Vol 1 No. 11 TROPIC LIGHTNING NEWS May 13, 1966
|Unit Page||Unit Page||Unit Page||Unit Page|
|1st Bde Photos 4||1/27 8||25th Med Bn Photos 7||4/23 1|
|1st Bde 4||2/14 1||25th Med Bn 8||65th Engr 7|
|1st Bde Photos 4||2/27 3||25th Replacement Photo 2||69th Armor 3|
|1/5 3||2/27 7||3rd Bde Photo 1||69th Armor Photo 6|
|1/5 6||2/27 8||3/4 Cav 7||69th Armor 8|
|1/5 Photo 6||2/27 8||3/4 Cav 8||7/11 Arty 1|
|1/5 7||25th Avn Bn 1||3/13 Arty 6||Air Force Photo 3|
|1/5 8||25th Band 3||3/13 Arty 7||Cu Chi Tunnels 8|
|1/5 8||25th Med Bn 3||3/13 Arty Photo 7||Helping Hand 7|
|1/8 Arty 3||25th Med Bn 6||4/9 1||Helping Hand Photos 7|
|1/27 1||25th Med Bn 7||4/9 1||USO Show 8|
[The 1966 Vietnam issues of Tropic Lightning News were published in Saigon, and are of lower quality than later years that were printed in Japan. Over the years the photographs and text have faded and it has been difficult to reproduce them. Even when the photos are unclear, I have been included them to give a sense of the activities in the Division.]
1/27th Peach Stone Blotches Viet Cong
A division squad-sized ambush, on a patrol named "Peach," shook the bushes near an open field south of Xom My Tau hamlet on operation Maili and found a crop of Viet Cong ready for picking.
A total of six VC were killed in the action, bringing the totals for the operation to 13.
Claymore mines had been positioned on the perimeter of the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, and the men had dug in behind the dikes of the rice paddies.
All was quiet throughout the battalion area until about 1:30 a.m., when a stretch of the Duc Lap perimeter was hit by rifle grenades. At first, it appeared to be a major assault, but a short half hour later, when "Peach" was hit, the men manning the command post realized the first attack had been just a diversionary measure.
"We all felt the ambush would make contact," said PFC George Quiles, of Santuerce, P.R., "but we didn't figure it would be like this."
The Viet Cong opened up on the squad with small arms and automatic weapons fire. The squad, according to Quiles, returned the fire with an M-60 machine gun and automatic rifles.
Then, following a barrage of rifle grenades, the Viet Cong charged the squad. They were driven back when the "Wolfhounds" cut loose with their defensive ring of Claymore mines. But they stayed back only long enough to regroup, and at 2:20 a.m., they charged again.
Lieutenant William Lawless, an artillery forward observer from Pelzer, S.C., called in 81mm mortar and artillery fire to within 30 yards of the American forces. This repelled the charge for a second time.
The battle lasted only 35 minutes, ending when a reinforced cavalry platoon rolled up and scattered the VC, who dragged their dead, their wounded and their weapons into the woods.
Six VC Die
1st Bde. Hits Cong
Elements of 1st Brigade, the newest addition to division forces at Cu Chi, killed six Viet Cong in small actions during their first six days in base camp.
Within 24 hours after the arrival of the brigade's three infantry battalions, soldiers from each unit were manning the perimeter. At the same time, tent kits, mess facilities, showers, and all the other things necessary for a new base camp were being constructed. And the soldiers of the 1st Bde. discovered how little time it takes to become oriented to their new way of life in Vietnam.
The brigade includes 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John M. Schultz; 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry ("Manchu"), commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Shepherd H. Booth, and 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry ("Tomahawks"), under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Michael Barszcz.
Providing artillery support for the brigade is the 7th Battalion, 11th Artillery, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel William D. Brown.
Of the six VC killed by 1st Bde. elements, half of them have been accounted for by the 4/9th on separate ambush patrols just outside the base camp. A fourth was killed in a similar action by soldiers of the 2/14th.
Just before midnight on May 5, a forward observer from 7/11th Arty. spotted several Viet Cong approaching his area of responsibility and quickly called in 105mm artillery, killing two of the enemy with direct fire.
Two of the infantry battalions completed the long trek to South Vietnam from Alaska. The 4/9th and 4/23rd Inf. joined the division in February in preparation for their subsequent move to Vietnam.
|DETAINED - A military intelligence interrogator with 3rd Brigade gives food to a wounded North Vietnamese Army soldier captured during a recent operation. Brigade soldiers gave the prisoner food and medical treatment. (Photo by Blue)|
4/9th Begins Urban Renewal
Ready to greet all visitors to the base camp of the newly arrived 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry ("Tomahawks"), is perhaps the most inviting advertisement in Cu Chi.
The sign reads, "Under Construction; Tomahawk Terrace."
According to further details on the advertisement, the construction project is an "LBJ Urban Renewal Project" with "All Electric Gold Medalion Homes."
And they're all "FHA/VA Approved" with "No Money Down" and "12 Months to Pay."
The contractor, Lieutenant Colonel Mike Barazcz, who is also the 4/23rd commander, says, "Always look for the symbol of quality." That symbol of quality is, of course, the battalion crest.
Although the battalion's urban renewal project just six days ago got underway when the "Tomahawks" arrived at Cu Chi, the men are now on the "ground floor."
