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After Action Report 55
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
OFICE OF THE ADJUTANT GENERAL
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20310
AGAM-P (M) (28 Apr 69) FOR OT UT 691331 5 May 1969
SUBJECT: Operational Report - Lessons Learned, Headquarters, 25th Infantry Division Artillery
Period Ending 31 January 1969 (U)
Subject report is forwarded for review and evaluation in accordance with paragraph 5b, AR 525-15. Evaluations and corrective actions should be reported to ACSFOR OT UT, Operational Reports Branch, within 90 days of receipt of covering letter.
Information contained in this report is provided to insure appropriate benefits in the future fro lessons learned during current operations and may be adapted for use in developing training material.
BY ORDER OF THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY:
KENNETH G. WICKHAM
Major General, USA
The Adjutant General
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
HEADQUARTERS 25TH INFANTRY DIVISION ARTILLERY
APO San Francisco 96225
1. Section 1. Operations: Significant Activities
The 25th Infantry Division Artillery was actively engaged in combat operations in support of Operation Toan Tang (Complete Victory) II which continued from the previous quarter. The major activity continued to occur in the Tay Ninh - Dau Tieng area. Because the enemy chose to avoid major contact, artillery operations consisted primarily of landing zone preparations for maneuver element air assault search operations and the attack of intelligence and acquired targets. Only on three occasions did the enemy choose to engage in significant combat, two attacks against convoys and one against a patrol base. Each time Div Arty provided the fire superiority to defeat him. Reinforcement training ;of replacements, on-the-job, and proficiency training continued as noted in the 31 October 1968 report.
b. Specific Activities
The progress of the “Colors UP” (Accelerated Pacification) Program, the enemy's evasive tactics, and the judicious location of Fire Support Bases (FSB) and Patrol Bases resulted in more stable operations with fewer battery moves. Throughout November, Div Arty supported Operations Toan Thang (Complete Victory)II. Concurrently Div Arty supported the Colors Up Program and Operation Piedmont Swift from 23 - 30 November. The 7th Battalion, 11th Artillery, was in direct support of the 1st Brigade; the 1st Battalion, 8th Artillery, in direct support of the 2nd Brigade; and the 2nd Battalion 77th Artillery in direct support of the 3rd Brigade. The 3rd Battalion, 13th Artillery provided general support to the Division.
(1) In support of Operation Complete Victory II, and the Colors UP Program, the 7/11th Arty maintained organic batteries and planned the fires of General Support Reinforcing Batteries at Fire Support Bases (FSB's)Rawlins III(XT2948), Buell III (XT2153), Bragg II (XT3958), and Tay Ninh Base Camp (XT1651). To support a 1st Brigade thrust into northeastern War Zone C, 7/11th Arty moved B/7/11(-) by road from Tay Ninh to FSB Sherman (XT1170), and back to Tay Ninh on 12 November to cover the march of A/7/11 from Buell III (XT2153) to FSB Ord (XT1881). The remaining platoon of B/7/11 replaced A/7/11 at Buell III. Alpha battery remained in the area of FSB Ord until 15 November when B/7/11(-) again road marched from Tay Ninh to FSB Sherman to cover the return of the artillery and infantry from FSB Ord to Tay Ninh. Bravo battery then closed into Buell III.
(2) The 1/8 Arty provided support for Operation Complete Victory and Colors Up by controlling the fires of organic and CSR batteries located at FSB's Crockett II (XT7416), Patton (XT5921), Pershing (XT5025), Stuart III (XT4919), Meade (XT6011), Reed II (XT4712) and Keene III (XT6001). Operation Piedmont Swift was mounted by the 2nd Brigade in the Duc Hue area (vic XT3209) between 23 and 30 November. To support this operation, 1/8 Arty moved A/1/8 from FSB Reed II to FSB Cutler (XT3209) and C/3/13 from FSB Meade to FSB Houston (XT4307). One eight inch howitzer from D/3/13 at FSB Stuart III was attached to C/3/13 at FSB Houston. The 23rd Arty Group placed C/1/27 (155mm SP) at FSB Meade to replace C/3/13. C/1/27 remained at FSB Meade until 18 December when it departed the Division Tactical Area of Responsibility to support other II Field Force operations. At the completion of the operation on 30 November, A/1/8 returned to FSB Reed II and C/3/13 plus the single 8 inch Howitzer moved to Cu Chi. The following day, 1 Dec, the 8 inch Howitzer rejoined C/3/13 at FSB Stuart III (XT4919) and C/3/13 moved to Tay Ninh.
