Screaming Eagles Through Time
Vietnam - Page 5


The 101st Airborne (Airmobile) during Vietnam.

The 101st was not through in the A Shau. On June 8, Montgomery Rendezvous started. The 3rd Brigade operation was focused on the eastern highlands near the valley.

Activity had not ceased on the valley floor, however. The 326th Engineers in 54 working hours constructed a new airstrip on the valley floor near Ta Bat, and the 27th Engineers, 18th Engineer Brigade, cut the final swath through the wilderness to complete a graded roadway Route 547 from the coastal lowlands all the way to the A Shau. On June 10, the road was momentously opened with the entrance of the first armor into the valley in history. A column of 80 tracked vehicles of the 3rd Sqdn., 5th Cav., and the 7th ARVN Cav., moved into the valley to bring some armored might against the enemy.


1st Brigade reconnaissance unit searches for enemy supply points close to the A Shau Valley during Operation Delaware.

At first Montgomery Rendezvous contact was light except for two vicious sapper attacks on Fire Base Berchtesgaden and Currahee on the mornings of June 14 and 15, respectively. A total of 86 enemy were killed in the attacks.

Sfc. Angel M. Rosada, field 1st Sgt. of Co. B, 1st Bn., 506th Abn. Inf., was standing outside the company command post at Fire Base Berchtesgaden when he spotted a figure inside the barbed wire. "Who are you?" Rosada challened. "Quan," the figure replied. Rosada yelled a warning ("we sure as hell didnt have anyone by that name in Co. B," he recalled later) and rushed the startled NVA, throwing him over the wire and down a 20-foot embankment. Other paratroopers started firing and the battle spread quickly as other sappers infiltrated. One NVA entered a mess hall only to be met and killed by a cook working inside. Sgt. Maj. Robert D. Bryson heard someone yelling, grabbed his weapon and ran toward the 3rd Brigade TOC. Halfway there he spotted a sapper running in the same direction and cut him down with a burst from his M-16. He saw two other enemy, shot the lead sapper, who fell against his companion, causing him to drop an already activated satchel charge. The explosion blew the second sapper apart. Bryson fired at a fourth sapper, wounding him, but the enemy managed to crawl close enough to the TOC to heave the satchel charge inside. Eighteen NVA bodies were found inside the perimeter after the attack was repelled, 13 more were found outside the wire.

In the A Shau to stay, the division has clearly had another Rendezvous With Destiny.


2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalrymen sweep the coastal plain in search of NVA strongholds northeast of Hue.

On August 14, Operation Kentucky Jumper drew to a close after 167 days of combat in and around the A Shau Valley. Since the operation began March 1, more than 1,550 enemy were killed and 41 suspects detained, 1,612 individual weapons, and 185 crew-served weapons captured. Ending simultaneously with Kentucky Jumper was Operation Montgomery Rendezvous which brought armor to the A Shau Valley for the first time and included the cutting of the airstrip on the valley floor. Final totals for this operation were 3932 enemy soldiers killed, seven detained, 174 individual weapons and 47 crew-served weapons captured.

In Operation Lamar Plain, which started May 15, the 1st Brigade came under the operational control of the Americal Division. The stay in Tam Ky was to last 90 days. In the interval the "Always First" troopers accounted for 519 enemy killed, 257 individual and 18 crew-served weapons captured.


1st Brigade infantrymen contact NVA force north of Phu Bai during Operation Carentan II.

In the early morning hours of August 24, "Currahees" of the 1st Bn., 506th Inf., repelled another vicious sapper attack on Fire Base Berchtesgaden. Approximately 90 enemy sappers, aided by mortar crews on the surrounding ridgelines, attacked the base at approximately 3:20 in the morning and were cut down when the "mad minute," base defensive fires, caught them off guard.

It was standard procedure for Co. B to occasionally fire a mad minute when all the troops guarding the perimeter would fire all their weapons at once. Spec. 4 Robert Sutton, the units radio telephone operator (RTO), suggested a slight departure from the usual procedure when the firing was over. Remembering just one month before when the enemy had waited until just after the mad minute to attack his company on Berchtesgaden, he asked the company commander to OK another one in just a few minutes. "Apparently the sappers thought they had been discovered because they launched their attack too early and we were ready for them," said Sgt. Maj. Robert Bryson. On one side of the base, the sappers were already well on their way toward the perimeter when the second mad minute began. Seconds later, they were stopped cold just a few feet from the nearest bunker. Aided by Cobra helicopters from the 4th Bn., 77th ARA, the "Currahees" killed 31 NVA and captured 19 weapons.

On September 5, Operation Lifesaver, a concept devised by General Wright to turn dangerous, hastily prepared LZs into safe ones was begun. Each day, an LZ improvement team made up of 10 infantrymen, 10 members of the 326th Eng. Bn., and three 101st Pathfinders were inserted into "marginal" LZs to clear stumps and trees that would prevent safe landings.

"Deep in my heart. My conscience bothers me each time we have a helicopter accident," said General Wright. "For often we find that if one extra precaution had been taken or that extra effort made, the accident may have been prevented." Operation Lifesaver turned out to be just that "extra effort" and the continuing program was termed a tremendous success.


Early morning infantry sweep following a night of firefights.

In early fall, plans were made for the redeployment of the 3rd Marine Division and on September 30, the 1st and 2nd Bns., 506th Inf., were airlifted to Quang Tri Province to form a security screen for the Marine's move. The plan was to insert two airmobile battalions, supported by artillery firebases, along a line from the DMZ to just north of Khe Sanh in the southern portion of the province. These battalions would stop enemy movements from Laos and North Vietnam that would interfere with the redeployment.

On October 2, the operation began when eight combat equipped companies air assaulted into two primary areas just south of the DMZ. The first to hit a landing zone was Co. C, 1st of the 506th, which was responsible for securing the area to be used as a battalion command post.

"All in all it was a pretty good start," recalled one "Currahee" infantryman. "We got rained on, we got hungry and at six that evening we got mortared." Although 25 rounds were fired at the friendly position, there were no casualties. The base was so small the mortar rounds hit on the far side of the mountain. After that first night's action, the troopers had no trouble in finding a name for the scarred peak. They called it "Shrapnel."


1st Brigade troopers fight jungle heat to save buddy's life.

For the next month, the 3rd Brigade troopers continued to stifle enemy attempts to disrupt the redeployment, encountering scattered contact from the NVA who had withdrawn to their sanctuaries to the north and the west. On November 8, the 3rd Brigade units closed out the northern AO as the Marines successfully completed their move. During the operation, a total of 59 enemy soldiers were killed and 22 individual and two crew-served weapons were captured.

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