Day by Day Report
March 12 – March 20
by Lee Widjeskog
In an effort to keep North Vietnam Army (NVA) units away from the coastal lowlands and the majority of the South Vietnam population, the 101st with the 1st Army of Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) Division attempted to establish a string of fire support bases (FSB) near the Ho Chi Min Trail on the edge of the A Shau Valley. The plan called for a series of fire support bases to support the ARVN troops as they worked to destroy NVA supplies and troops in the valley. Bases were to be established at Ripcord, Bradley, Airborne, O’Reilly and Kathryn. Of those only Ripcord, O’Reilly and Kathryn were opened. However, Kathryn was too far away to be of much support to Ripcord or to reach most of the A Shau Valley.
March 12, 1970
In hopes that the base construction could catch an early end to the monsoon season, an attempt was made to establish Fire Support Base Ripcord. On 12 March 1970 at 1500 hours, this was done by inserting Alpha and Bravo Company’s 2/506 Regiment into the hills near Coc Muen. At the same time, an ARVN unit was inserted in preparation for a combat assault. Hill 902 was prepped by aircraft and artillery on 11 March. As Alpha Company was enroute, a fly over inspection of the area caused command to make a change and instead dropped the Currahees onto Hill 927, Ripcord, which had not been prepped. Meanwhile, Bravo 2/506 was inserted on a ridge about 2 kilometers east of Hill 902 as originally planned.
Alphas first unit, 2nd Platoon, arrived without taking fire. As Fourth Platoon and the Command Post (CP) arrived, they were greeted with mortar and small arms fire. It appeared that the NVA had the Ripcord hill pre-registered and were able to hit most of the area. The Fourth Platoon fled the LZ and set up around the hill. McCoy and Westerfelt took positions near “Impact Rock” when they were hit with small arms and mortar fire. They were quickly evacuated.
Another GI was hit as well as a door gunner on the delivery helicopter as it was brought down. Shortly First and Third Platoons were delivered on site. During that first hour of action and assault, Lt. Dudley Davis of Fourth Platoon, was killed by mortar fire. His radio telephone operator (RTO) was also hit by shrapnel and medevacked to the hospital. His buddies remember Daniel Heater giving the peace sign and smiling as he left the field. A small piece of fragment had entered under his arm and nicked an artery. By the time he got to the hospital he had died. Four others were sent to the rear due to wounds. By the time Alpha Company left the hill on the 15th they had lost 2 dead and 15 wounded. With those losses the Fourth Platoon was split among the remaining three platoons. That night Alpha 2/506 company established a NDP about 500 meters south of Ripcord in a fog
While this was going on, D2/506 was securing FSB Jack and C 2/506 was patrolling 9 klicks northeast of Ripcord. That night, a listening post for Charlie 2/506 was hit with RPG and small arms fire, killing PFC Gerald Shanor and wounding four others. No NVA were killed.
While Alpha worked the Ripcord hill, to the east 13 klicks, Delta 1/506 was closing FSB Mooney while C 1/506 worked on establishing the closer, FSB Granite, supposedly for a very brief time.
Alpha 1/506 killed two NVA three klicks south of Granite while B 3/187 killed another 3 klicks southeast of Granite.
March 13, 1970
During the night, First Platoon, A 2/506, fired a M-79 grenade at a suspected enemy soldier. It turned out to be a GI who had moved outside the perimeter after dark to check his equipment but failed to let anyone know. He was seriously injured but medevacked back to Camp Evans when the fog lifted the next day.
A re-supply to Alpha Company, drew small arms fire at the helicopter. No one was hit. One of the issues present was the lack of aerial vision above 1000 feet till late afternoon. This delayed support as well as supplies and medevacs if needed.
Alpha 2/506 platoons searched the south and east side of near Ripcord and set up to the east for the night. Bravo, Charlie and Delta 2/506 stayed and patrolled their areas as yesterday. No contact.
The 1/506 units continued working on Granite and Mooney and patrolling the area east of the 2/506.
The ARVN 1st Div. killed a total of 9 NVA west of Triple Hill and Ripcord.
March 14, 1970
Early morning, 1st Alpha 2/506 fired a M-79 and had one man slightly injured when the round bounced back into the perimeter.
Alpha 2/506 next NDP was located about 400 meters east of Ripcord on the ridge towards Hill 805. Bravo 2/506 continued to work the ridge from Hill 902. Delta was still in the FSB Jack area.
Fourth Platoon C 2/506, four klicks north of Gladiator, at their NDP, blew claymores at NVA after being hit by satchel charges. Three dead NVA found in the day light and two GIs received minor wounds
The 1/506 continued working in the Granite area. A tunnel complex was discovered and Cecil Dobson of Bravo 1/506 suffocated while trying to search the complex near the Khe Ouaun River. Another man passed out but was revived when pulled out by Arthur Meara. Dobson did not make it.
