On 31 July 1966 Companies A and C continued to search for trails
in zone and establish ambushes thereon. Company A (-) returned to the
area of the 29-30 Jul 66 contact, arriving at YA 968074 at approximately
Noting a suspicious thicket ahead, Capt. McDonough halted his
force (consisting of the 1st and 3d platoons) and directed Lt. Steltman,
platoon leader of the lead (1st) platoon either to adjust indirect fire
on the thicket or to dispatch a small reconnaissance party. Lt. Steltman
chose the latter.
A reinforced squad was sent out. The squad in turn put out a point
man. In perhaps ten minutes, the point man detected three NVA and took
them under fire. One M-79 round was fired. Following the M-79 round, a
NVA MG began firing. Lt. Steltman began moving the remainder of the lst
platoon forward to assist the squad in contact.
In the meantime, the forward squad detected another five NVA
moving SW. A hot fire fight developed. Capt. McDonough moved forward to
contact Lt. Steltman and to develop an estimate of the situation.
Since the heaviest fire at this time was coining from the west,
Capt. McDonough maneuvered the 3d platoon, commanded by Lt. Tragakis, in
that direction The vegetation in the area near the trail was relatively
open, however, west of the trail the vegetation featured tall bamboo and
difficult thicket. This terrain condition prevailed all the way west to
the IA DRANG River.
The 3d platoon came under fire in this thicket. An artillery smoke
adjustment round landed practically on top of an enemy MG position area.
Very quickly, the smoke diffused through the thicket and reduced
visibility almost to zero. Under these visibility conditions, the enemy
in that area broke contact. In the meantime, Lt. Steltman continued to
maneuver to the east of the 3d platoon.
Throughout the actions just described, artillery, 81mm and
4.2" mortar fire were brought into the area in quantity. This
indirect fire initially was long to the NNE and thereafter was moved SSW
into the scene of action. Zone type fire was employed.
When at length the indirect fire was lifted, Capt. McDonough’s
force swept and searched the area. One NVA KIA was found, also four
extremely heavy blood trails. Enemy holes were found in the banks of the
stream. (Bn Commanders comment: Of interest is the fact that Company
A was engaged across a frontage of at least 200 meters.
Capt. McDonough personally identified the presence of three MG’s.
The men of the 1st platoon claim to have seen twenty enemy, an unusually
high number physically to sight and thus leading one to the conclusion
that two or three times that number quite possibly managed to escape
detection; plus there remains that portion of the enemy force engaged by
the 3d platoon.
Following the search, the 3d platoon was ordered to conduct a
counterclockwise sweep of the scene of action.
Meanwhile, the 1st platoon collected the friendly casualties (1
KIA, 6 WIA) and dispatched an element to reconnoiter for a medevac LZ.
By the time the 3d platoon had completed its sweep, the 1st platoon LZ
reconnaissance group also had returned. The 1st platoon then secured the
area while the 3d platoon (-) repaired to the LZ and improved it as
necessary. The 1st squad, 3d platoon, meanwhile was sent a short
distance north along the trail as an additional security measure….time:
Personnel of the 1st platoon and several members of the company
command group carried the casualties to the LZ. DUSTOFF aircraft
negotiated the improved LZ and completed the medevac.
The 3d platoon moved out to the NNE prior to the completion of the
medevac. By 1430, the 1st platoon had caught up to the 3d platoon and
Captain McDonough consolidated his forces at YA 97200775.
Enemy sniper fire began. The 3d platoon replied with MGs and
M-79s. Lt. Knutson, the artillery FO, called in artillery and 4.2"
mortar fire. The adjustment and FFE consumed twenty to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, to the east at YA 977078, a FAC had spotted two hooches
apparently made of cut lumber. Later he assisted in the adjustment of
artillery fire on these hooches.
Indirect fire was placed into a thicket north of YA 97200775 and
associated with the intermittent stream there.
As the artillery and 4.2" mortar fire was lifted from this
thicket and shifted to the N and E, Capt. McDonough moved with the 3d
platoon across the stream and thicket. The platoon emerged from the
thicket into an open area north of the stream. A trail junction was
noted in the open area. The 3d platoon was sent down the trail heading
east toward the hooches.
Lt. Steltman brought forward his 1st platoon. He was instructed to
investigate the trail to the north.
Just as Lt. Steltman was about to put his platoon in motion, the
3d platoon began receiving AW (2) and sniper fire from the north. For a
moment, the 3d, platoon and the company command group were pinned down.
The snipers seemed to be in trees; however, none could be detected, The
3d platoon quickly generated a base of fire and began maneuvering in the
face of accurate enemy sniper fire. This phase lasted perhaps fifteen
minutes. Numerous shell holes provided convenient cover.
An enemy strong point appeared to be associated with a large rock
outcropping NE of the trail junction. Capt. McDonough quickly began
maneuvering the 1st platoon around to the east of the 3d platoon and
into a thicket.
The 1st platoon moved slowly and with caution. Gradually sniper
fire from the NE diminished.
Meanwhile, the artillery, which previously had been shifted to the
N and E, was quickly brought back to the SW. Artillery fragments tore at
the treetops over Captain McDonough’s position thirty meters in rear
of the forward elements.
Under cover of the artillery fire, the wounded were withdrawn.
Although the sniper fire diminished in the face of friendly artillery
fire, it did not completely cease. Two additional men were wounded in
the process of extracting friendly casualties. First Sergeant Perez took
charge of the wounded. Captain McDonough dispatched a reconnaissance
party to search for a medevac LZ. The wounded were moved to a safe area
and the 1st and 3d platoons followed to make room for an air strike on
Capt. McDonough, Lt Knutson, and a MG team from the 1st platoon
remained at the scene of action to assist in the conduct of the air
strike. Much ordnance was dropped, however, aircraft fuel level became
critical before the 500 pounders could be released.
Meanwhile, the wounded were moved to a LZ several hundred meters
to the west. The LZ required improvement. A power saw was lowered in.
The LZ quickly was made acceptable and friendly casualties (2 KIA and 9
WIA) were evacuated by helicopter around 1745.
Once the air strike was completed, Capt McDonough started action
to get artillery fire back into the area; however, a psywar ship
appeared over the scene of action and requested permission to get into
the act. Permission was granted.
Company A set out to return to its base at LZ 36J.
Following the psywar spiel, another airstrike was brought into the
area. This final air effort, which started at approximately 1815,
completed the action. H&I fires were programmed into the scene of
action in order to deny the enemy an easy battlefield police situation.
(Bn Commanders comment: This second contact demonstrates again the
deadly effectiveness of snipers. Captain McDonough performed precisely
as instructed, i.e., used available support weaponry and maneuvered
slowly and with great care. The late hour prevented a search of the
scene of action to evaluate the effectiveness of the air and artillery