Between May 1966 and May 1967 there were wide-ranging changes and improvements in the operational employment of the Special Forces and the Civilian Irregular Defense Group program assets Areas in which substantial progress was made during these twelve months were enumerated in the debriefing report of 31 May 1967.
Emphasis was placed on mobility in operations in all camps, the report notes. Mobile guerrilla forces were formed and operated in enemy-controlled zones; mobile strike forces doubled in number, were airborne-qualified, and participated in many operations as exploitation forces and as reserves for camps needing additional strength at critical times. Two or more CIDG camps conducted operations within the same corps tactical zone or across corps boundaries.
The CIDG program grew. Twenty-two new camps opened and nine camps in relatively pacified areas were closed; the new camps were constructed as "fighting camps" and, in the case of the delta region, "floating camps." The number of CIDG combat reconnaissance platoons was increased from thirty-four to seventy-three. The Military Assistance Command Recondo School to prepare selected soldiers for long-range reconnaissance duty was established in September 1966 with sixty students per three-week course; by January 1967 the number of students had doubled.
Operational responsibility for Camp Plei Mrong was transferred to exclusive Vietnamese Special Forces control, with supervision by Detachment B-94 (Kontum) and Company B (Pleiku). This was the first time a CIDG camp had been turned over to the Vietnamese Special Forces and may be viewed as a first step in so called Vietnamization. Operations were integrated with nearby U.S. and Free World forces with surprisingly good results. The integration was most evident in operations and intelligence and pointed up the need for further effort in the communications field.
A combined U.S. Special Forces-Vietnamese Special Forces operational directive which specified that camp operations begin and, where possible, end in the hours of darkness was complied with by the CIDG camps. This tactic, based on the realization that the night belongs to him who uses it, was a sharp and welcome departure from previous practice. The substantial jump in the number of the enemy killed in the last quarter of 1966 (817 to 1,302) was unquestionably influenced by this change in tactics.
Procedures were developed to produce annually a U.S. Special Forces campaign plan to co-ordinate future camp installations. A campaign plan for fiscal year 1967 was produced in September 1966, and one for fiscal year 1968 was completed in July 1967. This development grew out of a command conference in Nha Trang in August 1966 at which General Westmoreland directed the commander of the 5th Special Forces Group to make a close examination of the present and proposed deployment of the group's operational detachments throughout Vietnam. He specified that each detachment be examined to insure that it had a mission and a location that would enable it to exert its full potential. He suggested that A detachments and their civilian irregular strike forces be replaced where practicable by South Vietnamese Army or Regional Forces and Popular Forces units and that any CIDG camp improperly located to carry out its mission be relocated. Planning was to be co-ordinated with corps senior advisers and Vietnamese corps commanders.
A flood campaign plan for operations in the delta region during flood conditions was developed. The plan was built around use of some four hundred watercraft (including eighty-four airboats), helicopters, sophisticated U.S. Navy craft, and waterborne maneuvers, with civilian irregular forces in the boats.
Projects Omega and Sigma were formed and, along with Project Delta, conducted operations in the field.
The 5th Special Forces Group administrative and logistic organization was critically examined with the object of improving control and supervision. A number of elements were created and installed as new parts of the staff including new comptroller, judge advocate, aviation, Air Force liaison, and staff engineer sections, and a new acting inspector general. The existing S-2 (intelligence) section was completely overhauled, and the S-3 section as well as the open mess association was revised. New radio research and historical units were created, as was a new military intelligence augmentation detachment.
New funding controls were imposed and inspected, and new
athletic, morale, and welfare facilities, including clubs, a theater, a chapel, and a library were proposed. The promotion system for enlisted men was revised. Noncommissioned officers conducted all group briefings, including briefings for the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army. Officers in staff positions were replaced whenever possible by noncommissioned officers, with the greatest success in the area specialist (S-3) and order of battle (S-2) specialties.
Psychological operations were withdrawn from the S-5 section and installed in the S-3 section, where they could be integrated with all operations. The S-5 section was abolished in favor of a revolutionary development support activities section.
Liaison officers were exchanged with the Vietnamese Special Forces high command, and U.S. Special Forces liaison officers were attached to all major U.S. Army units close to CIDG camps.
Other changes were made in decentralizing logistics, including the creation of forward supply points in all four corps tactical zones, plus direct sea, air, and road shipments thereto. A detailed civic action program was developed in an attempt to avoid philosophy and show "how to do it" instead. Handbooks on how to operate any portion of the group's business from an A detachment to an agent net were made up and distributed. A new training program for civilian irregulars and new techniques for resupply of CIDG camps weathered out or under violent attack were developed.
Problems noted in the debriefing report of May 1967 included the adverse effects produced by the continuing prejudice on the part of U.S. forces against the Vietnam Army and the continuing danger of Montagnard rebellion.
The campaign plan to co-ordinate future camp installations provided for the use of assigned U.S. Special Forces troops by positioning them for optimum employment and co-ordinated action and by giving them tasks commensurate with their capabilities.
The concept of operations plan for 1967 included the following tenets: offensive operations were to be the principal means to achieve over-all objectives. Emphasis would be placed on the Revolutionary Development Support Program—designed to win the people to the government—assisting Free World forces, and increasing the participation of the Vietnam Army. The plan, presented in detail for each corps tactical zone, projected the conversion of seventeen CIDG camps to the Regional Forces. Efforts were called for in three major areas: strategic deployment of CIDG camps in the four corps tactical zones; employment of mobile guerrilla, Special Forces, and CIDG troops in areas not covered by CIDG camp operations; and use of long-range reconnaissance forces provided to the Viet-
namese Army and Free World forces, including training to develop their organic reconnaissance capabilities.
Intelligence Operations Overhauled
In the course of a year, beginning in June 1966, the intelligence project of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) evolved from a fragmented effort into a co-ordinated, productive program on a countrywide scale. First, emphasis was placed upon establishing American-Vietnamese Special Forces intelligence projects at all A and B detachments. These served to improve the intelligence skills of the Vietnamese Special Forces and began to prepare them for the time when they would be on their own. One problem which had to be met was that the quantity and quality of information coming out of the A detachments varied widely. The flow of information was crucial to the success of the intelligence effort and required improvement. Probably the most serious problem that plagued the Special Forces intelligence program was the inability of the 5th Group to analyze rapidly and disseminate quickly the information that came in so that combat forces could act promptly on known data about the enemy. Also the sheer volume of intelligence information which began to flow into the group from the various agencies that accompanied the U.S. buildup required a new organizational structure.
To set the intelligence house in order, at group headquarters a number of regulations were written that specified exactly the steps to be taken. Regulations were written on source control, collection procedures, intelligence reporting, methods of recording, and dissemination. Within the S-2 section, a counterintelligence branch and a collection branch were created in addition to the order of battle branch and administrative branch. After distribution of the new regulations, mobile training teams were sent into the field, first to the A detachments, to assist in carrying out the new procedures. The whole intelligence program at an A detachment was usually embodied in one individual, the intelligence sergeant, whose training and background varied. The intelligence sergeant normally acquired a large store of valuable information about the enemy in his detachment's tactical area of responsibility, but often he took this information with him when he left the detachment, forcing his replacement to start from scratch. The new regulations and mobile training teams provided instructions for developing agent nets to gather information on enemy operating bases and underground organization and required the A and B detachments
to maintain handbooks, overlays, and organizational charts that would provide permanent, continuing files of verified information about the enemy. As the system of gathering, classifying, and recording information on the enemy began to function at the A and B detachment levels, operational results began to show. It became the practice for camps to plan operations based on knowledge of where the enemy was to be found instead of trying to conduct operations to cover the entire tactical area of responsibility of the camp.
To exploit the information that was being gathered by the A and B detachments, it was necessary to refine the process of analyzing the raw information in order to produce finished intelligence and then to distribute it to lower, higher, and adjacent headquarters. This task was accomplished by the establishment of intelligence analysis centers, which operated under the S-2 at each of the four Special Forces company headquarters located in the four corps tactical zones. Each center had four branches: recording, analysis and evaluation, collection, and dissemination. The major advantage gained from the intelligence analysis centers was that the analysis and dissemination functions were decentralized and therefore became much more responsive and efficient.
