition, medical personnel must receive sufficient combat training to enable them to effectively perform under hostile fire.
f. A more stringent control of weapons issue to non-defensive force personnel is immediately required. Many of these personnel hampered the Security Police effort and on some occasions were nearly mistaken for hostile forces. Personnel should be instructed to take cover, and weapons should not be issued until Security Condition RED (Option II) is declared.
g. It has been determined from battlefield reports that at the point of penetration some personnel of the 2nd Services Battalion (ARVN) deserted their static defense posts. Reasons for the desertion have not been established, but an investigation is being conducted by the Vietnamese authorities. From these reports, it is apparent that there is need for closer coordination between Vietnamese and U.S. Forces involved in the combined defense of an installation. All indications point to an absolute need for the comanning of defensive positions throughout the perimeter.
h. Local intelligence data available to the base defense forces was entirely void of information pertinent to enemy plans and movements in the immediate area. Defense force personnel must assume that future intelligence reports have questionable validity. They must maintain a posture that will render them totally prepared for an attack at any time, regardless of intelligence indicators.
i. The most significant lesson learned from the attack, and the one which requires the most immediate attention, is the need for more and better equipment. Heavier weapons are urgently needed to effectively combat penetrating forces.
(1) XM-148 Grenade launchers proved to be difficult to operate under combat conditions. Their use is extremely limited during the hours of darkness as their design requires a special sighting device which is useless during darkness. Recommend we consider bringing M-79 Grenade Launchers back into the Air Force inventory, and its wide variety of ordnance (HE, illumination, canister, white phosphorous, etc.) be obtained for maximum utilization. As an alternate solution, recommend the sighting mechanism of the XM-148 be corrected immediately to allow for effective nighttime employment.
(2) Mortars should be considered for direct support illumination and for direct HE fire against attacking ground forces and enemy support fire positions.
(3) Recoilless rifles would have been of great assistance in destroying positions adjacent the West perimeter and inside the 051 Bunker. The counter attack would have been started much earlier and completed at less cost to friendly forces if reaction forces had been able to suppress and destroy enemy crew-served positions.
(4) Some type of rocket launcher is a must. The Amy has in its inventory a light anti-tank weapon (LAW) which is considered ideal for destroying reinforced enemy positions. The LAW could be carried as part of a Security Alert Team's equipment. The weapon is easily operated and the launcher is disposable after use. Its incorporation into the Security Police inventory would be an immediate and noteworthy improvement.
(5) In conjunction with the need for heavier weapons and increased fire power, the safe transportation of this equipment and personnel is a must. Armored personnel carriers (APCs) are considered the most appropriate vehicle for this transportation. These vehicles can be utilized for transportation to the affected area, heavy weapons support fire, and evacuation of injured.
Although neither this nor any other vehicle will provide total-safety for the personnel, it will provide protection from small arms and small caliber automatic weapons fire.
(6) It was evident during the attack that the present communications system employed by Security Police personnel was completely unsatisfactory. There is a strong need for more powerful portable units, able to receive all units involved in the defense operation. This would alleviate the problem of units cutting each other out because they did not receive other units transmitting. Power sources which can sustain operational requirements over an extended period of time are necessary for these radio units. Had the installation been subjected to more than one penetration, multi-channel (more than two) radios would have been required to successfully contain and destroy the attacking forces.
(7) Direct communications with supporting units (LFTs, AC-47s, Flare Ships, etc.) is an immediate requirement. This capability is essential for effective direct control of supporting units on the scene by in-place Security Police supervisory personnel. During the initial phases of the battle, requests for and direction of specific support fire had to be relayed from on-scene positions through Security Police radio channels to JDOC, which relayed the requests and directions to the supporting units. The resulting time lag made the supporting fire less effective than it would have been if direct communications had been available.
J. The above lessons learned of course apply to operations in SEA. We do not intend to imply that these recommendations would apply Air Force wide.
(This Page is Unclassified)
13. (U) Security Classification: This report is classified Confidential/ NOFORN because it reflects detailed information relative to damage of U.S. resources resulting from enemy attack and describes counter measures employed by free world forces in response to enemy actions. Reproduction of this document in whole or in part by recipients is authorized on an as needed basis.
FOR THE COMMANDER
Chief, Security Police 1. Battle Description
(This Page is Unclassified)
1. On the nights of 30-31 January 1968, all security forces were in condition Yellow with the exception of the 377th Security Police Squadron, which was in Condition Red.
2. At approximately 2100 hours, 30 January 1968, the 53rd Airfield Security Battalion (RF) received intelligence information from JDOC that approximately 80 Viet Cong were moving west to east at the vicinity of the village of Xom Go Mayh coordinates XS754964. The battalion immediately organized a twenty man patrol and moved on a large sweep from coordinates XS774939 to XS776934 to XS7639146. The patrol then moved to XS773948 and set up an ambush (Approximately 2345 hours). At 0145 hours the patrol, having seen nothing that would indicate the movement of troops, moved to vicinity coordinates XS771950 and then returned to the Battalion CP; two kilometers west of the TSN base perimeter.
