THE BATTLE OF REUP HILL - Alpha Avengers HILL.pdfآ  REUP HILL in April, 1970, I would begin with the

  • View
    0

  • Download
    0

Embed Size (px)

Text of THE BATTLE OF REUP HILL - Alpha Avengers HILL.pdfآ  REUP HILL in April, 1970, I would begin with...

  • THE BATTLE OF REUP HILL A COMPANY, 2-501 INFANTRY

    IN MEMORIUM: SGT(SSG) MICHAEL J. VAGNONE, 2ND PLATOON

    Killed In Action: 18 April 1970 SP4(SGT) ROBERT L. DANGBERG, 2ND PLATOON

    Killed In Action: 18 April 1970 SSG DEAN L. FREY, 3RD PLATOON

    Killed In Action: 19 April 1970 PFC(CPL) GARRY L. WORLEY, 3RD PLATOON

    Killed In Action: 23 April 1970

    “If the battlefield (according to the above map and overlay of suspected North Vietnamese Army (NVA) unit locations, marked in Red) looked like

    �1

  • this when I led A Company into the landing zone (LZ) at or near Hill 902 on or about the 8th of April 1970, why didn’t I have this kind of intelligence?” This simple question haunted me throughout my military career…kept me awake at night…and challenged me as a professional soldier for thirty years. As I progressed through the ranks of both grade and command responsibility I promised myself to NEVER again lead the nation’s finest war-fighters into a similar UNKNOWN circumstance again and thankfully, I did not. According to the 101st Airborne Division’s G2 Section, these units in red were the North Vietnamese SUSPECTED LOCATIONS at or near the time of our insertion. The truth is, we landed in the middle of a hornet’s nest; right in the center of two of the 324B Division (NVA) forward deployed Regiments (the 803rd and the 29th) and its supporting artillery[120mm], anti-aircraft[12.7], and Sappers[7th Sapper Battalion]. As the Commander of A Company, I didn’t have a single scrap of intelligence with respect to these suspected enemy locations! To this day, I cannot imagine a more fatal mistake in the distribution of battlefield intelligence to war-fighters on the ground and yet such blunders during this ill-fated operation would unfold over and over again as the TEXAS STAR operational days went by and American casualties continued to mount. The grunts on the ground executing their own battles in the jungled mountains fought valiantly along the trailed ridge-lines, deep stream beds, the precious LZ’s, and fire bases. However, for most of the spring and early summer of 1970, back at Camp Eagle and Camp Evans, the intelligence and operational disconnects and blunders in decision-making mounted at an alarming rate. Sadly, the dissemination of near real-time tactical intelligence to those of us responsible for executing the ground tactical plans was nonexistent. The cast of characters responsible for planning and execution of the 101st’s spring 1970 offensive cast aside a goodly number of the principles of war, the basic tenets of offensive operations, lessons learned in almost a decade of fighting in Viet Nam, and most importantly, the strategic setting both in the Theater and at home. OPERATION TEXAS STAR, at the operational level, was doomed from its inception and can best be described as an abysmal operational failure yet not a single decision-maker at Division level or above was ever held accountable! The end results can best be described in the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) After Action Report Record of U.S. Casualties: 409 Killed in Action; 2,067 Wounded in Action; 7 Missing in Action; 63 Non-Battle Dead; 405 Non-Battle Injuries;

    �2

  • 2,951 Total Casualties. From my perspective, the last great Division fight of the war in Vietnam was a tactical success attributable solely to the soldiers on the ground but a shameful operational and strategic blunder. The costs in American casualties, both killed and maimed, was unacceptable and avoidable. What follows is my story, as best I remember it, of A Company’s actions and activity as participants in OPERATION TEXAS STAR from 8 April until 23 April, 1970. (I’ve documented two additional accounts of A Company’s operational activity in the defense of Fire Support Base GRANITE and Fire Support Base HENDERSON, which took place 29 April and 6 May, 1970, respectively. Both NVA attacks on these two fire bases [with A Company defending] took place under the umbrella of OPERATION TEXAS STAR). As a prelude to my reflections on A Company’s operations on and around REUP HILL in April, 1970, I would begin with the larger picture of the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) plans and operations for that time frame. OPERATION RANDOLPH GLEN, the Division’s operational plan from the fall of 1969 until 31 March 70, had ended and in mid March 70, OPERATION ORDER 2-70 (TEXAS STAR) was published with an execution date of 1 April 70. The Plan’s purpose was to exploit the successes of RANDOLPH GLEN, incorporate the lessons learned during that operation, to continue the cooperation developed among all allied elements in the province, and to provide for movement of a portion of the 101st from Thua Thien Province, if it became necessary. Under OPERATION TEXAS STAR, the 2nd Brigade assumed responsibility for pacification and development support throughout the province, while the 1st and 3rd Brigades were tasked to conduct offensive operations against enemy units in the western portions of the province. Concurrent with the repositioning of divisional units, the areas of operation of regiments of the 1st Infantry Division (ARVN) were adjusted to maintain the brigade- regimental relationships developed and refined during the preceding months. Further refined, OPERATION TEXAS STAR, was initiated on 1 April 1970 to meet the challenge of the forward disposition of enemy forces in the Division area of operations and the Division’s primary missions were:

    1. Conduct extensive airmobile combined operations in the area east of the A Shau Valley and west of the populated lowlands of Thua Thien Province to locate and destroy enemy units, base camps and cache sites

    �3

  • and to interdict enemy movement into the populated lowlands to provide maximum security for the population. 2. To conduct operations in coordination with GVN forces to defeat Viet Cong Local Forces/Viet Cong Infrastructure in the populated lowlands. 3. To conduct combined, limited objective, airmobile operations in reaction to hard intelligence within the AO. 4. To place fires on acquired targets in the A Shau Valley on a continuous basis. 5. To conduct reconnaissance and surveillance in the AO. 6. To reinforce, on order, the Mai Loc CIDG Camp. 7. To provide one airmobile infantry battalion as Corps Reserve. 8. To support Government of Viet Nam (GVN) pacification and development plans and programs. 9. To provide civic action assistance. 10. To assist GVN forces in the defense of Hue. 11. To assist GVN forces in providing security for the Vietnamese Railway System within the AO. 12. To assist GVN forces to assume full responsibility for combat, pacification and psychological operations in Thua Thien Province. 13. To prepare for operations in an expanded AO, on order.

    With the execution of OPERATION TEXAS STAR on 1 April 1970, the 2-501 Infantry was moved from the 1st Brigade to the 3rd Brigade’s “operational control” and the “Triple Threat” Brigade now had as it’s infantry battalions the 2-501, 1-506, and 2-506. Supporting the 3rd Brigade were: 2-319 Field Artillery in direct support; D Company(-), 326 Combat Engineers in direct support; 3rd Forward Supply and Service Element, Division Support Brigade in direct support; Tm, 101st Military Intelligence Company (-) in direct support; 3-265 RRC in direct support; 58th Infantry Platoon (Scout/Tracker Dog) in direct support; Tactical Air Control Party (USAF) in direct support; a Support Team from 501st Signal Battalion in direct support; 2 Teams from the 4th Psychological Operations Detachment in direct support and additional support, as required, from the Division’s General Support units. On or about 1 April 1970, elements of the 1st and 3rd Brigades, in conjunction with the 54th and 1st Regiments (ARVN), began deploying into the canopied area between the lowlands and the A Shau Valley against the NVA in accordance with Division OPERATION ORDER 2-70. The

    �4

  • combined airmobile operations were conducted to locate and destroy enemy forces, base camps and cache sites. OPERATION TEXAS STAR was in full swing and the 2-501 Infantry and A Company joined in the flow into our designated areas of operations. “LOCATE AND DESTROY ENEMY FORCES, BASE CAMPS AND CACHE SITES”….that was our mission as A Company lifted off the pick-up zone (PZ) (near Fire Support Base JACK [YD498282] as I recall) around mid day on or about 8 April. The trail of UH-1’s, each with its ACL (Allowable Cargo Load) of five soldiers and the AH-1 Cobra gunship escorts, began to swing to the west and northwest passing over the lowlands, gaining altitude over the piedmont region, and then we began a sharp climb into the jungle covered mountains headed for a one-ship landing zone on or near HILL 902 (YD337172). Our destination was a new Area of Operations (AO) code named PEAR. As we lifted off of JACK we were climbing from near sea level to ultimately land at a small one-ship LZ roughly 2,700 feet above sea level. Like all air assaults, I found the rush of air through the open aircraft doors refreshing and the altitude always gave me some sense of momentary security when compared to humping a ruck under the steamy canopy below and the looming threat of being attacked while landing or ambushed while moving off the LZ. Unlike most combat air assaults (CA’s), this one for A Company seemed far less threatening than most because we were flowing into an LZ already occupied by our own battalion’s Reconnaissance Platoon who had gone into the LZ ahead of us