More than 60 tent kits were quickly erected to provide billeting space for all the men in the battalion to get them off the ground and into a semi-permanent type structure.
All they need now are the electrical appliances and the big, gold seal of approval.
UH1B's Score First Two VC Killed in V-N
A light fire team from B Company, 25th Aviation Battalion, killed two Viet Cong in the vicinity of Duc Hoa while returning to the division's base camp Sunday night.
They were the first kills for the UH1B armed helicopters from 25th Avn. Bn. since that unit became operational over a week ago.
The "gunships," on their way back from a mission with 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 5th Infantry, on Highway 1, monitored a radio call that another light fire team nearby had spotted three VC in foxholes and had expended all their ammunition.
Chief Warrant Officer Paul L. Shaw, pilot on one of the gunships, said they made a quick call to see if they could offer assistance. The choppers then engaged the VC, killing two.
C/S Commends Division
Defense Yeas Congressional Pay Measure
The 3.2 per cent pay increase for uniformed services personnel approved unanimously by the House Armed Services Committee has received support of Department of Defense manpower officials.
The proposed increase would be effective July 1.
Rep. L. Mendel Rivers (D-S.C.), said the Executive Branch will not oppose the pay hike and agrees such an "increase in pay ... would be comparable to that recently recommended for civilian employees."
The legislation authorizing the increase is incorporated in a procurement authorization bill now under consideration by the committee. (AFNB)
Page 2 TROPIC LIGHTNING NEWS May 13, 1966
Save Trouble: Know Customs Laws
The cameras, tape recorders, clothing, yards of material, and high fidelity electronic equipment available to the serviceman overseas are very appealing and enjoyable to use. But they can become a source of major difficulty to the service member returning to the United States or sending them back to friends and relatives as gifts when he attempts to import them through U.S. Customs.
Recent changes in Customs regulations now permit the importation of $50 worth of merchandise duty free IF the items were purchased in a military exchange. While Customs officials have yet to clarify the point, presumably the former, $10, duty-free limit still applies to goods purchased from the Vietnamese and other economies.
Regulations concerning the mailing of merchandise obtained outside the United States are complicated, frequently imposing restrictions not found when items are personally taken into the country.
Such items as Nikon and Pentax cameras, for example, may not, under any circumstances, be mailed into the United States without the written permission of the trademark holder. It has been the unhappy experience of foreign travelers, on occasion, to attempt mailing restricted items into the United States, only to have Customs officials confiscate them. Not infrequently in such cases, the manufacturer will grant permission to individuals to import the merchandise but the process is time consuming and there is no guarantee that permission to import will be granted.
When Customs does impound such illegally imported goods, the traveler is given the choice of re-exporting the item, to be sold outside the United States, or obtaining the trademark holder's permission. In lieu of either of the two alternatives, Customs will dispose of the merchandise in accordance with existing regulations.
Of interest to the serviceman is a provision of the Tariff Act which permits individuals on Government business outside the United States for more than 140 days to import their personal effects and household goods duty free - even if the merchandise has been acquired abroad. Returning service personnel should carry a set of orders indicating that they have been on duty in another country for the required period or longer.
Under no circumstances may merchandise manufactured in Red China be imported into the United States. The serviceman traveling to the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong, therefore, would be well advised to obtain a certificate of manufacture indicating the place where goods were purchased. If Customs officials have any suspicion concerning the origin of your merchandise, they could easily confiscate the product - and you will lose both the merchandise and the money you have invested.
Many cameras manufactured in Japan - again notably the Nikon and Pentax - are restricted in quantity. Travelers returning to the United States may import one of each camera no more frequently than every 30 days. The camera must be for personal use and may not be resold for a period of one year after importation.
With 1965 changes in Customs laws, the so-called baggage to follow privilege was eliminated. Formerly, returning Americans could ship personal possessions into the United States and include them in their basic, $100 exemption merely by labeling the package, "Unaccompanied baggage of returning resident." Mail so labeled was held by Customs inspectors for inclusion under the basic allowance.
Now, however, any merchandise so shipped is liable for Customs duty and may not be included in the basic exemption. If you expect the material to reach its destination before your own return to the United States, it would be well to obtain a Lay Order, which will indicate to Customs you will be returning after the minimum five days which officials customarily hold imported merchandise. Normally, your packages will be held for five days automatically before being transferred to a bonded warehouse for storage, with storage charges accruing at the Owner's expense.
|BRONZE STAR MEDAL|
1st Lt. James V. Accardi, 1/8th Arty.
Capt. Spencer B. King, Co. D, 25th Med. Bn.
Capt. Sandy E. Livengood Jr., HHC, 2nd Bde.
PFC Herman Mounts Jr., Btry. C, 1/8th Arty.
Sp4 Robert Q. Roentsch, HHC, 2/27th Inf.
WO Thomas A. Carlson, HHC, 2nd Bde.
Capt. Robert A. Cartmill, HHC, 2nd Bde.
WO James R. Hamilton, HHC, 2nd Bde.
CWO Robert H. Iwamasa, HHC, 2nd Bde.
Capt. John W. Kearns, HH and S Btry., 1/8th Arty.
Sgt. John E. Kelly, HH and S Btry., 1/18th Arty.
Capt. Billy R. Langley, HHC, 2nd Bde.
WO Jeareld A. Miller, HHC, 2nd Bde.
Capt.William F.Muhlenfeld, HH and S Btry.,1/8th Arty.
