Quarterhorse in Vietnam

1st Infantry Division - Lessons Learned (1 May to 31 Jul 1966)Part Two

C. June. Throughout the month of June, forces of the 1st Infantry Division operated in BIHN HOA,LING KHANH, PHVOC THANH, BINH DUONG, TAY NINH, BINH LONG, and PHUOC LONG Provinces. Eight separate military operation of battalion size or larger continued and/or were initiated against Viet Cong Forces in the III Corps Tactical Zone. All resulted in contact.

(1) Operation EL PASO II was initiated on 2 Jun 1966, in conjunction with 5th ARVN Division and III ARVN Corps Forces. Intelligence indicated the 9th VC Division had positioned three Viet Cong and one North Vietnamese Army regiments in preparatation for attacks against the LOC NINH � HON QUAN � MINH THANH � SONG BE area. Responding to this change in the intelligence situation and the request from the Commanding General, 5th ARVN Division, The Commanding General, 1st Infantry Division ordered one infantry battalion (2nd Battalion., 28th Infantry), and one artillery battalion minus (2nd Battalion, 33d Artillery (-) to LOC NIEN immediately with the mission to participate in the defense of the Special Forces camp at LOC NINH. On 4 June, the perimeter at LOC NINH received mortar fire and the lst Battalion, 16th Infantry was then ordered to LOC NINH on 6 June to reinforce the Task Force at that location.

Three significant contacts occurred with he enemy who made a determined effort to repel this major introduction of US Forces into the area. Additional reinforcements were planned and the 2d Battallion, 18th Infantry and A Troop, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry were ordered to HON QUAN on 8 June. The plan called Troop A to move up Route 13 and the Infantry Battalion to move from CAMP COX by helicopter to LAI KHE initially and then to HON QUAN subsequent to the passage of the road column through LAI KHE. In this manner, the infantry would be in an excellent posture to react to any contact made by the road column. At 1440 hours the comumn engaged the 272d VC Main Force Regiment while passing through AP TAU O, an area between CHON THANH (XT 766616) and HON QUAN (XT 755891). During the four-hour battle, combined firepower from the tanks and APCs, artillery, and air strikes inflicted losses on the enemy force that included 93 KIA (BC) and 250 KIA (Prob). The 2d Battalion, 18th Infantry swept south from their location at HON QUAN. The division deployed the 1st Brigade with 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry and 2d Battalion, 2d Infantry to MINH THANH.

The second major engagement, the Battle of LOC NINH Plantation (Incl 15), commenced on 11 June 1966 at 1010 hours. Elements of the 2d Battalion 28th Infantry and CIDG Forces made contact with a battalion of the 273d VC Main Force Regiment located in heavily fortified bunkers. By 1730 the enemy positions were overrun by the infantry after massive artillery, mortar, and air strikes. VC losses were 98 KIA (BC) and 150 KIA (Prob). Based on excellent intelligence a highly successful one battalion airmobile raid was conducted on a suspected rice and supply storage area southwest of DAU TIANG (XT 447537) on 21 June. During the raid, 1506 tons of rice and 5400 sheets of tin were discovered. From this discovery and and other supply caches and base camps were located, it became evident the area contained major VC supply storage and distribution points. Because of the large quantity of material discovered a second battalion was airlifted into the area as reinforcements. The caches were destroyed by ground troops and by air and chemical attacks.

(2) Operation LAM SON II, the highly specialized pacification operation, continued with emphasis ondeveloping local self defense capabilities and developmental projects. The Joint PHU LOI Pacification Task Force, consisting primarily of 1st Battalion , 26th Infantry, 5th ARVN Division elements, and BINH DUONG Sector personnel, conducted clearing and saturation operation in designated areas of BINH DUONG Province. Efforts were devoted to locating and destroying main forces and guerrilla units, thus permitting and/or stimulating progressive pacification activities in selected areas. Offensive operations by the US and ARVN Forces consisted of platoon size search and clear operations, squad size ambush patrols, and hamlet seal operations. During the month, 391 platoon search and clear operations were conducted with 16.5 percent making contact and 496 ambush patrols were conducted with approximately three percent making contact. By the end of the month, the effectiveness of operations was showing a sharp improvement as a result of increased knowledge of the terrain and the local enemy, as well as the gradual refinement of techniques.

