Copyright 2002: Rigo Ordaz. All rights
reserved. (copy permission at bottom)
The Battle of Tam Quan Dec. 6-20 pitted elements of the Ist Cavalry
Division's First Brigade and the First Battalion (Mechanized)
50th Infantry against a tenacious and well fortified enemy of
the 22nd NVA Regiment of the 3rd (Sao Vang-Yellow Star) NVA Division.
The battle took place close to the town of Tam Quan in the Central
Highland's coastal northern part of Binh Din Province. The Battle
of Tam Quan was the biggest and most successful during Operation
Pershing. The victorious U.S. units destroyed at least two battalions
of the 22nd NVA Regiment which was setting up for the upcoming
1968 Tet Offensive. It accounted for 1/8 of all enemy killed for
the whole year. When the smoke of the battle cleared the 1st Cavaltry
Division and the 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry emerged
victorious and the enemy lost over 650 of their troops against
only 58 U.S casualties in a battle which is rated 15th of the
20 deadliest battles of the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, the 1/50(M)
Infantry lost 12 Americans on the 10th of December alone.
During the month of November and the first part of December
1967 there were many indications that the enemy ws building up forces
in preparation for the coming Tet Offensive in the Bong Son plains of
Binh Din Province. Their major targets would be U.S. and ARVN forces
and the major district capitals.
Aerial reconnaissance forces of the 1st Cavalry Divisions had found
many indications of this to include an enourmous Russian Ship to Shore
radio on the beach.
On the 6th day of December a reconnaissance helicopter
of the 1/9th , 1st Cavalry Division spotted a radio antenna sticking
out of a hooch in the vicinity of the village of Dai Dong (2) . Troop
A 1/9th sent a platoon of the Blues (Infantry) in the vicinity of BS
897071 to investigate. At 1630 Hours while approaching the area the
platoon came under intense automatic and small arms fire and was pinned
down. The Weapons Platoon of the 1/9 was sent in to help and they also
were pinned down and unable to move. They had stumbled upon a large
enemy force of the 22nd NVA Regiment. This was the beginning of the
Battle of Tam Quan.
The two platoons were in great danger of being overrun and destroyed.
It was late in the afternoon and soon it would be night time. At 1725
the 1st Bde assumed control of the action from the 2nd Bde and directed
B Co. 1/8 Cav to the contact area and joined up with a platoon of the
A Co. 1/50(Mech) Infantry which had been dispatched from LZ English
a few miles away. The combined troops encountered stiff resistance from
a well entrenched enemy. With the firepower of the platoon of APCs they
were finally able to extract the two platoons of 1/9th by 2100 Hrs.
There is no doubt that had it not been for the firepower of the APCs
of A Co. 1/50 (Mech) Infantry, the mission would have been more perilous
and at a greater cost of American lives. A 1/50 and B 1/8th Cav established
their night perimeter and called in artillery and illumination for the
night. They had no further contact that night.
||On the morning of December 7, the commander
of the 1st Bde, Col. Rattan committed Delta Company, the newest
company in the battalion to the battle. Delta Company had just been
formed upon arrival of the 1/50(M) Inf. Bn to Vietnam September
22, 1967. It was formed from personnel from HQ Co, Supply, other
companies, and new replacements. The battalion had just started
operations on October 7, 1967 and within a month it was already
in the thick of its first major battle. When the order came we had
been operating out of LZ Pony, a Green Beret post in the middle
of 506 Valley. For the past month of November, Delta 1/50 2nd platoon
had been going out on patrols on foot in the high mountains of the
506 Valley and then we pulled night security for the Special Forces
camp at night. Delta Company 1/50 was spread out in the AO. Some
of the troops were at Uplift, some troops were with the CO, Cpt
Bruce Braun at Uplift and LZ English, 2nd Platoon + was at LZ Pony.
When Lt Welch, second Platoon leader yelled " OK everybody,
let's mount up". I didn't know what he was talking about because
we had been on foot or combat assaults since I got to Vietnam and
I didn't know we had M113 APCs or ACAVS. We all climbed gladly into
the APCs but were held up for a while because we were missing two
troopers. Eventually we found them playing cards at the little club
the Green Berets had there. Finally we took off and by 1145 Hrs
we were on Hwy One close to the contact area waiting for further
Delta mortar platoon had been called to LZ Uplift (Our Bn basecamp)
to replenish their mortar loads and joined the rest of the company
at the contact site. The 1/8 Cav had air assulted the rest of their
companies and had started their attack in the initial conact area
by 0915 Hrs, but were pulled back because they encountered stiff
enemy resistance. A barrage of fire from a well prepared enemy positions
and well camoflouged bunkers and trenches halted their advance.
