Chapter VI: 
The Fight for the Borders
Changing Strategy
In the aftermath of the 1968 enemy offensives both sides changed strategy. For the North Vietnamese, the change was a necessity brought on by heavy losses in men, equipment, and supplies. With the Viet Cong underground organization exposed or destroyed in many areas, main force units short of men, equipment, and leaders, and the logistical system drained of supplies, the enemy had no choice but to retire to sanctuaries. On the free world side, U.S. troop strength, despite some losses, reached a new high of nearly 550,000 in April 1969, and the South Vietnamese Army gained confidence from new weapons and freedom of action. It was the time, therefore, to pursue the enemy into his sanctuaries and keep up an unrelieved pressure that would prevent his returning.
The new strategy of the free world forces was applied under the leadership of General Creighton W. Abrams, who succeeded General Westmoreland as Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, in the summer of 1968. By background and training General Abrams was the man for the job. One of the great commanders of small armored units in World War II, he subsequently commanded an armored division and a corps, and served as Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. For a year before he assumed command he was General Westmoreland's deputy, and concentrated his attention on the Vietnamese Army. His rapport with South Vietnamese leaders was excellent, his confidence in the South Vietnamese Army was a great boost to Vietnamese morale, and his conviction that the South Vietnamese were capable of a much broader participation in the war than had been allowed them in the past augured well for the new strategy.
When the enemy forces fled from the battlefields, they regrouped in base areas inside South Vietnam. With virtually no large Viet Cong and North Vietnamese units in the field, free world forces began to engage in continual small unit actions to locate and defeat the remaining enemy forces. Increased American strength and the growing strength of the South Vietnamese Army also allowed free world forces to penetrate and destroy the enemy base system in South Vietnam. As the tempo of these operations increased, the enemy fled once again-this time to sanctuaries in Laos and Cam-

bodia where refitting, resupplying, and training could. be carried out without interference.
By mid-1969 the enemy was operating from these sanctuaries, venturing occasionally into South Vietnam as logistics permitted. These forays, known as high points, were preceded by enemy logistical buildups of enough supplies to support the high points. The enemy tactic of sticking out a so-called logistics nose, followed by troops who were supported by the buildup, became a familiar one. In 1969 and 1970 the free world countertactic was to cut off the logistics nose when possible and thus frustrate the enemy attack that was intended to follow.1
American and South Vietnamese armored forces in the air and on the ground played an important role in the fight to prevent a logistical buildup and to seal the borders of South Vietnam, Their mobility and heavy firepower enabled them to operate in small groups with less chance that any single unit would be overwhelmed. This mobility also enabled them to disperse over wide areas, yet mass quickly when the enemy struck.
Armored Forces Along the Demilitarized Zone
In mid-1968 the last major U.S. tactical unit that was to be sent to Vietnam, the 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized), was arriving from Fort Carson. By 1 August 1968 the five combat units of the brigade were in Vietnam: the 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry (Mechanized) ; the 1st Battalion, 77th Armor; the 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry; the 5th Battalion, 4th Artillery (155-mm., self-propelled); and Troop A, 4th Squadron, 12th Cavalry. Within a few days they started combat operations in the I Corps Tactical Zone, immediately south of the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Vietnam.
The North Vietnamese Army units along the Demilitarized Zone were unaccustomed to fighting U.S. armored forces. The U.S. Marines operated in this region, but used their armor in small groups whose primary role was support of dismounted infantry. Thus, the 1st Brigade enjoyed some immediate success against enemy troops who tried to stand and fight, believing themselves to be facing tank-supported infantry as before. These encounters were usually one-sided, with the North Vietnamese losing significantly in men and equipment. However, the enemy quickly learned the futility of a stand-up fight against the consolidated mechanized

force of the brigade, and changed his tactics to avoid the mounted formations.
Emphasizing offensive action away from fixed bases, the 1st Brigade attacked the enemy whenever and wherever he could be found. After only two months of combat the brigade received a letter of congratulations from General Westmoreland, newly appointed Army Chief of Staff, who wrote that the unit's actions had "demonstrated the Brigade's readiness to take its place with other veteran units in Vietnam."
By late 1968 1st Brigade operations in the I Corps area were fairly illustrative of small unit actions throughout the country. The brigade concentrated on rooting out the Viet Cong underground organization and breaking up guerrilla units by sending battalions into areas whose limits corresponded with local Vietnamese district boundaries. Liaison officers from the American battalions were assigned to each district and direct communications were established between battalion and district. A close association was thus developed between Vietnamese Regional and Popular Forces and U.S. battalions. Perhaps most important of all, the brigade began to develop a network of village agents that was to prove invaluable in providing timely information about the Viet Cong organization.
Mechanized infantry was particularly successful in ferreting out the Viet Cong. Mechanized companies could move rapidly through search areas and quickly cordon off a village suspected of harboring Viet Cong. Local Vietnamese forces operating with the American troops usually conducted the detailed search. When it was over the mechanized company would move on, sometimes many miles, to place a cordon around another village.
As these operations became more successful local government improved and Viet Cong village organizations collapsed. Members of the Viet Cong could no longer safely submerge in village populations, and when they fled to the countryside they were hounded by American infantry and artillery. Although it was certainly not the efforts of the mounted infantry alone that drove the Viet Cong from the villages, the mechanized troopers performed a task that neither police, local militia, nor standard U.S. infantry could accomplish alone. One Vietnamese district chief said: "On a good day, the U.S. mechanized infantry may not always get here quite as fast as airmobile infantry-but they stay with us longer and with more firepower."
After the early encounters, combat in the 1st Brigade's area of operation was light. Since lack of vegetation made the M 113 visible for hundreds of yards, particularly on a moonlit night, it was a

