With the growing United States involvement in the Vietnam War, Rangers were again called to serve their country. The 75th Infantry was reorganized once more on January 1, 1969, as a parent regiment under the Combat Arms Regimental System. Fifteen separate Ranger companies were formed from this reorganization. Thirteen served proudly in Vietnam until inactivation on August 15, 1972.
Ranger companies, consisting of highly motivated volunteers, served with distinction in Vietnam from the Mekong Delta to the Demilitarized Zone. Assigned to independent brigade, division, and field force units, they conducted long-range reconnaissance and exploitation operations into enemy-held and denied areas, providing valuable combat intelligence.
The companies assumed the assets of the long-range patrol units, some of which had been in existence in Vietnam since 1967. They served until the withdrawal of American troops. An Indiana National Guard Unit, Company D, 151st Infantry (Ranger), also experienced combat in Vietnam.
At the end of the war in Vietnam, Ranger companies were deactivated, and their members were dispersed among the various units of the Army. Many men went to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. However, two long-range reconnaissance patrol units were retained in the force structure. Transferred to the Army National Guard (D/151st, Indiana and G/143rd, Texas), they were designated as Infantry Airborne Ranger Companies.
This history deals with the activities, personnel and accomplishments of the 75th Infantry (Ranger), Regiment companies during the period 1 February 1969 through 15 October 1974 and makes reference to the units who preceded the designation of the 75th Infantry (Ranger).
Throughout history, the need for a small, highly trained, far ranging unit to perform reconnaissance surveillance, target acquisition, and special type combat missions has been readily apparent. In Vietnam this need was met by instituting a Long Range patrol program to provide each major combat unit with this special capability. Rather than create an entirely new unit designation for such an elite force, the Department of the Army looked to its rich and varied heritage and on 1 February 1969 designated the 75th Infantry Regiment; the present successor to the famous 5307th Composite Unit (MERRILL’S MARAUDERS), as the parent organization for an Department of the Army designated Long Range patrol (LRP) units, and the parenthetical designation (RANGER) in lieu of (LRP) for these units. As a result, the Long Range Patrol Companies and Detachments (LRP): formally the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) (Provisional) assigned to the major army commands in the Republic of Vietnam became the 75th Infantry (Ranger) Regiment.
Soon after arriving in Vietnam the commanders of the Divisions and separate Brigades realized the need for an elite reconnaissance element to provide the combat intelligence needed to accomplish the mission of finding a very elusive enemy that fought a sustained battle when, and where they chose.
The Department of the Army had authorized a Company size reconnaissance element at Corp level throughout the US Army but the personnel and equipment had never been assigned to the Corp level command. In fact the only Corp level reconnaissance elements that existed were the V Corps and VII Corps Long Range Reconnaissance companies that were stationed in Germany. These units had the primary mission of a stay behind force that would provide the Corps level command with the intelligence needed after the allied forces had withdrawn from West Germany. The reconnaissance teams would report on enemy troop movements and tactical deployment of the enemy forces.
With the advent of the Vietnam war escalation, each Division and Separate Brigade stationed in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) formed a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (Provisional) unit known as the LRRP. Many variations of organizational makeup characterized this ad hoc form of a provisional unit. Each brigade commander organized the LRRP to suit the needs of his command and the Tactical Area Of Operational Responsibility (TAOR). Command and Control was decentralized and given to the Brigade commanders who asked for volunteers from the infantry units assigned to the brigade.
These units lacked peace time schooling and had no Department of the Army approved Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E). The leaders were the officers and non commissioned officers who previously had attended the RANGER course or the RECONDO schools of the 1O1st Airborne Division and 82nd Airborne Division or the Jungle Operations Center in Panama. These units were functional for the period of May 1965 through December 1967. In December 1967 the Department of me Army authorized the formation of the Long Range Patrol (LRP) companies and detachments who absorbed the personnel of the previously unauthorized Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (Prov) units.
UNIT MAJOR COMMAND
Co. D, 17th Infantry, (LRP) V Corps Federal Republic of Germany
Co. C, 58th Infantry (LRP) VII Corps Federal Republic of Germany
Co. E, 20th Infantry (LRP) I Field Force Vietnam
Co. F, 51st Infantry (LRP) II Field Force Vietnam
Co. D, 151st Infantry (LRP) II Field Force Vietnam
Co. E, 50th Infantry (LRP) 9th Infantry Division
Co. F, 50th Infantry (LRP) 25th Infantry Division
Co. E, 51st Infantry (LRP) 23rd Infantry Division
Co. E, 52d Infantry (LRP) 1st Cavalry Division
Co. F, 52nd Infantry (LRP) 1st Infantry Division
Co. E, 58th Infantry (LRP) 4th Infantry Division
Co. F, 58th Infantry (LRP) 1O1st Airborne Division
71st Infantry Detachment (LRP) 199th Infantry Brigade
74th Infantry Detachment (LRP) 173rd Airborne Brigade
78th Infantry Detachment (LRP) 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division
79th Infantry Detachment (LRP) 1st Brigade, 5th Mechanized Division
These units continued to operate throughout the 4 Military Regions of the Republic of Vietnam providing the major commands with the intelligence needed to find the enemy and disrupt his line of communication and supply. The mission designator of “Reconnaissance” was dropped as these units performed not only reconnaissance type missions but also combat missions such as ambush, prisoner snatch and raids.
Each individual unit conducted their own training and indoctrination classes. On 1 February 1969 the above units became 75th Infantry (Ranger) companies except for Co. D, l5lst Infantry (LRP) of the Indiana National Guard which only dropped the (LRP) designation but added the (Ranger) designation. Department of the Army ordered that the above shown units would now be designated as shown below.
UNIT MAJOR COMMAND PERIOD OF SERVICE
Co A (Ranger),75th Infantry Ft Benning / Ft Hood 1 Feb. 1969 – 15 Oct. 1974
Co B (Ranger),75th Infantry Ft Carson / Ft Lewis 1 Feb. 1969 – 15 Oct. 1974
Co C (Ranger),75th Infantry I Field Force Vietnam 1 Feb. 1969 – 25 Oct. 1971
Co D (Ranger),151st Infantry II Field Force Vietnam 1 Feb. 1969 – 20 Nov. 1969
Co D (Ranger),75th Infantry II Field Force Vietnam 20 Nov. 1969 – 10 Apr. 1970
Co E (Ranger),75th Infantry 9th Infantry Division 1 Feb. 1969 – 12 Oct. 1970
Co F (Ranger),75th Infantry 25th Infantry Division 1 Feb. 1969 – 15 Mar 1971
Co G (Ranger),75th Infantry 23rd Infantry Division 1 Feb. 1969 – 1 Oct. 1971
Co H (Ranger),75th Infantry 1st Cavalry Division 1 Feb. 1969 – 15 Aug. 1972
Co I (Ranger),75th Infantry 1st Infantry Division 1 Feb. 1969 – 7 Apr. 1970
Co K (Ranger),75th Infantry 4th Infantry Division 1 Feb. 1969 – 10 Dec. 1970
Co L (Ranger),75th Infantry 1O1st Airmobile Division 1 Feb. 1969 – 25 Dec. 1971
Co M (Ranger),75th Infantry 199th Infantry Brigade 1 Feb. 1969 – 12 Oct. 1970
Co N (Ranger),75th Infantry 173rd Airborne Brigade 1 Feb. 1969 – 25 Aug. 1971
Co 0 (Ranger),75th Infantry 3rd Brigade,82nd Abn. 1 Feb. 1969 – Division 20 Nov. 1969
Co P (Ranger),75th Infantry 1st Brigade, 5th Mech. 1 Feb. 1969 – Division 31 Aug. 1971
The above Ranger companies of the 75th Infantry conducted combat Ranger missions and operations for three years and seven months, every day of the year while in Vietnam, and companies A,B, and 0 performed Ranger missions state side for five years and eight months. Like the original unit from whence their lineage as Neo Marauders was drawn, 75th Rangers came from the Infantry, Artillery, Engineers, Signal Medical Military Police, Food Service, Parachute Riggers and other Army units. They were joined by former adversaries, the Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army soldiers who became “Kit Carson Scouts” and fought alongside the Rangers against their former units and comrades.
Unlike Rangers of other eras in the 20th century who trained in the United States or in friendly nations overseas, Rangers in Vietnam were activated, trained and fought in the same geographical areas, a high speed approach to training. Training was a combat mission for volunteers. Volunteers were assigned and not accepted in the various Ranger companies until after a series of patrols by which the volunteer had passed the acid test of a Ranger, combat, and was accepted by his peers. Following peer acceptance, the volunteer was allowed to wear the black beret and red, white and black scroll shoulder sleeve insignia bearing his Ranger company identity. All Ranger companies were authorized parachute pay.
Modus operandi for patrol insertion varied, however the helicopter was the primary means for insertion and ex-filtration of enemy rear areas. Other methods included foot, wheeled, tracked vehicles, airboats, Navy swift boats, and stay behind missions where the Rangers stayed in place as a larger tactical unit withdrew. False insertions by helicopter was a means of security from ever present enemy trail watchers. General missions consisted of locating the enemy bases and lines of communication. Special missions included wiretap, prisoner snatch, Platoon and Company size Raid missions and Bomb Damage Assessments (BDA’s) following B-52 Arc Light missions as well as the ambush mission that was common after the Ranger team had performed its primary mission.
Staffed principally by graduates of the US Army Ranger School Paratroopers and Special Forces trained men, the bulk of the Ranger volunteers came from the soldiers who had no chance to attend the school, but carried the fight to the enemy. Rangers in the grade of E-4 to E-6 controlled fires from the USS New Jersey’s 16 inch guns in addition to helicopter gun ships, piston engine and high performance aircraft while frequently operating far beyond conventional artillery and infiltrated enemy base camps, capturing prisoners or conducting other covert operations. The six man Ranger team was standard and a twelve man team was used for combat patrols in most instances, however some units operated occasionally in two man teams in order to accomplish the mission.
The Vietnam Rangers of the 75th Infantry were awarded the title of Neo Marauders by the Secretary of the Army, Stanley Resor, for having lived up to the standards set by the original Marauders during World War II. Army Chief of Staff Creighton Abrams who observed the 75th Ranger operations in Vietnam as commander for all US forces there, selected the 75th Rangers as the role model for the first US Army Ranger units formed in peacetime in the history of the United States Army. Today, the modern Rangers of the 75th Ranger Regiment continue the tradition of being the premier fighting element of the active army. The traditions and dedication to their fellow RANGERS continues!!
75th INFANTRY (RANGER) REGIMENT, VIETNAM ENTITLEMENTS
Campaign Streamers, Vietnam
Counteroffensive Phase VI
Tet 69 Counteroffensive
Summer- Fall 1969
Winter- Spring 1969
Counteroffensive Phase VII
RVN Gallantry Cross w/Palm – 23 Awards
RVN Civil Actions Honor Medal – 10 Awards
US Valorous Unit Award – 6 Awards
US Meritorious Unit Commendation – 2 Awards
Medal of Honor
Ranger Recipients of the Medal of Honor
Robert D. Law *
Gary L. Littrell
Robert J. Pruden *
Lazlo Rabel *
* Posthumously Awarded
The Medal of Honor is the highest military medal awarded by the United States. The individuals presented here as recipients served in a unit contributing to the lineage of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
*LAW, ROBERT D.
Rank and organization: Specialist Fourth Class, U.S. Army, Company I (Ranger), 75th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division.
Place and date: Tinh phuoc Thanh province, Republic of Vietnam, 22 February 1969
Entered service at: Dallas, TX
Born: 15 September 1944, Fort Worth, TX
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sp4c. Law distinguished himself while serving with Company 1. While on a long-range reconnaissance patrol in Tinh phuoc Thanh province, Sp4c. Law and 5 comrades made contact with a small enemy patrol. As the opposing elements exchanged intense fire, he maneuvered to a perilously exposed position flanking his comrades and began placing suppressive fire on the hostile troops. Although his team was hindered by a low supply of ammunition and suffered from an unidentified irritating gas in the air, Sp4c. Law’s spirited defense and challenging counterassault rallied his fellow soldiers against the well-equipped hostile troops. When an enemy grenade landed in his team’s position, Sp4c. Law, instead of diving into the safety of a stream behind him, threw himself on the grenade to save the lives of his comrades. Sp4c. Law’s extraordinary courage and profound concern for his fellow soldiers were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
Littrell, Gary Lee
Rank and organization: Sergeant First Class, U.S. Army, Advisory Team 21, 11 Corps Advisory Group.
Place and date: Kontum province, Republic of Vietnam, 4-8 April 1970
Entered service at: Los Angeles, CA
Born: 26 October 1944, Henderson, KY
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sfc. Littrell, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Advisory Team 21, distinguished himself while serving as a Light Weapons Infantry Advisor with the 23d Battalion, 2d Ranger Group, Republic of Vietnam Army, near Dak Seang. After establishing a defensive perimeter on a hill on April 4, the battalion was subjected to an intense enemy mortar attack which killed the Vietnamese commander, 1 advisor, and seriously wounded all the advisors except Sfc. Littrell. During the ensuing 4 days, Sfc Littrell exhibited near superhuman endurance as he single-handedly bolstered the besieged battalion. Repeatedly abandoning positions of relative safety, he directed artillery and air support by day and marked the unit’s location by night, despite the heavy, concentrated enemy fire. His dauntless will instilled in the men of the 23d Battalion a deep desire to resist. Assault after assault was repulsed as the battalion responded to the extraordinary leadership and personal example exhibited by Sfc. Littrell as he continuously moved to those points most seriously threatened by the enemy, redistributed ammunition, strengthened faltering defenses, cared for the wounded and shouted encouragement to the Vietnamese in their own language. When the beleaguered battalion was finally ordered to withdraw, numerous ambushes were encountered. Sfc. Littrell repeatedly prevented widespread disorder by directing air strikes to within 50 meters of their position. Through his indomitable courage and complete disregard for his safety, he averted excessive loss of life and injury to the members of the battalion. The sustained extraordinary courage and selflessness displayed by Sfc. Littrell over an extended period of time were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on him and the U.S. Army.
*Pruden, Robert J.
Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, 75th Infantry, Americal Division.
Place and date: Quang Ngai Province, Republic of Vietnam, 29 November 1969
Entered service at: Minneapolis, MN
Born: 9 September 1949, St. Paul, MN
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. S/Sgt. Pruden, Company G, distinguished himself while serving as a reconnaissance team leader during an ambush mission. The 6-man team was inserted by helicopter into enemy controlled territory to establish an ambush position and to obtain information concerning enemy movements. As the team moved into the preplanned area, S/Sgt. Pruden deployed his men into 2 groups on the opposite sides of a well used trail. As the groups were establishing their defensive positions, 1 member of the team was trapped in the open by the heavy fire from an enemy squad. Realizing that the ambush position had been compromised, S/Sgt. Pruden directed his team to open fire on the enemy force. Immediately, the team came under heavy fire from a second enemy element. S/Sgt. Pruden, with full knowledge of the extreme danger involved, left his concealed position and, firing as he ran, advanced toward the enemy to draw the hostile fire. He was seriously wounded twice but continued his attack until he fell for a third time, in front of the enemy positions. S/Sgt. Pruden’s actions resulted in several enemy casualties and withdrawal of the remaining enemy force. Although grievously wounded, he directed his men into defensive positions and called for evacuation helicopters, which safely withdrew the members of the team. S/Sgt. Pruden’s outstanding courage, selfless concern for the welfare of his men, and intrepidity in action at the cost of his life were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
Rank and organization: Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, 74th Infantry Detachment (Long Range Patrol), 173d Airborne Brigade.
Place and date: Binh Dinh Province, Republic of Vietnam, 13 November 1968
Entered service at: Minneapolis, MN
Born: 21 September 1939, Budapest, Hungary
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. S/Sgt. Rabel distinguished himself while serving as leader of Team Delta, 74th Infantry Detachment. At 1000 hours on this date, Team Delta was in a defensive perimeter conducting reconnaissance of enemy trail networks when a member of the team detected enemy movement to the front. As S/Sgt. Rabel and a comrade prepared to clear the area, he heard an incoming grenade as it landed in the midst of the team’s perimeter. With complete disregard for his life, S/Sgt. Rabel threw himself on the grenade and, covering it with his body, received the complete impact of the immediate explosion. Through his indomitable courage, complete disregard for his safety and profound concern for his fellow soldiers, S/Sgt. Rabel averted the loss of life and injury to the other members of Team Delta. By his gallantry at the cost of his life in the highest traditions of the military service, S/Sgt. Rabel has reflected great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
The established criteria follows:
a. The Medal of Honor [Army], section 3741, title 10, United States Code (10 USC 3741), was established by Joint Resolution of Congress, 12 July 1862 (amended by acts 9 July 1918 and 25 July 1963).
b. The Medal of Honor is awarded by the President in the name of Congress to a person who, while a member of the Army, distinguishes himself or herself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life or her life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. The deed performed must have been one of personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his comrades and must have involved risk of life. Incontestable proof of the performance of the service will be exacted and each recommendation for the award of this decoration will be considered on the standard of extraordinary merit.
From chapter 3-6, Army Regulation 600-8-22 (Military Awards) dated 25 February 1995.
Courtesy of the respective Unit Historians:
A/75 & D/17 LRP & V Corps LRRP
Company A (RANGER), 75th Infantry
The Company D Long Range Patrol (Airborne), 17th Infantry formally V Corps (ABN) LRRP Co. (provisional) which was activated at 7th Army in Germany on 15 July, 1961 eventually became Company A (Airborne Ranger), 75th Infantry. The V Corps (ABN) LRRP Co. was the first of two (2) LRRP Companies authorized at Army level and was activated at 7th Army in Germany on 15 July, 1961, and was formed at Wildflecken. Major Reese Jones was the first commanding officer and Gilberto M. Martinez was the First Sergeant.
The Company was initially designated the 3779 Recon Patrol Co, (Provisional) and came under the Headquarters, 14th Armored Cavalry at Fulda, Germany (APO 26 US Forces) for administration and court martial jurisdiction. In January 1963, the Company moved to Edwards Kaserne in Frankfurt with Captain William Guinn assuming command from Major Edward Porter. On 9 May, 1963, the Company moved to Gibbs Kaseme in Frankfurt and became part of the V Corps Special Troops (Provisional) working directly for the Corps G-2. Under Captain Guinn’s leadership the V Corps LRRPs developed and perfected aspects of Long Range Patrol operations that are still in use today. Many of these ideals were incorporated into the first long range Reconnaissance Company field manual (FM31-16).
On 15 May, 1965 the Company was deactivated and re-designated as Company D, Long Range Patrol (ABN) 17th Infantry, maintaining the same mission and remaining at Gibbs Kaserne in Frankfurt, Germany. The V Corps being across the Hessian and Bavarian front north of the Main River faced four of the six most likely Soviet penetration corridors into Germany. The Company missions encompassed extensive practiced combat patrolling missions in the Bad Heisfeld – Giessen, Fulda-Hanau, Bad Kissingen — Wurzburg and Coburg – Bamberg corridors to include rehearsed deep penetration missions against Thuringian targets that were typified by the Soviet Weimar – Nobra air installation and Army facilities around Ohrdruf and Jena. The Company would be used also for special missions of infiltration that included team placement of T-4 Atomic Demolition Munitions and locating enemy battlefield targets for Army tactical nuclear delivery systems.
In 1968, the Army began a massive pullout from Europe code — named Operation REFORGER (Redeployment of Forces Germany) and Company D (LRP), 17th Infantry relocated to Fort Benning, Georgia with Captain Harry W. Nieubar the Company commander. Then on 21 February 1969, Company D (LRP) 17th Infantry became Company A (Airborne Ranger) 75th Infantry activated at Fort Benning, Georgia under Captain Thomas P. Meyer. The Company kept its REFORGER mission in case of war in Europe. This was one reason that the Company never deployed to Vietnam. While at Fort Benning, Georgia Company A performed such duties as supporting the ranger patrolling committee. The Commander of the 197th Infantry Brigade Col. Willard Latham put the Company in charge of the “Drug Rehabilitation Program” for soldiers with drug problems and put them through rehabilitation cycles and helped reconditioned them with training and hard labor chores.
On 3 February, 1970, Company A (Ranger) 75th Infantry, arrived at Fort Hood, Texas from Fort Benning, Georgia under the command of Captain Johnathan Henkel and was assigned to the 1st Armored Division. Until June 1972, the primary mission of Company A (Ranger) 75th Infantry was to support Project MASSTER (Mobile Army Sensor Systems Test, Evaluation, and Review). This work was difficult and unglorious and involved the constant testing of surveillance, target acquisition, seismic intrusion detectors and night observation equipment which paved the way and benefited the Army in it’s performance in the Gulf War twenty years later. The mission changed again in July 1972, to provide a Long Range reconnaissance capability for the 1st Cavalry Division and stay in a high state of training for REFORGER.
On 8 January, 1973, Captain Raymond D. Nolen assumed command of Company A (Ranger) 75th Infantry. Over 80% of the men of Company A were Vietnam Veterans, Their First Sergeant was Walter Vick while at Fort Hood. During October 1974, the 1st Battalion (Ranger) of the 75th Infantry was activated at Fort Stewart using the assets of inactivated Ranger Company A, but it was assigned the heritage of the Vietnam Field Force Rangers of Company C. First Sergeant Bonifacio M. Romo was 1st Sgt. of A Co. 1st Ranger Battalion.
Today, the modern Rangers of the 75th Ranger Regiment continue the traditions of being the premier fighting element of the active Army. The traditions and dedication to their fellow Rangers continues.
BDQ, RVN Ranger Advisors
Advisors to ARVN Rangers
(Bit D™ng Qu‰n)
During 1951, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) suggested to General De Lattre (Jean de Lattre de Tassigny – Commander in chief Indochina) that the French should form “counter-guerilla” warfare groups to operate in Vietminh – controlled areas. The French command rejected the concept of unconventional warfare units, although they did establish a Commando School at Nha Trang. By 1956, the US Advisory Group would turn this facility into a physical training and ranger-type school.
As the seriousness of the insurgency became more apparent during the early weeks of 1960, American and South Vietnamese leaders began to consider what measures might be adopted to deal with the deteriorating security situation. President of the Republic of Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem had his own solution. On 16 February 1960, without consulting his American military advisors, he ordered commanders of divisions and military regions to form ranger companies from the army, the reserves, retired army personnel and the Civil Guard.
In the Beginning
Activated in 1960, Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) Rangers (Bit D™ng Qu‰n [BDQ]) initially organized into separate companies to counter the guerilla war then being waged by the Viet Cong (VC). From the beginning, American Rangers were assigned as advisors, initially as members of Mobile Training Teams (MTTs), deployed from the U.S., at training centers, and later at the unit level. A small number of promising Vietnamese Ranger leaders were selected to attend the U.S. Army Ranger school at Fort Benning. As a result of their common experiences, lasting bonds of mutual respect were formed between the combat veterans of both nations. During the early days, Ranger missions focused on raids and ambushes into such VC zones as War Zone D, Duong Minh Chau, Do Xa and Boi Loi (later to be called the “Hobo Woods” by the American forces) to destroy the VC infrastructure. The well-known shoulder insignia, bearing a star and a Black Panther’s head, symbolized the courageous fighting spirit of the Vietnamese Rangers.