Alpha 1/506 ran into an ambush leaving 2 men dead and 5 wounded 3 kilometers southeast of FSB Granite. Lt Gerald Hauswirth and PFC Lane Wiseman were killed and the enemy routed. Due to poor weather conditions and small arms fire, it took three attempts to medevac the wounded.
March 15, 1970
Alpha 2/506 cut a landing zone (LZ) at the site of their NDP and were extracted at 1817 hours. They were placed about 6 kilometers south east of Ripcord on the same ridge that Bravo Company was working, but further east.
The battalion wanted to continue to pursue establishing Ripcord, but the weather did not co-operate. This made support and re-supply very iffy.
While Alpha and Bravo worked the 902 ridge, E & D 2/506 provided security for FSB Jack. Seven kilometers to the north east of Ripcord, Charlie Company patrolled. Around 1900 hours 1st Platoon C2/506 received small arms fire and a RPG. Two men were wounded in this action.
Elsewhere to the east of the 2/506 AO, the 1/506 was busy closing out FSB Mooney to the east and opening FSB Granite further west, to help support any attempt to set up on Ripcord.
March 16, 1970
On the 16 of March, C 2/506, while on recon, 3 kilometers northwest of Gladiator, was hit by the NVA leaving James Stanley dead. The other 2/506 units saw no action.
Meanwhile, three kilometer southeast of Gladiator, Second Platoon of Delta 1/506 killed a NVA soldier while one GI was wounded. Shortly after, they killed two more NVA. By this time, C 1/506 was sitting on Granite along with a mortar section and A2/319 Field Artillery after leaving FSB Mooney.
March 17, 1970
With poor weather, the day found most units in their same positions or very close.
First Platoon D 1/506 engaged 1 NVA and killed the same. An hour later, as they checked out the area, they were hit by an ambush, which killed Carl Gilbertson and wounded two others. One more NVA also died. All this was about 3 klicks southeast of Granite. By this time, brigade had decided to keep FSB Granite open for longer than 10 days as originally planned. This decision likely reflects the increase in NVA activity the 1/506 has been encountering.
March 18, 1970
The 18th started cold, wet and foggy. The 2/506 units continued to patrol their areas with no contact.
Charlie 1 /506 secured FSB Granite with A 2/319’s 105mm howitzers and Echo’s 81 mm mortars. The engineers were present with their dozer shoring up the defenses. It was becoming more permanent, but adequate defenses were still lacking.
Alpha and Bravo 1/506 were now working further east of Rakkasan without incident. Delta searched for NVA around FSB Granite.
As far as artillery went, A 2/319 was at Granite, B 2/319 at Jack, A 2/11 was at Jack. C 2/94 at FSB Nancy and C/34 on FSB O’Reilly.
March 19, 1970
There was again poor weather for air support. Units patrolled in their areas (A& B 2/506 just south of 902 ridge, C2/506 and Recon north of FSB Granite, and Delta 2/506 around FSB Jack).
Charlie 1/506 held Granite while D 1/506 patrolled southeast, but no major moves or contacts. Bravo was at Camp Evans for refitting and A 1/506 was out to the east. Brigade sent out warnings to expect attacks, but nothing was definitive.
March 20, 1970
.At 0204 FSB Granite was hit by a NVA sapper unit. Before the attack, the commander of Charlie Company 1/506 (Capt. Moore) was checking the perimeter when he spotted and shot a sapper. The attack broke out! The NVA hit with mortars, RPGs and small arms fire. The fighting was heavy, but the US troops held because the attack came before the sappers were ready. By 0300 the enemy attack had lost momentum. Illumination from a CH-47 helicopter kept the area lit up and artillery response coordinated by FO Alvie Martin cut off the NVA. Two mortar men, James Kurth and Willie Walker died as they aided the wounded.
By the time it was over (0410), C 1/506 had lost Dale Blake, Harold Harris, Ronald Leonard (medic), Mike Mc Guire, Gary Stacey and Tinsley Wells. James Davis was to fly out earlier in the week to meet his wife and new born at his Hawaii R&R. Due to the poor weather, he was still on the fire base when the assault happened. Jim never made it to his R&R or back home.
The 326 Engineers, who had a section working the base, lost Robert Thompson and Dennis Morrill. Overall 11 men died and 30 were wounded.
In the afternoon, third Platoon of Bravo 1/506 moved in to help shore up Charlie Company.
The 2/506 units patrolled west of Granite and uncovered bunkers and trails while D 2/506 worked around FSB Jack.