Pleime Battle's Diary
Colonel Hieu, II Corps Chief of Staff
19 October 1965
- 2300 hours, Captain Moore, Pleime camp Commander, reports back to II Corps General Staff Hqrs that a NVA unit open fire on the camp with small arms, mortar and recoilless rifle fire.
20 October 1965
- The enemy troops conducted a series of assaults. The camp put up a stiff resistance. Throughout the night the enemy did not succeed in making any penetration into the camp defensive positions.
- Call General Vinh Loc, at his tactical CP in Binh Dinh, conducting Than Phong 6 Operations, to advise him that apparently VC military activities in Binh Dinh are merely diversionary tactics and Pleime is the main attack. The VC are applying "nhat diem luong dien" tactics, which means either "one main effort and two secondary efforts, or one main attack and two diversionary attacks".
General Vinh Loc says he will return to Pleiku as soon as possible, immediately after the lifts of heliborne troops into suspect enemy concentrations in South of the District of Hoai An.
- At dawn, the enemy troops launch a violent assault. Call in airstrikes, which are able to repel the attack.
- Air supply missions and medivac by helicopter still encounter intense anti-aircraft fire.
- Although having suffered heavy casualties, VC persist to remain in the vicinity of the camp and instead of one single battalion, their strength is rather of regimental size.
- Besides being outnumber by the enemy, the garrison is assailed by difficulties in air supply of food and ammunition; evacuation of wounded is hindered by incessant mortar shelling of the airstrip and the helipad.
- General Vinh Loc arrives in Pleiku in the afternoon.
- It appears that this time, the enemy does not hurry to act quickly as in previous "hit and run" attacks. It seems that they rather plan to compel our forces to come in rescue and their objectives will be twofold, first the relief column and second, the camp itself. This would give them a bigger prey and also more chance of success, thanks to a larger concentration of their forces.
- Our side decides to play the enemy's game. Since they expect to successively eliminate our forces, the scheme of maneuver has to make best use of the factor time and to exploit the inherent weaknesses of the enemy troop disposition.
- Assembling a rescue relief column Armored Task Force composed of: Hqs, 3rd Armored Cavalry Squadron, one Ranger Battalion, one APC M-113 Company, one M-41 Tank Company, one Artillery Battery and one Engineer Platoon.
- 1800 hours, the Task Force closes on its assembly area and bivouacs for the night.
- General Vinh Loc assigns Lt. Col. Nguyen Trong Luat Armored Task Force Commander .
- Throughout the second night, the Pleime camp is harassed only by enemy mortars and sustains no attacks.
21 October 1965
- 0800 hours, give order to Luat's Task Force to move on along the Phu My-Pleime axis, but to simply conduct aggressive patrols within a 10 km radius.
- Dispatch several Special Forces Rangers recon teams with the task of detecting enemy ambush sites along the way leading to Pleime camp.
- Make preparation to airlift reinforcement troops for Luat's Task Force from Kontum and Binh Dinh to Pleiku, to be done as soon as the weather conditions allow the air movements.
- 0930 hours, have two companies of the 91st ARVN Special Forces Rangers heliborne to about 5 kms North East of the camp (1) to assess the enemy troop disposition in the camp vicinity and (2) to relieve the garrison that has fought for 36 hours to withstand a five time stronger enemy force. Let's hope the enemy would interpret this troop insertion as a link-up between the Task Force and these two companies is to take place in the very afternoon.
- The recon teams report they have found no ambush sites along the route to Pleime camp. This means that the enemy has abandoned static waylays and adopts mobile ambush tactics. In doing so, the enemy expects (1) to maintain secrecy, (2) to avoid losses inflicted by our prestrikes on the ambush sites, (3) to have flexibility to respond to any contingency. Furthermore, they can afford such mobile tactics because adequate means of communications are now at their disposal. They have well learned the battle of Duc Co (August 1965), in which they have suffered heavy losses at their static ambush sites.
- The recon teams report that enemy troops belonging to NVA 32nd Regiment have been leaving their assembly areas near Chu Pong and moving toward the ambush site on Provincial Route No 5. This means that the VC Field Front is convinced that the first part of their plan - to ambush the relief - is about to take place.