Ranger courses were established at three training sites in May 1960: Da Nang, Nha Trang, and Song Mao. The original Nha Trang Training course relocated to Duc My in 1961 and would become the central Ranger-Bit D™ng Qu‰n-Company and Battalion sized unit training was later established at Trung Lap; to ensure a consistently high level of combat readiness, BDQ units regularly rotated through both RTC’s. Graduates of the school earned the coveted Ranger badge with its distinctive crossed swords. Ranger Training Centers conducted tough realistic training that enabled graduates to accomplish the challenging missions assigned to Ranger units. Known as the ‘steel refinery ‘ of the ARVN, the centers conducted training in both jungle and mountain warfare.
South Vietnamese combat reconnaissance was a responsibility of the Ranger Training Command and ARVN reconnaissance units and teams were trained at either the Duc My RTC Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) course or at the Australian-sponsored Long Range Patrol (LRP) course of the Van Kiep National Training Center; graduates were awarded the Reconnaissance Qualification badge (a pair of winged hands holding silver binoculars).
In 1962, BDQ companies were grouped to form Special Battalions: the 10th in Da Nang, the 20th in Pleiku, and the 30th Battalion in Saigon. These Special Battalions operated deep inside the enemy controlled regions on “Search and Destroy” missions. By 1963 the war expanded as main force North Vietnamese Army (NVA) units began invading the South, launching battalion and regimental-size attacks against ARVN units. To cope with the escalation by the Communists, Ranger units were organized into battalions and their mission evolved from counter-insurgency to light infantry operations. During the years 1964-66, the Ranger battalions intercepted, engaged and defeated main force enemy units. During July 1966, the battalions were formed into task forces, and five Ranger Group headquarters were created to provide command and control for tactical operations. This afforded the Rangers better control and the ability to mass forces quickly and strike more rapidly. ARVN combat divisions as well as Regional and Popular Force (RF/PF) units had a territorial security orientation that tied them to a limited geographic area. Ranger units assumed the responsibility of providing the primary ARVN mobile reaction force in each Tactical Zone; a far larger geographical operating area.
When the VC and NVA forces opened the 1968 Tet Offensive in the major cities of Vietnam, the maroon beret soldiers were rushed to the scene and were an active force in defeating the Communist threat. The 3d and 5th Ranger Groups defended and secured the capitol, Saigon and the 37th Battalion fought alongside the U.S. Marines at Khe Sanh. Rangers continued to distinguish themselves on battlefields throughout Vietnam as well as the 1970 incursion into Cambodia and Operation “Lam Son 719” in Laos. As American ground forces reduced their tactical role and began to withdraw from Vietnam, an additional mission was assumed by the BDQ. On 22 May 1970, the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG), formerly under the operational control of 5th U.S. Special Forces Group, integrated into Ranger forces, along with responsibility for border defense. With the conversion of CIDG camps to combat battalions, Ranger forces more than doubled in size.
When the NVA launched major attacks on three fronts on Easter Sunday of 1972 in an all-out effort to gain a decisive military victory Ranger units once again answered the call to defend the fatherland. Near the DMZ in Quang Tri Province, Rangers, together with ARVN, Marine and Regional Forces units, stopped the enemy after a 22-day fight in which 131 NVA tanks were destroyed and approximately 7,000 NVA soldiers were killed. At An Loc, Ranger, ARVN and Regional Force units stopped four NVA Divisions, reinforced with armor and artillery in what was probably one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War. In Kontum Province, the Rangers participated in the battle of Tay Nguyen, in which still another multi-division NVA attack was smashed. At the time of the “cease-fire,” 28 January 1973, Ranger High Command estimated that the Rangers had killed 40,000 of the enemy, captured 7,000 and assisted 255 to rally to the government side. It was also reported that 1,467 crew-served weapons and 10,941 individual weapons had been captured. Of course, there was no true cease-fire, and the war continued. In 1973, the role of the Ranger Advisor was curtailed. As individual advisors rotated back to the United States, they were not replaced. Finally, by the end of 1973 the last Ranger Advisor was quietly ordered home.
During 1973, 1974 and 1975, the Rangers continued to be employed in a variety of critical combat roles, performing intelligence and reconnaissance missions and providing the ARVN with a quick reaction force. In addition, their mission of border security continued. In the last days of the war, the BDQ fought to the end, units totally destroyed in battles from the North to Saigon, many of the Ranger units fought back independently against orders – refusing to surrender – bloodying the advancing Communist forces. In Tay Ninh province the Rangers fought until Saigon fell. In Saigon, Rangers fought until the morning of 30 April when they were ordered to lay down their arms.
When the war finally ended with the fall of Saigon in 1975, most of the Ranger leaders were considered too dangerous by the communist government, and sentenced to long periods of incarceration in the dreaded “reeducation camps.” As an example, General Do ke Giai, the last commander of Ranger forces spent more than 17 years imprisonment for his fervent anti-Communist resistance.
The Role of the Advisor
The experiences of the American advisors (and a few Australians) to the BDQ were unique from other advisors and definitely different from their U.S. unit counterparts. Their mission and the force structure of the units they advised demanded more experienced and thoroughly trained individuals. Officers were almost all Ranger qualified, and after 1966 most were on a second or subsequent combat tour. The Non-Commissioned Officers were arguably the most talented Sergeants that the Army had to offer. Many of these Sergeants were experienced cadre from the Ranger Department at the Infantry School, or experienced small unit leaders with Infantry, Special Forces or Marine backgrounds; some had fought in World War II and / or Korea. It was fairly common for the more senior NCOs to serve as Ranger advisors between tours at one of the Ranger Training Camps.
According to the Military Assistance Command-Vietnam Joint manpower authorization documents, advisory teams were fairly robust. Each was authorized eight personnel to perform the support mission. The authorized grades for the Ranger battalion and group Senior Advisor were Major and Lieutenant Colonel respectively. This was usually not the case however, as a battalion advisor team routinely consisted of an experienced Captain, a Lieutenant, two NCOs and a RadioTelephone Operator (RTO). It was not uncommon to field teams of two or three personnel. The Ranger Group Headquarters advisor team was comprised of a Major, one or two Captains, two or three NCO’s, and an RTO. Living and military operations experience for the Ranger advisor varied dramatically from area to area, unit to unit, and year to year. Operations were normally conducted by Ranger battalions, but were often smaller in some locales. Frequently, multi-battalion operations were conducted under the command and control of the Ranger Group headquarters. In addition to being selected for tactical and technical proficiency, many Ranger advisors were graduates of the Military Assistance and Training Advisory Course (MATA) and Vietnamese Language School. However, the tactical requirements always exceeded the number of school slots, and most advisors depended upon lessons learned the hard way, and the good luck to have a Vietnamese counterpart who understood English. Each team was authorized a local interpreter / translator, however these proved to be of varied skills and reliability.
The primary mission of an advisor was to counsel his Vietnamese counterpart on development and implementation of operational plans as well as the tactical execution of military operations. The advisor coordinated any available combat support from U.S. forces such as artillery, armored vehicles, air strikes, helicopter gunships, naval gunfire, and medical evacuation. Additionally, the advisor was expected to escort and directly communicate with a variety of specialist teams that might accompany the unit on operations, such as artillery forward observers, Air Force forward air controllers (FAC), naval gunfire teams, canine handlers, or combat correspondents.
While differences were evident from team to team, the Ranger advisors led a unique life under an unusual set of circumstances. The highly mobile advisory team was with the Vietnamese unit at all times when it was in the field on military operations, which could last for days or weeks. Living conditions were Spartan and arduous. Frequent and intense combat was the rule for Ranger units. The team survived on limited supplies and rations (resupply in the field was sporadic at best), often with a limited knowledge of the operational plan and enemy intelligence situation. The team’s communications lifeline and link was often a single PRC-25 tactical radio. Despite, or because of these circumstances and conditions, the Ranger advisors became very adept at accomplishing their responsibilities and fulfilling their missions.
Awards and Honors
Vietnamese Ranger units and individual soldiers received a wide range of awards for valor and heroism from both the Republic of Vietnam and the United States. The 42nd and 44th Battalions were awarded their country’s National Order Fourragere, the 43rd Battalion the Military Order Fourragere, and the 21st, 37th, 41st and 52nd Battalions the Gallantry Cross Fourragere. Twenty-three Ranger units were awarded the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm unit award, with the 42nd Battalion receiving the award seven times, the 44th Battalion six times, and the 1st Group and 43rd Battalion each four times. Eleven U.S. Presidential Unit Citations (PUC) were awarded to Vietnamese Ranger units. The 37th Battalion three times, the 39th and 42d twice, and the 1st Ranger Task Force, 21st, 44th and 52nd Battalions each received the PUC once. The U.S. Valorous Unit Award was awarded to the 21st, 32d, 41st, 43d, 77th and 91st Ranger Battalions. Large numbers of individual Vietnamese Rangers were presented U.S. awards such as the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Army Commendation Medals for acts of valor in the face of enemy forces.
A number of American Ranger Advisors were decorated for gallantry under fire, the best known is SFC Gary Lattrell, an advisor to the 23d Ranger Battalion, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for valor on 4 – 8 April 1970. Additionally, Colonel Lewis L. Millett, a Medal of Honor recipient during the Korean War, was a member of the first Vietnamese Ranger MTT. Staff Sergeant David Dolby who was previously awarded the Medal of Honor while serving with the First Cavalry Division in 1965, was an advisor to the 44th Ranger Battalion in 1970. LTC Andre Lucas, who served as Senior Advisor, 33d Ranger Battalion in 1963, later received the Medal of Honor posthumously while commanding an infantry battalion in the 101st Airborne Division in 1970. First Sergeant David H. McNerney, who was an advisor with the 20th Special Battalion in 1962, was later awarded the Medal of Honor while serving with Company A, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division for actions on 22 March 1967. More than two dozen Ranger Advisors received the Army Distinguished Service Cross or the Navy Cross, the second highest valor award. Finally, nearly 50 American Advisors were killed while fighting alongside their Vietnamese Ranger counterparts. Theirs was the ultimate sacrifice in the performance of their duty.
On 11 November 1995, more than 20 years after the fall of Saigon, American Ranger Advisors and their Vietnamese Ranger counterparts gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to unveil a living memorial and bronze plaque to honor their comrades. The plaque reads, “Dedicated to the honor of the Vietnamese Rangers and their American Ranger Advisors whose dedication, valor and fidelity in the defense of freedom must never be forgotten.”
C/75th & E/20 LRP
Company C (RANGER), 75th Infantry
On 25 September 1967, Company E (Long Range Patrol), 20th Infantry (Airborne) was activated and assigned to I Field Force Vietnam, commanded by Lieutenant General William B. Rosson. The unit was originally formed in Phan Rang by procuring combat veterans from the 1st Brigade (LRRP), 101st Airborne Division, along with personnel who were scheduled to join the Military Police Brigade. Additional assets were also drawn from the replacement detachments.
Company E was originally commanded by Major Danridge M. Malone. The unit was to provide long range reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, and special type missions on a corp level basis. In addition, the company had the capacity to operate as a platoon size force and conduct regular recon-in-force missions. They were known as Typhoon Patrollers, taken from the codeword Typhoon favored by I Field Force headquarters.
On 15 October 1967, Company E was placed under operational control of the 4th Infantry Division, and was relocated to the Division’s base camp at Camp Enari in the western Pleiku Province. The company trained through December and phased its four platoons through ten day preparatory courses, followed by sequential attendance at the MACV Recondo School in Nha Trang, which was run by Special Forces cadre, at two week intervals. Each Platoon concluded their training with a one week field training exercise outside the Special Forces camp at Plei Do Mi in the Central Highlands. The first platoon completed its program on 1 December and the entire company was declared combat operational on 23 December 1967.
Company E was organized for 230 men, broken down into four platoons of seven six-man teams each. A headquarters section handled all the administration and logistics and a communications platoon was responsible for the vital radio contact with the teams. Although the company was designed to field two active platoons while the other two platoons trained and prepared for further missions on a rotating basis, it wasn’t long before every platoon was tasked with their own mission at the same time.
Each platoon consisted of a platoon leader (2nd Lt.), a platoon sergeant (SFC), the seven teams and communications support as required. Active platoons were deployed to mission support sites, such as Special Forces camps and forward fire bases. Each team was structured for a team leader (SSG,SGT), an assistant team leader (SGT,SPC), a radio operator (SPC,PFC), and three scouts (SPC,PFC) and were designated by platoon and team number within the platoon. Second platoon, team 1 would be team 21. As time went by and personnel were rotated out, for a variety of reasons, it was not uncommon for a team to consist of five men or less and to be led by a specialist (E-4). Also due to limited available resources it was not uncommon for a platoon to deploy with only three six-man recon teams. This did not keep the teams from completing any assigned mission, and after training together as a team the men were capable of handling each others duties and positions regardless of their rank. On some occasions two or more teams would be combined (two-teamer) for specific missions such as a reaction force, prisoner snatch, or downed aircraft search/recovery (SAR).
In January 1969 the Army reorganized the 75th Infantry under the combat arms regimental system as the parent regiment for the various infantry patrol companies. On 1 February, Company C (Ranger), 75th Infantry, was officially activated by incorporating the Company E “Typhoon Patrollers” into the new outfit. The Rangers were known as “Charlie Rangers” in conformity with C in the ICAO phonetic alphabet. Company C continued to operate under control of I Field Force and was based at Ahn Khe.
From 4 to 22 February 1969, three platoons rendered reconnaissance support for the Republic of Korea 9th Division in the Ha Roi region and two platoons supported the Phu Bon province advisory campaign along the northern provincial boundary from 26 February to 8 March. Company C then concentrated its teams in support of the 4th Infantry Division by reconnoitering major infiltration routes in the southwestern HINES area of operations until 28 March. During the first part of the year, teams also pulled recon-security duty along the ambush prone section of Highway 19 between Ahn Khe and the Mang Yang pass.
During March 1969, Lt. Gen. Charles A. Corcoran assumed command of I Field Force and an enhancement of Ranger capability was begun. Company C constructed a basic and refresher training facility at Ahn Khe and conducted a three-week course for all non-recondo-graduate individuals during April. The company then used the course for new volunteers before going to the MACV Recondo school. In late April, Company C shifted support to the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s Operation WASHINGTON GREEN in northern Binh Dinh Province. Company C assisted Company N by conducting surveillance of enemy infiltration routes that passed through the western mountains of the province toward the heavily populated coastline.
Most Company C assets remained in Binh Dinh Province in a screening role, but at the end of April one platoon was dispatched for one week in the Ia Drang Valley near the Cambodian border. This was followed by two platoons being kept with the ROK Capital Division on diversionary and surveillance operations through mid July.
On 21 July the company received an entirely new assignment. Company C was attached to Task Force South in the southernmost I Field Force territory operating against Viet Cong strongholds along the boundary of II and III Corp Tactical Zones. The company, now under the command of Maj. Bill V. Holt, served as the combat patrol arm of Task Force South until 25 March 1970.
The Rangers operated in an ideal reconnaissance setting that contained vast wilderness operational areas, largely without population or allied troop density. Flexible patrol arrangements were combined with imaginative methods of team insertion, radio deception, and nocturnal employment. Numerous ambush situations led Company C to anticipate an opportunity to use stay-behind infiltration techniques. As one team was being extracted, another team already on the chopper would infiltrate at the same time on a stay behind mission. The tactic was to be very successful. The company operated in eight day operational cycles and used every ninth day for “recurring refresher training”. The teams rehearsed basic patrolling techniques varying from night ambush to boat infiltration. Ranger proficiency flourished under these conditions, and MACV expressed singular satisfaction with Company C’s results.
The Viet Cong had taken advantage of the “no man’s land” of Binh Thuan and Binh Tuy provinces straddling the allied II and III corp tactical zones to reinforce their Military Region Six headquarters. Company C performed a monthly average of twenty-seven patrols despite inclement weather in this region and amassed a wealth of military intelligence.
On 1 February 1970 the company was split when two platoons moved into Tuyen Duc Province and then rejoined on 6 March. Numerous team sightings in the Binh Thuan area led to operation HANCOCK MACE. Company C was moved to Pleiku city on 29 March 1970, and placed under operational control of the aerial 7th Squadron of the 7th Cavalry where they conducted thirty-two patrols in the far western border areas of the Central Highlands.
On 19 April the company was attached to the separate 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry and relocated to Ahn Khe, where it was targeted against the 95th NVA Regiment in the Mang Yang Pass area of Binh Dinh Province. The rapid deployments into Pleiku and Ahn Khe provided insufficient time for teams to gain sufficient information about new terrain and enemy situations prior to insertion and they sometimes lacked current charts and aerial photographs. Company C effectiveness was hindered by poor logistical response, supply and equipment shortages, and transient relations with multiple commands. These difficulties were worsened by commanders who were unfamiliar with Ranger employment. Thus, the Rangers performed routine pathfinder work and guarded unit flanks as well as performing recon missions.
On 4 May 1970 the company was opconned to the 4th Infantry Division. The following day Operation BINH TAY I, the invasion of Cambodia’s Ratanaktri Province, was initiated. Although Ranger fighting episodes in the BINH TAY I operation were often fierce and sometimes adverse, the operation left Company C with thirty patrol observations of enemy personnel, five NVA killed, and fifteen weapons captured. On 24 May 1970 Company C was pulled out of Cambodia and released from 4th Infantry Division control.
Four days later they were rushed to Dalat to recon an NVA thrust toward the city. Their recon produced only seven sightings but an enemy cache was discovered containing 2,350 pounds of hospital supplies, and 50 pounds of equipment. They remained in Dalat less than a month before being sent back to rejoin Task Force South at Phan Thiet. May, June and July of 1970 were described by the new commander of Company C, Maj. Donald L. Hudson, as involving a dizzying pattern of operations. The company operated in Binh Thuan, Lam Dong, Tuyen Duc, Pleiku, and Binh Dinh provinces during this time. Twenty-seven days were devoted to company movements with sixty-five days of tactical operations, each move necessitating adjustment with novel terrain, unfamiliar aviation resources, and fresh superior commands.
On 26 July 1970 Company C was transported by cargo aircraft to Landing Zone English outside Bong Son and was returned to the jurisdiction of the 173rd Airborne. The company supported operation WASHINGTON GREEN in coastal Binh Dinh province with small unit ambushes, limited raids, and pathfinder assistance for heliborne operations.
During August, “Charlie Rangers” attempted to locate and destroy the troublesome Viet Cong, Khan Hoa provincial battalion, but were deterred by Korean Army jurisdictional claims. The mission became secondary when the 173rd discovered a large communist headquarters complex at secret base 226 in the Central Highlands and on 17 August the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division moved into the region and Company C was attached for reconnaissance.
In mid November 1970 Company C was attached to the 17th Aviation Group, and it remained under either aviation or 173rd Airborne Brigade control for most of the remaining duration of its Vietnam service.
Following the inactivation of I Field Force at the end of April 1971, Company C was reassigned to the Second Regional Assistance Command, and on 15 August was reduced to a brigade strength Ranger company of three officers and sixty-nine enlisted men. The I Field Force rangers were notified of pending disbandment as part of Increment IX (Keystone Oriole-Charlie) of the Army redeployment from Vietnam. Company C (Airborne Ranger), 75th Infantry commenced final stand-down on 15 October 1971 and was reduced to zero strength by 24 October. On 25 October 1971 Company C was officially inactivated.
Company D (RANGER), 75th Infantry
Company D (Ranger) 75th Infantry was formed on 20, November 1969, with a cadre of regular army personnel from Company D (Ranger) 151st Infantry, many of whom were veterans of other tours of duty in country. Major Richard W. Drisko was appointed as the Commander.
The Rangers referred to themselves as the “Delta Rangers” in conformity with the letter “D” of the ICAO phonetic alphabet adopted by the U.S. military in 1956. On 1 December, the new Ranger company was placed under the operational control of the aerial 3d Squadron, 17th Cavalry.
Intensive Ranger training was conducted to prepare the new unit for combat reconnaissance operations. Each of the field platoons completed a seven-day preparatory program that included instruction on communications, map reading, tracking, prisoner snatches, demolitions, ambush techniques, sensor emplacement, and familiarization with repelling, rope ladders, and McGuire rigs. Four Rangers were sent to the sniper school and graduated on 28 January 1970, giving the company sharpshooter capability for special countermeasure patrols. Ranger Company D was given the mission of providing corps-level Ranger support to II Field Force Vietnam by collecting intelligence, interdicting supply routes, locating and destroying encampments, and uncovering cache sites. The Ranger surveillance zone was expanded to encompass the former Indiana Ranger area of operations, as well as the Northeastern portion of the Catcher’s Mitt western War Zone D in Bien Hoa and Long Khanh provinces. The Delta Rangers concentrated on ambush patrols but also performed point, area, and route reconnaissance with elements as small as three men.
On 2 December 1964, a Delta Ranger ambush killed a transportation executive officer of the communist Subregion 5 who was carrying the enemy payroll, capturing 30,500 Vietnamese plasters. In early January 1970, a nine-man combined ambush group, composed of Ranger teams 14 and 15, killed eleven North Vietnamese soldiers from the 274th Regiment of the 5th VC Division and fixed its location for higher headquarters analysis.
The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong instituted increased precautions against Ranger tactics by assigning more trail-watchers to landing fields, mining or booby-trapping routes that they no longer intended to use, and forming counter-raider teams. These enemy teams consisted of four soldiers who were highly skilled in tracking patrols and heavily armed with light machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
On 8 February 1970, Ranger Company D was released from 3d Squadron, 17th Calvary, and placed under the operational control of the 199th Infantry Brigade. The Delta Rangers continued operating in southwestern War Zone D and the eastern Catcher’s Mitt area. On 18 March, Ranger Company D returned to direct II Field Force Vietnam control; it was employed to sweep the Nhon Trach district and train recon members of the South Vietnamese 18th Division.
At the end of March 1970, the Delta Rangers ceased operations and commenced stand-down procedures. Company D (Ranger), 75th Infantry, was reduced to zero strength by the afternoon of 4 April and was officially inactivated on 10 April 1970. During the unit’s Vietnam service, the Delta Rangers performed 458 patrols that reported seventy separate sightings of enemy activity and clashed with NVA/VC forces on sixty-five occasions. The Rangers killed eighty-eight enemy soldiers by direct fire and captured three, while suffering two killed and twenty-four wounded Rangers in exchange. Of supreme importance, the Ranger company unmasked changing enemy unit displacements and supply channels aimed against the main allied bases outside Saigon.
II Field Force Vietnam was well served by a succession of highly proficient combat reconnaissance units. The requirements to safeguard the allied capital area placed a tremendous burden on corps-responsive teams to provide accurate and timely information. Fortunately, the patrolling expertise and professional Ranger spirit of the Hurricane Patrollers, Indiana Rangers, and Delta Rangers enabled them to render excellent recon support in South Vietnam’s most crucial region. In many cases, however, their reconnaissance specialty was sacrificed by higher commanders who utilized the units as a “special field force reserve” of light infantry strike forces.
Company D (RANGER), 151st Infantry
On 20 November 1969, Co D (Ranger), 151st Infantry (Airborne) ‘Stood Down’. Mission accomplished, job well done!
The operations were turned over to Company D (Ranger), 75th Infantry, just as smoothly as they had been turned over from Company F, 51st Infantry (LRP) on 26 December 1968. What is so significant about this change of designation is that Company D (Ranger), 151st Infantry (Airborne) was a National Guard unit from Indiana. Before we discuss the ‘Stand Down’ perhaps a little history of how this unit arrived in Vietnam in the first place would be more appropriate. In November of 1965 the Indiana National Guard organized its’ first and only Airborne Infantry battalion in response to the high mobilization priority Selected Reserve Force. With the build up of the Vietnam war, the entire 38th Infantry Division fully expected to be called to active duty and the inclusion of an Airborne Battalion would be highly valued.
