Chapter IX - Document B
Translation: Military Intelligence Section B3- No 383/QB
Characteristics of the 1st US Air Cavalry Division
VC Document (see Map on Long Reach Operation)
Through Their Activities at Pleime and Ia Drang
From 24 October to 19 November 1965
I. Main Activities
a) 1st Phase: cooperate with Vietnamese troops to lift the siege at Pleime (24 to 28 October 1965).
b) 2nd Phase: use small detachments and coordinate with Vietnamese Special Forces Rangers to conduct raids into our rear (28 Oct to 11 Nov 1965).
c) 3rd Phase: use larger forces to launch raids deeper into our rear at Chu Pong and Ia Drang (14 to 19 November 1965).
II. Tactical Characteristics
Through their activities at Pleime and Ia Drang, the 1st US Air Cavalry Division has conducted the following kinds of operations:
- Reinforce Vietnamese troops to lift the siege at Pleime.
- Conduct separate activities in a separate area or in coordination with small detachments of Vietnamese SF Rangers.
I - Tactics
a) Helilift followed by foot displacement to objectives.
- In the operation to lift the siege at Pleime, the Americans use a Task Force composed of two Cavalry battalions and one 105 How battery.
- On 24 Oct, one battalion is helilifted to 1km5 SW Phu My then progresses on road together with 20 armored vehicles and one 105How Battery to Plei Ngol Ho (25 Oct), until Plei Xom at 4km North of Pleime (26 Oct), behind the 3rd Armored Task Force. In general, their progression takes place carefully and slowly.
b) Vertical landing by "frog leaps" into our rear by helicopters (28 Oct. to 10 Nov. 1965).
- forces used: from one battalion to one company of US troops or two companies of US troops coordinated with Vietnamese SF Rangers.
- Purposes: conduct raids, reconnaissance or harass our rear; disrupt our supply routes; destroy our aid-stations, CP's, information and telephone stations; capture isolate soldiers, destroy caches; designate targets for airstrikes. Their purpose could be also to harass our rear, to compel us to withdraw our troops, which are encircling Pleime in order to facilitate their own withdrawal from Pleime to Pleiku. While conducting raids into our rear, the enemy also uses forces of company or battalion size to sweep around their bases in the vicinity of Le Phong, Duc Nghiep, Xung Quen (South of Bau Can and Tan Lac).
- Activities: quick raids into our weak positions followed by quick withdrawals. Right after landing, the enemy could attack quickly the objective. When isolate groups of our soldiers are sighted, they use from 2 to 6 helicopters to make a landing and to capture them. They also helilift a platoon or company size force to cultivated spots, hills and establish their position on the edge of forests to set ambushes along trails which they suspect to be our supply routes (PleiBonGa, Pleithe). Sometimes they occupy high grounds as vantage points to control our axes of movement, for instance the hill 475 and Kuenh Xom. The activities of these detachments could last for a few hours or up to 2 days.
- Remarks on enemy tactics: thanks to their high mobility the enemy could raid with high speed and surprise into our objectives in our rear. In our movements and halts, we must have contingency plans to counter-attack enemy heliborne troops and to protect our rear, our wounded personnel. Isolate groups must be armed. Our observation and reconnaissance systems must be reorganized to keep us abreast of the enemy situation. All units from company size up must set observation posts at halts or in operations.
c) Vertical landing of large bodies of troops to conduct larger-scale raids into our rear (Chu Pong, Ia Drang from 14 to 19 November 1965).
- Forces used: one reinforced Cavalry brigade composed of 4 battalions (the 1/7, 2/7, 1/5, c2/3) and possibly the whole 2/3 battalion, one composite 105-155 How battery, one helicopter squadron (the 9th Hel Squadron belongs to the 1st Air Cav Div.) with strong support by Air Force and B52's bombers.
- Purpose: conduct deep raids into our rear to destroy or neutralize a part of our forces, destroy our infiltration routes, our caches, conduct reconnaissance, detect targets for artillery and strikes. Duration: 6 days from 14 to 19 November.