Capt. Charles D. Pauik, HH and S Btry., 1/8th Arty.
Capt. John A.Scattergood, HH and S Btry., 1/18 Arty.
CWO Paul L. Shaw, HHC, 2nd Bde.
Lt. Col. Robert G.Walker, HH and S Btry,1/18th Arty.
AIR MEDAL (FIRST OAK LEAF CLUSTER)
WO Thomas A. Carlson, HHC, 2nd Bde.
WO James R. Hamilton, HHC, 2nd Bde.
CWO Robert H. Iwamasa, HHC, 2nd Bde.
WO Jeareld A. Miller, HHC, 2nd Bde.
PFC Vincent A. Budano, Co. Bn, 2/27th Inf.
PFC Vincente Cruz, Co. B, 2/27th Inf.
Capt. William H. Gavan, Co. C, 2/27th Inf.
PFC Charles E. Hollenbauch, Co. C, 2/27th Inf.
PFC Jesse A. Howe, Co. C, 2/27th Inf.
Sgt. Fred G. Hudgeons, Co. B. 2/27th Inf.
Sp4 Thomas J. Mason, Co. A 2/27th Inf.
2nd Lt. Harry T. Rosenheim III, Co. C, 2/27th Inf.
PFC William H. Walker. Co. C, 2/27th Inf.
PFC Larry F. Weller, Co. A, 2/27th Inf.
Viet Cong Liabilities on Increase
In little more than five years the Viet Cong armed forces have grown from an essentially guerrilla army to one that includes regiments of uniformed, well-equipped, highly foot mobile regulars capable of engaging in conventional operations of limited duration. Concurrently, their civil organization has grown from a mere shadow to one of considerable substance, which in some provinces collects almost four times as much taxes as does the Republic of South Vietnam.
The Communist Party, under its cover name of the People's Revolutionary Party, has expanded the control it exercises on behalf of North Vietnam, the so-called Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Substantial quantities of portable war materials have been brought in to South Vietnam by land and sea, as well as 8,000 to 10,000 North Vietnamese soldiers in the year 1964 alone. The Communist buildup in the south is continuing.
As Viet Cong resources and capabilities have grown, so have their liabilities. They have been forced to draft teenagers directly into their regular units. They have felt obliged to redouble their rates of taxation and increase their other demands on the civilians in areas under their influence. Logistics requirements for food as well as weapons have greatly increased. Even regular units spent much of their time in producing their own food until 1964, a practice which increased air surveillance may render unprofitable.
Most significant, and most dangerous for both sides, the Viet Cong pretense of being truly a South Vietnam "people's army" is rapidly being destroyed by the introduction on a growing scale of North Vietnamese forces and equipment - and by their own stepped up actions as well. If this effort to achieve a quick victory fails, as our increasing support of the free Vietnamese is intended to assure, they say they are quite prepared to continue for 10 to 20 years if necessary and possible.
The war in Vietnam "is a different kind of war" said President Johnson on July 28, 1965.
"There are no marching armies or solemn declarations. Some citizens of South Vietnam, at times with understandable grievances, have joined in the attack on their own government. But we must not let this mask the central fact that this is really war. It is guided by North Vietnam and it is spurred by Communist China. Its goal is to conquer the South, to defeat American power and to extend the Asiatic dominion of communism."
The Viet Cong is a tough enemy, but no tougher than his opponents. He is not a superman, nor is he invincible. It is impossible to predict how long it will take, but the Republic of Vietnam and the United States are committed to stopping his aggression.
Our military effort in Vietnam is an essential element in achieving the objectives of freedom, peace and progress in this war-torn country, which has fought so long and valiantly for these goals.
|TRACKS - Captain Richard R. Page, of Beverly, Mass., reads his promotion orders as Lieutenant Colonel Herbert L. Forsythe, division adjutant general, pins on the captain bars during ceremonies at the division base camp. Capt. Page is assistant commander of the 25th Replacement Detachment. (Photo by Park)|
|The TROPIC LIGHTNING NEWS is an
authorized publication of the 25th Infantry Division. It is published
weekly for all division units in the Republic of Vietnam by the
Information Office, 25th Infantry Division, APO U.S. Forces 96225. Army
News Features, Army Photo Features and Armed Forces Press Service material
are used. Views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the
Department of the Army. Printed in Saigon, Vietnam, by Dai Doan Ket
Maj. Gen. Fred C. Weyand . . . . Commanding General
Maj. William C. Shepard . . . . . . Information Officer
2nd Lt. Patrick J. McKeand . . . Officer-in-Charge
Sp5 Dale P. Kemery . . . . . . . . . Editor
Page 3 TROPIC LIGHTNING NEWS May 13, 1966
Traveling Priest Gets Quick Praise
In a tent that serves as a mess hall three times a day, 12 men knelt to pray. It was four o'clock on Wednesday afternoon and they were attending mass in the field.
Chaplain (Major) Maurice Errico, Division Artillery chaplain, was holding mass for the men of Company A, 1st Battalion, 8th Artillery, who were unable to attend church on Sunday because they were on an operation.
Chaplain Errico leaves the field on weekends to say mass for the many soldiers at the division's base camp.
During the week, Father Errico spends his mornings with Captain Ted Tomkiewicz, battalion surgeon, 3rd Battalion, 13th Artillery, on Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) visits. "I like to talk to the children," explains Chaplain Errico. "Some of them are very bright."