PICTURE - PREPARING NIGHT DEFENSIVE POSITIONS ALONG THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE. Men of 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry, dig foxholes but vehicles are left in the open to allow maneuver.
PREPARING NIGHT DEFENSIVE POSITIONS ALONG THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE. Men of 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry, dig foxholes but vehicles are left in the open to allow maneuver.
simple matter for the enemy to bypass the vehicles. The brigade countered this tactic by saturating an area with four-man patrols. Each mechanized infantry company was required to have a minimum of twenty ambush patrols of four men each night. Commanders briefed their troops at the noon meal; patrols then mounted. armored personnel carriers and were taken on a ground reconnaissance of each position. At dusk, while they were still visible to enemy in the area, the M113's were again dispatched on designated reconnaissance routes. Immediately after dark, while the APC's were moving, each four-man patrol dismounted and established its ambush position. This technique made it difficult for an observing enemy to detect ambush positions because the vehicles never stopped moving during the reconnaissance.
After the patrols were in place, the M 113's formed platoon night defensive positions and prepared to move to the assistance of any patrol that ambushed an enemy force. Because ambush patrols were close together, usually separated by a rice paddy or a dike, the enemy could not bypass all of them. Establishing four-man patrols was a calculated risk since they had little staying power, but once the patrols had engaged the enemy, reinforcements moved according to plan. Upon hearing the first round fired, the vehicles nearest the ambush took the most direct route to the fight, with headlights blazing. Later, a tabulation of all fights during the use of this technique showed that the longest time lapse, from the first round fired to the arrival of the armored cavalry assault vehicles, was less than four minutes. It was the speed of the M113 that permitted the American forces to take the risk of setting up four-man patrols.

The Sheridan
In early 1969 the U.S. Army introduced a new combat vehicle into its armored forces in Vietnam-the General Sheridan M551. Cavalry commanders in Vietnam had long expressed a need for an amphibious tracked vehicle with more firepower than the armored cavalry assault vehicle but with the same mobility.2 The Sheridan was a partial answer; it was to replace M48 tanks in cavalry platoons of divisional cavalry squadrons and ACAV's that had been substituted for tanks in cavalry platoons of regimental cavalry squadrons. The regimental squadrons of the 11th Armored Cavalry retained their M48A3 tanks in the squadron tank companies.
Designed as an antitank weapon for airborne forces, the Sheridan was sent to Vietnam without its primary antitank missile equipment aboard. Its armament consisted of a 152-mm. main gun, firing combustible-case ammunition with several different warheads, a .50-caliber M2 machine gun at the commander's station, and a 7.62-mm. machine gun mounted with the main gun. The Sheridan had a spotty development history, characterized by difficulties with

the complex electronics gear associated with its antitank missile system and problems with the combustible cases for its main gun rounds. The missile system was not a problem in Vietnam-it was not used-but the combustible case gave persistent trouble.
As early as 1966 the Army staff in Washington was pressing the U.S. Army, Vietnam, to accept the Sheridan for its cavalry units. At that time the U.S. commander in Vietnam demurred on the grounds that since no main gun ammunition was available the vehicle was no more than a $300,000 machine gun platform, not as powerful and agile as the M113. When main gun ammunition was finally available in 1968, however, plans to equip two divisional cavalry squadrons, the 1st and 3d Squadrons of the 4th Cavalry, were approved. Neither squadron wanted the Sheridan because it was suspected of being highly vulnerable to mines and rocket propelled grenades and could not break through jungle like the M48A3. General Abrams, during a visit to the 11th Armored Cavalry in late 1968, mentioned this fact to the regimental commander, Colonel George S. Patton. Colonel Patton suggested that the vehicle would receive a better test if the Sheridans went to a divisional squadron and a regimental squadron. General Abrams agreed, and sent the first Sheridans to the 3d Squadron, 4th Cavalry, and the 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry.
Both units started training in January 1969. The new vehicles were accompanied by factory representatives, instructors, and evaluators to assist in the training. Reactions of the two units to the Sheridans were quite dissimilar, and in large part affected their approach to training. The 3d Squadron, 4th Cavalry, had elected not to stand down an entire troop for transition; as a result key leaders were often absent from briefings and training. The 11th Armored Cavalry, on the other hand, gave an entire troop seven days of uninterrupted training. In addition, in the 3d Squadron, 4th Cavalry, the Sheridan replaced the M48 tank in cavalry platoons one for one, while in the 11th Armored Cavalry three Sheridans replaced two cavalry platoon armored cavalry assault vehicles. Thus, one unit exchanged a somewhat less capable armored vehicle for its M48 tank, while the other unit exchanged two lightly armed and armored cavalry assault vehicles for three Sheridans-armored vehicles with considerably greater firepower and armor.
On 15 February 1969, in the first combat action involving a Sheridan, one from the 3d Squadron, 4th Cavalry, struck a 25pound pressure-detonated mine. The explosion ruptured the hull and ignited the combustible-case ammunition of the main gun, causing a deadly second explosion that destroyed the vehicle.

Sheridan crews were uneasy after this catastrophe; they knew that a similar explosion under an M48A3 tank would simply have blown off a few road wheels. The feeling that the Sheridan was extremely dangerous began to grow, and, in the manner of any rumor, spread from unit to unit in Vietnam, and even reached the training base in the United States.
After the mine incident, the effectiveness of the Sheridan was continually suspect in the 4th Cavalry. Then, on 10 March 1969, in a night bivouac at a road injunction east of Tay Ninh City, a Troop A listening post reported enemy movement and the troop went to full alert. Sheridan crews used night observation devices to scan the battlefield. Observing a large group of advancing North Vietnamese, the Sheridans fired canister into the enemy ranks. Confused by the overwhelming volume of fire, the North Vietnamese broke and ran. The next morning more than forty enemy dead, including a battalion commander and a company commander, were found on the battlefield. Reports of this action quickly spread through the squadron, restoring some measures of confidence in the Sheridan.
In contrast the 11th Armored Cavalry's first combat with the Sheridan was successful. In early February 1969, anticipating an enemy offensive, the regiment's 1st Squadron moved to Bien Hoa as a reaction force. Task Force Privette, commanded by Major William C. Privette, the squadron executive officer, included Troops A and B of the 1st Squadron. After an enemy mortar and rocket attack on 23 February, Task Force Privette moved out on an armored sweep and immediately encountered an enemy force. Placing the Sheridans on line, the two cavalry troops moved forward, firing canister into the enemy ranks. In the face of this firepower, the Viet Cong panicked and fled, leaving behind over eighty dead. This fight demonstrated the devasting effect of the 152-mm. canister round. The troops were impressed with the Sheridan's firepower as compared with that of the armored cavalry assault vehicle.
By the end of the test period, both units had concluded that the Sheridan had greater mobility, firepower, range, and night fighting ability than the vehicle it replaced. On the strength of this conclusion, more Sheridans were sent to Vietnam, and the total number had increased to more than 200 by late 1970. Eventually almost every cavalry unit in Vietnam was equipped with the Sheridan, but the fact remained that the Sheridan's combustible-case ammunition could be detonated by a mine blast or a hit by a rocket propelled grenade. Consequently, the crew of a Sheridan

