1/14th Daily Journals for JULY 1966.
1 - 4 JULY 1966 leaving AO 54, the Dragons moved to AO 62 located due south of 54 and still southeast of the Chu Pan Mountain Mastiff. Company C moved into LZ 62C and after clearing and securing its base area the second and third platoons patrolled to the south and west of the LZ. Company B moved into LZ 62B and Company A moved into LZ 62A. AO 62 was a better area for foot movement than AO 54. It was characterized by more scattered grassy vegetation and dry under footing. The area was not entirely new to the Dragons because they had patrolled its southern portion during Operation Garfield. The surroundings were characterized by large elephant herds that roamed both the western and eastern borders. They were huge sulking beasts able to move like lightening and became invisible within seconds. Many of the men decided to double there basic load on LAWS, and renamed them LAEG (Light Anti Elephant Guns).
On the morning of 2 July, Company A while patrolling to the western portion of LZ 62A had contact with an estimated enemy force of four NVA soldiers. The enemy immediately dropped their equipment and fled to the west. Gunships were immediately called into the area to assist in locating the enemy but to no avail. The equipment was policed and amounted to four NVA packs and seven cases of 7.62 "short" ammunition. Company A continued the pursuit to the west but was unable to locate the enemyís invisible trail.
Company Cís second and third platoons moved south into AO 70 and 71 respectively. Both Lt. Murphy and Lt. Smith were halted due to the limiting factor of artillery support. Both second and third platoons had a definite yen to continue south and check on an area that had once proved lucrative, the base and mountain pass of the Chu Amung Mountains.
The entire area was heavily saturated by platoon size patrols from all three units. Company B worked extensively to the east of LZ 62B with negative findings.
On the afternoon of 4 July, the Dragons started moving back to Base Camp for a well-earned rest after fifty-five days in the field. Companies A and C closed into Base Camp about 1700 hours while Company B had a commitment of securing the trains areas now located at Catecka just northeast of the Oasis and south of the town of Pleiku. Company B would take this commitment first and then be replaced by Company A and then by Company C.
5 - 12 JULY 1966 this period was one of rest and relaxation for the men back at Base Camp. The pass policy was put into effect and all the men had a chance to visit the booming Metropolis of Pleiku. All of the units had somewhat of a party with good chow and cold beer. The men had no duties during the day and Colonel Procter took advantage of the break to go to Singapore. Movies were shown nightly and the troops enjoyed them immensely.
Captain Armstrong moves to 3rd Brigade S3 and Captain Simcox takes command of Company C (Chargin Charlie).
On the morning of 12 July, the Command Group, Recon Platoon, Mortar Platoon, and Company B departed Base Camp and moved to the Oasis. Following their departure, Company A lifted to LZ 27Y. Company C moved from Catecka and lifted into LZ 27D followed by the Command Group, Recon Platoon, and the Mortar Platoon. Company B lifted from the Oasis into LAZ 27B. With all units of the Dragons in position, the found themselves working in an area that they know even better than the enemy. To the south was the Ia Drang River and Chu Pong Mountain Masiff, both of which were losing there fearful aspect,
The LZ was large and familiar to the Dragons. Accompanying the men was a platoon of armor from the ĺ Cav. Since the LZ had been used extensively in the past, the problem of trash burial and personal sanitation became tantamount. Our sister units that had evacuated the area had a complex system of defensive devices throughout the area that required study before intensive foot movement could be considered.
After the bunkers had been prepared and the LPs had called in their defensive concentrations the night was uneventful.
13 JULY 1966 the men soon learned that on their right flank in AO 19 was a Battalion of Republic of Korea (ROK) troops from the famous Tiger Division whose base camp was located at Quin Nhon. The ROK troops had already made a fine reputation for themselves and the Dragons welcomed the idea of having them in the area.
Surprisingly enough, at 0825 the ROK troops sighted and killed three NVA soldiers on their front. After a few of the officers returned from the ROKís LZ, they had nothing but good works to say about their spirit as well as their elaborate defensive perimeter.
The Recon Platoon departed LZ 27D and moved to LZ 27B to joint Company B. Lt. Bob Dunlap discussed his uneventful patrol with Captain Ware and claimed negative sightings.
Early in the afternoon, Generals Larsen and Walker visited Colonel Procter at LZ 27D. Both Colonel Procter and Captain Johnson gave Generals Larsen and Walker a briefing of both present and future plans of operation. The Colonel also gave them both a detailed briefing of the area and their present findings.