In December 1967 the Department of Defense changed its direction and restructured the National Guard throughout the United States, thus changing the status of the 38th Infantry Division. The Indiana Adjutant General was able to retain most of the Airborne qualified personnel and formed two long range patrol companies. Thus, was born Companies D & E (Long Range Patrol), 151st Infantry, later to be combined into a single company, designated Company D. Ironically most training on weekend drills was divided between long range patrolling techniques and riot control training.
War in Vietnam continued to escalate and so did the resistance at home. Several states were utilizing the Guard to control demonstrations, especially on college campuses. A new twist came when it was announced that summer camp training for 1968 would be held in March at the Army’s Jungle Warfare Training Center in the Panama Canal Zone. You can imagine what rumors started flying when the cadre at the Jungle School started telling the members that they were headed for Vietnam. No one could believe it when just three weeks after returning from Panama the unit was called to active duty.
On Monday May 13, 1968 the unit departed from Indianapolis, Indiana for Ft. Benning, Georgia. Of all the 20,000 reservists activated, D Company was the only infantry unit of the National Guard in the United States. A total of 195 enlisted men, 1 warrant officer, and 8 officers convoyed in World War II vintage trucks to Georgia on the same day that the peace talks started in Paris, France.
All members were already jump qualified and 98% were jungle qualified. Co D would undergo 6 months of additional training with the 197th Infantry on Kelly Hill. Several members were sent TDY for special schools, including Radio school and Ranger school. The entire unit spent one week each at the three Ranger school courses in Georgia and Florida. Several jumps were made at Benning in the 6 months while in training.
Rumors were rampant among the men up until departure day, that the unit would never go to Vietnam. On December 20, 1968, 6 men departed as an advance team to set up the base camp which was to be located next to the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, in an old missile base. On December 28, 1968 the entire unit left for Bien Hoa. By this time about 20% enlisted and drafted men joined the unit taking the place of those National Guard personnel that had been transferred or ETS’d.
Only after arriving in Vietnam did the unit find out that they would be replacing another Long Range Patrol company that was being dismantled. We were told that due to severe losses the unit could no longer function. Obviously, some higher ups had to justify us being there. Later, when members of Company F, 51st began transferring in to D Co, we learned the real truth. Co F was doing a great job and all were extremely upset that we had taken their place. Things calmed down a great deal when Co F’s commander Major Heckman took over as commanding officer of Company D. Years later we would learn that someone in the Indiana National Guard made a deal with the Department of the Army in Washington that the unit would stay together and not be dismantled. Other reservist that were activated were sent to Vietnam on an individual replacement basis (sans an artillery unit from Bardstown, Kentucky).
The 199th Light Infantry Brigade conducted a one week orientation course with the unit. Physical training became intense and difficult. The unit had just left Indiana winter and a 30 day leave of absence, and Vietnam’s summer heat was a difficult adjustment. The unit was attached to the II Field Force to become their eyes and ears in the free fire zones north of the Bien Hoa Air Force base and Long Binh.
Work was around the clock getting the base camp set up and all the supplies and equipment in place. By mid January 1969 members were going on patrol with members of F Co for long range patrol orientation. By February, the unit had passed it’s test and was deemed operational. At the same time the unit’s status and name was changed from Long Range Patrol to Ranger. Patrolling was on a regular schedule by then with all 12 to 18 teams in the field at all times. 30 members attended the MACV Recondo school run by the 5th Special Forces at Nha Trang, all graduating with the Arrowhead patch and diploma.
In March the Company received Chieu Hoi scouts which were assigned to the teams. The new team members were received with caution, but after a few patrols and contacts, the Chieu Hois were very much accepted and welcomed with few exceptions.
After a briefing by II Field Force Intel Officer, in which the company was told that the only true information was bodies, equipment, and documents. They didn’t seem to trust our reporting from a reconnaissance report. The missions now became more as hunter-killer teams than the true reconnaissance teams.
The members were all highly motivated and well educated. All were older than the typical Vietnam personnel. The average age of the members was around 24. Several were in college, or had well established careers.
Many ambush patrols into the “D Zone” along trails, and the Song Dong Nai and the Song Bong rivers. Several patrols reported a massing of the enemy troops during the Tet of 1969. Most patrols were 5 or 6 man teams, but several heavy 12 man patrols were conducted if previous information suggested that a contact was likely. Many contacts were made by the teams against 3 to 4 NVA/VC patrols, but there were some teams that initiated on much larger enemy forces.
One heavy mission in May 1969 counted 380 NVA as they advanced south. On this particular night, the team did not pull back to a RON, but stayed up on the trail within 5 feet of it. Indirect fire claimed many enemy lives, as it was directed by the Ranger team on the ground.
As some of the initial National Guardsman rotated out due to ETS, hardships, wounds, and early out for college, regular army personnel were recruited or assigned to take their place. These new members were well trained by the time the company “Stood Down”. In early November 1969, the remaining National Guard members were moved from the base camp at Long Binh to Bien Hoa in preparation for the units’ return to Indiana.
Six members of the unit made the supreme sacrifice on Ranger missions. They, and lots of other members were decorated for Valor and Duty. In all, 19 Silver Stars, 175 Bronze Stars, 86 Army Commendation Medals, 120 Air Medals, 110 Purple hearts, 19 Indiana Distinguished Service Crosses, and 204 Indiana Commendation Medals were awarded. On November 20, 1969 Company D (Ranger), 151st Infantry (Airborne) became Company D, 75th Ranger. The 75th was made up of the 151st Rangers as well as new members, and continued to carry on the same missions operating from the same base camp at Long Binh until they “Stood Down” later in 1969.
E/75 & E/50 LRP & 9th Div. LRRP
Company E (RANGER), 75th Infantry
This history deals with the activities, personnel and accomplishments of Company E (Ranger), 75th Infantry during the period 1 February 1969 through 12 October 1970 and makes reference to the units who preceded the designation of Company E (Ranger), 75th Infantry.
Throughout history the need for a small, highly trained, far ranging unit to perform reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, and special type combat missions has been readily apparent.
In Vietnam this need was met by instituting a Long Range Patrol program to provide each major combat unit with this special capability.
Rather than create an entirely new unit designation for such an elite force, the Department of the Army looked to its rich and varied heritage and on 1 February 1969 designated the 75th Infantry Regiment, the present successor to the famous 5307th Composite Unit (MERRILL’S MARAUDERS) as the parent organization for all Department of the Army designated Long Range Patrol (LRP) units and the parenthetical designation (RANGER) in lieu of (LRP) for these units. As a result, the 50th Infantry Detachment (LRP), formally the 9th Infantry Division LRRP (Provisional) assigned to the 9th Infantry Division, became Company E (Ranger), 75th Infantry.
In the fall of 1966, the 9th Infantry Division formed a division Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) Platoon after division commander, Maj. Gen. George S. Eckhardt flew to Vietnam on an orientation tour of the combat theater. Major General Eckhardt noted that each division contained a long-range patrol unit. He arrived back at Fort Riley, Kansas, where the Division was completing preparations for its scheduled December deployment to Vietnam, and ordered the immediate organization of a reconnaissance platoon for his own division. Capt. James Tedrick, Lt. Winslow Stetson, and Lt. Edwin Garrison were chosen as the officers for the LRRP Platoon. They interviewed and screened the records of 130 volunteer soldiers and selected the best 40. The provisional unit was known as the “War Eagle Platoon”. In November of 1966, the LRRP Platoon completed the Jungle Warfare School in Panama. Captain Tedrick conducted an extra week of tropical training following the regular two-week course. Platoon members were shipped to Vietnam in January 1967.
At the Special Forces MACV Recondo School at Nha Trang, the entire 9th Infantry Division LRRPS became recondo-qualified, Meanwhile, the unit adjusted to its combat operating area. The division operated primarily in the lowlands south of Saigon, the Rung Sat Special Zone, and the Mekong Delta. Torrential rains and year-round water exposed patrollers to high rates of disabling skin disease. Reconnaissance troops often suffered extensive inflammatory lesions and rampant skin infections. And by the fourth month of tropical service, nearly three-fourths of all infantryman had recognizable infections. The Bear Cat – Long Thanh area east of Saigon was where the division was initially concentrated. The new base, Dong Tam, was constructed by dredging the My Tho river to produce enough fill to build a major installation in the Mekong Delta. It was located five miles west of My Tho in Dinh Tuong Province.
On 8 July 1967, the 9th Long Range Patrol Detachment (LRPD) was formalized. Borrowing General Marshall’s World War II phrase, the Division LRPD was “well brought up.” During June and July, the LRPD completed forty-three patrols and clashed eighteen times with enemy forces. Through August and September, the LRPD continued to fill. By October it had reached full authorized strength of 119 personnel and was rated fully operational. Each platoon contained a command section and eight, six-man teams. Some teams of the division LRPD rendered reconnaissance for 2nd Brigade in Operation CORONADO and entered the Viet Cong Cam Son secret base area while other teams supported the 1st Brigade in Operation AKRON and uncovered a massive underground system of enemy tunnels and bunkers. The LRPD also conducted important military intelligence tasks for the Mobile Riverine Force within the Mekong Delta.
Major General George C. O’ Connor activated Company E (Long Range Patrol), 50th Infantry, to give the 9th Infantry Division specialized ground reconnaissance support on 20 December 1967. The long-range patrol company absorbed the LRPD and was designated as “Reliable Reconnaissance” after the division nickname of “Old Reliable’s.” During January 1968, the Navy SEAL teams began joint operations with Reliable Reconnaissance. LRP’s did this to gain training and experience in the Delta environment The missions designated as SEAL-ECHO were the highly selective patrols. They were inserted by Navy patrol boats, plastic assault boats, helicopters, and Boston whalers. The SEAL-ECHO troops used supporting artillery and airstrikes to destroy larger targets.
Maj. Gen. Julian J. Ewell assumed command of the 9th Infantry Division in February 1968. He authorized the Reliable Reconnaissance company to acquire a similar capacity to the 3rd Brigade Combined reconnaissance and Intelligence Platoon as a result of the Tet-68 battles. Company E received permission to employ available Provincial Reconnaissance Unit (PRU) personnel from the Central Intelligence Agency’s Project Phoenix program. The PRU troops were hardened anti-communist troops dedicated to destroying the Viet Cong infrastructure. The PRU troops generally possessed very high esprit and great knowledge of Viet Cong operating methods. From November 1968 through January 1969, the last three months of Company E’s existence, the Reliable Reconnaissance teams conducted 217 patrols, and engaged the enemy in 102 separate actions. The company was credited with capturing eleven prisoners and killing eighty-four Viet Cong by direct fire. On 1 February 1969, the department of the Army reorganized the 75th Infantry as the parent regiment for long-range patrol companies under the combat arms regimental system. Maj. Gen. Ewell activated Company E (Ranger), 75th Infantry, from Company E, 50th Infantry. The Rangers were known as “Echo Rangers” or “Riverine Rangers,” because they mostly dealt with river and canal reconnaissance – even though the company was only partially assigned to the Mobile Riverine Force. Ranger Company E took advantage of dry season conditions to harass suspected Viet Cong supply lines from activation until the end of April. The Riverine Rangers conducted 244 patrols and reported 134 observations of enemy activity. They clashed with the Viet Cong during 111 patrols and were credited with capturing five prisoners and killing 169 Viet Cong. When the 9th Infantry Division began phasing out of Vietnam in July 1969, the rangers renamed themselves “Kudzu Rangers” after the operational code word for the close-in defense of Dong Tam. The ranger company phased its teams out of the Kudzu business by 3 August.
On 23 August 1969, the Army formally inactivated Company E (Ranger), 75th Infantry. The provisional ‘Go-Devil” Ranger company, also known as the separate 3rd Brigade of the 9th Infantry Division, formally established as an independent unit on 26 July 1969, was unaffected by this paper ruse. On 24 September, the U.S. Army Pacific reactivated Company E by General Order 705 and the U.S. Army Vietnam headquarters published orders re-assigning Company E to the 3rd Brigade, 9th Infantry was again activated on 1 October 1969 and the original Company E was discontinued and became the new Company E. The only difference was what they called themselves, They dropped “Riverine Rangers” and continued on with their newly acquired name, “Go-Devil” Rangers.”
No other combat recon units waged reconnaissance and intelligence gathering operations under circumstances more difficult than those with the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam. Despite this, the Reliable Reconnaissance Patrollers, Riverine Rangers, and Go-Devil Rangers manifested sound tactical doctrine and imaginative techniques in adjusting to the alien Mekong Delta environment and applied undeviating pressure against the Viet Cong havens and their supply lanes throughout the division term of service in Vietnam.
Company E (Ranger), 75th Infantry is entitled to the following:
Campaign Streamers: Vietnam
Counteroffensive Phase VI
TET 69 Counteroffensive
Counteroffensive Phase VII
RVN Gallantry Cross w/Palm
RVN Civil Actions Honor Medal
Traditional Designation: Echo Rangers
Motto: Sua Sponte (“Of their own accord”)
Distinctive Insignia: The shield of the coat of arms
Symbolism of the coat of arms: The colors: Blue, white, red, and green represent four of the original six combat teams of the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) which were identified by a color code word. The units close cooperation with the Chinese forces in the China-Burma-India Theatre is represented by the Sun symbol from the Chinese Nationalist Flag. The white star represents the Star of Burma. The lightning bolt is symbolic of the strike characteristics of the behind-the-line activities.
Rationale – – The rationale for selecting the 75th Infantry as the parent unit for all Department of the Army authorized Ranger units is/was as follows:
(1) Similarity of missions between those missions performed by Merrill’s Marauders and the 75th Infantry, Ranger Companies in the republic of Vietnam and those of the 75th Ranger Regiment – – Operations deep in enemy territory.
(2) It returns to the rolls of the active Army Regiment having a distinguished combat record and a unique place in the annals of the United States Army.
(3) It provides the 75th Ranger Regiment and the United States Army with a common regimental designation identifying an uncommon skill.
F/75 & F/50 LRP & 25th Div. LRRP
Company F (RANGER), 75th Infantry
The 25th Infantry Division (LRRP) (Provisional) assigned to the 25th Infantry Division, became Company F (Ranger), 75th Infantry and existed in this unit designation from 1 February 1969 to 15 March 1971.
The 25th Infantry Division arrived in Vietnam from Hawaii in two major groups. The 3rd Brigade deployed as a task force arriving in Pleiku, Corps II region of Vietnam on28 December 1965. The 3rd Brigade would later have its own LRRP contingent and also be traded to the 4th Infantry Division for a brigade in August 1967. The remaining brigades and headquarters arrived at Cu Chi in Corps III area from 20 January 1966 through 4 April 1966.
It quickly became apparent to Major General Fred C. Weyand that a reconnaissance/specialty unit was needed to supplement 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry who were mounted troops and had the mission of providing road security and were ill equipped or trained to perform dismounted reconnaissance missions. General Weyand authorized the formation of the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol detachment and forty-one officers and enlisted personnel were selected for duty with the unit. The unit was known as “Mackenzie’s Lerps” because it was assigned to the 4th Cavalry known as Mackenzie’s Raiders after Colonel Slidell Mackenzie who had commanded the unit from 1870 to 1882 with proficiency.
Training for the new LRRPs was accomplished at the Special Forces MACV Recondo School at Nha Trang. The unit started patrolling at increasing distances from the Division and fire support bases. Missions included waterborne operations and were primarily oriented to finding the enemy so U.S. firepower could be staged and brought to bear on the enemy. Other types of missions including prisoner snatch, ambush, etc. were ordered for the normal five man teams.
On the job experience added Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for later volunteers to the unit. The only way into the unit was to volunteer and the members could be reassigned by unvolunteering themselves for less hazardous duty in a rifle unit. Allocations to Nha Trang and length of training time encouraged the formation of a 25th Division Recondo School which quickly brought volunteers to a workable patrol knowledge level.
LRRP was given a TO&E personnel strength of 60 plus, but, its real strength was closer to half that while its address was D Troop (LRRP), 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry. A remarkable amount of useful patrol knowledge was passed on in these classes always bearing the indelible stamp of the original Nha Trang training by the Special Forces. The word “Reconnaissance” is somewhat misleading because missions were often combat in nature stemming from the desire of patrollers and commanders to do more than just look. Missions often were ended with an ambush or were interrupted by targets of opportunity. This was a prevailing attitude in the field and base commanders. While the 25th Division was in Cu Chi, its 3rd Brigade was still in Pleiku with its LRRPs referred to as “Bronco LRRP’s”. The Brigade LRRP teams existed from mid-1966 to August 1967, participating in 7 major operations from the border west to the South China Sea east including Duc Pho and Qui Nhon.
The Department of the Army officially authorized the formation of Company F, 50th Infantry Detachment (LRP) on 20 December, 1967. LRP stood for Long Range Patrol which more closely represented the missions. This unit was formed with the personnel and equipment from the LRRP detachment. The combat nature of the unit was borne out when General Weyand said in March 1967 that LRRP was the “fightingest unit under his command”.
The 50th Infantry continued to operate in III Corp region of Vietnam which included War Zones C and D which contained the floating enemy command for all of Vietnam (COSVN). The 50th Infantry was now known as the Cobra Lightning Patrollers and continued to operate in areas such as Tay Ninh, Fish Hook, Parrots Beak, and Angels Wing along the Cambodian border. Actions initiated on 28 January 1968 by the LRPs resulted in the KIA of 64 Viet-Cong reconnaissance troops.
Credit needs to be given to the personnel of the LRRP platoon and the 50th Infantry Detachment (LRP) for establishing the doctrine that would become SOP for Company F (Ranger), 75th Infantry. The 75th Infantry absorbed the personnel and equipment of the 50th Infantry detachment (LRP) on 1 February 1969. They were now known as “Fox Rangers” from the phonetic “F” and “Tropical Rangers” from the Division’s name “Tropic Lightning”. Rangers included one sniper qualified trooper on each team. Ranger training started in the U.S. and was more refined than ever based on intelligence and experience gathered by Vietnam Ranger parent units (LRRP & LRP). This produced extremely qualified personnel well able and motivated to do the dangerous missions of the Rangers.
On 2 April 1970, two ranger teams made contact with entrenched forces of the crack 271st VC Regiment that required 2 American Battalions to deal with (one was mechanized). Rangers mission continued to operate in Hobo & Bo Loi Woods, Nui Ba Den mountain (the only mountain in the area), the Iron Triangle and into Cambodia as the historical predecessors had done since 1966.
The “F” Company Rangers were now authorized 123 troopers. In spring 1970, the Rangers participated in the process of Vietnamization which was to allow the South Vietnam more latitude in fighting the war in their country. From August to October 1970 Rangers from “F” Company conducted 85 patrols. In 1971 operations worked to disrupt enemy supplies and Tet 1971 was remarkably free from enemy activity. “F” Company, 75th Rangers was deactivated 15 March 1971.
Rangers were hated, feared and respected so much by the enemy that bounties were offered from $1,000 to $2,500.00 by a country whose citizens were glad to do labor for $.85 a day. The VC and NVA veterans now say the Rangers were the most deadly American unit in Vietnam because they were always showing up where they were not supposed to be and when the enemy knew, it was too late.
F Company Rangers earned a valorous unit award during 1 to 22 February 1969 upholding the highest elite unit standards. Today, the modern Rangers of the 75th Ranger Regiment continue the traditions of being a premier fighting element of the active army. The traditions and dedication to their fellow RANGERS continues!
G/75 & E/51 LRP & 196th LRRP
Company G (RANGER), 75th Infantry
The 196th Infantry Brigade (Separate) was on Caribbean peace keeping duty when the brigade was ordered and diverted in August 1966 to combat in Vietnam. This move was a permanent change of station (PCS). The new duty station was Tay Ninh, 11 Corps, Vietnam, under the command of Brigadier General Richard T. Knowles.
It became apparent in the coming months that the Brigade needed a far-ranging ground reconnaissance element to gather needed intelligence on the enemy. General Knowles, on I November 1966, tasked the Commander of F Troop, 17th Calvary to form a (Provisional) far ranging reconnaissance detachment “strictly from volunteers”. On I December 1966, First Lieutenant (1LT) John Maxwell volunteered to command the detachment. 1LT Maxwell was Airborne and Pathfinder qualified. 1LT Maxwell needed a Detachment First Sergeant (1SG) and chose a volunteer who was a Special Forces (SF) qualified Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Staff Sergeant (SSG) Earl Toomey. These two leaders started a procurement effort which lead to the interview of two hundred plus applicants. After exhausting interviews with all volunteers on 2 January 1967, only 13 were accepted for training and service.
These handpicked men would be the cornerstones of the 196th Infantry Brigade’s Provisional Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) (pronounced “Lurp”) Detachment and trainers for its units’ future soldiers called “Lurps”. By modus operandi, the detachment was authorized by army regulation as an (Airborne) unit. The detachment’s authorized strength started at 42 and shortly changed to 65 personnel. However, the detachment never quite achieved that number and stayed around the average of 42 volunteers. As the seven (7) man teams filled, the teams were sent to 5th Special Forces MACV Recondo School for training. The only other training at the detachment level was on-the-job-training “OJT” under the guiding hand of the Detachment First Sergeant.
Just as the detachment’s operational teams got themselves to the point of rotation in and out of the battlefield (with all the training requirements, trying to rest and returning to patrolling) the tum around time gave little to no sleep. 1LT Maxwell was promoted to Captain (CPT) and departed the detachment in July l967. 1LT Frank G. Pratt Jr. assumed command of the detachment. 1LT Pratt was a graduate of Airborne and Ranger School and was cadre at the Ranger Course.
When the unit was at its largest patrolling size, eight (8) full teams were operational. The need of equipment and uniforms was a nightmare through official channels due to the non-TO&E status of LRRPS. Therefore, procurement of equipment was derived from different sources. French tiger fatigues and Colt Commando AR15s were acquired from the canny efforts of Sergeant Victor Valeriano. As more equipment was needed, Specialist Garver became the unofficial Supply Specialist which lead to the temporary receipt of vehicles and other items of interest through his procurement efforts. The Detachment participated in Operations Attleboro, Wheeler, Wallowa and Junction City penetrating and patrolling into War Zone C of I Corps. Teams were constantly looking for the Viet Cong (VC) guerrillas and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops. By finding routes, camps, caches of food and equipment during their mission, the team would report real time intelligence information to the Brigade. Many of the patrol members either dressed in VC clothing or took the clothing with them on patrols. Dressing as VC gave advantage in performing enemy prisoner snatches or to avoid standing out as Americans in an all oriental environment. The problem with that, however, was if caught they could be shot for spying.
The detachment was credited with the identification of the 271st Peoples Liberation Front Regiment, “VC Guerrillas”, and the destruction of a platoon of the 271st Regiment. Teams of the detachment were further credited with numerous Long Range Recon Patrols within their operational sectors which encompassed Quang Tin and Tay Ninh Province, specifically Que Son and Son Re Valleys. The teams performed numerous wire tap, ambush, tunnel exploration, bomb damage assessment, artillery/air strikes, surveillance, stay-behind and combat patrol missions.