abandoned it quickly after a hit; in contrast, the crew of an M48A3 tank could and did stay and fight after several hits. Another disadvantage was that during the wet season, when vehicles were drenched every day, the Sheridan's electrical fire-control system broke down repeatedly.
Changing strategy on both sides increased the use of all armored units, especially armored cavalry. The ability to move men and vehicles rapidly into battle was ideal for small, widely separated, independent engagements. Cavalry could move quickly and bring heavy firepower to bear at critical points. Once the enemy was located and the cavalry unit engaged, reinforcements were immediately sent in to prevent the enemy from escaping, then maximum firepower was brought to bear. Rapid reinforcement of a unit in combat was nicknamed "pile-on." In this period of widespread small actions, some form of pile-on became the usual mode of operation; it was well illustrated by the action of the 3d Squadron, 5th Cavalry, during the battle of Binh An.
In June 1968 this squadron was performing reconnaissance missions under operational control of the 1st Cavalry Division in the I Corps Tactical Zone. During one such mission, Troop C, 3d Squadron, 5th Cavalry, with Troop D, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry (Air) -the dismounted ground troop of the air cavalry squadron of the 1st Cavalry Division-had advanced from the northwest to within 150 meters of the village of Binh An, thirteen kilometers north of Quang Tri City on the South China Sea. Suddenly, small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades showered the American forces as several North Vietnamese soldiers withdrew into the village. Both troops began firing to maintain pressure on the enemy, while scout sections from Troop C swung to the north and south of the village to cut off the escape routes. Hundreds of civilians fled from the village as Lieutenant Colonel Hugh J. Bartley ordered Troops A and B to reinforce the attacking units and start the pile-on. Shortly, thereafter, a captured North Vietnamese soldier reported that the 300-man K14 Battalion of the 812th North Vietnamese Regiment was dug in at Binh An. Realizing that he now had an enemy battalion with its back to the sea, Colonel Bartley acted quickly. Troop B was ordered to positions north of Binh An. Troop C moved into the center of a horseshoe-shaped cordon along with Troop D, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry. By 1030 the four cavalry troops were in position around Binh An. The South China Sea blocked the enemy's escape east, and a Navy Swift boat, a small

PICTURE - PILE-ON OPERATION IN I CORPS, JUNE 1968. ACAV's and tanks of Troop B, 3d Squadron, 5th Cavalry, attack Binh An.
PILE-ON OPERATION IN I CORPS, JUNE 1968. ACAV's and tanks of Troop B, 3d Squadron, 5th Cavalry, attack Binh An.
coastal patrol craft, was also summoned to seal the seaward escape routes.
Colonel Bartley's requests for fire support brought tactical aircraft, aerial rocket artillery, and 105-mm. artillery. The cruiser Boston and destroyers O'Brien and Edson took station offshore. When Colonel Bartley gave the order to open fire, the area inside the cordon erupted as hundreds of shells crashed in on the target. A naval observer reported the shelling to be so fierce that North Vietnamese soldiers could be seen diving into the sea to escape.
In order to strengthen the cordon and complete the pile-on, Colonel Bartley requested the airlift of two infantry companies from the 1st Cavalry Division. The two companies arrived early in the afternoon: Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, reinforced Troop B on the north side, while Company C of the 2d Battalion joined Troop A on the south. The supporting fire continued for the rest of the afternoon, and was lifted only long enough for a psychological operations team to fly over Binh An, urging soldiers to surrender. There was no response, and the shelling was resumed.
To prevent the North Vietnamese from escaping by night, the enemy command structure had to be broken up. Colonel Bartley ordered Troops C and D to attack toward the sea. The cavalrymen assaulted the village but were stopped short by an impassable drainage ditch, covered by enemy fire. Troop B, with its attached infantry dispersed between the tracked vehicles, then moved out on line to attack the village from the north. To allow Troop B to

use all weapons to its front, Troop A soldiers on the south side of the cordon climbed inside their armored vehicles. Troop B swept forward until its fire began to ricochet off the Troop A vehicles, then turned around and fought its way back to its original blocking positions. Colonel Bartley then called for resumption of supporting fire.
The attack of Troop B apparently ended any intention the enemy had of a mass breakout through the cordon. Thereafter, only small groups or individuals tried to escape by sea; tank searchlights illuminated the beaches, exposing the fugitives. Along the inland sides of the cordon, troops using night vision devices between flares occasionally spotted North Vietnamese groping through the dark. Small arms fire stopped them or drove them back. Artillery rounds continued to explode in the village all night.
Morning brought an increase in the shelling, and when the fire was lifted the entire cordon tightened toward the center of Binh An. A short time later the final attack by Troop B was met by no more than scattered enemy resistance. Stunned North Vietnamese soldiers with hands held high began to stumble from the wreckage toward the American forces. As the search of the village progressed, it became apparent that the K14 Battalion had been eliminated. Over 200 bodies were found and 44 prisoners were taken. Among the dead were the battalion commander, his staff, all the company commanders, and the regimental S-1. Three American soldiers had been killed. The executive officer of the 3d Squadron, 5th Cavalry, Major Michael D. Mahler, writing several years later of the fight at Binh An, stated:
We had once more stumbled into a situation and been able to turn it to our advantage. But it was more than stumbling and it was not luck that brought success. It was soldiers in hot steel vehicles out in the glaring sand looking and poking until the enemy, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, never knew when or where an armored column would crop up next.
Rome Plows
Not every armored operation carried with it the excitment and clear victory of a well-executed pile-on. Many, such as maintaining route and convoy security, for example, involved only occasional meetings with the enemy, but were hard work and were often boring. One operation that almost every armored unit participated in at one time or another was the protection of engineer units clearing large areas of jungle with heavy Rome plows. Usually such operations extended over a considerable time and involved as many as fifty or more plows. First tried in the III