When Chaplain Errico isn't out on a MEDCAP mission, he walks around the camp and chats with the men.
"It's good to see Father out here," said one soldier. "He makes us all feel better."
Two New AIT Bdes. Formed At Two Posts
The Army has announced further expansion of its training base by establishing of its training base by establishing two advanced individual training brigades, infantry, at Ft. McClellan, Ala.. and Ft. Lewis, Wash., in September.
Each new brigade will begin receiving trainees at the rate of approximately 200 weekly and have a training capacity of about 2.000.
The new brigades will be organized to train infantry soldiers in weapons and tactics following the initial eight-week period of basic combat training.
Such training is currently conducted at Ft. Dix, N.J., Ft. Jackson, S.C., and Ft. Ord, Calif. In addition, special Southeast Asia-oriented infantry advanced individual training is conducted at Ft. Gordon, Ga., and Ft. Polk, La. (AFNB)
5th Mech. ABCs Teach V.C. How
The ABCs of the 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 5th Infantry, are busy teaching the VC the ABCs of night ambushing.
All three letter companies of 1/5th, currently on operation Lihue northwest of Cu Chi, are conducting night classes in the field on their ambush techniques.
The lesson plan for the classes follows no set pattern, and scheduling has been sporadic lately. Although no invitations have been extended, the VC haven't been late for class within the last few days. Companies A and B convinced four Viet Cong on two separate occasions how effective their classes are, and Company C followed later by convincing two more.
During the previous day, Company C gave an ambush lesson to six VC. Of the 12 uninvited guests, none survived.
|Technical Sergeant Donald Kerry, of Bloom field, N.J., takes the oath of enlistment in ceremonies at Cu Chi. Administering the oath is Air Force Major Gordon K. Hancock, Air Force liaison officer to the division. The enlistment was the first for the Air Force at Cu Chi. (Photo by Pardue)|
69th Armor Dulls Communist Scythe
American soldiers often have found that the most effective weapons of the Viet Cong are mines and booby traps, placed inconspicuously to increase the hazards of advancing on the ground.
Major Teddy A. Ritchey, operations officer for 69th Armor, is convinced his unit has the answer to this problem.
He says "Since our arrival at Cu Chi, our tanks, functioning with the infantry in mutually supporting teams, have been extremely successful, primarily because of the armor protection and the mobility of the tanks, and the very able protection given by the attached infantry.
It often was discussed whether or not armor would prove successful in the rugged terrain in Vietnam. Since its arrival, 69th Armor has dispelled many of these doubts by showing that tanks combined with infantry provide a perfect search-and-destroy team.
A constant danger to any unit fighting in the jungles of Vietnam is the sniper. Maj. Ritchey says of this, "Tankers are much less susceptible to sniper fire by virtue of the armor protection of the tank."
Tanks also afford shelter for the attached infantry by periodically firing canister charges to cover the perimeter. The canister is equivalent to a shotgun shell two feet long and three and a half inches in diameter.
Since the inception of this tactic, we haven't been bothered with snipers," says Maj. Ritchey.
"During all operations and particularly on the brigade size operation Circle Pines, we have encountered Viet Cong mine resistance. Experience quickly taught the tanker to avoid established roads and vehicle tracks over four hours old and to track the vehicle ahead. The VC made an all-out mining effort to stop movement during Circle Pines but knowledge and hard work by tank battalion maintenance crews enabled the battalion to move and never leave behind a damaged vehicle.
The Armor has shown that the job can be accomplished. But more important, they have shown that they can do it without losing American lives.
From 2nd Bde. Band
Vinh Cu Hears U.S. Music
It could have been Main Street, U.S.A. The 18-man band paraded exuberantly down the street. The children gathered around wide-eyed and listened to the marching music of John Phillip Sousa.
It could have been Main Street, U.S.A., but it wasn't.
It was just the dilapidated road that runs through Vinh Cu, a shabby Vietnamese village just outside the eastern perimeter of the division's base camp.
In the best fatigues they could muster, the 2nd Brigade band marched into the village, which was at one time almost 100 per cent Viet Cong, and did a little bit of community relations.
Starting at one end of the village, they played Sousa's "Ameriean Patrol" and "Semper Fidelis" and the kids flocked around. Everyone, even Vietnamese children, loves a parade. Some dressed for the occasion; others didn't dress at all.
Twenty minutes later, the bandmaster, Staff Sergeant Donald Switzer, of Petrolia, Pa., an overnight Pied Piper, marched his charmers into a square next to the village school.
There they played "Washington Post," "Father of Victory" and "Indiana State Board," and the children applauded wildly. Old men on bikes stopped to watch, and workers put their baskets on the ground for a moment to catch a glimpse.
Meanwhile, military police, with loaded rifles, insured the safety of the gathering.
A few minutes later, the band played its last number, the children again clapped and it began to rain. Concert postponed due to inclement weather.
Urgent Call Gets Fast Aid
The initial request indicated the operation was a matter of life and death, and within minutes Captain Robert M. Larkin, Company B, 25th Medical Battalion, put aside his normal practice at 3rd Brigade's base camp and was on his way.
Capt. Larkin, of Scranton, Pa., had been called upon to perform surgery on an elderly Montagnard woman at the Minh Qui Hospital of Kontum.
