Operation Attleboro: The 196th's Light Infantry Brigade Baptism By Fire in the Vietnam War | HistoryNet

Operation Attleboro: The 196th’s Light Infantry Brigade Baptism By Fire in the Vietnam War

6/12/2006 • Vietnam

What began as a small-scale, limited-objective combat training exercise for the 196th Light Infantry Brigade (LIB) on September 14, 1966, unexpectedly developed into a widespread, protracted, multiorganizational battle before it ended on November 24, 1966. The final troop list included elements of the U.S. 1st and 25th divisions, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, several Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) battalions, a Special Forces-trained ‘Mike Force’ and U.S. air support–22,000 Allied troops in all. It was the largest U.S. operation of the war to that date. On November 6, 1966, the corps-level II Field Force Vietnam took control of the operation until the final action on November 25, 1966.

The 196th LIB was activated in August 1965 at Fort Devens, Mass., as a train-and-retain unit tailored to the concept of light infantry’s ability to maneuver. The brigade was ordered to Vietnam in early summer of 1966 and arrived there by sea and air in August 1966. This first combat operation of the 196th LIB–code-named ‘Attleboro’ after the Massachusetts town–was initiated on September 14, 1966, from the brigade’s semicompleted base camp in a manioc field just west of Tay Ninh.

Since this was to be the 196th LIB’s first battle test, the plan was purposely not a bold one. It called for a series of battalion-size, airmobile operations extending north, east and south of Tay Ninh from Trai Bi to Suoi Da to Dau Tieng, including the Michelin rubber plantation just outside of Dau Tieng (Tri Tam). The area of operations assigned to the 196th was on the southern fringes of the Dong Minh Chau, or War Zone C, as it was popularly called. That area and War Zone D, just to the east and in the southern portion of Phuoc Long province, had been used by the Viet Minh as base areas during the French colonial days and continued to be used as supply, training and administrative zones for the Viet Cong (VC) during the years of U.S. military presence in South Vietnam.

The 196th’s combat operations during Attleboro fell into two distinct phases. The first, from September 14 to October 31, 1966, was a series of probing maneuvers resulting in only light and sporadic contact with the VC, but huge amounts of rice and other stores were uncovered and captured. All three battalions of the 196th participated in one way or another. The 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry (2/1), commanded by Lt. Col. Charles ‘Pete’ Weddle, kicked off the operation by conducting an airmobile assault into an area between Tay Ninh and Dau Tieng on September 14, 1966. Before the 2/1 returned to Tay Ninh, the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry (4/31), commanded by Lt. Col. Hugh Lynch conducted an airmobile operation to the north of 2/l’s area of operations on September 18. After light contact with the VC, the battalion returned to base camp on September 25. On October 6 the 4/31 began search-and-destroy operations in the area previously vacated by the 2/1 on September 21. The battalion stayed on the operation until October 14, encountering a small number of VC and being credited with two VC kills. I commanded the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry (3/21), which was given the mission of securing the 196th’s Tay Ninh base camp. This phase of Operation Attleboro was controlled from the Tay Ninh base camp by the 196th commander, Brig. Gen. Edward H. DeSaussure.

Phase II of Attleboro, still under command of the commanding general of the 196th, began November 1 and ended November 5, 1966. Because of the large quantities of rice and other food stuffs captured and airlifted to Dau Tieng in the course of the operation, the commander of the 25th Division placed the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry (1/27) ‘Wolfhounds’ under the operational control of the 186th to help secure the captured supplies and the command post area at Dau Tieng and to be available for combat operations to support the 196th’s mission. The 1/27, commanded by Major Guy S. ‘Sandy’ Meloy, who was to distinguish himself later in that action, was given the mission of securing the airstrip at Dau Tieng and conducting ‘eagle flights’ (special helicopter assault force missions) over the areas where enemy supply caches had been uncovered. Meanwhile, beginning on November 1, the 2/1 and the 4/31 were securing food caches and patrolling some three kilometers to the northwest of Dau Tieng. On November 2 the 2/1 and 4/31 continued saturation patrolling while the 1/27 conducted eagle flights about three kilometers to the north of the 2/1 and 4/31.

On November 3 a scheme of maneuver was worked out by the 196th staff to utilize and coordinate actions of all three committed infantry battalions. The plan called for a company (B/1/27 was selected by Meloy) to block in the north along Highway 19, now deteriorated to an overgrown trail, and the other two battalions to advance north on four axes from positions of the uncovered caches some four kilometers south of the blocking position. Meloy violently objected to the battle plan. He felt that, although it may have looked impressive on the map and seemed logical in briefings, the plan did not take into account the realities of infantry movement in dense, overgrown jungle and the extreme difficulty of maintaining control of many small, separated maneuver elements in that environment.

As it transpired, the next three days exposed the flaws of the battle plan. Battalions were split by four to five kilometers; companies were lost; communications between battalion headquarters and brigade staff were nonexistent during critical times; and in the final phase of the battle, one battalion commander was commanding 11 infantry companies while another battalion commander was left to command only his headquarters elements.

The operation kicked off at 0900 hours on November 3, when the 2/1 and 4/31 attacked along four axes, designated as Red, Blue, White and Purple. Because of the extremely difficult terrain in which the units were working, the attacking units were not mutually supporting. At 0922, B Company, 1/27, was airmobiled into a landing zone (LZ) to the east of the established blocking position. Meanwhile, C Company, 1/27, was airlifted into an LZ approximately four kilometers to the west of the B/1/27 blocking position. The plan called for a linkup of these two companies of the 1/27.

At 0950, C/1/27 landed in a cold LZ (no enemy action apparent) and moved 500 meters north through high elephant grass to the edge of a wood line. The company commander, Captain Frederick H. Henderson, sent a point patrol to the northeast into the woods to find the trail on which they were supposed to guide. That trail became known as ‘Ghost Town Trail.’ (The individual stories of the fighting and heroism along the trail were described in S.L.A. Marshall’s book Ambush: The Battle of Dau Tieng.) After moving through the woods 400 meters to the north, the point squad of C/1/27 came under small-arms and automatic-weapons fire. The remainder of the C/1/27, which was still moving through the elephant grass, also came under fire. That initial encounter was the start of heavy, close-in fighting, which was typical during the rest of Attleboro. C Company, 1/27, and 1/27 did not advance much farther during this phase of Attleboro. A Company, 1/27, remained on security around the Dau Tieng airstrip.

It was later determined that the battalion had hit the Recon Company of the 9th Viet Cong Division. During the hours that followed, the C/1/27 tried to move into a defensive position and evacuate their wounded before continuing the attack. By 1210 the company had sustained six killed in action and six wounded. One of the casualties was Captain Henderson. Lieutenant Billy B. Powers, the 2nd platoon leader, became company commander. Around 1200 Major Meloy, who had been overhead in his command helicopter, came in low on the LZ and jumped from the chopper when it was 5 feet off the ground. He then moved up to the wounded Captain Henderson. After talking to the seriously wounded company commander, Meloy radioed and requested his helicopter support company, the ‘Hornets,’ commanded by Major Jim Patterson, to evacuate Henderson.

The VC had the advantage of firing from well-prepared positions along firing lanes that were close to the ground, well-concealed and hard to spot. They had also placed snipers high in the trees, tied to the trunks–either to keep them from leaving their firing position or to prevent them from falling out of the trees if they were hit. Tree snipers were to cause their fair share of U.S. casualties during the next three days. With Major Meloy on the ground taking personal control of the fighting and Captain Henderson critically wounded, the buildup of troops in the area continued. (Captain Henderson died after the helicopter that had been summoned to lift him out was shot down trying to land on the LZ.)

A Company, l/27, commanded by Captain Richard B. Cole, was relieved of its security mission, airlifted from Dau Tieng and ordered to land and attack west of the C/1/27 and roll up the VC right flank. After landing, the A/1/27 linked up with the C/1/27 at 1245. At that point, General DeSaussure called Major Meloy over the command net and asked, ‘Do you need more troops?’ The reply was an emphatic, ‘Yes, sir!’ Whereupon General DeSaussure ordered C Company of the 3/21, commanded by Captain Russell DeVries, to airmobile from the base camp at Tay Ninh to support the 1/27. C Company, 3/21, was first helicoptered to Dau Tieng, then to an LZ in the vicinity of the 1/27–the first lift landing at 1405 and the last lift at 1515–and was ordered to attack east of the C/1/27. The first element of the C/3/21 linked up with the 1/27 at 1448.

