The below report was sent to me by Luther Kanter, who was a member of Recon June 1966
Kyle W. Bowie
Colonel U.S Army Retired
Battle of Loc Ninh Vietnam june 1966
In May of 1966 I was in command of the 2nd Battalion, 28th infantry of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Divison. I had taken command of that battalion in January 1965 when the previous commander, Lt. Col. George Eyster was killed by a sniper. I was a LT. Col. and had been in the Army for 20 years, having graduated from West Point in 1946.
In late May we received a report that a Viet Cong Regiment was moving toward the Loc Ninh area with the mission of attacking the town of Loc Ninh, the Vietnamese and US Special Forces camp there, as well as the air strips and large French rubber plantation located in the area. We were ordered to go there immediately.
The battalion was flown in by helicopter and given the mission of securing the air strip, and assisting in the defense of the town and army camp. The 2nd Bn. 16th Infantry was located in a fire base with a battery of artillery about a mile away. Both moving there shortly after 2 nd Bn/28th Inf. The Brigade Headquarters was located within the 2/28th perimeter on the air strip. Resupply was by air- army and air force air craft.
The Cambodian border was about a mile away and terrain was gently rolling and covered with rubber trees and irrigation ditches. Fields of fire thru the rubber trees were generally very good. Since the rubber plantation was still being worked the undergrowth was kept to a minimum. Close air support was impractical since the rubber trees provided a dense overhead cover and pilots could not see the troops on the ground.
We patrolled the area surrounding the air strip heavily both night and day. This went on into early June with no enemy contact until early one day, I think it was June 11th. "A"" company reported contact with a small unit entrenched in some irrigation ditches to the west of the air strips about 6oo or 700 meters west. The Company Commander reinforced the platoon in contact and proceeded to attack the position.
Meanwhile "C" company encountered another dug in V.C. unit about half amile to the north. By noon both companies were heavily engaged and were being supported by 105 m m artillery fire from the fire base and from 4.2" mortars on the air strips. B" co. was defending the air strips against possible attack.
The Special forces and Vietnamese unit had moved west and had set up a blocking position in the event the Viet Cong unit attempted to withdraw in that direction.
By about one pm. both C and A companies were heavily engaged and making little headway in attacking the enemy "C" Co. Commander Capt. Jackson reported that he thought that he could overcome the unit opposing him if I could reinforce him with another platoon. "B" Company was defending the air strip so the only unit I had left was battalion Reconnaissance platoon, so I told hilm that I would send him that platoon and that they would be attached upon arrival. I briefed the platoon sergeant and the platoon moved out on foot. (1)
Meanwhile "A" Company was heavily engaged and the attack stalled when the company commander was badly wounded. He was shot thru the right eye, but survived.
At this point, I asked the Brigade Commander to relieve me of responsibility of the defense of the air strip so that I could reinforce "A" co. with '"B" co.. He said he would call in the 2nd Bn 16th Inf. to defend the air strip.
I accompanied B co. and we moved out to the A co. position. When I arrived I called in a heavy bombardment with 105 mm artillery and followed up with a "B" co. attack which drove the enemy out. They retreated south where they ran into the Special Forces and Vietnamese unit who opened fire on them. The Viet Cong scattered and ran off through the nearby jungle.
Meanwhile,when the recon platoon arrival at the "A" Co. position capt. Jackson told them that he was attcking to the north with "C" Co. and he directed the Recon Platoon to move to his left and attck the Viet Cong from the west.
When the recon platoon reached into position they came under fire and the platoon rushed forward and jumped into an irrigation trench. Unfortunately, there was another Viet Cong unit behind the one under attack by "C" Co. and the Recon. When Recon platoon got into the ditch the Viet Cog unit to the north opened fire with machine guns and other weapons down the ditch and killed or wounded all but 2 or 3 of the platoon of about 30 men. Some of the Viet Cong ran along the ditch firing into the wounded until Capt. Jackson changed the direction of his attack and ran them off to the northwest. (2)
As soon as the enemy scarttered Capt. Jackson cut down a number of rubbr trees and the dead and wounded were evacuated by helicopter to the base hospital at Long Binh.
We captured a number of prisoners and they reported that they were members of the 273rd Viet Cong Regiment and that they had come out of Cambodia to attack Loc Ninh.
We stayed in the Loc Ninh area for another six weeks, but had no further contact.
Kyle W. Bowie Colonel U.S Army Retired
(1) The Col is only part right, Recon and 2nd Plt from Charlie moved out together.
(2) Now that part is not quite right, 2nd Plt was in the irrigation ditch on Recons right flank. 2nd Plt Sgt (Quinn) broke and ran, his radio operater was shot and killed, after 5-10 minutes Quinn came crawling down the irrigation ditch, over or under every man he came to. As Quinn went by me he never slowed down but spoke these words " Everyone is dead, I'm going for help", no-one in 2nd Plt ever saw him again, when he arrived back at the Loc Ninh airstrip it is my understanding he was shipped out the next day for his own safety. The 105 fire that afternoon I had to call in. my biggest worry was getting it close enough without hitting our position. The guys firing the 105s saved our ass, when you asked for a drop of 25 yards they gave it.
The rest of Charlie arrived after the North Vietnamize had a belly full of the 105 mm fire that was called in on their position. The fire support is anouther story in itself, at the time someone said we were to far away for our motars to support us. Why? The next day we determined that we were well with-in range?? Capt. Jackson I never saw him that day, but I did have radio contact with him at the Loc Ninh CP durning our little battle.
Capt Jackson is a example of one main problem the army had in Vietnam.
Rotating officers so they could get command time in the field. About the time a officer learns how to use men, he is rotated and then anouther green horn takes his place and the learning curve starts over. This was the way it was did then. One small problem with this stupid practise- you get a lot of people hurt.