DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
18th Military History Detachment
25th Infantry Division
APO San Francisco 96225
|AVDCMH||19 November 1969|
SUBJECT: Combat After Action Interview Report
United States Army, Vietnam
ATTN: Command Historian
APO San Francisco 96375
Department of the Army
Washington, D.C. 20315
1. NAME AND TYPE OF ORGANIZATION: 1st Platoon, Company B, 2nd Battalion,
27th Infantry—Rifle Platoon.
2. INCLUSIVE DATES OF OPERATION: 12 October - 13 October 1969.
3. LOCATION: Ref Map Series L8020, Sheets 6231 III S and 6230 IV N,
Hieu Thien District, Tay Ninh Province, Republic of Vietnam.
4. CONTROL HEADQUARTERS: 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry.
5. PERSONS BEING INTERVIEWED:
a. 1LT Terrence M. Rettig, *********, Platoon Leader, 1st Platoon, Company
Battalion, 27th Infantry.
b. PFC Albert L. Brown, *********, Rifleman, 1st Platoon, Company B,
27th, Infantry -- Ammunition Bearer for M60 machine gun positioned for rear security.
c. PFC Walter Black, *********, Assistant Machine Gunner, 1st Platoon,
Company B, 2nd
Battalion, 27th Infantry - Machine Gunner on M60 machine gun positioned for rear security
6. INTERVIEWING OFFICER: Division Historian.
7. TASK ORGANIZATION: Nineteen (19) man combat patrol with three (3) Popular Force (PF) members attached. The Command Group consisted of the Platoon Leader, the Platoon Sergeant, and five (5) men. The 1st Section consisted of six (6) men and had the three (3) PF's attached. The 2nd Section consisted of six (6) men. The platoon was armed with two (2) M60 machine guns, two (2) M79 grenade launchers and 14 M-16 rifles. The PF's each carried an M-16 rifle.
8. SUPPORTING FORCES:
a. Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 77th Artillery (105mm), Fire Support Base Jackson, vicinity XT424166.
b. Mortar Platoon, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry (81mm), vicinity XT344179.
c. 25th Aviation Battalion, one "Night Hawk" helicopter (UH1H).
9. BACKGROUND: The main infiltration route for enemy forces in Sub-Region 2 was the An Ninh Corridor which ran from the "Angel's Wing" in Cambodia into northern Hau Nghia Province. The 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry was deployed to block the corridor with companies operating out of Fire Support Base Jackson (XT427168), Patrol Base Harris (XT417126), Patrol Base Kotrc (XT358148) and the Ap Bien Hoa Regional Force Outpost north of PB Kotrc (XT344179). (See Figure l)
Patrol Base Kotrc (originally named PB Rittgers) was located in the An Ninh Corridor and was a bothersome obstacle to the enemy. The enemy lost 57 KIA trying to prevent the establishment of the patrol base on 12 August and an additional 17 bodies were left in the wire when the enemy attempted to overrun PB Kotrc on 5 September. Since its establishment the enemy had harassed the base with sporadic shellings.
Though the 2-27 Inf had succeeded in limiting the enemy's use of the An Ninh Corridor, elements at PB Kotrc and the Ap Bien Hoa RF Outpost continued to identify small enemy elements with radar and engage them with artillery. On the night of 11-12 October unusually heavy enemy activity had been detected in the vicinity of PB Kotrc.
Though most of the identified enemy activity was concentrated in the An Ninh Corridor, the enemy also operated north and south of the corridor, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry was operating out of the RF outpost on the southern edge of Ap Bien Hoa. The three rifle platoons had been operating on a three-day cycle for over a month. The platoons were staggered so that when the 1st Platoon was in the first day of the cycle the 2nd Platoon was in the second day and the 3rd Platoon in the third. On the first day of the cycle the platoon performed a daytime ground reconnaissance followed by a night ambush. The second day was set aside for
training and preparing for night activities at the RF outpost with another ambush that night. The third day and night were spent on rest, training, details, and helping to secure the outpost. When the reported action took place, the 1st Platoon was in the first night of the cycle.
For the daytime ground reconnaissance, Battalion Headquarters assigned a detailed mission, but night ambush locations were selected by the company commander within an area chosen by Battalion Headquarters.
a. Enemy-Due to the heavy radar sightings the night before, some enemy action-against PB Kotrc on the night of 12-13 October seemed likely.
b. Terrain-The area was flat with an elevation below five (5) meters and covered with rice paddies and scattered hedgerows. At the time of the action, late in the rainy season, the surface of the rice paddies was either mud or standing water. The Cambodian border was not blocked by any significant obstacles to foot movement.
c. Weather-At the time of contact, there were scattered clouds which presented no obstacles to operations.
