QuarterHorse Stories

Battle of Bong Trang - 25 AUG 1966

As related in Danger Forward

The Battle of Bong Trang was an exceedingly fierce engagement with the main force VC Phu Loi Battalion. It was fought in the Bong Trang Woods about four miles east of Lai Khe and 25 miles north of Saigon near National Highway 16 on 25 Aug 1966, during Operation Amarillo.

Amarillo began 23 Aug. The units involved were under the operational control of the 1st Brigade, Commanded by COL Sidney B. Berry Jr. The origianal plan was to clear and secure a section of Highway 16 and then to conduct search and destroy operations and pass resupply convoys along the route. The 1st Battalion, 2d Inf was to clear the highway from Phuoc Hoa south to its intersection with the route code-named Orange. The 1st Battalion, 26th Inf, commanded by LTC Paul F. Gorman, was to clear the highway south from that point to the village of Binh Co. On 23 Aug the 1st Bn, 2d Inf, commanded by LTC Richard L. Prillaman, and an attached battery from the 1st Battalion, 5th Artillery, left the 1st Bde basecamp at Phuoc Vinh and moved by land vehicles to Phuoc Hoa. Backed up by artillery and followed by A Co., 1st Engineer Bn; and D Battery, 1st Bn, 5th Arty. The infantrymen began a sweep along Highway 16.

In the early evening, a defensive perimeter was set up. It was composed of Hq and Hq Co., 1st Bde; C Company, 2d Inf; A Company, 1st Engr Bn; and D Battery, 1st Bn, 5th Arty. The night passed uneventfully.

The next day, 24 Aug, the 1st Bn, 26th Inf, moved by air to the intersection of Route 1A and National Highway 13. As A and B companies, 1/2 Inf, continued to push south, the 1/26 Inf began to clear and secure its assigned sector. The task was accomplished in time for a southbound convoy to pass without incident. The 1/26 Inf closed into two tight defensive positions. C Troop, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, moved to link up with the 1/26th Inf. At 1930 hours, a 15-man patrol from C Co, 1/2 Inf, moved out with the mission of locating VC personnel, bases or material.

At 0640 hours the next morning, 25 Aug, 10 minutes after A and B Companies, 1/2 Inf, and A and B Companies, 1/26 Inf, had resumed their respective clear and secure missions, the latter battalion was informed that the 15-man patrol had encountered and estimated VC battalion. The Battle of Bong Trang had began.

C Troop, 1/4 Cav moves through the jungle to reinforce the patrol that made original contact with the VC.

The remainder of C Co, 1/2 Inf, was alerted to reinforce its patrol and at 0755 hours, mounted on APC's of C Trp, 1/4th Cav moved out. C Co, 1/26 Inf, was placed on standby alert at 0731 hours.

At 0759 hours the patrol from the 1/2 Inf, which was located in a VC base-camp, an area well fortified by a sophisticated network of trenches with overhead cover, firing positions and protective shelters, reported that the VC were int he trenchline with it. Artillery was called in and adjusted by a FO with the patrol. When it was about to be overrun, the patrol called in artillery fire on its own position. Airstrikes were called in and the Artillery began firing concentrations to block the VC escape. At 0826 hours A and B Compaies, 1/26 Inf, were alerted to move out to the vicinity of the engagement. At 0838 hours the 1st Bn, 16th Inf, commanded by LTC George M. Wallace III, was placed on a 30-minute alert by the Division Commander, MG William E. Depuy. At 0900 hours C Co, 1/2 Inf, rode into the base-camp (Where's the Cav? bb) and engaged the enemy. At 0955 hours the commander of C Co, CPT William J. Mullen III, Turlare, CA, lost contact with the patrol. Each time the unit tried to move to the patrol's location it encountered intense enemy fire. B Co, 1/2 Inf, was alerted for movement to the battle area where it was to join up with C Co, 1/2 Inf. At 1022 hours the 2d Bn, 28th Inf, commanded by LTC Elmer D. Pendleton, was alerted to move to a blocking position. The battalion moved north at 1055 hours on foot.