Up to this point, the intelligence program had been put into effect by men from within the 5th Special Forces Group. More people were needed, however, and these were obtained by adding to the 5th Group the 403d Radio Research Special Operations Detachment and an unnumbered 110-man military intelligence detachment. The members of the military intelligence detachment were subdivided into five composite teams, each containing men with counterintelligence, interrogation, collection, analysis, and administrative skills. One team was kept at group headquarters and one team went to each of the four company headquarters in the four corps tactical zones. Working in conjunction with other Special Forces troops, most of the collection and counterintelligence men were attached to the subordinate A and B detachments by the companies. At these locations they would assist in writing collection plans; in recruiting, training, and assigning operations to agents; and in developing counterintelligence and counterespionage nets. The nets were especially important for identifying and eliminating enemy agents who had penetrated the indigenous forces in the CIDG camp and were a substantial threat to camp security. The group headquarters, with its augmentation team, directed these programs and provided policy guidance at all levels of the command.
With the deployment of the military intelligence augmentation teams, the group could finally operate effectively with other U.S. intelligence organizations. It became possible to accept the teams' information, collate it with the information from Special Forces channels, and disseminate a higher quality of intelligence through the company intelligence analysis centers to subordinate B and A detachments, as well as to U.S. and other Free World Military Assistance Forces operating in each of the company areas of interest.
The status of the Vietnamese Special Forces in the eyes of many U.S. Special Forces men had been up to this point rather low, and not without justification. Nevertheless, the Vietnamese Special Forces had been improving and the results began to show. The Vietnamese Special Forces organization consisted of a Special Forces command, which was composed of a headquarters element, one Special Forces group, an airborne Ranger battalion, a Special Forces training center, a signal company, a headquarters and service company, and Project Delta. The Vietnamese Special Forces Group was organized into four C detachments—one to each corps tactical zone—twelve B detachments, and seventy-three A detachments. The Vietnamese Special Forces was charged by the Joint General Staff with the following missions: to plan and conduct unconventional warfare operations when approved by the Joint General Staff; to plan, conduct, and support counterinsurgency operations, such as the CIDG program, within the republic; to collect, process, and submit to the Joint General Staff intelligence information; to carry out political warfare activities; and, for the C detachments, to advise the commander of a corps tactical zone on the employment of Special Forces and civilian irregular troops.
A marked increase in the competence of the Vietnamese Special Forces, with the most noticeable improvements at the A detachment level, became apparent during 1966 and 1967. It finally became possible to begin the long-desired gradual reduction in the 5th Special Forces Group advisory participation in the CIDG program. For many years Special Forces detachment commanders, although officially only advisers, actually served as camp commanders because of the lack of leadership ability on the part of their Vietnamese counterparts. During 1967 the importance of the advisory aspect of the Special Forces mission was emphasized at the command level in order to give the Vietnamese Special Forces A team commander more responsibility. Results were generally positive, with Vietnamese Special Forces A detachment commanders assuming greater responsibility and demonstrating improved leadership. The single best example of the new Vietnamese leadership at work was Camp
Plei Mrong. On 1 May 1967 the camp was turned over completely to the control of the Vietnamese Special Forces, and the U.S. Special Forces detachment was withdrawn. Further, plans were made for the turnover of two more camps, Minh Thanh and Vinh Gia, during the last part of 1967 depending on how well things went at Plei Mrong. Vinh Gia was successfully transferred to Vietnamese Special Forces control on 27 June 1967, and Minh Thanh shortly thereafter.
The typical CIDG camp in 1967 was commanded by a Vietnamese Special Forces A team commander. The organization of his A team paralleled that of the U.S. Special Forces A team, with men trained in operations, intelligence, medical aid, weapons, political warfare, communications, supply, and demolitions. Each of the Vietnamese Special Forces team members in a camp was advised by a U.S. Special Forces team member with similar skills. The normal force contingent at a CIDG camp, besides the Special Forces troops, consisted of four 132-man CIDG companies, two combat reconnaissance platoons, a civic action and psychological operations squad; and could include a recoilless rifle or a 105-mm. artillery section.
A countrywide plan for the deployment of CIDG assets was included in the 1967 concept of operations for the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and approved by General Westmoreland on 7 March 1967. (Map 6)
In the I Corps Tactical Zone the plan was to maintain and expand the present camps to the west of the Free World Military Assistance Forces. In II Corps it called for maintaining and reinforcing the system of border surveillance camps and building a second line of camps in the interior highlands. The primary purpose of this second line of camps was to interdict the infiltration routes leading to and from the populated coastal region. In III Corps the plan was to maintain and reinforce camps engaged in border surveillance and to place camps in, near, and between War Zones C and D in order to better execute the missions of interdiction of infiltration routes and harassment of base areas. In IV Corps the plan was to maintain and reinforce the interdiction of Viet Cong infiltration routes from the manpower and material reservoir of the Mekong Delta and to clear the Plain of Reeds of Viet Cong known to be operating there.
Except in II Corps, this plan of action was successfully carried out in 1966 and 1967. Construction was begun in I Corps of one of the two camps approved by General Westmoreland. In III Corps five of the proposed nine camps were begun, with the remainder waiting for engineers to become available. Of the five camps sched-
MAP 6-- LOCATION OF 5th SPECIAL FORCES DETACHMENTS, 31 AUGUST 1967 (31.6 KB)
uled to be closed or converted, only one remained in operation by the summer of 1967. In IV Corps by the summer of 1967 three of the seven proposed camps were open and conducting operations. While the turnover went according to plan in II Corps at Plei Mrong, the construction of new camps in the interior did not take place because of the changes in the deployment of Free World Military Assistance Forces.
The quality of the CIDG troops improved during this period also. The debriefing notes of the 5th Special Forces Group commander attested to the improvement.
During my tour in Vietnam, I have seen a steady improvement in the fighting spirit and military proficiency of the CIDG. This is directly attributable to the improvements previously noted in the VNSF A detachments. Increased tactical success and night operations have given the CIDG greater confidence. Even in cases when USASF and VNSF personnel are not present, the CIDG are closing with and destroying enemy units. The most notable example of this occurred on 8 April 1967. Three platoons from Camp Trung Dung (A-502), without US or VNSF present, were deployed south and east of the camp in night ambush position, when an NVA company attacked an RF outpost. Employing superb fire and maneuver, and coordinating with each other by radio, the CIDG platoons moved to cut off the enemy withdrawal, killing forty-two NVA and capturing twenty weapons. While this is only one incident, it is indicative of the improvement in the CIDG forces.
The tactical and operational innovations of this period improved significantly the performance of the civilian irregulars. To determine progress in a counterinsurgency is difficult at best. There are many intangibles that cannot be reflected in statistics, but statistics can be used to determine whether progress was made in a given area. (Table 7) The increase in combat effectiveness was a
TABLE 7—COMPARATIVE DATA ON COMBAT OPERATIONS, 1966—1967
direct result of the tactical and operational command directives initiated by the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne).
While a strong effort was made to increase the number of operations, command emphasis centered on improving techniques in three major respects. First, it was desirable to increase operations based on solid intelligence about the enemy rather than random search methods. While such a tactic may seem basic, it had not been properly used. By the new procedure Headquarters, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), retained a plot of all enemy sightings within each camp's area of responsibility. Superimposed over this plot was a second plot of all company search and destroy operations conducted by the camp. At the end of each month an analysis of these plots soon disclosed whether the camps were, in fact, operating properly. Second, an effort was made to conduct operations over a greater range of territory and to sustain them longer. Third, both the Vietnamese Special Forces high command and 5th Special Forces Group headquarters directed that in all cases operations were to begin and, where feasible, end during the hours of darkness. The only exceptions to this policy were those heliborne, reaction, and other special operations that had to be initiated during periods of daylight. By the spring of 1967 well over 90 percent of the operations conducted by units subordinate to, and advised by, the 5th Group were begun during the hours of darkness. The effect of this program was a marked increase in the number of enemy contacts developed by the CIDG, a decrease in the number of enemy attacks on installations, and the mounting confidence that the irregulars and Vietnamese Special Forces had in their own ability to operate at night. As success and confidence grew, so did the effectiveness of night operations, with the result that the Viet Cong lost their most valuable protection—the cloak of darkness.
