QuarterHorse Stories

Battle of SROK DONG, 30 June 1966

As related in The American Traveler by CPT George E. Creighton

On 30 June 1966, during Operation El Paso II, the 271st Viet Cong Regiment suffered a defeat when it attempted to ambush elements of the 1st Infantry Division near the villiage of Srok Dong. Elements of the Division involved in the ambush were B and C Troops, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry and the 1st Platoon of C Company, 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry.

These units were to cross check point Golden Gate (at which point an armored vehicle launch bridge (AVLB) was to be put across a stream to replace a damaged bridge) and proceed north along National Highway 13, conducting a reconnaissance in force. The purpose of the troop movement was to deceive the enemy as to the actual area in which the division was planning to operate in the future on the Minh Thanh Road. B and C Trps, 1st Sqdn, 4th Cav were expected to return to Hon Quan by 1930 hours on 30 June.

On 30 June, B Trp with the 1st Plt. of C Co., 2d Bn, 18th Inf, attached and an AVLB departed Hon Quan and established a bridge crossing at 0859 hours. A Co, 2/18 Inf, remained at Hon Quan as a reaction force. C Trp was to depart Hon Quan at 0730 hrs with C Co(-); however, this column was delayed until B Trp could reorganize. At 0910 hours the column finally crossed the Golden Gate with B Trp leading and proceeding north on Highway 13 to the operational area. Upon arrival at Check Point 1, the 3d platoon, B Trp, with the platoon of infantry turned east and conducted a reconnaissance to the ford at Check Point 2. Due to the depth of the ford, the platoon retraced the route to Check Point 1, turned north on Highway 13, passed through the 1st Platoon and continued north. The order of march was 3d Plt with attached Infantry, Troop Command Group, 2d Plt and 1st Plt.

Meanwhile, C Trp with C Co(-) arrived at Check Point 1, where it turned west and proceeded to the first stream. Three mortar carriers, 10 infantrymen and the 3d plt remained at Check Point 1 and established a perimeter. The mortars were laid to the west to support the Trp(-) which, having crossed the stream now, dismounted the Infantry and deployed. At about 0938 hours when the lead personnel carrier of B Trp, moving north on Highway 13 towards Loc Ninh, reached a point midway across a rice paddy, it began to receive mortar, small arms and recoiless rifle fire and appeared to be the only one engaged.

1LT James P. Flores, B Trp Commander, could see the mortar rounds bursting from his position in the column about 800 meters to the rear of the lead vehicle. He immediately called the Squadron Commander, LTC Leonard Lewane, who was over the area in a light observation helicopter (LOH). The 3d Plt, B Trp, reported receiving heavy fire from the northeast and northwest. A pre-planned airstrike, which was currently in progress, was dirverted to the action by LTC Lewane at LT Flores' request. The Lieutenant then called the 2nd plt forward and deployed them around the 3d Plt. The 2d Plt brought it's two tanks and one from the 1st Plt forward. By this time all but one tank and an APC of the 3d plt had returned to Check Point 1 with wounded and to replenish ammunition. All platoons were now in contact on both sides of the road, with the heaviest volumn of fire coming from the west. The VC had set up the ambush in the shape of an "L" with a heavy security element crossing the road along the trail north of the rice paddy. The logs, piled at random to the west of Check Point 3, afforded good protection and some of the recoiless rifles were probably located there.

Mortars were reported by the forward air controller (FAC) in the woods north of the villiage of Stok Dong.

The ambush extended for about 2,000 meters and, except for the security element to the northwest of Check Point 3, the eastern side of the road was lightly defended. The VC appeared to be lined up all along the west side of the road with the heaviest vegetation. They were wearing a variety of Khaki, Black and Green uniforms. The VC recoiless rifles caused most of the trouble and were also the most difficult to locate. During the first 30 minutes of contact, the enemy concentrated on knocking out the tanks. All four B Trp tanks were disabled from hits.

An intermediate aid station and strongpoint had been established at Check Point 1. Due to the intensity of fire there, "Dust Off" aircraft could not land; consequently, the Squadron Operations Officer set up the landing zone (LZ) at the Golden Gate. The evacuation of wounded was supervised by medical aidman PFC Charles F. Anderson, Chicago, who accompanied the first of the injured to the rear. For more than two hours, PFC Anderson, as the only medic available, tended the wounded and prepared them for evacuation by "Dust Off" helicopters. He kept the evacuation point in operation during a mortar attack and under small arms fire. Though nearly exhausted when medical help finally arrived, Anderson continued to work until the last wounded man had been evacuated. He was later awarded the Silver Star Medal.