In the latter part of the day, the Recon Platoon closed into LZ 27D followed by the first platoon of Company C that had patrolled to the west and south. With darkness coming on, each unit sent out its surveillance groups numbering one thru twenty. The surveillance line (Dew Line) ran east and west along the river, and north and south of the LZ positions. The night reported no enemy sighting or activity.
14 JULY 1966 in the early hours of the day, the major portion of activity was the replacing of the surveillance teams. This surveillance mission would start units patrolling in the rear and between the flanks of the surveillance points.
At 1300 hours, Company Bís surveillance post number ten, while patrolling to its front, located five claymore mines, eight 81mm rounds and five 60mm rounds. They destroyed them in place and returned to their position. After all the new surveillance posts were in position and the defensive concentrations called in, the night proved to be quiet one.
15 JULY 1966 the early morning weather hampered movement with an extremely low ceiling and slight showers. Company Cís second platoon moved north of LZ 27D on a search and destroy mission while its first and third platoon remained on the Dew Line.
General Walker pain Colonel Procter a visit at about noon and was given a full briefing by the Colonel and Captain Johnson on the present situation.
During the afternoon, all the units had squad size patrols that physically checked each surveillance post to make sure everything was in order, and to check their observation as well as routes of withdrawal. Captain Johnson had the Company Commanders move each post just slightly (approximately 10 meters either way) just in case the enemy had somehow pinpointed their locations.
This moving or shifting of positions would be SOP every 24 hour period. Each observation post had a platoon base to which it could initially withdraw if so ordered, The tactical positioning of all units and their breakdown was similar to that of the surveillance type mission the Dragons were involved in forty days before.
16 - 18 JULY 1966 this period in the Dragon History was rather uneventful. On the day of 17 July, Company B moved into LZ 35H followed by Company A moving into LZ 27Q and one platoon from the 69th Armor and Recon Platoon moved back to LZ 27D. The new surveillance teams were put out and the night was quiet.
19 JULY 1966 today started off in a quiet way and ended with the most tragic happening the Dragons had yet to encounter. It was a day the men wished had never started.
In the morning, Lt. Mel Godbee moved his platoon to the west with hill 185 as his objective. In front of his objective was a fast flowing creek that made movement extremely difficult. While crossing the creek, he and the men started receiving effective automatic weapons fire from a well concealed bunker complex. Lt. Godbee manuevered his men with extreme confidence and tactical ability. After calling in 4.2 support follwed by extremely accurate 105 artillery from A Battery 2/9, Lt. Godbee and his men charged the bunkers killing eight NVA soldiers and taking no friendly casualties. The terrain and surprise were initially in favor of the enemy, but due to the aggressiveness of 1st Platoon A Company this advantage changed hands. After policing up numerous weapons and equipment, 1st Platoon moved back to LZ 27Q. Captain Raymond Johnson, the relatively new S3 came in by helicopter to pick up First Sergeant Nagato of A Company and also to tag enemy equipment policed up by 1st platoon of A Company. After everything was loaded on the chopper, it departed the area and was flying parallel to the Ia Drand River when it collided with a L19 type aircraft. Losing its main rotor, it tumbled to the ground below and immediately burst into flames, killing Captain Johnson, First Sergeant Nagato, the two pilots and two gunners. The pilot of the L19 was also killed when his ship landed on the west side of the Ia Drang River. C Companyís men were the first to arrive at the scene to view the tragic sight. The mutilated bodies were recovered and the loss was one that would never quite be forgotten by the men of the Golden Dragons. The men all knew Top Soldier Nagato and knew of his outstanding courage, the confidence he inspired in the men, and all around soldiering ability. He had been one of the key figures in making the Dragons the professional unit it was and is today.
Captain Johnson was relatively new to the men but they all admired his ability and that confident manner of his. He was a friendly and warm person and was an outstanding technician. The short time he was with the Dragons he inspired a respect and admiration that none will forget. Let us never forget these courageous men. There were two of our best.
There were others killed in this sad tragedy, some of which were unknown to the Dragons. However, they knew that a chopper pilot and a recon pilot (L19) went down. The admiration we held for "Stagecoach" drove us to do everything possible to be done in searching for and trying to help the men who have helped the Dragons everyday in their dangerous work. The 14th Infantry knows no limits when a chopper pilot or FAC needs help. However, help was useless for all were killed instantly on contact. God rest these men, for they were soldiers.