- 1030 hours, in their progression toward the camp after landing, the 91st Battalion engages with the enemy, kills and wounds an unknown number of VC and captures one 82 mm mortar, two 50 cal M.G., many Chicom submachine-gun and Russian rifles. This contact proves that around the camp, the enemy has dispersed their troops to prevent being targets for our airstrikes and also to ambush our relief forces when they are heliborne in the vicinity.
- The VC seems to discover that all our troop activities thus far only are aimed at alluring them to wait for the attack of our relief forces; if they hurry to destroy the camp, the opportunity which they have longed for impatiently would no longer take place.
- That explains why during this night, their pressure around the camp has increased. The camp is harassed by fire throughout the night but still no assault has been conducted. By such action the enemy simply meant that unless relief forces are sent in, their troops would remain and tighten their hold.
- So, the VC Field Front has decided to use its lesser combat experienced 33rd Regiment (just recently arriving in the Highlands a few months ago) to attack the Pleime camp and to use its more combat proven 32nd Regiment for the ambush of the relief column. This regiment has arrived in South Vietnam since January; already to its credit were numerous battalion and regimental attacks and ambushes, which it has conducted in Kontum and in Pleiku provinces, such as Plei Kleng (March 65), Le Thanh (June 65) and Duc Co (August 65)
- It appears that the VC plan consists of three phases: (1) the 33rd Regiment would surround Pleime and harass the defenders, exerting enough pressure to force II Corps to send a reaction force; (2) The 32nd Regiment would ambush the relief column and destroy it; (3) Both Regiments would combine force to overrun and destroy the camp itself.
- We are facing a formidable opponent team: VC General Chu Huy Man, Commanding General of Military Region IV and his principal assistants Colonel Quan, Assistant to the Commanding General, and Senior Colonel Ha Vi Tung, Chief of Staff. During the Indochina war, Tung was commander of the 803rd Regiment, which together with the 108th Regiment constituted the main forces of the Viet Minh in the Central Highlands. To their credit were the occupation of Kontum and the defeat of French Task Force No 100 on Highway 19.
22 October 1965
- Luat Task Force keeps on patrolling on the same itinerary.
- The 91st SF Ranger Battalion continues to advance in the direction of the camp. It makes two more contacts with the enemy and captures 4 heavy machine guns and many rifles.
- In the afternoon, with a strong air support, it comes finally to destination to reinforce the Pleime camp.
- This reinforcement has somewhat reassured the garrison. But it is by this time that difficulties arise. For four days, the VC dense firepower has prevented the camp to get their supply of water at a stream in the vicinity.
- 0510 hours, the main radio antenna is broken by enemy fire.
- The delaying activities have enable II Corps Command to get more information about the enemy and to gain more time. Besides Luat's Task Force, only remained at Pleiku a Ranger Battalion. Even if II Corps Command decides to engage its last unit, there would be no aircrafts at disposal because the 119th Helicopter Battalion is still busy with the Than Phong 6 Operations. On the other hand, the foggy weather over the Mang pass and An Khe does not allow any air moves to take place.
23 October 1965
- Early morning, SF Rangers recon teams report 32nd Regiment ambush troops have reached their ambush site. Decision is immediately taken to push the relief column to Pleime without delay and at any costs.
- 1000 hours, the 1/42 ARVN Battalion is air lifted from Kontum to Pleiku, conveyed to Phu My upon arrival and attached to Luat's Task Force.
- 1100 hours, give order to the 22nd ARVN Ranger Battalion - the last unit to remain in Pleiku - to standby for a helilift at 1400 hours.
- The strength of all the above outfits, including the Armored Task Force amounts to about 1,000 troops. It is still inferior to an enemy force of regimental size well entrenched in their ambush positions.
- With the last unit committed to Luat's Task Force, Pleiku city remains wide open. To meet all contingencies, call Major General Stanley R. Larsen, US Task Force Alpha HQS Nhatrang) to request US troops to temporarily assume the security of the Pleiku Airfield and Pleiku city.
- 1300 hours, Task Force Ingram composed of one infantry battalion and one battery belonging to the 1st Air Cavalry Division comes as scheduled.
