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 12 May 1968-FSB Pike VI

On the morning of 12 May, Fire Support Base PIKE VI was occupied by Battery B, 6th Battalion, 77th Artillery (105-mm); Battery A, 1st Battalion, 8th Artillery (105-mm); and, Battery C, 3d Battalion, 13th Artillery (155-mm, SP).  The commander set up the base using the valuable experience gained from the attack on MAURY I. The batteries entered the fire support base early in the afternoon, and a bulldozer immediately began constructing berms for the 155-mm howitzers.  By nightfall only the turrets of the howitzers were exposed.  The 105-mm batteries had been carefully positioned to allow maximum use of Beehive rounds, and two 105-mm howitzers, one from each battery, had been placed at strategic points along the perimeter some distance from the rest of the battery positions.  Although the terrain was much the same as that at MAURY I, the nearby wood lines were covered by two attached Dusters. The light batteries enjoyed excellent fields of fire. The medium battery was positioned between the two light batteries and thus was able to support equally well in all directions.
  At 0130 on 12 May 1968 the enemy attacked with a mortar barrage of approximately 400 rounds, all falling within 30-60 minutes. Once again, the enemy began a diversionary attack from the south.  The Duster position on the southern tip of the base took 60-70 Viet Cong under fire with its M60 machinegun and 40-mm cannon. The crew managed to fire only 12 rounds of 40-mm ammunition, however, before the Duster was silenced by an RPG round. Leaving 16 enemy bodies in their wake, the crew fell back to a 105-mm howitzer pit directly to their rear. The enemy managed to reach the Duster, but small arms and a few well-placed Beehive rounds from the 105-mm turned him back.
  As the main attack was starting from the west, artillery shells from adjacent units were already impacting around the perimeter. Support was called for and received from 155-mm howitzers of Battery B, 3d Battalion, 13th Artillery, near Saigon.  The entire western approach was covered by a 105-mm battery which fired round after round of Beehive and time rounds, all with very short fuze settings, into the attacking enemy.  The defense was entirely successful, and the attack ended in just two and one-half hours. Mop-up operations in daylight produced a body count of 110. Friendly force losses amounted to five killed and 30 wounded.  Of these one killed and five wounded were artillerymen. No equipment was lost. The damaged Duster was easily repaired, and two vehicles sustained minor damage.
FIELD ARTILLERY JOURNAL
May-June 1976
Page 54-55
by MG David E. Ott
Commandant, USAFAS








 Convoy Ambush 25August 68


DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
HEADQUARTERS, 720Th MILITARY POLICE BATTALION
APO San Francisco 96491

                                                                                               10 September 1968

SUBJECT: After Action Report - Tay Ninh Convoy


THRU:     Commanding Officer
89th Military Police Group
APO 96491


TO:     Commanding General
18th Military Po1ice Brigade
APO 96491



1.     Units supported:

                  a.     25th Division Base Camp, Cu Chi.

                 b.     1st Brigade, 25th Division Base Camp, Tay Ninh.

2.     Mission: Provide Military Police escort and security for the 25th Division resupply convoy.

3.     Convoy composition:

               a.     48th Transportation Group provides command and control of the convoy.

               b.     48th Transportation Group furnishes vehicles which transport most of the cargo in the convoy.

 c.     The 64th Quartermaster Battalion provides a varying number of POL tankers for. the convoy.

d.     On a . daily basis there are many vehicles from a number of different units that attach themselves to the convoy in order to obtain Military Police escort and security.
                e.  The total number of vehicles vary daily from 50 to 300 and on 25 Aug 1968 there were 81 vehicles in the convoy.



4.     Resources provided:

The 720th MP Battalion provides 1/4 ton trucks (gun) `with mounted M-60 machine guns on a daily basis for this mission. On 25 August this battalion provided six 1/4 ton trucks (gun) and the 25th Division Military Police Company provided .two 1/4 ton trucks (gun).


Additionally an officer from the 25th Division Provost Marshal Office in an L-19 fixed wing aircraft provided command and control of the convoy from Cu Chi. to Tay Ninh.