During June, the Pacification Task Force efforts expanded to significant proportions. Initial ARVN skepticism concerning effectiveness of operations was dispelled during the task force�s first operation, 27 May in the village of BINH CHUAN. Combined ARVN-US planning for the second operation went extremely well, and the combined task force was given all the support and forces required.

The second major hamlet seal and search operation centered on the TAN PHUOC KHANH hamlet complex (XT 884168), 1-4 June (Incl 13). This operation exemplified the general success of the search techniques as evidence by the return to GVN control of a VC security chief, VC hamlet chief, 118 draft dodgers, 21 deserters, 13 former VC parole violators, and 89 VC suspects. The core of the VC infrastructure was severely damaged if not destroyed by the return to GVN control and capture of these personnel. A VC review of the operation estimated a 50% loss of their capability and a two month period required for recuperation. The people generally cooperated while visiting the 969 interrogation vans for interview, stating they were happy to have Revolutionary Developments Cadre and US soldiers present in thieir village. For example, one girl indicated where ten VC were hiding.

In addition to the TAN PHUOC KHANH operation, seven other hamlet seal operations were conducted. Total results of all operations for june included eight VC KIA (BC), 33 VCC, 484 VCS broken down as follows: former VC � 23; individuals on Blacklist � 31; false ID cards � 9: deserters (ARVN) � 38; draft dodgers � 175; and uncategorized � 209. In all instances of seal and search activities, the results have been encouraging, especially in the villages. Here the cooperation given to the 969 Program and Cadre Teams has been better than in the hamlets.

The Hamlet Festival. (County Fair), which normally accompanies the hamlet search, has been continuously successful. Military and civilian agencies which were at first reluctant to participate, have been increasingly more active in the Hamlet Festival and rural construction activities. Conversations with villagers at festivals and follow-up activities indicate an upward trend in their interest in the GVN. Use of ARVN Paywar Teams and their vehicles proved imperative for successful face-to-face communication. However, Vietnamese officers and NCO�s in charge seem unwilling to use these teams to their fullest capability. The US Paywar officer has continually assisted these teams, accounting for improvement in their techniques. Use of Rual Construction Cadre for internal crowd control during the Hamlet Festival proved advantageous. This assisted the cadre in establishing repport with the population and subsequently permitted them to more easily initiate their development activities in the hamlet.

(3) Operation LEXINGTON III (Incl 18) was terminated 9 June 1966. The 1st Battalion, 18th Inantry operation, conducted jointly with US Naval elements and ARVN III Corps Forces, significantly reduced the VC capability to move freely throughout the RUNG SAT Special Zone. The many rivers and canals interlacing the nearly level marsh were interdicted through the use of helicopters and landing craft, thereby denying the VC the important link in their supply system for traffic between SAIGON and VUNG TAU.

(4) Operations ADELAIDE I & II. These 2st Brigade operations were conducted during the respective periods 30 May � 9 June and 31 May � 8 June in conjunction with 5th ARVN Division elements to destroy VC forces and bases.

During Operation ADELAIDE I, search and destroy operation were conducted along Interprovincial Route 16 North of TAN UYEN. Security was provide for 1st Engineer Battalion elements improving Route 16 to Class 60 from TAN UYEN to PHUOC VINH. In addition a long term project was initiated aimed at the complete penetration and reduction of the ONG DONC Jungle (XF 9027). This dense area has traditionally been a VC safe haven and oprating base. The area is to be defoliated and systemematically sliced into checkerboard squares by bulldozers to provide pioneer roads for 1st Infantry Division and ARVN forces to rapidly move into the area, encircle, and eliminate VC forces.