- 1400 hours, the 22nd ARVN Ranger Battalion is heliborne into a landing zone on the Western side of Provincial Route No. 5, 10 kms North of Pleime with the mission to: (1) sweep eastward and canalize the enemy toward Provincial Route No. 5; (2) block and destroy any enemy caught between the battalion and the TF.
- 1400 hours, Luat's Task Force departs from Phu My and attacks along the Provincial Route No.5 axis to relieve the Pleime camp.
- 1700 hours, give order to Luat's Task Force to stop midway while preplanned airstrikes are conducted ahead over suspected enemy concentrations.
- 1750 hours, Luat reports that while progressing on an ascending slope and narrow path with dense vegetations on both sides, his TF suddenly encounters violent fire from the South and East; simultaneously, the rear of the column which includes the combat trains also reports that it is assaulted by enemy fire.
- The terrain is completely favorable to the enemy and their heavy fire carefully distributed. But our troops react quickly with firepower from guns and machine guns of the tanks and the APC's.
- Air Force is immediately called in, and its almost instantaneous intervention has contributed to make an effective barrage against the successive waves of enemy attacks.
- Sporadic fire lasts until darkness fell over the battlefield.
- The Task Force rapidly reorganizes its positions because the enemy could certainly resume their activities at night.
- 0315 hours, the enemy attacks as expected, but does not succeed in making any penetration into our troop positions.
- Call in the Air Force, which once again gives an outstanding show of effective and accurate fire.
24 October 1965
- In the morning, while resupply and medivac are carried out, patrols are sent out by the TF around the battlefield and find: 120 VC dead bodies, 75 crew-served and individual weapons, with some prisoners.
- Task Force Ingram is reinforced with one more battery and moved from Pleku Airfield to position at 10 km South of Phu My in order to provide artillery fire support to Luat Task Force when necessary.
- 2400 hours, the 1st Brigade of 1st US Air Cavalry Division moves to the Pleiku Airfield.
- The VC failure in carrying out the first part of their plan also dooms their tentative to destroy the Pleime camp. The 32nd Regiment is ordered to withdraw instead of joining the 33rd Regiment, which is surrounding the camp.
- Throughout the day, the situation remains completely quite.
- 0150 hours, the camp sustains only some enemy mortar shelling.
25 October 1965
- 1300 hours, Luat's Task Force resumes advancing toward Pleime.
- After 5 km, the APC's moving ahead of the column encounters enemy fire, which is quickly repressed by Task Force Ingram artillery.
- 1700 hours, Luat's Task Force arrives at Pleime.
26 October 1965
- In the morning, a sweep of the surroundings of the camp is immediately conducted.
- 1015 hours, while the TF is deploying South of the camp, a violent enemy fire suddenly breaks out. By fear of being run over by the heavy tanks and APC's, the VC have striven to get the upper hand by an improvised ambush but unfortunately, they are in a too disadvantageous position, concealed but not covered against the intense combined fire from the Armored vehicles, the Artillery and the Air Force. When the skirmish is over, other 140 VC lay dead on the ground, 5 are captured and at least 100 others wounded, with more than 20 crew-served weapons.
- An important meeting at II Corps TOC is convened with the presence of US advisors and units commanders.
- Make the following presentation: "The enemy units has withdrawn west in the direction of the Cambodian border. This would be their only chance of escape because in addition to the advantages of the terrain, the base of Chu Pong and the sanctuary of Cambodia provide not only shelters but also supplies and replacements of which the 32nd and 33rd Regiments are running short. For the first time since the war broke out on the Indochinese peninsula, friendly forces have the opportunity to come to such a conclusion. Throughout the hostilities since 1948, the enemy has always been able to leave the battlefield and to withdraw safely, to give up the fighting at their own will. Thus, the chance which is offered to our forces has not to be overlooked: the two NVA Regiments are to be pursued because if not, the danger will persist and the enemy will have time to reorganize their units. Besides that, the above decision can this time be made possible because reserve forces are available, with the presence of the 1st US Air Cavalry Division stationed in An Khe, a major unit which possesses the highest degree of mobility all over the world and also the most up-to-date equipment and weaponry."