3. At 0300 hours, JDOC was informed that the US Embassy and the Saigon Radio Station were under attack. At 0305 hours JDOC was notified that the Vietnamese Joint General Staff (JGS) Compound was under attack. Condition Red was put into affect and all commanders reported to JDOC. At approximately 0320 hours, the guard in Tower #16 (ESE corner of the installation) reported observing small arms fire directed at the POL area from an off base position. A Sector Primary Security Alert Team and a CSC Standard SAT were dispatched. (The situation was monitored on the scene by the Operations Officer and the Flight Commander) Quick Reaction Teams (QRT's) and Task Force 35 (Army Reserve Augmentation Forces) were briefed and dispatch to predesignated rendezvous points.
4. At approximately 0320 hours, Gate #2, (ESE perimeter of the base near
J.G.S) reported small arms, fire into their location from off base positions. A Sector SAT was dispatched.
5. At approximately 0327 hours, a Security Alert Team reported that heavy small arms and automatic weapons fire was being received off the east perimeter and directed at the POL area. (This report was received at JDOC from both U.S. and VN guard positions).
6. At approximately 0330 hours, 31 January 1968 the guards on the northern bunker of 53rd RF Bn Compound gave the alarm that several hundred man were moving west to east approximately 400 meters north of the CP. Approximately five minutes later, the guards reported hearing the sound of automatic weapons fire from the direction of the airfield, At approximately 0330 hours, Tan Son Nhut Sensitive Area placed a helicopter Light Fire Team under the control of the 53rd Bn, 3rd Co. The LFT was directed to strafe the area where the enemy troops were concentrated.
7. At approximately 0333 hours, the 051 bunker (E-6, Southwest perimeter fence line) reported that grenades and mortar rounds were being fired towards the western perimeter, but were falling short. A Sector SAT (E-1), a CSC Standard SAT (C-2), and the Reserve Sat (RSAT) were dispatched. (This report was received at JDOC thru both U.S. and VN guard positions).
8. At approximately 0334 hours, E-6 reported that he observed approximately twentyfive individuals east of the first tree line, approximately 100 meters off the west perimeter fence line, directing small arms and automatic weapons fire towards the west perimeter. Fire was returned by static friendly positions and responding units.
9. At approximately 0340 hours, the 051 Bunker reported that they had 2
been hit by a mortar or rocket and that mortar or rocket rounds were landing on base. CSC dispatched an ambulance to the 051 Bunker to evacuate the wounded. The ambulance however, was unable to reach the bunker due to the heavy enemy fire.
10. At approximately 0344 hours, the 051 Bunker reported the west perimeter fence was being breached near the 051 Gate (75 meters north of the 051 Bunker) and that enemy forces were coming onto the base. The Echo QRT and two platoons of Task Force 35 were dispatched to the area and deployed as the initial blocking force.
11. At approximately 0345 hours, two additional QRTs were dispatched and deployed along with the Echo QRT and the two platoons of Task Force 35. These units were deployed parallel to and approximately 100 meters north of Taxiway W-6 to preclude further enemy infiltration to the East.
12. At approximately 0347 hours, Echo Sector SAT reported the Echo Main Line of Resistance (MIR) was taking mortars or rockets.
13. At approximately 0355 hours, an explosive round, possibly a 40mm grenade, landed adjacent to the operations building of the 2nd Services Battalion located near Gate #10 (OF 10) approximately 300 meters South of the POL Storage Area. Within 2 or 3 minutes heavy enemy small arms, automatic weapons fire, and RPG-2 rocket fire was being directed at the friendly positions all along the Gate #10 Area.
14. At approximately 0359 hours, Tower A, (southwest perimeter fence, fifty meters east of the 051 Gate) reported that hostile forces were mounting an assault south of his tower and that a light fire team was making contact with the enemy in the fields west of the base.
15. At approximately 0410 hours, in the vicinity of coordinates XS783954
the previously dispatched 53/13 R.F. Company patrol engaged what was then believed to be an enemy platoon. The patrol exchanged fire with the enemy for approximately five minutes and, due to the enemy's obvious effort to surround the unit, they withdrew south approximately 200 meters and called in a LFT for assistance. The LFT strafed the area with MG and rocket fire. A subsequent search of the area revealed 5 VC KIA at the location of the firefight and 65 VC KIA (Body count) in the field surrounding the scene. It is believed that this unit was the reinforcing elements for the attack on the airfield. After disengaging with no friendly losses the unit moved back to the Battalion CP for resupply of ammunition.