11. MISSION: Company B was directed to set up ambushes between the RF outpost and PB Kotrc to cover the northwestern approaches to the base. The 1st Platoon was directed to establish an ambush in the vicinity of XT333158, The 2nd Platoon was assigned an ambush approximately 1200 meters to the north (XT333170).
12. CONCEPT OF OPERATION AND EXECUTION: When the 1st Platoon finished its ground reconnaissance it returned to the RF outpost for the evening meal, and to prepare for the ambush and await dark. At 1900 hours, they departed the outpost and moved toward their assigned location.
They moved south, paralleling a trail along adjacent rice paddies. The Platoon Leader stated he had little trouble navigating because they had been in the area so long that they could identify and locate many fish traps, sun screens and other similar structures in the area. He set up the ambush north of the planned location when he found a dry area approximately 10 meters wide and 25 meters long and the same height as the rice dikes, near the trail with several rice dikes running into it. (See Figure 2)
After selecting the site, the Platoon Leader established his ambush position in a rough triangle. The Command Group was positioned on the west side facing the trail, the 2nd Section on the north side, and the 1st Section with the PF's on the southeast side. The M60 machine guns were placed on the southern and eastern corners. The M60 machine gun on the eastern corner was located at the junction of two rice dikes coming into the position from the east and north. Following SOP, claymore mines were put out 15 paces from
the position and then emplaced on the nearest dry spot. (See Figure 3)
By 2145 hours, the platoon had established its position. At 2239 hours, the Platoon Leader was contacted by the company's Artillery Forward Observer who informed him that the radar at PB Kotrc had detected movement east of the patrol which would be engaged with artillery. The Forward Observer also warned him that enemy elements could be expected to approach his position from the east. The Platoon Leader said that by 2253 hours the artillery was so loud he was no longer concerned that any of his men might fall asleep since the artillery was impacting only 600 meters east of the platoon.
At 2255 hours, the ammunition bearer for the machine gun on the eastern corner, PFC Albert L. Brown, saw six (6) enemy running along the rice dike leading to the position from the east about 25 meters away. The machine gunner, PFC Walter Black, saw the enemy soldiers just after PFC Brown did. The six (6) enemy soldiers were running in a file directly at the machine gun. When the enemy was approximately five (5) meters from the machine gun, PFC Brown fired a burst from his M-16 rifle and PFC Black began firing his M60 immediately afterward. As the two fired, the other members of the platoon who were in a position to do so joined in the firing. The grenadiers began firing M79 illumination rounds behind the kill Zone. PFC Black had fired about 150 rounds through his M60 when the weapon had a stoppage. He found that the ammunition belt was caught on another belt lying beside the weapon and had the weapon operational in a matter of seconds. The maximum rate of fire lasted approximately two (2) minutes. During this time, the claymore mines emplaced on the eastern side of the position were detonated. PFC Brown said that, during the firing, he expended about 15 magazines of M-16 ammunition.
The two men who initiated the firing stated that they saw four of the enemy fall in the initial firing with the fifth running to the north and the sixth running to the south. Apparently, two of those who fell were only wounded since only two bodies were found in front of the machine gun.
When the firing began, the Platoon Leader moved to the eastern corner of the position to control the action. For about eight (8) minutes after the initial two (2) minutes of firing, the remaining enemy were engaged with aimed fire when they could be seen attempting to flee the area. To supplement the M79 illumination, which was now being fired by only one of the grenadier while the other fired high explosive rounds, the platoon used hand-held parachute flares and star clusters.
As soon as the contact was reported, a "Night Hawk" helicopter from the 25th Aviation Battalion which had been operating in the vicinity of PB Kotrc was diverted over the contact. The ship arrived over the ambush at 2258 hours. The flares on the "Night Hawk" were used to replace the M79 illumination and hand-held parachute flares, and the helicopter flares
were in turn replaced by 81mm mortar illumination. Finally, fifteen (15) minutes of 105mm artillery illumination was employed. As soon as it arrived, the "Night Hawk" began using its spotlight to find targets for its minigun. The helicopter engaged one of the enemy who had moved north out of the kill zone.