The unit gained entry into the battlefield by foot, vehicle, rubber boat, and aircraft. By air, they used false insertion techniques and rappelled in by mountaineering equipment. For extractions, they used the UH-1D Helicopter. The field rations available to the Lurps were freeze dried Long-range patrol rations, C-rations or the Vietnamese indigenous rations. On 12 August 1967 the 196th Infantry Brigade became a part of a unit consolidation and dubbed “Task Force Oregon”. On 25 September 1967, General William Westmoreland Jr. ordered Task Force Oregon be replaced by the 23th Infantry Division (Americal) and thereon the 196th Infantry Brigade was absorbed into the newly activated division. The 196th LRRP Detachment continued to operate as the Brigade’s reconnaissance force.
Under the command of Americal Division Commander, Major General Samuel W. Koster, the 196th LRRP Detachment was deactivated as a Brigade asset on 2 November 1967. The unit was consolidated with the assets and soldiers of the deactivated 11th Infantry Brigade’s 70th Infantry Long Range Patrol Detachment in December 1967, as Long Range Recon Patrol Detachment (Airborne) LRRP-D(A). The creation of LRRP-D(A) at this time was involved in refining their art of reconnaissance patrolling with the USMC I” Force Recon Company in Da Nang.
On 20 December 1967 the Department of the Army (DA) ordered LRRP-D(A) absorbed and reconstituted as Company E (LRP) 51st Infantry (Airborne) as the “official” Long Range Patrol Company for the 23d Infantry Division(Americal). SSG Toomey was still the 1SG and was promoted to Sergeant First Class (SFC E-7) and shortly afterward moved to a staff position in Division G2.
When 1SG Allen Whitcomb reported in, 1SG Whitcomb became the new Company First Sergeant. Whitcomb was a Jungle Expert and attended Panama’s Jungle Operation Training Course (JOTC); he was also Airborne qualified and rated as a Master Parachutist. The new Company Commander was Captain Gary F. Bjork a graduate of both Airborne and Ranger Schools. Under the new Tactical Operations and Equipment (TO&E), the unit strength went from 65 to 118 personnel. The consolidation of the Division LRRP assets was to give better support to the three different Infantry Brigades spread out within the Division Area of Operations (DAO). E 51st LRP Company’s patrol area had also increased covering Quang Ngai, Quang Tin, and Quang Nam Provinces. This became the largest operating area for any LRP unit in Vietnam.
In addition to this large area of responsiblity, the unit was short personnel due to rotations back to the Continental United States (CONUS), resulting in back-to-back patrols. With little sleep in between missions, as missions came, the patrols continued. Captain Bjork and 1SG Whitcomb instituted a fair rotation of teams to help teach training with the new Company Recondo School. Another team could pull a rear OP/LP surveillance mission close to the Division’s perimeter guards on the beach, thus getting rest. Another patrol would be at the forward base with the Brigade Tactical Operations Center (TOC) as back up, and one patrol was out scouting the enemy’s backyard. This method would buy time to start a procurement effort for volunteers from the Division.
The black beret was another selling point. With verbal approval from the Division Commander, the Bancroft black beret became the headgear of distinction for the Lurps and an eye catcher for prospective LRP volunteers. In order to be an elite Lurp, one must volunteer and then pass the Company Recondo School. With recruiting fliers out to the remote outposts of the Infantry Brigades, Airborne qualified personnel could be attracted. Jump pay was authorized. For the soldiers wanting to be Lurps who were not airborne qualified, the first requirement was to have been on the battlefield at least two months before volunteering. They then had to take and pass the Airborne PT test , swim test; after which a records check was made to see if the soldier had a GT score of 100 or better. Finally, a check was performed to see if there was any disciplinary record.
If all looked good, the volunteer qualified for training. The instructors of the Company Recondo School were the patrol-hardened MACV Recondo qualified Veterans of 196th LRRP Detachment and LRRP-Det (A). On a special note, Special Forces and Ranger personnel arriving into the unit were not required to attend Recondo training; however, they were required to help with training. Non-airborne and airborne personnel were required to attend training.
During the school, physical training consisting of a seven mile “Recondo walk” with weapon, low bearing equipment (LBE) and 35 pound rucksack was performed. This was for a period of two weeks with classes on various duty related subjects, i.e. operations and techniques on waterborne, heliborne, mountaineering, intelligence reports, patrolling, special weapons, hand to hand fighting, communications, medical, quick reaction drill’s, tracking, ambush, POW handling, artillery/naval/air call for fire, and orientation and survival. This was a condensed eight week Ranger Course. The doctrinal patrolling techniques that were passed to the new Lurps were lessons learned from 196th LRRP and LRRP-D(A) which made the new men either want to be in the Lurps or have nothing to do with them. Wanted posters, circulated and posted by the VC in Chu Lai, Tam Ky, and Due Pho, also added to the mystic of the Lurps . Echo Company 51st was also accredited with training the Reconnaissance Element of the 2nd ARVN Division during 1968. The Division’s AO was described as Military Region 5 of War Zone C, within I Corps Vietnam. To the North were DaNang and the DMZ with mountains, rolling hills and coastal waterways. To the south were Cam Ranh Bay, coastal water ways, rice fields and triple canopy jungles. To the east were lowlands and the South China Sea. To the west were woodland triple canopy jungles, foot hills and steep mountains all the way into Laos. To make it worse, the I Corps area was notorious for enemy booby traps. The enemy was the 2nd North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong Guerrillas of Communist Military/Political Region 5.
The reconnaissance requirements of the forward Infantry Brigades were three teams at their locations. Our teams were distributed thusly:
* Three teams were at LZ Bronco at Duc Pho in support of the 11th Infantry Brigade.
* Three teams stationed at LZ Baldy at Tam Ky with 196th Infantry Brigade.
* Three teams were at LZ Bayonet at Binh Son with the 198th Infantry Brigade.
* Three teams at Chu Lai Beach Company Recondo School “Instructors”.
* One team at MACV Recondo.
* One team on radio relay detail.
* Three teams at Chu Lai Beach Company E (LRP), 51st Infantry “at rest”.
* Two “on-call” Dog Trackers.
* Three Para Riggers.
* Twelve men on R&R or one leave out of country.
* Twelve men in Company Headquarters and non-TO&E Attachments.
* Three Vietnamese Army Interpreters “Kit Carson Scouts”.
At the start, CPT Bjork, was informed that his Lurps would have to stand inspections and wear helmets in the field during LRP operations by Division Staff Officers above him. For awhile, the Lurps would wear helmets but removed them prior to insertion. Inspections, on the other hand, were performed in the company area. When the General had someone of importance show up at Headquarters, he would show off the spit and polish, camouflage fatigue clad, black beret wearing elite troops of his division, “The Lurps”. The Company Commander did not take long to have all that rescinded to allow the Lurps to do their jobs. In addition, he allowed his troops to carry any weapon that they were comfortable with in the battlefield.
CPT Bjork also had the largest rappelling tower in Vietnam built for their training – it was ninety feet high. It was said that when you reported to training on the first day, Bjork’s Recondo Instructors would inform the students “You are Pukes, and we are here to break you and make you quit!!” Class size varied according to the number of volunteers during that period.
E 51st LRP was involved in numerous long-range patrol (LRP) missions that required heavy hunter/killer combat teams in the field, and sniper missions were also performed as needed. The company survived the TET Counteroffensive 68 phases 111, IV, V, and VI with minor damage to some of the companies barracks, “tin huts”, as a result of the Division’s ammunition dump exploding from enemy artillery and mortar attack in January 1968.
Some of the unit’s LRP Teams participated as a blocking force during Operation Muscatine. Also during this month, 18 ARC Light strikes were directed, numerous bomb damage assessments (BDA) were performed, and 50 air strikes on caves and bunkers yielding with secondary explosions underground occurred as a result of the Division’s Lurp directed actions. During the following months, the unit lost several team members as a result of direct action battles. The unit was also at that stage of losing personnel from DEROS back to the United States and new volunteers were needed to fill the open slots. Between 1968 and 1969, Team Winston managed to photograph a T55 Russian tank in the hedgerow northeast of Duc Pho close to the Laotian border. Another team, under the leadership of Sgt. Ben Dunham, reported the siting, in late 1968, of a 6-foot blonde-headed Caucasian male leading a VC patrol in the I Corps area. This same team captured a Chinese National with the rank of Colonel.
The use of name brand cigarettes was used to identify the teams such as: Team Old Gold, Winston, Salem, Lucky Strike, Camel, Marlboro, etc. In July, CPT Bjork departed the company and CPT Philip Clark became the new Company Commander.
Between January and September 1968, 15 LRPs were killed as a result of combat action. In December 1968, CPT James McWilliams took command of the company and 1SG Howard Slaughter took over the First Sereant duties from 1SG Whitcomb as he departed. In January 1969, E Company, 51st Inf. (LRP) was absorbed into the 75th (RANGER) Infantry Regiment. CPT McWilliams was informed that all LRP soldiers and units were now a part of the 75th Ranger Infantry (Combined Arms Regimental System) and the company would be realigned per DA Message No. 893755. While in Vietnam, E Company earned the Meritorious Unit Commendation Streamer embroidered “Vietnam 18 June 68 – 20 January 69”. The Rangers were also told to remove the black beret until further notice.
On 13 January 69, Ranger teams combined with the Marines and Navy as security and cordon, labeled Operation Russell Beach, during operations at Bantangan Peninsula which was known as a VC stronghold approximately 15 miles from Quang Ngai City. On 1 February 1969, Company E (LRP) was realigned as Company G (RANGER), 75th Infantry (Airborne). Effective 2 February 1969, E 51st was deactivated. Team names were also changed to reflect states and cities. Cigarette names were no longer used. Effective 2 February 69, the unit continued to operate. The mission was still Long Range Patrol. It was during this time that the Company received its first recipient of the Medal Of Honor from the exploits of Staff Sergeant Robert Pruden who gave his life to protect his team members during an operation in the Due Pho area.
Under G Company, the unit was also accredited with the location of more than 8,000 enemy soldiers, numerous enemy base camps, routes of infiltration and supply, caches and training sites. It conducted no less than 662 combat operations and was also accredited with 322 confirmed enemy kills, 106 enemy wounded in action, and 53 prisoners of war. The unit participated in the defense of Firebase Fat City, LZ Baldy, Chu Lai base and, indirectly, to the support of every battalion-sized combat unit in the Division. As the unit continued, other commanders were: CPTs Anthony Avgolis and Jon Hanson with 1SG Clifford Manning as the Company First Sergeant during 1970 – 1971. On 13 May 69, LZ Baldy was attacked by a NVA Sapper Force. The 196th Infantry Brigade was pushed off the Landing Zone. During the initial fighting, most of the Rangers were wounded. Ranger teams Texas and Michigan combined their functional members into one team to carry the fight to the enemy, which yielded forty (40) NVA Troops killed by the composite Ranger team. They displayed outstanding bravery in retaking LZ Baldy from the NVA Force sent to destroy the “men with the bounties on their heads.” During interrogation, a captured NVA officer stated he was trained in China and ordered to destroy the Rangers due to the disruption of their routes of movement from North Vietnam into Laos and their re-entry into South Vietnam.
On 4 May 71, a Ranger (Provisional) Detachment, known as Ranger Command Group 11 of G Company, commanded by CPT Theodore C. Mataxis, Jr., was activated and sent to Da Nang to provide direct support to the 196th Infantry Brigade, with continued operations of surveillance and reconnaissance, until the unit was reconsolidated, 7 August 71, as 2nd Platoon G Company (Ranger), 75th Infantry in support of the 196th Infantry Brigade until deactivation. By 10 August 71, 2nd Platoon completed 47 missions against enemy forces and was credited with the destruction of the Headquarters of the 675th NVA Rocket Battalion Base Camp.
On 14 September 71, the unit was ordered to stand down under operation “Keystone Oriole Charlie” and in 10 days the unit was at zero strength. The unit also lost 11 more Rangers bringing the Company total of KIA to 26.
After four years and ten months, on 01 October 71, Golf Company was deactivated. Sixty missions were being performed on a monthly basis. At the close out, it was estimated that the unit performed over 1,000 missions beginning in January 1967 and ending 01 October 71. The unit was again awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation Streamer embroidered “Vietnam 21 January 69 – 31 August 69”. In addition, Company G received three (3) Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm as a valorous unit citation (VOC) and was also accredited with TET Counteroffensive 69, Counteroffensive VI, Counteroffensive Summer-Fall 1969, Sanctuary Counteroffensive, Counteroffensive Phase VII, Consolidation I, Consolidation II, and Cease Fire.
The motto of the Company was “Sua Sponte” meaning “of their own accord.” Modern Rangers of the 75th Ranger Regiment continue the tradition of being the premier fighting element of the active army. The tradition and dedication to their fellow Rangers continues.
Rangers Lead the Way!
I/75 & F/52 LRP & 1st Div. LRRP
Company I (RANGER), 75th Infantry
A conversation was held between the First Brigade Commander and the Third (Iron) Brigade Commander shortly before F Company 52nd Infantry (Long Range Patrol) was transformed into Company I (Ranger), 75th Infantry. The conversation concerned the Big Red One LRRP’s loss of SGT. Cohn’s team (the first team) and SGT Washington’s team (second team) at Quan Loi. At that time the Rangers numbered only 25-30 personnel. The First Brigade Commander complained that Ranger intelligence was not very reliable prior to the overrun of his perimeter. SGT Crabtree’s LRRP team had warned him in advance that the enemy was heavily infiltrating the area and that they were in danger, The third Brigade Commander replied: “What do you mean that these Rangers don’t have the proper attitude, appearance, and that they rejected your assessment. Don’t you know that their enemy KIA’s exceed any battalions in your Brigade?”.
The relative aggregate of Iron Rangers casualties was not exceeded by any other ranger company [in Vietnam], the only debate is whether this figure was attributable to “being in the thick of fighting” or being under an overzealous and aggressive division operations section. Whatever the reason, the Iron Rangers performed with valiant determination in reconnoitering some of the most “persistently dangerous enemy strongholds in South Vietnam.”
In early 1969, Company I shifted from tactical employment of reconnaissance and ambush concepts, to hunter-killer tactics employed during the summer months and again to its reconnaissance role beginning in September, 1969. In Vietnam, where a well-defined front rarely existed, Ranger teams discerned the fragmented battlefield and detected guerilla activity. They operated deep in hostile territory to find the enemy, provided advance warning, and conducted small precision strikes. The Iron Rangers monitored menacing NVA/VC formations in hazardous locations. The teams stressed area reconnaissance and night ambush tactics to identify and interdict enemy concentrations and worked extensively with the Iron Brigade Other Rig Red One Rangers were detailed to the special Forces, the Black Virgin Mountain, outlook, and Recondo School.
Long-range detachment patrols were designed to infiltrate objective areas prior to division operations and obtain information on enemy locations and perform terrain analysis. Lengthy ground searches were required, because many trails and streams were covered by thick jungle canopies and not observable from the air. Missions were normally three to four days, 15 or more miles from the nearest friendly linen. Contact was only by radio, if it worked. Most teams consisted of six men, although there were occasional 12-men hunter-killer teams who at times had body snatch missions. In the high number of hot pickup Zones (PZs), which were literal enemy territory jungle hell-holes with firing much brighter than Fourth-of-July fireworks, helicopters were frequently riddled with AK-47 fire. Huey helicopters inserted teams into targeted areas, often making false landings to fool the enemy as to whereabouts. Patrols scrambled to interior of the jungle cover to relocate to a designated place. After remaining With painted faces, radios, and lightweight gear, the patrol carried heavy ammunition of magazines, frags, smoke grenades, claymores, and often weapons of the enemy, since the M-l 6 rifle had a distinguished signature. Everyone performed duties including the team leader, assistant team leader, Kit Carson, medic, radio telephone operator (RTO), and pointman. A security wheel of members with one staying awake at all times would be formed at the monitoring site off of enemy trails or underground tunnel homes. Claymore mines were spread in front – hopefully in the direction of the enemy. Few sensing gadgets were present and everything was examined personally. The numbers and style of tire shoe marks were noted. Morale of the enemy was sensed along with their weapons and luggage.
The three to four day mission did not permit talking, snoring, noise, smoking or excreting. Urination was permitted by twinkling dawn twigs to avoid noise Coughing was not allowed, a muffled cough could alert the enemy. Often the enemy would be within ten feet of the team. The quiet allowed the senses to notice so much: the sudden snap of bamboo growing pains a jet-like wines of mosquitoes, dive-bombing flies, and butterflies alighting on the guns; the darkness so black that the only visible light was the luminous glow of decaying leaves. Radio contact was frequently by code clicks rather than voice. The food was dry LRRP rations with the water carried. Most often the Rangers were not hungry and waited to eat when they returned to basecamp. There were long hours of tense waiting in the jungle, with feelings of doubt and fear, Rangers coped with many anxieties, including the possibility of mutilation by the enemy.
Operational control of Company I was initially under the 3rd (Iron) Brigade, and the unit was known for a while as the Iron Rangers. Its control then passed to Division G2; it remained until deactivation and was under the direction and guidance of the Commanding General to insure its proper utilization, until deactivation.
From 1 January 1969 until deactivation due to Phase II1 withdrawal on 7 March 1970, Company (Ranger) conducted 372 classified tactical operations (with 205 recorded sightings of the enemy). A designated strength of 118 volunteers was authorized. However, strength varied from approximately 30 to 100 members, and most often personnel strength was about 80 Rangers. They operated in areas that were primarily under night-control and often day-control of the enemy. Iron Rangers engaged the enemy 191 times. Much history of the First Infantry Division Rangers has never been recorded or released due to its classified nature. Probably it will never be released, although those events will never be forgotten by those who participated.
Robert D. Law, Company I (Ranger), was the first member of the 75th Infantry Rangers to receive the Medal of Honor. Only three Rangers LRRPs received the Nation’s highest medal while assigned to these type units. Company I’s Ranger Peter Lemon, a member of the Ranger Hall of Fame, also received the Medal of Honor for a mission with the First Air Cavalry that included other former Company members, days following his redeployment from the First Infantry. Company I members also received awards for the Distinguished service Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross. Ten members of the command received the award of the Silver Star for Valor and 91 received the Bronze Star awards for service or achievement Members of Company I earned sixty three awards for valor; 191 awards for service or achievement; 111 Air Medals; and twenty-eight Purple Hearts.
Unit members did not request award of medals. Rangers were actively involved in warfare and unable to write of their comrades’ achievements This responsibility for writing documentation for medals was left to the Division G2 for their attached unit. As a result, the unit was presented for only the Vietnam Civil Actions Honor Citation years after their departure. By contrast, ARVN Ranger units, often trained by 75th Rangers, were bestowed the U.S. presidential Unit Citation approximately thirty-four times while no 75th Ranger unit was considered for this citation. Members are well aware of achievements which would certainly have qualified for this citation.
The several commanders of the Rangers barely had time to know their unit and its men before being reassigned. Nevertheless these leaders as a whole were extremely dedicated to their men and were highly respected. The six commanders of Company I (Ranger), during its approximate one year of existence, were CPT Allen A. Lindman, lLT Jerry M. Davis, CPT Reese M. Patrick, MAJ Hamor R Hanson, MAJ James J. McDevitt, and CPT Robert D. Wright First Sergeants were Carl J. Cook and Jack D. Franks. On 14 May 1969, Captain Reese Patrick, Company Commander, was killed on his first patrol while re-entering the Quan Loi Perimeter.
The lst Infantry Division, to which Company I (Ranger) was attached, lived by its motto, “No mission too difficult no sacrifice too great, duty first.” Organized in 1917 by Major General John J. Pershing, the Big Red One was the first division to see action in Europe during World War 1. Again in World War II, the Big Red One was the first to reach Britain and land in North Africa, Sicily, and France. It was also the first US. Army Infantry Division to reach Vietnam.
Faced with aggression from communist North Vietnam and widespread terrorist and guerrilla activities of the Viet Cong, the government of South Vietnam asked the Free World for assistance. By 1965 the situation had reached the point where US. units had to be summoned, if South Vietnam was not to be overrun by the communists. The bulk of the 1st Infantry Division reached Vietnam in October 1965 after the 2nd Brigade’s advance party had arrived in July. The division was established in III Corps basecamps with its headquarters at Di An. Later, headquarters was moved to Lai Khe. Major General Jonathan O. Seaman; Commander, had the entire division operational by 1 November 1965. He was to be succeeded by Major Generals William E. Depuy, John H. Hay, Keith L. Ware (KIA), Orwin C. Talbot, Albert E. Milloy, and last by Brigadier General John Q. Herrion who ordered the Rangers to cease operations and stand down effective 7 March 1970.
The Viet Cong were generally a well trained, well equipped and well-organized military force which attacked when tactical situations were favorable but disbanded into small groups and retreated into the jungle when superior forces pursued them. They were experts at tunneling and field fortifications. The enemy army consisted of three different types of troops: Local Forces, Main Forces and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). Operations against the enemy were begun immediately with division reconnaissance principally mounted from bases in the Binh Duong Province at Di An, Phu Loi, Lai Khe, and Phuoc Vinh (Phuoc Long Providence).
The lst Infantry Division began OPERATION TOAN THANG, (“Complete Victory”) with the objective of clearing and pacifying the Binh Duong Province Patrols were conducted throughout the predominantly jungle- and marsh-covered regions of War Zones C and D, the Iron Triangle, the Easter Egg, the Mushroom, the Heart-Shaped Woods, the Trapezoid, the Michelin Rubber Plantation, the Long Nguyen Secret Zone, the Song Be Corridor, and the Vietnamese frontier with Cambodia. At times division reconnaissance was launched farther afield to cover other operational areas, such as the Rung Sat Special zone.
Most of Company I’s (the Division’s) Area of Operations was densely populated, especially near Saigon and the Saigon River, The population density gradually decreased towards the north, going towards the central highlands inhabited by the Montagnard tribesmen. The Saigon River was one of the major waterways that served as a means of transportation for the inhabitants of the Saigon area and the many hamlets and villages along the river’s course. While the terrain in the south was generally division, it became rolling and hilly at the northern edge near the Cambodian border, Temperature averaged 79.5 F” in the summer and 86.5 F” in the winter, with Monsoon rains during the May to October season, followed by unrelieved dryness from December through April. One of the world’s largest rubber plantations, the Michelin Plantation, was located in the area of operations 14 miles northwest of Lai Khe. The area was noted for its agriculture of tobacco, sugar cane, bananas, pineapples, rice and an assortment of other fruits and vegetables.
Division reconnaissance initially from October 1965 had relied on the armored 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry. The squadron’s aerial unit, “Darkhorse” Troop D, contained an aero rifle platoon, under the command of CPT Richard Murphy, that rapidly responded to scout helicopter sightings and downed aircraft but was precluded from longer ground patrols. During April 1966, Maj. Gen. William E. DePuy formed a provisional division Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) contingent (The “Wildcat” Lerps) that was attached to D (Air) Troop, 1-4 Cavalry but which specialized in ground searches that stretched over several days inside hostile territory. In August 1967, the unit became The LRP Detachment, HHC, 1st Infantry Division, Under the command of Major General John H. Hay, Jr., and moved from Phu Loi to Lai Khe. General Hay took measures to upgrade Ranger-style warfare within the division by expanding the first patrols into a long-range detachment with 118 authorized reconnaissance personnel. Officially on 20 December 1967 (but actually in late January 1968) the LRP Detachment became F Company, 52nd Infantry (LRP) with CPT Jack Price remaining as Commander. The Big Red One Rangers kept essentially to themselves but were good friends of the medical unit. At times they picked an antagonist unit, such as MP neighbors, on which to bestow derogatory cadence songs or other mischievous tricks. As one of the few units that regularly participated in organized physical training (PT), the unit was cohesive and synergistic. The unit had its own club until it moved and joined its friends, the medics’ club. When the medics left, Company I inherited the medic’s monkey, George, who often kept company with the Ranger’s openly gay dog, Zulu.