16. At approximately 0412 hours, CSC contacted the Joint Defense Operations Center (JDOC) for light fire team support on base, but was refused because the enemy forces were too close to friendly positions and the choppers could not distinguish between friendly and hostile positions.
17. At approximately 0415 hours, the 2nd Services Battalion Commander committed one platoon of his reaction forces with two U.S. Advisors to the 051 Gate Area. When the platoon arrived within 100 meters of the 051 Bunker (VN) it began to receive enemy fire from that bunker. A member of the platoon was dispatched in an attempt to determine whether the bunker was friendly or enemy. The soldier was wounded by small arms from the bunker and the remainder of the platoon immediately engaged the position. The enemy then turned the captured ARVN 57MM Recoilless Rifle onto the friendly position, fired two rounds and injured one U.S. Advisor and one member of the platoon.
18. At approximately 0422 hours, sector SAT (E-1) reported that they were pinned down about twenty meters Southwest of the 051 Bunker by heavy enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire.
19. Enemy pressure continued around the entire perimeter with hostile mortar or rocket rounds, small arms and automatic weapons fire, and physical probes at various locations. One QRT and one SAT were deployed at the 055 Gate (extreme north end of the base) to reinforce ARVN personnel deployed in that area. One QRT and two SATs were deployed at the northeast section of the POL Storage Area in reaction to intensified enemy fire in that area. One QRT was deployed at Gate #1 and Gate #2 (south perimeter of the base and Main Gate area) in reaction to enemy fire that was being directed into these positions from off-base sites. The third and uncommitted platoon of Task Force 35 was held in reserve at JDOC. An additional QRT was held in reserve in the eastern quadrant of the base in support of the heavily engaged units on the east and southeast perimeter. One QRT was deployed in support of ARVN personnel defending the 056 Gate (058 Bunker, northeast perimeter) which was receiving intense enemy fire from off-base positions. One rifle company (Task Force Peter) from MACV Annex was deployed on the southern flank of Gate #10 in response to the ground assault on MACV Annex and Gate #10 that was well in progress.
20. At approximately 0500 hours, Major Chieu (VNAF), the TSNSA Deputy Commander, arrived at Tango 3 with three light tanks and began firing into the enemy positions near the 051 Gate. Within fifteen minutes, two of the three tanks were destroyed by RPG-2 or RPG-7 rockets and the third was forced to withdraw to the east near the Old RMK Area. Major Chieu was wounded by one of the rocket explosions and evacuated.
21. At this point, an estimated reinforced battalion of enemy forces had penetrated the western perimeter and was maneuvering to flank the blocking forces in the area.
22. At approximately 0515 hours, several units in the blocking positions were running out of ammunition and requests for resupply were made. Resupply was accomplished by Security Police and Advisory Team personnel. The friendly units continued their intense small arms and automatic weapons fire into the enemy positions, causing heavy enemy casualties.
23. At approximately 0523 hours, TSN artillery received clearance to fire HE rounds into the enemy position west of the perimeter. At this time, 2nd Services Battalion 81mm mortars were also cleared to fire and engage the enemy outside the perimeter fence. The fire of both elements was directed to seal off the enemy penetration from west of highway 1.
24. At approximately 0529 hours, enemy troops were sighted by Tower #1 near the Alpha/Echo Sector line. CSC dispatched a Sector SAT and two QRTs to deploy on a line east and west, north of runway 25L, to block any further enemy movement to the north. At this point, the enemy had penetrated approximately 600 meters into the base in an area approximately 300 meters wide.
25. At approximately 0545 hours, the Senior Advisor Capital Military District advised the Senior Advisor TSNSA that Gen Ware was in command of all U.S. Forces in the CMD. Gen Ware immediately placed C Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cav, under operational control of TSNSA. He further stated that the unit was enroute to assist and would be on the TSN Advisory Team command radio frequency.
26. At approximately 0551 hours, Tower #1 reported friendly units were making contact with enemy positions west of the base.
27. The 53rd R.F. Bn, upon returning to its camp, was advised that several hundred VC were moving west to east approximately 600 to 800 meters north
of the Bn CP. The order to open fire from both northern CP Bunkers was given.
28. At approximately 0558 hours, two companies of the 8th Vietnamese Airborne Battalion arrived in the area of penetration to reinforce the blocking line and prepare for a counterattack.
29. At approximately 0603 hours, Tower #1 reported some of the enemy were withdrawing through a break in the perimeter fence south of the 051 Gate.
30. At approximately 0624 hours, the entire blocking force was subjected to an intense enemy rocket and mortar barrage.
31. At approximately 0630 hours, C Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cav (less one platoon) arrived in the area after fighting its way down Highway #1 from its base camp at Cu Chi, 20 miles NNW of TSN. They were employed in a flanking movement from the north and attacked the enemy assault force just outside the perimeter. This attack enabled the defense units countering the penetration to mount an internal counterattack.
