Operation Attleboro PHASE 1 & 2
My memory of this operation might not be 100 percent correct but it's pretty darn close,
considering I am seeing this operation through the eyes of a buck sgt who happened to be the plt sgt of 2nd plt Charilie Company 2nd/28th Inf
It started off mainly as a 1st Division search and destroy operation. In those days it wasn't uncommon to be air-lifted to several different locations in a days time looking for the bad guys.
The word was that the operation was about over and we would be heading back to Lai Khe before long.
One afternoon Charlie company was lifted into a area, where a overnight position was set up. At that time at my level I wasn't aware that our sister BN "1st/28th Inf was setup about 5-8 miles from us with a very heavy chunk of jungle between us.
It was my plts turn to send out a ambush patrol that night, we were short of experienced NCOs with the results that I went on the patrol along with a new replacement nco. Perhaps a 1/2 hour before daybreak we can hear heavy fighting in the distance, almost at once we received word over the radio to get back to camp asap.
the word was a sister company was heavily engaged and that Hqs plt, 1st and 3rd plts were going to be air-lifted to their location as reinforcements
2nd plt would proceed cross country to the location with the purpose of acting as a blocking force if any vc tried to escape our way. It was never said but I am sure the reason 2nd plt was picked was because I had the reputation of being able to find my way in the bush
At that time we had a new plt leader (one of best 2nd Lts I ever met) (last name of Hershburger I think) we had traveled perhaps a hour when our point man came upon a well traveled trail heading in the direction we wanted to go.
1 The Trail was marked with skull & crossbones symbols (VC sign that the trail was mined)
2 underbrush on both sides of trail next to impossible walk through
3 most of the plt was new, except for a handful of short-timers few had any real experience walking point
The Plt ldr contacted Charlie 6 and told him what the situation was, word from Charlie 6
"proceed down the trail as fast as possible"
The Plt leader asked me who I thought should walk point, that was one tough call with very little time to call it. I didn't like my reply but had no real choice "I will"
After about 30 minutes I'm wringing wet with sweat and as nervous as ten whores at church, every few feet a booby-trap however all of them were tied to chi-com grenades that had the string fuse. It was plain that the traps had been set for quite some time and all of the grenades had got wet from rain. When the string fuse gets wet it's worthless until it gets dry again. How many of these booby-traps I found on that walk I have no idea at least 20 perhaps 50. There was one I didn't find! Due to Mother Nature and my overworked angel I can relate this tale for my grandkids and anyone else who might be bored enough to read it.
Our trail led into a huge supply base, so well disguised it was hard to recognize, the 1st sign was vacant fighting positions on both sides of the trail (believe you me Our Pucker Factor Was at Max-Overdrive)
After a bit we came to a huge anthill, taller than myself, it had been hollowed out and was stuffed with the Chinese version of a bangerlo torpedo a few more feet and another anthill, I don't remember what was in that one. Everywhere we looked we found hollowed out trees and anthills, further down the trail we came to four posts set in the ground with a thatched roof covering a area about the size of a old time two seat out-house. scrapping away the dirt revealed a small trap door. after very carefully removing the door all we could see looking straight down were cases of chicom grenades. How many ?
the next day when we walked out the engineers blew that cache, grenades were blew straight up higher than the jungle canopy, as we walked out it sounded like a very-very long string of firecrackers going off.
Two other finds that day still stick in my mind, a row of barrack like buildings filled with all kind of stuff
one of which was all types of small arms. US carbines, air cooled 30 cal MGs, AK47s, bolt action Chinese and french rifles, several Thompson sub machine guns and two french 9mm machine pistols
The other was a diesel generator, Chinese made and looked brand new, that thing was as long as a jeep and looked very heavy. I always wondered how they got that thing in there.
Below you will find a copy of a award that I received for that days work, like most awards this was earned by a group of young guys who were just following instructions and doing their job. No-one including myself did anything heroic we were lucky (unlucky?) to be in the right place at the wrong time.
The award mentions assaults and enemy fire, a figment of some desk jockeys imagination. The most I can remember was a few sniper rounds fired in our direction.
It soon became apparent that the attack on our sister company had been launched by the VC who were supposed to defend the camp and we had walked in from the back-door. They had just got the shit kicked out of them a few hours before and the sniper fire we received was more than likely from one or two people who had been to old or to young to be involved in the main attack
We did set up a plt perimeter in the supply camp that night and I don't think anyone got any sleep. Early the next morning here came Charlie Six with the rest of the company and I think B company was right behind him. Well they went through the whole base camp while 2nd platoon caught some much needed rest, right beside the one building that had the small arms.
I guess it was like a picnic or something that day, there were people from BN and god knows where else falling all over themselves trying to take a inventory of all the plunder.