(3) Artillery support provided by 2/77 Arty during November's operations came from organic and GSR batteries located at FSB's Mahone (XT5437), McNair (XT4526), and Dau Tieng Base Camp (XT4947). FSB McNair was closed out on 18 November with B/2/77 moving to FSB Wood (XT4434). The Div Arty Headquarters, Headquarters 1/8 Arty, and Headquarters 3/13 Arty remained at Cu Chi Base Camp (XT6516).
(4) In early December intelligence indicators pointed to a build-up of bunkers and fighting positions with suspected build-up of enemy troop activity in the Boi Loi Woods (vic XT4935). On 5 Dec a complex of suspected locations in this area was attacked by artillery fire, initiated by a seven battery Time-on-Target artillery concentration. Six targets were hit with 734 rounds of mixed caliber, resulting in seven bunkers destroyed and 3 bunkers damaged. The following day an additional 1517 rounds were placed in the area, plus 9 air-strikes. The results were 5 tunnels, 47 bunkers and 250 meters of trench destroyed: 18 bunkers uncovered; 5 secondary explosions; and 3 enemy killed (BC).
(5) On 10 December the 7th Battalion, 11th Artillery moved its “C” Battery from FSB Bragg II(XT3358) to FSB Grant II (XT3862) to support a 1st Brigade probe into south central War Zone C. In order to maintain artillery support along the MSR from Tay Ninh to FSB Grant, B/2/13 (105mm towed) was moved from Dau Tieng to FSB Bragg II. The battery mission remained general support-reinforcing to the 25th Infantry, Division Artillery, B/2/77 moved from FSB Wood II (XT4637) to replace B/2/13 at Dau Tieng Base Camp, and was replaced at Wood II by A/2/77 from FSB Austin (XT3731). FSB Austin continued to be occupied by B/3/13.
(6) By 12 December, intelligence indicated the enemy would launch another offensive against Tay Ninh. Defenses were tightened by moving A/7/11 from FSB Washington III (XT059) to FSB Washington (XT1456), and C/7/11 from Grant II to FSB Mitchell (XT1645). These moves brought artillery fire power closer to the city of Tay Ninh and placed C/7/11 in a blocking position on the likely enemy approach from the southwest.
(7) At 2000 hours on 15 December, an Air Force Forward Air Controller (FAC) received ground fire near the Mushroom (XT6029) and observed numerous lights in the Filhol, Hobo and Boi Loi Woods. The Commanding General interpreted these lights as possible enemy troop movements and directed the Division Artillery to provide continuous air observation over the suspected area throughout the hours of darkness, and to adjust artillery fires on the lights. During the operation, referred to by Division Artillery as Operation Lights-Out, as many as five aerial observers were employed simultaneously from Dec. 15, H2030 to Dec. 16, H330, and 2157 artillery rounds were expended.
(8) During the afternoon, 17 December, the Dau Tieng Convoy was ambushed in the Ben Cui Rubber Plantation (vic XT4345). Div Arty elements fired 2285 rounds in support of the convoy and counter-ambush operations which netted 52 VC bodies.
(9) During the pre-dawn hours of 22 December, two companies of 4/9 Infantry with heavy support from Div Arty and ARVN artillery, beat off a NVN regiment which attacked their “Mole City” Patrol Base (XT2430). Close-in time and VT fire and ICM artillery support were crucial to the defense of the position. The enemy left behind 106 dead. To provide additional artillery coverage for the patrol base, B/2/77 moved into FSB Hull (XT2638) and was attached to the 7/11 Artillery.
(10) During the last nine days of December, C/2/77 made several moves from FSB Mahone to Dau Tieng in order to support 1st Brigade operations in the Michelin Rubber Plantation.
(11) The new FSB's were opened in early January to support more adequately 1st Brigade operations.
B/3/13 moved from FSB Austin (XT3731) to FSB Stoneman (XT3037) on 6 January. FSB Sedgewick consolidated the 4/9th Infantry from nearby “Mole City” with its artillery support, B/2/77.
(12) The enemy conducted a major ambush of the logistical convoy along the Tay ninh - Dau Tieng MSR on 14 January. Over 2500 rounds of artillery pounded enemy positions near XT3345 and XT4143. The artillery was credited with 38 of the total 122 enemy bodies counted.
