BACKGROUND: Operation El Paso II began on 2 June 1966 when intelligence indicated that three Viet Cong and one North Vietnamise regiments were poised to resume their "Monsoon Campaign" by attacking GVN and US Special Forces compounds in Ninh Thanh, Hon Quan, Loc Ninh and Song Be. Because of this threat, Commanding General, II Field Force, Vietnam, directed one infantry and one artillery battalion to be employed to Loc Ninh to strengthen the defensive in those areas. No significant battle had been fought prior to 8 June 1966. The 3d Brigade, 1st Infantry Division had been dispatched to Loc Nihn with three Infantry Battalions and one Artillery Battalion. Between 19 and 26 May the 3d Bde established a defensive perimeter around the Loc Ninh airstrip and patrolled and conducted search operations westward to the Cambodian border without substantial contact. The 3d Brigade returned to it's base on 26 May 1966 at Lai Khe. Subsequently, intelligence from a number of sources indicated that the VC, having postponed their attack, intended to go ahead with their original plans. Agents reported through the Vietnamese Army that the VC were inaugurating a campaign to last from 20 May until 20 August to destroy friendly forces along Route 13 to interdict the route; and to harass or attack Loc Ninh, Hon Quan, Chon Thanh, Minh Thanh and Song Be. VC forces involved consisted of six regiments. It was agreed that these regiments included three of the 9th Viet Cong Division, 272d, 271st and 273d, and another grouping of the 101st, 141st and possibly the 250th regiment of PAVN.
THE BATTLE OF BENCHMARK 69 (Ap Tau O): On 8 June 1966, Troop A, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry
departed Phu Loi at 0700 enroute to Hon Quan where there existed a threat of a Viet Cong
monsoon offensive. Under the direction of LTC Leonard L. Lewane, above them in a OH 13
helicopter, the troop proceeded up the old railroad bed (vic XT8399191) to Lai Khe rather
than us highway 13, the scene of many mining incidents. At about 0805 the lead tank of
the 1st Platoon hit a mine (vic XT837241) with no resulting casualties, but the vehicle
was disabled. At this time an APC of the second platoon was experiencing mechanical
difficulties and the decision was made to send both vehicles back to Phu Loi.
When the column resumed it's northward move it left the railroad bed and moved across
country. The third platoon took the lead from this point and moved on to Lai Khe to refuel.
Two vehicles dropped out of the column and were picked up by the trail party and brought
After refueling the column pushed north on highway 13 out of Lai Khe. The AVLB got stuck
at the north check point of Lai Khe and was left for the trail party to retrieve. The
troop passed through Chan Thanh at 1300 hours and had made no enemy contact. The decision
was made to push on to Kon Quan.
At about 1415 hours the 3d platoon lead vehicle hit a mine (vic XT766751). A short time
before a claymore had been detonated, but no casualties resulted. Almost simultaneously
the entire column came under intense fire. Lt. Joseph Lake, 3d Platoon Leader, reported
that he was in heavy contact with an undeterminable force. CPT Ralph Sturgis, Troop
Commander, immediately ordered the 2d Platoon, led by Lt. David Kinkead, to come up and
reinforce the third platoon.
Reports indicate that the Viet Cong were employed along 3,000 meters of the highway with the
majority of their concentration on the west. The Troop Commanders vehicle was hit by
recoiless rifle wounding the driver, SP4 James Dempsey. The observer SGT Nick Sapporito,
took over the driving responsibility. Moving forward the crew could see a recoiless rifle
crew taking aim on them again. All of a sudden the entire area became very hot, as SFC
Pearson Cole, commander of the flamethrower APC let loose with a burst from his M132 flame
thrower APC, roasting the VC to a crisp.
