Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ia Drang.

This is coolbert:

Ia Drang Valley, Chu Pong Mountain, Vietnam.

Those of you that have read the book by Moore and Galloway: "We Were Soldiers Once...and Young" or seen the Mel Gibson movie of the same name will be more than familiar with the story of LZ X-Ray: "the first major battle of the Vietnam War between the American Army [USA] and the People's Army of Vietnam [NVA/PAVN] - Regulars".

That American  air mobile battalion of light infantry airlifted onto a landing zone [LZ X-Ray], unbeknownst to them the LZ located directly on top of a base camp for a NVA divisional sized unit.

That air mobile battalion of Colonel Moore instantly and irrevocably so pinned down, unable to advance beyond the perimeter of the LZ, casualties excessive even catastrophic, annihilation even a possible!

That battalion surviving and only so emerging from three days of the most intense combat by a combination of hard fighting, reinforcement, indirect weapons fire [artillery] and a LOT of close-air-support [CAS].

LZ X-Ray however should be understood to be ONLY HALF THE STORY OF IA DRANG VALLEY, CHU PONG MOUNTAIN!

Further combat as seen at LZ Albany the rest of the story.

One of those reinforcing battalions as having previously been engaged at X-Ray ambushed and also nearly wiped out, decimated to an extent of no longer being a cohesive and combat effective unit, so heavy was the casualties!!


The story of LZ Albany as best told by Jack Smith, American infantryman present at the scene, repeatedly wounded, surviving only barely, and as recounted in:  "Death in the Ia Drang Valley, November 13-18, 1965" , thanks to : The Saturday Evening Post, 28 January 1967."

"Sandbag For A Machine Gun: Jack P. Smith on the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley and the Legacy of the Vietnam War".

Jack Smith recently passed away and of course the son of the famous American journalist and TV evening news anchor Howard K. Smith!

That account of Jack Smith an outstanding anecdotal account of combat, worthy of inclusion into any anthology! Read the whole thing for yourself!

Regarding both X-Ray and Albany the word debacle is not used lightly but is almost considered to be appropriate?

That first major and large-scale engagement between American army and NVA forces did not go so well from the American standpoint, admittedly so at the time or not!

In the aftermath of both LZ X-ray and LZ Albany the order was given from the highest command for all leadership ranks serving in Vietnam to WEAR ONLY SUBDUED NAME TAGS AND BADGES OF RANK!! Especially at Albany so many in leadership positions INSTANTLY AND MORE OR LESS IN SECONDS CUT DOWN BY SUPER-INTENSE ENEMY FIRE, THOSE HIGHLY VISIBLE AT THE TIME BADGES OF RANK IN PARTICULAR ALLOWING FOR CONCENTRATED NVA FIRE TO BE DIRECTED AT THOSE ATTEMPTING TO CONDUCT AN EFFECTIVE DEFENSE. Albany became a battle with privates in command of whatever unit structure remained or those remnants forming from the survivors of wiped out squads and platoons!!


* Those American soldiers at Ia Drang each and every one parachute qualified, paratroopers the finest and best and most prepared infantry the American army could deploy to Vietnam!

* Those American officers commanding at all ranks and echelons of command too the finest and best infantry officers the American army could deploy to Vietnam!

* Inexplicably - - twice at Ia Drang, the American infantry was surprised and much to their chagrin nearly annihilated. This cannot have been considered to be anything but an inauspicious and unfavorable start to major ground combat as undertaken by American forces in Vietnam. Even established a trend and tenor that was to last the entire duration of the war?



Anonymous said...

It wasn't quite as one-sided as you make it sound. Albany sucked but American forces punched back about as well as they got punched, especially considering they were significantly ounumbered...actually inflicting more casualties as is typical of a defensive position. Many soldiers demonstrated immense acts of valor in defense of their comrades on both sides. Both sides actually claimed victory at the end of the day. I think you are trying way too hard to make this out to be a huge military blunder. Go look at Mogadishu or something.

Anonymous said...

"* Those American soldiers at Ia Drang each and every one parachute qualified, paratroopers the finest and best and most prepared infantry the American army could deploy to Vietnam!" ?
Are you sure? Coleman had a different opinion on this subject: "The green troops expended a lot of ammunition early on, firing mostly at shadows. During the early days at An Khe, the saga of Maggie the mule ended tragically. She wandered too far outside the perimeter one cloudy night and was shot by a spooked picket guard. The flailing about on the perimeter revealed a fundamental truth about the division for someone who was perceptive enough to see it: the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) that had just arrived in Vietnam was not an elite unit. True, the concept of airmobility was elite, but the troopers who were to provide the sinew for making the concept a reality were typical of the American infantry, artillery, and engineer soldiers the U.S. Army was providing to all of its line outfits in 1965.

So a lot of ammunition was fire off in those first days on the perimeter, until inexperienced troops began recognizing shadows for what they were and leaders began exercising the kind of control and fire discipline that was expected of a first-rate outfit. Step by step, the division began reaching a true wartime readiness; not the paper brand of readiness but that special kind of discipline marked by proficiency and dependability and automatic habits of combat not taught in any school. The division was striving to reach an elite status. The question was, would the enemy allow it the time? (Coleman, Pleiku, the Dawn of Helicopter Warfare in Vietnam, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1988, page 53)

Gerald said...

War is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.