32. At approximately 0635 hours, the counterattack began, with the two companies of Vietnamese Airborne in conjunction with U.S. military units located south, north, and east of the enemy positions. The initial drive met fierce resistance after advancing approximately 100 meters, and the Base Joint Defense Team was forced to hold and call in more support from artillery and the light fire teams.
33. From approximately 0635 hours to approximately 0730 hours, posts in Alpha, (northwest thru northeast) Bravo (East) and Foxtrot (South) Sectors reported small arms and automatic weapons fire coming onto the base. The counterattack moved slowly toward the west perimeter as the advancing friendly troops were pinned down frequently by heavy enemy fire.
34. At approximately 0645 hours, the 53rd R.F. Company reported that a VC Battalion had taken over the village of Tau Phu located at coordinates XS793854 and had surrounded the company CP located at XS794928. The 531 company commander, took a patrol out to check VC positions. He was subsequently killed, and the Viet Cong hung his body in front of the CP and cremated it. At approximately 0645 hours an element of 53rd R.F. Battalion moved out of the CP to the northwestern edge of the village of Ba Queo vicinity XS782946, less than 500 meters SSW of the 051 Bunker, and broke up what is believed to have been a reinforced two-company assault team. (A subsequent search of the area revealed 169 enemy bodies at coordinates XS785954).
35. At approximately 0715 hours, the 53/3 R.F Company reported being surrounded by a large VC force. Assistance was requested and a LFT was allocated by JDOC. After three passes by the LFT the enemy withdrew northeast, A subsequent search of that area revealed 7 enemy KIA. It is believed that the enemy suffered more losses at this location at this time. Forty VC KIA were found approximately 200 meters north of this location. All had been hidden and stripped of all equipment.
36. At approximately 0730 hours, the remaining platoon of C Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cav, arrived on the scene and was directed to enter the base through the OF 55 Gate and proceed to the OF 51 Gate in order to relieve the pressure on C Troop, which was intensively engaged.
37. At approximately 0725 hours, the defensive lines received a heavy concentration of enemy fire under which the enemy started another assault on the friendly counterattack line. They were unsuccessful. Heavy enemy fire followed this re-assault, which is now believed to have been utilized to cover the withdrawal of their wounded and part of the main force which
was still inside the perimeter.
38. At approximately 0759 hours, Tower #1 reported mortar rounds were falling into the southern portion of the Airborne area. This action probably relates directly to the purpose mentioned in paragraph 38 above.
39. B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cav, plus an artillery battery from the 25th Division arrived at the scene of the battle. They attacked the enemy flank from the north with all units on line just outside of the base perimeter. This action relieved the pressure of the penetration and completely occupied the enemy exploitation force.
40. During this time, with support from the Cav units and their artillery and constant fire support from Light Fire Teams, the counterattacking forces slowly gained momentum. As a result of this action, Tower #1 reported more enemy were trying to withdrew through the breach in the perimeter fence between the 051 Bunker and 051 Gate.
41. At approximately 0930 hours, the U.S. units on the north flank of the counterattack line successfully occupied the area from just south of the 051 Gate, north along the west perimeter. The units continued to draw small arms, automatic weapons, and rocket fire from the enemy positions just off the west perimeter for several hours.
42. The VN Airborne unit on the south flank of the counterattacking force continued to take heavy casualties and again started falling back. The 051 Bunker, in the possession of the enemy since early in the morning, was directing heavy small arms and automatic weapons fire into the southern flank.
43. At approximately 1000 hours, the Airborne unit withdrew to just north of Tower #3 and set up their defensive positions while the U.S. tanks from the 3/4 Cav and LFT attempted to knock out the 051 Bunker.
44. At approximately 1015 hours, one of the LFTs was reported shot down
on the vast perimeter between the 052 and 052A Bunkers. Three LFTs were downed in the vicinity of the vast perimeter during the morning battle.
45. At approximately 1210 hours, the 051 Bunker was successfully assaulted and neutralized by 377th Security Police Personnel after several attempts had previously failed. This was the last area inside the base perimeter held by the enemy. During this time, several sweeps were made within the area to the north to insure that no living enemy remained within the perimeter.
46. At approximately 1217 hours, the broach was closed and the perimeter was secured. Hostile fire was received from the enemy positions off the west end of the base for several hours.
47. Throughout the eighthour battle on the vast perimeter, heavy fighting continued at Gate #10 and MACV Annex. At approximately 1300 hours, these other areas were declared secured and a VC body count of 82+ was accredited.