Each of Company I’s 372 missions were important. Missions resulted in the loss of life for both the enemy and Rangers. They also saved lives of many U.S. servicemen through their intelligence gathering. Based on their findings, larger U.S. forces knew where to, and where not to, pursue the enemy. For most missions, guidance to the Rangers was to observe but not engage the enemy. Close proximity to the enemy made it difficult to observe without engaging the enemy with contact occurring more often than not. Successful intelligence missions were achieved when no shots were fired. During February 1969, the first month of Company I, fifty-two missions were conducted beginning with six missions on the first day of operation. In the later months, fewer missions were conducted. Following is an excerpt from three of the many missions: On 22 February 1969, SP4 Robert D. Law threw himself on a hand grenade that landed in the middle of his team and saved three Rangers. He was the recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for this bravery, beyond the call of duty.
Five days later three Rangers were killed and three wounded, when they were ambushed by the NVA. An NVA force of 4,000 enemy troops surrounded their Ranger team for eighteen hours before the Rangers were able to be extracted from a hot PZ. Nevertheless, U.S. forces were able to rescue the three surviving Rangers.
The Rangers moved their unit in December 1969 because their site was chosen for the Bob Hope Show that would be attended by about 12,000 troops. Three days before Christmas on the morning of the Bob Hope Show, three Ranger teams were inserted South of the Saigon River; there they discovered the enemy and their rocket cache. During this truce, while the rest of the world was wondering if Christmas would bring peace, the Rangers discovered enemy insurgents moving rapidly carrying heavy packs. it was believed that they intended to hit the Bob Hope Show. Another patrol engaged the enemy with claymore mines and used evasion tactics before being extracted from a hot PZ. Here the enemy was staging transient personnel and supply close to the Hope Show. Fellow soldiers did not mess with Rangers who were easily distinguishable by their black beret and red and dark blue 75th Airborne Ranger Infantry Company scroll which rested above the Big Red One patch. Their pocket unit patch featured their colorful Coat of Arms inherited from the 5307th Composite Forces.
The unit was awarded a Rest and Relaxation (R&R) week off following heavy action, and while there, the Big Red One Rangers lost the freedom to wear the unofficial Ranger black beret. At the R&R Bar, a fight erupted between the Rangers and Marines, A Marine removed a Ranger beret from a dancing girl. Immediately, a brawl broke out and the club was damaged. The Rangers were sent home not wearing their berets and wore regular infantry headgear for most of the rest of the war. Notwithstanding this action, most Big Red One Rangers kept their berets and wore them around camp. No one challenged the Rangers to remove their berets. As the unit neared deactivation, word was received that the beret could be put back on officially “unofficially.” The coveted black beret of the Big Red One Rangers was not won, bought, awarded as a school diploma, or even officially recognized; but it signified respect among fellow Rangers who shared the experience of enemy combat beyond friendly lines. As the unit withdrew from Vietnam, the men left wearing their berets with pride. Later, the respected black beret would become official Ranger headgear.
The unit guide on citations, and memorial plaques was sent to the 75th Infantry’s headquarter at the Ranger Training Command, Ft. Benning, Georgia, to be placed in a museum. In previous phased drawdowns servicemen were sent home if they had less than four months remaining in country; Big Red One Rangers were sent for action with other units in Vietnam.
Still today, the Rangers don’t forget nothing. *Shelby Stanton in Rangers at War, page 91:
L/75 & F/58 LRP & 1/101 LRRP
Company L (Ranger) 75th Inf.
On 5 December 1968, the Chief of Staff, United States Army, approved the activation of the 75th Infantry as the parent regiment for all Department of the Army Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) units, and the parenthetical designation (Ranger) in lien of (LRRP) for these units. On 1 January 1969, the 75th Infantry (Merrill’s Marauders) was restored to the active roles of the US Army as a parent regiment under the Combat Army Regimental System serving in the Republic of Vietnam.
With this Department of the Army directive, the LRP Company of the 101st Airborne Division, Company F (LRP), 58th Infantry was deactivated and these individuals formed under the new designation as Company L (Ranger) 75th Infantry on 1 February 1969.
The year of 1969 saw the company rise in a degree of professionalism to make it one of the most efficient, accurate, intelligence gathering sources in the Division. With the reorganization of the company from F Company (LRP) 58th Infantry to Company L (Ranger) 75th Infantry, the company’s mission became strictly that of intelligence gathering. Freed from duties of security type ambushes, providing security for downed helicopters, and reaction forces as needed by the Division for general security; the company concentrated 100 percent on reconnaissance.
During 1969 the company conducted 310 Long Range Patrols, almost twice the number as the previous year, accounting for 21 enemy killed, and a larger undetermined number killed and wounded from the supporting fire of gunships, artillery and TAC Air directed by the teams.
The enemy was visually encountered and observed by patrols in as many as 100 occasions. Teams directed the fires of gunships and artillery as many as 200 times throughout the year. In addition to the visual sightings the company’s teams continued to provide the Division with an immeasurable amount of information concerning enemy movements and concentrations, along with a vast amount of terrain information such as LZ locations, water sources and the like.
Loss of company personnel due to enemy action was 5 killed and 14 wounded.
The company additionally conducted rappelling and McGuire Rig training for the Division.
When inclement weather forced the closing of the outlying firebases due to resupply problems, Co L found itself in a new role, that of working sometimes as far as 70 KM from Camp Eagle, depending on 175 Howitzers firing at maximum range for support and fair to poor or no communications.
In summation, Co L (Ranger) 75th Infantry continued to be the eyes and ears of the Division, reporting enemy activities throughout the Division Area of Operations. The Company’s achievement and performance were admirable in every respect.
Due to poor weather and a lack of cover, there were a limited amount of Long Range Patrol missions conducted during the first three months of the year. During this period the Company also conducted close in security type ambush missions and downed aircraft security.
On March 27, 1969, three Ranger teams led by SGT William L. Marcy combined to alert FSB Jack of an impending attack by a large enemy force. Under the direction of SGT Marcy, the team engaged the enemy with claymores, hand grenades and small arms, to disrupt their route of march. Using a C-47 gunship and Aerial Rocket Artillery, they further impeded the enemy1s progress. Shortly after daylight, the enemy tried to withdraw and were pursued by fire that was directed by the teams. A sweep of the teams perimeter revealed three enemy casualties from small arms fire. The teams were cited for preventing a successful large scale attack on the firebase and SGT Marcy was awarded the Silver Star.
The company suffered it’s first causality of the year on April 27, 1969; when Julian D. Dedman was in a helicopter that was hit by ground fire, exploded and burned. Another helicopter incident took the life of Keith W. Hammond on May 5, 1969 during an extraction in the Ruong Ruong Valley. The month of May was to see two more Rangers lose their lives in performance of their duties. On May 8,1969, two teams led by SSG Zochak and SGT Reynolds, combined to discover a large Sapper Training Area. After photographing the area, the teams were in a halt waiting for an aerial relay, when they were engaged by an enemy force approximately five times their size. During the ensuing fight Sgt Reynolds was mortally wounded and several other Rangers suffered wounds of less serious nature. SSG Zochak took charge of the situation and directed the fires of the team and supporting aircraft while caring for the wounded himself. By the time the reaction force had arrived, Rangers had accounted for twelve enemy KIA, and possibly a greater number wounded.
SGT William Marcy was killed by enemy small arms fire on May 20, 1969, in the late evening hours while exposing himself to call for artillery on enemy locations.
The month of June 1969 saw the addition of the ARVN Division Recon Platoon to the Company. Joint operations were conducted during this month. Patrols led by SSG Mainers and SGT Clossen resulted in 3 NVA KIA. In both incidents the ARVN’s performed well, but the language barrier proved to be quite a problem.
A patrol led by SGT Anderson on 26 June 1969, discovered 31 122mm rockets along the Song Bo river. A reaction force was brought in to evacuate the items.
July saw the arrival of CPT Robert A. Guy and the concept of saturation patrolling. Ranger teams were employed in clusters of 5 and 6 teams to completely saturate an area.
During the ensuing months the patrols continued to report on enemy movements, concentrations, and sightings throughout the Division Area of Operations.
In August, 3 successive patrols led by SGT Gerald Dotson engaged the enemy with their organic weapons. In the same general area, the Tennessee Valley; a patrol led by SGT Anderson and SGT Peterson engaged 5 NVA across a river from them with gunships. An ARVN sweep of the area in the following days revealed 5 NVA KIA.
On 23 October 69, a patrol led by SGT Dennis Karalow and SGT Edward Drozd ambushed 3 NVA resulting in 1 enemy KIA and 2 wounded. A search of the KIA revealed a weapon and several important documents.
On 26 October 1969, SGT David L Bennett engaged 1 NVA, and the team itself was engaged on 3 sides by an unknown size enemy force. While attempting to break contact, one team member, PFC Lytle, drowned while crossing a river.
On 3 November 1969, a heavy team led by SSG Bruce T. Black engaged 3 NVA, killing one and forcing the others to flee. Rucksacks picked up by the team contained a total of 22 60mm mortar rounds. The next day the team again engaged the enemy resulting in 1 NVA KIA by the detonation of a claymore mine.
December saw the Company patrols continue to operate far out in the Division’s recon zone, depending on 175 Howitzers for support. Because of the bad weather, air support could not always be counted upon. SSG Selke set a company record when his patrol spent a total of 10 days in the field before the weather cleared sufficiently for the team to be extracted.
On the 17th and 19th of December, SGT Luchow and SGT Braciszewski made contact with the enemy and because of low ceilings and visibility had to rely on 175’s to break contact.
The company entered the 70’s with the same determination to accomplish its mission and devotion to duty that characterized its 1969 performance.
Throughout 1970, Company L (Ranger) continued to show the esprit and professionalism that have characterized its operations since its incipience. The year barely got under way when on the morning of 1 January 1970, heavy Ranger team Shelby, under the leadership of SGT “Mad Dog” Macchisio, found themselves surrounded by NVA/VC. The team initiated contact killing one NVA/VC, and fought its way to the LZ where it engaged and killed another NVA/VC. An Areo-rifle platoon of Delta Troop 2/17 Cav was inserted while team Shelby1s four WIA were extracted. A sweep of the area by the Delta platoon and the rest of team Shelby revealed several heavy blood trails.
This kind of close support with the air cavalry has been the key to success in many Ranger operations. On 24 January, Range team Cortina; led by SGT 3Bugs2 Moran, utilized this support well. While working in the Khe Shan plains the team was taken under fire by a regular NVA unit. Although the team’s small arms accounted for 2 NVA KIA, the NVA continued to maneuver against the team. The interdiction of a cobra gunship dampened the aggressiveness of the NVA. On the second pass, screaming and yelling was heard from the enemy locations and soon thereafter movement stopped all together. The team was extracted without incident shortly thereafter. Another team working that area during the same time period also ran into well equipped and trained NVA elements. Ranger team Opel, led by SSG “Lobo” Bates monitored several dogs, flashlights and what sounded to be stationary internal combustion engines. The NVA began searching the area hoping to flush out the team when gunships were utilized to cover the area. The team engaged one NVA who had approached too near their location and received several frags on their perimeter resulting in 2 US WIA. The small arms continued until C Troop 2/17 Cav was inserted. Prior to extraction, team Opel was able to inflict at least three KIA on the enemy which was said to number anywhere from 15-20 NVA.
February of 1970 brought similar reconnaissance intelligence reports from Co L with but a few exceptions notable. One of these was heavy Ranger team Baboon, which had the primary mission objective of prisoner snatch. The team observed heavy enemy activity in the area, and on the third day; by the direction of the team leader, SSG Black, moved into an ambush for the PW snatch. Approximately 30 minutes after setting up the ambush, 2 NVA were spotted moving toward the ambush zone. The Rangers sprung the ambush resulting in 1 NVA KIA and 1 NVA POW. A reaction unit from 2/17 Cav was called in to secure the team and its POW, and the whole element was extracted five hours after the ambush had attained success.
M/75 & 71st LRP
Company M (RANGER), 75th Infantry
The 199th Infantry Brigade deployed to the Republic of Vietnam in December 1966. The Brigade’s primary objective was to protect Saigon, and the numerous complexes that provided direction and support for the country’s entire defense.
Despite the magnitude of the 199th Infantry Brigade’s security assignment, the Brigade had been sent to Vietnam without any long-range patrol assets.
On 20 December 1967, the 71st Infantry Detachment (Long Range Patrol) was activated by sixty one troops chosen by General Forbes from the ranks of Company F, 51st Infantry (II Field Force Long Range Patrol) Within a month the unit was fully operational and acquainted with it’s Long Binh sector.
One hour before midnight 31 January 1968 a LRP patrol gave the brigade it’s initial warning that the Tet Offensive had begun. This report propelled the Redcatchers of the 199th into a maelstrom of continuous fighting and emergency reaction tasks throughout the eastern Saigon defensive zone. For six months, the reconnaissance detachment performed important surveillance and ambush work in the Binh Hoa and Long Binh area of operation.
The Tet campaign was concluded by the end of May 1968, and the 199th Infantry Brigade was relocated southwest of Saigon, into the extensive marshlands commonly called the “pineapple” plantation. The flat swampy region offered an ideal Viet Cong approach corridor to Saigon and General Westmoreland believed that the brigade’s presence would hamper this well-known enemy route into the capital. The 71st (LRP) was based at “Horseshoe Bend” and conducted regular patrols into the bomb scarred rice paddies, elephant grass, and stretches of fruit thickets and nipa palm.
The 71st (LRP) highlighted the “LIGHT, SWIFT, and ACCURATE” trademark of the brigade. For over a year the LRRP’s of the 71st watched scores of footbridges, embankment pathways, and other guerrilla traveled avenues across the paddy landscape. The recon teams also operated effectively from Navy Patrol Boats that scoured the Song Vam Co Dong and landed ambush parties along the mud flats and reed-covered shores. During this time the brigade recon framework was enhanced and the 71st was expanded and transformed into a Ranger company.
On 15 January 1969, Lt. Robert Eason Jr. took over the 71st with an assigned priority to reorganize it into a brigade-level ranger company by the end of the month. In conformity with this schedule, on 1 February Brigade commander Brigadier Gen. Frederic Davis activated Company M (Ranger), 75th Infantry. The Ranger structure gave the 199th a reinforced combat reconnaissance and surveillance capability. Rangers from Company M were know to patrol in two man teams, however the six man Ranger team was standard and a twelve man heavy team was used for combat patrols in most instances.
In June 1969 the 199th moved into a new operational area northeast of Saigon and resettled at Fire Support Base Blackhorse in Long Khanh Province. The region was geographically different from the old swampy terrain. The Rangers found the change initially unsettling because they were on unfamiliar ground facing a more hardened professional soldier than they had faced before.
The majority of combat operations in Long Khanh Province invariably encountered elements of two large, well-trained, and highly disciplined organizations, the 274th VC Regiment and the 33rd NVA Regiment. For many soldiers, facing disciplined and aggressive enemy soldiers was an unpleasant task compared to fighting the guerrillas in the old Pineapple zone. Other soldiers liked the new area better, noting the relative absence of booby The Rangers were soon unleashed in an ambitious extended reconnaissance campaign to locate NVA and VC hiding places, resupply points, and infiltration routes. The Redcatcher Ranger Teams were sent into the gloomy rain forests northeast of Trang Bom, north of Dinh Quan, and along the heavily vegetated Lga Nga and Dong Nai rivers. The Ranger scouts grappled with the enemy in a series of sharp clashes. From these opening skirmishes, the Rangers learned that their opponents were highly elusive but willing to stand and fight when cornered or occupying good positions. However, the Rangers gained confidence as their incessant raiding began to unbalance NVA and VC attempts to safeguard previously uncontested supply lines and caches.
The persistent Ranger reconnaissance campaign continued relentlessly, as sustained pressure was applied on the network of supply lines used by the two enemy regiments. By 5 February 1979, the rangers had interdicted so many supply trails that the 274th VC Regiment was reduced to eating bananas and roots. The 33rd NVA regiment withdrew from Long Khanh province altogether, and Ranger company patrols were ordered to continue tracking it into Binh Tuy province.
The expanded reconnaissance campaign forced the Rangers to arrange long distance communications. For example, in late March 1970, one team was placed on a remote mountain top, and set up a radio relay point for two weeks. This duty was extremely hazardous, because it involved transmitting signals from a static location. Mobile long range patrols also became more dangerous as scattered forays were launched deep into North Vietnamese strongholds.
In mid July 1970, the Rangers were moved to fire support base Mace, near Gia Ray in Binh Tuy province. The Ranger teams prepared to go deeper in pursuit of the elusive NVA. Instead they were informed that their exemplary reconnaissance pursuit campaign was about to end. The Brigade had received orders that it was scheduled for redeployment from Vietnam as part of the Army’s Keystone Robin Increment IV program.
On 9 September the Ranger company ceased active combat operations. And the last four Ranger teams were extracted by helicopter from the field for consolidation at Fire Support Base Mace. The veteran Redcatcher Rangers were moved by truck convoy to Camp Frenzell Jones in Long Binh and started stand down procedures. Company M (Ranger), 75th Infantry. Was reduced to zero strength on 24 September and officially deactivated effective 12 October 1970.
The 71st (LRP) and Company M (Ranger), 75th Infantry combat reconnaissance record was a model of effective scouting progression that produced one of the most successful ranger endeavors of the Vietnam War. The LRRP patrollers and Rangers were adjusted from close in installation defense around Long Binh, to short range swamp patrols monitoring assignments in the Pineapple plantation, and finally to independent long range ranger patrols on a sustained reconnaissance campaign in enemy dominated territory. This proper ground work enabled Company M to achieve superior results during its relentless tracking of two formidable regiments.
N/75 & 74th LRP & 173rd LRRP
Company N (RANGER), 75th Infantry
The 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate) deployed to the Republic of Vietnam on 5 May 1965 on Temporary Duty (TDY) status, the first army “combat” maneuver element to arrive in Vietnam. On 5 August 1965 the TDY status was changed to Permanent Change of Station (PCS). It quickly became apparent to Brigadier General Ellis W. Williamson that a reconnaissance element was needed to supplement Troop E, 17th Cavalry who were mounted troops and had the mission of providing road security and were ill equipped or trained to perform dismounted reconnaissance missions.
General Williamson tasked the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 503rd Infantry to ask for “Volunteers” to form the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) detachment. The volunteers would not be permanently assigned to the LRRP detachment as there was no Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E). The LRRP (Provisional) was formed from volunteers from the Infantry Battalions and placed on Special Duty status. Team makeup consisted of one lieutenant (team leader), one staff sergeant (asst. team leader), and two enlisted personnel (scouts). Training was given to the LRRP’s by the 1st Royal Australian Regiment who were familiar with jungle operations and were veterans of combat operations in Malaysia. The LRRP detachment could not be maintained at full strength (4 teams / 16 personnel) due to combat losses of the infantry battalions who requested that their (SD) personnel be returned.
The first Long Range Patrol operation was in support of operation NEW LIFE in the La Nga River valley north of Vo Dat on 21 November 1965. The teams had to twice swim rivers to get into their Area of Operations (AO). Many of the operational techniques learned during actual combat patrols became Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the personnel who became replacements for the troops who returned to stateside assignments after their one year tour of duty. Lieutenants were no longer assigned as team members and the patrol leaders were the experienced Noncommissioned Officers of the LRRP detachment. The LRRP detachment became a permanent part of Troop E, 17th Cavalry in June 1966.
Many of the original members of the LRRP platoon were trained at the 101st Airborne Division RECONDO school at Ft. Campbell, KY. Additional training of the volunteers was On the Job Training (OJT) and at the RECONDO school at Nha Trang. Many of these volunteers never had the chance to attend any formal training as the 173rd Airborne Brigade was constantly on operations throughout the III Corps and II Corps areas of the Republic of Vietnam, however, infiltration and extraction techniques were refined and were SOP for the duration of the LRRP’s operations in Vietnam. One misnomer that was in the mission statement for LRRP’s was the word “Reconnaissance”. Many of the missions given to the LRRP’s were of a combat nature. The major unit commander had a highly trained and motivated force on the ground which had located an enemy force of various sizes and had the opportunity to inflict casualties upon an elusive enemy. The commander frequently utilized this option. Teams were typically briefed that when their mission of surveillance was completed they would ambush or capture a prisoner on the last day of their mission. Occasionally the LRRP’s would receive an ambush or snatch mission as their primary mission.
The Department of the Army officially authorized the formation of the 74th Infantry Detachment (LRP) on 20 December 1967 and all personnel of the LRRP platoon were absorbed in to the 74th Infantry Detachment (LRP). The 173rd Airborne Brigade had moved to Dak To in the II Corps area of Vietnam. The 74th Infantry Detachment (LRP) was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its actions during the Dak To battles in November 1967, however this was in error as the 74th Infantry Detachment (LRP) did not exist at the time. The award should have been presented to the 173rd Airborne Brigade (LRRP) (Provisional).
The 74th Infantry (LRP) continued to perform missions as directed by the 173rd commander through out the II Corp region of Vietnam and eventually established a base camp at An Khe. Team leaders and potential team leaders were now able to attend the Recondo school conducted by the Special Forces at Nha Trang on a rotating basis while continuing to be the :”Eyes and Ears of the Commander”. Staff Sergeant Laszlo Rabel, 74th Infantry Detachment (LRP) was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on 12 November 1968. He was the only LRP member to be awarded the medal during the Vietnam war. Much credit needs to be given to the personnel of the LRRP platoon and the 74th Infantry Detachment (LRP) for establishing the doctrine that would become SOP for Company N (Ranger), 75th Infantry which absorbed the personnel of the 74th Infantry Detachment (LRP) on 1 February 1969.
Company N (Ranger), 75th Infantry established a base camp at Landing Zone (LZ) English, Bong Son, RVN from which to launch their deep penetration missions behind or within enemy controlled areas. The173rd Abn Brigade had assumed the mission of “pacification” of the Bong Son plains Company N (Ranger), 75th Infantry would become a Ranger screen while the Brigade was on pacification. The TO&E specified that the November Rangers would consist of 3 officers and 72 enlisted personnel. The assigned officers served as the Commander, Executive Officer and Operations Officer. Twelve operational teams of six men each composed entirely of enlisted personnel. The remaining enlisted personnel had the duties of platoon sergeant, Tactical Operations Center (TOC), supply and administration.
Missions for the Ranger company were typically 3 -5 days with a 2 day break in between for debriefing, rest and preparation for the next mission. The Rangers were operating in the mountainous terrain of the An Lao , An Do, Suoi Ca, Crows Foot valleys; the Highland Fishhook; and Nui Ba and Tiger Mountains of northern Binh Dinh province which bordered the I Corps area. This area of responsibility was to remain the domain of N company for the remainder of the war. The brigade Tet-69 campaign lasted from 9 February to 26 March 1969 and marked the first independent employment of a Ranger company in screening operations of the Vietnam war. During this period which was typical of Ranger operations, N Company conducted over 100 Long Range Patrols that resulted in 134 sightings of enemy personnel and 63 enemy killed by direct action, 5 prisoners and a much larger number of enemy killed by Ranger-sponsored indirect fire and reaction elements. The Rangers casualties for this period was 1 KIA, 20 WIA and none captured or missing.
