After Action Report for
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
HEADQUARTERS, 1ST BATTALION 14TH INFANTRY
APO San Francisco 96355
25 February 1969
TO: Commanding Officer, 3rd Brigade
1. Attached hereto is an after action report concerning activities of the 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry, during the period 11-15 February, 1969.
2. Attached with this report are two sketches outlining terrain features and friendly and enemy positions during the battle to extricate Company B, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry.
ROBERT B. LANDER
Annex D, Action of Company B, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry during 11-15 Feb 69
1. On 11 February, 1969, Company B, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry, minus it's third platoon, and with the 1st platoon, Company D, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry attached, was screening a ridge on the western side of the Chu Pa Mountain vicinity, coordinate YA934683. This cross attachment had been necessitated on the day the operation commenced because weather conditions had prevented the repositioning of all the elements of Company B and Company D. As the attack was to be a coordinated two battalion attack, the Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry attached the available platoon of Company D to Company B to permit Company B to cross the Line of Departure on time with a maximum amount of combat power.
2. The ridge down which Company B advanced was the major ridge leading off the western face of Chu Pa. However, at the location of the battle, the ridge narrowed greatly and was lower than both minor ridges running parallel to its north and south. The double canopy jungle covering this section of the mountain obscured this fact from aerial observation.
3. Advancing down the ridge, the Commanding Officer, Company B, saw a large rock complex to his front. The battalion commander flew over this rock area and made a thorough reconnaissance of it. He could see no enemy although he flew at treetop level and hovered over the area. His aircraft received no fire. Company B then advanced into this rock complex and discovered several abandoned caves and bunkers. After thoroughly searching the caves with negative findings, the company started his movement down the finger. Because of the narrowness of the finger, and because the finger fell abruptly below the rock area, the company began to advance in a column of platoons with the fist platoon, Company D, remaining on top of the rocks to provide covering fire.
4. At 1700 hours, just as the two lead platoons and company command group cleared the rock area, the entire company came under withering fire from the ridge to the north (see sketch 1). The company received AK47, machine gun, B-40 rocket and mortar fire from tunnels and bunkers to the northwest, north, and northeast. They were unable to locate the exact positions from which fire was being received because of the dense jungle growth in the area. Additionally, they received automatic weapons fire from the draw to their south. The company estimated that there were at least seven machine guns employed against them.
5. The initial volley pinned down the company and caused it to be broken up into several separate squad and platoon size elements. During the first few rounds, the artillery forward observer was wounded and knocked unconscious. This phase of the battle consisted of a number of individual actions as the small unit leaders responded to the situation. During this period, all available artillery, air strikes and gun ships were brought in to support the company. The artillery forward observer had regained consciousness and rushed across an open area to an exposed position to direct artillery fire. He brought fires in to within 30 meters of the friendly elements. At least one enemy machine gun took a direct hit as troops saw pieces of the weapon and bodies fly through the air. Nearly 600 rounds of artillery were fired during the first hour of this contact.
6. By 1930 hours, the company had reassembled into two tight perimeters. The platoons of Company B and it's command group were in a position about 50 meters in diameter at the base of the rocks. The 1st Platoon of Company D was about 70 meters to the east above the rocks. The enemy was now on all sides of the company, within 60 meters of the perimeter. The fire of the enemy gradually subsided, and nothing other than grenades were received from time to time during the night. A "Spooky" aircraft was on station all night.
7. Just after dark, the Battalion Commander made an unsuccessful attempt to resupply the company with ammunition. The following morning he was successful in lowering chain saws to the company so that a Landing Zone could be cut for extraction of the wounded.
8. On the morning of 12 February 1969, the Commanding Officer of Company B sent out a small patrol about 50 meters west of his perimeter to recover the body of one of the soldiers killed the previous evening. While moving to the area, the patrol saw and killed six North Vietnamese Regulars in the vicinity of some rucksacks that had been dropped by members of the unit during the initial movements of contact. The patrol was forced back to the perimeter by enemy fire. From this time until the company was relieved by Company C and Company D on 15 February, no further small arms fire was received inside the perimeter except when helicopters attempted to land in the Landing Zone cut in the western position. However, the enemy did not withdraw, and Company B could not move from it's position without drawing heavy fire from all directions.
9. On the afternoon of 12 February 1969, an attempt was made to extract the company by helicopter. However, the rocket, mortar, and machine gun fire directed at the helicopters was so intense that the attempt to extract was halted. One helicopter was able to get in sufficiently low to hover and permit two of the less seriously wounded to climb aboard and be evacuated. It could not land so consequently there was not time to load the more seriously wounded. Just prior to dark, two sling loads of badly needed resupply items were dropped in the vicinity of the Landing Zone. One, with water, fell outside the perimeter, but the other load was partially recovered. On the night of 12 February, "Spooky" was again on station. During the entire day of 12 February, massive air and artillery fires were used in support of Company B.