5..     Discussion:

           a.     At l2OO hours, 25 Aug 1968, the Tay Ninh convoy `was ambushed by an estimated force of 3 NVA battalions.

          b.     The ambush site was 1. to i1/2 miles in length in the vicinity of coordinates XT360330. Highway 22 at this point passes through a rubber plantation.

          c.     The ambush was extremely well planned. The NVA forces were wearing camouflage jungle fatigues and jungle boots and were armed with M-16 rifles, thus giving the convoy personnel the impression they were friendly ARVN soldiers. The convoy was ambushed from both sides of the road, the front and the rear. The initial attack was directed towards immobilizing the lead and trail vehicles, ammo trucks and POL tankers in an attempt to block the road and prevent the remainder of the vehicles in the convoy from driving through the kill zone. This in fact was accomplished except for the first 31 vehicles in the convoy. These vehicles escaped the initial attack and drove to Tay Ninh without further incident.

          d.     It was apparent that the NVA forces knew the position of the ammo and POL trucks in the convoy. On a routine basis those vehicles are staged in relatively the same position in the convoy.

          e.     The second objective appeared to be the destruction of radios on the Military Police vehicles. The Military Police hate the preponderance of radio communications equipment for the entire' convoy, therefore the elimination of the Military Police radios would in fact end all communications. This was accomplished through highly effective small arms fire, automatic weapons fire, mortar and RPG rounds.

          f.     Prior to the loss of communications,, air support (Light Fire Teams) and ground reaction forces had been requested through the 25th Division Provost Marshal Office on the radio frequency used by the convoy while traveling through the 25th Division Area of Operations.

          g.       Heavy  contact was maintained from 1200 hours. until 1430 hours when the reaction forces arrived at the ambush site. Military Police personnel in the convoy indicated that more responsive air Support and ground reaction forces are required for the convoy at all tunes.

          h.     The contact continued until approximately 1800 hours, however light contact continued throughout the night. The Military Police actions during the initial phase of the ambush were to place suppressing fires on the ambush site and attempt to get the convoy moving. This was not possible due to the large volume of fire received by the convoy and the lack of armor protection in the convoy. All personnel in the convoy were forced to abandon the vehicles and seek cover and concealment for their own safety. It was apparent at this point the convoy was matched against an overwhelming NVA force, however the immediate and heavy fire power of Military Police and truck drivers prevented the convoy from being overrun.

          i.     Once the Military Police and truck drivers dismounted the vehicles and began ground operations the force had no radio communications since all of the radios in the convoy are vehicular mounted. It was determined that PRC-25 radios would satisfy the communication requirement for dismounted operations.

6.     Conclusions:

                         a.      The ambush was well coordinated, expertly executed and highly effective.
           b.     The enemy was well trained and had excellent cover and concealment.

                        c.      All truck drivers require training in convoy ambush techniques.

            d.     The enemy force new in advance where the critical trucks such as POL and ammo carriers would be positioned within the convoy.

          e.     Responsive air and ground support is vital to the security of any convoy. Military Police vehicles provide adequate control measures, however, armed air cover is a necessity.

          f. The efforts of the Military Policemen and truck drivers in the initial phases of .the ambush prevented the entire convoy from being overrun and destroyed during the first 3O minutes of contact.

7.     Recommendations:

          a.      That all truck drivers be trained to remain in the vehicles and drive through the ambush site. Additionally, they should receive training in small unit tactics for dismounted operations..

          b.      That the ammunition and POL trucks be positioned in different sections of the convoy every few days.

         c.     That armed helicopters provider overhead protection for the convoy.

         d.     That armored strongpoints be strategically placed along the route of march.

          e.     That this battalion be issued PRC-25 radios for use in dismounted operations.

FOR THE COMMANDER:

                                                            /S/  Carl F. Hopp
                                                                            /t/ Carl F. HOPP
                                                                                CPT, MPC
                                                                                Adjutant



 Ambush @ RPG Alley on Ben Cui Freeway (Narrative)

What I am about to tell you is actually the last story I should tell.  However, after reading John Eberwine's story of March 13, 1968 I am compelled to tell the “last” story first because there may be others among you who have carried guilt or have unanswered questions about the events of September 19, 1968.

After the Battalion left Dau Tieng in August “68 the 1/5 took over convoy escort.  The relationship that I had with LT Skrove and the Recon Platoon was not present with the 1/5.  My attempts to warn them of what was going on the morning of August 21 fell on deaf ears.  What happened over the next few days is another story.  However, someone was listening to what I was saying because I was moved, within a week, to Cu Chi to be the convoy officer for the Division. When I arrived the G-4 told me that General Williamson wanted me in the Division TOC and I was to have all the support I needed.  I was under the impression that Command wanted all of their convoys to run the way LT Skrove and LT May ran the Dau Tieng convoy.
I soon found out that politics play a big roll in what goes on the closer one gets to the top.  I no longer could talk directly to the security on the ground.  I had to talk to the MPs.  Even though they might not be directly involved in security they were responsible for running convoys.  Politics.