(13) Early on the morning of 25 January ARVN elements made contact with an enemy force seven kilometers southwest of Go Dau Ha. While Division ground elements were being dispatched to reinforce the ARVN forces, 3/13 artillery laid B and D batteries to provide fires. Although the support of these batteries was offered several times during the day, the ARVN's withheld necessary clearances to prevent damage to the village. An estimated NVA battalion was believed surrounded in Ap Binh Hoa (XT3418). Late in the afternoon a 105mm howitzer platoon from A/1/8 Artillery was emplaced by air in the night laager position of B/3/4 Cavalry just west of the village. The remainder of A/1/8 then moved from FSB Reed II (XT4712) to FSB Jackson (XT4216). At approximately 0200 hours the following morning, one of the 3/4 Cavalry positions was attacked with mortars, small arms and automatic weapons. The Div Arty counter-mortar observer adjusted artillery onto the enemy positions. A daylight sweep credited the observer and D/3/13 Artillery with 10 VC body count and three mortars destroyed. The operation was concluded about noon, 27 January, and all elements of A/1/8 returned to FSB Reed II.
(14) On 28 January, a well emplaced enemy platoon (vic XT3539) caused a delay of Rome Plow operations. A total of 1085 medium and light artillery high explosive rounds dislodged the enemy.
(15) The last three days of the quarter saw very light scattered activity. On 31 January C/2/77 moved from FSB Mahone (XT5437) to open FSB Mahone II (XT5241), as the battery continued to support 1/27th Infantry.
(16) During the quarter ending 31 January, Div Arty elements made fewer moves (113) than in any quarter of the past year. The total rounds fired for the quarter, 327,709, far surpassed the totals of the three previous quarters. Of the total rounds fired, 258,900 were 105mm; 60,278 were 155mm; and 8531 were 8”.
c. Personnel and Logistics:
(1) Personnel status steadily improved. The command reached 99% of its assigned strength by the close of the quarter. The critical shortage of captains was alleviated, although many of those recently assigned were inexperienced in field artillery. Shortages exist in the middle non-commissioned officer ranks in MOS 63C, 13B, 94B, 76I, and lower enlisted ranks in MOS 768. During the quarter, 136 valor (including one Distinguished Service Cross), 16 achievement and 492 service awards were earned by members of Division Artillery.
(2) During the past quarter, logistics operations consisted of coordinating re-supply activities in support of the firing units. High ammunition expenditures during December made re-supply of fire support bases a critical problem. This problem was solved by increasing the ammunition stockage objective at the Fire support Bases. As a result, requests for Combat Essential Re-supply have been minimized.
d. Intelligence Operations:
(1) Throughout the period, the frequent enemy mortar /rocket attacks resulted in increased emphasis on effective employment of counter-mortar radars. In December, the 257th FA Detachment (Radar), an AN/MPO-4 Radar detachment, was detached from the 25th Infantry Division and redeployed to the Bien Hoa area. The three Div. Arty organic AN/MPQ-4 sections and the 258th FA Detachment (Radar), an attached AN/MPQ-4 Radar section, continued to operate against the mortar /rocket threat, and identified 32 hostile mortar /rocket locations during the period.
(2) The surveillance radar program continued. However, the mission of the AN/TPS-25 radar, located at Go Dau Ha, assumed new importance in guarding the Angel's Wing (vicinity XT2822, Cambodia) approach to the Division area.
(3) Survey operations during the period were continuous, with 33 survey control points established throughout the Division area. By the end of the period, all artillery batteries were located on common control, and an expansion program was underway. The Survey Information Center was completely remodeled and a new records system established. With the installation of the FADAC computer system, survey data can now be transmitted from the field to SIC, the survey computed, and computed coordinates sent back to the user in a very short period of time. A long range survey project to establish surveyed registration points throughout the Division area was begun, and three points (2 APC's and 1 tank) were established by the end of the period.
(4) Division Artillery observers continued their mission of support for artillery units. Over half of the in-flight time was in support of night operations, to include engagement of radar and observation tower targets, unit contacts, ground sensor targets, and counter-mortar and counter-rocket operations.
(5) Meteorological operations during the period were hampered by considerable dead-line time on the Rawin set. During the period, the set was dead-lined (19 Nov 1968 to 20 Jan 1969) the section maintained its schedule through the use of visual flight methods. The accuracy of data remained high, as typified by the II Field Force Quality Control Team's evaluation of 100% validity on metro messages evaluated during January 1969.
e. Civil Affairs
(1) The Civil Affairs Section continued to provide technical and material assistance to Government of Vietnam (GVN) agencies in Trang Bang District (XT4920). This assistance was in support of GVN revolutionary development in public health and welfare, agriculture, education, and construction. GVN projects supported by Div Arty during the quarter included:
(a.) Providing food and clothing to local civilians whose homes had been destroyed by Viet Cong terrorist.