10. On the morning of 13 February 1969, a snatch of the six most seriously wounded was permitted. With no suppressive fires to alert the enemy of the impending operation, three Light Operation Helicopters of 1/10 Cavalry were rapidly inserted to extract the wounded. Two casualties were successfully lifted in each aircraft. Only one of those aircraft was fired at and one wounded man received a slight wound on his buttocks. By noon of the 13th, all personnel remaining on the position were capable of walking out, and were considered combat effective.
11. While the wounded were being extracted, four rifle companies were combat assaulted on top of the Chu Pa; Company D, 1st Battalion 14th Infantry (with the 3rd platoon of Company B, 1st Battalion 14th Infantry attached), Company C, 1st Battalion 14th Infantry, Company A, 1st Battalion 12th Infantry, and Company D, 1st Battalion 12th Infantry (Opcon, 1st Battalion 14th Infantry). Company D, 1st Battalion 12th Infantry remained on top to secure the peak and the Landing Zone. Company D, 1st Battalion 14th Infantry, Company A, 1st Battalion 12th Infantry, and Company C, 1st Battalion 14th Infantry moved to the west to link up with Company B, 1st Battalion 14th Infantry. By nightfall, these units were approximately 1000 meters from Company B. Just as darkness fell, the Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion 14th Infantry took in another load of resupply. He carried in water, ammo, medical supplies and critically needed radio batteries. The company had been able to retrieve some of the water and badly needed smoke grenades which had fallen just outside of the unit's perimeter when resupply had been attempted the previous night. The Battalion Commanding Officer aircraft drew fierce mortar, rocket and machine gun fire but took no hits. The Battalion Commander was successful in completion of the resupply.
12. On the morning of 14 February, Company D, 1st Battalion 14th Infantry started to advance down the finger to the northwest of Company B in order to sweep the enemy from the high ground. The company initially moved too far to the southeast and was taken under fire from the higher ridge. The unit withdrew and started again in the correct direction. Company D, 1st Battalion 14th Infantry advanced a short distance and then Company C, 1st Battalion 14th Infantry was moved down the finger on which Company B, 1st Battalion 14th Infantry was located. Company A, 1st Battalion 12th Infantry was left on top of the ridge to secure the high ground and prepare a Landing Zone.
13. As the two companies moved to the west, both came under heavy enemy automatic weapons, rocket, and mortar fire. Company C had gotten to within 200 meters of the perimeter of the first platoon of Company D (attached to Company B) and Company D was about 75 meters northwest of Company C. The two units pulled back to permit the use of artillery, gunships, and air strikes. During their run, both gunships took hits from ground fire and were forced to land. During that afternoon, the enemy positions were kept under continuous attack by artillery and air strikes. An attack was considered for that evening. It was decided not to attempt it but rather give the enemy a chance to withdraw from contact. In order to facilitate this a Psyops message was broadcast that night telling the enemy to surrender as he was surrounded.
14. During the afternoon of 14 February, the enemy on the finger between Company B and the advancing Company C withdrew, although this was not apparent until the morning of 15 February. The 1st platoon of Company B heard movement in the draw between them and the enemy position on the north finger. This platoon threw hand grenades into the draw. They heard groans after the grenades exploded. This gave them the location of the enemy. The platoon exploded it's Claymore mines in the vicinity of the groans and afterwards, all was silent. The next day, four NVA bodies were found in that area.
15. Having been unable to link up on the 14th, the Golden Dragons were determined to reach their surrounded comrades on the 15th of February. Both Company D and Company C fired extensive artillery preparations to their front as they moved and walked the artillery down the ridges to their front. Additionally, they employed large amounts of small arms to recon by fire all suspicious areas. Company B had prepared adequate positions so at no time was it endangered by friendly fires. The artillery fire was walked down the finger until one round actually fell between the perimeters of Company B and the 1st Platoon of Company D. At that time, the fires were shifted. By noon, Company C had linked up with Company B. company D had secured the higher ridge to the north to protect that flank of Company B and Company C. The Battalion Commanding Officer was overhead during the entire operation and by the use of smoke grenades, was able to keep all units informed of all friendly locations. The lead platoon of Company C had a radio on Company B's frequency and was able to communicate with the 1st platoon of Company D. When the elements got within voice range of Company B, the Battalion Commander had them make contact with each other by shouting. Thus positive identification was made and the units did not engage each other by fire. After the link up with the 1st platoon of Company D, Company C swept forward and linked up with other element of the surrounded company. At this point, the commanding Officer of Company B said he could kiss these six men whom he saw first from Company C.
16. With Company D securing the critical high ground to it's north, Company B was able to move down the finger to retrieve the body of a fallen comrade. Immediately thereafter, Company B was withdrawn to the location of Company A, 1st Battalion 12th Infantry while it's flanks and rear were secured by Company C. Company D continued to secure the high ground to the north by withdrawing up that ridge. By 1500 hours on the 15th of February, almost four days after the intit1al contact, Company B was again in a secure area.
MAP: LZ CHU PA
"IVY LEAF" ARTICLE / 2 MARCH 1969