The following are excerpts from after action reports(reports that start at unit level and are recorded in Army logs). The first one involves several units and was a major battle. Bravo Battery was in on this battle, however it was before my time with the unit. It surely gets across the intensity of combat. The third report is about a short time period of each battery in the 3/13th Arty, 25th Infantry Division. Next is a shortened report on the Cambodian incursion and the Battle at FSB Maury.
The most significant combat action during Operation JUNCTION CITY took place around Fire Support Base GOLD, 17 miles northwest of Tay Ninh. The fire base was occupied jointly by the 2d Battalion, 22d Infantry, of the 3d Brigade, 4th Division, and the headquarters and all firing batteries of the 2d Battalion, 77th Field Artillery. At 0640 on 21 March (1967) infantry patrols sweeping the area around GOLD made contact with elements of a Viet Cong force apparently preparing to attack the base. The contact prematurely triggered the enemy attack which began with heavy fire from recoilless rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and 60-mm and 82-mm mortars. At 0715 the Viet Cong launched a coordinated ground assault from the east, southeast and north with elements of five battalions under the control of the 272d Viet Cong Regiment. So violent was the assault that the enemy carried portions of the perimeter, but actions by the field artillery turned the tide. All batteries of the 2d Battalion, 77th Field Artillery, commanded by LTC John W. Vessey, engaged the enemy with over 1,000 rounds in direct fire including 30 rounds of Beehive, the largest number of these rounds fired in a single engagement to date. At the same time three batteries within range added their fire. The batteries included Battery C, 1st Battalion, 8th Field Artillery (105-mm Towed), to the south which delivered more than 1,000 rounds; Battery B, 3rd Battalion 13th Field Artillery (155-mm SP), which delivered almost 400 rounds; and a composite 8-inch and 175-mm battery from II Field Force Artillery to the south which provided additional support. Further fire support was provided by Air Force tactical air. During the attack two maneuver battalions of the 3d Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, were rushed to the scene, catching the enemy forces as they were attempting to withdra w and inflicting further casualties. The action in and around GOLD resulted in 635 Viet Cong killed (confirmed by body count) and seven captured with 65 crew-served weapons and 94 individual weapons. US losses were 31 killed and 109 wounded. The action was given the name Battle of Soui Tre after the fact.
FIELD ARTILLERY JOURNAL
by MG David E. Ott
On the morning of 11 May, Fire Support Base PIKE VI was occupied by Battery B, 6th Battalion, 77th Artillery (105-mm); Battery A, 1st Battalion, 8th Artillery (105-mm); and, Battery C, 3rd Battalion 13th Field Artillery (155-mm, SP). The commander set up the base using the valuable experience gained from the attack on MAURY I. The batteries entered the fire support base early in the afternoon, and a bulldozer immediately began constructing berms for the 155-mm howitzers. By nightfall only the turrets of the howitzers were exposed. The 105-mm batteries had been carefully positioned to allow maximum use of Beehive rounds, and two 105-mm howitzers, one from each battery, had been placed at strategic points along the perimeter some distance from the rest of the battery positions. Although the terrain was much the same as that at MAURY I, the nearby wood lines were covered by t wo attached Dusters. The li ght batteries enjoyed excellent fields of fire. The medium battery was positioned between the two light batteries and thus was able to support equally well in all directions.
At 0130 on 12 May 1968 the enemy attacked with a mortar barrage of approximately 400 rounds, all falling within 30-60 minutes. Once again, the enemy began a diversionary attack from the south. The Duster position on the southern tip of the base took 60-70 Viet Cong under fire with its M60 machinegun and 40-mm cannon. The crew managed to fire only 12 rounds of 40-mm ammunition, however, before the Duster was silenced by an RPG round. Leaving 16 enemy bodies in their wake, the crew fell back to a 105-mm howitzer pit directly to their rear. The enemy managed to reach the Duster, but small arms and a few well-placed Beehive rounds from the 105-mm turned him back.