The increase in the number of the enemy killed and the comparative decrease in CIDG and Special Forces losses were directly attributable to the improved techniques. By carrying the fight to the enemy instead of waiting for him to pick the situation, the Special Forces and civilian irregulars were able to employ their supporting fires effectively against an unprepared opponent.
The decided increase in the number of civilian irregulars wounded was a direct result of the new procedure of conducting more operations in enemy base areas that were extensively boobytrapped. Soldiers moving into and through those areas were bound to take more casualties. Fortunately, effective medical evacuation and swift treatment for the wounded cut these losses. The increase
in the number of weapons captured and the corresponding decrease in the number of weapons lost is an indication that CIDG troops were standing and fighting, while the enemy was withdrawing from the battlefield and leaving his dead and weapons behind.
The physical facilities and configuration of the camps underwent a significant change in the course of the year with the development of first the fighting camp and then the floating camp. The fighting camp was an austere, functional, easily defended camp, which employed the principle of defense in depth. It was designed not as an isolated, walled fortress in the midst of hostile territory, but as a base for extended operations throughout the A detachment tactical area of responsibility. The fighting camp concept was based upon aggressive combat operations backed up by a capability to
reinforce rapidly. Both kinds of camps were constructed with locally procured materials and labor at a saving of approximately ten thousand dollars per camp over the previous camp construction costs. The first camp to be built according to fighting camp specifications was at Plei Djereng, A-251, Pleiku Province, in II Corps Tactical Zone. Construction was begun on 13 December 1966 by the Special Forces Engineer Team KB-7 of the 539th Engineer Detachment, engineer augmentation for the 5th Special Forces Group. The floating camps were constructed in areas inundated annually by the floodwaters of the Mekong River. To insure that the camps would be able to function in spite of the flooding, buildings were constructed a story and a half high, with a floating floor that rose with the water; medical bunkers, ammunition bunkers, and crew-served weapons positions were built on reinforced platforms that also floated; and floating helipads were made capable of supporting a loaded UH-1D.
In order to maintain operational efficiency during those periods when troop changes were taking place at remote Special Forces camps, and to pass on all the accumulated knowledge and experi-
ence of past Special Forces operations to new camp commanders, two A detachment handbooks were published. The first book furnished guidelines for the opening of new CIDG camps, the second established procedures for the operation of those camps. The handbooks were distributed to every level of command in the 5th Special Forces Group. They proved to be an invaluable aid for new A detachment commanders in strengthening the security and improving the operational effectiveness of their camps.
In the fall of 1966, before floating camps were built, floods in IV Corps threatened to destroy some camps and curtail operations throughout the area. By extending the Special Forces logistical capability to its maximum and by improvising such things as floating helicopter pads and weapons emplacements, camps were kept in operation even though some of them were completely submerged. A completely new set of tactics was developed employing the speed and firepower of airboats, U.S. Navy river patrol boats, patrol air cushion vehicles, armed helicopters, and reconnaissance aircraft in combined operations supported by artillery and tactical aircraft. The results were telling victories over the Viet Cong and proof that with imagination and perseverance the flood season could be turned into a significant tactical advantage.
In terms of troop strength, the CIDG program continued to grow in this year, also. The total number of companies increased from 249 to 268. Combat reconnaissance platoons, thirty-four civilian irregulars per platoon, were authorized; these were to be increased from one to two platoons for each A detachment. Twelve 106-mm. recoilless rifle sections of six or eight men each were added, as were twenty-two howitzers with fourteen-man crews.
Probably the most significant achievement made in the whole CIDG program was the development of strategic concepts for the deployment of CIDG camps. These concepts were put into effect with the closing or conversion of camps that were not needed, and the establishment of new camps which supported the strategic plan in each corps tactical zone. In the course of the year, twenty two new camps were opened in and around enemy base areas, while nine camps were closed or converted to Regional Forces or Popular Forces status.
Substantial gains were made in the effectiveness of the Special Forces program during 1966 and 1967. The war finally was carried to the enemy, into his base areas, at Special Forces initiative. In May 1966 over 50 percent of CIDG camps had surrounding areas that could not be entered because of the strength of the enemy. By May 1967, because of the increased combat power of the Special
Forces and civilian irregulars, friendly forces were capable of operating throughout areas of responsibility with minimal losses. This progress was not without cost, however; fifty-five Special Forces and 1,654 Vietnamese, including the civilian irregulars, gave their lives during the year. There were 7,000 of the enemy killed, according to body count, and many more who were not counted.
During February, March, and April of 1967, combat forces advised by the 5th Special Forces Group expanded and intensified their operations in remote areas previously under the control of the Viet Cong. Five new camps were opened in the midst of traditional enemy strongholds. In III Corps the establishment of Camps Prek Klok and Tong Le Chon, in War Zone C, was an important step in restricting the enemy's use of that notorious base area. In several cases the enemy strongly opposed these intrusions into what he had considered his territory. On 14 April 1967 Camp Prek Klok received approximately 150 rounds of 82-mm. mortar fire, followed by a ground attack by an estimated two battalions of Viet Cong. This was the first large-scale attack on a Special Forces camp since A Shau was overrun in March 1966. In the vicinity of Camps My Phuoc Tay and My An, there were numerous encounters with Viet Cong units of company and battalion size. Because of the aggressive tactics of the CIDG and mobile strike force units and
the rapid reaction of tactical air and artillery support, the Viet Cong suffered several defeats in this area.
In I Corps on 4 May 1967 at 0330 Camp Lang Vei, Detachment A-101, Quang Tri Province, was attacked by a company-size force supported by mortars and tanks. About one platoon of Viet Cong gained entry into the camp. With the assistance of fire support from Khe Sanh, enemy elements were repelled from the camp at 0500. Two Special Forces men were killed and five wounded; seventeen civilian irregulars were killed, thirty-five wounded, and thirtyeight missing. Enemy losses were seven killed and five wounded. Subsequent intelligence and prisoner of war interrogations indicated that the attackers were aided from inside the camp by Viet Cong who had infiltrated the CIDG units, posing as recruits. One prisoner of war said that he had been contacted by the Viet Cong before the attack and directed to join the CIDG at Lang Vei in order to obtain information on the camp. After joining the CIDG, the man recruited four other civilian irregulars to assist him. One man was to determine the locations of all bunkers within the camp, the second was to report on all the guard positions and how well the posts were manned, the third was to make a sketch of the camp, and the fourth was to report on supplies brought into the camp from Khe Sanh. The Viet Cong had contacted the prisoner who was under questioning on four occasions before the 4 May attack to get the information. On the night of the attack, the prisoner of war and another CIDG man killed two of the camp guards and led the Viet Cong force through the wire and minefield defenses into the camp's perimeter. This technique of prior infiltration was a Viet Cong tactic common to almost every attack on a camp.
On 8 May 1967 Camp Con Thien, Detachment A-110, Quang Tri Province, was attacked at 0230 by two battalions of the 812th North Vietnam Army Regiment with sappers attached. The assault was supported by mortars, rockets, and flame throwers. Artillery and air support was employed against the enemy throughout the attack. Since the camp was important to, and forward of, the Marine Corps positions in the demilitarized zone area of I Corps, a Marine battalion was moved into the camp for defensive strength. The perimeter, which was defended jointly by the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Special Forces, Vietnamese Special Forces and civilian irregulars, was penetrated at two places. Of the 212 of the enemy killed in the attack, 38 were credited to Special Forces, Vietnamese Special Forces, and CIDG troops. The defenders lost 14 CIDG men killed, 4 Special Forces and 16 CIDG men wounded, and two CIDG men missing, along with 44 U.S. marines killed and 110 marines and 5
men from a U.S. Navy construction battalion wounded. Enemy weapons captured included 4 flame throwers, 4 crew-served weapons, 12 40-mm. rockets, and over 100 individual weapons. Throughout the month of May the camp was subjected to constant harassing fire by mortars, artillery, rockets, and recoilless rifles. The total number of rounds received was over 1,500; on one occasion some 250 rounds landed in the space of four minutes.
