VNI - 221
Small Unit Combat After-Action Interview Report
4th Engineer Battalion
NOTE: The original of this document is contained in the Vietnam Interview Collection (VNI) of the Historical Resources Branch, US Army Center of Military History. When created the report carried a CONFIDENTIAL security classification but has since been declassified. Other than removing those markings and ignoring the original pagination, the following document faithfully reproduces the original report, including spelling and punctuation.
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
HEADQUARTERS 4TH ENGINEER BATTALION
4TH INFANTRY DIVISION
APO San Francisco 96262
AVDDH-EN 18 March 1969
SUBJECT: Combat Operations After Actions Report
4th Infantry Division
APO San Francisco 96262
1. TYPE OF OPERATION: SEARCH AND CLEAR operations in assigned AO by the 4th Infantry Battalion (Provisional) and OPCON units.
2. DATE OF OPERATION: 11-13 March 1969.
3. LOCATION: Assigned circular AO extending seven (7) kilometers from base camp with one AO extension reaching into southern portion of Yellow sector of TAOR boundary.
4. CONTROL HEADQUARTERS: 4th Engineer Battalion (Command Element)
5. PRINCIPLE INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED:
a. LTC Elvin R. Heiberg, III, Battalion Commander
b. Capt. Thomas K. Booth, Company A Commander
c. Capt. David J. Carney, Company C Commander
d. Capt. William C. Hawkins, Artillery LNO
e. Lt. Rodney D. Millar, Company B Commander
6. TASK FORCE: 4th Infantry Battalion (Provisional) augmented by OPCON TOE units as follows:
a. 4th Infantry Battalion (Provisional) consisting of headquarters
element and three (3) line companies (Provisional).
b. One (1) platoon, tanks, Company E, 4th Engineer Battalion.
c. One (1) platoon, trucks, Company E, 4th Engineer Battalion.
d. E Battery, 4/42nd Artillery (105mm towed, Camp Enari - DS).
7. SUPPORTING FORCES: Artillery general support included E Battery, 5/16th Artillery (155mm S.P.) and base camp mortar battery (81mm and 4.2").
a. Discussion with Division G-2 and Military Intelligence revealed that Provisional Battalion AO had been unusually quiet in the three (3) or four (4) days preceeding operation. All the major villages in the AO had Civil Affairs representatives located in them. One item of particular interest in this AO was that in the past, the enemey has placed caches where a cut bank is located four (4) to fifteen (15) feet high. About eight (8) to ten (10) feet back from the top of this bank, the ground will be dug out and covered with bamboo, dirt and camouflage material. A bamboo sign shaped like a "Y" and from twelve (12) to fifteen (15) inches in length will be found one hundred (100) meters from the location.
b. The operation revealed a number of items of intelligence value:
(1) 131130 - A NVA medical complex consisting of five (5) thatched hooches (ZA 217202) was destroyed using thermite grenades. One was believed to be a doctor's office, a second a messhall, and a third a sleeping quarters. One hut was constructed in such a manner that it caught water from the trees and through a network of bamboo shoots, accumulated it in containers. The last hut had several shelves, which were probably used for storage of medical supplies.
(2) 131130 - At the same location as above, an NVA newspaper was found dated 6 March 1968. A weathered note was with the paper stating how badly the NVA and VC were defeating the Americans and South Vietnamese. A broken syringe was discovered in the same area.
(3) 131145 - As the search continued along the hill mass from the medical complex, six (6) sleeping positions, one (1) 8' x 20' thatched building, and five (5) small "lean-to" type structures on short stilts were found. The structures were burned.
9. MISSION: 4th Infantry Battalion (Provisional) conducts search and clear operations within AO.
10. CONCEPT OF OPERATION: The battalion moved by convoy along three (3) routes into assigned AO. All three (3) companies conducted search and clear operations in specified zones of operations.
11. EXECUTION: At 110710 March 1969, the convoy departed Camp Enari. Company A proceeded by bridge truck to AR 835390 and departed from the LD at 0845 hours. Company B moved by truck to vicinity AR 769402 and crossed the LD at 0850 hours. Company C proceeded along 19W to ZA 228356 and crossed the LD at 0855 hours. The Battalion CP was operational on Dragon Mountain at 0830 hours. All companies reported negative SITREP's throughout the day and night. Night ambushes and LP's were in place the vicinity of all company night locations by 1800 hours. Just prior to noon on 12 March 1969, Company B was ordered to proceed to operate in a new AO in the southern portion of the Yellow sector of the TAOR boundary. Company C was positioned in order to provide a reinforcing capability if required. All significant activity during the operation was in this Yellow Sector AO. All active operations ceased at 1400 hours 13 March 1969 and the last elements closed into Camp Enari at 1700 hours.
12. RESULTS: All significant results are reflected in the paragraph 8, INTELLIGENCE. No contact was made with the enemy during the operations.
a. Resupply of water and rations was satisfactory. The 450 gallon water trailer was inoperative after the morning of the second day, however, the logistics effort was still effective using smaller water containers and there were good main supply routes within ready access of the companies throughout the operation.
b. Three (3) scout dogs were employed. All company commanders felt the dogs worked well and the handlers were enthusiastic in the conduct of their mission.
c. No medical facilities were moved to the forward CP location. The company medics combined with rapid and effective extraction of injured personnel by helicopter indicated that forward medical facilities were not necessary for operation in an AO this close to base camp.
d. Transportation was responsive and adequate.
e. Radio communications were excellent.
f. Artillery expended - A total of six (6) smoke and ten (10 high explosive rounds were expended on five (5) defensive target missions.
g. Intelligence feedback was satisfactory although minimal.
h. The tank platoon (two  M-48 tanks) derived valuable training from it's employment with an infantry platoon on the objective in Yellow Sector.
15. COMMANDER'S ANALYSIS:
a. This was a good exercise, although no significant activities occurred beyond the hospital/"way station" complex just south of the TAOR. For operations within the TAOR, having the battalion CP on Dragon Mountain proved most satisfactory, reducing security requirements while insuring adequate radio communications.
b. The shortage of personnel on the operation requires division attention for correction (See Recommendations 16a, below). As a battalion commander "speaking" to a brigade headquarters, I have little leverage. When I receive the answer, "We simply cannot furnish the required number of troops (weapons, radios)," I have no way of enforcing compliance. Significantly, 1st and 3rd Brigade were woefully short, whereas 2nd Brigade produced.
a. A division conducted inspection is most necessary of the units, preferably the late afternoon before the operation to permit corrections. Whereas there will be a last minute fallout of personnel affecting the participating strength, the 20% shortage of personnel in two of the brigade companies is unacceptable. The shortage was bearable for this operation, but it could have been detrimental if the Provisional Battalion were committed outside the TAOR.
b. The "call-up" of the Provisional Battalion on the order of once a month for the past three (3) months has significantly improved the effectiveness and timely response of the battalion. A continuation of this policy is advisable to enable personnel with "Provisional" experience to pass this on to new officers and non-commissioned officers with no break in the continuity of the units' effectiveness.
E. R. HEIBERG III
ADC-B (THRU: C of S)