The request was made by Doctor Patricia Smith, an American from the state of Washington, who had established the hospital seven years ago. The woman was suffering from heavy internal bleeding.
A week after the operation, Doctor Larkin returned to the hospital to see how his patient was getting along.
"She's going to be all right," Doctor Larkin said. "All indications are that she will be fully recovered very soon."
The operation was one of many civic action projects conducted by the 3rd Bde. during operation Longfellow in Kontum Province.
Zip Gun Experts Think VC's Are No. 10
It could have been a back alley in Chicago or New York. But it was on the "island" of Xom Moi, a tree-covered hill surrounded by flat rice paddies, that the men of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry, discovered a cache of unusual small arms.
"They're lousy," said a voice with the distinctive Bronx twang.
"Man, back on the street those wouldn't have lasted a day," said another soldier, who admitted he was from the Windy City.
What did they find in the spider hole?
"Eight Viet Cong zip guns," said the platoon sergeant.
"Hey," said one soldier, "don't write that. I wouldn't even dignify 'em by calling 'em zip guns. They're not even made right."
Most of the rusted weapons had wooden stocks and a spring-powered nail for a firing pin. They were thought to be .32 caliber weapons.
"Some Charlie was really trying," said the Bronx Wolfhound. "He even tried to put a trigger on his."
Page 4 TROPIC LIGHTNING NEWS May 13, 1966
|Sea journey ends|
Into landing craft...
And move out
|General William C. Westmoreland, Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, discusses 1st Brigade deployment with Brigade Commander Colonel William B. Sandlin, Jr.|
6000-Mile Ride Ends
The division's 1st Brigade landed at the South China Sea port of Vung Tau
last week, completing the 6,000-mile, four-month move from Hawaii to Vietnam.
Commanded by Colonel William B. Sandlin, Jr., the brigade was transported to Southeast Asia aboard the USNS GEN. NELSON M. WALKER, landing at the same port where 2nd Brigade put ashore in January.
The arrival also marked the completion of a 9,000-mile trip begun by 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry and 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry, both of which were assigned until January, when they became part of the "Tropic Lightning" Division.
Other brigade units included the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry (the 1st Battalion was deployed with the 4th Brigade to Pleiku in December 1965), and 7th Battalion, 11th Infantry.
Shortly after debarking, the units were airlifted to Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base aboard C-130 aircraft and then transported by convoy to the division's Cu Chi base camp.
|Onto Vietnamese Soil|
|...and truck to Cu Chi|
Page 6 TROPIC LIGHTNING NEWS May 13, 1966
McLightning Looks for Mortars at 3/13 Arty
By Pvt. McLightning
Have you ever been under a Viet Cong mortar attack? I haven't and I went looking for one yesterday.
I don't have the lemming's urge to die but I wanted to be able to report what it is like.
I found the perfect place to go: C Battery, 3rd Battalion, 13th Artillery, on operation Fast Draw near the village of Go Da Hau.
Actually the battery has set up firing positions and housekeeping in the Trang Vang Regional Forces camp some two and a half miles southeast of the village.
The floor of the helicopter was covered with boxes of steaks and I was glad I would be there for supper. The resupply ship was also bringing in four chunks of ice. No slouches, these artillerymen.
The reports I'd read showed that the battery had been mortared last night and the night before that. Chances were good they would be hit again.
Captain George Price, from Arlington, Va., battery commander, was looking into a can of beer and talking with a Special Forces captain who wanted some artillery support for his next operation. "Okay, you've got two guns. We'll meet you at the entrance to your camp tomorrow at 0700."
The steaks came and so did darkness and with the darkness the Vietnamese interpreter. "We get mortars again tonight," he announced.
The conversation continued with the fact that a regional forces patrol had spotted some 200 VC with mortars moving into position close to the camp. That started the action.
1900 - the map is laid on the mess table and three VC positions are pinpointed. Coordinates are recorded and sent by messenger to the fire direction center.
1905 - the chart operators and computers start their work to get the firing data to send to the guns. Clearance to fire is requested from higher headquarters.
1912 - The fire commands are being sent to the battery with a 'do not load.' The area has not yet been cleared.
1916 - Clearance comes. "Battery one volley, elevation 475." The thump of the big shells being loaded echoes throughout the camp.
1919 - The second set of data is being placed on the scales and another and then another target is taken under fire.
1923 - "End of mission."
Twenty rounds in all were fired and the silence in the camp is broken by Capt. Price's voice saying, "The trouble with firing like that is you never know what you hit."
I couldn't believe it when the first sergeant jabbed me in the side, "Get up, it's six o'clock." Evidently the artillery had done its job on the mortars.
Two of the self-propelled howitzers were lining up on the road waiting for the members of the section to return from chow. At 6:45 we started moving, linked with the Special Forces captain and his men and headed towards Cambodia.
The position area looked like a picnic grounds. A small palm grove provided the shade and cool breeze carried away the smoke and dust caused by the big guns' firing.
Eighty yards away was an old French fortress still being used by the popular forces in the area. The western part of our perimeter looked across a long, open field directly into Cambodia.
PFC Harold Erwin Jr., from Plaquemine, La., scanned the area with his binoculars.
"I've been watching that area where the smoke is," he said, pointing to the southwest, "but nothing seems to be moving. I'm going to keep my eye on it."
As in most artillery operations, today's only contact with the enemy was made through the infantryman's radio. Six missions are fired as the forces sweep through their area and then the radio message says they are coming back in.