The following chronological summary of the action at Con Thien was written by the Special Forces A detachment commander, Captain Craig R. Chamberlain, and submitted with the monthly operational summary of Detachment A-110 for the month of May 1967:
0210 hrs. —Six to eight round burst of small arms fire was heard east of camp. No other sounds were heard. No particular significance was given to this fact at the time because the enemy had fired weapons around the position on previous occasions apparently to draw fire in order to better determine the automatic weapon positions.
0230 hrs. —Attack commenced: I was sitting in the entrance to the command bunker when mortar and recoilless rifle fire of great intensity started landing throughout the USSF position and along the perimeter. Although some minutes must have passed, it seemed that small arms fire broke out along the perimeter almost immediately.
0245 hrs. —SSG Gibson, radio supervisor, and Kiet, camp interpreter, joined me at the CP bunker. Throughout this time a constant monitor was made of the USMC Battalion Tactical net. Situation at this time was still not clear and scope of enemy attack not fully appreciated.
0255 hrs. —SSG Brillante and SGT Zicaro joined the group at the CP bunker. Enemy by this time had penetrated to Co 146 position and sappers were moving into USSF/LLDB (Lac Luong Dac Biet—Vietnamese name for the VNSF) area. Some confusion existed at this time because of the difficulty in determining if the moving personnel were NVA or CIDG, who having been pushed off the perimeter, were looking for a place to regroup. Within a few moments we were able to determine who the enemy were, and the NCO's at my position took them under fire with small arms and grenades.
0300-0320 hrs.—Fighting continued around the bunker with exchange of grenades and small arms fire. At least six homemade grenades exploded outside the CP bunker but did no damage. One AT round from a B-40 hit the north side of the bunker and penetrated through the sandbags into the connex box that formed the base for the
bunker. Throughout this period we were able to hold the CP bunker and had suffered only minor wounds to USASF personnel.
0320 hrs. —Enemy moved a flame thrower to a position on the right front of the CP bunker, firing from about 10 to 15 meters range. They put the first shot right in front of the CP bunker, but for some reason ignition of the fuel was not complete. There was a flash and roar, and it was immediately decided to abandon the position.
0330 hrs. —Relocated CP group into the Sea Bee's area. Until our arrival the Sea Bee's had not realized the situation and were still deep in their bunkers. They were immediately informed of the situation and moved into the trenches, and a secondary strong point was created. At this time coordination and communication was reestablished with Camp Commander and the LLDB detachment. By using one of their radios, communication was reestablished on the battalion tactical net.
0335 hrs. —Remainder of the USASF Det (CPT King, SFC Loff, SFC Lansberry, SFC Gomez) joined us at the Sea Bee's position. They had been located on top of hill 158 in positions within the area of construction for the new camp. They too had been confused as to the situation, and it was not until they observed the flame thrower being used that they realized the seriousness of the situation. NOTE: (Illumination throughout the action was very sporadic. The supply of hand-held flares was rapidly exhausted, and the USASF 81mm mortar position was untenable for all practical purposes during this phase of the action. A flare ship was on station a good portion of the time but was having difficulty in getting oriented over the position. This, coupled with low ceiling and smoke, made its effectiveness very limited. The importance of illuminations were obvious. When there was sufficient light, definite lulls in the fighting, particularly along the perimeter, would occur, only to be followed by intense action as soon as the flares burned out.)
0400-0500 hrs.—USASF and Sea Bees remained in position, and we satisfied ourselves with keeping the enemy out of our position. Fighting continued to be very heavy along the Marine perimeter. Some difficulty was encountered in keeping abreast of the USMC situation. During this period, ammo was resupplied to them using amtracks. The Bn Commander utilized the Marine Engineers to reinforce and strengthen their position. Some confusion and shooting took place as the amtracks passed in front of the CIDG positions. No confusion existed regarding whose tracks they were, but rather in regards to the ground element moving with them. The camp commander was able to get things under control very
rapidly once he was made aware of the situation. NOTE: (During the period there were undoubtedly times when we could have brought enemy forces under fire from our position, but due to the confusion, I directed all USASF and Sea Bee personnel to hold their fire until I was absolutely sure of the target. This occurred mainly in the Marine position in the east just north of where the airstrip bisected the perimeter.
0500-0630 hrs.—The situation had clarified itself enough at this time so that we were able to take steps to push the enemy elements out of our immediate area. During this time, the .50 cal MG position was reoccupied and effective fire placed on the enemy troops occupying part of the Marine perimeter as well as a portion of the CIDG perimeter. This weapon kept going until mechanical failure, coupled with personnel being wounded, forced us to leave the gun and return to a secure position where we were able to place fire on the enemy.
0630 hrs. —At this time it became obvious that: (1) the enemy was trying to effect a withdrawal, and (2) he had waited too long and had a large number of men trapped inside the perimeter. As the light conditions improved, the action took on the characteristics of a turkey shoot. I believe without a doubt the enemy took his greatest casualties during this period. He simply waited too long.
0730 hrs.—Action terminated except for some small pockets of resistance. USMC elements immediately started sweeping the area outside the perimeter. MEDEVAC operations commenced and continued throughout the remainder of the morning.
Captain Chamberlain concluded his report with the comment: "The overall performance of the CIDG troops was quite commendable. They responded well to orders issued by the company commander. The camp commander . . . was a great help in stabilizing the men with his calm, don't-get-excited attitude."
The rapid reaction capability of the mobile strike forces in camp defense and in support of camp operations is illustrated by the following action. From January through March 1967, repeated contact with the enemy was made in the vicinity of Camp Bu Dop, Phuoc Long Province, in III Corps. On 14 January one CIDG company from Bu Dop, accompanied by two U.S. Special Forces and two Vietnamese Special Forces men, departed the camp with the mission of conducting a search and destroy operation with reconnaissance in Bu Dop's tactical area of responsibility. The patrol left at 0400. The terrain consisted of rubber trees, thick undergrowth, bamboo thickets, and Savannah grass. The path of the patrol
ran through an area where a reconnaissance patrol from Bu Dop had encountered the enemy on 8 December 1966. As the patrol drew closer to that area, the men heard shots and the company immediately broke into three files and started to search the area. At 1155, the point squad received fire and suffered one killed and one wounded. Firing broke out all around the company, and advisers Sergeant First Class R. Williams and Staff Sergeant J. Boorman made radio contact with a forward air controller who requested air strikes. The company was receiving heavy fire from the right flank, and seven more soldiers were wounded and two killed. Williams and Boorman advised an assault from the right flank to prevent encirclement. The company was still in its initial assault, but a momentary lull enabled the men to follow this tactic. The CIDG company attacked and overran the enemy positions, and the disorganized enemy withdrew in disarray. At 1220 an air strike was made on the retreating enemy. The troops continued the assault, finding the bodies of twenty-five North Vietnam Army soldiers in the enemy positions. By this time, the company had suffered three killed and eleven wounded. Under cover of air strikes, the company withdrew to the west to locate a landing zone for medical evacuation. While waiting for the helicopters the men collected and assembled all equipment and documents captured. The company was still receiving small arms fire from the east, and additional air strikes were made in that direction. The landing zone was secured, and medical evacuation was completed by 1500. At 1730 Captain Chester Garrett, with an additional company, landed and immediately started searching the area. The first company was extracted at 1730 and returned to base camp. While searching the area, Garrett found that an additional sixteen North Vietnam Army soldiers had been killed. Twenty-five maps and schematic drawings that were also found indicated that plans were being made to attack Camp Bu Dop and Bo Duc Subsector. At 1915 the relief force withdrew to base camp, arriving there at 2245. Within two hours after the first contact was made in this operation, the mobile strike force at Nha Trang had been airlifted to Bu Dop to defend the camp, while Captain Garrett took the second CIDG company in to relieve the company which had made the initial contact.