48. At approximately 1400 hours, the 8th Airborne Battalion, (ARVN) the 1st Marine Bn (ARVN), and 4th Marine Battalion (ARVN) were committed by JDOC to attack and clear the depot area of Hong Tong Tay (adjacent to the NNE perimeter fence), which was under siege by heavy Viet Cong forces. The 8th Airborne Battalion was halted in the built up area southeast of Gate #10 approximately 500 meters from the base by intensive enemy fire. The lot and 4th Marine Battalions continued the attack and secured the VN Armor Compound and the Co Loa Artillery Compound located in the Hong Tang Tay Area. Heavy enemy resistance was encountered which forced the three battalions to set up defensive positions just prior to nightfall.
49. The 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division, was placed under the operational control of TSNSA. An attack plan was issued by JDOC
placing the 3/4 Cav, the 53rd RF Battalion, and the reinforced base perimeter in blocking roles, with the 1/18th Inf Bn attacking the enemy in a north westerly direction. This action was designed to force the enemy's main body to disperse into the blocking forces. The enemy broke contact just before dark. The enemy had withdrawn to the southwest into Ba Queo and toward Phu Tho Hoa. FACs engaged the enemy with artillery fire whenever possible. The 3/4 Cav reported that it was receiving heavy small arms fire at a heavy rate from the VINATEXCO Factory. Clearance for a air strike was obtained and the first strike was conducted by the 33rd VNAF Wing. Subsequent strikes by F-100's resulted in 95% destruction of the factory. Secondary explosions occurred. Over 170 VC body count was accredited and a large weapons cache was located in and around the factory.
50. A Troop, 1st Squadron, 4th Cav, 1st Division, the 2nd Battalion, 27th Regiment, 25th Division, and the 2nd Battalion, 327th Regiment, 101st Airborne were placed under the operational control of TSNSA and the following defensive positions were established against the threat of another enemy attack. The positions were established in addition to the re-established and reinforced defensive perimeter posture of the primary defense forces:
a. The 2/327/101st Airborne (less I company) - blocking position behind the 051 Gate area of penetration.
b. The 1/18/1st Division (less I company) - placed in reserve in the southwest section of the base near the 25L runway.
c. The 2/27/25th Division (less 1 company) - mobilized by the 377th Combat Support Group as a rapid reaction force stationed at the U.S. Army Heliport (southwest section of the base).
d. The 3/4 Cav, 25th Division with one company of the 2/27/25th
Division attached - positioned to the immediate south of the 056 Gate (058 Bunker) as a rapid reaction force against the enemy threat from the northwest.
e. One company of the 2/327/101st and one company of the 1/18/1st Division placed in perimeter defense around MACV Headquarters. Disposition of the above elements was completed by 21.00 hours. The base was considered secured at this time. At 2215 hours, Lt Col Coung resumed command of all Vietnamese forces and Colonel Thebeau with elements of headquarters, 2nd Brigade, 1st Inf Division, assumed command of all U.S. Army Forces by order of Major General Ware, Commander) II Field Force Forward.
THIS PAGE IS UNCLASSIFIED
JDOC - Joint Defense Operation Center
ARVN - Army Republic Of Vietnam
TSNSA - Tan Son Nhut Sensitive Area
TSN - Tan Son Nhut
O.F. - Perimeter Post Identifier
VNAF - Vietnamese Air Force
R.F. - Regional Forces
P.F. - Popular Forces
AFAT - Air Force Advisory Team
Task Force 35 - US Army Augmentation Forces From MACV Annex to 377th Security
Task Force Peter - US Army Augmentation Forces from MACV Annex In Support
of MACV Compound
TACC - Tactical Air Control Center
A.K.A. - Also Known As
QRT - Quick Reaction Team
SAT - Security Alert Team
RSAT - Reserve Security Alert Team
L.F.T. - Light Fire Team
J.G.S. - Joint General Staff (South Vietnamese High Command)
C.P. - Command Post
CSC - Central Security Control
M. G. - Machine Gun
R.P.G. - Rocket Propelled Grenade
H.E. - High Explosive
THIS PAGE IS UNCLASSIFIED
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
HEADQUARTERS, 25TH INFANTRY DIVISION
APO San Francisco 96225
AVDCCG 29 November 1968
COMMANDERS COMBAT NOTE NUMBER 20
SUBJECT: Combat Action Analysis Number 6
1. Reaction . . . . a key word in our combat environment. As soldiers, we are trained individually to react automatically and positively to any enemy action. As a fire team, battalion or division, we are prepared to react collectively to any enemy initiative. And, when we are required to react, we are faced with the sternest test for any soldier or any military unit -- in quick order to blunt the enemy's initiative, to seize that initiative ourselves and to punish the enemy decisively for daring to strike at us.
2. There have been many fine examples provided to us on the subject of reaction, and the attached combat action analysis stands as one of the most prominent. As you read and in turn discuss it with others, pay particular attention to the speed and decisiveness which a unit can and must apply to a reaction situation. Here a commander demonstrated the classic defense against an enemy attack. He attacked.