"Close station, march order." the magic command that sets everyone moving, echoes throughout the grove.
Ammunition and section equipment are loaded onto the vehicles. The portable antenna comes down. By the time the OH-23 helicopter that I'm going to fly back in is ready to go the column is on the road and heading home.
Back at Trang Vang, Captain Price asks, "Well do you want to stay for tonight's mortar attack?" I quickly figure all the odds and decide that C Battery won't get hit tonight.
I leave. They get hit again.
|NO CHANGE - Despite modern equipment like the tank from 69th Armor (background), the soldier of today still has the difficult task of digging a foxhole for his protection. Here, Specialist Four Theodore Wright, of Linden, N.J., digs his home for the night as his unit, Company C, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, moves into their base camp area during operation Maili. (Photo by Carollo)|
PIASTRE CONVERSION CHART
The following table lists Vietnamese piastre equivalents to United States dollars.
Mail Continues Flowing, Now to 25th Med. Bn.
Mail call has taken on a special meaning for PFC John Briegen, Company C, 25th Medical Battalion. A few days ago, he received a large Manila envelope with no return address. He opened it to discover 65 letters from the fourth graders at St. John the Baptist School in Hyattsville, Md.
Brieger's sister, Ann Williams, a teacher at the school, took over both fourth grade classes on April 18. She told the story of the conflict in Vietnam and of her brother's role in it, suggesting that as a project, the class might wish to write to him.
What did the fourth graders write? They wrote about spring, and the cherry blossom parade in nearby Washington, D.C., about the beginning of the baseball season, and the demise of the Washington Senators. They wrote about themselves, and the activities that fill their lives; about the war in Vietnam, and their concern for the servicemen involved.
One girl wrote, "l hope you have been getting enough of these things: food, water, shelter, and most of all rest, because without that you cannot do good among your fellow man. When you are resting, be sure you are not getting cold."
One boy devoted his entire letter to the current fad centering on the Batman TV series and ended by promising to send Brieger "Bat-cards, Batrings, and Bat-pitchers."
Another girl wrote, "I bet your sergeant yells at you when he gets mad. I don't blame him getting mad because he is a nice fellow. I would like him to be my sergeant."
VC Bikes Help PX Runs
It may not be as glamorous as bringing home an enemy weapon, but both Sergeant Larry Estep, of Yakima, Wash., and Specialist Four Harold D. Artrip, of Grundy. Va., are satisfied with their war souvenirs - two Viet Cong bicycles.
During operation Circle Pines in the Ho Bo Woods area, the two, both members of Company A of the lst Battalion (Mechanized), 5th Infantry, found three bicycles, one of which was in near-perfect condition. The other two were combined to make one bicycle.
With transportation still difficult to find at Cu Chi, the bicycles came in handy. They're used by the first platoon for trips to the PX and showers.
"It's a long way to the showers," Sgt. Estep said. "It's not as good as an American bike. It's a little bit flimsy, but it beats walking."
Sergeant Estep says one of the tires must have a slow leak because they have to add air every two weeks, but he reports the bell works fine.
"I was over at one of the artillery units last night and a sergeant offered me $30 for it," he said. "I told him it was no deal. It's worth more than $30 to me just to go to the PX."
Sgt. Estep thinks he probably won't have much trouble getting parts. Besides Viet Cong and VC weapons, on operations the "Bobcats' are now on the lookout for bicycles.
|WHEELS - Sp4 Harold D. Artrip (l.) and Sqt. Larry Estep peddle toward the 2nd Bde. PX on their war souvenirs - VC bicycles. (Photo by Kleinberg)|
Page 7 TROPIC LIGHTNING NEWS May 13, 1966
"Tropic Lightning Helping Hand"
|LOCAL CONSTRUCTION - Two Vietnamese help Staff Sergeant Nathaniel Prince construct shelves on which clothing and other donated articles from "Tropic Lightning Helping Hand" will be stored. (Photo by Pardue)|
|CATALOGUING - Under the direction of Specialist Four Jerome C. Conner, Vietnamese workers sort clothing donated to the Helping Hand Hand Project. (Photo by Pardue)|
|FITTING - Sp4 Conner holds up blouse to size Vietnamese children at the division Helping Hand Operations Center at Cu Chi. (Photo by Pardue)|
"Tropic Lightning" Here to Help
There's a new twist in division combat operations. Troopers from the division's line outfits are packing up more than guns and ammunition in preparation for an extended stay in the field.
They're taking extra soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, clothing, toys and all sorts of other goodies donated by the people of Hawaii to assist the men in making friends with the Vietnamese.
When there's a lull in the action, division soldiers call in the villagers from the surrounding area. They pass out the soap and toothpaste and show the Vietnamese how to use the items properly.
These civic action programs are all part of "Operation Helping Hand," a project initiated in the Aloha State.
During the last week alone, over 1,700 Vietnamese in six different villages received Helping Hand items.
Elements of the division conducting Helping Hand civic action programs in villages outside the base camp include Support Command; 3rd Battalion, 13th Artillery; 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry; 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry; 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 5th Infantry, and 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry.
Among the villages of Hau Nghia Province given a helping hand were Tan An Hoi, Bac Ha, Ap Duc Hoa and Duc Hanh. The Helping Hand program has also been extended to the villagers of Go Dau Ha in Tay Ninh Province.