As they pulled back the area was prepped with artillery, CS, ARA,
and air strikes which were called in to hit the area.
Delta Company 1/50 (Mech) was released from the 2nd Bde
and became OPCON to 1/8 Cav, First Bde at 1230 Hrs on 7 December. At
1406 hrs, A,& B 1/8 Cav and Delta Co. 1/50 Mech with flame thrower
APCs successfully penetrated the initial bunker and trench network.
Delta Company formed all of its APCs in a line facing east with troops
of the 1/8 Cav in between the tracks. With all of the company's 50 Cal.
and M60s , M79s and personal weapons going on at the same time, it was
beutiful sights and sounds. One of the 1/8 Cav troopers later mentioned
that they had never heard so much racket in their life. The enemy probably
thought the same thing.
The flamethrower tracks (Zippo) of the 1/50 Mech were especially useful
in neutralizing the bunkers and trenches, since the 1st Cav Div. had
no tanks attached to them at the time. Two D-7 bulldozers from the 19th
Engineers were brought in to destroy the bunkers and to clear a pathway
for 1/50 APCs. The Engineers had several KIAs from their unit and were
credited with killing 10 NVA soldiers.
Delta Co. 1/50 Mech and 1/8th Cav had succeeded in penetrating the inital
bunker and trench network on the first day U.S. troops counter attacked.
Soon we started seeing some of the enemy coming out of the bunkers some
with arms missing, not a sign of pain on their faces. They must have
been doped up and some of them still continued firing. Every evening
when we pulled to a defensive position for the night we would get replenished
with ammunition, food, and hopefully some letters from home.
Although we seemed to have the upper hand in this battle, none of us
knew if we were going to make it.
Two companies of the 2/8 Cav were sent northeast to the beach area to
serve as a blocking force. They had only sporadic fire during the day.
Their CP was momentarily pinned down as they tried to cross a rice paddy.
The CP was finally extracted at 1900 Hrs. An ARVN (Army of the Republic
of Vietnam) unit conducting screening operations to the north of the
contact area was engaged in heavy contact throughout the day with enemy
forces trying to escape to the north. The ARVN force conducting screening
operation to the south had no contact.
On December 8, after an early morning artillery TOT hit
the enemy positions in the vicinity BS899072 around the original area
of contact. It was followed by an air strike and CS (Tear Gas) to drive
the enemy out of the bunkers. The wind shifted and the CS cloud hit
us as we were poised to attack. The problem was that there were not
enough gas masks to go around. Some of the troops were choking and coughing.
Even with the gas mask on, the CS was so concentrated that all our body
was stinging with the gas. Most of the ARVNs didn't have gas masks and
were seen running toward a ravine for protection.
At 0845 hrs on Dec. 8, D 1-50 Mech began a reconnaissance in force to
the east edge of the village (Dai Dong 2) and we encountered light resistance.
We pushed east and north to vicinity BS904073 and then we returned to
the starting point. C 1-8 Cav had replaced B 1-8 which had been in the
inital assault on the 6th Dec. Delta 1-50 Mech. kept on working with
A and C 1-8 Cav as we conducted a coordinated attack east and north
finding many destroyed bunkers and enemy killed . We swept back through
the same area policing the battlefield. Some of the guys in the mortar
platoon loaded dead NVA on their APCs trimbane and took them to a designated
area. Delta Co. mortars for the most part were in an infantry role,
since a lot of the Red Leg fire missions were being coordinated by Brigade
We returned to a night perimeter at 1530. On this day HQ Co. and B 1-50
Mech. became OPCON to the 1st Bde and were sent to LZ English north,
a secure area, to prepare for employment. At 1245 hrs the two platoons
of Alpha 1-50 Mech were sent to LZ Lowboy and LZ English for rest and
to assume their defensive postures. The 1-8 Cav units operating in the
beach area to the northeast had only light contact from snipers. The
ARVN screening force to the north of the contact area had no contact
with the enemy. The southern screening force engaged the 8th Bn, 22nd
NVA Regiment in the vicinity of BS905052. This engagement ended at 1500
On 9 December, D 1-50 Mech along with A and C 1-8 Cav began the final
sweep through Dai Dong at 0845 Hrs after artillery and CS strikes. There
was little enemy resistance during the sweep and the southern edge of
the village was reached by 1530 Hrs. The force returned to the northwestern
edge of the village and established that location at 1630 hrs and returned
to LZ English for some much needed rest and security of the LZ. Delta
1-50 Mech had been in combat for three days.