1 Incl ELLIS W. WILLIAMSON
as Major General, USA
In the early stages of this war, there existed doubt that armor and mechanized forces would play a significant role in the fighting. The terrain and the environment which characterized South Vietnam and the guerrilla nature of the warfare here were factors which argued against the employment of armor and mechanized infantry. As a precedent, the French before us had attempted the use of such forces with less than acceptable results.
There were those, however, who held that armor and mechanized infantry did have a valid contribution to make to the combat that was taking place. Accordingly, armor and mechanized units were committed to battle in order to test their application to the situation which existed. The record show the combat success we have enjoyed in the use of the potent weapons of armor.
The combat action we are about to review serves well to illustrate the devastation effect of armor's shock action, firepower and mobility and mechanized infantry's superior maneuverability in this environment. It will also demonstrate how good commanders and good subordinate and junior leaders, by the calm and professional application of the combat power that is immediately available to them, can win in a fluid and doubtful combat situation.
In fact, for those of us who study the chronology and history of the significant actions of this war, the action we are about to consider may well prove to be one of the key turning points on the fighting that has taken place in the last seven years.
Exactly what was happening was for the most part unknown and the situation at the moment could best be described as confusing. But, there was no doubt in the mind of the cavalry squadron S3 that something big was taking place and in short order his unit was going to be in the thick of it.
The 0400 hours call from the division tactical operations center (DTOC) gave him the be prepared mission to move one troop southeast to a strategic town on the northwestern outskirts of SAIGON and the huge TON SON NHUT Airbase complex.
The S3 immediately alerted C Troop (minus one platoon) which was available at the division base camp. The squadron's other two ground troops were deployed along the main supply route (MSR) to the northwest of the base. B Troop was located at a bridge site 15 kilometers up the road and A Troop was positioned at an artillery fire support base 28 kilometers away. The detached C Troop platoon was providing security for a critical MSR bridge 10 kilometers to the southeast in the vicinity to which the remainder of the troop was preparing to move (see sketch # 1).
Having no contingency plan for a reaction mission to the town to the southeast and with no information concerning what was taking place there, the S3 immediately drove to the DTOC to discuss the situation with the division G3. Information available to the operations officer and his staff at the DTOC was sketchy. The division had received a be prepared mission from its higher headquarters to react to an enemy threat in the vicinity of the town, but the exact nature of the threat had not been defined.
While the S3 was at the DTOC, division received the order to send immediately one cavalry troop into the town. There it would be met by a representative of the major command headquarters for the area who would provide further instructions. This mission and special instructions were passed to the squadron S3, and at approximately 0430 hours the tanks and armored personnel carriers (APC) of the Headquarters element and two platoons of C Troop moved in column formation through the main gate of the division base camp and turned southeast down the MSR.
Since the area to which the troop was moving was not in the squadron's normal area of operations, few maps of the vicinity were available within the squadron headquarters. As the troop commander moved out he was able to locate one map of the area. He personally had been in the area only once during his tour and was only vaguely familiar with the terrain and surroundings in which he would be operating.
As the troop wheeled southeast along the MSR, the troop commander ordered his vehicles off the highway to move cross-country parallel to the roadway. He reasoned that if anything big was taking place to his southeast, the enemy might well attempt to interdict the MSR with mines, road blocks and ambushes to cut off reinforcements.
While the troop was reacting towards the town, a message was received at division TOC from higher headquarters changing the unit's original mission. The troop was to proceed with all haste beyond the town and further south to TON SON NHUT Airbase which was under attack from the west by an estimated 300 enemy troops. The troop would be met on the MSR before
it reached the airbase by a jeep which would guide the unit to the location where it was needed.
In response to this message, the DTOC requested information concerning the situation at TON SON NHUT: namely, on which side of the road was the enemy located, what information was available relative to the enemy units which were in the area, and did the troop have clearance to fire all its organic weapons in this heavily populated and developed area? In the confusion which existed at the time, no direct reply to these questions was forthcoming before the troop was doing battle.
As C Troop approached the town, the change of mission message was flashed to it over the squadron command radio net. With these new instructions in affect, the troop commander ordered his column to roll past the town and remain on the road to push the remaining nine kilometers to the western approaches to TON SON NHUT. As it moved down the road, the column encountered no resistance. The troop commander noted, however, that the several villages and populated areas along the way were deserted ( see sketch # 2).
Approaching the airbase at approximately 0700 hours, the column found no jeep waiting along the road to serve as its guide. The troop commander directed his unit to continue moving. In the vicinity of the west gate to TON SON NHUT, the tanks and armored personnel carriers came under heavy automatic weapons and small arms fire from a large textile factory on the west side of the highway ( see sketch # 3).
