Last updated: August 22, 1998.

Unit Crest
G Bty (SLT), 29 FA
Historical Summary

1967 - 1971


Battery G (Searchlight) 29th Field Artillery was attached to 1st Battalion (AW) (SP), 44th Artillery for all purposes inclusive of operational, administrative, and courts-martial jurisdiction. The primary mission of Battery G was that of providing illumination, both visible light and infrared, in support of operations within the I Corps Tactical Zone. The battery also maintained the capability of fighting as Infantry as its secondary role.

Battery G has been in Vietnam since 21 March 1967 and has remained the only searchlight element in the northern five provinces until the present time. It is the only battery that had searchlights giving direct support to units engaged in aggressive tactical action. In addition to performing their primary role of perimeter defense, supporting units guarding fire support bases, logistical outposts, bridges and other key installations, the AN/MSS-3 searchlights of Battery G provided illumination for patrols and ambushes, guided MEDEVAC helicopters, marked bomb sites and targets for tactical air strikes, and provided long range S&P illumination. The fact that Battery G's area of operations was the whole I Corps Tactical Zone necessitated the use of searchlights in areas where enemy action was inevitable. The searchlights operated effectively as flash OP's and in coordination with automatic weapons systems and sniper teams.

Battery G (Searchlight) 29th Field Artillery was composed of three platoons which covered an area approximately 200 miles long extending from south of Chu Lai to the DMZ. The 1st Platoon was at Phu Bai, the 2nd Platoon had its CP at Da Nang and the 3rd Platoon at Chu Lai. The effectiveness of a searchlight battery was attested to by the wide dispersion of its elements.

Many times the deployment of searchlights was the responsibility of the individual crews, whose initiative contributed greatly in advising supported commanders to as to the capabilities and limitations of the lights.

The searchlights of Battery G were deployed in three basic configurations. The most commonly used and tactically efficient was the searchlight mounted on a 1/4 ton truck. The AN/MSS-3 searchlight could be connected to the vehicle's electrical system with only slight modification. These elements were used extensively for night operations that required mobility, such as ambushes, and for illuminating LZ's and defense of bridges and temporary CP's. The tower mounted searchlight was used at more permanent CP's where night illumination was required for perimeter defense. A third way of deploying the searchlight made use of a 23" Xenon searchlight. This self-contained airmobile searchlight (SCAMS) consisted of a searchlight mounted on a standard US Army and Air Force Conex and was powered by a 3kw DC generator. The Conex gave the searchlight added height to shine over bunkers and average size obstacles and provided living and storage areas for crews, as well as ready-rigged air portable container for the searchlight generator and section equipment during movement. This was used in stationary positions in areas not accessible by road, which afforded enough room for a Conex.

SCAMS was developed and tested by personnel of Battery G and not employed by any other searchlight unit. The greatest benefit of SCAMS was that the lights could be moved into areas where enemy activity was being experienced and, as the level of activity decreased, moved to other more active areas with no special considerations required for quartering of personnel or construction of towers or special platforms for the searchlights. This was most essential to Battery G, in as much as its mission dictated that it would operate in areas of heavy enemy activity in the I Corps.

Used in conjunction with Night Observation Devices and Integrated Observation Systems, the SCAMS greatly increased the target acquisition capabilities of their positions. During the months of May, June, and July, 1970, the first three months of the delpoyment of SCAMS, there were 21 searchlight assisted enemy contacts resulting in 54 enemy KIA, 1 POW, 3 boats sunk, and 5 secondary explosions.

Battery G searchlights have been effective in a wide variety of instances. On 15 March 1969, a searchlight began support of a XXIV Corps project to improve Route 547 west from FSB Bastogne to the A Shaw Valley. The operation was conducted by the 27th Engineer Battalion and the 59th Land Clearing Company. A second searchlight was added after one week at the Engineer Battalion's request. these searchlights helped deter attacks on the work party and on equipment that couldn't be removed without much difficulty at night. Along with Dusters from Battery D, 1st Battalion (AW)(SP) 44th Artillery, and Quad 50's from Battery G, 65th Artillery, the searchlights from Battery G (SLT) 29th Field Artillery were very effective in providing work party and perimeter security throughout the operation.