For the first two weeks things were quite.  The CG would come in about 0800 and ask how things were going.  Procedures were set up and I was feeling good about being able to keep truck drivers out of ambushes.  The worst place to be in an ambush is in the front seat of a truck.  Those guys were defenseless and wouldn't have a chance of getting out.

On the morning of September 19th I began to get some sense that there would be trouble on the Dau Tieng convoy.  The room I was in was filled with radio monitors, I was able to monitor radio traffic between the ground units and the MPs, but I was not allowed to talk directly to those units.  I had to ask the MPs to ask questions for me.  It was just a bad way to do things.  I did find out that there were no “Little People” following the guys sweeping the road.  There were “Little People” at the bridge, but they were staying at the bridge.  I made the call, as I had done for six months.  No convoy today.  Anyone in the Recon Platoon could have made the call.  There was going to be an ambush.  When I was in Dau Tieng I would radio the Bde XO, LTC Ford, and he would ask a few questions and say “OK.”  LT Skrove would post the road just like there was going to be a convoy and then bring the tracks back to the bridge firing their 50 MGs into the most likely spots for an ambush to take place.  LT Skrove called this “Recon by Fire.”  The convoy was safe the Recon Platoon was safe and maybe Charlie suffered some losses and was frustrated by not being able to pull and ambush.
I thought this day would be like one of those days.  I was there to keep the convoys out of ambushes and this was my first “No Convoy” call.  I went looking for the G-3, a COL Black, to tell him that I thought the Dau Tieng convoy should be cancelled.  He wasn't there, but I had no sooner returned to my area when he came in and asked about the convoy.  I told him why I wanted to cancel the convoy and he said, “You're the guy whose suppose to know.”  And then he said he would cancel the convoy.  He seemed pleased about how things were happening.  About ten minutes later COL Black came back into my office and said, “The General said the convoy will run.”  He didn't look pleased now.  I protested but he said there was nothing he could do and he had to go to get ready for the ambush.

I sat next to that radio for what seemed like days hoping I was wrong and that the last track would clear CP 26, the laterite pit beyond the Ben Cui Rubber, but it didn't happen that way.  The convoy got to RPG Alley and the ambush was sprung.  Eleven men died right there, Triple Deucers and truck drivers.  I don't know how many others were wounded.  And all because a General wanted a fight and was willing to use defenseless truck drivers and unsuspecting escorts.  From a tactical point of view I can think of no worse way to engage an enemy with Mechanized Infantry, but the tracks were not part of the tactics.  They were, along with the trucks, bait.  The air cover was there waiting for the convoy to get hit.  The plan was to chase Charlie down through the rubber and catch him coming out the back side.  That part worked.  I remember one of the pilots saying that it was a turkey shoot.  The General was pleased.

I did not know that the unit involved in this action was “A” Company until a few weeks ago.  The constant change in call signs and the lack of direct contact with escorts caused me to think that the escorts were 1/5 Guys.  I did not know that any Triple Deuce units were back in Dau Tieng.      
If you were there and have felt in any way responsible for the losses of that day I want you to put that burden down.  It is time to rethink what went on.  What I have told you won't bring anyone back, but you should understand that it wasn't your fault that your friends were killed together with those defenseless truck drivers.  The fault lies squarely upon the shoulders of Ellis W. Williamson.
Neither the General nor COL Black ever came back into that office again.  A few weeks later I was moved to the Division Support Command.  Politics.