Meanwhile, Meloy’s B Company, commanded by Captain Robert P. Garrett, had already landed at 0921 on an LZ some four kilometers to the east of the rest of battalion and was heading northwest toward the blocking position established in the operations order. The LZ was cold, but after B Company had moved on a few kilometers they discovered an abandoned fortified VC village.

At 1120, the 2/1, composed of B and C Companies, 2/1, and commanded by the battalion S-3, Major Ed Stevens, was attacking on Red Axis north and northwest toward the blocking position, and encountered a small VC outpost protected by a Claymore mine. After neutralizing this position, at 1600 the 2/1 was ordered to reinforce the 1/27 and was lifted by helicopters to an LZ in vicinity of the 1/27. They closed on the position at about 1800 and immediately occupied positions on the south perimeter of Meloy’s fighting forces. Evacuation of the dead and wounded began at sunset and lasted into the night. There were minor probes by the VC that night but no significant ground attacks.

Late that evening, the 196th operations (S-3) section published orders for the next day. The 1/27 was to attack northeast, guiding on the same trail (‘Ghost Town Trail’), and set up positions some two kilometers from their present location. B Company, l/27, was to attack west along the abandoned and overgrown highway Lien Tinh Le (LTL) 19 and link up with the 1/27. The 2/1 was to attack east about 2_ kilometers and set up a position that would be about two kilometers to the southeast of the 1/27 objective. A Company, 2/1, with the battalion commander, had been moving on Blue Axis about four kilometers to the east. They would attack west and link up with the 2/1 to re-establish unity of command. The 4/31 would attack northwest to a blocking position about one to 1_ kilometers northeast of the 1/27 and 2/1 objectives. The purpose of the plan was to prevent the 9th VC Division from moving to the southwest and to consolidate control of all subordinate commands of the 196th LIB. Although it was clearly important to consolidate the command, the new plan perpetuated the obvious mistakes of the original plan by moving individual, company-size units cross-country through terrain that made it next to impossible to maneuver and maintain control.

At 0800 on November 4, 1966, the 4/31 departed their battalion base, marching northwest to reach their blocking position. They encountered no opposition. B Company, l/27, began moving west to link up with the 1/27, but later, under instructions from General DeSaussure, B Company reversed its direction to become part of the 4/31 blocking force. A Company, 2/l, with the battalion commander, also began its move to the west to link up with the 2/1. At 1040 the 2/1 began its move to the east. The 1/27 commander, wishing to avoid any unnecessary conflict with a sister battalion, did not continue the attack until 1140 in order to give the 2/1 time to deploy well to the east.

The 1/27 moved out with Captain Cole’s A/1/27 leading, followed by the battalion command group, then C/3/21 and C/l/27 at the rear. The lead element had moved approximately 200 yards through the dark, triple-canopied jungle when all of A/l/27 came under heavy fire from small arms and automatic weapons. Major Meloy immediately ordered C/3/21 and C/1/27 to move to the left flank of A/l/27, sensing that the VC were strongest on the A/1/27 left flank. In order for the Americans to break through the enemy defensive position, the VC right flank had to be rolled up. While making this maneuver, C/3/21 inexplicably had one platoon go to the right of A/l/27. Captain DeVries later explained that the 2nd platoon leader had simply misunderstood a command given over the radio. Due to the ‘unbelievable battle sounds which went on for hours in the thick, highly resonant jungle,’ the platoon leader mistook ‘right’ for ‘left.’ The 2nd platoon went past A/l/27’s front on the right flank and found themselves in a heavy firefight. The unit fought with distinction. Sergeant Lester Armstrong, of Molden, Mo., a squad leader, attacked a VC bunker with an automatic weapon recovered from a badly wounded squad member, and knocked out the bunker. Sergeant Armstrong later received the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for his action.

Sergeant Armstrong’s actions were but one example of the many selfless, heroic acts that took place during those three days of heavy engagement. Two Medals of Honor and several DSCs were awarded to members of the two Wolfhound battalions (the 1/27 and 2/27). After Sergeant Armstrong’s one-man assault, the platoon pulled back to the company CP and moved into position to the left flank of A/1/27. Meanwhile, the platoon from C/1/27 that was to go to the right flank of A/1/27 could not make much progress because of heavy fire. To fill in the gap, the commanding officer of A/1/27 ordered his right-flank platoon to curve back and link up with the platoon from C/1/27, which it did.

At this point there was no radio communication with 196th headquarters. However, an Air Force forward air controller (FAC) flying overhead was contacted, and he relayed messages to the 196th CP. In his book Ambush, S.L.A. Marshall pointed out that the 196th’s commander lacked communications equipment adequate to control ‘a far-extended and rapidly shifting battle’ from his command helicopter.

Since there was no progress on the ground, higher headquarters decided to reinforce the 196th with Major Meloy’s sister battalion, the 2/27, commanded by Lt. Col. William C. Barrott. The commanding officer of the 2/27, at the division base camp at Cu Chi, was alerted at 1246 for possible movement.

Major Meloy had already contacted the S-3 of the 2/1 and requested assistance to relieve the pressure on the 1/27. The 2/1, with B and C companies, immediately reversed their march to the east and started moving north and west to aid the 1/27. Almost immediately, automatic weapons fire from dug-in VC positions and rifle fire from snipers in the trees was directed at the advancing 2/1 companies and became extremely intense.

To the west, at the 1/27 CP during the height of the firefight at about 1330, Major Meloy was wounded in the right elbow by mortar fragments. Although he was in pain, he refused evacuation; he also refused medication because he was worried that a pain reliever might affect his ability to think clearly. To the east of the firefight at 1435, Captain Garrett, commanding officer of B/1/27, turned his company westward, away from the planned linkup with the 4/31 to go to the aid of his own battalion. Apparently he did not have the blessings of the 196th’s commander to change his mission, but his overriding concern, in the isolation and confusion of the moment, was to help the rest of his battalion.

Meanwhile, C/2/27, commanded by Captain Gerald F. Currier, had been ordered into the battleground to relieve the pressure on the 1/27’s left flank. The company from the 2/27, unbeknown to Meloy, landed at an LZ close to the fighting at 1440, but much farther west and north than Meloy wanted them to land. The company immediately moved east in an attempt to roll up the VC right flank. The battalion commander, Colonel Barrott, accompanied C Company. It took C Company and the battalion command group two hours of walking through the dense underbrush of the hardwood forest to reach a spot less than two kilometers away, where they thought they were on the flank of the VC. In fact, they were to the rear of the VC dug-in defensive positions. At 1451, an estimated 100 VC in a skirmish line made a frontal assault on the first platoon, A/1/27. This was the first of three such assaults, which diminished in size and intensity. The second assault was launched at 1515 against A/1/27 and C/3/21. Meanwhile, C/2/1 had reached a point about 300 meters to the southeast of the 1/27 and had come under fire from the VC left flank at 1515. Major Meloy than ordered B/2/1, commanded by Captain Joseph Czubecki, that had been moving to aid the 1/27 with C/2/1 and the 2/1 S-3 command group, to maneuver and protect the right flank of A/1/27 and C/1/27. By 1600, C/2/l had broken contact with the enemy and was ordered to the southwest to cover the southeast portion of the perimeter to the right of B/2/1.

The third and weakest frontal assault was made by the VC at 1630. It had no adverse effect on the l/27, which had already deployed. At that moment, Major Meloy had control of seven rifle companies in the immediate vicinity. By November 5, Major Meloy eventually would control the movements of 11 infantry companies. It was an obvious violation of the principle of span of control, and the commanders on the ground were concerned that the situation was out of control.

At about this time, A/2/27, commanded by Captain Robert Foley, landed on a cold LZ to join the 1/27 and assist 2/27 in securing the left flank. By 1715 it was discovered that C/2/27 and the battalion command group had gone too far and were behind what later was determined to be the entrenched recon company of the 9th VC Division and members of the 1st Battalion, 273rd VC Regiment. The VC positions were discovered when C/2/27 came under heavy fire and the company commander was killed. Under the command of the ranking platoon leader, the company assaulted the VC position, but was unsuccessful. The VC had numerous automatic weapons and camouflaged fields of fire. At that point Barrott threw a smoke grenade to mark his location for the aircraft overhead. An FAC saw the smoke and took a reading. He determined that C/2/27 was about 100 meters to the north of the bogged-down 1/27. At 1734, Barrott took a squad and moved south in the direction of the 1/27 in an attempt to link up. Barrott crossed a well-concealed lane of fire and was instantly killed by automatic weapons fire. The company first sergeant, a platoon leader, a platoon sergeant and several radio operators were also killed during this firefight. C Company, 2/27, was now completely isolated on the battlefield, and the men were ordered by Meloy to stop where they were and form a tight perimeter to defend themselves that night in case they should be attacked.