At 0745 on 17 February 1967, the 1st Company of the Third Nung Battalion (Airborne), III Corps mobile strike force, arrived at Bu Dop to reinforce the camp and conduct offensive operations to the east of camp. On 20 February, this company made contact with more than a battalion from the 12th North Vietnam Army Regiment, which was armed with 57-mm. recoilless rifles, 82-mm.
mortars, and the standard enemy small arms. The North Vietnamese directed an extremely heavy volume of fire into the advancing troops, but the civilian irregulars and the Special Forces troops, using sound infantry tactics, outmaneuvered the enemy and gained fire superiority. Fighting continued until tactical aircraft attacked. The enemy broke off the fighting and headed for the Cambodian border. Withdrawing south to a landing zone where medical evacuation was accomplished and reinforcements were brought in, the company then moved west back into an area protected by Bu Dop's artillery unit to rest for the night. The result of this action was 40 North Vietnam Army soldiers killed, 1 Special Forces soldier killed, 1 CIDG soldier killed, and 7 CIDG soldiers wounded.
On 23 March 1967, two CIDG companies from Bu Dop engaged a reinforced company of the North Vietnam Army approximately ten kilometers east of camp. Twenty of the enemy were killed in this action along with another estimated forty killed by U.S. air strikes that were requested. On 24 March, a CIDG company and a mobile strike force company conducted a heliborne assault on the same area and shortly thereafter became heavily engaged with two North Vietnam Army battalions, equipped with automatic weapons and recoilless rifles and supported by mortars. Casualties were 3 CIDG men killed and 11 wounded and 2 Special Forces men and 14 mobile strike force soldiers missing. It was confirmed that 98 of the enemy were killed, with an estimated 170 killed by air strikes.
In IV Corps a significant incident took place in the area of Camp Thuong Thoi, A-425, Kien Phong Province, on 6 January 1967. A company-size search and destroy patrol engaged an estimated Viet Cong company in fortified positions. A-425 requested assistance from the mobile strike force to hold the Viet Cong in position and destroy them before they could slip across the Cambodian border. A U.S. Air Force forward air controller adjusted artillery fire and called for an immediate air strike while the mobile strike force was being committed. Within three hours of the request, enough helicopters had been assembled at Can Tho, and the mobile strike force company had been lifted from there into position, but not before the Viet Cong company was able to withdraw into Cambodia under cover of darkness and carry away the dead and wounded. All indications were that the Viet Cong suffered heavy casualties.
Besides their participation in operations originating in the CIDG camps, the mobile strike forces also engaged in a large number of operations of their own in each of the four corps
tactical zones, which were the mobile strike forces' operational areas. The strength of the mobile strike forces was doubled in the period from June 1966 through June 1967. The Nha Trang Mobile Strike Force, B-55, later the 5th Mobile Strike Force Command, was under the group commander's control. It grew to reinforced battalion strength in three years and saw action in all four corps tactical zones. Originally organized in 1964 under unilateral Special Forces command, the mobile strike forces were brought under joint U.S.-Vietnamese Special Forces command in December 1966. As of mid-1967 the Special Forces operations base at Nha Trang and the C detachment, Company A, in III Corps, each had five mobile strike force companies. Companies C, B, and D in I, II, and IV Corps, respectively, had three mobile strike force companies each. Mobile strike forces were flexibly organized, but a typical company had a headquarters, three rifle platoons, a weapons platoon, with mortar and machine gun sections, and a reconnaissance platoon. (Chart 6)
Mobile strike operations were conducted by irregular forces specially organized, trained, and equipped to rove the enemy rear for extended periods of time, conducting reconnaissance in force; to seek out and raid enemy bases; to interdict enemy lines of communication and support; to ambush and, if possible, to pin down and destroy small enemy units; and to establish contact with the enemy's large units so that major air and ground forces could be called in to destroy them. As developed by the Special Forces in Vietnam, the concept of mobile irregular warfare in support of counterinsurgency operations was predicated in part on the availability of tactical and strategic airpower and of an organized force of at least battalion strength with organic or provided transportation resources for immediate commitment to major engagements initiated by the mobile irregulars. Many combat actions were initiated by mobile strike forces during 1966 and 1967. On 2 April 1967 at 0030, patrols from the IV Corps Mobile Strike Force Company providing local security for Camp My An, A-426, detected an estimated 300 Viet Cong approximately three and half kilometers south of the camp. The Viet Cong were taken under fire, and the mobile strike force patrols fought their way back to defensive positions where the remainder of the mobile strike force company also took the Viet Cong under fire. Gunships and an AC-47 aircraft armed with automatic weapons were called in for support. Firefights lasted approximately three hours and included hand-to-hand combat. The Viet Cong broke away at 0330 and withdrew to the southwest. Results of the action were 1 Special Forces man wounded, 6 mobile
Chart 6-- ORGANIZATION OF MOBILE STRIKE FORCE COMPANY (11.8 KB
strike force men killed, 22 mobile strike force men wounded, and 2 carbines lost. The enemy lost 73 killed and eight small arms and assorted ammunition and supplies captured. At 1500, a new mobile strike force company was moved from Don Phuc, A-430, and relieved the company at My An. Company D, IV Corps, recommended the mobile strike force company for an award for its outstanding action against the Viet Cong battalion.
In III Corps Tactical Zone the most significant action of the quarterly period ending 31 January 1967 occurred near Camp Suoi Da, A-322, in Tay Ninh Province. On 2 November III Corps mobile strike force troops moved by air into the Suoi Da area to conduct reconnaissance missions against a known Viet Cong base area. Eight separate fights with elements of several Viet Cong regiments took place, and the mobile strike force was credited with rendering a Viet Cong battalion ineffective. Total confirmed enemy casualties were 85 killed, but another 148 were probably killed in ground action. This action was one of many in a situation that later led to the launching of Operation ATTLEBORO, up to that time the largest of the war involving conventional U.S. and Vietnamese units. (See Appendix E.)
Another significant area of mobile strike force employment was in the conduct of special operations. As part of a special operation named BLACKJACK 41C, three companies of the Nha Trang Mobile Strike Force conducted a parachute assault in the Seven Mountains region of IV Corps in May 1967. BLACKJACK 41C grew directly out of the special operation BLACKJACK 41, which had the mission of conducting unconventional warfare against the Viet Cong forces concentrated in the Seven Mountains region—a region which had long been a notorious Viet Cong stronghold. In addition to mobile strike forces, CIDG companies and a mobile guerrilla force participated in BLACKJACK 41C. The mission of BLACKJACK 41C was to exploit the intelligence gathered by the IV Corps Company D Mobile Strike Force and conduct operations to seal off Nui Giai Mountain in the Seven Mountains, denying the Viet Cong further use of it; to inflict maximum casualties on Viet Cong forces in the area; and to destroy Viet Cong command and supply installations.
The Company D Mobile Strike Force had been operating on Nui Giai Mountain since 20 April. On 9 May 1967 it received intelligence that one company from the 512th Viet Cong Battalion was operating on Nui Giai and would defend the mountain. It was decided to launch a large-scale operation to seal off Nui Giai and clear it of Viet Cong. The operation began at 0645 on 13 May with thirty-nine Special Forces troops and three companies of the 5th
Special Forces Group Mobile Strike Force conducting an airborne assault on drop zone BLACKJACK, south of Nui Giai. The drop took place from five C-130's flying in close formation (in 2,000-foot trail) and with the paratroopers jumping from a 700-foot altitude. No resistance was encountered in the drop zone. A mobile guerrilla company moved from Chi Lang at 0001 on 13 May and assumed a blocking position on the southeastern tip of Nui Giai. Elements of B-42, three CIDG companies from Vinh Gia, Ba Xoai, and Tinh Bien, assumed blocking positions on the north, west, and northeast of Nui Giai. During the first three days of the operation, the blocking forces conducted probes from the south of Nui Giai. On the fourth day of operations all elements began deep probes into the mountain. Contact was made with the Viet Cong every day except on 15 May. The 5th Group Mobile Strike Force and the mobile guerrilla company made repeated contact with an estimated two platoons of Viet Cong armed with two light machine guns, a 60-mm. mortar, Browning automatic rifles, and assorted small arms. The Viet Cong were in fortified, camouflaged positions. A total of seven air strikes were conducted on this location. The Company D Mobile Strike Force was evacuated from the mountain on 16 May and the operation terminated on 18 May. One company from Vinh Gia and one company from Tinh Bien remained on Nui Giai to conduct further operations and deny the Viet Cong use of the mountain.