In addition to the Helping Hand civic action programs in the field, the division carried out 15 Medical Civic Action Programs (MEDCAP) in 10 Vietnamese villages.
Medical assistance was given to 835 persons by medics from Division Artillery; 25th Medical Battalion; 3/13th Arty.; 1/27th Inf.; 2/27th Inf.; 1/5th Mech.; and 3/4 Cav.
Nurses from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) have joined the 27th Infantry "Wolfhounds" in the first combined U.S.-ARVN civic action program in the Cu Chi area on operation Maili. MEDCAPs are being conducted daily in the area of operation.
Vietnamese villages benefiting from the division MEDCAPs include Tan An Hoi, Bao Trai, Go Dau Ha, Duc Hanh 'A' and 'B', Duc Lap, Ap Duc Hoa, Tan Phu Trung, Ap Dong Hua and Bac Ha.
In other civic action programs, English classes are being conducted for 15 students in the village of Tan An Hoi. Among the students is the village chief of Tan An Hoi.
Instruction is being given by Captain Charles P. Rae, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, Div. Arty.
"Tropic Lightning" troops from the 3/13th Arty. have recently joined with the people of Tan An Hoi in a project to build a playground for the Cu Chi area. The 65th Engineers are combining forces with Div. Arty. to improve the sanitary conditions in the Cu Chi area.
"Helping Hand" programs, MFDCAPs and other assistance projects conducted by the 25th Division, including those carried out during combat operations in the field, are proving daily the genuine interest and concern of the "Tropic Lightning" soldier for the people of Vietnam.
Medical Civic Action Program
|ROUTINE - PFC Leon Monty, a medical corpsman with 3rd Battalion, 13th Artillery, cleans the sores on a Vietnamese boy's leg during a recent Medical Civic Action Program visit in Duc Lap, not far from Cu Chi. (Photo by Pardue)|
|OOOOOO! - A doctor, interpreter and a frightened, little Tan An Hoi villager struggle through an ear check-up at a recent Medical Civic Action Program visit. Captain John O'Neal, one of 25th Medical Battalion's doctors, makes the check with assistance supplied by 1st Lieutenant Wilbur Addison, also of 25th Med. Bn.|
Page 8 TROPIC LIGHTNING NEWS May 13, 1966
22 Captives Taken in Kahala
Final statistics on the division's operation Kahala show elements of the 2nd Brigade captured 22 Viet Cong and killed 54 during the six-day operation.
The 22 captives were taken during an intensive combined arms exercise based on intelligence predictions on enemy dispositions.
Intelligence reports during the operation revealed the location of a Viet Cong political headquarters in the area of Ap Binh Tay, located 10 miles west of Cu Chi.
It had been directing terrorist and harassing activity along Highway 1 in the Cu Chi District.
On April 20, the day before the close of operation Kahala, elements of the 2nd Brigade moved into the area to create a noose around the VC headquarters with infantry, armor and cavalry, tightening it until the guerrillas were squeezed out of hiding.
On schedule at 12:20 p.m., Air Force jets streaked in and softened the objective with explosives and cannon fire. Ten minutes later the artillery poured in a shower of howitzer steel.
Contour-flying UH1B helicopters strafed landing zones at 12:35 p.m., and the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 27th infantry, moved in by air.
As the Wolfhounds sealed off the west and south, 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 5th Infantry, moved in their armored personnel carriers, blocking the east. At the same time, B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, sealed off the north, completing the noose. The deployments ended with the arrival of tanks from 69th Armor, which joined the Wolfhounds minutes later.
On several previous operations in the same area, infantry elements had found only old men, women and children. On April 20, more than 111 suspects were rounded up in the sweep. Of that total, intensive interrogation and screening revealed that 22 were confirmed Viet Cong.
The captured Viet Cong have been turned over to Vietnamese officials for further processing. In addition to the 22 captured and 54 killed, 15 individual weapons, 19 mines and one 81 mm mortar were captured.
The Real Story
Viet Cong Tunnels Are Half Century Old
(Editor's Note : The following is reprinted from Army Information Digest, May 1966.)
Ever wonder when and how the Viet Cong dug all those tunnels you keep hearing about? Actually, they didn't do it in the first place - and they weren't dug for military purposes at all. They were dug in the early days of this century as food storage places. Then, during the Viet Minh resistance to the French 18 years ago, it was discovered that the tunnels were made to order for military operations. Now the Viet Cong guerrillas improve and enlarge them to serve both as a defense and as a base from which to launch offensive operations. They have also learned how to seal off sections of the tunnels to guard against hand grenades and tear gas.
Instead of installing pipes for ventilation, the guerrillas use rabbits and moles to dig upwards. Search-and-destroy units usually find it extremely, difficult to recognize whether the rabbit or mole hole is also a ventilator for a deep tunnel. Some of the labyrinthine tunnels have foxholes to serve both as protection and to trap water to prevent flooding during the monsoon season.
As a defensive measure the Viet Cong have installed elaborate booby traps, as U.S. soldiers have learned. One organization, the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry "Bobcats," of the 25th Division, has a specialized group of "tunnel runners" - soldiers who have become experts in cleaning up the tunnels. They usually operate in small teams with a security guard around their base of operation. Two men armed with flashlights, pistols, smoke grenades and a portable telephone, go through the tunnel system. When the tunnel and its branches have been searched thoroughly - and often the men find hidden snipers or large caches of food, medicines, ammunitions - the exits are blown up. The tunnel runners clear as many as four tunnels a day, operating seven days a week. During the recent operation Buckskin, the chemical section of the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division cleared a vast network of winding, twisting tunnels - virtually a city under ground.