During the next 12 hours, Meloy ordered a night attack by C/2/1, commanded by Captain James P. Thompson, followed by a daylight attack by A/2/27, commanded by Captain Foley, in a continued attempt to rescue C/2/27. After a heavy engagement during the night attack, a crippled C/2/1 withdrew to the rear and took over security of the LZ from A/2/27. The next day, A/2/27 was given the mission of rescuing its sister company, C/2/27.

Higher headquarters had begun working on a new tactical plan to re-establish control over the rifle companies that had lost their way while maneuvering in the dense jungle. The priority from now on would be to consolidate and regain control over the fighting elements. The latest plan would eliminate separate companies moving through the thick underbrush, trying to reach ill-defined objectives, piecemeal deployment of maneuver units, and the unmanageable span of control that had been given to Major Meloy. The regrouping of forces and the final attack of this phase of Attleboro was to be under the command of the commanding general of the 1st Division, Maj. Gen. William De Puy.

During the early hours of November 5, evacuation of the wounded was given priority. As daylight came, the firefight resumed. At 0745, Captain Foley’s A/2/27 moved out to the east, then north and then west to relieve the pressure on C/2/27. After moving 30 meters, the lead elements came under heavy fire and suffered eight casualties. The company laid down a base of fire and overran three bunkers, but could not breach the VC position. It was one of the most intense firefights during Attleboro. The fighting spirit of the troops was personified by Captain Foley and Sergeant (then Pfc) Baker of A/2/27, both of whom later received the Medal of Honor for their actions. Captain Foley’s citation read in part, ‘despite his painful wounds he refused medical aid…and…led an assault on several enemy gun emplacements and single handedly destroyed three such positions.’ Sergeant Baker’s citation read in part, ‘as he returned to evacuate another soldier, he was taken under fire by snipers, but raced beyond the friendly troops to attack and kill the snipers.’

Meanwhile, to the east of this engagement, the commanders of A/2/1, A/4/31 and B/l/27, who earlier were supposed to establish a blocking position and then were told to move west and be prepared to assist the l/27, were ordered to withdraw and establish a perimeter approximately 1000 meters to the southeast of the action. Captain Garrett, the B/1/27 company commander, did not withdraw, based on his own assessment of the situation. Together with A/2/1 and A/4/31, Garrett helped form an ad hoc task force with the commander of the 4/31 to go to the rescue of C/2/27.

By 0830, A/2/1, A/4/31, and B/1/27 had reached a position 1,000 meters to the northeast of 1/27’s position. Ordered by Meloy to attack to the southwest to assist the l/27 and C/2/27, the three companies moved abreast on different axes while coordinating their movements with one another. Sometime before 1000, the commanding general of the 196th made formal what had been a de facto arrangement by putting these companies under the command of the commanding officer of the 1/27. This gave Meloy command of 11 rifle companies. By 1200, B/1/27 had reached the 1/27’s defensive perimeter after sustaining only one casualty. At about the same time, A/2/1 and A/4/31 had finally reached C/2/27 and were ordered to prepare to withdraw to the 1/27 perimeter.

At 0930, Major Henry R. Shelton, Colonel Barrott’s replacement and the new commander of the 2/27th Infantry, arrived by helicopter from Cu Chi. He joined the operations officer of the 2/27 at Major Meloy’s forward CP. By mutual agreement, Shelton immediately assumed control of A/2/27; he would assume control of B/2/27 as soon as they arrived by helicopter later that day and would assume control of C/2/27 when survivors returned to the perimeter. This plan would gradually relieve Major Meloy of his unprecedented span of control. Major Shelton’s first concerns were to reassess the gallant but costly daylight attack of A/2/27, which had become bogged down. In Shelton’s judgment, the spirited attack against prepared positions was doomed to fail because C/2/27’s exact position and the actual maneuvers of A/2/1, A/4/31 and B/1/27 were all unknown. Given this situation, there could be no direct fire support. Even though the attack by A/2/27 had stopped, the company was still taking additional casualties trying to recover dead comrades-in-arms.

The fighting to the east broke out again. The three companies, now under the operational control of the 1/27, were then ordered to withdraw with the survivors of C/2/27 to the north, west and then south to rejoin the main body. They carried out six dead and l9 wounded from C/2/27 alone. The survivors of C/2/27 were consolidated with B/1/27, which was assembled at an LZ south of the l/27 perimeter. Captain Story was ordered to take command of C/2/27. The reconstituted 2/27, under the command of Major Shelton, was attached to the 1st Infantry Division that afternoon and ordered to airlift to Dau Tieng (about 1800) and secure the 1st Division’s forward CP for the night of November 5. This was part of a new plan devised by the commanding general of the 1st Division. All forces were to be disengaged and withdrawn, and intensive artillery fire and air bombardment were then to be placed on the VC positions for the next 24 hours.

The commanding officer of the 3/21, Colonel Nulsen, who was at the Tay Ninh base camp, was alerted to have his battalion ready for air movement into the objective area. The 1/27 was given the mission of airlifting to and securing the Tay Ninh base camp that had been vacated by the 3/21. The 3/21 was airlifted into the area and closed about 1130. After coordination with the other 196th battalion commanders (the 2/1 and 4/31), the 3/21 commander established a defensive perimeter for the night. The orders for the next day’s operation were: after intensive air and artillery preparations, the 3/21 would advance to the east and take the ground where the VC had their defensive positions. The battalion would hold that objective and evacuate the casualties that had been left in place overnight. One of the bodies yet to be recovered from within the VC defensive position was that of Colonel Barrott. The other two battalions would remain in reserve, prepared to help the 3/21 if needed.

The 3/21 crossed the line of departure at 1200, November 6, with A/3/21, commanded by Captain Emil ‘Chuck’ Gregg, leading. B Company, 3/21, was next in line, followed by the battalion command group. C Company, 3/21, which was still commanded by Captain DeVries, was placed in reserve because of its previous heavy combat engagements with the 1/27. The attack was preceded by one of the heaviest concentrated artillery and air bombardments of the war to date. It would have been a miracle if anything or anyone had survived that much punishment. To evacuate the dead and wounded, B and C companies were each given about a dozen medical field stretchers. Once the objective had been secured by A Company, one platoon from each of the other two companies was to come forward and evacuate the dead and wounded of the 2/27 and 1/27.

After the 3/21 captured the objective and the dead of the 2/27 and 1/27 (21 in all) were evacuated, the battalion commander walked throughout the position observing the details of the bunkers and fire lanes. To his surprise, he discovered that the VC position was strung out laterally for about 200 meters and had very little depth to it. That is why Colonel Barrott had been able to come within 100 meters of the 1/27 line before he was killed. About 1530, the 3/21 was ordered to withdraw and was given another mission for the next day, November 7–to attack north along the tree line from present locations. The 2/1 and 4/31 were also assigned other missions. This was the last major combat action for the 196th during Attleboro. In Phase II, the 1st and 25th divisions and a Special Forces-controlled Mike Force continued to be active around the Tay Ninh­Suoi Da area. The 173rd Airborne Brigade was deployed to Minh Thanh, 20 kilometers northeast of Dau Tieng. II Field Force Vietnam took control of the operation on November 6, 1966, and declared an end of the operation on November 24, 1966.

Operation Attleboro exposed the lack of clear understanding by some senior commanders of how to best use American troops to fight an elusive and determined guerrilla force in the jungle. Complicated maneuvers by company-size units in the heavy underbrush of the jungle were not successful. Radio and ground communications between commanders were neither well planned nor properly tested. Piecemeal commitments of forces were made seemingly without rhyme or reason. The principle of span of control was violated by giving one battalion commander command over a brigade-size force of 11 rifle companies on an ad hoc basis. And finally, the American units lacked adequate, timely intelligence on the VC and NVA units in the area of operation.