(5) Artillery units fired 69, 081 rounds in support of operations during June. Close air support sorties totaled 1,151 and expended the following ordnance: 493.5 tons of high explosive; 221.8 tons of napalm; 95.9 tons of fragmentation; 180 canisters of CBU; and 112 pods of rockets. d. During the mont of July, the 1st Infantry Division employed forces on four major operations in BING LONG, LONG THANH, and BINH DHONG Provinces. All major operations resulted in contact with Viet Cong Forces. Two contacts were made with identified Main Forces units and in each instance the enemy was soundly defeated.

(1) Operation EL PASO II/III, initiated on 2 June, continued in the LOC NINH � HON QUAK area of BINH THANG Province in conjunction with 5th ARVN Division forces. This large scale operation continued to have excellent results as information gained from interrogation of VC captives was exploited. This intelligence revealed that the VC regiments operating in the area had been given the mission of destroying US and GVN forces operating along Route 13.

The first significant engagement occurred on 1 � 2 July between the 2d Battalion, 18th Infantry and elements of the 272d VC Regiment (Incl 16). Subsequent to the Battle of SROK DONG on 30 June in which the 271st VC Regiment was decisively defeated, the 2d Battalion, 18th Infantry was helilifted to positions west of the battle area, Approximately three kilometers from the Cambodian Border (XU 591024). This area was selected to seal escape routes the 271st Regiment might use and to interdict infiltration routes coming into Vietnam from Cambodia. Shortly after the airlift at 1600 hours, 1 July, Company A made contact with an unknown size VC Force approximately 1400 meters south of the battalion CP and C Company location. Contact continued and became more intensive and A Company was reinforced by C Company and the Recon Platoon by 1800 hours. During the early evening, all of these units received mortar and automatic weapons fire. Contact was broken at 2020 hours but resumed at 0545 hours on 2 July. Five assaults were made against the perimeter by the VC before contact was finally broken at 0900 hors. Artillery and fighter bomber stricks, brought in under a 200 foot ceiling, assisted in repulsing the assaults. During the battle, the 3d Battalion, 273d VC Regiment suffered the loss of 79 KIA (BC . Three additional battalions were committed, but only minor contact was made. All forces were withdrawn from operational areas on 4 July for rest, resupply, and maintenance.

Based on two previous successful armor operations, the 1st Brigade positioned forces on 8 July in preparation for a ROAD RUNNER reconnaissance in force from HON QUAN to MINH THANH. An additional infantry battalion was infiltrated to MINH THANH and another to a position approximately eight kilometers southwest of HON QUAN. Two forward artillery bases were established south of HON QUAN. The brigade plan included an overlay designating all landing zones that could possibly beused for the reaction forces to be helifted into the battle area once contact was made and the disposition of VC forces or the withdrawal routes were known. In addition to the infantry battalion and helicopters prepositioned southwest of HON QUAN, an infantry battalion was standing by at the QUAN LOI airfield for commitment. The two battalions at MINH THANH were positioned primarily to the east and northwest of the rubber plantation to permit a rapid reaction if needed. Artillery and airstrikes were planned along the route of march. A deception plan was released that indicated a Troop (-) would be making the reconnisance, but the actual column consisted of Troops B and C, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry with one attachd rifle company. On 9 July, in the vicinity XT 6774, the column receied heavy fire from mortars, automatic weapons, and recoilless rifles. The two battlalions at MINH THANH moved immediately by foot to strike the VC from the south (rear). Two battalions were moved by helicopter to the northeast and north. One battalion attacked south while the second blocked withdrawal routes to the northwest. The major contact was broken after one hour and 45 minutes and only small skirmishes occurred as the VC infiltrated across the SAIGON RIVER. The 272d VC Regiment�s losses for the battle included 238 KIA (BC) and 300 KIA (Prob).

Because of the defeats suffered by the VC, the pressure was relieved on the LOC MINH � MINH THANH � HON QUAN areas. The 1st and 3d Brigades were extracted to PHUOC VINH and HON QUAN area on 13 and 14 July. The 2d Brigade replaced them and Phase III of Operation EL PASO was initiated. Local patrolling, search and destroy operations, and village cordon and search operations continued for the remainder of July.

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