In November 1969 the brigade permanently increased the size of the company to full company strength of 128 Rangers. Acceptance into the Rangers was based upon factors of a GT score of 100 or higher, no physical or mental impairments and voluntary request for the Ranger company. All prospective personnel were interviewed prior to acceptance and full acceptance was not granted until the volunteer had completed a period of individual training conducted by the company and had participated in a few patrols to prove his abilities. Training was a combat mission for volunteers and a high speed approach to training. Company N, (Ranger), 75th Infantry received numerous experimental systems to maximize performance. Nine (9) millimeter pistols with silencers were sent to the company from civilian firms in the United States, they were used to take out the NVA/VC sentries that guarded base camps and weigh stations. An experimental system for firing electronically detonated claymores that were daisy chained (Widow Makers) became a staple of Ranger ambushes.
November company personnel were called upon to conduct special contingency missions such as the BRIGHT LIGHT mission of prisoner rescue and the destruction of the VC infrastructure throughout Binh Dinh province. During April 1971 the Brigade Commander finally put the unofficial black beret on a Ranger’s head during a ceremony that honored the men of the Ranger company for an earlier action. The beret had been denied the Rangers primarily because of senior officer opposition to further distinctions between unit paratroopers. On 25 August 1971, Company N (Ranger), 75th Infantry was solemnly deactivated. The Rangers of Company N (Ranger), 75th Infantry performed with exceptional courage and valor throughout their existence and service in Vietnam, two years and 6 months. Today, the modern Rangers of the 75th Ranger Regiment continue the traditions of being the premier fighting element of the active army. The traditions and dedication to their fellow RANGERS continues!
O/75 & 78th LRP
Company O (RANGER), 75th Infantry
Upon deployment to Southeast Asia, the 3d Brigade, 82d Airborne Division (Separate) included no standard ground patrolling components, Col. Boning authorized his three Battalion Commanders to form ad-hoc reconnaissance/security elements as they were required. The 1/508th Infantry Bu. formed a sixty man “‘Delta Company”, the 2/505th Infantry Bn. formed a forty man “Strike Force” and the 1/505th Infantry Bn. formed two “Combined Platoons” of its own. These units were the catalyst for the 78th Infantry Detachment (LRP) (ABN).
When the 82d Airborne Divison’s 3d Brigade (Separate) was conducting patrols as the 78th Infantry Detachment (LRP) (ABN), after it was deployed from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, under the command of Col. (later Brig. Gen.) Alexander R. Bolling Jr., Company F (LR.P), 51th Infantry (Airborne) was still conducting missions under assigned area of operations. Company 0 (RANGER), 75th Infantry (Airborne) ranks were being filled with dedicated airborne qualified personnel from Company F (LRP), 51th Infantry (Airborne), who were experienced and had supremacy in Long Range Patrol tactics. Stability for Company F (LRP), 51th Infantry (Airborne) came from its original members who volunteered and had service with the 173d Airborne Brigade (Separate) and its replacement personnel who attended the MACV Recondo School at Nha Trang, RVN, and personnel who learned their ‘TRADE” without benefit of formal recon school training; this same stability was passed on into Company 0 (RANGER), 75th Infantry (Airborne).
Rather than create an entirely new unit designation for such an elite force, the Department of the Army looked to its rich and varied heritage and an I February 1969 designated the 75th Infantry Regiment, the present successor to the famous 5307th Composite Unit (Merrill’s Marauders), as the parent organization for an Department of the Army designated Long Range Patrol (LRP) units and the parenthetical designation (RANGER) in lieu of (LRP) for these units. As a result, the 78th Infantry Detachment (LRP), assigned to the 3d Brigade, 82d Airborne Division (Separate), became Company 0 (RANGER), 75th Infantry (Airborne). Throughout history the need for a small, highly trained far ranging unit to perform reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition and special type combat missions has been readily apparent. In Vietnam this need was met by instituting a Long Range Patrol program to provide each major combat unit with this special capability.
This history deals with the activities, personnel and accomplishments of Company 0 (RANGER), 75th Infantry (Airborne) during the periods, I February 1969 to 20 November 1969 (Vietnam) and 4 August 1970 to 29 September 1972 and makes reference to the units who proceeded the designation of Company 0 (RANGER), 75th Infantry (Airborne).
Less than a year after the original Company 0 was deactivated in Southeast Asia, Company 0 was activated at Ft. Richardson, Alaska an 4 August 1970 as Arctic Rangers under Gen. James F. Hollingsworth’s direction. On 12 November 1969, Ranger teams were extracted for the last time. Company 0 (RANGER)’s tactical operations, which had collected valuable intelligence an enemy activities and had accounted for twenty (20) VC KIA or captured, Company 0 (RANGER) was deactivated on 20 November, 1969 in the Republic of Vietnam, while under the command of Cpt. Patrick Downing. Operating in the Nhi Binh area, from late February to the middle of May, the Rangers conducted numerous operations gathering valuable intelligence data an enemy activity in the area as wen as accounting for five (5) VC KIA. During April 1969, Company 0 (RANGER) suffered its first casualties, four (4), which were overcomed by large superior forces. The latter part of May found the Rangers in the Hobo Woods area, although operating for only a short time in this area, Company 0 (RANGER) conducted some of its most successful operations which accounted for four (4) VC KIA. Continued success followed while operating in the Pineapple Plantation area from June to August, disrupting enemy activity throughout the area.
No longer were the VC able to move freely, as his mysterious antagonist (whom he seldom, if ever, saw) seemed to be everywhere. Operation Yorktown Victor commenced with operations in the “Iron Triangle” in September, which proved that Company 0 (RANGER) could out guerrilla the VC guerrilla. In the southern Phu Hoa district, the Rangers were frequently employed as stay-behind forces. On one occasion, less than an hour after the line company was extracted from the area, the Rangers captured two (2) VC who provided valuable intelligence concerning VC operations in the area. – September also accounted for Company 0 (RANGER)’s fifth and final friendly KIA. Late in October 1968, found the 3d Brigade in the Gia Dinh Province, a hot bed of rebel discontent and sympathetic to the Viet Cong. Forcing higher command interest in allocating proper reconnaissance assets.
On the 15th of December, 1968, the 78th Infantry Detachment (LRP) (ABN) Was activated under the command of Lt. William E. Jones and stationed at Camp Red Ban, northeast of Saigon. At this time Company F (LR.P), 51th Infantry (Airborne) was still conducting patrol missions at a reduced rate and preparing and training Company D (LRP), 151th (Airborne) personnel, who were ‘taken with” Company F (LRP), 51th Infantry (Airborne) personnel on their first missions, prior to being entrusted to conduct missions on their own. The 78th Infantry Detachment (LRP) CABN) was relocated to Phu Loi, under the command of Cpt. Donald A. Peter on I February 1969. Their mission given was to provide the 3d Brigade, 82d Airborne Division (Separate) with long range reconnaissance and surveillance, and if necessary engage and destroy the enemy. Every team leader and nearly every assistant team leader in the 78th infantry Detachment (LRP) (ABN) were either Recondo or Ranger qualified. On the 23d of February, 1969, Company 0 (RANGER), 75th Infantry (Airborne) became operational and ready for the test.
On 25 March 1972, the Arctic Rangers proved their proficiency on the Polar Lee Cap again and in July by traversing Harding Lee Field, one of the largest ice fields in the world. On King Salmon, in August, saw the Arctic Rangers being menaced by a pesky brown bear who raided their mess tent and avoided the Ranger’s attempts of capture by negotiating all their trip wires, and sights. The bear demonstrated such tactical prowess in avoiding detection that it was designated an “‘Honorary Ranger Bear.” On 4 March 1971, 135 Arctic Rangers parachuted onto the seven foot thick ice sheet north-northeast of Point Barrow, Alaska. Their activities were of a covert nature which comprised of sixteen daily flights between Alaska and Europe. Press releases at that time were “to serve in search, rescue, first aid and recovery actions ‘at the top of the world’ in the event of much needed emergencies along trans-polar airline routes.”
After conducting an abbreviated Ranger course at Ft. Richardson, Company 0 (Arctic Ranger) was dispatched to St. Lawrence Island for anti-Soviet “combat” surveillance, only forty-seven (47) miles from Soviet territory. Supported by the 1st Scout Battalion, the 297th Infantry and the 38th Special Forces Group, but plagued by high winds, dense fogs and maintenance problems (which prevented systematic patrolling), the maneuver still stands as one of the few “combatant incidents” that occurred, outside and during the Vietnam War period.
During January 1971, Company 0 (Arctic Ranger) conducted the first basic airborne course in the history of the U.S. Army, Alaska and qualified fiftyseven (57) paratroopers. On 18 February 1971 the Arctic Rangers demonstrated this parachute capability by executing a winter jump over frozen Lake Clunle at Ft. Richardson. This was a training prelude to the daring March Ranger para-drop over frozen Beaufort Sea, the first Military parachute operation on the polar ice cap. The mission: “to provide long range reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition, patrol capability to USARAL”. Under the command of Maj. George A. Ferguson Jr.; equipped with long range communications and over the snow terrain apparatuses (snow machines, cross country sleds, and snowshoes) the Arctic Rangers were known as the “eyes and ears of the north.” The Arctic Rangers watched for and provided early warning of enemy infiltration by patrolling vast stretches of the otherwise unprotected Alaskan coast, as well as the St. Lawrence and Little Diomede Islands. During the late 1960’s, Soviet military activity became more aggressive and observation missions increased. Aircraft over-flights and detections of surfaced submarines were reported frequently. These reports were underscored by sightings of suspicions persons (some wearing wet suits) and the recovery of rubber rafts and chemical masks on secluded beaches.
Participating with Canadian forces in ACID TEST 111, December 1970; the Rangers deployed satisfactorily and succeeded in infiltrating the main “aggressor” camp. At the end of the test, Company 0 (Arctic Ranger) was declared operational for commitment anywhere within Alaska.
After his departure to Vietnam in January 1972, Gen. Hollingsworth was to assume command of the very region where the original Company 0 operated. Having lost their champion, Company 0 (Arctic Ranger) was slated for elimination in his absence, thus Company 0 (Arctic Ranger) was deactivated on 29 September 1972. The Arctic Rangers existed for just over two years, but during this interval they forged an indelible mark on the diverse record of U.S. Army Ranger history.
P/75 & 79th LRP
Company P (RANGER), 75th Infantry
The 1st Brigade of the 5th Infantry Division (MECH) arrived in northern South Vietnam in the I Corps area in July of 1968 as part of the final Army deployment into the combat theater. The 5th Infantry Division, supported by Armored Personnel Carriers, tanks, and other assorted motorized equipment was based at Camp Red Devil in the Quang Tri Province i the northernmost area of I Corps. They were assigned a large sector of responsibility along the Demilitarized Zone, from the Gulf of Tonkin on the east, to the Laotian border on the west The “RED DEVIL BRIGADE” conducted cordon and search missions around villages, performed search and clear expeditions on the Khe Sahn Plains, and secured roadways throughout its assigned area of operation. Other tasks included, but were not limited to, guarding the rice harvests and denying the enemy access to the agriculture rich coastline.
Extended foot reconnaissance was needed for many of these tasks, and the 79th Infantry Detachment (LRP) was activated on 15 December 1968. The detachment never reached operational status. Still in training, the detachment was supplemented by personnel transferred up north from F Co. (LRP) 51st Infantry of the II Field Force. The “HURRICANE PATROLLERS’ had been replaced by Co. D (RANGER), 151st Infantry, an Indiana National Guard unit activated during the Vietnam conflict and its assets were used to form Companies 0 and P of the 75th Infantry.
On 1 February 1969, Co. P (RANGER) 75th Infantry was activated to perform reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition for the 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (MECH). The personnel used to man PAPA Company were all volunteers and usually Airborne qualified, with a few exceptions. Team Leaders were usually graduates of a U. S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia or combat experienced non-commissioned officers. This was not always the case, as the most experienced and qualified men in the company were not always the ones with the highest rank. Team members had a wide variety of Military Occupational Specialties (MOS’s) and training was usually done on the job. Recondo training was at the 5th Special Forces RECONDO SCHOOL in Nha Trang and was available to selected personnel as training allocations became available. PAPA Company was also equipped with trained Snipers, but because of terrain and mission objectives, they were seldom used operationally. The process of getting the company combat ready was declared complete in March of 1969.
PAPA Company fielded on average, six combat ready 6 man Ranger “HUNTER-KILLER”teams that consisted of a team leader (TL), an assistant team leader (ATL), a radio operator (RTO) and 3 scout observers. Each team member performed a variety of tasks as assigned by the team leader. Generally speaking, 2 Ranger teams would be out in the field, 2 teams would be on “READY ALERT” to back up teams out on patrol or to become a “REACTIONARY FORCE” as needed, and 2 teams would be in a stand down mode to re-supply and prepare for their next assigned mission.
Missions assigned by the lst Bde., 5th Inf. Div. (MECH) generally consisted of an assigned 4 to 6 square kilometer area known as a “BOX”. The mission duration was normally 5 days and 4 nights unless the team was compromised or if contact was made with the enemy. In the northern I Corps area, to include the entire Demilitarized Zone, the enemy encountered was usually the hard-core NVA regulars, who were better equipped, better trained soldiers than their Viet Cong counterparts. A typical Ranger mission, if there is such a thing, would have the team recon and observe an area for enemy presence or movement for the first 4 days and attempt to ambush on the last night and day of the mission, prior to extraction. This was not always the case as some teams were authorized to ambush earlier in their mission, depending on circumstances.
PAPA Company Ranger teams were usually inserted and extracted by helicopter, but also used the assets of the 5th Infantry Division (MECH) which resulted in “stay-behind” missions and direct insertions by tanks and armored personnel carriers.
Support for the PAPA Company teams was provided by “REDLEG” artillery units at firebases A4 (known as Alpha 4) and C2 (known as Charlie 2) which were located just south of the Demilitarized Zone; a buffer zone that separated North and South Vietnam. Air support was provided by among others, the 158th Assault Helicopter Battalion of the 101st Infantry Division (AMBL) in Camp Evans, near Phu Bai, and the 17th Air Cavalry, stationed at Camp Red Devil in Quang Tri. Also at the disposal of the Rangers were naval vessels in the Gulf of Tonkin for fire missions, land and ship based attack and fighter aircraft, and bombers based in Thailand. Forward Air Controllers (FAC) and their aircraft were also available for spotting, radio relay, and for directing air strikes as needed. Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) missions were common for the Rangers in PAPA Company.
By late 1970, & PAPA Company Rangers found their missions to be centered more in the Khe Sahn Plain. Much of the intelligence gathered during this period, through the early part of 1971, was instrumental in the success achieved by friendly forces during LAM SON 719 in April of 1971. The PAPA Company Rangers continued patrolling the DMZ, Khe Sahn area, the Citadel, Rockpile, and the Tri-Border Area, until they began stand down procedures on 23 July 1971. All personnel were transferred out of the unit by 5 August 1971.
Co. P (RANGER) 75th Infantry was officially de-activated on 31 August 1971.
3rd ID, LRRP Company
3rd Infantry Division Long Range Recon Patrol (LRRP) Detachment
This is an abbreviated history of the 3rd Infantry Division Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) Detachment during the period of its existence from 20 November 1961 to 14 August 1964. This history also includes reference to a predecessor unit, the provisional V Corps Long Range Patrol Co. established in October 1960.
The history of U.S. Army’s Long Range Recon Patrols in Germany evolved from NATO’s development of the concept in the late 1950s. This concept was influenced by the British Special Air Service’s (SAS) successful use of small independently operating deep reconnaissance patrols. Among the first such U.S. Army units to be activated in Germany was USAREUR’s (U.S. Army Europe) V Corps Long Range Patrol. This unit was initially a TDY unit comprised of highly motivated volunteers from various units of the 3rd Infantry Division and the 3rd Armored Division. The unit was organized in October 1960 for the specific purpose of providing Corps level long-range intelligence from behind enemy lines. The upcoming Wintershield II maneuvers were to provide both a test of the feasibility of the concept and to evaluate its effectiveness. The success of this unit in the Wintershield II exercises led to the formal establishment of the V Corps (ABN) LRRP Co. at Wildflecken on 15 July 1961. This unit ultimately became Company A (Airborne Ranger), 75th Infantry.
The 3rd Infantry Division LRRP Detachment had its roots in the provisional V Corps LRRP Co. formed for the Wintershield II operation and the Division’s Battle Group (Battalion) level LRRP units. Among these were LRRP detachments from the 2d BG, 4th Infantry and the 1st BG, 15th Infantry stationed at Warner Kaserne in Bamberg. The members of these units formed the nucleus for the first division-level LRRP detachment in the U.S. Army, and, as with the British SAS, were all volunteers and were “returned to unit” if found unsuited for duty in a special operations environment.
The 3rd Infantry Division Long Range Recon Patrol (LRRP) Detachment was formed on 20 November 1961 with 1LT Edward M. Jentz as Detachment Commander. 1LT Jentz was an Airborne Ranger from the 1st Battle Group, 30th Infantry in Schweinfurt. The Detachment’s Operations Officer was 1LT John H. Peyton from the 3rd Infantry Division’s Security Platoon in Wurzburg. 1LT Peyton was also an Airborne Ranger. The unit’s First Sergeant was SFC Gerald M. “Mike” Tardif. SFC Tardif was also an Airborne Ranger who had served previously with the Canadian Army. The unit’s operations NCO was SSG Robert H. Schroeder. SSG Schroeder (“Red Dog”) was a master parachutist and instructor at the Army’s Ranger School at Fort Benning for nine years prior to being sent to Germany. Bob Schroeder had jumped into Nijmegen, Holland on D-Day 1944 with the 82d Airborne Division and had served in the Korean War. His experiences as both a combat veteran and as a Ranger instructor set very high standards for the unit. Other Airborne Rangers forming part of the initial detachment were SGTs Clifford N. Mize, Bobby Freeman, and SFC Bobby McMeans. SGT Mize was a hand-to-hand combat instructor from the Ranger School and was later killed in Vietnam. SFC McMeans had served with the 10th Mountain Division. SGT Freeman had also served with the provisional V Corps LRRP Co. and returned to that unit in 1962.
The 3rd Inf. Div. LRRP Detachment was based at Daley Barracks in the Northern Bavarian resort town of Bad Kissingen, approximately 60 miles east of Frankfurt and about 20 miles from the E. German border. It was attached to the 10th Engineer Battalion in Wurzburg for logistical and administrative support. The unit was originally billeted with troops of the 2d Squadron of the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment. The Cav troops weren’t sure who these crazy “Lurps” were, who got up and ran several miles every day regardless of the weather, even in deep snow. The fact that the unit wore distinctive German Army camouflage uniforms and carried rucksacks instead of standard issue web gear only heightened the Cav’s interest. The unit also wore a distinctive, but unauthorized “Long Range Patrol” scroll on its headgear.
The Berlin Wall had gone up in August of 1961, and international tensions were quite high. It was a time of great danger between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and everyone knew that if the Russians started World War III, the unit’s chances of survival were slim to none. Hence, everyone concentrated on learning everything they needed to know to enhance their chances of survival. As a result, the men’s confidence grew and they took pride in being a part of an elite unit. This pride was reflected in the detachment’s motto:
“May the fires of Hell forever crackle and smell with the meat and the bones of a thing called a man who says, I can’t!”
As a consequence of this esprit de corps, the unit was extremely cohesive, and in this regard would have been a good subject for a case study in small unit leadership, i.e., unit members were motivated to accomplish the mission because of positive, as opposed to negative stimuli. In other words, the men were motivated to get the job done with the highest degree of efficiency because they wanted to, not because they were coerced or forced.
The unit’s training reflected its mission: to act as the eyes and ears of the Division behind enemy lines and to observe enemy movements, pinpoint targets, and report back to Division Intelligence. In addition to its rigorous physical training program, the unit practiced patrolling (both day and night), map reading and land navigation, forward observer techniques, cover and concealment, explosives and demolitions, rock climbing and rapelling, escape and evasion, path finding and helicopter operations, hand-to-hand combat, CBR, first aid, and the recognition and identification of Soviet Bloc uniforms and equipment. The unit also underwent 6 weeks of intensive radio and morse code (CW) training at the 123d Signal Battalion’s radio school in Wurzburg. During the course the detachment was taught how to operate CW (Morse Code) on the AN/GRC-9, AN/GRC-41, and AN/GRC-26 radios. The students also learned defense against jamming, communications security, and field radio maintenance procedures. The men also learned how to set up the radios in the field and how to orient and string the “long wire” antenna. At the height of its proficiency, the detachment lost Captain Jentz and 1LT Peyton to the 10th Special Forces Group in Bad Tolz. This was just before the detachment was scheduled to deploy on its first major field training exercise. SSG Bob Schroeder was the NCOIC of the detachment during this interim period and directed the unit’s deployment on the FTX. The exercise was a huge success, with the Lurps providing real time intelligence on “enemy” troop movements and concentrations for the first time in the Division’s recent history.
The unit’s second commanding officer was 1LT Wilbur G. Bowersox. 1LT Bowersox was also an Airborne Ranger who was assigned to the unit in late-1962. During 1LT Bowersox’s tenure as CO, the detachment continued its rigorous training schedule and participated in numerous FTXs and war games, often playing the role of aggressors or guerrillas. Most of these missions involved helicopter insertions behind “enemy” lines with 3-4 man patrols.
These patrols typically consisted of a patrol leader, radio operator, asst. radio operator, and a scout observer. On a 3-man patrol, the patrol leader usually acted as the radio operator (as the assistant had to hand-crank the AN/GRC-9’s generator). Early on, the patrol leaders were all E-6’s and E-7’s, but as these career soldiers “derossed,” SP/4s and PFCs became patrol leaders. These young EM were also experienced soldiers, many with over two years time in grade, but who were passed over for promotion by their TO&E units because of their detached duty status. Many top notch soldiers went home as E-3’s because they chose to remain with the detachment. Such was the level of pride and camaraderie among the LRRPs of the 3rd Infantry Division. It was also during this period that the unit’s name was changed to the “Marne Scouts Recon Patrol (MSRP).” No one really cared for this name, but the unit bore it proudly knowing all the while they were still Lurps!
In late 1963 both 1LT Bowersox and SSG Schroeder rotated back to the States. SSG Schroeder was sorely missed by the remaining members of the detachment. His replacement as First Sergeant was a SSG Turner who was assigned to the unit from Division HQ. SSG Turner was a good soldier, but was not Airborne or Ranger qualified, and the unit’s training activities and field operations diminished accordingly. The detachment’s third and last CO, 2LT John A. Walden joined the unit at the end of 1963. 2LT Walden was an Airborne Ranger, but by this time the Division had other plans for the unit. The Year 1964 was spent mostly in garrison duty, with only some opportunities for LRRP actions, most notably along the E. German Border with the 14th AC. In June 1964, the detachment participated in a 100-mile march to Nijmegen, Holland to commemorate the 20th anniversary of D-Day. The unit also led the Division in the Expert Infantry Badge (EIB) competition, with most of the detachment earning the coveted award. SGT Dalton Naill achieved the highest overall score in the Division, and was awarded a large trophy in addition to the EIB. SSG Don Rampanelli scored second highest in the Division and also received an award.
On August 14, 1964 the 3rd Infantry Division Long Range Recon Patrol was disbanded and its troops returned to their TO&E units. Several men offered to extend their tours for duty with the V Corps and VII Corps LRRP Companies, but were turned down by their TO&E unit commanders as being too valuable to be let go.