(b) Constructing wells in An Phu, Gia Bien and An Duc hamlets, Trang Bang Distr
(c.) Repairing district government offices.
(d) Providing materials for construction and improvement of RF/PF out-posts.
(2) Plans have been made to help district school children enjoy a happy Lunar New Year with appropriate TET holiday celebrations.
2. Section 2, Lessons Learned: Commander's Observations, Evaluations and Recommendations:
a. Personnel. None
b. Operations None
c. Training None
d. Intelligence None
Bag, Cargo, A-22
(a) Observation: The Bag, Cargo, A-22 has two major disadvantages when used to transport 105mm howitzer ammunition in meeting the frequent -----tion aerial re-supply requirements of a direct support 105mm Howitzer Bn.
1. The Bag, Cargo, A-22 is capable of transporting 80 rounds of 105mm howitzer ammunition (40 rounds is recommended). However, to transport these rounds in the A-22 bag, the 105mm howitzer round in its fiber container must be unpacked from its original wooden shipping container and stacked in the bag in a prescribed manner.
2. Tactical considerations require that a certain amount of ammunition be prepared and immediately available for aerial re-supply. Therefore, certain quantities of 105mm ammunition must be unpacked and stacked readily accessible to helicopter pickup.
3. Exposing ammunition in fiber containers for any significant period of time increases the possibility of damage to the ammunition due to weather and handling.
4. Unpacking ammunition from its original wooden container and stacking the rounds (in fiber containers) in the prescribed fashion for the A-22 bag requires an excessive amount of time when heavy aerial re-supply is required.
5. The 14' x 14' rope net, FSM 3940-542-4698, is capable of transporting 120, 105mm Howitzer rounds in the original wooden shipping container, eliminating unpacking and special stacking and providing increased protection of th round before, during, and after transporting.
c. Recommendation: That direct support 105mm Howitzer Battalions be authorized a minimum of thirty (30) 14' x 14' rope cargo nets, FSM 3940-542-4698.
f. Organization: None
g. Other: None
JOHN S. WIERINGA JR.
1 Incl. Colonel, FA
Listing of Units: Commanding
6 CG, 25th Inf Div
3 CG, USARV
2 CINC, USARPAC
5 AVDCDA - HO
1 ea. CO XO, Staff Section , Bn
AVDCMH (15 Feb 69) 1st Ind
SUBJECT: Operational Report of 25th Inf Div Arty for Period Ending 31 Jan 69
DA, HEADQUARTERS, 25TH INFANTRY DIVISION, APO 96225, 15 March 1969
TO; CG, IIFFORCEV, ATTN: G-3 (D&T), APO San Francisco 96266
Forwarded with concurrence.
FOR THE COMMANDER:
Asst ADJUTANT GENERAL
AVFBC-RE-H (15 Feb 69) 2nd Ind
SUBJECT: Operations Report of 25th Inf Div Arty for Period Ending 31 Jan 69
RCS CSFOR - 65 (R1)
DA, HQ II FFORCEV, APO San Francisco 96266
THRU: Commanding General, US Army Vietnam, ATTN: (AVHGC (DST) APO 96375
Commander-In-Chief, US Army Pacific, ATTN: GPOP-DT, APO 96558
TO: Assistant Chief of Staff for Force Development, Department of the Army,
Washington, D.C. 20310
This headquarters has reviewed and concurs with the Operational Report - Lessons Learned of 25th Infantry Division Artillery for the period ending 31 January 1969, with the following comments:
a. Reference paragraph 2e(b). Chapter 10, TM 55-450-11, Helicopter External Loads Rigged with Air Delivery Equipment, specifies that 40 rounds of 105mm howitzer ammunition is the maximum permissible A-22 bag load, HQ USAARV has directed that the handbook on CH-47 (Chinook) supersedes all other directives and SOP's in the command. This handbook, in turn, refers to chapter 10, TM 55-450-11 as the authority on authorized load limits for air delivery equipment.
b. Reference paragraph 2e(c). Each direct support 105mm howitzer battalion is presently authorized 27 of the 14' X14' rope nets ILO 80 A22 bags. The authority for this is USARV Regulation 725-7, dated 15 December 1968. The 25th Division Artillery has been notified of this.