- The decision made by II Corps Command to exploit the results of the first phase and to pursue the enemy is fully concurred by the US military authorities and agreement is reached to establish a close cooperation in operational activities. The 1st US Air Cavalry Division makes the main effort with the Long Reach Operations and the ARVN Airborne Brigade acts as reserve, ready to participate on Corps order.
- The US Command agrees to the following procedure: joint intelligence and support activities, commonly-shared concept of operations and results, separate TAOR, separate command, separate deployment of forces, separate conduct of activities and separate reserve.
- In order to deceive an enemy that operates like a thief, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade is used to herd the scattered troops of the two 32nd and 33rd Regiments back to Chu Pong where they would regroup with those of the 66th Regiment. At that moment, B-52 airstrikes would destroy the three regiments simultaneously. The withdrawal was a rational and intelligent initiative taken by the VC Field Front Command. But the enemy would attempt to take revenge and furthermore, the remote Pleime camp remains an eye sore to them.
27 October 1965
- The sweep lasts until noon today.
- Down south the camp, in the vicinity of the famous hill of Chu-Ho, more enemy corpses and weapons are discovered. Some dead VC gunners are found chained to their anti-aircraft heavy machine guns.
- Eagle Flights from the Air Cavalry Division went into action. From dawn to darkness, they flew unwarily over the area to search for the enemy. Every suspect enemy presence is carefully checked and dealt with, either by airstrikes or by the Eagle Flights themselves, or by reaction forces. These tactics compels the enemy to move continuously, to disintegrate and to fragment into small parties and thus they cannot avoid being sighted.
28 October 1965
- Bring in the Vietnamese Marine Alpha Task Force by airlift from Banmethuot to secure Provincial Route No. 5 for the withdrawal of the TF.
- Give order to Luat to have his Task Force leave Pleime and return to Pleiku, as no enemy presence is registered and the surroundings of the camp thoroughly swept.
- On their way back, Luat's Task Force encounter no opposition but 6 anti-tank mines, which are recovered.
- So ends the Dan Thang 21 Operation with about 400 casualties on the enemy side.
29 October 1965
Make arrangements to have ARVN SF Rangers accompany each Eagle Flights for assistance to the newly arrived US 1st Air Cavalry troops.
- Numerous VC stragglers have been captured through Eagle Flights tactics.
- Debriefing of NVA Cpl Nguyen Xuan Tien.
30 October 1965
- Preliminary interrogation of 3 NVA soldiers who have surrendered.
- Learned from them that as early as 19 September - one month before the attack - a thorough preparation down to the lowest level was carried out. Numerous exercises and rehearsals were conducted by each unit on maps and sand tables. Meanwhile, transportation companies assisted by forced local laborers were rushing to prestock rice and ammunition.
31 October 1965
- Preliminary interrogation of Hoang Van Chung, 8th Co, 966th Bn, 32nd Regiment.
- Captured document: Combat order for an ambush by the 32d Regiment, addressed to Dinh Khan, regimental commander, prepared at regimental headquarters/Plei-Luc-Chin, signed by Chief of Staff (Ha Vi Tung) at 15 hours, 12 Oct 1965, Pleiku, Plei The (YA 815 008) with map, scale 1/1000000 made in 1962.
- Document shows that VC Field Front Command anticipated that "after the initial attack on Pleime the GVN will likely send a relief column. The relief column will probably be composed of one ARVN Battle Group and on Armored Battle Group from the 24th STZ. There will probably be one or two US battalions in reserve."
- What VC Field Front Command fails to foresee was the reinforcement of US Ingram Task Force, in particular the artillery battery battalion that was brought in at Phu My, close to the ambush area. This artillery firepower was able to silence the enemy ambush heavy firepower composed of machineguns, 57 mm recoilless rifles and 90 mm Rocket launchers (B.40) and anti-aircraft machineguns.
1 November 1965
- 1st US Air Cavalry Division Command reports that at 0730 hours, about a VC platoon was sighted at 10 km South West of Pleime camp. A reaction force was immediately sent by the 1st Brigade of the 1st Air Cavalry Division. Only minutes after, 20 VC were killed and 19 captured. US troops kept on searching and suddenly discovered a VC field hospital well equipped with medicines and surgical instruments made by Communist countries.