Corps Tactical Zone, Rome plows soon became commonplace in the two corps zones to the north, although they were not useful in the delta. Some jungle clearing was done during operations such as CEDAR FALLS and JUNCTION CITY; however, major land-clearing efforts did not begin until the arrival of the 169th Engineer Battalion in May 1967.
The task of protecting the clearing operations created a need for techniques for which there were no precedents. One method was developed during the summer of 1967 by the 4th Battalion, 23d Infantry (Mechanized), which cleared the Iron Triangle in III Corps, an area of thick undergrowth and trees of small to medium size. Daily operations were carried out by three land clearing teams, each composed of eight Rome plows and two conventional bulldozers, a security force, and a combined arms force for search and reaction missions. The security force usually consisted of a mechanized infantry company (minus one rifle platoon) and a tank platoon. Because enemy base camps, tunnels, and other installations were frequently uncovered, each security force contained a search group of one infantry platoon and an engineer squad. When an enemy base camp was discovered, the clearing team went on working while the search group gathered information and enemy materiel before destroying the camp. The combined arms force worked with the same plow team throughout the operation in order to insure close teamwork.
Before the plows began clearing, preparatory machine fire, mor-

tar, and tank canister fire was directed into the jungle. Once the first swath, outlining the area to be cleared, was completed the security force deployed in single file outside each plow team, with a tank section at the front and rear of the column. To discourage ambushes, harassing fire was constantly delivered on the uncleared jungle surrounding the working area. If enemy soldiers were discovered, the security force immediately deployed and assaulted while one platoon escorted the plows to safety. To prepare night defenses, plow teams cleared firing lanes and dug positions for the tracked vehicles.
In Rome plow operations along Route 20 from Blackhorse Base Camp to the boundary between III Corps and II Corps, the 3d Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry, used a different procedure. Instead of keeping the bulk of its cavalry with the plows, the squadron first cleared the immediate area to be cut, then left a security force of two to four armored cavalry assault vehicles with the plows. The remainder of the squadron conducted search and clear operations around the area being worked to keep the enemy from entering. This method became more common in later years. As emphasis on clearing along major roads and in enemy base areas increased, Rome plow security operations became routine for armored units. In the absence of established tactics, units used methods whose variety was limited only by the ingenuity of the commanders.
Tank Versus Tank
Combat between tanks, for which U.S. tank crews traditionally train, materialized only once for American armored units in Vietnam. Since the North Vietnamese had armored forces in October 1959, when the 202d Armored Regiment was created, their reasons for not making more use of them earlier can only be conjectured.3 Cadre from the regiment had joined the Central Office for South Vietnam staff as armor advisers as early as 1962. The North Vietnamese Army established an armor command in the summer of 1965, and by March 1973 there were more than twelve armor units, ranging in size from battalion to regiment. The People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union supplied all the armored vehicles, which included armored personnel carriers, light tanks, and medium tanks. The associated armored support vehicles, including self-propelled antiaircraft weapons, were supplemented by captured U.S. M41 tanks. Although poorly managed in early encounters,

enemy armored forces learned their lessons well, and in early 1975 actually spearheaded the final assaults on South Vietnam.
Contrary to American teaching on the subject, the North Vietnamese Army did not advocate the use of tanks in mass. Its doctrine stated that armor would be employed during an attack, when feasible, to reduce infantry casualties; however, only the minimum number of tanks required to accomplish the mission would be used. Battle drill dictated that lead tanks were to advance, firing, and to be supported by fire from other tanks and from artillery. Close coordination between tanks and supporting infantry was stressed as a key to success in the attack. Because the North Vietnamese lacked air power, they placed strong emphasis on camouflage training in armor units; in the spring offensive of 1972, tank regiments moved great distances without being detected.
Until the end of 1973, North Vietnamese armor appeared on or-near the battlefields of South Vietnam on only four recorded occasions. The first instance was at Lang Vei Special Forces Camp near Khe Sanh in the I Corps area on 6-7 February 1968. Here, a North Vietnamese combined arms attack with PT76 tanks succeeded in breaking through the camp's defensive positions. In 1969 at Ben Het the North Vietnamese again used armor. Against the South Vietnamese Army force that attacked into Laos in 1971, the North Vietnamese committed an entire armor regiment and staged well-coordinated tank-infantry attacks. In their spring offensive of 1972 in South Vietnam, the North Vietnamese used the largest tank forces of the war. Entire tank companies stormed objectives, with infantry troops following close behind.
It was at Ben Het in March 1969 that American and North Vietnamese armor clashed for the first and only time. The Ben Het Special Forces Camp in the central highlands of the II Corps Tactical Zone overlooked the Ho Chi Minh Trail where the borders of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam come together. In an effort to mask nearby North Vietnamese troop movements, the enemy had subjected the camp to intense indirect fire attacks during February.
To counter an apparent enemy buildup, elements of the 1st Battalion, 69th Armor, were sent to the area.4 Captain John P. Stovall's Company B, the forward unit of the battalion, occupied strongpoints and bridge security positions along the ten-kilometer

road link between Ben Het and Dak To. One platoon of tanks was j stationed in the camp. Free world forces at Ben Het included three Vietnamese infantry companies and their Special Forces advisers, an American 175-mm. artillery battery, and two M42's, tracked vehicles mounting 40-mm. twin guns on an M41 tank chassis. The M42's and the 175-mm. battery were in the main camp, while most of the newly arrived tank platoon took up dug-in positions on a hill facing west toward Cambodia. One tank, located in the main camp, occupied a firing position guarding the left flank overlooking the resupply route. Through February the platoon endured heavy enemy shelling by taking cover in its armored vehicles and moving from bunker to bunker during quiet periods. The crews fired their 90-mm. guns at suspected North Vietnamese gun sites and bunkers on the rugged slopes. When the tank platoon leader was wounded I and evacuated, Captain Stovall moved the company command post to Ben Het.
Enemy shelling decreased in March, allowing defensive positions to be strengthened and improved, and making the entire camp ready for instant action. For three full days enemy fire abated, but at 2100 on 3 March 1969 the camp once again began to receive mortar and artillery fire in crashing volleys. Both Sergeant First Class Hugh H. Havermale and Staff Sergeant Jerry W. Jones heard the sound of tracks and heavy engines through the noise of the artillery. With no free world tanks to the west, the probability of an enemy tank attack sent everyone into action. High explosive antitank (HEAT) ammunition was loaded into tank guns and from battle stations all eyes strained into the darkness.
In his tank, Sergeant Havermale scanned the area with an infrared searchlight, but could not identify targets in the fog. Sergeant Jones, from his tank, could see the area from which the tank sounds were coming but had no searchlight. Tension grew. Suddenly an antitank mine exploded 1,100 meters to the southwest, giving away the location of the enemy; the battle for Ben Het now began in earnest.
Although immobilized, the enemy PT76 tank that had hit the mine was still able to fight. Even before the echo of the explosion had died, the PT76 had fired a round that fell short of the defenders' position. The remainder of the enemy force opened fire, and seven other gun flashes could be seen. The U.S. forces returned the fire with HEAT ammunition from the tanks and fire from all other weapons as well. Specialist 4 Frank Hembree was the first American tank gunner to fire, and he remembers: "I only had his muzzle flashes to sight on, but I couldn't wait for a better target

