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Summary - February 1967

The 1st Cavalry Division's Operation Thayer II wound down and ended in early February 1967. The cohesion of VC and NVA organization in eastern Binh Dinh Province had been destroyed and the enemy was attempting to find shelter in the mountains and valleys surrounding the coastal plains and in amongst the many villages and hamlets scattered through the rice-growing region. Thayer II resulted in almost 1800 Communist troops killed and rendered the 18th NVA Regiment ineffective. The Viet Cong administrative structure in the region was disrupted and VC tax-gathering, recruitment and political operations badly disorganized.

This breaking up of the Communist military and political structure in eastern Binh Dinh Province was remarkable because the French, during the First Indochina War, had never controlled any part of the region away from the immediate area of their forts. Part of Inter-Zone V, Binh Dinh Province was occupied by about 30,000 Viet Minh troops beginning in 1945, as soon as the Japanese occupation was relaxed at the end of WWII. Their power was demonstrated by the virtually complete destruction of the French Group Mobile 100 along Highway 19 between An Khe and Pleiku beginning on 24 June 1954. Of a force of nearly 3,500 men, almost all veterans of previous combat, the French lost nine hundred killed. They lost 85% of their tanks, armored cars and soft-skinned vehicles; they lost over half of their heavy weapons, machine guns and communications equipment and they lost all of their artillery. As much as the Dien Bien Phu debacle up north, the destruction of Group Mobile 100 signalled the end of French military power in Indochina.

This was the area that the 1st Cavalry Division was attempting to dominate in order to return political control and some sense of stability in the region to the South Vietnamese government. After the end of Operation Thayer II in early February the Division moved immediately into Operation Pershing on the 12th of the month. On that day 2/5 Cav, in coordination with 2/12 Cav, air assaulted into positions around Binh Phu village in the southern part of the Bong Son Plains a few kilometers north of the Bong Son River where the river met the sea. Surprised in place on this first day the Communist forces fought back taking a toll on aircraft especially. One resupply bird was shot down early in the day and the Battalion Command and Control Huey was hit as well as other supply choppers whenever they neared a unit on the ground. Resupply for some companies had to be accomplished with 1/5 Cav helicopters. During the day 1400 rounds of 105mm HE was fired in support of B Company alone.

C Company performed blocking operations and searched hamlets in the My An village area, about 4 kilometers northeast of LZ English. Two military-age male detainees were apprehended. The company also contributed a reinforced squad for security of the downed supply helicopter. Sniper fire continued as C Company moved toward their Night Defensive Position (NDP) at 1800 hours.

For the 2/5 Cav, Operation Pershing very quickly developed into an exercise in carefully searching for VC/NVA hiding places among the hamlets of the densely populated Bong Son Plains. With blocking forces set to prevent Communist exfiltration into the mountains, the daily routine of C Company and the other companies of the 2nd Battalion became a tedious chain of cordoning off and searching villages, paying particular attention to wells and tunnels as hiding places.

After having been caught by surprise on the first day of the operation, the Communists, understanding they could not be successful standing and fighting against the Cav, tried their best to avoid contact. C Company remained in the same area during the rest of February and had a measure of success in its mission despite not having any substantial contact with the enemy. As a matter of fact there was to be no serious heavy contact for the 2nd Battalion for almost another month. As the second half of February passed, C Company operated in an area of about 16 square kilometers to the north of the Bong Son River between Highway 1 and the coast.

The importance of searching tunnels and wells was so great that the activity was given a special name: Operation Mole. With the assistance of Vietnamese Popular Force guides, C Company worked its way through the plains area villages, apprehending detainees, capturing weapons, documents, food caches and other supplies. There were successful ambushes during the nights and occasional small, sharp firefights during the day.  Finding time to take a short "break" near the beach, C Company received flame thrower and 106mm recoilless rifle training. At the end of the month the company was engaged  as a blocking force along the base of the Nui Sui Lam (Mountain) at the southernmost reach of the Bong Son Plains while the rest of the 2nd Battalion tried to force the enemy out of hiding. ( 2000, Kenneth D. Burington.  Source Operation Pershing Combat After Action Report dated 31 May 1967)

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February 12-13

The 1st Platoon was  air assaulted into a strip at the southeastern tip of Dam Tra O (lake).   Their mission was to act as a blocking for D Company coming up from the south.  1st Squad, 1st Platoon, killed one NVA and wounded two more in the area of the church.  (Source: Tom Rutten)

From an email by Tom Rutten:

One officer was the rank of Lt. Col. And the other two were Majors in the NVA. I took the Chinese Pistol off the Lt.Col and wore it for months as a side arm. (This thing about the pistol and trying to get it registered is another whole story I'll write later.) We captured some of the most important documents off these guys the Cav had ever seen.

The funny thing about this action on the 12th and 13th and then 16th 17th is that none of the history write-ups have us doing anything during this time. We did two-a-day CA's, got hit one night by grenades (got two VC KIA, one trooper wounded) and were getting sniper fire where ever we humped. 


Click on Photo to See Larger Version

Courtesy Ken Burington

Tom Rutten standing next to NVA dead with Dam Tra O behind.

Comanche_Dam_Tro_O_NVA_KIA_1967_from_Rutten.jpg (42254 bytes)
Click on Photo to See Larger Version

Courtesy Tom Rutten

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February - Exact Date Unknown

Tom Rutten takes a break - - with a beer!  Taken on one of the many LZs C 2/5 worked out of during 1967.  Tom believes it may have been near an old Special Forces that had been turned over to ARVN forces.  The company had just completed a hard day of rappelling from slicks and training using road ladders from Hooks.

For those who don't know much the about daily life of the grunt in Vietnam, look in the lower right of the photo.  There is a short tin can, open at the top, with "beer opener" cuts in the side.  This was the little "field expedient" stove used daily.  By placing a blue heating tab inside the "stove", and your food on the top, you could have ham and lima beans, or hot dogs and beans just like Mama used to make.

Anyone know who the snoozing trooper might be?  One person thinks it might be Chris Gadsen, but another says it is not.   Please email the Webmaster if you think you might know.

Comanche_Tom_Rutten_1967.jpg (40678 bytes)
Click on photo to see larger version

Courtesy Tom Rutten

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February - Exact Date Unknown

Charlie Company operated around the beaches of Binh Dinh Province.  

Near right: John Wnek and John Licavoli wise-off for the camera.  It appears the company is checking out a village on the coast.  Note the barbed wire on the trees.

Far right: SP4 Dennis Kuzma is pictured as he listens to 4th Platoon's radio.

Comanche_Wnek_Licavoli_March_67_from_Ray_Long.jpg (56556 bytes)

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Comanche_Kuzma_at_Radio_1967_from_Long.jpg (19365 bytes)

Click on Photos to See Larger Version

Courtesy Ray "Tex" Long


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Updated September 13, 2006