Also on the 9th Dec., at 0700 Hrs. Bravo company 1-50 Mech moved out
of LZ English North under the control of Task Force Dolphin (1-50 Mech
(-) and headed toward the beach area BS926079 where it linked up with
B 1-8 Cav. C and D 1-12 Cav set up blocking positions in the beach area.
The southern screening force, ARVN 40th Rgmt. came under attack by elements
of the 8th Bn. 22nd NVA Regiment. At 0520 Hours, the attack was repulsed
but they had sporadic to heavy contact continued during the day in the
vicinity of BS905050 , five klicks north of MY AN (1) village.
On 10 DECEMBER at approximately 0900 hours, the commanding officer of
the 40th ARVN Regiment reported that civilians were seen running from
the village of Troung Lam (1) BS905055. Task Force 1-12 relieved TF
DOLPHIN and sent B 1-12 to join up with D 1-12 and B 1-50 Mech. At 0925
Hrs. B 1-50 was directed to turn south and search Troung Lam (1) At
1055 hours, while approaching Troung Lam (1) B 1-50 Mech came under
intense small arms and automatic weapons fire. This was the first time
B 1-50 Mech. had engaged the enemy in the Battle of Tam Quan. B 1-12
maneuvered to the right flank and C 1-12 air assaulted to the left flank
at 1220 Hrs. Apparently B 1-50 Mech company had been split up by a big
ditch and part of the company came under intense enemy fire. The other
part of the company could not cross the ditch to come to the aid of
the beleagured troops. The company lost 10 soldiers in that encounter.
Three coordinated attacks by the three companies were made on the enemy
positions during the afternoon. At the time B 1-50 Mech was in contact,
Delta Co. 1-50 was still at LZ
English having spent the night there. We spent the morning getting ammo,
and getting our weapons cleaned. D 1-50 Mech's rest was cut short as
again they were called to the southern screening force area where the
40th ARVN was in heavy contact and were caught in a cross fire from
elements of the 8th Bn 22nd NVA Regiment at BS911048. Each time the
ARVNS wanted to attack they came under a cross fire. Delta 1-50 Mech.
came to the rescue and hooked up with the ARVNS at 1545 hrs on the 10th
of December. At 1600Hrs they made a combined attack just north of BS911048
close to the village of My An(2) The UPI Reports for that day read like
SAIGON-(UPI) U.S. ARMOR SPURTING FLAME AND MACHINEGUN
FIRE BROKE THROUGH A NORTH VIETNAMESE TRAP AND
RESCUED SOUTH VIETNAMESE TROOPS IN THE SIX DAY
BATTLE OF BONG SON PLAIN. COMMUNIST LOSSES IN THE
CAMPAIGN 300 MILES NORTH OF SAIGON ROSE TO AT LEAST
305 SUNDAY AFTER THE HELL-FOR-LEATHER TYPE DASH BY
ARMORED PERSONNEL CARRIERS (APCs) OF THE 1ST. AIR
CAVALRY DIVISION SUNDAY IN THE SIX DAY BATTLE OF BONG
UPI BONG SON- ON THE COASTAL BONG SON PLAIN,
1,000 SURVIVORS OF THE NORTH VIETNAM'S 22ND REGIMENT
WERE FRANTICALLY UNLEASHING ALL THEIR FIREPOWER
FROM BUNKERS DUG UNDER HUTS OF A RICE PADDY
VILLAGE. THE IST CAV SENT A COMPANY OF APC'S TO THE
RESCUE SUNDAY WHEN SOUTH VIETNAMESE TROOPS WERE
CAUGHT IN A CROSS FIRE.