Vehicular mounted searchlights were frequently used to guard bridges and river banks. Illumination is the best way to detect movement on water at night, since an enemy boat makes little or no noise. Searchlights proved very effective against water born targets. As the flat water surface provided an execellant field of view, it afforded no concealment for a detected enemy. Battery G had searchlights at Song Cau Do Bridge supporting the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, and at Lang Co, Namo and Khe Gio Bridges. Some searchlight positions were near rivers and lakes. Elements of Battery G at Crows Nest, Gio Linh and Hill 65, all had a nmuber of sunken boats to their credit.

Visible light was very useful to guide friendly aircraft in times of distress. When it was necessary to call in a Medevac chopper at night, the searchlights could illuminate an LZ, making timely and effective evacuation of personnel much easier. Searchlights also guided FAC planes flying over-head at night.

Many times the searchlights of Battery G were co-located with automatic weapons from 1st Battalion (AW)(SP) 44th Artillery. these teams worked very effectively at Khe Sanh, for example, by making use of infrared light. The perimeter had received small arms fire intermittantly for about a month, during March and April 1971. When targets were detected with infared light, the automatic weapons would train on the enemy before he knew we were aware of him. White light would then be switched on, and the automatic weapons would fire simultaneously. At Khe Sanh, Searchlight/Quad 50 teams had four kills in a five day period.

The searchlight at Crow's Nest was co-located with a 106mm recoilless rifle. The position afforded large fields of fire on all sides due to its elevation. Many times white light was not even used but by utilizing a range card the enemy could be engaged with pin point accuracy on the initial round. On April 8, 1971, a boat was detected using the infrared mode. One round of 106mm recoilless rifle successfully engaged and sunk the boat. Early in September, 1971, one round of 81mm mortar (also at Crow's Nest) got three enemy KIA. again the enemy is not aware that he is detected until he is actually engaged by fire.

The mobile searchlight was the most effective item in the Army's inventory for a night ambush. When set up in the proper position, one light can illuminate an entire platoon to an extent where concealment for the enemy is virtually impossible. The searchlight has a demoralizing effect on the enemy when he knows he is detected and cannot conceal himself. Night ambushes at Gio Linh and Camp Evans, utilizing at least two searchlights per ambush, had an extremely high number of POW taken.

With the infrared mode an AN/MSS-3 searchlight can make maximum use of its range and detect enemy positions that he thinks are far enough away to be secure. The searchlight at Fat city detected a rocket launching site at 2000 meters and gave azimuth and range data to the artillery unit at their location, 23 February 1969. The rocket site was soon rendered ineffective. The infrared light can be used to adjust fire also, as in the above example. The searchlight at Hill 47 observed approximately six rockets being launched on 24 March 1969. This lead to the silencing of the site within minutes. Enemy KIA and WIA are difficult to determine in such instances at night. The battery is credited with numerous secondary explosions, however, when performing a mission of this type.

In addition to the aforementioned methods of employment of searchlights from Battery G (SLT) 29th Field Artillery, the battery continuously performed its mission of providing illumination for fire support bases, logistical outposts, roads and other key installations in support of operations within the XXIV Corps AO. Battery G's deployment resulted in at least 135 searchlight assisted engagements producing 181 KIA, 11 boats destroyed, 11 secondary explosions, 8 POW and an uncounted number of WIA. The figures are a minmum, as it is difficult to estimate such figures at night. The wide dispersion of elements of Battery G (Searchlight) 29th Field Artillery throughout the I Corps Tactical Zone attests to the usefulness of the equipment and men of the unit, in support of tactical operations.


NOTE: This information courtesy of Gary Puro!

NOTE: This transcribed document came from the National Archives and Records Administration. It came as typed above. It is unclear whether this is actually a Unit Historical Summary, or some other document. I have been informed that the AN/MSS-3 and the 23" Xenon Searchlight are the same. Additionally, in February 1968, G Battery's CP's were located: 1st Plt, at Phu Bai; 2nd Plt, at Da Nang; and 3rd Plt, at Chu Lai. As with any CP, location was relative to the current mission.



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