FOR THE COMMANDER:
AVHGC - DST (15 Feb 69) 3rd Ind
SUBJECT: Operational Report of 25th Infantry Division Artillery for Period
Period Ending 31 January 1969 RCS OSFOR - 65 (R1)
HEADQUARTERS, UNITED STATES ARMY, VIETNAM, APO San Francisco 96375
TO: Commander in Chief, United States Army, Pacific, ATTN: GPOP-DT, APO 96558
This headquarters has reviewed the Operational Report - Lessons Learned for the quarterly period ending 31 January 1969 from Headquarters, 25th Infantry Division Artillery, and concurs with the report as indorsed by the intermediate headquarters.
FOR THE COMMANDER: C.D. WILSON
1ST LT, AGC
Assistant Adjutant General
Cy furn: 25th Inf Div Arty
GPOP - DT ( 15 Feb 69) 4th Ind (U)
SUBJECT: Operational Report of HQ, 25th Inf Div Arty for Period Ending 31 January 1969,
RCS CSFOR - 65 (R1)
HQ, US Army, Pacific, APO San Francisco 96558
TO: Assistant Chief of Staff for Force Development, Department of the Army,
Washington D.C. 20310
This headquarters has evaluated subject report and forwarding endorsements, and concurs in the report as endorsed.
FOR THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF:
15 February 1969
AVDCDA - OP
SUBJECT: Operations Report of 25th Div Arty for Period Ending 31 Jan 69
RCS CSFOR - 65 (R1)
LISTING OF UNITS
1/8 Artillery (105 How, Towed)
7/11 Artillery (105 How, Towed)
2/77 Artillery (105 How, Towed)
3/13 Artillery (155/8”, SP)
B/3/2 Artillery (AW battery and attached Machine Gun and Searchlight platoon)
General Support Reinforcing:
2/13 Artillery (105 How, Towed) (--)
1/27 Artillery (155 How, SP) (--)
2/32 Artillery (175 /8”, SP) (--)
DEPARTMENT CONTROL, DATA, R & D
(Security Certification of title, Body of statement and handwriting e----must be entered when the overall report is classified)
HQ, OACSFOR, DA, Washington, D.C. 20310 Confidential
Operational Report - lessons Learned, Hq, 25th Infantry Division Artillery
Experiences of unit engaged in counter-insurgency operations, 1 Nov 68 to 31 Jan 69______________________--
CO, 25th Infantry Division Artillery
5 February 1969 16 pages``
N/A OACSFOR, DA, Washington, D.C. 20310
PLATOON SIZE ENGAGEMENT IN SUMMER OFFENSIVE AGAINST TAY NINH CITY
Just North of Tay Ninh near French Fort 25th Avn Supported this Action with gunships, C and C, Resupply, and Dust Off
Two days had passed since the enemy had launched his long anticipated offensive in the vicinity of TAY NINH City on the night of 17 - 18 August 1968. The brigade commander's plan for a mobile dense of this vital province capital was working well. The strong points and artillery fire support bases he had placed outside the city astride or adjacent to the main avenues of approach had enabled his forces to intercept the enemy in his approach marches and to preempt any plans for a coordinated assault on TAY NINH or its nearby military bases.
As the situation developed in the first 24 hours of the battle, it became apparent that the enemy was moving against and around the city from the north, east and southeast. Accordingly, the brigade commander shifted the bulk of his combat power to meet the threat from those directions.
The commander, however, could not neglect the capability of the enemy to mount an attack against the city and the large U.S. base camp on its western outskirts from a westerly direction. In fact, aerial reconnaissance of the terrain to the west of TAY NINH developed substantial evidence of an enemy presence in that vicinity.
To preclude the possibility of the enemy shifting his advances on TAY NINH to the west, the brigade commander ordered an infantry company to establish blocking positions along the main avenues of approach from that direction. A second infantry company was moved into the TAY NINH Base Camp to serve as a ready reaction force to any enemy effort that might develop on the as yet relatively quiet western flank of the city.
Moving out of the TAY NINH Base Camp on the afternoon of 18 August, the company occupied three platoon blocking positions to the immediate west and northwest of the base (see Sketch #1). In choosing these locations, the establishment of a ruse was foremost in the mind of the battalion commander whose company was being employed.