- While the evacuation of the trophy was carried out by helicopters, a battalion size enemy force stealthily move toward friendly troops and strove to surround their positions. The first engagement between elements of the 1st US Air Cavalry Division and the VC took place. It lasted for five hours until darkness. When the enemy finally broke contact and withdrew, it had been for them a deadly blow by the 'First Team': 99 VC were killed (body count), 44 other VC regulars captured along with 20 weapons. But at least more than 200 other VC were probably killed and wounded.
- The capture of the aid station also yielded documents, including one particularly valuable map that revealed enemy supply and march routes. These, in turn were converted into intelligence that led to further successes.
- Knowledgeability (sic) Briefs of 13 NVA soldiers captured at this Regiment Dispensary.
2 November 1965
- Initial Interrogation of Tran Ngoc Luong, member C-18 Co., 101st Regiment.
3 November 1965
- Initial Interrogation of Senior Sgt Cao Xuan Hai, member 2d Bn, 324th Regiment.
- 2100 hours, an audacious ambush in the very heart of the Chu Pong-Ia Drang complex inflicted to the 8th Battalion of the newly-infiltrated 66th Regiment: 112 KIA (body count), more than 200 others estimated KIA and WIA, 30 weapons captured.
4 November 1965
- A large arms cache is uncovered at 5 kms West of the Pleime Camp, in the vicinity of the Ia Meur river.
6 November 1965
- The 5th Battalion of the 33rd Regiment is almost annihilated after an engagement taking place North of the Ia Meur river: 77 KIA (body count), nearly 400 others estimated KIA and WIA.
7 November 1965
- Up to this point, the 1st Brigade of the 1st US Air Cavalry Division in its 'All The Way' deployment over an area of about 2,500 square kilometers has given severe blows to the withdrawing VC units but through the contacts made, no traces are yet found concerning the 32nd Regiment. Although the number of VC casualties amounted to 1,500, including those suffered in the first phase, one more regiment - the 66th Regiment - has been added to the enemy order of battle.
- Strong suspicion that elements of the 32nd Regiment may have slipped off to the east.
- Knowledgeability (sic) Brief of Hoang The U, member 8th Bn 66th Regiment.
- Knowledgeability (sic) Brief of Sgt Pham Sam, member Signal Company, 101B Regiment.
8 November 1965
- Propose the concept of switching in operational direction away from Chu Pong massif as a diversionary tactic. This initiative is transmitted to General Kinnard through the channel of General Larsen, I Field Force VN Commander.
9 November 1965
- 1st US Air Cavalry starts a troop movement and shift of emphasis from west to east (away from Chu Pong massif).
- It is a subterfuge that aims at making the enemy think that friendly forces have lost tracks of its units, which in reality - we know through prisoners' interrogation and intelligence gathering report - are concentrating in the Chu Pong-Ia Drang complex: (1) the three battalions of the 66th Regiment are strung along the north bank of the Ia Drang river; (2) the 32nd Regiment is also up north in the same area.; and (3) the 33rd Regiment maintains its positions in the vicinity of the Anta village (VC appellation), east of the Chu Pong mountains.
10 November 1965
- The US 3rd Brigade relieves the US 1st Brigade.
- Operation All the Way ends, Operation Silver Bayonet commences.
11 November 1965
- Interrogation report of several VC prisoners and ralliers reveals VC Field Front has decided on "the second phase of the attack of Pleime". The date of attack is set at 16 November. All the three regiments will be committed this time as well as a battalion of 120 mm mortars and a battalion of 14.5 mm twin-barrel anti-aircraft guns which are both en route down the infiltration trail and scheduled to arrive in time for the attack. According to the declaration of a surrendered political officer, the scheme of the new attack will have as primary objective the destruction of the camp.
- Met in person with General Kinnard at camp An Khe to discuss about enemy D-day attack and draw plan with 1st US Air Cavalry Command to strike the enemy at its very heart before enemy D-day (11/16).
