QuarterHorse Bulletin Board

SEARCH AND DESTROY MISSION IN C61 Woods-by Carl -Skip- Bell


These photographs were taken on an operation
in which B Troop went into a main force VC basecamp called the C-61 woods.
There was a band of mines and booby traps about 1.5 km deep around the
place.  We went in by blowing a path using bangalore torpedos to cause
sympathetic detonation of the mines/booby traps.  These photos appeared in
the Stars & Stripes.  I believe the time-frame was Fall '69.  Troopers and
vehicles were from 3rd Platoon, B Troop.
Skip Bell
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-----Original Message-----
From: Jay Ward 
Sent: Monday, July 24, 2000 11:35
To: 'Tim O'Brien'; Carl Bell; 'Jim Pitts'; 
Subject: RE: Time/Vehicles


I remember the operation because some of the crew were on my (3rd platoon)
vehicles. In any case, we (3rd platoon) got our pictures in Stars and
Stripes. The attached pictures came from that article. Those are 3rd platoon
vehicles and crews. Thanks for the background on this, by the way. I didn't
know the details.
Jay 
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From: Carl Bell 
Sent: Monday, July 24, 2000 10:13 AM
To: 'Bill Haponski'; Bob Rash; Greg Street; Mike O'Connor; Ed Lorentzen;
Jay Ward; Jim Pitts; Mike Armstrong; Tim O'Brien
Subject: RE: Time/Vehicles
 
Bill-
Don't know anything about Mike's question, but do recall a time when a guy
named Frank Mariano and his film crew spent the day with B Troop during
the time I was Commander.  Don't know what network he was with, but remember
that I knew who he was from news reports I had seen in the States prior to
coming to Vietnam.  I believe the time-frame was Fall 1969 (B Troopers, if
you have a better idea on the date, please chime in).
We had been given the mission to go into a place west of Lai Khe called
the C-61 Woods (named for a Main Force VC unit whose base camp was reportedly
in there).  The challenge was that the place was surrounded by about 1.5 km
of mines, booby traps, etc.  Supposedly a mech battalion had attempted to get
in there several months earlier and had taken a bunch of casualties (and
never go in there).
The concept of the operation was to literally blow our way in there using
bangalore torpedos.  As you might imagine, this was a slow (and dangerous)
process.  I guess we were on the short list of "what's happening in III
Corps" that day, and the news crew showed up to ride with us.
As I recall it, Mike Platoon, B Troop was the lead platoon (again, B
Troopers, correct me if I'm wrong).  That was LT Tim O'Brien's unit.  The
news team stayed with them pretty much all day (and the movement into the
objective area took damn near all day).
The good news is that we did get in there without taking any casualties,
and there were numerous secondary explosions relating to the bangalore torpedo
explosions.  When we got into the base area, it was almost dark, and the
news crew got back-hauled out on the Chinooks that brought us in our fuel
that afternoon.
The bad news was that we barely had time to set up our NDP before it got
dark, and we had no idea what the enemy situation was (except that we felt
like the place had to be occupied since it was so well defended by booby
traps and mines).  
We knocked down some trees and set up a tight perimeter.  I got off the
track to walk the area and check things out.  On my way to the perimeter,
I fell in a hole which happened to be a tunnel entrance!  I got back out of
the hole, noted it's location, grabbed one of the HQ troops and told him
to watch that place, and continued to the perimeter.  When I visited each of
the platoons, I told them about the hole, and told them to be sure that
their folks stayed alert.
Of course, I had no idea how many other holes there were inside our
position, so the night was not very restful.
I remember putting a grenade (or two) in the hole once I got back to the
CP (and ascertained that we had nobody exploring the tunnel).
The next day, we foraged around the base area, but didn't find very much.
The tunnel didn't go but about 15 feet into a small, empty room.
I guess Charlie heard us coming (an explosion every few minutes, and the
sound of tracked vehicles pretty much takes away the element of surprise),
and either left the place through another set of tunnels that we didn't
find, or stayed in another set of tunnels that we didn't find.  Either
way, the results were disappointing (except that we had no casualties).
I'm sure that whatever film they got is around someplace.  If anyone
 remembers what network Mariano worked for, that might be the place to
 start looking.
 Skip Bell
 ****************************************
From: Bill Haponski 
Sent: Saturday, July 22, 2000 23:46
To: Bob Rash; Greg Street; Mike O'Connor; Carl Bell
Subject: Fw: Time/Vehicles
 
 Mike asks some good questions  Can anyone answer?
 
Incidentally, Don Webster of CBS News did a story on us for Tet '69.  His
cameramen took films of you guys maneuvering 1/4 Cav tracks near Di An,
and the story was supposed to have been aired approximately 30 Jan 69.  His
overall thesis apparently was that we (US Army) were as unprepared for Tet
69 as (he thought) we were for Tet 68.  After several minutes of him
trying to twist my answers to get it the way he wanted it, I told him he could
either accept what I was saying or get to hell out of my office.  (Yes, I
actually had an office in Di An for a few weeks.  That was prior to my
much longer residence in HQ6 ACAV.)  After my admonishment, Webster became more
objective.  At about the same time a news service (cannot remember which)
did a feature on our pacification program -- especially the night movies
in the hamlets.  My wife and half of Lake Placid NY watched the TV for these
programs for several days, fruitlessly, although I was later told they had
been shown in the States.  These films no doubt exist somewhere in the
archives of the news services, and they, along with the pictures Mike is
seeking, are the types of things we want to recover.
 
Bill Haponski
 ******************************************
From: GuardDog51@aol.com 

Date: Saturday, July 22, 2000 11:30 AM
Subject: Time/Vehicles
 
1. Does anyone remember anything about a photographer from Time or a news
service being with us while breaking jungle.

2. Is there any way to locate any of the vehicles that we used? Where are
they now?  Scrapped? Was there a list of vehicles by serial number that might be traceable?
Mike
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