In spite of these tactical weaknesses, Operation Attleboro and its follow-on operations, Cedar Falls and Junction City, dealt the VC and North Vietnamese Army a blow from which they would not fully recover until the 1968 Tet Offensive. What began as a 196th LIB combat warm-up exercise ended in a massive corps engagement, supported by 22,000 troops, 12,000 tons of tactical air support, 35,000 artillery rounds and 11 B-52 strikes. The VC left 1,106 dead on the battlefield and had 44 captured. Friendly losses were 155 killed and 494 wounded.


This article was written by Colonel Charles K. Nulsen, Jr. and originally published in the October 1997 issue of Vietnam Magazine.

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79 Responses to Operation Attleboro: The 196th’s Light Infantry Brigade Baptism By Fire in the Vietnam War

  1. reginald girouard says:

    My nephew was with the 173rd brigade around Bien Hoa between 1965 to 1966. He was killed on Jan 2 1967. Would like to know m0ore about that battle. His name was Larry Nadeau. He was only 18 years old. I think of him about every day. Uncle Reggie retired USAF.

  2. Joe Mahoney says:

    This depiction of Operation Attleboro has annoyed me for over forty years. The time line in this article is wrong (I was there as a SP4). B company (2/1 196th LIB) initiated the contact with the Viet Cong. The 2nd platoon of B Company was ambushed on the trail at about 0930 in front of the bunker line. The 1st platoon attacked on the right and 4th platoon moved up to recover the dead and wounded. The 3rd platoon had already crossed the trail. We attacked from left to right on the bunker line. We drove the V C out of their bunkers. We were then told to pull back out of range of the air strikes. We had lost about 50% of the Company between the dead and wounded. We were pulled back to a Fire Base, and then about 1600 we were flown back in to help the Wolfhounds.
    The 25th INF (1/27 and 2/27) were called in as we pulled out. It is hard to tell from this article when the 1/27th landed. The 25th should have known where the V C were and that they held strong positions. We had lost half a Company getting that information. If the radios did not work I am not surprised, they sent us all the small boots and all the extra large pants etc.
    I still have an article from the Washington Star explaining that “Light Infantry” were used to cause the enemy to deploy so that the heavy infantry could attack them. In other words (a direct quote from the newspaper article) the 196th was used as “bate”. The 25th Infantry controlled the press releases and wanted all the glory. I am not criticizing the men; I know that combat in the jungle is very confusing. My point is Generals want to promote there own officers and men. This can result in a different “spin” to the actual events. If you read Ambush, by S.L.A. Marshall, you would think the 1/27th initiated Operation Attleboro. By changing the times you change the story.

    • Valerie Hilburger/Giaccotto says:

      yes I agree with what you have written. Why was nothing much ever mentioned about these men that lost there lives/recognition of what happened; On February 21st 1967,, the Day before D Day my brother Mike seen 3 of his friends die iin the beginning of Operation Junction City 10 feet in front of him, the point man, his shepherd dog, the medic and to his right a sergeant-all dead. I never read anything about who these men were, or the importance they offered as ARMY men deployed into the jungle to confront the VC. Then on DDay is when you hear how Junction City began. Did you know or ever see my brother Mike?? He was 6’2″ fair, had blondish, reddish hair from the jungle sun. He was a machine gunner, title Specialist Four B4 Company, 4th Battaliaon, 31st Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Polar Bear/Charger/Gunner. IN 1966 he would have been 21 years old on 8/27. He died on May 1 1967. Prior to his death the 196th LIB, were lifted out of Tay Ninh on 2/21, the Polar bears reassembled at Soui Da, 20 kil to N.E/area near Highway 13 which crosses to Saigon River and led to Minh Thanh Rubber Plantation in adjacent Binh Long Province., On 21st of April a new brigade was replaced by 1st Brigade 9th Division & South Vietnamese Rangers. They were green, my brother was point man on that day of May 1st, he stepped on a land mine. But as I read in articles /writings of this Group of men, none had survived. I know its all a bit confusing, but I felt he too was put out in the front lines of the jungle like bate, battle of ATTLEBORO. He left a wife and infant daughter 1 year old. He would have been done with duty within 1-2 weeks after his death. I have also added his letter to my mom below in another comment section of this.

  3. Cpt Antonio Sola says:

    The 25th Infantry PIO was a propaganda machine second only to Stalin. The 4th Bn, 31st Infantry, was baptized by two volleys of friendly arty,Sept 19th, and the mass killing and wounded was never published. See KIA’s and WIA’s. By a drunked FDC. I was Co D Commander

  4. Julie says:

    WOW, I was reseaching my dads time in Vietnam and wanted to reply to Reginald…

    I believe my dad was in the B company 2nd squad. I should call him and ask. Anyhow, I would be curious to know if you knew my dad, his name was Fred Ashby?

  5. Gref says:

    Following up on Mr Reginald Girouard’s comments i want to ask why the 2nd of the 18th infantry First Infantry Div. is not mentioned, especially Charlie Co? Charlie Co 2/18th had over 50% casualties on 1 Nov 1966.

  6. Steve Black says:

    Joe Mahoney Would you contact me
    Yoder candles com

    I believe I know someone who also was there and he would like to know what the f–k happened. He has a couple puple hearts and a couple bronze stars from the central highlands in that time frame. after about 20 years he kind of come out with it as much as he could. After that they stuck the guys that survived in with another compant and disbanded the one he was in because of the loses, He also mentioned that he and some others kept the patch which the new company didn’t care much for. ?? or something like that. I believe it was an termite mound that kept him from being a kia, but it was shot down so much that time had run out and someone stopped the fire before it was to late. The story wasn’t clear because he only mentioned bits of it to me. I don’t think there is another sole but maybe his wife that he’s spoke to about it. The time 1966-67.

    • Kelly says:

      Co. D, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infrantry, 196th Infantry Brigade

      I am trying to find someone anyone who can either help me find or knew my dad. While he made it out of vietnam he still died because of vietnam. If he wasnt there he wouldnt of gotten to sick with all those chemicals. I dont rememmber much of my dad I was 9 in 1996 when he died. He was a medic his name was Mickey Devlin and this is the information I have my mom found someone who has a little recalection but not much I wll copy it here” I remember Mickey as the Company medic in Co. D, 3/21st infantry during the fall of 1969. A company medic was attached to the headquarters element of the company, which consisted of the company commander, radio operators, etc. In other words, he was in the field, but was not attached to a platoon. The company nick name was black death” Please help or point me the right way, Im the only one in my family that doesnt remember his voice, or anythin else really.

      Have I finally found the rite place or am I back at square one, and if I back at square one where do I go? Im tryin find answers about who I come from his blood runs through my vains but while my father all smiles and jokes over dinner I have nothin to say becaue I know nothing. I broke down in the middle of this hopefully its coherent. ,

  7. Kathy says:

    My husband was with the 196th. Co. B Called the Polar Bears in Aug. 1966-May !967. He is so messed up and after nearly 40 yrs. of marriage and Va. counseling and etc. I wonder if there is anyone out there who was there during the time ….He has lots of pictures but can’t talk about it and it just drives the children and me CRAZY….we don’t know why he acts this way !!!!!! Is there a Steve Black who was in that unit …..or a Cpt. Antonio Sola

    • Valerie Hilburger/Giaccotto says:

      maybe he knew my brother Mike Hilburger Specialisf Four, E4, 4TH battalion B company 196th LIB/POLAR BEARS, Aug 1966 till his death on May 1, 1967, I really wish someone knew of my brother Mike, tall boy, blondish reddish hair.

    • Charlie eidel says:

      I was in a co. If u still need any info. I do have a couple of contacts that might help

  8. d hackett says:

    Why is there no mention that the 196 lt brigade was moved to chu lai?

