VI.  Mop-Up Operations
North and West of Hardcore


After Action Report for the
dated 13 April 1968


On 11 February, B Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry, on a local sweeping action, received sniper fire from a hamlet, An Tam 2 (AT955508), only 1.8 km from Hardcore (the company had been under operational control of the Golden Dragons since 10 February 1968).  In order to attack the enemy from the northeast the company commander
carefully worked his platoons using a combination of direct fire, maneuver, and indirect fire support until he ran into stiff resistance from within the inner confines of the built up area.  Due to the pressure the forward most element fell back but not all the men were able to withdraw; a wounded man, a dead comrade, and a machinegun (without bolt) remained.  The company immediately prepared for another attack in order to overrun the position; artillery and mortar fire were used in preparation.  As the wind direction was favorable, the 4.2 inch mortar platoon fired their 3 remaining rounds of CS ammunition in support of the assault.  The battalion command and control aircraft, loaded with CS grenades, orbited overhead with the S3 Air, Lieutenant Harold Ebbit, on board.  The company attack was successful in allowing the wounded to be carried from the battlefield.  However, after arriving in the forward area, it was discovered that the enemy was now located across the river from the attacking unit.  B Company was forced to withdraw, leaving the body of one soldier and the machinegun in the contact area.

Meanwhile, an incident in a somewhat lighter vein occurred.  While orbiting above the village,
the command and control aircraft ran short of fuel.  As B Company had not called for CS hand grenades to be dropped, Lieutenant Ebbit and his crew of grenadiers were caught with several CS grenades with pins loosened, ready to be dropped.  To
time the aircraft command elected to fly to the Marine Airbase (Industrial Complex, AT875475) to refuel.  Unfortunately the readied CS grenades rolled from the door of the UH1 and burst underneath the Marine control tower.  There were apologies galore from the embarrassed crew of the "Charlie-Charlie"; however,
US Army-US Marine relations reached their nadir, especially for the Golden Dragons!

When it returned from the refueling mission the battalion commander dispatched the aircraft to the company’s location
with the battalion surgeon on board.  The wounded man recovered from the forward area was in serious condition, and the medical evacuation helicopter had been delayed for some unknown reason.  The company medics worked desperately to keep the man alive as he was being moved to a secure helicopter lift area.  They had almost worked their way to the evacuation pad.  As the Golden Dragon surgeon arrived, a dismayed voice announced over the radio only two words – "he’s dead!"  Having barely touched down, the command and control aircraft
returned to the firebase.

The following day, 12 February, two companies attacked from a different direction (from the south) with Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry, commanded by Captain Robert H. Scherer, on the west side of the river, and Bravo Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry on the east.  Both
companies ran into mines and booby traps.  Delta Company drew sniper fire from the vicinity of Chau Phong (At948502).  However, the attackers reduced the enemy position to rubble and recovered the dead and the machinegun.  It was discovered that the position, in addition to being defended by mines and booby traps, was also protected by extensive bunkering and tactical wire.  The results of this two day action were 14 enemy KIA, 3 weapons CIA at a cost of 3 dead and 16 wounded.

On 13 February, B Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry was released to the control of its parent organization.  By this time, the Golden Dragon area of operations was reduced in size generally by that territory covered in the attack to the east.  Extensive search and destroy operations were initiated in order to clear our the areas of former contact in the flat lands adjacent to Hardcore.  Additionally, maneuvered by rifle companies A, B and C was designed to block traditional avenues of infiltration in the area.

On the first day of this phase of the operations around Hardcore, a stiff fire fight developed between A Company, commanded by Captain Albert D. Carter, and an enemy position about 5 km west of the firebase.  The position was reduced by fire and maneuver with the aid of supporting armed H23 aircraft from the Brigade Aviation Section.  However, during this action, one H23 was shot down; the crew and aircraft were evacuated successfully.  The results of the day's contact were 5 enemy killed, 2 weapons captured with only 2 US soldiers WIA.

During the continuation of mop-up operations on 14 February, it was apparent from observations at the battalion OP at Hardcore that the enemy was again on the move in the western and northern portion of the area of operation.  Both A and C Companies moved to counteract the activity.  Apparently reacting to the maneuver companies, about 40 enemy were observed in the open area along a riverbank (AT966531) about 2.5 km north of Hardcore.  The Assistant Division Commander, Brigadier General Charles W. Ryder Jr., who was present at the battalion OP, assisted in calling mortar and artillery fire on the enemy.  About 20 rounds of 4.2 inch CS munitions were employed to increase the effectiveness of the high explosive rounds.  Meanwhile, both companies made contact about 1.5 km away from the observed location of enemy described above.  C Company, in the vicinity of Ca Bon (AT949534), was engaged sharply while crossing an open area between two forested village complexes.  C Company used artillery, gunships and maneuver to continue the advance toward the enemy sighted in the open.  While C and A Companies fought to get to the objective area, mortar and artillery succeeded in holding the enemy in place until an air strike, previously preplanned for another target in the AO, was diverted to the current enemy location.  Close air support, increased by three other "diverts" accurately hit the area with high drag bombs, napalm, and CBU.  It was evident to observers that the enemy had been hard hit.  However,
due to the concurrent contact by A and C Companies, C Company could not fight their way to the area of the air strike until 15 February.

An early morning attack on 15 February was utilized to gain control of the objective.  A search of the area disclosed 13 bodies, several drag trails and
other evidence that the airstrike had found its mark.  In the search of the area, C Company was constantly harassed by sniper fire.  At the same time A Company searched out the area to the west and southwest of Hardcore until 16 February.  Also B Company worked out of the area to the north of Hardcore.  At this time, in addition to organic means, a reconnaissance platoon of APC’s supported C and B Companies in turn.  These mop-up operations were conducted from 11 to 17 February.  The total results for the overall period for the Golden Dragons and attached units were 67 KIA, with 3 US KIA and 26 WIA.

On 17 February, a C130 aircraft enroute to the Industrial Complex (US Marine Base – 8747),
received 200-300 rounds of semi-automatic and automatic ground to air fire.  The aircraft was at an altitude of about 1000 feet over grid coordinates AT959521.  A 3rd Brigade FAC – Helix 52 piloted by Major Leonard Severtson, was in the area, and upon being informed of the incident (which had been observed from the battalion OP), proceeded to the Marine Base to inform the pilot of the nature and location of the enemy target.  Major Severtson left the C130 crew busily patching holes in the transport fuselage.  The C130 pilot carefully followed instructions in making a safe exit from the area at a considerably higher altitude.