- VC rallier First Lieutenant Bui Van Cuong, political officer, Signal Co/33rd Regiment estimates that his 33rd Regiment has lost 40% of its initial strength of 2,200 men, with a loss of 60% of 150 men and 13 AA guns in its anti-aircraft company. This latter figure is of particular interest to 1st US Air Cavalry Command, which is conducting helicopter warfare.
12 November 1965
- The activities of US 3rd Air Cavalry Brigade continue its swift of emphasis from west to east, away of Chu Pong massif and toward Pleime Camp.
13 November 1965
- Intelligence report from ARVN SF Rangers indicates that VC troops in the Chu Pong-Ia Drang complex seem in a relaxing mood while preparing for the 2nd phase attack on Pleime camp.
- II Corps Command and US 1st Air Cavalry Command agree to a pre-emptive strike at the very doorsteps of Chu Pong mountain, set for tomorrow.
14 November 1965
- 1200 hours, helicopters disgorge troops from the 3rd Air Cavalry at L.Z. Xray, about 25 km from Pleime Camp, at the eastern foot of the Chu Pong massif.
- After 20-minute tube artillery preparation and 30 seconds of aerial artillery fire, 1/7 Cavalry battalion begins its landing. The 1/7 Cavalry Commander is LTC Harold G. Moore.
- It looks like the diversionary tactics has worked: the enemy has no reaction at LZ Xray. The LZ security mission is given to Company A, and Company B is ordered to fan out to search for the enemy.
- 1245 hours, moderate fire fights with enemy troops start, getting heavier at approximately 1330 hours.
- Meanwhile, Company C and Company D continue to be poured in at LZ Xray.
- 1740 hours, LTC Moore pulls back his companies and sets up a tight defensive perimeter for the night.
- 1800 hours, Company B of the 2/7 Battalion lands to reinforce the 1/7.
- The enemy only makes some light probes around the perimeter at night.
15 November 1965
- As first light come, the enemy reappears and simultaneously attacks from three directions.
- 0730 hours, the enemy has moved almost to the perimeter fox-holes despite taking severe losses from artillery, mortar and close air support. There is considerable hand fighting.
- 0910 hours, Company A, 2/7 Battalion lands to reinforce.
- 1000 hours, the enemy attack is finally repelled. Enemy corpses, body fragments, weapons and equipment are littered in profusion around the edge and forward of the perimeters. There is massive evidence of many other enemy dead and wounded being dragged away from the area.
- 1510 hours, the 2/5 Battalion coming in by foot from LZ Victor reaches and relieves the cut-off platoon with little enemy resistance.
- B52 stratospheres has also taken part in the battle with five daily bombardments of the Chu Pong massif.
- The night is relatively quiet at LZ Xray.
16 November 1965
- 0400 hours the enemy attacks from the south east. Flareship illumination is called for. The attack is beaten off by small arms and artillery fires.
- 0432 hours, another attack by the enemy comes in from the same direction, but the artillery takes a heavy toll.
- 0500 hours, the enemy shifted its attacks more to the southwest but is repulsed half an hour later.
- 0627 hours, another attack comes directly toward the CP.
- 0641 hours, the enemy has been beaten off and is dragging off bodies under fire.
- 0810 hours a search and clear sweep is conducted by all units on the perimeter. Enemy dead are lying throughout the area and numerous weapons are collected.
- The entire battle has lasted continuously for 48 hours with 79 KIA and 125 WIA for 1/7 Battalion, and 634 KIA (body count), 1215 KIA (estimated), 6 CIA for NVA 9th Battalion
- It is worthwhile noting that the enemy did not position any crew-served weapons to support their attack from the hills which dominate the LZ. Such a situation can be explained only by the following reasons:
- (1) The enemy has lost nearly all their heavy crew-served weapons during the first phase.
- (2) They had been surprised by the attack of the 1/7 Battalion and their commanders had failed to make the best use of terrain.
- (3) Their tactics relied mostly on the 'human waves' and they were too confident that their attack would disorganize the 1/7 Battalion very quickly.
- 1040 hours, the 1/7 Battalion leaves LZ Xray and is replaced by the 2/7 and 2/5 Battalions.