As the main attack was starting from the west, artillery shells from adjacent units were already impacting around the perimeter. Support was called for and received from 155-mm howitzers of Battery B, 3rd Battalion 13th Field Artillery, near Saigon. The entire western approach was covered by a 105-mm battery which fired round after round of Beehive and time rounds, all with very short fuze settings, into the attacking enemy. The defense was entirely successful, and the attack ended in just two and one-half hours. Mop-up operations in daylight produced a body count of 110. Friendly force losses amounted to five killed and 30 wounded. Of these one killed and five wounded were artillerymen. No equipment was lost. The damaged Duster was easily repaired, and two vehicles sustained minor damage.
FIELD ARTILLERY JOURNAL
by MG David E. Ott
1 February through 30 April 1969. The mission assigned to Battery A was general support, reinforcing the fires of the 1st Battalion 8th Artillery. During this period Battery A received credit for 31 VC/NVA body count, 8 secondary explosions, 1 sampan sunk, 3 bunkers destroyed, and 80% of a bunker complex destroyed.
(b) Battery B had the primary mission of general support to the 25th Infantry Division from 1 January to 24 January 1969. On 3 January Battery B moved from Fire Support Base Austin (XT3631) to Fire Support Base Stoneman (XT3037) at which time they were extensively engaged in the Duffle Bag and Radar programs. On 18 January Battery B displaced to fire support Base Hampton from which they supported the Duffle Bag program along the Cambodian border to the extent of 600 to 700 rounds per night. Missions were also fired in support of radar-detected targets. On 20 January, Battery B was given the mission of direct support of the 3d Squadron 4th US Cavalry. Battery B supported the Cavalry in numerous contact missions. On many occasions a preparation was fired prior to the Cavalry entering a specific area. This was used very effectively to soften the enemy’ s position. The surveillanc e for the period of 25 January to April 3 1969 included a body count of 127 NVA KIA; 30 NVA wounded; numerous blood trails, and 15 bunkers, several machine gun positions, and 600 meters of trench line destroyed,. On 22 February, the battery displaced to Fire support Base Wood II (XT4638) and in this location supported the 3d Squadron 4th Cavalry in their operations in the Boi Loi Woods while simultaneously supporting the 2d Battalion 22nd Infantry in convoy security operations. The surveillance for the 2d 22d Infantry convoy operations during the period 22 February to 3 April included 35 NVA body count. On 3 April the battery returned to Fire Support Base Hampton (XT4124) and resumed their role of general support.
(c) Battery C remained at FSB Meade (XT 6011) during the reported period. Their mission was general support, reinforcing the fires of the 1st Battalion 8th Artillery. In addition to their primary mission, they were responsible for supporting the Lightning Combat Leadership Course at Cu Chi Base Camp (XT6515). This support consisted of firing missions for forward observer training.
(d) Battery D at FSB Stuart III (XT4919) had the primary mission of general support of the 25th Infantry Division for the reported period. While operating in this role Battery D fired numerous contact and Reconnaissance by fire Missions. The results credited to the battery during this period were 188 bunkers destroyed, 9 secondary explosions, 1 sampan sunk, 57 VC/NVA body count, 10 VC/NVA possible body count, 825 meters of tree line destroyed, 3 tunnels destroyed, 6 bunker complexes destroyed, 8 houses, 3 RPG launchers destroyed, 12 fighting positions destroyed.
The Cambodian Offensive- In the spring of 1970 the political atmosphere in Cambodia changed drastically and erupted into a violence which culminated in the overthrow of the Sihanouk regime. With the formation of the Lon Nol administration, the attitude of the Cambodian government changed completely; its hostility was directed away from the South Vietnamese and against the Communists. This reversal of position made possible the subsequent incursions into Cambodia. Intelligence reports had been indicating a massive logistics buildup in the Cambodian sanctuaries in the Military Region (MR) III area for some time. Evidence was strong that the Communists were planning a major offensive—possibly similar in intensity to the 1968 Tet offensive. In addition, military intelligence had pinpointed the location of the Central Office of South Vietnam (COSVN), the major North Vietnamese headquarters for South Vietnam, in the “Fish Hook” region of Cambodia. The intent of the Cambodian incursion was to forestall an enemy offensive, despoil the sanctuaries and, if possible, capture COSVN.