  9. Kathy says:

    My husband was with the original 196th 4/31 from Ft. Devens in 1965. He went to Vietnam on the USS Darby , took them a month…He was at Tay Ninh and Chu Lai where he was wounded and spent 6 wks. in the hospital…..he can’t talk about it much…is in Va. counseling ..has been for 4 yrs. now…..still can’t talk about it hardly…..was it that bad those areas…at that time ?He was in Operation Altteboro and Cedar Falls…..he remembers being fired on by friendly fire,,,,,,,you can reach me on this web site……

    • cleveland a ingram says:

      Hi, I realize that it’s been 2 years since you’ve written that inquiry, but better late than never. I too was with the 196th, I was on the “Darby” also. Instead of going to Chu Lai, I was transfered to the 25th in Cu Chi, the command suddenly realized that we all (the original 196th soldiers) had the same DEROS, in order to maintain the unit’s personnel, they had to transfer in new blood. I was telling my therapist at the Vet Center here in Columbia, SC about Operation Attleboro. It was the first time I had really opened up about that experience. I was in many other firefights and combat situations after Attleboro, but nothing ever as intense with so many KIAs and wounded as that operation. I know I’ll never forget it or the guys who lost their lives at that time, I found their names in the books when I went to the Viet Nam memorial in DC. I would certainly like to hear from your husband soon if possible.

      • Valerie Hilburger/Giaccotto says:

        my brother Mike Hilburger was in these battles too, He lost his life on May 1, 1967 approximately 2 weeks before he was due to be discharged. Did you maybe know of him? Tall good looking boy fair and blonde/reddish curly hair. See other comments I have left. He was Specialist Four E4 in B company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade??? It is known that they had sent in a new Brigade on 4/21 replaced by 1st Brigade 9th Division & South Vietnamese Rangers. Yes they were green, my brother was point man on May 1, 1967. He led these men when he stepped on a land mine about 150 meters of the squads objectivel. Knowing the mine would explode He warned his comrades to take cover. But when reading about this day, they stated no one survived this date.????? Again was he bate???

    • Valerie Hilburger/Giaccotto says:

      my brother Michael J. Hilburger was in the VIetnam war and died on
      May 1 1967. He had written to my mother and she had the article sent to the Buffalo Evening News and they printed it: It is titled Living Hell……Things were pretty bad on Operation Junction City. Our Platoon was ambused February 21 on a sweep. It was living hell. God spared my life. By all rights, I should have been killed. We found the Viet Cong bunkers and were blowing them. As we were walking down the trail, the Cong opened up. The point man was shot in the heart about 10 feet from me. I could see he wqs dead. I took a step back and opened up. The VC were about 25 meters from us but we couldnt see them–the jungle was so thick. When I finished firing, I hit the ground. In front of me, no farther than 10 feet away were the point man, his shepherd dog, the medic and to my right, a sergeant, all dead. We got the bodies and the wounded out on homemade stretchers. Three of my friends are dead, one is wounded and another went berserk. It was like a nightmare. I have 17 weeks to goand I pray to God I make it Specialist 4/C Michael Hilburger, Cheektowaga. My brother was a machine gunner:Specialist Four E4 Company B, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry, 196th LIght Infantry Brigade

    • Valerie Hilburger/Giaccotto says:

      Kathy this is late responding but he had to be with my brother Mike, same information, Ft Devens in 1965. Went to Vietnam on USS Darby, took them a month, yes they did get fired on by Friendly fire, communications were very bad in the jungle, very confused situations. Tell him to be strong, what he went thru was not in vain. Tell him my brother Mike sends his love from Heaven above. I would love to see pictures…….

    • Antonio Sola, CO, Co D, 31st Infantry says:

      Kathy, I was there during the period mentioned, how can I help?

    • ted lister says:

      I was over there 12 66 to 12 67 it was pretty bad. I go to counclin too at the VA. just hang in there I was in several operation cedar falls, iorn trangel the move to north u can e mail me if u want to talk

  10. suzi henderson fenn says:

    My father was Captain Fred Henderson. I miss him everyday. It says in the article that Meloy spoke with him before trying to get him on the helicopter. I’m wondering how he was at that moment. I’m wondering how true all this information is after reading all the comments. And I am still wondering why in the hell we were there in the first place.

    • Jerry Elsenheimer says:

      See my reply to your #13 post.

    • Valerie Hilburger/Giaccotto says:

      Im sorry for your loss Suzi, your father was an incredible man. My neice too lost her dad, Mike, my brother in Vietnam. She was only 1 year old, and never knew him. My only words to you are they were the best. They were there in the belief of freedom for others, bottom line. Try to be strong in the fact that your father is still with you in Spirit. His love showers down on you, and someday you will stand before him, and all your questions of Why will be answered and we will have some understanding of this very sad era. These men were truly Heros. My poor brother wanted to go off to Canada. One day he called my mom and asked her permission to do this. She told him he had to do his Duty for his Country and Family. Think how aweful she felt when he was killed, the guilt she must have carried. But you know, she grew up in England during WWII. She had met my father an American soldier and fell in love with him and came over to America in 1945 when my brother Mike was born. The first child of seven that they had. He was the oldest,,, It makes no sense when we lose those we Love, but I know in my heart all will be revealed eventually. Until then take heart, be strong, send your love out to your father. My brother never asked my mom again about it, but did what was expected of him out of love and respect. Who could have known how bad it would be.

    • Richard Siebel says:


      I was your fathers radio, telephone operator and I can help you with your questions. Please contact me at rsiebel@cfu.net. I was there that day.

  11. Robert Williams says:

    please friedly fire means the migth and deadly killing machines of the US military has been unleashed aginist its own troops. now do you understand why any body who had that happen to them. would not want to talk about that, don’t try to figure these things out there is no way in this life you can understanding what that mean how that feels.
    remember the field of battle is not of this world. so how can you understand the circumstances of the action.of all the things that could happen in war this is the worse thing a fighting man to experience. i don’t expect you to understand this if you were not there are have not
    engaged in combat in Vietnam.they say you can’t see the forest for the trees because you are standing knee deep in the forest. that’s true long after you have gotten out of the forest you can still be standing in the middle of it- 4th 39th inf 9th inf 68-69

  12. Robert Williams says:

    they say you can see the forest for the trees because you are standing knee deep in the forest.well thats Vietnam, long after its over the effects can have a person standing in the middle of the battle for the rest of there life.it’s more than difficult to understand friendly fire and totally something else to live through that experience.

  13. suzi henderson fenn says:

    Are you saying that the US military fired at and killed its own people knowingly? I’m confused.

    • Jerry Elsenheimer says:

      I was a platoon leader of A 1/27 that was called in to reinforce C 1/27. I’m unclear if you seek information about the events of the day(s), etc., but if you do perhaps I can help direct you to those still living who may be able to answer your questions. jboaterathotmail. About friendly fire; if the refererence is to artillery or motar fire it likely was an accident. Could have been an error in adjustment by the FO (forward observer) or faulty ordinance or simply range deviation of the ordinance.

    • Antonio Sola, CO, Co D, 31st Infantry says:

      Hi Kathy.

      I remember Steve, but what was your husband’s name?

  14. Kathy says:

    Somewhere I was reading a true story of the 196th battles during attleboro or junction city …this guy said that they had trucks loaded with the dead soldiers in them ….why was this NOT reported and not even now …after ALL these years. My husband was there and he can’t even talk about it …but agrees with lots more were dead and wounded than were reported or apparantly recorded ….any answers out there ??????

    • Arthur Neighbor says:

      Kathy, To answer your question a little. I was stationed in Tay Ninh with 228th Supply and Service Company (Direct Support) which supported via all manner of supply and service the 196th and 25th ID through 4 battlefield operations; Attleboro, Cedar Falls, Gadsden and Junction City {October 1966 – March 1967}. Reference trucks and/or Helicopters full of wounded and remains. We also operated what was called Graves Registration {Mortuary Affairs} in Tay Ninh Base Camp. During Operation Junction City six 228th clerks (myself included) volunteered to unload choppers arriving one after the other from the battlefield. We offloaded body-bags of remains, loaded same onto 2 and 1/2 ton trucks and drove same to our Mortuary Affairs collection point for processing….so the statement, that “trucks” were filled with remains” is true, or could be considered true during one instance lasting three hours, that I witnessed…and that was just one day in time, for a period of three hours. Not that this was a daily occurrence, as it wasn’t. Nevertheless, it did happen on occasion.
      One day the 228th processed an entire Platoon of the 173rd Airborne that had been ambushed, without one survivor. War is not fun and games, nor is it the seemingly isolated reports of mere numbers and body counts on sheets of paperwork. One day these fine soldiers were alive, the next they were not. An unpleasant fact of life and death, which can happen at anytime, to anyone…War or not.
      To answer another question posed. The 196th Light Infantry Brigade moved to Chu Lai from Tay Ninh April through July 1967. In Tay Ninh, the 196th was “attached” to the 25th Infantry Division stationed in Cu Chi.
      In Chu Lai the 196th was associated with the 1st Infantry Division.
      The nickname of the 196th was related to their shoulder patch, hence they were also known as the “Burning Worm”…..a terrific outfit, we were honored to be associated with, in particular the 175th Combat Engineers Company, a subordinate unit of the 196th.
      Also agree with another statement posted, that 25th ID would take credit for nearly anything and everything it could think of. However, one must realize it’s a mindset, and all reports are based on and from the perspective of the unit writing their After Action Reports. As a result, the tendency is to discuss ones own unit activity while downplaying or barely mentioning the role of other units engaged in the same action.
      Our superior did the same thing (266th S&S BN (DS) and 29th General Support Group stationed in Long Binh some 50 miles south of Tay Ninh) to us and other subordinate units under their command. If one reads their reports, one would think it was they who were stationed in Tay Ninh and other locations as Forward Supply Bases.
      By in large the Tropic Lightning News (publication of 25th ID weekly) was for the most part fair in its reporting. Issues are available to read online via their Website and you can read quite a lot about the 196th and its activity in Tay Ninh Province 1966-1967….Just Google Tropic Lightning News if you are interested.
      A.B.Neighbor – Company Clerk – 228th Supply and Service Company (Direct Support) – Tay Ninh -7 October 1966 through 27 May 1967