For several weeks prior to initiation of the enemy attacks, three company size units had blocked in this same general area. The battalion commander instructed his company commander to have his platoon create inordinate movement around their defensive positions. At the same time hot food and re-supply would be airlifted daily into the locations just as they had when the three company size units were in the area. The enemy was to be made to believe that three blocking positions continued to be manned by company size elements.
The terrain in the vicinity of the positions was flat with rice paddies. Patches of heavy undergrowth and tree lined hedgerows broke the generally open spaces at frequent intervals. Nevertheless, the platoon positions along the several unimproved roads and major foot trails that traversed the area afforded good observation and excellent fields of fire. With these platoon size out-guards placed at 1200 meter intervals, the company sector commanded surveillance over the westerly approaches to the base camp and city.
Thirty-six men formed the Third Platoon which took up the company's northernmost blocking position. To augment the 36 men of his own, the young lieutenant who led the platoon had the support of a three-man 90mm recoilless rifle crew and a two-man 60 mm mortar crew from the company's Weapon's Platoon. In addition, a three man radar team was attached to the platoon. A medic completed the lieutenant's assets.
The platoon leader organized his position around his major fire-power - two M-60 machine guns and the recoilless rifle. The recoilless rifle crew supported by two riflemen and a grenadier, were bunkered on the northern extremity of the position. On the east and west, two-man machine gun teams were spotted and dug in. Each team was augmented by three riflemen and a grenadier. On the southwest and southeast of the perimeter, two five man positions were dug in, each consisting of four riflemen and a grenadier (see Sketch #2).
Inside the circular perimeter with its diameter of approximately 50 meters, the radar team went into position in the northeast quadrant and the mortar team to the southeast. In the middle of the circle, the lieutenant established his command post which consisted of himself, a radio-telephone operator (RTO) and the medic. Around the circumference of the perimeter, a triple concertina, barbed wire barrier was constructed. Numerous trip flares were placed beyond the wire to a distance of approximately 50 meters, and immediately outside the wire the platoon placed approximately 30 command detonated claymore mines. Within the wire, the platoon leader directed the construction of well bunkered two and three-man fighting positions --- each with over-head cover.
The platoon was well supplied with ammunition. Each machine gun position was armed with 2,200 to 2,400 rounds. All riflemen were supplied with approximately 300 rounds of M-16 ammunition with an additional two cases held in reserve at the platoon command post. The five grenadiers each carried 75 to 80 M-79 rounds, and each man in the platoon was armed with a minimum of four fragmentation grenades. The 90mm recoilless rifle team was stocked with nine canister and six high explosive rounds. To round out the platoon's deadly defensive capability, several artillery defensive concentrations (DEFCONS) around the perimeter had been plotted and test fired by supporting artillery batteries located in the TAY NINH Base Camp and Fire Support Base BUELL nine kilometers to the northeast.
Well prepared for any enemy that might happen its way, the platoon settled in to monitor any movement in its sector.
Although reports continued to flow into the brigade tactical operations center at the TAY NINH
Base Camp and down to the platoon that enemy movement to the west of TAY NINH was becoming increasingly apparent, the blocking position was unable to establish any contact with the enemy. The 18th and 19th of August passed in uneventful fashion for the platoon. As distant sounds of battle drifted across the position from the east, the enemy made no attempt to make an appearance in the western sector. When the platoon settled down for its second night in place, the platoon leader directed a 50 percent alert status in which half the men in each position remained alert and on guard while the others rested and slept.
All remained quiet until 0105 hours when the platoon leader was alerted by the machine gun position on the west that two enemy soldiers had been detected through a starlight scope. Moving into the gun position, the platoon leader scanned the area to the southwest where the initial observation had been made. The scope this time picked up six enemy moving along a tree line approximately 125 meters away. The personnel were moving from the southwest traveling northeast and passing the platoon position on an angle. (See Sketch #3)
The platoon leader immediately radioed the situation to his company commander who was located with the second platoon 1200 meters to the southwest. The company commander gave the platoon leader permission to take the enemy under fire, and the machine gun crew was ordered to fire two bursts at the enemy formation. In less than a minute, the machine gun's fire was returned with a rapidly mounting hail of automatic rifle, machine gun and rocket propelled grenade (RPG) fire coming from the west and northwest. It quickly became obvious that the platoon had taken a punch at far more than six enemy soldiers.