Although the 3rd Infantry Division LRRP Detachment never served in combat, it nonetheless trained hard, often in extreme weather conditions, and was arguably one of the finest units in the U.S. Army of its era. Even though it was disbanded over 33 years ago, the unit still exists today in the hearts and memories of the 100 or so men who served with it during its short existence. Among those memories is that of the unit’s disbandment party, which, even by Lurp standards, was one hell of a party!
In August 1997, twenty-six former members of the unit, along with wives and guests, attended the detachment’s first reunion in Columbus, Georgia. Ceremonies were held at the Ranger Memorial at Fort Benning to honor former LRRP/Ranger comrades who have made their last patrol. During a Friday evening banquet held at the historic Columbus Hilton Hotel, COL Ed Jentz (Ret.), LTC John H. Peyton (Ret.), CSM Mike Tardif (Ret.) and MSG Robert H. Schroeder (Ret.) received awards from the detachment recognizing their commitment to the unit and honoring their leadership. After more than 30 years we still remember and revere these old warriors, and appreciate the sacrifices made by them and those who came after us, and who continue the Lurp/Ranger tradition today. And that’s the way it was in the 3rd Infantry Division LRRPs.
K Co, 75th Inf. (Ranger): Vietnam
“There I was…”
the following is as true as I can recall it, and I hope someone might find my teammates (all living when they left RVN) someday.
Circa March, 1970 – AO: An Khe, RVN – central highlands. Briefing says quiet AO, some intel about movement, but nothing exceptional, 13 klicks out, no biggie, morning insertion, side of a hill, just off the ridge. Heavy woods/jungle, double-canopy, no f****** elephant grass, etc. Dress for a picnic. So, after packing LOTS more weaponry, given the normal accuracy of Intel, we go for the pad (Siglow, TL – Crash, ATL & Point – William A. Dennis, Taildragger, – Wadley, RTO – big Polish fella (CRS) with an M60 – first time I’d walked with more than 4 men on a team – should have known something was wrong when he was included…) No one except the MG guy has more than 90 days to go before rotation, all should be out of the field by now so they can “humanize” prior to re-meeting their Mommies.
Dropped out of bird from about a million feet at some speed, rolling around through the short grass until some appendage brought me to a halt, bruised, pissed, scared and trying to be sneaky. Crawled around, found some gear that looked like I’d packed it, reattached it and found the team. Moved off the LZ 20 meters into the wood line. I made the comment that I sensed people, others gave me “that look”. Gathered around an eight inch tree, all looking out while recovering, etc. 5 secs later *BANG* right behind me! Look around, the MG guy is looking at his weapon with a real weird look, we all think he fired off a round (he HAD done that during a POW Camp mission earlier)….I am strongly considering cutting this idiot’s throat when Wadley starts grunting, drops ruck and spider-runs into the brush. Amazed, I look around, but nothing catches my eye. TL pokes me and sez, “Drop your ruck and move off”, points two feet above our heads on the tree. There, fitted into the three-branch fork, sits a SMOKING Chicom WITH PINEAPPLE STEEL JACKET (first of those I’d seen). The cap had blown, but the grenade hadn’t fired, or we’d be dead. After the heart attack, we all left the tree and gingerly recovered the gear. The trip wire was attached to a bamboo stick right up against the tree, so when we slid the rucks down the tree to sit…. Wow.. Now we’re REALLY scared. TL had reported the “shot”, so decisions were being contemplated.
Find cover about 25 meters away, look around, LOTS of these things all over the place. Trouble by the ton here…
Movement starts in about 5 min. Low brush is moving around, but looks like animals, not people… Here come 3 chickens (no kidding, CHICKENS), moving like they’re driven – right toward us. We’re checking this out, waiting for Papasan Farmer to follow, when all the chickens go berserk, spread out, making lots of noise. Immediately following that, all HELL breaks loose near our position and we start returning fire on every moving bush (and some innocent ones, too). People start running all over the place, dropping, etc., but the Dinks don’t quite know where we are, so we’re doing OK. Then the bad thing happened for me. I had noticed there were people everywhere, but until the TL said into the radio “We’re surrounded”, I hadn’t really thought about it that way. True, though, and no good place to E&E. Birds were on the pad being refueled, 20-30 min out. Damn, seemed like the end to me. TL says move out, points in a direction and I take off, followed at about 1 foot by my 4 real tight teammates. The wall of fire just drops everybody in our path and we break out of the ring into new brush. About 75 meters out, we go to ground and wait (I casually got my camera out at this point and took PICTURES of three of the guys until Siglow’s wide-eyed “what the f*** are you doing?” look made me put it away). Where are the BIRDS???!!! (Been about 10 minutes, or a week, maybe). People start coming again, but we move toward the LZ we’d just crawled off of, not allowing flanking to work. Grenades, small arms, lots of folks moving around, hazy stuff from here to LZ, feeding the MG guy who is working like an MG on a swivel from the center of the position (everybody got to carry a belt or two this mission), firing the ’79 (hit a branch 10 ft out, went straight up through the canopy and came down somewhere – TL gave me that look again, stopped THAT) waiting for the personal explosion within my clothing.
BIRDS are above, making circles – WONDERFUL sound!!! Smoke on the LZ, birds say they’re coming in, guns start making runs even though they can’t see us. Dirt fountains start appearing around us, so we have to move to the LZ. I’m first out, and as I break out, there is a Dink, running parallel to my left about 25 feet away. He’s DiDi’ing same as me, but I see him first. He sees me, tries to spin (long spin to the right if you’re right handed, oops), I gave him an entire mag, head for the chopper. Gunners firing at our faces, Dinks firing at our asses, we get aboard while the bird is growing pimples and the pilots are looking around like it’s another day at the office – amazing fellas. The right-seater is actually firing a .38 wheel gun out the little window! Flying out, working the woods with everything in the bird (I actually took another picture or two ’cause I hadn’t taken many for Mom – funny how you get when you’re short). Funny-looking sight for me right then, couldn’t believe it.
Body count (by chopper pilots – who couldn’t see well through the canopy) was eight NVA. Secondaries all over the hillside, so we knew we hit something big, but Intel questioned the whole story, as this was WAY too close to our base for the size of unit which carries the steel-jacket Chicom. There were some medals given for this 3-mission project (it had a name, CRS), BS for some (can’t remember what the others did – a bit busy to watch each other, but they were working the problem heavily), ARCOM w/V for me, I did not show for the ceremony, as these medals were being given because we were all short and it was our turn. Much redder things had passed for all of us with no mention, hence it was a bit hard to take. Blood-pinned by buddies later. Still have the orders, lost (threw out) the little thingie.
We would be re-inserted two more times within a couple klicks of AO in the next couple weeks, with similar results. Stories of those two and the end will follow when finger-cramps settle. It is a good end, as all on our side lived to see Mom.
After I had left the unit about 30 days later (to Military Intel to “humanize”, can you believe THAT?), I found out an entire team was lost when inserted 150 meters from there on the other side of the ridge – inserted directly into the 9th NVA Regimental HQ. Luck of the draw….
Whether from training, life, love or war, stories are great things to read if life wouldn’t put you there to live it.
“Crash” E/58th LRRP, and K Co, 75th Infantry(Ranger), 69-70
E Co, 50th Infantry (LRP): Vietnam
“I carried 3 M-14 pouches and 1 canteen on my web belt…
The M-14 pouches could hold 5 M-16 mags. We put a piece of black electrical tape on the butt of each magazine to form a tab so we could pull the first 4 out of the pouch easier and sliced the top half inch or so of the pouches so as to lay the 5th mag across the top. I generally carried 2 of these pouches loaded with tracer every 3rd round and the other pouch had all ball rounds for penetrating heavy growth or for firing without giving my location away so easily. I also carried 2 mags in my leg pockets loaded with straight tracer for marking my or the enemy location for the fly boys when the radio could not do the job accurately enough. I also had 2 mags taped together in a V shape in my weapon for quick reaction reloading at first contact. In the really bad areas, I also carried 1 or more 7 mag bandoleers made of OD cloth and from 6 to 15 grenades of various types and a claymore as well as the PRC-25. Needless to say, when the mud got thick, I was walking deep. Almost forgot the big starlight scope also!
The following mission explains why I was not a fan of all tracer loads. One night in January of 69, Herb Frost, Roman Mason, Leon Moore, Mark Durham and I were on a mission east of Ben Tre in a populated area with much tree growth separated by small rice paddies and Vietnamese hooches every hundred meters or so. We were moving from hooch to hooch looking for military age males or any sign of weapons when we spotted a man walking at us from a wooded area. When he was about half way across the rice paddy, we called to him to stop. He took off like a ruptured duck and managed to dodge our fire. That SOB could have been an olympic champion sprinter.
About 45 minutes later a bunch of his friends came into the area to return our greeting. We were in a hooch searching for weapons when a large volume of fire went over the roof. The local VC seemed to know there were 2 women and a small kid in the hooch with us so avoided shooting directly into the place. This gave us a definite advantage. I was on one corner and had cut a slit through the thatched wall just above a short mud wall and could see the VC firing positions every time they popped up to shoot. There was enough star light and a few klicks away someone was shooting illumination rounds that partially backlit their position. One of them must have been a FNG VC because he was shooting almost all tracer and each time he popped up to shoot, he cut loose with all 30 rounds just over my head but still above the roof. Keep in mind that this was not a heavy battle but, rather, just a friendly exchange of lead to let each of us know that the other guy was there.
I saw this guy pop up twice from the same spot and empty his mag so was waiting when he did it for the 3rd and final time. As soon as I saw his solid line of green tracer start, I was aimed in at that spot and cut loose with a full clip of mixed ball and tracer. I bet 3/4th of my load caught him in the upper chest and face. I watched as his tracer line climbed into the sky before stopping. At that point, the other VC reduced fire and quit using tracer.
A few minutes later they must have decided they had enough of us and pulled their X-FNG off for last rites. We also decided that it was time to go so called for extraction. I remember wondering if any had stayed behind to give us a going away party when the bird came but, if so, they did no more shooting as we pulled out. Tracers were a nice tool but they work in both directions. This also shows the kind of problems we had in the delta with LRP missions. Way too much population and too little solid cover in many areas.”
E/50 LRP 1968-69
BDQ: 67th Vietnamese Ranger Bn.
“I think the hardest time I had as a Vietnamese Ranger Advisor was persuading my counterpart to operate in smaller size units.”
His “mind set” was that there is safety in numbers. Although I was an advisor to a Battalion, it was more like a Company. The Battalion strength was about 400+ when I first came aboard. Which is about twice the size of an American rifle company. The Battalion Commander was only a Captain; his staff and company commanders were all Lieutenants.
After months of nagging him to send out smaller size patrols, he told me one day that he had decided to send out a small combat patrol. (Like it was his idea). I asked how many Rangers and he replied 10. I couldn’t believe it! His previous smallest size was 20+. I say 20+ because they always started with 20, for example, and kept adding on as the time drew closer for departure. I suggested to the Battalion Commander that I thought I should go on this one. My purpose was not to lead the patrol or even make suggestions, but just to observe. We were to move out early in the evening, after dark, to a location about 5 clicks (Kilometers) away. Three clicks were across open rice paddies. Spend the day hidden and then the next night move another click and set up a night ambush at a point that we suspected was a release point off the “Ho Chi Minh” trail out of Cambodia. Stay no longer than three days and return. Five days total. We took no C’s, no LRRP rations, nothing but rice, carried it in a sock.
Everything went good. We actually only had 10 of us. I was the 10th one. We cleared the Battalion area, made it across the rice patties in good order and into the jungle terrain. I was real proud of my Vietnamese Rangers. No noise since we left the Battalion. Everything was perfect. We found what appeared to be a good position. It was extremely dark. The PL (Patrol Leader) put out security and the rest hung their hammocks. I did the same. We had an hour or so before daylight. I had been on a few night ambushes with different Rangers, but nothing that extended out this far from the Battalion. To be quite frank with you, I felt kind of exposed. Not being able to speak Vietnamese, except for a few key words. Not that it made any difference as they hadn’t said a word since we left. I wasn’t very tired, but got in my hammock anyway. My mind was racing trying to cover all the “what ifs”. I laid there for a good while. It finally started getting light and I could see that the PL had indeed picked a good spot. There was plenty of concealment, lots of trees, and no sign of any previous activity. It looked good to me. I noticed that a few started a small fire with C-4 to cook some rice. That sounded good.
I got out of my hammock and decided I needed to take a whiz. I walked over to the edge of the area we were in, did my business and as I turned, all hell broke out! Heavy firing coming from the other side of our small perimeter. I started running for my hammock as my rifle was there with my ruck. (Yes, I screwed up). Just as I grabbed my rifle and looked up there was a sight that I will never forget! All I could see were khaki clothed NVA! It looked like a million, but was really only three or four.
My Rangers, almost in unison had already started charging the enemy, screaming, hollering, and shooting! I thought the Devil himself had just arrived. This caught me off guard so much it actually scared the hell out of me more than the NVA. I didn’t even get off a shot. They all disappeared in to the brush and I realized I was by myself. That was a real motivator to catch up! They were only about 20 meters away. Then it was deathly silent. I thought, oh no, that was just the tip of the iceberg. I could just see looking at a NVA Company or larger. I was wrong thank God. My Rangers had 6 NVA KIA. NONE of us was even wounded! All this time I thought they didn’t really know what they were doing. It was just one surprise after another, they way they conducted themselves. We quickly moved to another position and stayed hidden until night and then boogied on back. Our ammo was lower than what we wanted and if we’d got into something else we might be in trouble. We had no resources for chopper resupply or extraction. I for sure didn’t want to call on American resources as we were so close to Cambodia.
This little mission taught me a lot. First, my Rangers were very good fighters, better than I had given them credit. And second, ten meters is an awfully long way to be from your rifle when you need it.
Although, we never did get lower than 10 man teams we did conduct numerous 10-man hunter-killer teams as we called them. Sometimes we did very well and sometimes we got our asses whipped. But all in all, my Rangers did an outstanding job. I am proud to have been with them.
Advisor to 67th Vietnamese Ranger Bn.
E/50 LRP: Vietnam
Trapped in a mud-walled hooch by a superior VC force 29 years ago one of my team scouts went to sleep on rear security…
…on a night when 60 or more very unfriendly people were out searching for us in at least 3 groups. Unfortunately, one of their elements found us from that direction first and damned near bagged our whole team. Below is the story of that night. An earlier version of it was published in “Behind the Lines” magazine in 1993. For any of you active duty guys, please kick the shit out of anyone you ever find asleep on guard. It might help save the lives of them and others.
A Lurp team fights desperately for survival. With half the team KIA and the team leader blinded, gun ships and medevacs are the survivors’ only hope.
January 27, 1969 started out just like many other days for Team 17, with us preparing for yet another night ambush patrol off the Mobile Riverine Force. I served with E/50 Long Range Patrol from April 68 through January 69. We had teams scattered all over the 9th Division AO. Several months earlier, our teams were kicked off the Mobile Riverine Force for smuggling beer on board. Shortly thereafter a VC sapper team swam out to the USS Westchester County near Toi San Island with a large quantity of plastic explosives and blew two huge holes in it. We were quickly forgiven and invited to return to the ships. We began running ambush patrols along trails and canals within a few klicks of the MRF. In the previous three weeks, we had pulled several effective missions on the south bank area near a major canal intersection called the “cross roads.” This area was roughly between My Tho and Ben Tre and consisted of large sections of heavy forest and jungle swamps bordered by kilometers of wide open rice paddies. About half of these missions resulted in contact with a very active local VC force.
On this mission, I planned to insert by chopper near a heavy wood line and move the team several hundred meters to a position near one of the canals. Late on that afternoon, I flew over the area in a LOH to pick out some possible sites while on the way to drop off George Calabrese and Chuck Semmit at Ben Tre to be our radio relay. Shortly after returning to the MRF, the Huey arrived and carried six of us off into what turned out to be deep shit.
At our first insertion point, we were only on the ground about thirty seconds before a VC strolled out of the woods a hundred meters away with his AK over his shoulder like a hobo’s pack. He spotted me and jumped back into the woods just as I cut loose with a burst from my 16. I decided at that point to extract and move a couple klicks to see if we could get a clean insertion. We landed near a small hooch I remembered from a previous mission to be a water buffalo shed. It was almost dark as I scanned the wood line. At that point, I decided it was going to be an interesting night, because there was a Vietnamese man in the woods looking right back at me. When I reported this, I was told we were to keep the mission going anyway. I waited until full dark and got the team moving out of there. About an hour later, I heard a brief burst of fire from the vicinity of our last position. I figured we had escaped unseen, but we were not able to get into the woods because of heavy movement of people on their way home. We came to a cluster of five hooches scattered over an area the size of a football field. All but one appeared to be empty. We entered one that was isolated from the others and found it to be built like a fortress. It had thick mud walls, about four feet high, which ran all the way around except for the door opening and a large above-ground bunker of mud and tree trunks. Because of a dry thatch wall on one side, which would have caused too much noise to remove, I had to deploy two men outside on that corner. This should have caused no problem, as they could quickly jump over the wall and knock holes in the thatching if it became necessary. For the next several hours we waited and watched to see what would happen.
At 2300 hours, I put the team on 50% alert. Richard Thompson, Mark Durham, and Roman Mason took their shot at getting some sleep, while Norman Crabb, Leon Moore and I watched for any activity. Around 2320 hours I thought I saw movement in the woods about 150 meters away. It was a clear night with starlight so bright I could almost read by it. I moved to Moore’s position to get the starlight scope. He said there had been no activity on his side of the hooch, away from the woodline. For the next few minutes, Norman Crabb and I observed what appeared to be about twenty people moving around in the woods across from us. I was not overly concerned, because I had claymores set up in that direction.
Just as I decided to wake the team for possible action and to contact base, I heard voices behind me. Thinking it was Mason and Moore, I grabbed my 16 and started around the hooch to shut them up and get them inside. I had just turned the corner of the hooch when I recognized the voices were Vietnamese, and five armed VC stood four feet from me. They were so preoccupied looking down at the sleeping forms of my rear security element, they did not even notice me. I raised my 16 to waste them when I noticed about twenty more VC on the other side of a paddy dike ten feet past Mason and Moore’s position. I slipped back around the corner and had Crabb cover the closest VC while I moved inside to wake the other guys. I looked over the wall as I whispered into the radio for assistance. We were unable to figure a sure way to wake Mason and Moore and get them in before they would be hit. There must have been at least twenty weapons trained on them at point blank range. My radio relay people told me that division would not send gun ships until we were in contact. I told everyone to open up at once, hoping that we could put out enough fire to allow Mason and Moore to get inside. It did not work, and they were cut down before they could even start to move.
The mud walls of the hooch held up against the heavy battering from all those AK’s, and the thick roof thatching absorbed the blast from several grenades. So far, the people I spotted in the woodline had not started firing. I figured they wanted us to run from the hooch into their ambush, but I was not about to leave Mason and Moore behind, even if I could. I decided to remove my radio and crawl around the hooch to a point where I could fire along the right flank of the attacking force, when I spotted more people on my left flank. We were completely surrounded and taking fire from three sides. About that time, an RPG came in the door and detonated on the ground three feet in front of me. I think the blast caused me to do a complete back flip while flying about fifteen feet across the hooch. For the first few seconds, it felt like someone hit me in the face with a two-by-four, but it quickly numbed into a dull throb. I could not see anything, even though there had been enough light in the hooch before from tracers to see quite well.
I crawled back across the floor, feeling for my 16 and the radio, when I heard another large blast to my right. Thompson fell to the floor and died almost immediately. Only about five minutes had passed since the first shot, and half my team was KIA, and I was blind. I found my 16 and asked my radio relay team where the Cobra’s were. I was told they were on the way and Hotel-Volley 27, the call sign of a 105 battery at fire base Claw, came up on my frequency and asked if we wanted artillery support. With VC within 10 to 20 feet away and me blind, I said no. I could not pull one of my last two men off the wall long enough to call in 105’s on our own heads.
After about fifteen minutes of heavy firing, Crabb came to me to say he was out of ammo and Durham was on his last magazine. Since I had been blinded so early in the fight, I had plenty left. I started handing magazines to them and then finally handed my web gear to Crabb after removing a grenade to keep just in case we were overrun. I noticed that the VC firing was also slacking off and figured they were also running low. I told Crabb and Durham to start shooting semi-automatic at selective targets to keep us going as long as possible. I called once again to ask where the hell our gun ships were and to advise that in a few more minutes they would only need to send graves registration for a reaction force. One of the sweetest sounds I can remember hearing was when Charger 21 told me to mark my position so his gun ships could open up. I had Crabb throw my strobe light out the door and said anything more than twenty feet from it was all theirs. The VC that could, hauled ass out of there as rockets and mini-guns started tearing up the area. I told Crabb and Durham that we would first drag out our dead teammates when the extraction ship landed, and if there was no effective sniper fire they could go back for our equipment. A chopper crew with balls like King Kong landed in that mess and waited on the ground for us to load. Crabb led me to the bird to keep me from walking into the tail rotor. The gun ships did such a great job of building a wall of lead and fire that we had no problem extracting.
I spent the next ten and a half months recovering from wounds and learning how to live as a blind man. Well, it could have been a whole hell of a lot worse. I recently got back in touch with some of the old gang and it is great. My time at the Ranger reunions and at the Wall have been a terrific way to heal many of the old wounds.
E/50 LRP 1968-69
E Co, 75th Infantry (Ranger): Vietnam
“The killing of Lt.Gen Hai Tram actually had it’s start weeks earlier…”
It was in an AO we called the “Testicles”. The way the Vam Co Tay river flowed it looked like a pair of testicles on a map.
One of the teams from the second platoon ( Two One, Two Two or Two Four I don’t remember which) uncovered a Regional Hq/Hospital complex. The reaction force for the mission was an All hands fall out of E Co. The destruction of this complex is what flushed out Hai Tram. A few weeks later, gunships shot up some gooks “near” the Cambodian border.
With the available teams either asleep from the previous night’s mission or scattered about 3rd Bde 9th Div. Hq during the day, a team was quickly assembled from who ever was in the company area at the time. I believe the team was made up of Ssgt. Stevens, Spyder Valenti, Tom Dineen, Ray Bazini, Keit (the PRU) and Mike Kentes.
Mike told me later that they were in the air for a very long time. Much longer than to be in the normal 9th Div AO. He said that they even flew close to Nui Ba Din (Black Virgin Mountain for you 25th Division guys). Upon insertion they swept the contact area and took a prisoner. Mike saw some movement in the reeds as one of the “dead” gooks tried to arm a grenade. Mike stitched him with a burst of his M-16. They stripped down the bodies then boarded the chopper with their prisoner.
Landing back at Tan An, the prisoner was taken away for questioning. Mike gave the pistol and holster he took from the gook he killed to Kiet the PRU. Understand that at the time the PRU’s were not paid with any company funds. They were paid from the pockets of each team member $10 a month ($40-50 a month depending on the number of men on the team). The custom was to give captured weapons to the PRU’s to supplement their income.
The prisoner was being questioned while Mike gave the pistol to Kiet. The prisoner turned out to be the personal physician for Hai Tram. Once Intelligence found out who was killed, the team was re-inserted to bring the body back.
I remember waking up to the sound of someone running through the barracks saying “Kentes killed a General, Kentes killed a General”. I groggily remember thinking “was it one of ours or theirs”. Once the news got out, everyone went over to Tan An airfield to verify the body. I heard that Gen. Abrams and Ambassador Bunker even flew down for confirmation.