As a result of the action, it was confirmed that 40 of the enemy were killed; 12 were wounded. Of the friendly forces, 9 were killed—8 of them CIDG men and 1 man from the strike force; 35 were wounded—12 CIDG men, 4 men of the strike force, and 9 men of the U.S. Special Forces. Eleven small arms were captured as well as medicines, assorted documents, and some field equipment. Three thousand pounds of rice, ten squad-size huts, fifteen caves, and one command post were destroyed.
The biggest single lesson learned from the campaign was that a large-scale operation like BLACKJACK 41C, involving eleven companies and an airborne assault marshaled out of Nha Trang, could be assembled and launched in a very short time. The operation was conceived, planned, and put into effect in less than thirty-six hours. Only eighteen hours elapsed from the time the operations order was issued to all task force commanders at Can Tho until the first elements were dropped on the BLACKJACK landing zone.
In concluding this section on the events of June 1966-June 1967, some comment is appropriate on 6th Special Forces Group
developments in the fields of training, revolutionary development activities, and logistics.
In conjunction with its CIDG and special operations missions, the group expanded its training activities at the Dong Ba Thin Training Center, a key element in the constant effort to upgrade the competence and efficiency of Vietnamese Special Forces and CIDG troops to the point where they could be self-sustaining. During 1966 and 1967 there was a significant increase in the quality, capacity, and diversity of leadership training and advanced Special Forces courses presented at the center. A large part of the instruction was being given by Vietnamese Special Forces by the summer of 1967. In order to have all mobile strike forces qualified as parachutists, a basic airborne school was established at the center. The planned input was one CIDG company of 132 persons per month, but the school had the capacity to qualify one battalion per month if the need arose.
On 15 September 1966, by direction of General Westmoreland, the 5th Special Forces Group established the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Recondo School. The school trained selected
troops from all Free World Military Assistance Forces in the long range reconnaissance techniques developed and employed by Project Delta. The school was able to conduct the following training: a three-week reconnaissance-commando course, with a maximum school capacity of 120 students—a class of 60 students began training every two weeks; a one-week airborne course for reconnaissance-commando students; mandatory subject training such as escape and evasion and survival; a one-week long-range reconnaissance patrol course for men assigned to Projects Delta, Sigma, and Omega; and special training such as high altitude-low opening parachuting, scuba, or other training missions as required. Selected Vietnam Army cadre were trained also as the nucleus of the Vietnam Army Reconnaissance-Commando School, which was scheduled for establishment.
Developed in 1966, the concept of revolutionary development included civic action, troop motivation, and psychological operations. In the course of 1966-1967 the 5th Group unified its efforts in these areas under a new revolutionary development support activities section at the 5th Group headquarters in Nha Trang, which had the responsibility of planning, supervising, and evaluating U.S. Special Forces participation in the revolutionary development program. The major point of emphasis was that revolutionary development had to be a Vietnamese program, and in the final analysis its success or failure depended on the Vietnamese. If the people were to be won over to the government, the revolutionary development project had to be Vietnamese—a fact which was unquestionably borne out by events after 1961. Medical aid continued to be the most popular and significant form of civic action. Finally, the Civic Action Guide published by the 5th Group pointed up the need to develop projects that could be supported locally and continued by the people after U.S. and Vietnamese Special Forces troops left the area.
The unusual logistic demands of the Special Forces and CIDG program continued, with the added requirements of greater expansion. Forward supply points in each of the four corps tactical zones, heavy emphasis on aerial resupply, and rapid resupply techniques continued to be used and expanded. Two new logistic requirements that arose in the course of the year dealt with air support for guerrilla operations and the logistical needs of the prestocked fighting camps. To speed resupply, the so-called red ball system was established. Designed to provide rapid response to urgent supply requests, the red ball made resupply within one hour a reality. High-priority requests received a distinctive red ball
marking that insured special handling from the time a request was received until the item was pulled from the warehouse, placed on line, and loaded on aircraft. From the time of its inception on 15 March 1967 to the end of May, over 115 U.S. Special Forces red ball requisitions were processed.
The entire logistic support system for the U.S. Special Forces and CIDG program in Vietnam was exceptionally efficient. The whole countrywide operation was handled by 250 U.S. soldiers, eighty of whom were Special Forces men. All told, the 5th Group developed what was considered one of the most efficient and economical supply systems in Vietnam. Operational control was exercised differently in each of the corps areas. (Chart 7) This was especially true in regard to operations conducted in conjunction with conventional forces.
The Tet Offensive: The CIDG Grows Up
Three major changes in the Special Forces Civilian Irregular Defense Group effort took place from June 1967 to June 1968 and in many respects set the stage for the remainder of Special Forces participation in the war in Vietnam. Two of these were the result of policy changes which came from within the group, while the third change came about as a result of the enemy's 1968 Tet offensive.
The first change was a significant increase in so-called Vietnamization. In early 1968, senior commanders of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, were discussing methods of increasing the number of Vietnamese involved in the conflict, reducing the number of American casualties, and releasing U.S. units for responsive deployment by U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. In essence, the concept which developed and which was adhered to through 1970 called for the CIDG camp and mobile strike forces to be employed as balanced forces to establish an interdiction zone in the western border area of South Vietnam. The 5th Special Forces Group began to prepare for disengagement with the development of plans for the assimilation of the CIDG by the Vietnam Army or other government agencies. This included renewed emphasis on the closure, turnover, and conversion of CIDG camps. Within the group itself, a number of steps were taken to lay the groundwork for Vietnamese take-over of the CIDG program. A new program was initiated to improve Vietnamese counterpart relations and stress the training of the Vietnamese so that they could accept
CHART 7-- COMMAND STRUCTURE OF 5th SPECIAL FORCES GROUP (AIRBORNE) (19.3 KB)
greater responsibilities in the direction of the CIDG program. Extensive administrative, operational, and logistical responsibility was delegated to U.S. Special Forces company commanders, one in each of the four corps tactical zones, and they were encouraged to establish and maintain the closest relationship possible with the senior U.S. and Vietnamese commanders in their respective zones. Within the group headquarters itself, staff sections were oriented toward a mission of co-ordination, support, service, and planning, which included making long-range studies for future commitment. Finally, to the extent possible, assignments were lengthened so that U.S. Special Forces men could spend a longer time with their Vietnamese counterparts to increase the operational efficiency of the Vietnamese.
The second change in the Special Forces CIDG effort was in the area of revolutionary development, civic action, and psychological operations, and this too grew out of the increasing emphasis on Vietnamization. The mission of the group in the civic action and psychological operations field was to advise the Vietnamese Special Forces, to support the government revolutionary development program, and to conduct psychological operations against the Viet Cong. Because of the difference in organization and responsibilities of the group S-5 section and its counterpart, the political warfare section of the Vietnamese Special Forces high command, however, this mission was not being fully achieved. In the political warfare section, the officer in charge was responsible not only for the civic action and psychological operations but also for the motivation and indoctrination of the indigenous troops—their morale and welfare. Therefore, in order to provide compatible advisory assistance to the Vietnamese political warfare section, the 5th Special Forces Group psychological operations section was moved from the S-3 to the S-5 section, and the combined civic action-psychological operations section was augmented with a political warfare section that included a motivation and indoctrination officer. This officer was responsible for education, information, troop benefits, dependent care, and other matters affecting the morale and welfare of the civilian irregular troops. Along the lines of the Vietnamese political warfare concept, the first priority of the effort went to the troops, the next to the population, and the next after that to dealing with the enemy. Great emphasis was given to providing assistance to the CIDG soldier and his family. The net result of this reorganization of the U.S. Special Forces civic action and psychological operations effort was to increase Vietnamese participation, thereby preparing the Vietnamese for total take-over and at the same time
improving the motivation of the CIDG for conversion to complete Vietnamese control.