- In the afternoon, a friendly helicopter has been shot down over the area of LZ Albany.
17 November 1965
- The two friendly battalions are ordered out of on LZ Xray because B52's targets today include LZ Xray.
- They are ordered to move 3 km away from the LZ, the 2/7 Battalion northward and 2/5 northwestward to LZ Albany.
- The displacement is based on the estimate that the enemy has withdrawn in that direction, apparently aiming at attacking the artillery position at LZ Albany, which has provided effective support to the 1/7 Battalion during the last two days.
- 2/7 Battalion falls into a VC ambush conducted by a battalion-size enemy unit, when it almost comes near its objective.
- But once again, the VC have offered themselves as targets for air-strikes and artillery fire: 403 KIA (body count), 100 KIA (estimated) and 112 weapons captured.
- The intelligence estimate on enemy capabilities made today indicates that nearly 2/3 of their strength has been wiped off through the engagements in Phases I and II.
- B52's continue to bomb systematically the areas of Chu Pong massif - each of 20 square miles - from West to East. VC bunkers and trenches which so far have resisted the strikes by tactical aircraft and artillery begin to score direct hits by the 750-pound bombs. The heavy canopy of the jungle ceases to be effective in both concealment and cover. The 'back door' into Cambodia is closed and to escape, the VC remnants 334th and 635th Battalions belonging to the 32nd Regiment are reduced to utilize the narrow valley of the Ia Drang.
- Make sure that SF Rangers teams get out of the areas where B52 bombers is about to strike; then dispatch them in to assess the damages inflicted to enemy troops and installations by these bombers.
- II Corps Command thinks it is time to throw in the reserve ARVN Airborne Brigade in order to put an end to the battle which has lasted for about one month.
- The 1st Air Cavalry Division continues to exert a pressure from East to West and is asked to establish a new artillery firepower based LZ Crooks (YA 875125), at 7 kms northeast of the area where the ARVN Airborne Brigade will be conducting the mopping up operation.
- The 1st Air Cavalry Division helilifted the artillery battery into position this afternoon.
- The Airborne Brigade Headquarters, the Airborne 1st and 2nd Task Forces Headquarters, Five Airborne battalions: the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th from Saigon, Bien Hoa, Vung Tau and Phu Yen have been notified to be ready to be transported to Pleiku tomorrow morning.
- Notify the Airborne Brigade Headquarters that the operation named Than Phong 7 will be supported only by artillery firepower coming out of LZ Crooks and LZ Columbus and the Airborne Brigade Command should get the help of an American Advisor who will call in the artillery firepower when needed.
18 November 1965
- Early in the morning, huge transport airplanes of C130's Squadron of the 7th US Air Force airlifted the entire ARVN Airborne Brigade from four different airfields to Pleiku airfield only in a few hours.
- LTC Ngo Quang Truong, General Du Quoc Dong's Chief of Staff, is designated Field Commander for this operation.
- Notice that Truong has chosen Major Schwarzkopf as his advisor. Remember seeing him during the Duc Co camp siege; he dared to stand up against General Vinh Loc and came to the defense of Major Nghi, the ARVN Airborne Task Force 1 Commander, who refused to attack without adequate time to prepare for the camp relief operation. He looks and sounds like John Wayne, a good and reliable guy.
- Give a briefing about the Than Phong 7 to the entire Airborne Brigade Command. Truong is made aware of the support he will be getting from the 1st US Air Cavalry from LZ Crooks and LZ Columbus and from teams of ARVN SF Rangers inserted deep inside enemy territories. In particular, point to Truong the narrow valley of the Ia Drang through which the two VC remnant battalions will use to sneak back to Cambodia.
- The ARVN Airborne Brigade's main mission consists of destroying the fleeing VC units and all their installations around the Ia Drang valley.
- All efforts during the last few days - B52 bombardments, US 1st Air Cavalry units maneuverings - are aimed at canalizing the VC remnant units toward the last escape route offered by the Ia Drang narrow valley.
- 1500 hours, Task Force 1 Headquarters, 3rd, 5th and 6th Battalions are helilifted to (84,09), north of Ia Drang river.