A/1/14 Ė "Alpha Army"
ISG Yoshiiwa Nagato
KIA 07/19/66 in mid-air collision over the Ia Drang River between a Huey, in which he was hitching a ride back to Base Camp in Pleiku, and an L-19 "Bird-dog" Air Force spotter plane. (Copy of BN Log page 41 attached)
Historical Perspective: Also killed in the crash from the 1/14 was our brand new Bn S-3 CPT Raymond E. Johnson, who had just been transferred over from the 1/35 (Cacti). The L-19 was flying parallel to the Cambodian border, the pilot looking down for enemy targets. The Huey had been "voluntarily commandeered" for a few minutes before heading back to Pleiku to help the S-3 adjust pre-planned artillery fires around the BN forward CP for the night. Crew and passengers were probably assisting in spotting rounds landing on the ground.
Personal Perspective: Having something else to do, I had declined CPT Johnsonís invitation to right along. I was talking to Lt. William E. Myers when he looked over my shoulder and said "Oh my God, theyíre going to hit!!" I turned around in time to see them falling from the sky. This is one of many examples in my life that cements a strong belief in the correlation between a "Supreme Being" and blind fate.
20 JULY 1966 the day was spend extracting the bodies at the crash site and searching for the body of the L-19 pilot. Captain Simcox, accompanied by his third platoon, located the wrecked L19 and began to search for the body. The men patrolled both sides of the Ia Trang River down to where it joined the Ia Drang River. From this junction the men searched the near side of the Ia Drang and followed it to the west about 1500 meters downstream. The body was located tangled in a tree stump on the bank of the river. Captain Simcox and his men brought it back to LZ 35H. With all victims of the previous daysí tragedy accounted for, the Dragons would at least know the victims were not abandoned to enemy patrols. It wasnít exactly a comforting feeling but it was the best that could be done at the time.
A Company sent its 1st and 3rd platoons back to hill 185 to check on any new enemy build up but found nothing. After searching the entire area, they returned to LZ 27Q. With darkness coming on, each unit maintained its surveillance post with little change in their disposition. After the defensive concentrations were called it, the men reported no activity during the night.
21 - 22 JULY 1966 on the afternoon of the 21st Colonel Procter was visited by General Walker and Miss Cathy LeRoy, a French reporter. General Walker and Miss LeRoy were briefed by Colonel Procter on the enemy situation at hand.
22 July with the rainy season at its peak, all river crossings were becoming extremely hazardous. The Ia Drang had become a torrent of crashing, tumbling water, about 150 meters wide. The Recon Platoon, which had been patrolling on the south side of the Ia Drang River tried to cross to return to the Battalion Command Post. With a single rope bridge at their disposal the men went one at a time across the raging stream. After three men were across, PFC Robert Wells was on the bridge when it broke, and he was dropped into the river. PFC Wells was swept away, to the horror of his companions, and never seen again.
Colonel Procter immediately dispatched the command and control helicopter to search for the young soldierís body, to no avail. Another tragedy had struck the Dragons and the men were beginning to feel only contact with the enemy could even the score.
After the mishap, the Recon Platoon finished its crossing and closed into the Battalion CP before dark. With each surveillance post ready for another night of observation and strange noise ahead, and each units supplementary ambush sites set in, the night was uneventful.
23 - 24 JULY 1966 these two days in the Dragon history were two of negative enemy contact. The surveillance positions were manned and short-range patrols sent out. Rain continued during this 48-hour period, making enemy movement extremely difficult to detect.
25 JULY 1966 with the cloud ceiling extremely low, Company Aís 2nd platoon moved out on foot from LZ 27Y and at 1000 hours sighted one NVA soldier moving west on a well used trail. The first shot fired brought the enemy down. The dead soldier was armed with grenades and dressed in the khaki type uniform. He seemed to be a bearer of some type, which indicated there might be a build-up of enemy troops in the area.
Company C sent its second platoon on a search and destroy mission to the west paralleling the Ia Drang River. With negative findings, they moved back through the surveillance line and returned to the LZ.
During the night several of the surveillance posts reported hearing movement to their front. Artillery fire was immediately called into the respective areas and the reported noise ceased in all locations.
26 - 27 JULY 1966 the day of the 26th was uneventful. At 1100 hours on the morning of the 27th, the surveillance team from the recon platoon located south of the Ia Drang River sighted 10 NVA soldiers carrying automatic weapons. A four man element of the recon platoon then spotted 15 NVA carrying automatic weapons moving east on a well used trail that followed the base of the Chu Pong Complex. The 2nd platoon of C Company was lifted into the area where they married up with the four man element of the recon platoon. Soon they picked up the trail of the enemy. While moving near "Dragon Knoll" the right flank security of the 2nd platoon found the enemy on top of the knoll while they were digging in. Artillery was then called in and Colonel Procter send two gunships to the scene. After the fire-fight ended, 2nd platoon swept over the knoll to find 3 enemy dead plus 10 full NVA packs, their weapons included a light machine-gun, several grenades and 1000 rounds of ammunition. All the equipment was policed up and evacuated with the 2nd platoon back to LZ 35H. No friendly casualties were sustained. During the night, the entire area was saturated with 155 mm and 175 mm fire.