Dentist Joins MEDCAP Trip
At 11 a.m., a doctor, a dentist, two medics and an interpreter arrived at the sugar mill hamlet of Duc Hue. They left four hours and 125 patients later, leaving behind them a lot of good will.
Even before Captain William M. Monroe, of Sanford. N.C., the 2nd Battalion. 27th infantry, surgeon, and Captain Jerry P. Bent, of Abilene, Tex., a 25th Medical Battalion dentist, were able to set up a dispensary in the schoolhouse, the villagers were preparing for treatment. The service is part of the Army's Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) being conducted throughout Vietnam.
Specialists Five Gerald D. Snyder, of Walla Walla, Wash., and Dennis S. Ortman, of Euclid, Ohio, screened patients, treated minor problems and assisted Dr. Monroe in his examinations.
Meanwhile, PFC Paul F. Widtfeldt, Jr., of Council Bluffs, Iowa, kept the doctor supplied with a steady stream of pills, capsules, syrups and ointments.
Capt. Bent examined more than 50 patients, extracting teeth from nearly half. "These Vietnamese kids are wonderful," he said. "They sit there and don't make a sound, no matter how much you have to do to them."
Poor oral hygiene habits, added to eating raw sugar cane, creates a dental problem for the children of Duc Hue. Although nothing can be done about the sugar cane, MEDCAP workers are attempting to correct dental problems by seeing that each child and adult receives toothpaste and a toothbrush.
"I think we can try while we're over here to show the Vietnamese people a better way of life," said Capt. Bent.
The medics and Capt. Monroe agreed. We can't do as much as we'd like to do for these people," the physician said. "I've come across all forms of diseases that require constant medical attention or follow-up things such as cancer, tuberculosis, chronic skin ailments. The biggest problems seem to be with the digestive system, eye problems and skin disorders."
"Now that the division has established itself in the area, we're going to try to get to these little villages more often and on a regular basis. Then there should be a noticeable improvement," concluded Dr. Monroe.
What's the biggest problem while conducting a MEDCAP?
"Keeping the people orderly," said Specialist Snyder. "They all want to see the doctor so badly that they keep edging and elbowing into the room until we have to stop work and clear them out. But it's gratifying to know they really want the help we can give them.
1/5th Hits in "Perfect Ambush"
A 13-man squad from the 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 5th Infantry, pulled off the perfect, textbook ambush recently south of the Ho Bo Woods - seven Viet Cong up, seven VC down and no errors.
The squad left Cu Chi with the remainder of Company B early in the morning, moved into their ambush position, and the results came fast.
One hour after the ambush was set, a seven-man Viet Cong patrol walked into the area, and the trap was sprung with textbook perfection. Within a few seconds, seven Viet Cong had been killed and seven weapons captured.
"It was a letter-perfect ambush," Colonel Lynnwood M. Johnson Jr., 2nd Brigade commander, said. "Every men knew his job and did it well."
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Greer, 1/5th commander, said that the squad is now being called the annihilation squad.
Once personnel participate in an ambush like this, they're sold on the ambush as a tactic, he said.
The squad moved out at about 2 a.m. and walked for several hours to the selected ambush site. Then they waited patiently for the enemy to make his appearance.
"Sometimes we wait all day or night and nothing happens." said Staff Sergeant Reuben (Peewee) Boyd, the squad leader.
"But this time Charlie came walking nonchalantly down the trail, feeling safe and secure, right into our trap."
Sgt. Boyd said his men waited until the VC patrol's point man was within ten feet of their group before he triggered the trap. "The whole thing lasted about 10 seconds, if that," said Sgt. Boyd.
In the initial blast, six of the seven Viet Cong were killed. One whirled, trying to escape, but was hit immediately by Specialist Four Eugene C. Mosher, of Charlton, Mass., the unit's rear guard or security man.
"Big" Tiny Little's Troupe To Be Next Cu Chi Act
"Big" Tiny Little and his W-I-L-D Ones, featuring Mary Petite, will stage two performances at 2 and 4 p.m. on May 18 at the division's base camp.
The performances will be given at the new amphitheatre, located just behind the Division Post Exchange. The shows are sponsored by the U.S.O. and are arranged by the Division Special Services Office.
Little and his troupe are on a 17-day tour of South Vietnam. They have previously appeared on the Ed Sullivan, Dinah Shore, Steve Allen, and Art Linkletter shows.
The performer first came to, the attention of the American public on the Lawrence Welk show when he sat at the keyboards and banged out tunes in his inimitable honky tonk and ragtime style.
In addition to playing popular music, jazz and blues, the troupe will play a medley of the "old-time songs and styles."
Backing Little are Dick Lopez on the drums, Jim Bates on the bass, Glenn Blair on the saxophone and clarinet, Gordon Lutz on the trombone and Mary Petite as the vocalist.
The 25th Infantry Division Museum for providing the volume of 1966 Tropic Lightning News,
Ron Leonard, 25th Aviation Battalion for finding and mailing them,
Kirk Ramsey, 2nd Bn., 14th Inf. for creating this page.
This page last modified 08-27-2006
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