Screaming Eagles Through Time


28 February 1969 - 8 May 1969

The tactical value of the A Shau Valley as a main supply and infiltration route from laos into Thua Thien and Quang Nam Provinces has rendered it an area of contest for many years. It was not, however, until this year that the U.S. and ARVN forces obtained the capability to invade the A Shau and deny the enemy the use of it for an indefinite period of time.

Operation Massachusetts Striker and Apache Snow initiated the first successful attempt to control the A Shau Valley on a permanent basis by the free world forces. Striker was directed against the southern portion of the valley, while Apache Snow followed with the invasion of the northern area. Montgomery Rendezvous was next, aimed at the eastern slope and the middle of the valley floor.


The A Shau Valley from the air looks green and peaceful - but when you get closer you
see the enemy-built Route 548 and the artillery and bomb craters that pock the floor.

The 2nd Brigade kicked off Striker on March 1 with the insertion of A Co., 326th Eng. Bn., onto a hilltop overlooking the valley. Under the protection of troopers of the 2nd Sqdrn., 17th Cav., they began construction of Fire Base Whip, the proposed forward base camp of the brigade.

From Whip the 2nd Brigade was to conduct operations in the southern A Shau and Rao Nai valleys to interdict and destroy North Vietnamese base areas and supply routes. The success of the operation required bold insertions of the maneuver battalions, followed by forced combat marches to the Laotian border to cut off enemy withdrawals. The enemy situation was obscure, but it was clear that he was very active.

On D-Day minus one, Col. John A. Hoefling, then the brigade commander, told his troops, "We are in for some tough fighting ahead, but I feel we have never before been more capable of success than we are now. The NVA we are going to meet out there," he warned, "will be highly trained, well equipped hardcore troops who will stand and fight, especially when we get close to his base camps and supply depots."

The mountain weather has always been unpredictable, particularly during the monsoon season, which was due to pass in late March. As a result, the operation was delayed when the engineers were socked in on Whip the day after their insertion. They continued their construction on the fire base without adequate food and water supplies. For days they subsisted on rainwater they could catch in their ponchos.

The bad weather persisted until finally, on March 12, the 1st Bn., 502nd Abn. Inf., was able to move forward as far as Fire Base Veghel. Although this maneuver was not in the original plans, it worked out to advantage when a company of the 9th NVA Regt. was found on the abandoned fire base. "It seems," said Lt. Col. Donald Davis, Brooklyn, N.Y., the battalion commander, "that we accidentally jumped into a battalion base area."

When the assault helicopters carrying C Co. of the O-Deuce swept down on Veghel at 5 that afternoon, they encountered the enemy in dug-in positions inside the perimeter. Claymore mines had been emplaced and aimed skyward against the helicopters, and the area was heavily booby-trapped. Most of these, fortunately, had been destroyed in the artillery preparation of the fire base as an LZ.

Four of the first five choppers to land took hits but none were destroyed. Bitter fighting ensued as the clouds closed over again, cutting off air support.

By midnight, the enemy had stopped returning fire and the following morning Charlie Company's assault was completed with little difficulty. Twelve NVA bodies had been left inside the perimeter and eight more were found along the enemys route of withdrawal.

That afternoon the rest of the battalion joined C Co. at Veghel and began a drive westward in pursuit. For the next 33 days the First Strike Battalion fought every foot of the way against well-entrenched enemy, pushing them back until they made a stand at Dong A Tay, the battle of "Bloody Ridge."

Never before had the enemy shown such determination to stand and fight for his ground. Not until the NVA battalions had been decimated did they break contact and flee to their sanctuaries in Laos. This hard-won victory, the result of a substitute maneuver because of bad weather, accounted for 90 NVA killed by actual body count, with many times that number killed or wounded and carried off in the enemy's retreat.

Meanwhile, on March 20, the 2nd Bn., 501st Abn. Inf., led by Lt. Col. Joseph C. Wilson, Honolulu, Hawaii, was inserted into the Rao Nai Valley, southeast of the A Shau, and began a sweep to the Laotian border. They encountered light resistance along the way from small delaying elements of squad or platoon size.

On March 22 the No Slack Bn., 327th Abn. Inf. from the 1st Brigade came under the operational control of the 2nd Brigade and invaded the old A Shau airstrip on the floor of the valley. This was the destination of the 1st of the 502nd had it not been committed on Dong A Tay.

Again, little resistance was encountered as the No Slack troopers moved quickly southward to the Laotian border on three axes. The bad weather delays couple with American activity on the edges of the valley had apparently telegraphed the approach of the Screaming Eagles, and the enemy units withdrew into Laos before they could be overtaken.

Once the battalions reached the Laotian border they retraced their steps and conducted intensive search operations in their respective areas. In the next several weeks enemy base camps, hospitals, high-speed trails and supply caches were discovered and destroyed or confiscated.

The No Slack Paratroopers found several trucks and dozers along a heavy duty road that NVA engineers had been constructing and improving. Lt. Col. Charles W. Dyke, Clinton, Md., the battalion commander, found evidence that repair crews had been through the area only five days ahead of his own companies.

Delta Company, 2nd of the 501st, came upon a way-station, hospital complex and rove off what apparently was a caretaker platoon. That night, after the company established its night positions in the complex, the enemy platoon returned with satchel charges, RPG fire and small arms. The attack was repelled, three sappers dying inside the perimeter.

A few days later the Drive On troopers, following a high-speed trail, found caches that contained 120,000 AK-47 rounds, dozens of rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds. They continued to be harassed by bobby-traps and snipers and cache security guards.

By this time the 1st Bn., 501st Abn. Inf., commanded by Lt. Col. John E. ogers, had completed a successful cordon operation on the plains and joined Mass. Striker. On April 10 they combat-assaulted into Fire Base Thor and the area southeast, spearheading the brigade's move into Quang Nam Province in the direction of Da Nang.

The 1st of the 502nd, after mopping up operations at Dong A Tay, was inserted on April 16 into Fire Base Lash astride the Yellow Brick Road (Route 614). Within four days Spec. 4 Milton Copeland, Hamilton, Ga., discovered possibly the largest electronic equipment and medical supply cache yet found in the war - 100 tons. His Charlie Company encountered virtually no resistance as they probed and uncovered 14 trucks, over 600 brand new SKS rifles, Chinese Communist radios and field telephones, large stocks of medicine, large quantities of assorted supplies and equipment and documents indicating the location of another cache.

As the days went on it became obvious that the entire area of the extreme southern A Shau had been abandoned by the NVA, who left the bulk of their equipment and munitions behind in their hasty retreat. The Yellow Brick Road was interdicted and destroyed by the 2nd Brigade, leaving enemy plans for future offensives against Hue and Da Nang extremely hampered if not impossible.


A total of 178 enemy were killed by May 8 when Striker terminated. Tons of munitions and equipment were destroyed or captured. The historically valuable supply and infiltration routes of the communist forces was denied to them, leaving no alternative rout, so hindering their operations for sometime to come.

Written by Lt. Frank Hair for Rendezvous With Destiny magazine, Summer 1969.

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