B Trp concentrated on laying down a heavy base of fire to the west. Airstrikes, which had been continuous since the initial contact, were being placed to the north and west. Artillery was attacking enemy targets to the east of Highway 13, while armed UH1Bs (Hueys) and CH 47s (Chinooks), nicknamed "Guns-A-Go-Go" were making firing passes north and south on the areas immediately adjacent to the road.

It appeared to Lieutenant Flores that the VC were attempting to cut him off from Check Point 1 when the 1st Plt reported receiving fire. An airstrike was immediately called in and the fire slackened at this location. The remainder of the elements at the head of the column were still receiving heavy fire from all types of weapons when Lieutenant Flores called LTC Lewane, requesting C Trp to reinforce his unit.

When the first contact was reported, CPT Stephen Slattery, C Trp Commander, ordered the infantry to mount up and prepare to move back to Check Point 1, establish a strong point and be prepared to assist B Trp. The 3d Plt had been receiving some light fire at Check Point 1 but when the other platoons arrived, the fire became more intense. Several infantrymen riding atop the APCs were hit as mortar rounds started falling into the area. CPT Slattery ordered the platoons to deploy and push out the perimeter to the north. The 3d Plt was operating northwest of the crossroads, the 1st Plt to the east and the 2d Plt to the west and southwest. The mortars had been relaid to he north. Check Point 1 was jammed with C Trp's maneuvering and vehicles returning with B Trp wounded. It continued to receive heavy small army fire, mostly from the west of the road. Mortar and recoilless rifle fire was being answered with a heavy volumn of .50 caliber fire from APCs at the road junction.

LTC Lewane ordered C Trp to push north and relieve the pressure on B Trp. The 3d Plt was finally able to push north with a tank from the 2d Plt. About 200 meters from Check Point 1, the tank was hit in the turrent, seriously injuring the Commander and loader. They were pulled from the tank and evacuated. The damage tank continued to move north and remained in the fight.

The C Trp column consisted of the 2d Plt, 1st Plt and the Troop Command. The 3d Plt, C Co(-) and the mortars remained at the crossroads. Intense fire was maintained by the APC's and the tank. The brush was so thick and close on both side of the road that grenades were just tossed over the sides of the vehicles.

About 600 meters from the location of it's first hit, the 2d Plt tank was again hit but the driver kept on going, even though the gunner was wounded and evacuated. When the C Trp column arrived at the B Trp position, Lt Flores told the troopers to go furthere north and fire to the west. The 1st and 2d Platoons moved up and deployed as best they could, since they were confined to the area immediately left and right of the road. Fire was directed east and west with the heaviest volumn to the west. LTC ordered C Trp to hold at this point until B Trp could be extracted and moved south. Artillery was firing north and east and airstrikes were being concentrated on the west, but appeared to be to far west. CPT Slattery asked LTC Lewane to move them closer and the next airstrike came in south to north with anti-personnel bombs, which landed very close to the road. With the arival of C Trp, Lt Flores pulled all the remaining B Trp elements back to Check Point 1. A Co. 2/28 Inf, had been alerted for airmobile employment in the vicinity of the landing zone south of Srok Dong at the same time that C Trp was ordered to reinforce. As the first lifts of A Co. were approaching the LZ from Hon Quan, Lt Flores pulled back. B Trp remained at Check Point 1 for about 40 minutes to rearm and get the wounded and dead back to the Golden Gate. The next 30 minutes were taken to move the 1st and 2d platoons back up the road to block; the 3d Plt handled the evacuation of the wounded. Earlier Lt. Charles D. Cole with the 3d Plt, C Trp, had been directing the movement of casualties between the forward elements and the Golden Gate. When ordered north, he loaded C Co. riflemen onto APC's and moved to the head of the column. After the infantrymen arrived, the 3d Plt deployed west of the road and the 2d Plt moved to the east. Lt. Cole's Plt ran into a VC Strongpoint. He was wounded in the chest together with several others before they could pull back.

Minh Thanh Road Battle

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This page was last updated on 4 Feb 2017