- Activities: After landing, the 3rd brigade form 3 battalion positions and one artillery position:
* the 1/7 Bn East of Chu Pong 02-90
* the 1/5 Bn West of Ba Bi 06-04
* the 2/7 Bn at 04-98
* the Arty Position West of Quenh Kla 06-00, 08-98, 06-02.
The Brigade CP is at Bau Can which serves also as its rear and base of departure. The 9th Hel Squadron at Pleiku.
- Remarks: Thanks to their high mobility (by helicopters), they could attack with high speed and surprise into our flanks and our rear. They could land in many places and then concentrate to attack an objective or one of our units.
II - Tactics Tips
a) Before landing.
Reconnaissance of landing zones by repeated air reconnaissance or by small Vietnamese SF Rangers teams.
Prestrikes over landing zones. Usually there are no prestrikes when small landing is conducted. For large landing of troops battalion size, sometimes prestrikes are not conducted to achieve surprise. During prestrikes, smoke bombs are also used.
b) Landing zones (in rough terain)
- Small landing: the enemy could land almost everywhere, on small cultivated spots, on tops of hills, on slopes (15 degrees), on clearings with a diameter of 30m, for instance at Kuenh Xom and Hill 475.
- Landing of battalion size forces: the enemy needs large landing zones but could land even in places covered with high elephant grass or in valleys. The width of the LZ is approximately 200m. Most of the time LZ are selected in the vicinity of trails (Plei The, East of Chu Pong, Ba Bi). The enemy does not need to establish their positions near water sources and is supplied by helicopters.
c) Landing of troops.
- Small landing: from 2 to 6 helicopters at one time or separately, one after the other.
- Large landing: from 8 to 10 helicopters (sometimes 20) at one time; each landing lasts for 2-5 minutes. The helicopters land on the ground or hover over the LZ 1 to 2m and the soldiers will jump off.
Small landing is supported by 2-4 armed helicopters. Large landing is covered by fighter and jet aircrafts. The flight formation used by helicopters is one or two columns. In small landing, the helicopters fly straight to the objectives. In large landing they usually hover over other areas before heading for the objective.
Vietnamese SF Rangers or US reconnaissance elements always land first to secure the LZ for the landing of riflemen, fire support elements and CP.
d) After landing.
- Right after landing, the enemy could raid immediately into the objective: capture isolate groups of our soldiers, destroy our information stations, aid stations. For two times, they have raided into the 2nd battalion of the 33rd regiment on 6 Nov and the 9th battalion on 14 Nov.
- They can move into blocking positions on trails or in the vicinity of axes leading toward our rear (Kuenh Xom, Lang Ga, Hill 475).
- Their positions, either in ambushes or in defense are always established near the LZ to facilitate resupply and withdrawal.
- The Vietnamese SF Rangers usually push far in patrols.
e) Air support.
- During the lift of the siege at Pleime, the average of enemy air sorties amounts to 200 per day (maximum: 240 sorties)
- Permanent air cover ensured by 10 to 12 jets and 8 to 10 fixed wings fighter aircraft.
- During the activities at Chu Pong and Ia Drang the average of enemy air sorties is 120 per day (night not included) with a maximum of 162 sorties per day. Maximum of B 52's sorties: 18 per day.
III - Equipment
(See organization charts of Air Cavalry Division and battalions already distributed)
- The Division is equipped with many helicopters and possesses a high degree of mobility: It can conduct raids with speed and surprise and thrust deeply into our rear. The Division has from 450 to 600 aircrafts. The aviation squadron of the Division has 250 aircrafts, among which are 220 helicopters. The Air Cavalry battalions and companies have respectively 88 and 27 helicopters according to their TO and E (The Infantry Battalions of the Division are not equipped with helicopters).
- The Division is equipped with a great amount of modern means for reconnaissance (reconnaissance helicopters) enabling the enemy to detect targets quickly.
- The firepower of the Brigades and of the Division is very strong, reinforced by armed helicopters, artillery and Air Force.
28 December 1965
Chief of Section 2