Finally, the third change in the Special Forces CIDG effort that occurred during this year came as a response to the enemy Tet offensive and the change in the nature of the war which it brought about. In the course of the Tet offensive, CIDG troops were employed in the defense of certain urban centers, a combat role new to them but one in which they proved to be very effective. Further, after Tet, the CIDG came to be regarded as an economy of force element which could be used to release conventional units for deployment in response to new enemy buildups. These tactical and strategic changes in the employment of civilian irregulars reflected once again the flexibility and responsiveness of the U.S. Special Forces CIDG effort and were further evidence of the Special Forces' wide-ranging counterinsurgency capabilities.
With the large-scale introduction of conventional North Vietnamese Army forces and sophisticated enemy weapons into South Vietnam, the CIDG program was re-evaluated to analyze its effectiveness in the light of the transition from an insurgency situation
to one of insurgency coupled with "hot" war. During the twelve months major changes in enemy armament occurred. Introduced in quantity were tube artillery, large rockets, large mortars, modern small arms of the AK47 type, antiaircraft artillery up to 37-mm., and heavy machine guns. Tanks were employed on one occasion against the CIDG camp at Lang Vei, and others were sighted in Laos and Cambodia near the border and in South Vietnam. In central and southern South Vietnam, North Vietnamese Army replacements were used to bolster main force Viet Cong units that had lost many men.
The enemy launched his Tet offensive on 29 January 1968. This was followed by a massive buildup at Khe Sanh and the armor-supported attack that overran the camp at Lang Vei in I Corps. Pressure on CIDG camps, except for the attack on Lang Vei, was unusually light during the entire Tet offensive and for approximately sixty days thereafter. As the enemy withdrew from the vicinity of the urban areas, pressure on the CIDG camps increased, principally in the form of frequent attacks by mortar and rocket fire on camps near known enemy infiltration routes and base areas. CIDG forces responded in an exemplary manner in all corps tactical zones during Tet and were responsible for the successful defense of several urban areas, as well as the rapid relief of others. Among the urban centers successfully defended by the CIDG were Nha Trang, Qui Nhon, Kontum, Pleiku, Chau Doc, Ban Me Thuot, Phan Thiet, and Dalat. The street-fighting ability demonstrated by the CIDG troops in the defense of these towns was somewhat surprising in view of the fact that their training had not been geared for that kind of combat, but their superior performance demonstrated conclusively that the CIDG soldier was the combat equal of any soldier in Vietnam. Immediately following Tet, a major tactical redeployment of conventional troop units was necessary in order to provide forces to counter the increased enemy threat in northern I Corps. It was at this point that CIDG troops were used as economy of force elements in order to make this redeployment of conventional units possible.
The effects of the Tet offensive were also felt in the effort to turn over the CIDG program to the Vietnamese. In many cases the schedule for the turnover or conversion of certain camps was brought to a virtual standstill by the Tet offensive. Areas thought to be secure and ready for conversion or turnover proved not to be in the light of Tet, and the schedules had to be revised.
Besides these three major changes in the character and conduct of the U.S. Special Forces CIDG program, there were other devel-
opments which deserve mention. The superior performance of the mobile strike forces prompted the authorization for a total of 47 mobile strike force companies—up 28 companies from the number authorized the Special Forces during the 1966-1967 period. By the summer of 1968, 34 mobile strike companies were in existence: 5 in I Corps, 12 in II Corps, 7 in III Corps, and 10 in IV Corps. Construction of new camps, while not nearly as widespread as in 1965 and 1966, continued. While the Tet offensive did slow it down, the turnover process continued with the successful turnover to complete Vietnamese Special Forces control of three camps. In response to the increase in enemy firepower and in recognition of the valuable tactical role played by the CIDG, a weapons modernization program was submitted to and approved by Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, in April 1968 under which the CIDG troops were given priority in the receipt of M16 rifles, M60 machine guns, and M79 grenade launchers. Up to this point, the CIDG troops had been using M1 carbines and some M14's. As the new weapons became available, they were issued to the mobile strike forces, the combat reconnaissance platoons, and the camp strike forces, in that order. The weapons transfer program was completed by January 1969, and the combat effectiveness of the CIDG was significantly increased as a result. The use of both camp and mobile strike forces in conventional operations in conjunction with U.S., Vietnam Army, and Free World forces took place on an ever-increasing scale, presaging the eventual assimilation of the CIDG into the Vietnamese military organization.
An enemy assault on Camp Loc Ninh, A-331, in III Corps, took place from 29 October to 4 November 1967. Although the assault was a determined enemy attempt to overrun a camp, the camp strike force, together with elements of the 1st U.S. Infantry Division which reinforced it on the second day, successfully defended the camp with no outside help except air strikes, and dealt the enemy an extremely heavy defeat in which he lost over 1,000 killed. Of that figure, 184 enemy killed were credited to the civilian irregulars and the U.S. and Vietnamese Special Forces at Camp Loc Ninh. Against that, the camp casualties in the action were 4 Special Forces men wounded, 6 CIDG men killed, and 39 CIDG men wounded. The following account of the action at Loc Ninh is paraphrased from the operational report for the quarterly period ending 31 January 1968.
Before the attack, one CIDG company was engaged in patrolling approximately eight kilometers northwest of Loc Ninh, while three
companies, a reconnaissance element, and a civic action and psychological operations squad were inside the camp. The CIDG camps were organized for defense, with the troops billeted in the wall of the defensive perimeter and each CIDG company assigned a specific part of the perimeter and the responsibility for defending it. All basic weapons were in defensive positions at all times.
Since mid-September 1967, reports from significant problem areas and intelligence reports of the Free World military forces, the Vietnam Rangers, and the Special Forces had all indicated that the Viet Cong were making preparations for a large-scale ground assault in Loc Ninh District. In early October allied intelligence placed the time of the attack between 22 and 30 November. Enemy reinforcements were observed moving into Loc Ninh District. The 272d Viet Cong Regiment, which had been located in the Bu Dinh Secret Zone, moved into the vicinity of Loc Ninh in early July and remained there except for making one excursion to the south. The 273d Viet Cong Regiment was observed moving north in mid August from its previous position in War Zone C to a position near Dong Xoai. One week before the attack on Loc Ninh, the
regiment crossed the Song Be and took its position northwest of Loc Ninh; it became the camp's primary Viet Cong protagonist. The 165th North Vietnamese Army Regiment operated in the fishhook area after its 7 August attack on Camp Tong Le Chon and was believed to have moved farther northeast into Loc Ninh District in early November. At least one battalion and possibly two battalions of the 165th Regiment participated in the attacks on Loc Ninh. The 84A North Vietnamese Army Artillery Regiment was believed to have moved some attack forces into northwest Phuoc Long in mid-October, while the 141st North Vietnamese Army Regiment is not believed to have moved any substantial units into the battle area, though troops from the 141st Regiment may have been assigned to other attacking units. Captured documents indicated that a few of the enemy killed in action belonged to the 141st Regiment. After the 273d Viet Cong Regiment moved north, the 9th Viet Cong Division headquarters moved from War Zone D to Loc Ninh in the latter part of September 1967 and appears to have supervised the attack on Loc Ninh, which began on 29 October 1967 at 0115. All the aforementioned intelligence was known before the attack. The actual extent in numbers of the attackers and the duration of the attack were unknown. There were no indications that a prolonged and fanatical attempt would be made against the CIDG camps in Loc Ninh District.
