West of the Ashau

by Gary Linderer

There are a lot of great stories of U.S. long-range recon patrols – other than those of SOG – operating in Laos and Cambodia. Most of them are just that – great stories. But some of them have been substantiated and have been proven true.

Others are officially unsubstantiated but yet the eyewitness testimony of a number of participants indicates that at least they believed they were some place they didn’t belong – and didn’t want to be.

On 20th October 1969 Sergeant Frank Anderson’s recon team from Company L, 75th Rangers, 101st Airborne Division got a warning order for a patrol far out into the western expanses of the Division’s area of operations. Their mission was to locate the route of march of enemy replacements being fed into South Vietnam to rebuild the strength of the 5th NVA Regiment operating somewhere in the south western Ashau valley. The 5th NVA Regiment, led by the notorious Colonel Mot, had been a poison thorn in the side of the 101st Airborne Division for nearly two years. Repeatedly bloodied by elements of the Division, remnants of this enemy unit always managed to regroup under Mot’s able leadership and quickly reappear to strike again and again at the Screaming Eagles and their allies.

The most disturbing thing about this particular long-range patrol was that the border indices on the AO map didn’t match any of the maps the Rangers had ever used before. As a matter of fact, the map of the team’s RZ didn’t have any names or terrain feature that remotely rang anyone’s chimes. Continue reading

Welcome To Vietnam

by Louis Galanos

I literally received my orders for Vietnam on my birthday in 1966. At the time I was working as a student instructor in the United States Army Radio Operators School at Fort Ord, California.

As a student I had graduated at the top of my class and, as was the custom, was allowed to stay at the school as an instructor instead of being sent to another unit and possibly to Vietnam. At the time I thought my instructor post was a safe ticket out of the war.

Unfortunately my tenure at the school didn’t last very long due to the fact that the United States was in the midst of a massive build up of troops in a vain attempt to save the struggling government of the Republic of South Vietnam.

After getting my orders, taking a 30 day leave, I reported to Oakland, California for the plane ride to Vietnam.

Our first stop was in Hawaii where we refueled and were not permitted to leave the terminal. Hawaii is so beautiful that if the troops were given any time to explore the area less than half would have made it back to the airport for the next phase of the trip.

Next stop was Okinawa for another refueling. When I say refueling that should include food, drink, as well as aviation gas. The men on board the Braniff Airlines charter flight consumed everything that wasn’t nailed down. The poor stewardesses literally walked across the Pacific while they delivered food and drinks to the passengers. They never got a chance to sit down except for take off and landing. Continue reading

Viet Cong Good-Byes

by Kregg Jorgenson

22nd October 1968 – Sergeant Don Van Hook turned with a start in the darkness and brought up his rifle. There was very little light filtering through the cloudy windswept pre-dawn sky, and the surrounding I Corps mountainous countryside was a puzzle of shadows and contrasts. It made it difficult for Van Hook to clearly identify even the trees no more than a couple of metres away, let alone make them out to be Viet Cong.

He couldn’t be certain if the rustling sound in the elephant grass he was hearing was a Viet Cong fighter sneaking up on his six-man long range patrol team, but he strained his ears and eyes against the darkness in an attempt to locate his target – that is, if it really was a target.

Van Hook was the team’s ATL, assistant team leader, and with only three weeks left in country the 1st Cav. LRRP wasn’t about to take any unnecessary chances. Well, any more unnecessary chances that is. He had already come to the conclusion that going out on this latest mission was unnecessary enough since he was an under 30 short timer. But his team leader, Sergeant Bill Hand, needed an “experienced ATL for the mission, and Van Hook was the obvious choice. He was an experienced ATL, and since Sergeant Richard Turbitt the only remaining veteran ATL in the unit, was back in the States on extended leave, the hammer fell on Van Hook. Turbitt needed him on this patrol, but the short-timer was less than enthusiastic about the idea. Continue reading

Oops, The Russians are Coming

by Dan Pope

The Tet offensive of 1968 was legendary. We’d all heard the horror stories and believe me they weren’t pretty. I’d been in-country for nine months and had dreaded Tet ’69 the whole time. It was the end of January 1969 and Tet was upon us. Just thinking about it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

The entire company was in our new base camp in An Khe, together for the first time, since each platoon had always worked independently.  Usually, we only saw the guys from the other platoons in passing, but this was a special occasion.  We were about to make the official transition form Company E (LRP), 20th Infantry (Airborne), to C Company (Ranger), 75th Infantry.

We were all enjoying the camaraderie when the word came down, “All available team leaders to the briefing room”.  ALL the team leaders had never been summoned before, so we knew that something “BIG” was coming.  The short and skinny was the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s S-2 had just gotten intel indicating that there was to be a major Tet offensive directed at An Khe.  I got that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, “Oh shit, this is it, steel yourself, man.  Here it comes!”  The 173rd, who we were op con to, wanted to blanket An Khe with Ops as far out as possible as an early warning system against the attack. Continue reading