Returning this fire as it moved, the column continued approximately 200 meters south of the factory where the lead tank was struck by a
rocket propelled grenade (RPG). The crippled tank came to a halt blocking the highway and stopping the remainder of the column behind it. Immediately the troop came under heavy fire from both sides of the road. The cavalrymen dismounted and deployed to the ditches along the road to return the enemy's fire. The mounted cannon and 50 caliber machine guns on the tanks and APC's also swung into action laying down a heavy screen of fire to both the east and west.
Unknown to the troop commander at the time was the fact that his unit had sliced directly across the path of a three battalion enemy assault on TON SON NHUT Airbase from the west. His column had come to a halt in such a position as to cut off an estimated 300 enemy troop who had breached the airbase perimeter and occupied the western end of the active east-west runway from the main body of the enemy force which was moving in from the west in anticipation of throwing a knockout blow at the airbase.
The crossfire in which the troop found itself was intense. One tank and three armored personnel carriers were knocked out by the initial outburst of fire and were aflame. Within five minutes, the troop commander was seriously wounded and unconscious on the deck of an APC and the other officers in the formation were either killed or wounded. Command of the troop was taken by a sergeant-first-class who directed the unit's actions until the arrival of reinforcements. One of the sergeant's first actions was to radio a situation report to his squadron commander and request reinforcements and supporting fires.
The squadron commander's reaction to this call was immediate and
threefold. A request had earlier been placed with the division G3 to release the detached C Troop platoon from its bridge security mission so that it could join its parent unit at TAN SON NHUT. This request had initially been denied. When he learned that C Troop was in heavy contact and the situation at TON SON NHUT was extremely critical, the squadron commander again made the request which this time was quickly approved. At approximately 0710 hours, the platoon at the bridge was ordered to move immediately down the 14 kilometers separating it from the contact area to reinforce the troop.
Secondly, B Troop which was located at the bridge site northwest of the division base camp and 39 kilometers from the contact area had been given a be prepared mission at 0430 hours to react to the C Troop move to the south should that maneuver develop a contact. At approximately 0710 hours, B Troop was given the order to reinforce C Troop at TON SON NHUT. Already mounted and ready to move, B Troop was on the road and racing to the southeast at maximum speed within minutes.
Thirdly, as soon as the C Troop contact was reported, the squadron commander requested and received permission from the DTOC to scramble the helicopter gunships from D Troop, the squadron's organic air cavalry unit. Within minutes of the request for supporting fires, these gunships were airborne for the five minute flight to the airbase.
The C Troop platoon located on the bridge to the northeast of TAN SON NHUT mounted up and pushed down the road towards the airbase on order. At approximately 0730 hours the platoon was approaching the
contact area. At this point, the platoon leader was contacted over the radio by the squadron commander who had arrived over the contact area in his command and control (C and C) helicopter only moments before. The squadron commander had made a rapid estimate of the situation. Fully aware of the forces that were available to him, he quickly devised a plan to destroy the massive enemy force he could now observe moving on C Troop and the airbase from the west.
Instead of ordering the platoon to link up with its parent troop by driving straight down the road, the squadron commander directed the platoon column to turn east off the MSR at an airbase gate several hundred meters north of the contact area. He then guided the platoon to the western end of the active east-west runway where a base security force was engaging the enemy troop who had penetrated the perimeter. Bringing the platoon on line facing the enemy, the squadron commander ordered the column to drive through the enemy formation to link up with the troop several hundred meters away on the road ( see sketch # 4).
With hesitating, the platoon moved forward at high speed rolling over the startled enemy to its front. This maneuver, in addition to killing many enemy, created havoc with the enemy formation causing it to disperse and scatter. As the platoon rolled to its link up, the enemy force to the rear of C Troop was no longer an effective fighting formation and was easily handled by the airbase security personnel who counter attacked to exploit the situation.
While the platoon was executing this maneuver, four armed helicopters
of D Troop arrived on station over the contact area. The squadron commander ordered the gunships to concentrate their automatic weapons and rocket fire on the large number of enemy troop now congested in the large open field to the immediate west of C Troop's position on the road. At this point, C Troop's fire had pinned down the lead elements of this enemy force, and the remainder continuing its advance was piling up directly behind the stalled lead elements. Large groups of enemy suddenly found themselves in a exposed position as the four helicopters raked them with repeated strafing passes up and down the field.
The sudden appearance of the armored column across his route of advance, the maneuvering of the platoon to link up with its parent troop and the devastating attack of the helicopter gunships served to throw the enemy attacking forces into general confusion. At approximately 0815 hours, the B Troop commander advised his squadron commander that the lead vehicles in the troop column were rapidly approaching TAN SON NHUT.
The column had raced the 39 kilometers between its original position and the contact area in approximately one hour (see sketch # 5). In route the troop had encountered no resistance by fire but did smash through several hastily constructed roadblocks that appeared across the road. The troop commander did not have a map of the area, and he was requesting instructions from the squadron commander. With this the squadron commander still over the battlefield in his command and control helicopter was ready to apply the final blow to his hastily devised plan to destroy the enemy attack ( see sketch # 6).