After engaging the target at about 2303 hours, the "Night Hawk" requested that the platoon check their target to see if he was still alive. By this time, the platoon could no longer see any targets from their position and the Platoon Leader had organized a killer group. 1LT Rettig said his main problem in organizing the killer group was that everyone wanted to go. The killer group was sent out to the south to check the area where the machine gunner on the southern corner said he saw two enemy fall after he fired the M60 at them. When the "Night Hawk" radioed that they bad a dead or wounded enemy marked with their spotlight, a second killer group comprised of five men, including the platoon medic and a radio operator, was sent to the north.
When the first group moved out, they first checked the initial kill zone and located two enemy bodies. Then, they swung south and spotted one of the enemy crawling away. They engaged and killed him. They did not find the second enemy who was thought to have evaded south after the original firing.
The second group was guided to the "Night Hawk's" target by the helicopter spotlight which was narrowed as the group approached to pinpoint the target. When the enemy soldier was found, he was suffering from a sucking chest wound which the medic immediately treated. After first aid had been applied, the helicopter landed to evacuate the severely wounded man. There was no sign of the second man who was thought to have evaded to the north. (See Figure 4)
During their search, the killer groups found three (3) AK-47 rifles, a pouch with ten (10) new M26 grenades, a satchel charge, and several portable bamboo tripods.
When the killer groups returned to the ambush position the platoon was ordered to join the 2nd Platoon to their north. At 2330 hours, after collecting their gear, they moved out toward the 2nd Platoon.
As they neared the 2nd Platoon's position, they fired a green star cluster as a recognition symbol and, by 2340 hours, were in place, having taken over a portion of the 2nd Platoon's perimeter.
Although the evacuated prisoner was fatally wounded, he stated before he died that his mission for the night had been to carry ammunition to a village which was close to PB Kotrc. This information was received at the Division Tactical Operations Center (DTOC) at about 0055 hours. Feeling that this information, coupled with several radar sightings to its west,
indicated that an attack on PB Kotrc was imminent, DTOC dispatched a light fire team and a helicopter flare ship to the area. The attack began at 0103 hours, shortly before the helicopters arrived over the area. The enemy shelling during the attack included three (3) 122mm rockets.
The 1st and 2nd Platoon's ambush position had no contact with the enemy. At about 0530 hours, the 1st Platoon left the 2nd Platoon's ambush site to return to the RF outpost where they closed at 0600 hours.
After breakfast, the Company Commander led the 3rd Platoon, augmented by several volunteers from the 1st Platoon, to search the area where the ambush patrol had engaged the enemy. They found the three bodies which had been located the night before and a fourth body, along with another AK-47 rifle and two homemade hand grenades. They also found more of the bamboo tripods, bringing the total to ten.
The tripods were a type the VC/NVA use as a lightweight field launcher for 122mm rockets. The tripods and the prisoner's statement indicated that the six enemy who had been ambushed were part of an element that was to have provided fire support for the attack on PB Kotrc.
1LT Rettig stated that the Platoon had no significant contact for months and had suffered a morale problem from working hard for so long with no results. He estimated that morale improved "ten times" as a result of the ambush.
13. ANALYSIS: By allowing the enemy to close within five (5) meters before engaging them, PFC Brown and PFC Black insured that the ambush would achieve maximum shock even though only two weapons were initially fired. The tactical unity of the enemy group was shattered; they were unable to fire a single shot in return and were reduced to disorganized, fleeing individuals.
This action shows the value of the combination of radar, artillery and aggressive patrolling in preventing organized enemy attacks on U.S. bases. The radar and artillery prevented the enemy from organizing and massing for his attacks as he had planned, and in this case, the ambush changed the disorganization and casualties the artillery had caused into a defeat in detail. When the enemy launched what he could collect of his planned attack, he was short part of his fire support and was headed for an alerted patrol base with aviation support already on the way. The disorganized attack was unable to inflict a single US casualty and cost the enemy seven (7) killed in addition to the five (5) killed by the ambush.
a. Friendly casualties and losses: None.
b. Enemy casualties: 5 KIA (BC).
c. Enemy equipment losses:
(1) 4 AK-47 rifles
(2) 10 M26 grenades
(3) 2 homemade grenades
(4) 1 satchel charge
(5} l0 bamboo tripods for 122mm rockets
d. 1/B/2-27 Inf ammunition expenditures (approximate):
(1) 700 rounds M60 ammunition
(2) 540 rounds M-16 ammunition
(3) 30 rounds M79 illumination
(4) 15 rounds M79 HE
(5) 7 Claymore mines
(6) 3 hand grenades
WILLIAM D. WATSON