As soon as the volume of the enemy's fire began to mount, the platoon leader radioed a situation report to his company commander and requested immediate artillery and illumination support. This was relayed to the battalion command post at TAY NINH and on to the brigade tactical operations center. The battalion command post immediately passed the illumination mission to its 4.2 mortar platoon and within seconds the first of 261 illumination rounds to be fired by the mortars during he night were bursting above the Third Platoon position.
As the illumination rounds flooded his area with light, the platoon leader could observe large numbers of enemy troops approximately 150 meters to his front firing and seeking available cover. As the platoon took these enemy under fire, the platoon leader could observe by fire and movement, the enemy slowly moving forward. Within a few minutes, the first artillery rounds from TAY NINH and Fire Support Base BUELL were falling in and around the enemy formation. The initial effect of the artillery was to halt the enemy's movement and force him to cover. However, within a few minutes the patrol leader was able to observe them up and moving forward again, advancing slowly through the artillery, and pouring heavy fire into the platoon position as they advanced.
Concerned that the enemy would get too close to his wire barrier if additional firepower were not brought to bear, the platoon leader requested helicopter gun-ships through his company commander. As the gun-ships normally on strip alert at TAY NINH were committed to another action, it was necessary to call for gun-ship teams from CU CHI Base Camp to the south. However, within twenty minutes of his initial request, the platoon leader was advised that two Cobra gun-ships were orbiting above his position and requesting an artillery check fire so that they could roll in for their rocket and machine gun passes.
In the interim that had elapsed before the arrival of the gun-ships on station, the platoon and its supporting artillery were successful in holding back the enemy advance although several had crawled up to the wire and had cut the detonating cords on nine claymores before being killed.
The claymores and the canister shot from the 90mm recoilless rifle were particularly effective in turning back the enemy whenever he moved in force to within 40 meters of the wire. Delaying the use of his mines and canister until suitable targets presented themselves, the platoon leader was able to exact maximum benefit from these weapon's area killing capability. The gunner on the recoilless rifle reported that whenever he cut loose with a canister round, he could observe numerous enemy to his front jump up and run to the rear. The recoilless rifle was able to fire off six blasts of canister before being rendered unsafe by shrapnel that punctured its barrel.
Well aware that his ammunition supply could become a critical factor as the night wore on and that re-supply was questionable, the platoon leader passed the word on to his men to conserve their ammunition by engaging only visible targets with aimed fire. These instructions enabled the small outpost to maintain its fire throughout the night, although the ammunition supply was nearly exhausted by the time the enemy broke contact at 0600 hours, and the company's First Platoon arrived as a reinforcing element.
When the gun-ships arrived on station and made their initial rocket and machine gun passes, a new problem presented itself. The first pass was to the northwest at a distance of 100 to 150 meters - too far out to do any damage to the most serious threat to the platoon posed by the large number of enemy who had inched their way to within 40 meters of the wire and were digging in. The platoon leader called for the gun-ships to move their fire closer to the perimeter. However, he was advised that the pilots were unable to clearly distinguish the exact position of the perimeter, and his platoon would have to mark its location if closer strafing runs were to be made.
The initial attempt to mark the position with a strobe light available to the platoon failed as the battery to the flashing light was discovered to be dead. The platoon leader then passed the word to his men to begin building small fires with whatever materials were immediately available. Before the night was over, the patrol members had burned most of their tentage, webb gear, clothing and boots to keep the several fires burning for the gun teams, and an Air Force AC-47 “Spooky” aircraft that orbited overhead.
At approximately 0215 hours, the battalion commander arrived over the position in a command and control helicopter loaded with a re-supply of ammunition. In addition, a medical evacuation helicopter was on station. However, neither aircraft was able to land in the small perimeter because of the heavy volume of enemy fire. Arriving on the scene, the battalion commander found the company command frequency on which the battle was being coordinated, crowded by artillery, helicopter gun-ship pilots, and an Air Force forward air controller attempting to coordinate the use of a “Spooky” aircraft which was just coming on station.
The battalion commander immediately instructed all personnel on the company frequency that all supporting fire, with the exception of the gun-ships, would be coordinated and adjusted by himself on his battalion frequency. Only the gun-ships were to remain on the company “push”, to take their instructions directly from the platoon leader on the ground. On the ground, the platoon leader who had been wounded twice in the first hour and a half of the fight, turned over control of his unit to a squad leader who took over the radio and directed and coordinated the defense of the position for the remainder of the night.
