By Way of Introduction

I went to Vietnam in November 1970 and was there through September 1971. It was late in the Vietnam War. American withdrawal was underway in earnest. In Delta Troop's area of operation (from the Cambodian border north of Tay Ninh to the South China Sea in III Corps), American combat divisions that had been in the area since 1966 departed in toto or left behind brigades where divisions had once operated. The 1st Infantry Division departed Vietnam in April 1970. The 199th Light Infantry Brigade left in October 1970. The 25th Infantry Division was reduced to just the 2nd Brigade in December 1970, and the 2nd Brigade itself withdrew in April 1971. The 1st Air Cavalry Division was reduced to just the 3rd Brigade in April 1971. As withdrawal proceeded, military action became increasingly defensive in nature.

Delta Troop as Recon for the Rear Guard

Xuan Loc

Xuan Loc AO When I joined Delta Troop, it was recon for the rear guard, providing reconnaissance for the few remaining combat line units left to defend major installations. In late 1970 and early 1971, Delta Troop protected the western approaches to the 1st Air Cavalry's large Fire Support Base Mace. Mace was located on the east side of Nui Chua Chan mountain, near Xuan Loc. The troop camped on the west side of Nui Chua Chan, at times alone, and at times with a platoon of tracks, Sheridans, and M-48 tanks from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. The troop used daylight sweeps and night ambushes in forest, rubber plantation, and even half way up Nui Chua Chan to determine troop movements of the 33rd NVA Regiment.
Nui Chua Chan First and second platoon often made a single camp separate from, but in the vicinity of, the third platoon's camp. This is the view of Nui Chua Chan from first and second platoon's camp on the west side of Nui Chua Chan.
Nui Chua Chan This is the view of Nui Chua Chan from the third platoon's camp just north of QL1, southwest of Nui Chua Chan. A village along QL1 is in the right foreground. First and second platoon are camped in the area on the extreme left of the frame in the far distance.

Nhon Trach

Nhon Trach AO
In early 1971, Delta Troop moved to the 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division area of operation near Nhon Trach, southeast of Saigon. Nhon Trach was a traditional rocket staging and launch area for attacks on Saigon and Tan Son Nhut. Delta Troop was directed to reconnoiter elements of the 2nd VC Main Force Battalion, the 4th VC Main Force Battalion, the 8th VC Main Force Sapper Battalion and the 10th VC Main Force Sapper Battalion in the Nhon Trach area. The troop worked with units from the South Vietnamese 200th Regional Force. Delta Troop found and fixed the VC units after several days of sharp firefights and ambushes. It then withdrew, and the 1st/5th Mechanized Infantry engaged bunker complexes with flame tracks.

Tay Ninh

Tay Ninh AO In the spring of 1971, Delta Troop provided security to a combat engineer company that made a daily road-clearing sweep of highway TL4 from Nui Ba Dinh to Katum in Tay Ninh province. Delta Troop established its camp with a platoon of tracks from the 1/5th Mech, 25th Infantry Division about 3 kilometers northeast of the slopes of Nui Ba Dinh. In addition to the daily road-clearing, the troop ambushed in the area at night and checked night road traffic to intercept supplies going to the NVA units in the teak forests north of Nui Ba Dinh.
Tay Ninh AO

This photo shows Delta Troop's AO in Tay Ninh, from
Nui Ba Dinh in the far distance to the Cambodian border
in the foreground. Courtesy of Tom White.

FSB Mace


In the late spring and early summer of 1971, Delta Troop returned to the area of FSB Mace. The three platoons provided security for three fire bases located on the east side of Nui Chua Chan, along QL1. The platoons made recon patrols near the bases during the day, and provided perimeter security at night.

Lai Khe

Lai Khe AO

In August 1971, Delta Troop joined A Troop, 3/17th Air Cavalry at Lai Khe to provide security for Lai Khe combat base. Delta Troop also trained the Royal Thai Army Volunteer Force in insertion and combat assault techniques while at Lai Khe.

Delta Troop was still at Lai Khe when I left in September 1971 and when Jerry Smith left in November 1971.

On November 12, 1971, President Nixon declared "American troops are now in a defensive position . . . in a defensive role. The offensive activities of search and destroy are now being undertaken entirely by the South Vietnamese."

Recon for the rear guard, indeed.

A Good Troop in a Bad Time

Delta Troop went to Vietnam in October 1967 and left in April 1972. Over that long era of war, the troop faced many challenges, on the battlefield and off. By 1971, many of the challenges came from off the battlefield. As American units withdrew from the battlefield and America turned against the war and its warriors, Delta Troop's challenge was to remain an effective combat unit.

With "Vietnamization" or withdrawal or whatever term one chooses to use for what really happened, attitudes in the war zone changed substantially from those of the 1960's. No one seriously entertained the belief that the United States government intended to win the war. Soldiers now speculated on exactly who would be the last to die in Vietnam, and those going back to The World requested that the last G.I. to leave Vietnam turn out the lights.

Social turmoil at home, purposelessness in Vietnam, and a volatile mix of draftees, drugs and demoralization threatened the Army's control of its troops. All too often, field soldiers in the early '70's were willing to openly challenge authority because the Army could produce no disciplinary threat that was worse than service in the field as a grunt. The NCO cadre bent under the strain of the protracted war. The war had decimated the junior NCO ranks, and many of the junior NCO's were now products of the Non-Commissioned Officer Candidate School. As a result, many junior NCO's had only three months more time in the Army than the PFC's they led. The senior NCO's saw their chosen career and way of life demeaned and degraded by an American public that turned against its warriors even as it turned against the war.

Delta Troop in camp

Delta Troop's response to these stresses was realistic. While the troop was not immune to the military and social chaos swirling around it, it did not succumb to it. The troop preferred duty in the field, where a subtle truce among the bi-polar elements of officers vs. men, black vs. white, heads vs. juicers allowed the troop to function effectively as combat unit. When placed in harm's way, Delta Troop fought with courage and vigor.

However, the bleak outlook crushed the esprit de corps that was Delta Troop's by right. Troop awards, honors, and distinctions remained in symbol, but the reasons for their being were forgotten. When I was ordered to wear a distinctive red beret as headgear and add a Presidential Unit Citation and Meritorious Unit Citation to the right pocket of my dress uniform, I asked why? No one knew, exactly.

I did not pursue the reasons for the honors and distinctions of Delta Troop, either in-country or after I returned to The World. Indeed, the first thing I did when I got home was to burn the letters my wife had saved, along with all the orders and other material the Army gave me as parting gifts. I thought doing so would make Vietnam go away. All it did was make it that much more difficult to reflect, to reconsider, to remember Vietnam.

Combat Infantryman's Badge

Bluetiger 1970-71 Home Page "By Way of Introduction" "Dispatches from APO SF 96289 - 1970" "Dispatches from APO SF 96289 - 1971" "Rogue's Gallery" "Air Mobile"
"Delta Troop's Rides" "Camps" "Fire Bases" "Anatomy of a Fire Base" "The Move to Lai Khe" "Working at Lai Khe"
"Sin Loi" "Sterling Withers' Page" "Andy Hicks' Page" "Chris Halasz's Page" "Thomas McGuire's Page" "Billy McCall's Page"

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