Jim May-Convoy S-4 2/22nd



 August 19, 1968 Narrative of Events


Guys,
   That tank left behind was mine. It was Rick Avant's tank but he was in base camp on orders as his tour of duty was over. He was listening to all this happening on the radio while it was going on.
   Earlier in the day, the 2nd and 3rd platoons went up the road towards Tay Ninh and ran into an ambush that was 1-1/2 miles long on both sides of the road. The Rome ploys were in there (previously) and had knocked down all the trees.   They had NOT removed the trees yet so this afforded the enemy excellent cover.  The idea was to get rid of the trees near the roadside to alleviate the ambush problems.  When the 2nd and 3rd platoons were engaged, I was the lead tank of the last platoon (1st Plt) going in.  A helicopter landed in the middle of the road in front of me.  The pilot jumped out and told me “don't go in, the ambush sight kill zone is 1-1/2 miles long.”   He asked for the radio frequency and I gave it to him.  He called on the radio, and that is why the 1st platoon did not go in after the 2nd and 3rd plts. We sat and held up at that intersection until about 4 PM that I recall.   At that time, we heard the gunfire coming from (towards Dau Tieng) the 5th Mech who was heavily engaged in a perimeter off the road to the north side.  Our platoon went in and bailed them out.  They were not even returning fire!   The gooks were running around the perimeter and were picking off APC's at their leisure with RPGs.  Our Plt Sgt (Sammy Jenkins) took over their unit.  They had about a 19 year old 2nd LT who was either in the state of shock, or was in his first battle.  He was totally dis-functional.  We put them on our frequency and got them organized into a convoy to get out of there.  It was getting dark.  We started towards Dau Tieng and there was an ambush along this road also that must have been about 1 mile long. On both Sides of the road.
   The APC immediately in front of us was knocked out.  We were on the radio trying to find out what was going on.  This was after we had got the 5th Mech organized and on the way out of there heading towards Dau Tieng.  On the tank were Roy Harbaugh (the driver who I only knew by the nickname of “Tate”), Cushirella or Kucherrella (spelling?) was the gunner loader, and I was the TC.
   I got on the intercom and told Tate to ram the APC and push it out of the way.  An RPG had hit immediately under the gun tube shield which killed Tate and knocked the main gun out of battery.  The 50 (M-2) was malfunctioning as I had put about 10,000 rounds through it and the receiver was warping.  We had the 2nd barrel in it also.  Kuch and I did not know Tate was dead.   After he did not respond I told Kuch to go down and tell him to ram the APC and push it out of the way.  It was on fire also. Kuch came back up topside in the state of shock telling me that Tate was dead.   I told him to remove his body, lay it on the fender and to Ram / push the APC out of there.  The rest of the convoy was gone in front of us.
   He went down and removed his Tate's body.  He came back up to tell me the drivers compartment was on fire and that the steering was knocked out as well.  I told him to take a bamboo pole and mash it on the throttle and just get us the hell out of there.  This seemed to take forever.  All the while I was up top cooking 5 rounds with the 50 then recharge the handle. We finally got both vehicles off to the side of the road.   Kuch had only a .45 pistol and he had Tate in the firemans carry.  We were standing there alongside the road and watched EVERYBODY PASS US BY.  We were LEFT BEHIND!!!
   Kuch put Tates body back on the fender.  By the way, before we unassed the tank, I threw two incendiary grenades inside to make it so the dinks would not be able to get any ammo or anything. Kuch and I jumped in the ditch along side the road.
   He had his .45 and 1 clip of ammo, I had my m-16 and one magazine.  We crawled, walked slowly as their were VC all around us and we did not want to engage them.   Nor did we want to fire and give away our position especially with the limited ammo we had.  It seemed to be forever….I have no idea how long it was, but we had moved about 300 yards from the tank towards Dau Tieng when Kuch said he heard an APC.  I thought he was losing it and I told him was gonna kick his ass if he didn't straighten up.  He said to me “get your ass up here and tell me if you don't hear an apc”.   I crawled up to the side of the road and there was ONE APC (with James Hale on it) that had picked up all the stragglers and had about 15 guys in it and on it.  There was a guy down inside from the 5th mech (I think) who was gut shot.   His buddies were administering marijuana to him. Normally I'd kick someones ass for using that around me, but under the circumstances I looked the other way.  Kuch wanted to go get Tates body!!  Hale said, no way, I'm leaving.   Just then an RPG went through the road wheels. Luckily, that is all it did was put a hole in the road wheels and didn't hurt the track.  We got out of there and dropped the guy off at the hospital.  Where we all unassed the APC.   Me and Kuch got a ride from the MP's to where the rest of our troop was.  Everyone was ripping apart 50's and mixing parts to make one work.  It was a very long night.  The next two days we went to try and get back.   The gun fire and RPG fire was so heavy that we retreated.  This was right outside the main gate of Dau Tieng.  Called in Arty and Air all day and night.
   Seems to me there was day in between leaving the vehicle and Tates body and coming back and getting his body.  It was still on the fender unmolested thankfully.  His wallet was still on him.   He had some pictures that the heat had fused to his other stuff in his wallet.
   On one of those days going back, James Hale's vehicle (19er I think) got hit by an RPG.  Hale got 3rd degree burns over 65 % of his body.  I took him to the hospital.  I was on an APC that day as I had lost my tank.  When I reached out to grab him, the skin and meat came off of him.  We had to open the ramp so he could walk in.  I could feel the heat radiating off his body from 5 feet away.
I got to quit writing now!!
Pray!!!
Bob Schneider 2/22nd