because his shells were landing real close to us." The muzzle flashes proved to be enough for Specialist Hembree; his second round turned the enemy tank into a fireball.
Capital Stovall called for illumination from the camp's mortar section and in the light of flares spotted another PT76. Unfortunately, the flares also gave the North Vietnamese tanks a clear view of the camp's defenses, and as Captain Stovall was climbing aboard Sergeant Havermale's tank, an enemy high explosive round hit the loader's hatch. The concussion blew Stovall and Havermale from the tank, and killed the driver and loader. Damage to the tank was slight.
Sergeant Jones took charge, dismounted, and ran to another tank which was not able to fire on the enemy main avenue of approach. Still under hostile fire, he directed the tank to a new firing position where the crew quickly sighted a PT76 beside the now burning hulk of the first enemy tank. The gunner, Specialist 4 Eddie Davis, took aim on one of the flashes and fired. "I wasn't sure of the target," Specialist Davis said, "but I was glad to see it explode a second later." Every weapon that could be brought to bear on the enemy was firing. Having exhausted their basic

load of high explosive antitank ammunition, the tank crews were now firing high explosives with concrete-piercing fuzes. Gradually, the enemy fire slackened, and it became clear that an infantry assault was not imminent. In the lull, the crews scrambled to replenish their basic load from the ammunition stored in a ditch behind the tanks. Tank rounds were fired at suspected enemy locations but there was no return fire. The remainder of the night was quiet; the tension of battle subsided, and the wounded were evacuated.
The battle for Ben Het had not gone unnoticed by the remainder of the 1st Battalion, 69th Armor. Company A and the battalion command post moved to Polei Kleng to reinforce ground elements and be in a position to counterattack population centers. The 2d Platoon of Company B assembled and moved by night to Ben Het, where a search of the battlefield the next day revealed two PT76 hulls and an enemy troop carrier that had not been noticed during the battle but now lay burned out and abandoned on the edge of the battlefield. The enemy vehicles were part of the 16th Company, 4th Battalion, 202d Armored Regiment of the North Vietnamese Army.
Intelligence later revealed that the main object of the attack on Ben Het was to destroy the U.S. 175-mm. guns. Whatever the enemy's intention, the camp was held by American tanks against North Vietnamese tanks. Not until March 1971, when South Vietnamese M41 tanks battled North Vietnamese tanks in Laos, would tanks clash again.
Invading the Enemy's Sanctuaries
The battle that ended in the defeat of the enemy at Ben Het was only one of an increasing number of attacks in which the enemy did not achieve military victory. Free world forces were no longer content to sit back and wait for North Vietnamese troops to make the first move. Base areas, once safe havens for the enemy, were penetrated by large armored formations intent on disrupting the enemy logistical system. General Abram's strategy of destroying the enemy logistics nose was now in full swing.
One of these operations was conducted during March and April 1969 by elements of the 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division in western Quang Tri Province of the I Corps Tactical Zone. Operating in country long thought to be impenetrable to armored vehicles, this combined arms team, designated Task Force REMAGEN, demonstrated again the advantage of mechanized forces. Of special significance during this operation was the lack of a ground line of com-

munications to the more than 1,500 men of Task Force REMAGEN. Helicopters supplied the task force with over 59,000 gallons of diesel fuel and gasoline and more than 10,000 rounds of 105-mm. artillery ammunition. Although the task force encountered normal maintenance problems as it moved through the rough terrain, tank power packs weighing over four tons and other major components were delivered by helicopter. For forty-three days, the task force operated in rugged terrain along the Laotian border on an aerial supply line, demonstrating that even remote base areas were vulnerable to attack by armored units.
The success of REMAGEN was not an isolated case, for the feat was duplicated in the III Corps Tactical Zone. Operation MONTANA RAIDER, conducted from 12 April to 14 May 1969 in the area east and north of Tay Ninh City, was aimed at a rear service support and transportation zone for enemy troops and equipment entering South Vietnam from Cambodia. Although the exact location and identity of enemy units in this region were not known, two North Vietnamese divisions were thought to be present. The terrain was not rugged, but dense jungle hampered movement. The MONTANA RAIDER force consisted of one infantry-heavy and two armor-heavy task forces under command of the 11th Armored Cavalry. The regiment's air cavalry troop and the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, the air cavalry squadron of the 1st Cavalry Division, flew in support of the operation. An artillery battalion headquarters under direct control of.the regiment coordinated all artillery fire. A cover and deception plan was devised to persuade the enemy that U.S. forces were moving north and west of Tay Ninh City. Air cavalrymen, flying over enemy base camps, deliberately lost map overlays clearly marking the area northwest of Tay Ninh City as an objective for the operation, and intentional security breaches in radio transmissions were employed to the same end.
At 0800 on 12 April operational control of the 11th Armored Cavalry passed from the 1st Infantry Division to the 1st Cavalry Division, marking the beginning Of MONTANA RAIDER. In accordance with the deception plan, the armor-heavy task forces left Bien Hoa and moved past the actual area of operations. As the 11th Armored Cavalry's 2d Squadron task force neared Dau Tieng, it swung northwest to join Company A of the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry (Airmobile), while the l1th Cavalry's 1st Squadron task force moved into another base and linked up with Company C of the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry. The movement through and beyond the actual area of operations was designed to suggest further to the enemy that the operation would be conducted northwest of Tay