During that firefight on the 10th of Dec, Lt. Sodowsky
(D 1-50) was killed and we had others wounded including some straightlegs
who were working beside us. It is a possibility that some of the wounded
were by friendly fire. Our two medics in Delta Company, Pete Tovar,
and Ron Provencher worked frantically tending the wounded right away.
In that engagement Pete Tovar distinguished himself when he went to
the aid of the wounded soldiers under a hail of automatic and small
arms fire. His heroic actions earned him a Bronze Star with a V device.
While this action was taking place, Bravo 1-50 Mech was about 15 Kilometers
away. Each line company had two medics which most of the time had their
hands full with their own company during a firefight.
Delta 1-50 remained OPCON to Task Force Dolphin. The commanders of the
40th ARVN and TF Dolphin were in a Command and Control helicopter above
the battlefield controlled the combined attack. They kept in constant
contact with Delta commander through his RTOs Louis Friesby and Fred
11 DECEMBER - Task Force 1-12Cav initiated an attack against
Troung Lam (2) from the north after an intense artillery TOT and CS
strike. Resistance was sporadic and contact was broken by noon. Task
Force DOLPHIN (also D 1-50) had no enemy contact throughout the day.
They policed of the battlefield in the vicinity of BS911058.
12 DECEMBER - Task Force Dolphin and Marine Task Force Alpha (ARVN)
and TF 1-12 as a combined force began pursuit of the 22nd NVA Regiment.
D 1-50 and D 1-12 were linked up at the boundary between MTFA (ARvn)
and TF Dolphin. At 1055 Hrs. Delta 1-50 Mech. and D 1-12 Cav became
engaged with an unknown size enemy force in vicinity of BS917073. Artillery,
ARA, and a successful flanking movement from the east eliminated this
last pocket of resistance. All the rest of the units continued to operate
in their assigned area of operation but had no significant sightings
13 DECEMBER-No major contacts with the enemy on this day . 1-12 Cav
ambushed a squad of the enemy.
14 DECEMBER- All units continued search and destroy operations with
no significant sightings or contact. The 1-50 Mech HQ, B and D Companies
of 1-50 Mech were returned to the 2nd Bde at 0800 Hrs.
15 DECEMBER- One of the last major encounters of the battle was initiated
by C 1-12 in an area around My An (5) close to Troung Lam (1) by the
end of the day seven U.S. Companies and 2 ARVN battalions were thrown
into the firefight. A request for a Mech unit was granted and A(-) 1/50
was sent in the afternoon. A soldier from the 1st Cav Div was awarded
the Medal of Honor in this encounter.
16 DECEMBER- Another attack on Truong Lam (1) was initiated with A(-)
and C 1-50 Mech. The attack only met with light resistance. They continued
to police the battlefield. Delta 1-50 Mech was already operating in
another area south of Bong Son river. One soldier was blown up accidently
with a Claymore mine on this day.
DECEMBER 17 & 18- All allied units searching for remnants of the
22 NVA Regiment. No major contact with any of the units.
19 DECEMBER- Again an aerial recon by A Troop 1/9 Cav found an antenna
wire leading to a large bunker complex. At 1408 D 2-8 Cav air assaulted
into the area and was engaged by an unknown size enemy force. A total
of six air strikes were called in and by 1700 Hrs bunker complex was
DECEMBER 20- Four air strikes and intensive artillery were used to neutrelize
the contact area before a coordinated attack with D 2-8 C and C 1-50
Mech were to move on line and cross the Bong Son river. Swift tidal
currents and steep muddy banks on the Bong Son river prevented C 1-50
Mech from crossing to join the attack. D 2-8 Cav completed the attack
with no contact. The Battle of Tam Quan ended at 2400Hrs on the 20th
of December 1967. The 2-8 Cav remained in the area digging through the
demolished bunkers and fortified positions recovering enemy bodies and
THE FIRST BATTALION (M) 50TH INFANTRY HAD MET ITS FIRST
COMBAT TEST IN A MAJOR BATTLE AND HAD COME OUT SUCCESSFULY AND VICTORIOUS.
THE BATTLE OF TAM QUAN TURNED OUT TO BE THE 1/50(M) INFANTRY'S BIGGEST
ENGAGEMENT DURING ITS STAY IN VIETNAM.
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