A and B companies, 1/25 Inf, were moved with great difficulty by engineer vehicles through the frustratingly dense jungle growth. Meanwhile, the 1st Bn, 16th Inf, was airlifted from Lai Khe into a landing zone which had been prepared by artillery fire and airstrikes. The unit was completely deployed in the LZ by 1124 hours. At 1200 hours the 1/16 Inf moved due east, employing two companies on line and one in reserve with reconnaissance screening the north flank. At 1258 hours C Co, 1/26 Inf, lead elements joined up with C Co, 1/2d Inf. As each unit reached the battle area. it deployed and entered the fight. The link up of all ground elements was completed by 1330 hours. At that time, CPT Mullen (who was later to receive the DSC for his valor in the action), was placed in command of the ground elements pending arrival of the command group. At 1520 hours B Co, 1/26 Inf, overran an enemy machinegun position. From this point on, the enemy resistance became much heavier. The 1/26 Inf found itself in the heart of the enemy basecamp. Heavy contact was sustained fom 1547 to 1911 hours.

At 1555 hours B Company, 1/16 Inf, arrived at a large VC basecamp. At 1600 hours the battalion's A Company moved into the basecamp. Both companies then continued through the basecamp area to accomplish the relief operation. At 1608 hours A Co, 1/16 Inf, linked up with 1/26 Inf and 1/2 Inf elements. Shortly afterwards, B Co, 1/16 Inf, arrived. The latter unit was directed to attack north maintaining contact with the 1/26 Inf on its right.

At 1617 hours B Co, 1/16 Inf, received heavy small arms, automatic weapons and M-79 grenade launcher fire. At 1620 hours the 1/16 Inf was ordered to change the direction of its attack to the north, bending around to the northeast, thereby keeping its right flank unit in contact with the 1/26 Inf and the 1/2 Inf. A Co was ordered to attack to the right (east) with two platoons abreast and maintain contact with friendly forces on its right. B Co was to move abreast of A Co and attack north on the left (west) flank, employing two platoons abreast. C Co was to follow B Co in reserve. The command group was following and moved north to join the remainder of B Co. At 1635 hours, with forces disposed so, the 1/16 Inf began it's attack north.

At an undetermined time, the 1/2 Inf moved back several hundred yards. The right platoon of A Co, 1/2 Inf, became heavily engaged with VC forces. The reserve platoon was committed to the right of the company. Both platoons then became heavily engaged, receiving heavy casualties. The other platoon of A Co, which was employed to the west, continued moving through the jungle with only minor contact. When the Company Commander was killed, one of his platoons became separated from its parent unit and continued attacking north. At the same time, C Co and the Reconnaissance Platoon received mortar and M-79 fire. B Co, on the west, moved north with very light resistance until it was halted by heavy automatic weapons fire fom the trees as well as mortar fire. The company made a series of assaults, each one becoming weaker as men were hit or separated - the last attempt being made by 14 men.

At 1730 hours the commander of the 1st Bn, 26th Inf, LTC Gorman, Annandale, VA., was placed in command of all units engaged in the battle area. (For his "outstanding performance"(my quotes - bb) during the battle, LTC Gorman was later presented the DSC by President L.B. Johnson in a ceremony at Cam Ranh Bay.)

As darkness fell, the units were pulled back into night defensive positions. At 1915 hours the enemy, encircled by the 1/26 Inf, th 1/2 Inf, the 1/16 Inf and the 2/28 Inf, (where's the Cav? bb) was pounded by airstirkes and artillery fire. A flare ship lit up the area through the night to restrict enemy movement.

At 0700 hours, 26 Aug, a pre-planned airstrike was made in the forward battle area. At 0800 hours the remaining seven members of the original patrol from the 1/2 Inf came out of the jungle and into the LZ. They had spent the night in a VC tunnel. PFC Dennis Peterson, Westminster, CA, the only man not wounded, had cared for the other men throughout the day and night, finally leading them to safety. He was later awarded the Silver Star Medal for his Heroism. (Guess he should have performed outstandingly, instead of being brave. bb). At 0845 hours the 2/28 Inf replaced the heavily hit 1/2 Inf, which was returned to Phuoc Vinh. The remaining battalions in the battle area linked up and swept the field.

A total of 171 Viet Cong were killed in action, during the action of 25, 26 and 27 Aug. The Phu Loi Battalion had been literally cut in half. US Casualties were 30 killed and 183 wounded.

Another View of Bong Trang

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This page was last updated on 1 October 2006