Ninh City. By 1700 on 12 April all forces had completed the 98 kilometer move and were ready for action.
On 13 April Colonel James H. Leach, commander of the 11th Armored Cavalry took operational control of an airmobile infantry unit, the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, and began reconnaissance in force operations east to Tay Ninh City. The 11th Cavalry's 1st Squadron task force entered the area from the southwest, its 2d Squadron task force from the northwest, and the 8th Cavalry task force from the northeast. In order to give the 8th Cavalry task force additional firepower and some armored protection, Troop G and one platoon of Company H, the tank company of the 2d Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry, were attached. The first unit to clash with the enemy was the regimental air cavalry troop, which was assessing bomb damage from a B-52 strike. After the aerorifles and infantry reinforcements were sent in, Troop A of the 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry, arrived, and in an all-day battle in the heavy jungle finally drove the enemy out. The following days saw scattered fighting as the task forces converged. Artillery and air strikes were used liberally to destroy enemy base camps. The longest battle of Phase I occurred on 18 April when Troops A and B of the 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry, met a large enemy force. Heavy artillery and air strikes were used against the enemy, but the assault was delayed when machine gun tracer ammunition created a fire storm in the bamboo thickets. The enemy lost seventy-six men in this battle.
At the end of Phase I, and after two days devoted to maintenance, Phase II opened with a 149-kilometer road march for the entire regiment to Quan Loi in Binh Long Province, 100 kilometers north of Saigon. Phases II and III saw the combined arms task forces of the 11th Armored Cavalry ranging throughout eastern War Zone C, engaging the enemy in short, bitter fights, almost always in heavy jungle. The stress again was on mobility, firepower, and the combined arms team.
MONTANA RAIDER demonstrated the versatility of a large, mounted unit, aggressively led and employing conventional armored award doctrine in isolated jungle. All three phases of MONTANA RAIDER again showed the value of combined arms -armored cavalry, infantry, artillery, and air cavalry. Surprising mobility was achieved by tracked vehicles, which covered more than 1,600 kilometers during the operation; of that distance, 1,300 kilometers were in dense jungle. More important was the fact that this operation, REMAGEN in the north, and others throughout Vietnam put free world forces in possession of the enemy base areas

during 1969. With nowhere else to go, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese pulled back to their bases in Cambodia and Laos.
In the southern part of I Corps Tactical Zone, in the spring of 1969, a similar base area operation was conducted in the A Shau valley along the Laos border. Spearheaded by the 101st Airborne Division, it included eighty tracked vehicles of the 3d Squadron, 5th Cavalry, and the 7th Vietnamese Armored Cavalry Regiment. These were the first armored forces to operate in the A Shau valley.
Securing the Borders
After the success of operations against enemy sanctuaries in South Vietnam, the next step was sealing the borders, or at least making them reasonably secure. With the growing demands of pacification and the prospect of troop withdrawals, which would limit the resources available, the task naturally fell to mobile units, both ground and air, that could move rapidly and control large areas. Armored and airmobile units became the mainstay of border operations, particularly those in the critical III Crops area north of Saigon.
Based at Phuoc Vinh, the 1st Cavalry Division, with three brigades of airmobile infantry and operational control over the 11th Armored Cavalry, was extended among more than a hundred kilometers of border from east of Bu Dop to northwest of Tay Ninh City, opposite enemy base area 354. The 25th Infantry Division controlled the western and southern approaches to Saigon, and the 1st Infantry Division commanded the entrances to the Saigon River corridor and the old, now quiet war zones in southern Binh Long and Phuoc Long provinces.
Border operations of the armored cavalry, the air cavalry, and the airmobile infantry of the 1st Cavalry Division illustrate the tactics of both sides in the conflict. As the enemy tried to cross the border in strength, supported from bases beyond South Vietnamese boundaries, the defenders attempted to prevent the crossing with firepower and maneuver. By early 1970 the cavalry and airmobile infantry forces had developed some sophisticated techniques employing Rome plow cutting, sensors, and automatic ambush devices to deny the use of trails to the enemy. These techniques were first applied systematically in the northwestern part of the III Corps area from Bu Dop to Loc Ninh along QL-14A, and almost immediately produced good results. (See Map 13, inset.) The 2d Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry, controlled this region from Fire Support Base Ruth outside Bu Dop and patrolled east and west along the Cambodian border.

Early on the morning of 20 January 1970, as Lieutenant Colonel Grail L. Brookshire, commander of the 2d Squadron, and Colonel Donn A. Starry, the regimental commander, conferred at Fire Support Base Ruth, a deluge of mortar and rocket fire descended on the base. Both commanders took off in helicopters, and while Colonel Brookshire gathered his squadron Colonel Starry requested tactical air, air cavalry, and artillery fire support. Two battalions of the 65th North Vietnamese Regiment and part of an antiaircraft regiment had occupied a dry lake bed about three kilometers west of the base; it was from near this crescent-shaped opening in the otherwise dense jungle that the indirect fire attack on the base began. (Map 13) Later it was learned that the enemy had hoped to lure the American forces into an airmobile assault into the clearing, where carefully sited antiaircraft guns would have devastated such a force.
As gunship, tactical air, and artillery fire was brought in, a scout helicopter was shot down, leaving the wounded pilot stranded in a bomb crater. The 2d Squadron began to move to the location, with the tanks of Company H approaching from the north and the cavalry of Troops F and G from the south. A Cobra pilot, Captain Carl B. Marshall, located the flaming wreckage and spotted the wounded pilot, First Lieutenant William Parris, waving from the bomb crater. Captain Marshall flew in low and landed nearby in a hail of machine gun and mortar fire. Lieutenant Parris raced to the aircraft and dove into the front seat, where he lay across the gunner's lap, legs danging from the open canopy, as Captain Marshall pulled up, barely clearing the wood line.
Artillery, fighter bombers, and gunships descended on the enemy, while Troop F hastened up Highway 14A to link up with Troop G. which was already heading north. After crossing a meadow near Bau Ba Linh and a seemingly unfordable stream, Troop G bore into the jungle. Ninety minutes and two kilometers of single and double canopy jungle later, Troop G arrived, joined Troop F, and, on line, the cavalry assaulted. From the helicopter Colonel Starry had meanwhile called for an airdrop of tear gas clusters on enemy bunkers toward the north side of the crescent. Colonel Brookside halted the artillery fire long enough for the drop, which brought the enemy troops out of the bunkers and sent them running north for the border. Colonel Brookshire then ordered artillery and gunship fire while Troops G and F attacked through the enemy positions. Company H, in position north of the crescent, caught the fleeing enemy with canister and machine gun fire.