28 JULY 1966 today was similar to the previous day with the Recon element spotting 15 NVA soldiers moving east on the same trail toward "Dragon Knoll" (YA 841 50). The Colonel sent in Company A with the 1st and 2nd platoons under the command of Captain Ora Lee Boss. As soon as they approached Dragon Knoll, they started to receive fire from the enemy who were well entrenched. As the fire-fight progressed, Company A killed 7 NVA soldiers, sustaining one friendly KIA. SP4 William Main was killed while on the right flank of an envelopment maneuver. Also 6 men from Alpha Army were wounded in the action. They were: Sgt Jimmie Mullins, Sgt Carlton B. Crotis, PFC W. B. Chamberlain, PFC Hall Schorfekamp, PFC Willie Aiee, and PFC Glenn Campbell.
29 JULY 1966 with an enemy force of unknown size occupying Dragon Knoll, Captain Boss called in artillery fire and our supporting "Boxer element" (100-type jet aircraft) for about 2 hours, napalm, and explosive ordinance along the 20 mm cannon fire poured from the skies on the entrenched enemy. Captain Boss moved his men atop the knoll to discover 5 more NVA soldiers dead. After policing the remaining equipment (two AK 47s and 2 American type carbines) they moved back to their LZ from which they were extracted late in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, A Company of the 2/35 Inf. was in heavy contact with an estimated company size force of NVA soldiers northwest of use. The enemy was routed from its position leaving weapons and bodies as they fled.
With A Company having returned to LZ 27Y, the Colonel and Major Hoyt decided that there should be stronger observation to the south of the Ia Drang where the recent action took place. Thus, C Company moved from LZ 35H to 35I where it proceeded to set up its defensive perimeter. With its perimeter constructed, the 1st and 2nd platoons moved out to set up a series of new surveillance posts. The trail that had run to Dragon Knoll and used recently was heavily guarded.
All units called in their defensive concentrations and a commo check was made with all surveillance posts. The night was a quiet one.
30 JULY 1966 late in the afternoon, near Dragon Knoll, the 2nd platoon of C Company spotted one NVA soldier armed with an American M-16 moving west on the trail toward their position. The left flank stop group let him go by and immediately checked to his rear to see if he was a point man for a larger unit. With no others in sight the command "Jut-ti-lin" (hands up) was shouted. Disregarding the command he fled, but was brought down with the first volley of fire. The men felt pleased to have killed a trooper because they knew one American had died to supply this weapon to the enemy.
With the second platoon physically manning Dragon Knoll, the S-2 reported that a POW claimed that the 66th NVA Regiment of which he was a member was based 1500 meters south of the Knoll in the Chu Pong Mountains Complex. All elements of C Company were alerted as well as the rest of the Dragons.
With the force in mind, Major Hoyt requested B-52 strike on the reported area of occupancy. During the night, the suspected valley echoed with the blast of 500 and 750 pound bombs. Both avenues of approach into the valley were also seeded with 24-hour delayed type bombs. As the 2nd platoon occupied Dragon Knoll, they watched in astonishment as the jets screamed down the valley leaving death and destruction in their wake. Also during the night, A Battery 2nd of the 9th Artillery pounded the supposed enemy site with its H and I fires. The night was hardly a quiet one.
31 JULY 1966 for the Dragons unit it was surprisingly a quite day. The 3rd platoon of C Company reported the finding of a large enemy bivouac area that had been evacuated quite recently.
The 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry north of the Ia Drang reported Light contact throughout the day.
At 1530 hours, General Walker paid a visit to Colonel Procter and discussed the new AO the Dragons would enter. The area was AO28 located to the NE of the Chu Pong Mountain Masiff. At 1000 hours Company B and C lifted into LZ 27Y where they were joined by one company of the ROK Battalion from the Tiger Division. A Company moved into LZ 28A. During the night the Dragons and the ROK troops engaged in many types of competitive games. Hand to hand combat was demonstrated on the Dragons, but one of the Golden Dragons defeated the Tiger Divisionís Regimental champ. The men enjoyed the company of the ROK troops and a good time was had by all. The high spirit and strict discipline that characterized the ROK troops was impressive.