      • Valerie Hilburger/Giaccotto says:

        loved reading you response, very true to the point about War and information. I even chuckled to myself about the 196th LIB being called the Burning Worm, I had to think about it for a minute then it registered. That patch does look like a worm burning at the top, and being sweep, search and destroy men this fits perfect. Well anyhow, my brother was in Four;E4 Specialist, machine gunner for the 196th LIB, 31st battalion in Viet nam from Ft Devon, Massachusettes, Aug 14th 1966 thru May 1, 1967 when he was KIA, stepped on a Land Mine.

      • A.B.Neighbor says:

        PS: Forgot to address another portion of query posted regarding accounting for KIA and WIA. In short, every Company had what is called a Company Clerk. The long and short of it, is that this person was charged with knowing the exact status of every individual within the Company (Assigned or Attached) on a daily basis. This was accomplished through what is called DA Form 1 – Morning Report. In it (unless there was no change) the report was filled out, and authenticated by Company Commander. From there the report was forwarded by courier to higher HQ, consolidated and further forwarded up the chain of command all the way to Washington DC. These Morning Reports are archived and can be obtained through NARA (National Archives and Records Administration).
        Believe me. All persons assigned or attached were accounted for, whether they were sick, TDY, AWOL, KIA, WIA or otherwise.
        Further, each month a Company Roster was updated and forwarded through the chain of command.
        Reference Mortuary Affairs: GR (Graves Registration) section processed all remains from the field…gathered up personal items, cleaned bodies, filled out paperwork, required ID from NCO or Officer of unit, and certificate of death signed by a Medical Officer, etc!
        From there remains were transported to Main Mortuary Affairs in Saigon,
        where further paperwork and final disposition of remains were handled. Therefore, all personnel were always accounted for, including MIA’s (Missing in Action). This is true in all the services; Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines.
        There is simply no way, that a person was not accounted for. Even if an error occurred, it would be caught by a higher authority at some point. I would therefore feel quite comfortable in stating, that every person who served, regardless of Branch of Service was accounted for. If not, the wrath of God would descend on any offender. The Morning Report is considered the #1 Document and priority of any and all units. It was (and still is) considered to be somewhat of a sacrosanct document, governed by very strict Regulations.
        Hope this added data is helpful.
        A.B. Neighbor

    • Valerie Hilburger/Giaccotto says:

      Kathy, unfortunately your husband and my brother were suppose to be in a training mission in the beginning when they first got to Nam, they were the green boys who all hell came down on. See quote above in article……What began as a 196th LIB combat warm up exercise ended in a massive corps engagement supported by 22,000 troops, 12,000 tons of tactical air support, 35,00 artillery rounds, 11-b52 strikes. From what I’ve read too, they did alot of carrying out of the bodies from the jungle. When did your husband get injured? Did he have to go back?? My brother also had wrote home to my mom about how they tortured them in training to make them strong. My brother was once placed in a large drum and it was pouned on for over 1/2 an hour to try to get him to talk, now this was just a practice routine. He was so pissed off that when they let him out he went over and threw his superior down to the ground. After this he was shipped to Nam and soon became point man in the front lines.

  15. John says:

    I was in C company 3/21, we replaced a company from the 27 th. Our platoon, as mentioned above was the one that went left instead of right. When we tried correct and link up with the right flank, we walked
    in front of our guys positions and the VC. It was a costly mistake but with all the noise and confusion,understandable. With the fighting so close, there was bound to be casualties caused by friendly fire. That was a very bad day, maybe someday i’ll tell my family about it.

  16. Kathy says:

    John…..my husband was with the 4/31 co.B ..3rd. platoon and if your family is interested at all …..it would be a good thing to talk to them.. while you still can ….my husband and I have 3 wonderful children and they would like to know why their dad acts the way he does …he pulls away from us alot …he has been in counseling with the Va. for 5 years now ……..it helped some … I have done so much reasearch on Vietnam and information does help one to understand …. SOME …it’s NOT like being there though…but you got to start somewhere !!!!!

  17. Kathy says:

    Is there a Joe Mahoney or Cpt. Antonio Sola out there ….you guys mntioned that the 196th LIB was baptized by 2 volleys of fire during Operation Attleboro….my husband was there in co. b 4/31 and a friend of his was in co. I heard them mention it once and that ‘s about it ….was there very many guys wounded and or killed during this ? And why cover it up after all these years ?

  18. Kathy says:

    Cpt. Antonio Sola what was the KIA and the WIA By a drunked FDC that you talked about ? Was it a book or etc. and how can I find out more ? it had to do with Sept . 19 and the mass klling by friendly fire in Attleboro ……please respond ….

    • Jim says:

      On Sept. 19, 1966 Cpt. John Harrington and another man were killed by a short round from friendly artillery. Capt. Jones was the Arty FO. Just a simple mistake of drop 200 instead of add 200.

      • Antonio Sola says:

        Kathy, I am really sorry for neglecting my mail and searches, thereby causing probable reasons for you to even curse me, nonetheless, I guess is better late than……?

        .I am correct about comments about a ” happy FDC. ” With the Brigade Commander as a guest at the party.

        Shall you wish to know more details, please, send an e-mail.

        Antonio Sola, Co D, $th Battalion, 31st Infantey

      • Charlie eidel says:

        Yes a number of people got killed that night, round landed in command cp, killing our priest, commander I believe and wounded many.

    • Antonio Sola, CO, Co D, 31st Infantry says:

      Yes Kathy, the Brigade Commander was drunk at the Fire Direction Center who fired the two volleys of attillery the night of September19th, 1966. At 2251hrs. Six men in my company were injured.

    • Antonio Sola, CO, Co D, 31st Infantry says:

      The 19th of September, 1966, just before dark, our unit, the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry, was sent to her first combat unit.

      We occupied the assigned area without any problem, and the defensive positions were within an hour ready to engage any possible enemy course of action.

      LTC Lynch, our Battalion Commander, attached all the organic 81mm mortars to my unit for employment in combat, therefor, I was the fire support coordinator for the battalion.

      Mortars were registered and fire support plans streuctured, and under light monsoon rains everyone was well adjusted for what green troops eagerly were waiting for, that fantasy one entertains about what would be the feeling of getting into the action.

      Troops were all awaked, mostly changing their socks, since the area was slightly flooded.

      Captain Harrington was sitting in a hammock made with a GI blanket and nylon rope, about two feet above the water level, while our chaplain follow my arrangement to sleep over empty ammunition boxes.

      The first volley of six rounds with proximity fuses, ( shells that normally explote before landing in the ground ), and sprayed both, the Chaplain and Captain Harrington with multible shrapnel hits, and bleeding rapidly felt that he would die, and asked me to help him out, but in the process, the second volley with high explosives really tore Captain Harrington apart.He died instantly.

      The Brigade Commander was drunk. That was confirmed by several soldiers who participated in that fire mission.