Kentes and the rest of the team were in 3rd Bde. 9th Div. Hq. being debriefed when the company commander Capt. Albert C. Zapanta confiscated the pistol, holster and belt from Kiet. When Mike Kentes heard of this he confronted Capt. Zapanta and demanded the pistol. Capt. Zapanta ignored the lowly Corporal (Mike was a Pathfinder, hence the rank of Corporal instead of Sp/4). Mike went right to 3rd Bde. 9th Inf Div. Commander Col. Dale Crittenberger with his complaint. After hearing both sides, Col. Crittenberger ordered Capt. Zapanta to turn the pistol into the Infantry Museum at Ft. Benning.
Mike felt that was a good place for it so he agreed. Thinking the matter settled Mike went back to the company area only to find that Keit had been arrested by the White Mice as an ARVN deserter. Mike and Tom Dineen went through the company area scrounging up as much money as he could to bail Kiet out of jail. The White Mice just laughed and told them it would take a lot more money to get him out. Capt. Zapanta ignored Mike’s plea. Mike found out later from the other PRUs that Kiet was sent to an ARVN unit as an ammo bearer and was not allowed to carry a weapon. Kiet was KIA soon after. A few weeks later Col. Crittenberger was killed in a chopper crash. Now with Col. Crittenberger dead and Kiet out of the way, only a Corporal prevented Capt. Zapanta from keeping the pistol for himself. That is exactly what he did. It took Mike Kentes and Tom Dineen 17 years to finally force now Col. Zapanta to obey his dead Brigade Commander’s order. There have been two different ranks listed for Hai Tram. One publication has him listed as a full Colonel, others list him as a Lt.Gen. The truth is probable that he was a Colonel in the NVA and a Lt.Gen. in the Viet Cong. Documents Mike took from his body show that he was a member of the Communist Party dating back to the 1930s. The Viet Minh were formed in that area of the Mekong Delta in the 30s. If Hai Tram was not one of the founders, he was one of it’s earliest members. The two different ranks are just like our Active duty and Reserve ranks many hold.
DQ Ranger: 67th Vietnamese Ranger Bn
“Myself, along with the Vietnamese Ranger Battalion I was advising made a combat assault into the Seven Mountains area in the Delta.”
The mountain we landed on was heavily infested with NVA (North Vietnamese Army). We didn’t know it before we made the assault but the mountain was like a big hunk of swiss-cheese. It was laced with natural tunnels and caverns, large rocks and boulders everywhere and all this was covered with lush vegetation and trees.
Our first objective was to take the top of the mountain, which was somewhat exposed, no trees and very little vegetation. There was no place for a chopper to land so we were inserted on a grassy ledge almost at the bottom of the mountain. Our Ranger Battalion had a total of 400 plus Rangers and two Americans. The American contingent was reduced by 50% before the day had really got going. We met heavy resistance as we came in. The chopper my Sergeant was in was shot down and he was killed. I didn’t like the looks of this right off. I think the term “an uphill battle” gained new meaning for me that day. As we worked our way up the mountain the NVA would go underground and come back out behind us, or in the middle of us. It was a mess, but they could not stand up to the Rangers.
We finally made our objective just as darkness was setting in and it started raining and raining hard! It felt good but it made a mess out of that mountain top. The NVA would try and bury their dead before the survivors escaped. Some got buried and some didn’t. There were dead everywhere. As the rain continued, it began to expose more bodies in the shallow graves. Heads, hands, feet began appearing out of the ground as the rain washed the dirt away. We continued to receive small arms fire and the mortar fire began increasing. We pulled into a defensive position and took cover where we could find it. I recall being between two rocks which was a good temporary position but I knew it wasn’t going to make it for my NDP. My counterpart was on the other side of the rock and I couldn’t see him which was important because we relied on arm and hand signals alot since my Vietnamese was almost nonexistant and his English wasn’t much better. I spotted what looked like a small opening in the brush a few meters away from me. I kept staring at it and trying to make out what it was whenever a flash of something would go off. After a few minutes I went for it and slid into it as a baseball player would slide feet first into a base. It was smaller than what it looked like but it got in. It was a small little cave-type hole. I thought, “man this is great!” A good field of fire, good cover. and was able to see my counterpart! It wasn’t long before I began dozing. It was great, a steady rain, incoming mortar rounds, topped off with sporatic small arms fire. I can’t believe the Army is paying me for this. It don’t get no better!
As dawn was approaching I noticed my little paradise had steadily filled up with water and alot of mud. The stench of the dead began to become apparent and the firing had died down. BMNT was here (BMNT is a term the Army uses for Beginning of Morning Nautical Twilight). I figured it was time to stop laying around and start earning my money. As I was trying to get out I felt my boots getting tangled up with someone else’s boots. Now how can this be? Oh, this little cave has another entrance. I kicked this guy a couple hard ones to tell him it’s time to get on with it. I got out and saw that it wasn’t a Ranger at all. I spent the night sleeping with a dead NVA! Some bed partner! Stunk up my hole!
67th Vietnamese Ranger Bn
BDQ Ranger, 32d Vietnamese Ranger Bn
“So you think you have had a bad day, huh!”
One day last week I was waiting in line at a local restaurant. Ahead of me was a young woman of approximately 23 years old and her equally young female companion. They were both complaining about their bad days, while I listened with amusement. One had been late for work and had trouble with her hair and had gotten spoken to by her boss. The other had gotten behind a “slow farmer” on the way to lunch, and had some other trivial interruptions at work. As they whined, I thought to myself, “Girls, you have no idea of what a truly bad day really is”. ” I wish I could share with you what a truly bad day can be like”.
In late 1970, I was sent to Vietnam for a second tour. I was stationed in the Delta region of South Vietnam as an Advisor to the Vietnamese Rangers. We spent a majority of our time in the field, hunting VC in a place called the U Minh Forest. The U Minh is always wet, the mud is at least ankle deep every where, and it stinks terribly, just like an open sewer. There are at least 3000 types of bugs, leeches, snakes and other pests in the U Minh, and 2999 of them bite! The mosquitoes in the U Minh are as big as the quail at home and they fight each other for your body!! The only friendly things in the U Minh forest are the guys with you, and I often wondered about some of them! This sets the scene for my “Bad day” .
In 1970 and 71 we operated under the “two man” rule, always two Americans in the field together. I knew I was in trouble because my team mate was due back from R&R, the same time that we were supposed to depart for a week in the bush. And as departure time came, He still wasn’t back. The second clue I had that this was going to be a long trip, VNAF choppers started setting down on the pad and my interpreter said they were for us!! We got on board and “flew” to the LZ we were supposed to use and after getting off, and checking my map, we were 8 klicks from the correct LZ!!! Gonna be a long mission!!! I was operating with a re-enforced squad of Vietnamese Rangers, setting up ambushes and generally trying to radically change the lifestyle of VC in the U Minh. After about a 5K hunt that first day we stopped for the night in what is called a Night Defensive Position or NDP for short. Since there was very little dry land in the U Minh, we usually set up on the edge of a canal for the night. We posted guards and the ones not on guard tied themselves to trees to keep from falling into the canal while asleep. Usually you left about, oh say , three foot of slack in the rope to be more comfortable.
All was well until about daybreak. You know, the darkest part of the night, when the wolves howl and ghosts walk about! Suddenly, from somewhere, the VC we had been hunting the day before found us! Now it is a very unpleasant and rude awakening to have about 20 mortar rounds drop in and wake you up!! Especially when they are accompanied by thousands of green and orange tracers as big as basketballs. Confusion is instantaneous and total! We always had a Escape and Evasion plan in case we were overwhelmed. As the mortars landed, I looked through the flashes of the exploding rounds to see the squad members running in all different directions. They were yelling “DI DI MAU”, which in addition to meaning “get out of here”, was our signal to each other to run and then join up later if we could, 2 kilometers to the North. I grabbed my ruck sack and M-16 and was running full blast after the first two feet. Remember the three foot slack in the rope? Good for you! I didn’t…. and hit the end of the slack full tilt! My feet went into the air much higher than my head, and my M-16 went where ever good M-16s go at a time like that. My breath left, due to what felt like crushed lungs, but I held onto that rucksack!
Now an Infantryman’s rucksack is his 2nd most important piece of gear. It carries extra ammunition, extra food, pictures of sweetie back home, different kinds of useful explosives, and in my case, a PRC-25 radio and extra batteries, and usually weighs around 70 to 100 pounds. Since I just lost my most important piece of gear, my M-16, it was amazing that I held onto the rucksack.
Well here I am, my feet higher than my a.., uh, head, coming down on my back, half in the water, half out. Now just guess where the rucksack decides to land!! You got it, right on my head, which is also the half that lands in the water!! The ruck hit, I lost what little breath I had left, my head hit the water, and I tried to take a breath, almost simultaneously. As my head went under, I tried to find my K-bar knife to cut the rope so I could stand up. The knife handle is slick with mud so I miss it the first try. After what seemed like two years underwater, I finally got the rope cut and stood up, amazingly still holding on to the rucksack! I looked behind me and little fellows in black clothing were running through the NDP. Now I’m a cowboy from west Texas, so even I know that bad guys wear black!! With discretion being the better part of valor, I got to the other side of the canal quick! As I stood up to run, dragging the ruck, something hit the ruck hard and almost ripped it out of my hand. I ran north as fast as my legs could carry me. After a minute or so, I turned a corner of the canal and somebody hit me in the mouth, knocked me down, and asked me what the capital of Texas was, as they shoved a gun barrel between my teeth, and I dropped the rucksack!
Now this is ridiculous, my face hurts, my chest hurts, my legs hurt, my mouth is full of gun barrel and this fool wants me to answer questions about Texas!! I push the guy away far enough to see he is one of the squad and mumble around the gun barrel something that hopefully sounded like Austin. Thankfully, it sounded like Austin to him also. He removed the gun from my mouth, and helped me up. I picked up the ruck and we ran some more. About two hours and 2 kilometers north from where we had started the day, we holed up to wait for the others, if any made it. The guy with me was a Vietnamese corporal named Trung Bien or close to it. As the sun came up, we took stock. He had lost his ruck, and his M-16 only had four rounds in the magazine. I pulled that darn ruck over to me and almost cried!! The radio was shot. Literally. It had bullet holes in it! The side pocket where I kept extra ammo was black and burnt. The claymore in the opposite side pouch had a hole in it. Lucky for me that it takes HEAT and COMPRESSION for C-4 to explode. As I opened the ruck main pouch to check out the food, a smell very close to a dirty diaper smote me in the nose. Cans of ham and eggs, pork and beans, all had been mixed with ham with lima beans that were blown open and mixed with fruit cocktail and peaches, STINK, what a smell! Thankfully my map and compass had been in the side pocket of my pants. And that reminded me, what the H..l is biting me? I check and I’ve got two leeches the size of two Armour Star hotdogs, one sucking on my left boob and the other trying to give me a new belly button. Got rid of those buggers in a hurry!! Finally the other members of the squad show up, and we are all accounted for and the squad leader has a working radio. But that’s the good news. The bad news is nobody else grabbed a ruck when they left, so we only have the bullets in the M-16s that 7 of the guys managed to hang on to. The squad leader has already called in and we will be getting picked up by chopper. That’s the good news.
The bad news is the LZ for pickup is another 5 klicks away. Headquarters is sending three choppers to get us all at one time and that’s the good news. The bad news is they won’t show up until almost dark so the boys in black won’t have such a good target! As I sit down for the first time that morning, I thought to myself, this is beginning to be a real bad day! I bet they won’t even give me any mail tonight when we get in, and the mess hall will be closed. I couldn’t have been more right than if I had called them on the phone and asked them to do it to me!!
As I stood there in line in Lawton, Good old USA over two and a half decades later, I could not stop the laughter. Those poor girls, somebody really ought to tell them what a bad day is really like, but not me!! I’m just proud I survived my bad day. SFC(Ret.) Ed “The Bear” Briggs
Lt Wpns Advisor, 32nd RVN Ranger Bn, Oct-Dec 1970
Hvy Wpns Advisor, 85th RVN Ranger Bn, Jan-Oct 1971
K Co, 75th Infantry (Ranger): Vietnam
“I enlisted in ’67 and spent some time in Germany…”
Although I had filled out a 1049 for RVN. Had MOS clerical (71H20), but wasn’t a very nice person, so I was in the warehouse humping boxes to and fro when Czechoslovakia got whacked and we went to the border to watch the Russian tanks and protect Germany. We had NO ammo and no one had fired a weapon for months. After it was quiet (the Russians won), it was determined we should requalify at the range.
Off we went. I fired 3 rounds and stopped, having qualified. Lotta noise and shit “What the fuck are YOU doing, Crash?” “I’m done, Sgt”. “Do it again, Crash”. I did. Little did I know, the USAREUR Rifle team fellas were there and watched. I had to qualify about 52 times, had no idea why, smoking my ass all the way. I was transferred to the Army rifle team. Spent a glorious 8 months or so firing on a 600 meter range without scopes (18″ bullseye) whenever I wanted, learned to shoot better from the amazing guys there. Placed in some matches, but there were some dangerous shooters there. So… There I was, shooting to my heart’s content. No “duty”, go to town whenever, sleep in, etc. A jeep came by and said “Crash! You got a phone call!” and drove off (he liked me too). I ran all the way to the office thinking family death, etc., as no one was in commo with me at all. Got there, it’s my old 1SGT, he says those horrid words “HEY! YOUR 1049 CAME THROUGH, BOY! YOU’RE GOING TO ‘NAM!”. I just fucking died. I had completely forgotten about that. Here I was in heaven and was headed for HELL itself.. Oh well, spent my 30 days preparing to die and got on the plane.
Landed in RVN in May/’69, sent to Pleiku Repl Depot. Spent 7 days there, every night watching this one company on the perimeter get blown to shit. Asked “who IS that?”, they said some weird word, we said “OH” (but I had some exposure to one of those “word” guys earlier – a dangerous and excellent loon – in the US).. About day 3 or so, four murderous-looking, scruffy, dark-eyed guys came to give a speech. Said they were “LRRPs” and went out in small teams for a week – did any of us think we’d like to do that? I kinda thought about it, had signed up for Airborne but wasn’t even given a shot (5’4″, 103 lbs in basic), but decided maybe I’d better have a little look around first and see what I drew. No hands went up, so one of them said “Well, if you change your mind, we’re the guys who are getting hit every night, we’re easy to find and you can volunteer any time”. They left.
Well, as you know, a fun game in Repl Depots is to run into someone’s barracks in the morning and say “Hey! You’re going to the Death Company (or whatever horrid duty one can think up) and watch the guy go running out, only to find he’s got some cherry assignment. I had been in the Army for almost two years, though, and was an “old” guy there. The next morning, a bunch of them came running in, said I’d lost my mind joining the LRRPS. I sauntered out, knew I hadn’t, didn’t have a nervous bone in my body. MY NAME WAS RIGHT THERE!
I RAN to the company Commander’s office, said “HEY! I didn’t volunteer for that whatever-thing!”. The CO smiled, said “Well, their clerk got hit, you’re a clerk, you’re in E Company, 58th LRRPs, but don’t worry, it’s an office job”. I died again. They came and got me, took me “home” and I was surrounded by murderous-looking guys who scared the bejesus out of me just looking at them. To make a long story a little shorter, we spent the next month or so getting blown to shit – running around all night dodging invisible falling objects, setting the RVN record (120) for unexploded satchel charges (sappers were VERY good) in a company area – they wanted this bunch real bad. We were flying a lit flag at night and stuff like that, so I saw a LOT of war without being able to shoot at anything.
They found out I wasn’t a clerk but was an asshole, I told the First Shirt I was going to the field if I had to hijack a bird, he said “Well, you’re out of your mind, but if you can find a team who’ll take you, you can go”. I found a HUGE black TL named Sims who took me to the “range” and found out I could shoot and move in the woods (raised there). He told me very seriously that he’d take me out, but if I endangered him or his team he’d kill me where I stood without a word. I kept a very keen eye on him for some time, then started moving from team to team as folks went down or home and slots had to be filled. I’ll never forget that man. He caught some in the chest late in my year and went away – they told us he didn’t make it, but his name isn’t on the wall – never wrote, so we had/have no idea how it went.
That’s how it happened. No CIB, no 11B, no Recondo skewl (didn’t “qualify”), went to Sniper Skewl but couldn’t be registered there due to 71H20 MOS, took UNLIMITED shit from all the 11BangBangs until I did the job for a while. Got orders for a shiny thing with my name on it for doing things we all did all the time, didn’t show for the ceremony, just got the orders – pissed the Top & CO off one last time, too.
Walked point from the 3d mission on, mostly because I didn’t want to hump a radio and couldn’t walk backwards, so on a 4-man team, the other position (except TL) was point. I liked it out there anyway. Became a Ranger because they changed the unit from LRRP, like many of us here. The really great part was training FNG’s after my eyes darkened.. When they found out this crazed man was a 71H20, their jaws would just hit the red dirt… Never forgot that look – it was a blast to tell ’em after a bit.
“Crash” E/58th LRRP, and K Co, 75th Infantry(Ranger), 69-70
E Co, 52nd Infantry (LRP): Vietnam
“My very first mission was to Cambodia.”
We made a last light insert & walked a long distance in the dark. Now, ya gotta understand that this was my ‘First’ mission & I really had the heebie jeebies. For some reason I thought that I could, ya know, kind of like put my toe in the water & see how hot or cold it was….I know, that’s stupid, but for some reason or another my brain told me that I could, kind of ease into the war.
Then, the next thing I know, here I am with five other guys, way out in the middle of the jungle a long, long ways from any kind of support, (read hours) and I had forgotten everything I had ever been taught. We set up in this AO in the jungle with a large open area in front of us. It wasn’t long before I saw some lights in the woods across from us. I brought this to the TL’s attention & we watched as someone walked across the field to our side & we could see his light as he checked out the area around us. He then walked to the edge of the clearing & signaled with his flashlight. Then a whole bunch of fucking flashlights came on, (I think it was a million, could have been more), on the other side & a company size unit walked across the open area & set up a night bivouac around us. My mind decided that it did not like me any more and started to Rant & Rave at me. “WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING OUT HERE? AM I STUPID OR SOMETHING? THIS IS WHAT THEY TOLD YOU THAT THEY DO, DID YOU THINK THAT THEY WERE LYING OR SOMETHING?” My mind also told me other things, but they are too embarrassing to tell anyone else.
We had no cover, and damn little concealment, some small bushes and it was dark. That’s it. Now, the TL thought to himself, ‘Cool’. I know just where they are, cause they are all around us’. So he started calling in Arty. We were on the far edge of any arty, but he got someone to fire for us. The NVA were setting up fires, cooking dinner, playing grab ass all around us. After the third round the TL, I can’t remember his full name, but his first was David, whispered to us that he wanted for us to make sure that we let him know where it hit, because if he wasn’t careful the next one could take us out. Well, lemme tell you, a artillery round coming right at you really does sound like a train. No one had to tell me what it was, & no one had to tell me where it was going to land. I knew. It was going to land on my head. I tried to crawl into the ground under my ruck. That would have really helped. All the C-4 & other goodies I carried in there would have protected me from the explosion. I am still here, but I don’t know why.
We had put our claymores out about 15 or so feet from us. You know, sideways so we could use the front and back blast for protection. The round landed between me and my claymore. The next morning when I was policing up my claymores I found that the claymore had shattered, but not exploded. The C-4 & shit was just kind of there at the end of the wire. David, told me later that at first he thought that he had killed himself, but then he noticed that my body was between him and the explosion, so he thought that he had killed the cherry(me). He reached over and touched me to see how bad I was hurt & I pointed to where I thought the round had landed.
Now, the NVA are not stupid, no matter what some people would want you to think, so after a while they came to the conclusion that someone was calling in the arty & got on line & swept the area. I never, never thought that they would have flashlights. With them being such great night fighters and all. The first time, this guy walked right between the TL and me & didn’t see us. I thought that my heart would stop. I took great comfort in the thought that if I got out of this alive, I was going to quit. Why this shit is dangerous. And probably wasn’t good for my nerves either.
They went out a ways, got back on line and swept back. Now here comes a kicker. This guy walked right up to Roy, put his flashlight in his face and looked at him for about a century or two, could have been three. Roy carried a M-14, and he kept raising the weapon, whispering, “I’m gonna blow him away. I’m gonna blow him away.” Over and over. David kept pulling it down and said, “Don’t do it. Don’t do it.” In the meantime my mind was going, “AHHHHHHHHHHH!” Funny how eloquent you can think when your asshole is slammed shut, ain’t it? Well, anyway, after a few years or so, the guy made a kind of grunt and walked away.
To this day, I have no idea what was really going on in that NVA’s mind. Did he say to himself; “Oh shit. Here they are. Now what? If I call out, ‘Here they are!’ They are going to shoot me. Maybe I will just grunt, walk away, and tell someone later.” I dunno. He could have been stoned out of his mind. They were smoking dope around us. Could he have thought that he couldn’t tell anyone because he walked away from us? When he left. I just started taking my frags out & straightened the pins cause I knew that it was all over. I thought that he was going to his CO & say, “They are right over there.” & they would come over & take our weapons away from us. It was insane. There were somewhere in the neighborhood of 180 to 200 of them and five of us.
All I knew for sure was that I was not going to be a POW. Nothing happened! I know, I know, all war stories have a beginning and an end, but the true shit is really strange. I mean they kept on fixing their dinner and etc. But no one came to round us up. I remember that one of them had put a radio up in a tree and they were listening to AFN. The song that really stuck to my memory was the Stones singing “I can’t get no satisfaction”. I remember thinking, “God, I hope not”.
David kept calling in artillery. He really started to get pissed and call them “Super Gooks” cause the arty didn’t seem to really bother them at all. I mean, one round landed right on this guys fire and put it out, but all he did was start it up again. Amazing shit. They would periodically sweep the area again, but they never came close to us again. This went on all night. Of course I got a tickle in my throat. I came to the conclusion that it would be unhealthy for me to cough, so I took my half a poncho liner and tried to cram it down my throat.
My mind got stuck on the fact that I had no idea where I was on the map. I knew that we were going to have to E&E, and I didn’t know where to go. Fear is an amazing teacher. After that mission I became one of the best map readers in the company. You could put me down in the middle of the jungle & I could walk around for a week in triple canopy and I would know almost to the foot where I was at all times. Anyhow, It was just about first light and the NVAs were all around us. You know how it is just before the sun would come up? We could hear them and could almost see them. Then the sun was up & there were helicopters all around.
Poof they were gone. Some guy in a Loach was hovering around at treetop level, kind of going from place to place, saying, well no one is shooting at me here and then move somewhere else and doing the same thing. I was so happy that we had survived the night and I was looking forward to getting the fuck out of there, when I realized that they didn’t believe us that there was a company of NVA around us all night.
My first inkling of how things were was when I heard the TL scream over the radio, “Well, FUCK YOU! WE WILL JUST STAY AND FIND THEM FOR YOU AGAIN.” Oh, no, I thought. So we played hide & seek with them for most of the day, finally got them into a firefight, blew the shit out of the neighborhood etc. etc. & were extracted. It seemed that everything I did was fucked up.
When we were walking back to the company area from the flight line I was thinking of what I was going to say to quit, when the ATL put his arm around my shoulders and said, “Well, Renfro, don’t feel too bad. Everyone just isn’t cut out to be a Lurp, you will probably be one hell of a grunt.” Well shit, he got right into my ego. I wasn’t about to quit then! So I stayed, and I am glad that I did.
E Co, 52d Infantry, and H Co, 75th Infantry (Ranger) 67-69