Coordinating all elements on his his squadron command radio net, the commander directed the helicopter gunships to take up positions on the southern flank of the battlefield and to seal that escape route by fire.
He then directed B Troop to execute a column right off the MSR on to the unimproved road which formed the northern flank of the battlefield, The lead platoon of the troop was to continue approximately 1,000 meters to the west, do a column left and come up on line. There the platoon was to establish a blocking position sealing the battle area on the west to destroy enemy attempting to escape in that direction.
The headquarters element of B Troop was instructed to direct its fire on the enemy located in the factory complex to the north of the contact area. The remaining two platoons were ordered to come on line along the enemy's northern flank and from that position attack to the south through the enemy. The two platoons were to push to the southern end of the battlefield, turn about and attack back to its starting position, In the meantime, C Troop was to maintain its position on the road and support B Troop's movement across its front by fire.
Within minutes all elements were in position, and the squadron commander ordered the attack. The speed with which the maneuver developed, the crushing effect and firepower of the tanks and armored personnel carriers attacking into his midst and the presence and firepower of the cavalry elements on three sides created chaos in the enemy's formation causing it to disperse and scatter. The two platoon line pushed through the enemy, wheeled about and again rolled over the enemy positions. By the time the
tanks and armored personnel carriers returned to their initial positions, the enemy attack was broken and his troops were withdrawing in all directions.
Sporadic fighting in the contact area continued throughout the morning and into the afternoon. Pockets of enemy troops had dug into hastily prepared positions within the contact area and had to be dislodged in close fighting. In addition, the squadron turned its tanks to the task of blasting and crushing airbase perimeter bunker position that had been occupied by the enemy and were being stubbornly defended.
The squadron also oriented its fires on the enemy occupied factory. Late in the morning and throughout the afternoon U.S. and South Vietnamese Air Force fighter bombers delivered repeated strikes against the enemy lodged within the several buildings which made up the complex. By the time these attacks were completed, the factory had been leveled and was aflame, and the enemy had been forced out.
These later actions notwithstanding, however, the squadron had won its battle several hours earlier with the destruction of the enemy assault on the airbase.
A reorganization and muster of the squadron's units on the west side of the airbase late in the afternoon revealed the 15 cavalrymen had been killed in the intense fighting while 23 were wounded. The squadron also lost one tank and three armored personnel carriers. A police of the battlefield over a two day period turned up over 400 enemy bodies, 348 of which were attributed directly to the squadron's actions.
Planning and advanced preparation are two principles of military operations which are taught to us from our first day in the Army. Properly, we consider them essential elements to a successful military operation. Yet, we must be prepared to strike swiftly on the spur of the moment, so to speak, and win without the benefit of detailed plans and preparations. In the final analysis, the challenge to a unit to do so represents the most critical test of the commander, the unit's leadership and its fighting spirit and ability. Let's reconsider some of the salient points that present themselves in the action we have just reviewed.
The commander acted swiftly and boldly because this is what the situation demanded. No prior planning was involved, but the commander quickly realized that an all out counterattack with all the combat power he possessed was the only solution to a critical situation.
Although he was striking directly into a numerically superior enemy force, he was aware that the enemy infantry exposed in an attack posture was vulnerable to the firepower and maneuverability of the armored force under his control provided that the armor struck swiftly. To have hesitated to take detailed stock of the situation would have resulted in a disaster.
The manner in which the commander maneuvered the reinforcing platoon correctly relieved the pressure on one side of the threatened troop on the road and enabled that unit to concentrate all its resources in the direction of the principle enemy effort. never allow a situation to stand where the enemy has the ability to force a unit to divide its firepower in more than one direction!
The commander's actions, however, in dividing the striking power of his second ground troop was a calculated risk that could only be justified by quickness on the part of his attacking force. Here, though, it becomes apparent that the commander was confident in the ability of his subordinate units to strike with the speed that was required. The corollary of the previous lesson then presents itself: divide your forces and your firepower when you know your dispersed forces possess the capability of overpowering the enemy.
A word about the single factor that underlies the entire action by the cavalry squadron -- seizure of the initiative. We must always keep foremost in our minds the vital concept of taking the initiative. If the enemy at any time has the initiative, we must concentrate on taking it away from him and punishing him severely for daring to attack us. the deciding factors in the squadron's victory over a larger enemy force, in my opinion, were the powerful physical and psychological momentum that the reinforcing elements developed as they raced to the contact area and the wisdom of the squadron commander in not slowing down the rolling effect of there units as they literally crashed into and rolled over the enemy in their path. This is initiative . . . . mechanical and human forward motion . . . . in its purest form and it won this battle and will win many others for us. We want always to think in terms of hitting the enemy fast and hitting him hard!