THE BATTLE OF REUP HILL
A COMPANY, 2-501 INFANTRY
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
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
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;
2,951 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
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
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
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