With the fires now burning, the helicopter gun-ships were able to renew their strafing runs and adjust their rocket and machine gun impact area to immediately outside the wire. As the gun-ships rolled in for their runs, however, they were forced to fly through the fire of two enemy .51 caliber machine guns which opened fire from positions northwest of the platoon location. This enemy fire was ineffective as none of the gun-ships took hits, and the aviators were able to execute their attacks with little difficulty.
By the time the first gun-ship teams reported that it had expended its ammunition and fuel, and was going off station, the Air Force “Spooky” was on station, prepared to shift from its illumination activities to take up the aerial attack with its rapid firing Gatling guns. A short time later, a second helicopter gun team reported itself on station and swept in to relieve the AC-47 which then resumed its activities, dropping flares to illuminate the area. This pattern in the use of aerial firepower - using “Spooky” to spell the gunship team - continued throughout the night. After the first gun-ships had arrived on station at approximately 0145 hours, the platoon on the ground had continuous overhead firepower for the remainder of the night. This combined with the artillery that continued to be directed in a screen around the platoon became the decisive factor in beating down the continuous enemy assaults.
As the night wore on, the enemy made repeated efforts to work his way to the wire. On several occasions he maneuvered close enough to the platoon position to exchange hand grenades with the infantrymen inside the perimeter. However, the supporting firepower and the defenders ability to pick their targets around the illuminated terrain surrounding the perimeter precluded all attempts to breach the wire. The following morning numerous bodies were discovered within ten meters of the wire, but no one had been able to actually get inside the wire itself.
At approximately 0400 hours, the battalion commander ordered his company commander to take his First Platoon from its blocking position on the southern flank of the company sector and move to reinforce the Third Platoon. The relief platoon moved towards the besieged position arriving at approximately 0600 as the enemy ceased his fire and withdrew to the northwest. At first light, the reaction company from TAY NINH Base Camp was lifted by helicopters to a position two kilometers northwest of the Third Platoon position with orders to cut off the withdrawing enemy force. As this company pushed towards the southeast, it was unable to establish contact, but did discover numerous fresh diggings 1000 meters from the attacked platoon position. The enemy as he withdrew apparently had an ambush laying in wait for any pursuing force. The ambush had pulled out hastily when it discovered it was being approached from the rear.
As the company commander and his First Platoon moved into the Third Platoon position, the battalion commander and several medical evacuation helicopters set down in the perimeter. The six wounded personnel within the position were immediately evacuated to a nearby hospital. This move was soon followed by the evacuation of five platoon members who had been killed in the action.
The battalion commander quickly ordered the troops within the perimeter to sweep the battle area immediately surrounding the position. This search discovered 57 enemy dead and three wounded personnel who were taken prisoner. Although most of the enemy bodies 30 meters or more beyond the wire had been stripped of their weapons, the troops were able to police up two AK-47 rifles, three RPG rocket launchers, five light machine guns, one field radio and two pounds of assorted documents. Within the next two days, friendly units sweeping in the immediate vicinity of the contact area discovered several mass graves, the content of which raised the body count for the action to 155.
(Three pages of diagrams)
The tactics used in this fight are interesting and perhaps give you some idea about how the small unit in Vietnam went about its job. But I believe the example cited emphasizes most of the leadership points I have made in this lecture. This was also a good case of great responsibility for a small unit leader that has been unique in Vietnam. I believe you would agree that this young lieutenant knew his job and that he had a feel for the welfare of his men. The professionalism, courage, and discipline of this platoon of 36 men withstood an attack by up to 400 enemy and literally beat the socks off of them - and believe me, that is leadership.
In closing, let me say that advice is cheap and freely given, and I know that you are constantly on the receiving end of such advice at Sandhurst. Even so, I hope that you will add my remarks to the many you may already have heard on “leadership”. And when you have totaled your ledger, you end up on the plus side.
The fact that you are completing this difficult and demanding course at the Royal Military Academy is a great mark in hour favor. When you graduate, regardless of your assignment, you will face the tremendous challenge of the Seventies and the years that lie beyond. No one is promising you an easy life in the military. On the contrary, they are promising you hard days in accomplishing the most vital task of all - protecting your nation. In that regard, our World War II Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, had this to say, and I quote:
“It is staying power, the spirit which endures to the end, the will to win. With it, all things are possible; without it, everything else - planning, preparation, production - count for naught.”
May I end by saying that it is you and other young men like you in the countries of the free world that we are depending upon to bring that “spirit” to the fight.
Thank you. . . . .