Someone decided that everything would be destroyed except for the small arms, these would be carried back to the location where the main battle had taken place the day before (3-5 clicks)
word came down for everyone to grab a captured weapon and pack it out with them. Charlie 6 had already picked up one of the Thompsons and I had already laid hands on both of the 9mm machine pistols
as we hiking out word came down the line that some Major was at the clearing collecting all the captured weapons. My thought was "bull-shit" I pack it out and some rear echelon officer gets a war trophy. The pistols had folding magazines and carrying straps, I stepped off the trail, shucked my baggy shirt, hung a pistol under each shoulder, put my shirt on and walked out right past the collection point.
As I had grabbed the two pistols from the start they were not in the inventory and were never missed
however the Thompson that Charlie 6 tried to keep was. Only after threats of a company shakedown did that gun surface. The two pistols? They paid for my 1st R&R
A few days after the end of the operation a bunch of us were flown to Div HQs where they were issuing medals like c-rations. Not to sure but I think it was the president of S Vietnam that was handing them out?
And that is the story as I know it about Operation ATTLEBORO.
and enjoy a good laugh
The old saying that one thing leads to another is certainly true. my long winded tale about operation
Attleboro has brought back a three small amusing incidents that occurred in that time frame.
Number one; concerns tear gas grenades, not the round ones of today but the old ones that were the same size and shape of the smoke grenades. The smoke grenades were all OD in color with a colored band around them to designate what color, red, yellow, and purple are what I remember but I'm sure there were others? Tear gas was silver or gray color coded
One day while the company was moving threw the bush Charlie 6 decided to verify his location by using a smoke grenade, yup he used a tear gas grenade. After that I suspect HQs plt was a little more alert when using smoke grenades. I do know it caused more than one laugh in the line plts
Number two; concerns a claymore mine and a trip flare. Each evening just at dark we would move positions and put out the claymores. under each claymore would be a trip flare with the pin pulled.
One morning one of the new guys was out getting the claymores that had been set the night before.
Everyone heard the pop of the smoke grenade and here came the white-faced new guy at a dead run. He had forgot or didn't know? about the trip flare. To make matters worse when the flare popped he dropped the claymore and ran, as it would happen the claymore fell right on top of the flare. Yell "fire in the hole" keep your head down and wait while the claymore burned, when the heat reached the detonator it blew. I took some ribbing from the other two plt sgts over that and Charlie 6 just shook his head.
Number three; concerns the ambush patrol I was on when our sister company was attacked. When we got the sudden word to get back to the company area we moved! Still dark it was. Not sure when but maybe a day later I realized I had lost my billfold. Not a big deal as the only thing of value was my ID card and a military driving license for of all things "a M46 tank" I came to the conclusion that the last time I could remember having the billfold was the day before the ambush patrol. Perhaps a week later we were right back in the same spot the night I went on the patrol. I went with one of the squads to where we had setup that night, there was my billfold laying on the ground, plus we found a belt of M60
ammo and several M16 magazines.
The drivers license? perhaps two years later I'm in Hawaii on R&R and wanted to rent a car. I suspect
I'm the only one who ever rented a car from Hertz using a military driving license for a tank, maybe the fact that I did take the young lady behind the counter for a three trip had something to do with it.
A buddy sent me a hardbound book (Ambush and Bird) wrote by a General Marshall. The book is really two major stories, one covers operations that led up to, durning and after my story. The book is well written and gives a good insight to the thinking of the top brass.
Hindsight is always great much like common sense (you get it 5 minutes after you need it) It is not my intention to 2nd guess past decisions or the different ways something could have been done. However the reader of this book can not fail to come to a few general realizations. Namely
I would venture to say a large percentages of ground troops losses were were do to command mistakes
To justify this outrageous statement I would start by referring to page 163 of the book Quote "It is a mindset of the American soldier afield. Let them follow a particular pattern for a few days,hours or even minutes and they become selfpersuaded that it will go on into infinity" This is pure bull-shit that I can only suspect dates back to the Colonial War. A time when the average foot soldier was little more than a uneducated oaf who main purpose was to fill a space in a line.
Page 12 Quote "our troops loathe operating in the forests and feel great unease in them" Trained soldiers with good NCO's can operate anywhere anytime day or night anyone that thinks different is a hazard in a combat zone
Is this what command schools teach those who someday might have stars on their shoulders?
This could well explain why that seldom did important information ever trickle down to platoon or squad level. Case in point early June 1966 Ist Div units were encountering north Vietnamese troops that stood their ground and fought. Yet on the 11th of June 2nd of the 28th was sending out platoon sized patrols. patrols that had no information that it was a whole new ball game, no more sudden firefights and then the VC would break contact. The results of that day will never be forgotten.
As you read through the book this seemed to be standard military practice, plus a carry over from the days of Patton (charge-full speed ahead-take them by surprise)
It will never be known how many causalities the scheme to rotate officers every six months cost but it was high! Green junior officers making the same mistakes their counterparts made six months before.
By the time Company Commanders and platoon leaders had gained the experience to lead a combat unit they would be transferred out. If this is what the war collages teach, far better to keep the officers in the rear and let seasoned NCOs run field operations