  19. Joe Mahoney says:

    I can’t comment on the 4/31 but I can say on 9-16-66 at about 0700 that B co 2/1 (3rd platoon) received “friendly fire” from our Artillery. The artillery was to fire H&R (harassing and interdicting) fire on the wood line across the rice paddy from our night positions. We were all set to move out when the first round was fired on the wood line. The second and third rounds were each, supposed to be 500 meters to the RIGHT along the wood line. What happened was the first round was on target, the second was 500 short in the center of the paddy and the third was another 500 short, right on our night positions. Ronnie Taylor was killed and about 7 or 8 others were wounded. It was in the news papers.
    Friendly fire is a big deal on the NEWS now, but it happens. Nobody wants it, but when live rounds are flying it can happen. My guess has always been the FO called the 1st round on target and then adjusted right. I think the FDC (fire direction center) was using the wrong azimuth so the next 2 rounds wound up short.
    You can look up the names on the 196th Honor Roll (www.196th.org) and down load the Coffelt data base for more details.

    • Joe mahoney says:

      I would like to make a correction to the post I made on 7/12/10.


      that is the same morning that the 4/31 was also hit. I spoke to a guy that was with the Artillery. It seams that in laying the guns the atmospheric pressure or the altimeter must be set (I was a grunt and was amazed every time they hit something from a mile away). Anyway the guns were set the night before and not changed in the morning. The pressure had changed overnight and the rounds wound up short.

    • Antonio Sola says:

      Joe, if you remember, I was in charge of all the 81mm Mortars and the 106th mm Recoiless Rifles in the battalion, , consequently, it was my responsibility to coordinate the battalion fire plan, and was assisted by Captain John Harrington , our S-4, who was present during our registration of our mortars that night of September 19th.

      When the first volley of six rounds with proximity fuze exploded, Captain Harrington, our chaplain, one of my Recon Platoon and two mortarmen of my company became casualties. And forty seconds later the second volley of high explosives spoke, finishing John’s agony. And why do you think our commander and S-3 were always heliborne?

      Our commander, operations officer and many more of us suffered wounds which were never reported, feeling that the satanic baptism will not wear out that easily, so wounded warriors ignored that abortion of fate, and next day Company B exchanged fire with the enemy for a while, and my mortars for the first time supported infantry in the attack in combat. And Joe, that is perhaps an infantryman’s dream, as a socialized killer, to learn at last exactly how one feels when one sticks his bayonet or fire a machine gun tracer at an enemy throat. That is the essence of the infantry killer, a joy superior perhaps to a sexual orgasm. Company B was properly baptized. No more fantasies about killing a human being. They were killers from that day on. .

      • Joe mahoney says:

        To Antonio Sola
        I don’t understand any of the above post.
        I don’t’ remember you, but then, I wouldn’t. I was a SP4 line infantryman in B Company of the 2/1 and had no contact with Headquarters of the 4/31.
        From your post, apparently the 4/31 was hit by the Artillery in the evening/night. We were hit at 0700 ? That rambling about becoming KILLERS concerns me. For the record, we did not stick our bayonets in any one. The only thing I used my bayonet for, was to open cans when we would get a batch of P38’s that were too hard and broke as soon as you used them. By Attleboro must of us had a sharp knife (Buck, Kabar or hand made by the Filipino’s) to replace those dull bayonets. On 11/4/66 we were told to “fix bayonet” as we attacked to pull out the Wolfhound‘s. We just looked at each other, smiled or cussed, and advanced.

      • Valerie Hilburger/Giaccotto says:

        Dear Sola, You have indeed suffered the very worst of war, I’m so sorry for this. My heart goes out to you as my brother Mike too suffered the onslaught of his youth to the horrors of war. No time to adjust, one day innocent the next in the midst of “A LIVING HELL” as my brother had written home. A nightmare. You infantry men had no choice but to become socialized killers, this was your only way to survive if there was even a chance for you to survive. I am sure God has no judgement on what you had to do, and I fault you not. Be strong of heart, you survived, tell your story. I look at you and the men that were Army/Infantry men sent out into the jungle to be the first ones with one on one combat as Real Heros. The reason we dont hear much about you and your men is that so very few of you actually survived to tell your tales of war. You were in the very midst of it all, getting it from all angles. You made it thru, God Blessed you with your Life. My brother prayed to God to make it, but then he didnt. Please let the anger in your heart go, and find your peace. Be well, you deserve it soo much.

      • Charlie eidel says:

        If I can remember it happened near night or night,due to I remember trying to block it out of my head,laying in a foxhole nearby,scared to death, put a poncho over my head,like a child would. Does anyone remember the 2-3 days we got pinned down trying to get the wounded out and many died that battle,I cry with guilt,that a wounded guy took my bullet from a sniper meant for me? General westmorland was there when we got to the clearing.tons of water were there

      • greg says:

        grow up kid

  20. don hill says:

    196th avaition sect. i was door gunner on charger 10000 commanded by maj, leach my crew chief was named ohara we were shot down during a dust off at the base of the black virgin peak soon after i was med vac to camp zama japan then to fitsimmons hosp denver lost all contact lost a lot of friends anyone share the same memories ?

  21. mike says:

    I am trying to find out my father’s involvement in Vietnam. He was in the 196th company b 4th battalion 31st infantry. He was there from 8/1/67 to 3/7/69 from what I got off his dd214

  22. jim carney says:

    joe mahoneys comments are correct the artillary fdc made a mistake also vc knew 196th inexoerienced and crawled up and turned defensive claymores arond to face americans in fox holes

  23. joe mahoney says:

    I have herd that “tail” about the VC turning a claymore around but I don’t buy it. I have seen claymores facing the wrong way when we went to bring them in but it was always one of my least dependable men who had put it out. When I questioned them it was always “the VC must have turned it around”. When we went to Viet Nam we had a lot of “Lifer NCO’s”. These were old men (35 to 40) who had 20+ years in the ARMY. I think they came up with this goofy idea to show us kids how experienced they were.
    All units were inexperienced; The US Army hadn’t been in a war since 1953.
    In the end we just painted the back of claymores WHITE.

  24. jim says:

    Mike, your father would have been with the 196th in the Chu Lai area of I Corps. The 196th was redeployed by air from Tay Ninh to I Corps on April 9, 1967.

  25. mike says:

    Thanks Jim,
    I have been trying to find out what bravo company 4/31 did over there. there isn’t much out there on the net of what they did over there.


    • Charlie eidel says:

      Brave men along with the other companies.they did a lot of eagle flights search destroy missions

  26. Dave Lovato says:

    My Dad, who died a few years ago in the UK, was in the 196th LIB as XO of the 2/1 Battalion. He was present, although I don’t know if he was active, in Attleboro, Cedar Falls etc. He had travelled over with the troops from MA, I believe (and I recall that the Brigade had been trained for peacekeeping duty in Haiti, or some such thing.) The 196th was his second Vietnam tour, as he had served in the MAAG years earlier as an advisor. He was immensely proud of our troops, and bitterly aware of the losses suffered by his unit. Like many of our patriots, he never claimed any distinction for himself, but would speak easily about his sergeants and his young troopers if I pressed him to tell me his experience. He eventually retired from the U.S. Army and went to live in England where he lived quietly until 2005. His name was Larry Lovato.

  27. Chuck says:

    HI, I am creating a new web site for Company B, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade (B 2/1, 196th LIB) and would like to hear from anyone that was with the unit in Vietnam. I am gathering information for the site and any help would be appreciated.
    email b21.196th.lib @

  28. Chuck says:

    Oops! forgot. especially interested in anything on Barrier Island, Tien Phuoc, the Batagnan Peninsula (‘the sands”), and Hiep Duc.

    • Wendell (Wendy) Grissom says:

      Are you the Chuck Hollaway that was a squad leader in 1969, if so I was also there, would love to read some info on some of the missions B company was involved in. Also would like updates on fellow company members.

      • Chuck Holdaway says:

        Yes, same guy. I remember you and it is good to hear from you. Some of us have been getting together since 1989 off and on. B 2/1 has a new web site you might want to check out. It is http://www.b-2-1-196lib.com and has all sorts of information on the guys we have been able to get in touch with, photos, and more. Membership to the site is free for any 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry guys.
        Chuck Holdaway

  29. Pam Stokes says:

    I am looking for anyone that was in my brothers unit…I think it was the 196 infantry Company A 2/1 Battalion! His name is Fredrick Raymond Fracione.