Ninety-four artillery pieces were positioned to support the initial phases of the attack: thirty-six 105-mm howitzers, forty-eight 155-mm howitzers, four 8-inch howitzers and six 175-mm guns. By 30 April (D -1), the IIFF heavy and medium artillery, the direct support artillery for the 3d Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, and one Vietnamese airborne artillery direct support battery were in position and prepared to support the operation. At 0600 on 1 May, D-day, an extensive 390-minute planned artillery and air preparation was initiated and a total of 2,436 artillery rounds was fired. These fires were effectively integrated with 48 tactical airstrikes to complete the D-day preparation. The total fire support delivered for D-day operations included 185 tactical air sorties, 31 B-52 missions and 5,460 artillery rounds.
During the period 2-5 May, the detailed fire support planning paid handsome dividends as many lucrative targets were engaged. The heavy concentration of cannon artillery and flexible fire support coordination allowed fires to be massed again and again with relative ease. Artillery moves to support advancing friendly forces began on 2 May and were subsequently made whenever necessary to insure continuous artillery coverage. IIFF Artillery units alone moved 198 times during the 60-day operation to maintain pace with the maneuver forces.
With the initiation of Operation TOAN THANG 45 (northeast of Bu Dop by the 2d Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division; in Base Area 354 by elements of the US 25th Infantry Division (our unit), and, in Base Area 350 by the Vietnamese 9th Regiment), fire support coordination activities were expanded but did not change significantly from the smooth-functioning procedures previously established. Positioning IIFF Artillery units centrally and well forward had facilitated the support of the additional maneuver units as they attacked into Base Areas 354, 707, 350 and 351. Except for a few batteries located in critical areas of III Corps, virtually all remaining units of IIFF Artillery were moved to the Cambodian border or across it.
The Cambodian incursion was an overwhelming success in material captured or destroyed. During the two-month assault, friendly units expended 847,558 artillery rounds.During the Cambodian invasion, 11,362 enemy soldiers were killed and over 2,000 captured.
FIELD ARTILLERY JOURNAL
by MG David E. Ott
Battle Of FSB Maury
Batteries B and C (105-mm), 7th Battalion, 11th Artillery, and Battery A (155-mm), SP, 3d Battalion, 13th Artillery, were occupying MAURY I, a 25th Infantry Division Artillery firebase. Although the base was located in what was probably the most available area, bamboo thickets and wood lines surrounded the clearing. The three field artillery batteries had been arranged in a triangle within the perimeter, with one battery at each point. The 155-mm battery was to the west, and the 105-mm batteries were to the northeast and southeast.
On the night of 9 May 68, MAURY I came under heavy attack. The enemy began his attack at 0200 with an intense mortar and RPG (Russian-made antitank grenade) barrage. He launched a diversionary attack against the northeastern and southwestern portions of the perimeter followed by the main attack directed against the eastern portion of the triangle, where the 155-mm battery was located less than 200 meters from the tree line.
The 155-mm battery, between the two 105-mm batteries and the attacking enemy, took the brunt of the attack. The RPG fire had a devastating effect on the 155-mm howitzers. At 0330 an attempt was made to move two 105-mm howitzers to the southwestern side of the perimeter to aid the medium battery. By this time, only one of the 155-mm howitzers was serviceable; of the others, three had been completely destroyed, as had two M548 ammunition vehicles. Flareships and gunships arrived by 0330 and Air Force fighter aircraft by 0500. At 0530 a relief element of the 4th Battalion, 23d Infantry (Mechanized), arrived and battered its way into the beleaguered base. The attack was finally repulsed.
All Beehive ammunition had been expended but, because of the speed and accuracy of the assault against the medium battery, less than 10 rounds of 155-mm ammunition had been fired before the destruction of the howitzers. Eighteen Viet Cong were confirmed dead, and friendly losses numbered 10 killed and 66 wounded. Four men died of wounds received in battle. These, along with seven others killed and 39 wounded, were artillerymen. Five M109 howitzers were destroyed: one serviceable howitzer was later pieced together from two damaged howitzers. Two M548s were destroyed, and one 5-ton truck was severely damaged. Fourteen M16 rifles were either lost or destroyed.
FIELD ARTILLERY JOURNAL
May – June 1976
by MG David E. Ott