- 3rd Battalion immediate commences it sweep westward toward Plei The.
- 6th Battalion also sweeps westward but further south and parallel to 3rd Battalion's direction toward Plei Leo.
- SF Ranger teams report that an enemy battalion-sized force stealthily shadows 3rd Battalion troops.
19 November 1965
- 1100 hours, 3rd Battalion is ordered to lure the shadowing enemy troops down south to (YA805080), north of Ia Drang river, where 6th Battalion sets up an ambush site.
20 November 1965
- 1440 hours, the shadowing enemy units walk into the ambush. Nearly 200 VC belonging to 635th Battalion/32nd Regiment which has remained uncommitted and unscratched throughout the second phase is finally found and forced to fight, although it has tried to avoid contact as much as possible.
- Important capture of 1st Lt. Bui Van Cuong (alias Con), political officer, signal company, 32nd NVA Regiment. Obtain from this prisoner, who is willing to talk, significant intelligence information about the two remnants 334th and 635th Battalions, 32nd NVA Regiment and about their escape route.
- During their parallel sweeps westward, the two 3rd and 6th Battalion destroyed 3 training centers, a cache of equipment and 75 houses.
- 1745 hours, the 8th Battalion is helilifted to (YA822075).
- The Task Force 1 Headquarters, the 3rd, 5th and 6th Battalion are ordered to march to (YA822075)
- Summary of VC/NVA Unit Identifications provided by captives.
22 November 1965
- 1100 hours, the Task Force 2 Headquarters, the 2nd and the 7th Battalions are helilifted to join the 8th Battalion at (YA822075)
- 1350 hours, the entire Airborne Brigade is present at (YA822075) assembly area and is ordered to cross to the south side of Ia Drang river, and to climb the mountain to its peak at (YA810055).
23 November 1965
- 1115 hours, Truong and his brigade reach (YA810055), and make plan for to ambush the enemy at the narrow valley at the south side of Ia Drang river.
- Knowledgeability (sic) brief on Nguyen Nghe Thung, member 635th Bn, 32d Regiment.
24 November 1965
- 0945 hours, the 3rd Battalion makes contact with the enemy troops at (YA802070).
- 1050 hours, the 6th Battalion makes contact with the same enemy troops at (YA820064).
- The enemy troops are cornered between two blocking positions. Artillery firepower is called in.
- After about half an hour, the 7th and the 8th Battalions charge down the mountain and push the enemy troops against the south side bank of Ia Drang river.
- Results: 65 VC killed (BC), 10 VC captured, and 58 weapons captured.
26 November 1965
- As no more contacts are made with the enemy, the Airborne Brigade is ordered to withdraw from the area of operations, terminating the third phase of the Battle of Pleime.
Note: This diary has been recreated by reusing Colonel Hieu's own words taken out from Why Pleime. It is actually the reverse of what Colonel Hieu did, when in order to write his after action report of Pleime Battle, he consulted his diary notes to get the facts, dates and his own thoughts he had jotted down as the battle was unfolding. Colonel Hieu was known to always keep a diary, even as a youth before joining the army; his dad found about his son's secret love by reading his diary; his dad also read was able to read General Hieu's last entry in his diary, after calling his wife was: "not to let the children play on the streets"; Colonel Le Khac Ly, his 22nd Division Chief of Staff, said: "He always carried a small notepad in his shirt pocket. Whenever he gave orders out in the battlefields, he always jotted them down on his notepad."
Nguyen Van Tin
06 March 2009
- Books, Articles
* Pleiku, the Dawn of Helicopter Warfare in Vietnam, J.D. Coleman, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1988.
* We Were Soldiers Once… and Young, General Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway, Random House, New York, 1992.
* "First Strike at River Drang", Military History, Oct 1984, pp 44-52, Per. Interview with H.W.O Kinnard, 1st Cavalry Division Commanding General, Cochran, Alexander S.
* The Siege of Pleime, Project CHECO Report, 24 February 1966, HQ PACAF, Tactical Evaluation Center.
* Silver Bayonet, Project CHECO Report, 26 February 1966, HQ PACAF, Tactical Evaluation Center.
- Viet Cong