MAP 13

The ground forces continued to fight and maneuver until nightfall. Darkness prevented a detailed search, and the next morning the 2d Squadron pulled out at dawn. The fight had lasted almost fourteen hours, with over 600 rounds of artillery fired, thirty tactical strikes employed, and fifty Cobra rocket loads delivered. The 65th North Vietnamese Regiment did not appear again in battle for nearly four months. Colonel Brookshire's search of the crescent was broken off abruptly as he moved to reinforce the regiment's 1st Squadron, fighting near An Loc.
Early on 21 January 1970, thirty-five kilometers to the west, the 1st Squadron, which was operating in a Loc Ninh rubber plantation, intercepted two North Vietnamese battalions moving south into Loc Ninh District. The 11th Armored Cavalry piled on with Colonel Brookshire's 2d Squadron racing in from the crescent battleground to the northeast and Lieutenant Colonel George C. Hoffmaster's 3d Squadron attacking north along Highway 13 out of An Loc. Over half of the regiment converged on the fight in less than three hours and broke the back of the enemy attack. The two North Vietnamese battalions ran for cover in Cambodia, with elements of the cavalry pursuing them to the border. The pursuit was aided by a map found on the North Vietnamese commander that showed the escape plan. Those fugitives who reached the escape routes were met by tactical air and artillery fire. After these two fights and a few more with the same outcome, the enemy showed reluctance to risk a fight with the cavalry, whose mobility and firepower had been overwhelming.
Operations along Highway 14A were so successful in drying up enemy logistical operations along the jungle trails that it was decided to repeat the scheme in War Zone C. The plan was to stop the supply operations of the enemy's 50th Rear Service Group operating out of the Cambodian Fishhook area into the Saigon River corridor through War Zone C. The American forces were to conduct extensive land clearing operations along Route 246, generally east and west across War Zone C, thus blocking the north and south trails from Cambodia to the Saigon River corridor.
By mid-February Rome plows had cleared a swath of jungle 400 to 500 meters wide along Highway 246 from An Loc in Binh Long Province to Katum in Tay Ninh Province, just south of the border. Along this cut the 11th Armored Cavalry began operations. The 3d Squadron anchored the east flank near An Loc, the 2d Squadron held the middle, and the 1st Squadron covered the west in northwestern Tay Ninh Province. Airmobile infantry battalions of the 1st Cavalry Division, operating south in War Zone C, fre-

quently under control of the 11th Armored Cavalry, completed the interdiction force.
Colonel Starry was convinced that to cut enemy supply lines successfully ground had to be held, and that control of the ground followed from constant use of the ground. The operational pattern of the regiment, therefore, was one of extensive patrolling, day and night, and the setting up of an intricate network of manned and unmanned ambushes all along the trail system. The cavalry soon came to know the enemy's trails well, and by clever use of automatic devices reduced enemy logistical operations to a trickle. The ambush net cost the enemy ten to thirty casualties each night. Every site was checked, and electrical devices were moved and reset each day. It was like running a long trapline.
Monitoring enemy radio traffic, the 11th Armored Cavalry learned that enemy units to the south were desperate for food and ammunition. Enemy relief parties were killed in ambushes or by cavalry units that took advantage of information gleaned from careless enemy radio operators. Enemy messengers sent along the trails were killed or captured; their messages and plans provided information for setting up more traps.
The enemy, reluctant to confront the cavalry directly, attacked only by fire in War Zone C, and tried to outflank the net of ambushes. The 209th North Vietnamese Army Regiment lost over 200 men when it ran headlong into Captain John S. Caldwell's Troop L, 3d Squadron, in the Loc Ninh rubber plantation in March. Later, in April, the 95C North Vietnamese Regiment, trying to move west around the ambush system, encountered Lieutenant Colonel James B. Reed's 1st Squadron near Katum. With the cavalry and tanks of the 1st Squadron heavily engaged, Colonel Starry alerted Colonel Brookshire to move two troops from the 2d Squadron west to join in the fight. The enemy now had two battalions locked in combat with the 1st Squadron, while a third battalion was escaping to the north. Realizing he faced the cavalry regiment, the enemy commander panicked and began broadcasting instructions to his battalions in the clear. As the enemy troops tried to disengage, intercepts of the instructions they were receiving were passed to Colonel Reed. Armed with this information, the 1st Squadron blocked the enemy. In the ensuing melee the cavalry squadrons virtually destroyed the two battalions opposing Colonel Reed. Some of the third battalion to the north escaped despite air strikes and artillery fire placed along the escape routes.
It was more than six months before the North Vietnamese 95C Regiment fought again. The extensive system of Rome plow cuts

and the presence of cavalry and airmobile forces in late 1969 enabled free world forces to choke off enemy supply lines and neutralize bases in War Zone C. More so than at any other period in the war, except when the attacks were made into Cambodia, enemy access to South Vietnam was cut off.
Pacification Efforts
While operations against the sanctuaries and along the border were in progress, important steps were taken to win over the people in areas long under enemy control. In the spring of 1969 major enemy action had diminished to a level that offered an opportunity for large-scale efforts in this direction. On 13 April 1969 the 173d Airborne Brigade began Operation WASHINGTON GREEN, which would occupy the brigade for the next nineteen months. The mission called for placing one mechanized and three infantry battalions in four densely populated districts of Binh Dinh Province in the II Corps Tactical Zone. Primary emphasis was to be given village and hamlet protection in order to enable territorial forces, in conjunction with other government agencies, to conduct searches behind a protective shield of South Vietnamese Army and American forces. U.S. troops were usually present at first to supplement weak local security forces until recruitment and training would permit replacement of American by Vietnamese units. The 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry (Mechanized) , was assigned to Phu My District for most of this operation.
Even large units such as the 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized) , became totally involved. In January 1970 the brigade launched Operation GREEN RIVER, designed to further the pacification program in the northern I Corps area by conducting combined operations with the South Vietnamese 1st Infantry Division. Reconnaissance in force, search and clear operations, and measures against enemy rockets were undertaken throughout Quang Tri Province.
By 1970 many American units were committed to securing large areas in the interest of the South Vietnamese government's pacification program, and some armor units had that as a primary mission. Extensive surveillance operations were conducted along the Demilitarized Zone to prevent enemy infiltration, and security screens were established around populated and militarily significant areas.
Forces in Operation GREEN RIVER killed over 400 of the enemy in six months. As GREEN RIVER ended, units of the brigade began Operation WOLFS MOUNTAIN, which lasted into January 1971.

