Screaming Eagles Through Time
Vietnam - Page 6
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For the next month, the 3rd Brigade troopers continued to stifle enemy attempts to disrupt the redeployment, encountering scattered contact from the NVA who had withdrawn to their sanctuaries to the north and the west. On November 8, the 3rd Brigade units closed out the northern AO as the Marines successfully completed their move. During the operation, a total of 59 enemy soldiers were killed and 22 individual and two crew-served weapons were captured.

On October 5, despite record-breaking rains, men of the 1st Bn., 327th, moved into Phu Thu District to begin Operation Saturate, which proved to be one of the most successful operations of its type in the history of the pacification program in the Thua Thien Province.

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2nd Brigade paratroopers debark Chinook helicopter to assault enemy hilltop positions north of Hue.

In the months preceding the beginning of the operation, there had been little VC/NVA activity of any large scale in Phu Thu. However, a significant hard-core VC Infrastructure was operating within the district, collecting rice and taxes for the enemy units in the mountains and initiating harassing attacks on the Regional Force (RF) and Popular Force (PF) units.

There were few significant contacts with sizeable enemy units but the Phu Thu operation had other objectives. A vigorous Civil Affairs program was started, which included Psychological Operations and Medical Civic Action Programs (MEDCAPs), with the emphasis on using Vietnamese nurses and doctors along with U.S. personnel.

Shortly after setting up in Phu Thu, the battalion initiated a training program for RF companies in the district. It was a significant step. Perhaps in the long run the training program was the most important part of the operation. The RF and PF units are a key factor in the battle against the local VC in Vietnam and an improvement in the quality of these troops is vital to the government.

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1st Brigade paratroopers jump out into a landing zone in I Corps during a heliborne assault during Operation Carentan II.

During the entire civic action and training programs, the search for the enemy went on as usual, but the enemy was avoiding contact whenever possible. Still, the thorough search tactics the battalion pursued netted dividends. Countless enemy bunkers and booby traps were discovered and destroyed. By the end of November it was clear that the enemy had suffered not just a temporary setback, in Phu Thu, but a long-range reversal which could make any attempt to gain a position of power and influence very unlikely.

On November 13, Screaming Eagles of the 2nd of the 501st were called upon to deploy to Quang Tri Province to assist elements of the 1st Brigade, 5th Inf. Div. (Mech). The day the massive air move began was the second day of what was supposed to be a standdown for the men at LZ Sally. Many of the soldiers were being issued new clothing and cleaning their weapons and equipment when they were alerted for the move.

The second day of the five days in the rear rapidly became the first of five days of heavy contact with the 27th NVA Regt., in desolate hill country 20 miles west of Quang Tri. Within two hours of the alert, 18 CH-47 "Chinooks" were winging the 500-man force to Quang Tri Combat Base. There, over 40 "Slicks" took over the airlift and combat assaulted their passengers into an area where elements of the 1st of the 5th had been in heavy contact for several days. In a most unusual assault, Co. C moved on a large bunker complex in a night assault with illumination from flares and strobe lights. The complex was locked in a stalemate with Co. B when Charle Company arrived out of the darkness.

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A river crossing north of Hue is made easy for squad leader Sgt. Larry Newell, Melbourne, Fla., and his men of the 1st Bn. (Abn) 501st Inf., thanks to a solid bridge - Vietnamese style.

The daring move paid big dividends when the two companies surrounded the fortified position and killed 29 NVA with the support of Cobra gunships. In the five-day period, the 2nd Brigade troopers accounted for 36 NVA dead and uncovered three caches of munitions and arms.

In a hard-hitting series pf clashes beginning January 28, "Currahees" of the 3rd Bn., 506th Inf., operating under the control of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, completely routed the 8th Bn., 22nd NVA Regt., in vicious battles northwest of Bong Son, Binh Dinh Province, in northern II Corps.

The deeply entrenched enemy, concealed in the caves and crevices of Hill 474, initiated a series of firefights with heavy AK-47, B-40 rocket, RPG and RPD light machine gun fire against the "Currahees." As the conflict progressed, sorties of F4 fighter-bombers and massive artillery bombardment punished the enemy as the "Currahees" blocked the obvious routes of escape. Lt. Col. Joseph N. Jagers Jr., battalion commander, continually shifted his forces by helicopter and systematically destroyed the NVA battalion.

The enemy lost 90 dead as a result of the engagements. In addition, 23 weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition were captured.