During the first hours of 29 October the subsector compound north of Loc Ninh began receiving 82-mm. mortar and heavy small arms and automatic weapons fire from the northwest. Within a few minutes of each other, Camps Loc Ninh and Hon Quan began receiving mortar fire in and around the compound. Loc Ninh received continuous heavy mortar fire until approximately 0250 after which it became sporadic until it ceased at 0530. During the initial heavy mortar attack, Loc Ninh Special Forces Camp A-331 received approximately twelve rounds inside the compound, with five rounds landing in the vicinity of the gate to the camp. At Hon Quan no rounds landed within the compound. Hon Quan received approximately sixty rounds of 82-mm. mortars during the first hour, and the province chief's house was the target of some eight to twelve 57-mm. recoilless rifle rounds. At 0115 the Viet Cong struck the subsector of the Regional Forces and Popular Forces compound with co-ordinated mortar and ground attacks, and at 0220 after an hour of fighting it was reported that Viet Cong were within the compound. U.S. troops could not substantiate the report until 0520 when it was confirmed that one U.S. Regional
Forces and Popular Forces adviser and a district chief were in the command bunker within the compound.
For four and a half hours under cover of darkness, an estimated battalion of the 273d Viet Cong Regiment supported by a battalion from the 84A North Vietnamese Army Artillery Regiment attacked Camp Loc Ninh with mortar, rocket, heavy machine gun, and small arms fire. The camp received an estimated one hundred and eighty 82-mm. and 120-mm. mortar rounds and fifteen RPG40 rounds. The camp went on full alert at 0115. Forward air controllers, Spooky (C-47 aircraft), light fire teams, and tactical air support were at their stations within fifteen minutes and gave continuous support to Loc Ninh throughout the night until the enemy broke contact at 0520. At this time detachment A-331 at Loc Ninh launched an operation with two CIDG companies to relieve the Regional Forces and Popular Forces compound. By 1600 the compound had been secured and all Viet Cong expelled.
During the attack Loc Ninh carried out a field operation in which twenty-three men of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army were killed.
After the attack ceased at 0530 on 29 October the Loc Ninh Special Forces Camp immediately began to improve its defensive position. On 31 October at 0050 the camp was again attacked by an estimated two battalions of the 273d Viet Cong Regiment, supported by a battalion from the 84A North Vietnamese Army Artillery Regiment. It was estimated that the camp received two hundred rounds from 82-mm. and 120-mm. mortars and eighteen rounds from 122-mm. rockets, as well as RPG40, RPG7V, and recoilless rifle fire of undetermined caliber. A Viet Cong battalion attempted a mass assault on the camp, but the attack was broken up and the Viet Cong were pinned down and then destroyed by coordinated fire from the camp and tactical air strikes. At the first sign of light the enemy withdrew to the north, northeast, and northwest. At 0200 on 1 November 1967 Camp Loc Ninh received approximately ten 82-mm. mortar rounds, believed to have been fired in order to allow the enemy to gather his dead and wounded from the battlefield. Contact with the enemy was light and sporadic until the following day at 0050 when the enemy again massed a battalion for an obvious last-ditch effort to overrun the camp. Once again the attack was repelled by the camp's withering defensive fire and especially well-placed air strikes. After the final air sortie, the enemy became disorganized and fled. Sporadic contact was maintained until dawn.
The enemy's main force was estimated at nine North Vietnam-
ese Army and Viet Cong battalions, which participated in the attacks on Camp Loc Ninh from 29 October to 4 November 1967. The enemy units consisted of the following: 3 battalions from the 273d Viet Cong Regiment, which was believed to be located to the west of Loc Ninh; 1 battalion of the 84A Artillery Regiment deployed around Loc Ninh; 1 to 2 battalions of the 165th North Vietnamese Army Regiment located southeast of Loc Ninh; 2 to 3 battalions of the 272d Viet Cong Regiment located east of Loc Ninh; part of a battalion of the 141st North Vietnamese Army Regiment which was distributed among the other participating units; and a heavy weapons battalion equipped with antiaircraft guns and mortars. Each battalion, except for the heavy weapons battalion, is believed to have numbered between 300 and 400 men and to have been slightly understrength. The heavy weapons battalion organically has fewer men than an infantry battalion. Each infantry battalion was equipped with the usual Chinese or Soviet small arms and crew-served weapons. In addition, the 84A North Vietnamese Army Artillery Regiment provided 120-mm. mortars and 122-mm. rockets. One surface-to-air missile exploding in the air was observed by two U.S. forward air controllers. The missile was fired from an area approximately eight kilometers west of Loc Ninh.
The enemy employed no tactical innovations in his attacks on Loc Ninh. An attack usually commenced with heavy mortar bombardments, followed in quick succession by ground assaults that were preceded by squad-size sapper units coming from several directions. A larger attack consisted of several assault waves; during the height of battle Loc Ninh withstood at least three such full-scale ground assaults. Usually, the enemy's last offensive operation was a ruse for body recovery. Almost all Viet Cong operations were conducted under cover of darkness. The attackers usually began assembling after dusk and reached their offensive positions at about 2100. Most attacks were launched about 0030 and concluded at dawn, with scattered sniping in the early morning hours allowing the attack force an orderly withdrawal. Allied air reconnaissance observed heavier than usual antiaircraft guns surrounding Camp Loc Ninh. Some of the fire received at camp came from .50-caliber machine guns, some mounted as quads. While the enemy's antiaircraft fire was not effective, it did divert extensive suppressing fire from other targets. Recoilless rifles and antiaircraft weapons were employed from civilian homes, especially from multistoried structures. Despite the extensive preparations made by the enemy, the only compound they were able to penetrate was the Regional Forces compound on the first day of battle.
The discipline of the civilian irregular and Special Forces troops was outstanding during the assaults. As a result of periodic practice alerts, everyone knew exactly where to go and what to do. The troops of the U.S. Special Forces, Civilian Irregular Defense Group, and Vietnamese Special Forces with their commanders stayed with their assigned units throughout the attack, assisting wherever and whenever they were needed. The U.S. Special Forces detachment commander was in the communications bunker at first; after forwarding the required reports to higher headquarters, he took his position on the perimeter and directed the defense of the camp. The executive officer served at the point of greatest impact, assisted in resupplying the perimeter with ammunition, gave first aid, and helped with evacuation of the wounded and dead. The team sergeant was everywhere: he moved from position to position on the perimeter, offering encouragement and reassurance to the troops and forwarding necessary reports to the detachment commander. The team medic not only treated the wounded on the defensive perimeter but also in the medical bunker. Weapons men divided their time between the mortar crews and the perimeter. Team members were all periodically active and were exceptionally effective in keeping the camp defenses organized. Individual acts of heroism were too numerous to mention; suffice it to say that every U.S. team member was recommended for an award of valor.
There were additional contingency plans: camp defense plans and camp alert plans. Effective communications were maintained throughout the attack on Loc Ninh. Internal communication was excellent, as was external communication to higher headquarters. Even after the discovery that the outside antennas had been destroyed in the attack on Loc Ninh, communication was immediately regained by switching to the underground emergency antennas.
All requests to higher headquarters were met promptly. The flareships and Spooky were on the scene of battle within twenty-five minutes after their summons and they remained on the scene as long as they were needed. Forward air controllers, air and artillery support were outstanding. No requests for reinforcements were made to higher headquarters, but as the fight developed over the next several days, Vietnam Army units and the 1st Brigade of the 1st U.S. Infantry Division were airlifted into Loc Ninh. Logistical support was superb. Requests to higher headquarters for supplies and equipment were handled with immediate dispatch. Medical evacuation was swift once daylight came and the fighting abated. All reports were submitted to higher headquarters according to the
standing operating procedure, and all deserving individuals were recommended for awards of valor.
Enemy pursuit, aside from the civilian irregular relief column dispatched to the Popular Forces compound, was left to the 1st U.S. Infantry Division in and around Loc Ninh. There were reports that the enemy was fleeing in all directions in a disorganized manner. Initially the enemy withdrew to the west of Loc Ninh, but heavy contact with U.S. and CIDG units diverted the Viet Cong to the north, northeast, and east. A trail survey later revealed that the enemy withdrew in battalion-size or larger units primarily northeast toward the Cambodian border and due east to the Bu Dinh Secret Zone.
A confidence bred of demonstrated ability created in the ranks of Civilian Irregular Defense Group troops a conviction that they could win against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese regulars. With this conviction the transition to the offensive was complete.