The Troop moved forward onto some high ground and began to set up a perimeter. The first
platoon leader, Lt. Louis Bouault, reported that one of his vehicles was experiancing
mechanical difficulties (vic XT766729) and that they were leaving a tank with it for
security. Further up the road a 1st Platoon APC was blazing afire resulting from several
hits. At 1630 hours the FAC (CPT Richard Wetzol) reported that the Viet Cong had captured
an APC and had driven it off into the woods with the headlights on. Fire was not immediatly
called in on the vehicle for fear theat a US Soldier might still be in the vehicle. A later
check revealed that it was the vehicle in which 1SG Michael Pepe had been seriously injured
in when it took two direct hits from a recoiless rifle. (Photo below)
CPT RALPH M. STURGIS SP4 LAMONT N. BURGESS lLT RONALD A. COPES SP4 ROBERT CORBIN 2LT LOUIS L. BOUAULT SP4 JOSEPH M. DABNEY 2LT DAVID C. KINKEID SP4 MICHAEL E. DALISLIE 2LT JOSEPH R. LAKE SP4 JAMES H. DEMPSEY SP4 JOHN R. ELLIOT 1SG MICHAEL L. PEPE SP4 WILLIE G. FARMER PSG RICHARD L. LANHAM *SP4 GEORGE L. FERNANDEZ PSG OSWALDO MEDINA SP4 GERRY FORD SP4 ROGER R. FRIERHUTE SSG and SFC SP4 GEORGE E. HENRY SP4 WILLIAM W. HOLLEY ALBERT E. ARMITAGE SP4 JAMES L. HONAMER EUGENE F. BLAIR SP4 MICHAEL JARVIS *ARTHUR N. DRYHAN SP4 RUSSELL P. KECK FRANCIS E. FISCHER SP4 STEVEN L. LAMBERT ARGYLE HARPER JR. SP4 SAMUEL J. LARKIN ROBERT A. JACKSON SP4 ROBERT D. LENA WILLIAM W. McCARTY SP4 L.C. LUKE HAROLD H. HOLLDNER SP4 ROBERT L. MILLER CHARLES E. NORRIS SP4 LORENZO MORGAN FRANCIS C. RUMMEL SP4 THOMAS R. MURPHEY DENNIS L. SANDERS SP4 FREDERICK SCHILLER CARLOS SANTIAGO-GONZALES SP4 HAROLD O. TEAL JOE E. WARD *SP4 JOSEPH TORZON SP4 JAMES L. WALLS SGT JOE O BENOKLER SP4 GARY A. WARNE SGT MERLIN R. CALMER SP4 BUELL L. WHITE *SGT DONALD E. COOK SP4 MELVIN I. ZOLLER JR. SGT ROY C. COUCH SGT JOHN W. GUNN PFC STANLEY A. AURINGER SGT WILLIAM H. HARRIS PFC JOHN L. BARTON SGT JOHN C. JOHNSON PFC HARLAN D. BUCKNER SGT PIERCE K. KECK PFC MAURICE A. CEARBOBEAU SGT WAYNE T. LURA SR. PFC ANTHONY V. CHISHOLM SGT THOMAS SAPORITO *PFC ROGER L. CONNER SGT MERLE D. SLATER PFC DARL B. CRISETAN SGT JOHN D. WILLIAMS PFC HERTON E. DENSON JR. PFC JOSEPH DeROSSI SP5 ROBERT W. BOWLING PFC JAMES CRANE SP5 DONALD L. CALHOUN PFC ROBERT P. DILLON SP5 WILLIE G. CUPP PFC ROBERT G. FRANZ *SP5 DEWEY L. FERGUSON PFC BURTON B. GUSLING SP5 DONALD W. GUSTISTA PFC DAVID R. GRODI SP5 RODNEY D. HARKENSON PFC EDWARD L. GUILLIAMS SP5 WILLIAM R. KAMPFERT PFC JACK A. HOWARD SP5 WARRAN KING JR. PFC RONALD J. IRIART SP5 JOHN W McGLOKIN PFC SHEPPARD E. IVEY *SP5 JOHN R. OAKEY PFC TERRANCE B. JAMES SP5 HUGH OLIVER JR. PFC RICHARD E. KESSLER SP5 EDWARD L. RANDALL PFC JOHNIE R. KINNEY *SP5 PHILLIP R. SHITH PFC RONALD L. LANDING SP5 ARNOLD D. STEVENS PFC LANE J. LOSSEE SP5 APAGITO G. VEGA PFC THOMAS M. MUSICK SP5 ARNOLD E. WALKER PFC JOHN F. OIAHAL *PFC GEORGE R. PENDYGRAFF *PFC TERRILL G. PETERSON PFC DAVID PISKLESIMER PFC KEITE PRICE PFC WILLARD W. REHRIG JR. PFC GARY L. REVETTI PFC JOHNNIE M. ROBINSON PFC JERRY D. SANDERS PFC RONALD W. SCHRIDBAUER PFC MICHAEL E. SCEWARTZ *PFC AVERY G. SMITH PFC ROBERT C. SNYDER PFC JOSEPH S. TERRIEN II PFC ROGER C. VAN DORNE PFC VAN HENTENRYCK PVT FLOYD B. MILLS (*) indicates EM KIA on 8 June 1966. Awards to be made posthumously.
Ordinance expended included: 26,240 lbs high explosive 28,500 lbs napalm 13,160 lbs frag bombs 24 canisters CBU
There was a minimum of 2 UH 1B fire teams air/borne at all times.
Enemy losses included: 170 VC KIA (actual body count) 250 VC KIA (estimated) 4 VC Captured 30 Small Arms 12 Crew served weapons 78 Chi Com Grenades
Friendly Losses: 13 KIA 30WIA
D Co., 1st Engr: 2 KIA 4 WIA