    • John W Greene says:

      If my memory is clear enough, your brother was a member of my squard. He was short in statue and as his name emplies, he was an Italian.
      Something happen one day while we were walking through the jungle, his M-79 grenade launcher went off and a round was shot right in the ground just a foot in front of us. We stood there for a moment and said nothing. I remember praying that the round had not gone off and exploded. If it had, we both would have been killed. I said to him after that, Francione, did you have your safety on, he said no. please put it on so this won’t happen again.I don’t remember what happened to him after that, but I am glad to know he made it home, If we are talking about the same person,I kind of think we are. God bless.

  30. Bob S says:

    Anybody know any guys from A trp 1st Squadron 1st Cav that were attached to the 196th in Nam back in 1967. Was a tank mechanic
    63C20 also known as SKI was from NY. Now in FL. Any info would be great. Thanks. We will always be BROTHERS.

  31. Chuck Holdaway says:

    Just wanted to inform you of our new web site dedicated to 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Brigade, 196th LIB. The site is up and running and will be updated and added to on an ongoing basis. The site is http://www.b-2-1-196lib.com. The site has been initially centered around B 2/1, 196th but we are trying to get anyone that was in the 2/1, 196th involved and expand the site. There are links to other 196th sites also. Questions? Email b21.196th.lib@gmail.com.
    Chuck Holdaway

  32. LJ says:

    Hello, my father was in Vietnam from 1966-1967 196th 3rd batallion 21st infantry. He was a specialist 4th class. I was wondering if there are any others still alive that are struggling with the effects of agent orange or alzheimers?

    • Jerry Elsenheimer says:

      I’d guess there are about 700,000 Vietnam vets still living. I don’t know how many may be receiving disability income from Agent Orange related diseases but there is an extensive list of diseases “presumed” to be caused by it. You can find the list here:

      A 1st Bn 27th Inf 25th Inf Div 66-67

    • Caleb Janelle says:

      Hey LJ I was posting on here because i am researching a man by the name Terry Grant Fegely who served in the 21st infantry 3rd batallion and died January 5 1967. I would love to know more information since i am giving a presentation of his life and then his death in Vietnam. If you could please contact me with information i would be very greatfull. Send me a message at calebmoonpie@yahoo.com. Thank you.

  33. michael lowery says:

    hi brave soldiers’.

    did anybody know james val gibson? he was killed june 2 1970
    at quang tin province. he belong to the 196th.
    he was a childhood friend.

    thank you guys

  34. Richard Powell says:

    Hi my name is Richard Powell

    I served with 196LTB,Co A 3/21 second platoon from 1966-67 and I participated in all the major battles from Attleboro, Ceder Falls and Junction City.
    My worst experience was being bushed on highway 13#.

    I continue to think about my dead buddies and guys who were not my friend but who served and died bravely. I can never find all of the names ofy comrades that were killed on that faith day of April 1,1967 in the Mechlin rubber plantation.

    I never understood why we didn’t stay in Tay Ninh and continue to hunt the 9th Div. I still feel survivors guilt, but I also
    realize that survived to tell my story.

    My unit was called into Attleboro on the second day of the battle.
    The sights that I seen will remain with for the rest of life.
    My unit was responsible for removing the Americans bodies out.

    The bodies of the Cong litter the woods. AKs were scatter all around.
    The battle field looked like a crime scene; where as it was not difficult to figure out how soldiers died.

    One of most heartbreaking scene I saw where the bodies of at least ten G.I.’s who were ready wounded and were apparently awaiting a dust-off when their position was overrun and they all killed together in a make-shift triage center, along with the medic.

    We set-up a perimeter around the bodies and camped out all night.
    Around mid nite we heard a shot and then a loud there scream.
    We someone killed. After all the shooting stopped we found out the next morning , that a Sargeant had killed one of his own me going out to take a dump!

    Yes they used us a bait on those S&D and other missions, but was war. I was a point man that survived.

  35. Joe Reale says:

    Dear Sir,would you happen to remember John Gillespie I believe he was with B co 2/1 from 1966- 67.He is my stepfather and I’m trying to find anyone that served with him. Thank you.

  36. John says:

    Hi Richard,
    I was with the Co C 3/21, I remember that scream. There were many things that happened when we were out there but I can recall that like it was yesterday.

    We were sent in as replacements for a Wolfhound company that got shot up a couple days before. What was left of our platoon must have been attached to your company.

  37. Jerry Elsenheimer says:

    Hi John,
    I was the 3rd Platoon Leader, A 1/27 Wolfhounds. It was our Charlie Company for whom you guys were filling in for. The KIA of our Charlie included the company commander, Cpt Fred Henderson. You can read some about him in these posts.
    The C 3/21 radio call sign was Boxer Charlie. You were positioned on the left of A 1/27. I don’t recall who was on our right, but they moved leaving our (my) right flank open which required some re-positioning on our part.
    The night light was blacker than anything I’ve ever experienced before or after. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.
    I returned to Vietnam in April, 2012 with 3 other Wolfhounds. We did locate the site of the battle. In short, the jungle is completely gone. The area is agriculture and done year round via irrigation canals. There is a fish farm on the site and one if not two of the ponds are bomb craters.
    We had a news reporter embedded with our Company and I have a copy of a one hour audio recording of the firefight. It includes time with our A 1/27 Company Commander, Cpt Richard Cole, then the Battalion Commander Maj. Meloy (was the ground CO of all 11 infantry companies), then to the medivac area.
    You and Richard are welcome to have copy of the recording. PM me at jboaterathotmail with your request.

  38. John says:

    Hi Jerry,
    I was in the platoon that was on your left flank. Our lieutenant didn’t hear the orders correctly and sent us right instead of left and we went
    between you and the VC. There was a lot of noise as you well know, those things happen in a battle like that.

    I did google what I thought was the location but all I saw was water.

    That’s incredible that you have audio from that day,I think most people
    couldn’t imagine the sounds hundreds of automatic weapons all being
    fired at the same time. I would appreciate a copy of that, I’ll email.


  39. Jeff Harkin says:

    Hello Kathy,
    My wives Dad was with the 196th Co. B and went to Vietnam from Fort Devens in August of 1966. He had been in the Army for about 14 years at that time and was 32 years old. His name was Staff Sargent Buddy A. Stanley. He died on November 15th 1966. we are trying to find anyone that knew him and how he possibly died?
    Thank you, Jeff and Lisa Harkins

    • Jerry Elsenheimer says:

      Jeff & Lisa,
      I didn’t know Buddy and I am sorry for your loss. In search of information it might help if you also could include specific unit identification. If you refer to the “Order of Battle” section of the Wiki page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/196th_Infantry_Brigade_(United_States) I think you’ll see what I mean.
      As an example, it is important that you search for vets who were assigned to Co B, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, 196th Brigade. So (example) B 3/21 of the 196th is quite different from B 1/46 of the 196th. I hope this will help some in your search for information.
      Perhaps you’ve seen this web page http://www.virtualwall.org/ds/StanleyBA01a.htm
      You might also want to search this site:

    • Arthur Neighbor says:

      Jeff and Lisa,
      I did not know your father. However as Company Clerk 228th Supply and Service Company (Direct Support), supporting 196th LIB in Tay Ninh 7 October 1966 through June 1967, I can tell you with specificity, that on 14 November 1966 the Base Camp of Tay Ninh West took a good deal of Hostile Mortar Fire … some 50+ KIA and a good number WIA.
      It’s just a thought and I cannot prove it. Perhaps Lisa’s father was involved in this hostile incident of 14 November in the late evening hours.
      If you perform a Google Search on Virtual Wall.Org, you will locate your father and cause of death, but without specific details.
      If you have the time and patience, it is my understanding that copies of Death Certificate and Final Mortuary Affairs Reporting are archived in LBJ Presidential Library.
      Yet another method to find out data, is to request a copy of Morning Report from National Archives and Records Office (NARA) regarding your father. The Morning Report of his assigned Company will show an entry of your fathers demise (Hostile or Non Hostile) line of duty or non line of duty.
      Hope the preceding helps.

      Arthur Neighbor
      228th S&S Co (DS)
      October 66 – May 67

  40. Casey Marks says:

    I was in the 4/31 196 from 65/1967. Capt. Sola was my commanding officer, I met a Plt. Sgt. Black from B company a few times. If I recall he was one of the fastest promoted NCO’s in our Battalion. I will not get wordy. My #is 630 917 0917. I have 100%PTSD and receive treatment 4X a month, It took me 45 years to get help.

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