Combined operations were conducted by the brigade, the South Vietnamese 1st Infantry Division, and territorial forces throughout northern Quang Tri Province. The operations included the use of armored forces as security along the Demilitarized Zone, on lines of communication, and around populated areas.
Pacification efforts and measures to aid the Vietnamese armed forces to assume the full burden of the war intensified in mid-1969 with U.S. troop withdrawals. The South Vietnamese Army undertook a program to expand the armored cavalry from ten to seventeen regiments. Even more noteworthy was the activation of two armor brigade headquarters, which allowed South Vietnamese armored units to operate in larger formations. Both the I and IV Armor Brigades deployed to their respective corps tactical zones during 1969, and were soon followed by two more brigades. Each armor brigade was a highly mobile, independent, tactical headquarters that could control ten to twelve squadrons.
On 22 and 23 May 1969, a joint Vietnamese-American armor conference convened; attending were the South Vietnamese Chief of Armor, with his staff and his American advisers, and all South

Vietnamese armor regimental commanders and their American advisers. Their purpose was to review South Vietnamese armor and set goals for its future development. The key question was whether current missions were making full use of armored units. The general response was no. Fragmenting of armored units, static missions, the use of tanks as pillboxes, and assigning armored forces permanent areas of operation were the most common mistakes singled out by South Vietnamese armor leaders. The South Vietnamese Armor Command made an honest effort to evaluate itself, and took positive action to improve its performance.
In November 1969 the Vietnamese Joint General Staff published a directive on employment of Vietnamese armored units. The directive first noted improper uses that had been described by the armor commanders, and then added that many units had failed to provide logistical support for armored units assigned to them. It directed certain corrective actions.
1. Avoid the use of armored forces in static security missions.
2. Do not divide armored units below troop level.
3. Give missions of reconnaissance and search and destroy in large operational areas.
4. Use armor brigade and regimental headquarters to direct and control combined arms operations.
5. Use armored units in night operations with the support of organic searchlights, mortars, flares, artillery, and aircraft.
6. Develop U.S. and Vietnamese combined operations.
This analysis of the South Vietnamese Army's use of armor and the subsequent directive from the joint General Staff put backbone into South Vietnamese armor doctrine. Although it ruffled some feelings in the Vietnamese command, improvements in field use were noticed immediately. In February 1970 the 1st Armored Brigade conducted mobile independent operations along the sea in the northern part of the I Corps Tactical Zone. Controlling up to two regiments of cavalry, Rangers, and territorial forces, for two months the brigade roamed over the area and succeeded in destroying three enemy battalions. As part of the operation, 5,000 acres of land were cleared. The enemy was effectively defeated and moved away; Regional and Popular Forces units moved in and established permanent settlements. Almost 900 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese were killed or captured, while the brigade lost sixty-eight men. For success in its first large-scale operation, the Vietnamese 1st Armored Brigade was awarded a U.S. Presidential Unit Citation.

Vietnamese Forces Take Over the War
In the United States, as the newly elected president, Richard M. Nixon, prepared to take office in Washington in late 1968, the single most vexing problem confronting the administration was Vietnam. Unable to resolve the issue satisfactorily, Lyndon B. Johnson had chosen not to seek another term. In response to instructions from Washington, U.S. Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker and General Abrams had privately discussed with President Thieu, the possibility of withdrawing some American forces. By January 1969 these conversations had expanded into specific proposals for sending home first one, then two American divisions. Then, in April, the new administration issued National Security Study Memorandum 36, directing preparation of plans for turning the war over to the Vietnamese.
In Vietnam plans were drawn up in strictest secrecy, under the careful eye of General Abrams himself by a very small task force headed by Colonel Starry. At the outset the idea that withdrawal of a single American soldier would cause the collapse of the whole war effort was, to use the words of General Abrams "simply unthinkable." General Abrams, however, was firmly convinced that the Vietnamese Army could do more. He drew considerable confidence from the growing success of the pacification effort, and, always a practical man, he realized, that like it or not, the new administration was committed to withdrawing some or all American forces. His instructions to Colonel Starry were quite clear: ". . . do it right, do it in an orderly way . . . save the armor units out until last, they can buy us more time." Thus armor units, specifically excluded from the buildup until late 1966, would anchor the withdrawal of American combat units from Vietnam.
On 9 June 1969 President Nixon met President Thieu at Midway Island and they agreed to the first withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam-25,000 men. On 13 July Company C, 3d Marine Tank Battalion, became the first U.S. armor unit to leave South Vietnam as one battalion landing team of U.S. marines boarded its amphibious ships. Troop withdrawals continued at an ever-accelerating pace, even while large-scale operations, such as the incursion into Cambodia of 1970 and the enemy offensive of early 1972 were in progress. From the beginning, force planners held out armored units-tanks, air cavalry, ground cavalry, and mechanized infantry. As divisions or brigades left the country, their armored units remained behind. The mobility and firepower of armored units made them the logical choice for operations over extended areas, and rearguard, delay, and economy of force roles were traditional armor

specialties, particularly for cavalry. Thus, when the 9th Infantry Division departed in 1969, the 2d Battalion, 47th Infantry (Mechanized) , and the 3d Squadron, 5th Cavalry, remained behind. Almost every air cavalry unit remained in Vietnam until early 1972. These armored units provided a maximum of firepower and mobility with a minimum of U.S. troops. By the end of 1970, with the withdrawal of American units in high gear, fourteen armored battalions or squadrons remained in Vietnam. In December 1971 armored units represented 54 percent of the U.S. maneuver battalions still in Vietnam.
The U.S. armored units that remained supported and trained Vietnamese forces while combat operations were carried out. One such unit, the U.S. 7th Squadron, 1st Cavalry (Air) , supported the Vietnamese 7th, 9th, and 21st Infantry Divisions in the delta and along the Mekong River corridor to Cambodia. On occasion, air cavalry units used South Vietnamese troops as aerorifle platoons. In addition, the squadron trained Vietnamese pilots in a program calling for three months or 180 hours of flight time for each pilot. During this successful program, it was found invaluable to have an individual who spoke Vietnamese aboard each American helicopter while the aircraft were supporting South Vietnamese operations. Troop D, the ground troop of the squadron, provided instruction in small unit tactics for Vietnamese Regional and Popular Forces.


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