VIETNAM HISTORY OF THE CACTI REGIMENT
Dear Dick (Arnold):
When I returned to our Hawaiian home earlier
this month after having been on the Mainland since April 14th, there
were 513 E-mail messages on my computer. One was your most welcome
message. It was great for me to learn of the interest you have in the
history of 3rd Infantry Brigade and the work you are doing to
reconstruct the events that led up to the deployment from Hawaii to
I took command of the 3rd Brigade in June,
1965. At that time the major units of the Brigade were: 1st Bn, 35th
Infantry commanded by Lt. Col. Ed Callanan, 2nd Bn, 35th Infantry
commanded by Lt. Col. George Scott (now deceased), 1st Bn, 5th Mech Inf
commanded by Lt. Col. Thomas Greer, 2d Bn 9th Artillery commanded by Lt
Col Saul Jackson.
On December 12, 1965 I was directed by Col
Tom Mellon, 25th Inf Div C/S to meet Major General Fred Weyand , CG 25th
Infantry Division, at his quarters at 1800 hours that evening. Gen
Weyand, who had just returned from a meeting at CINCPAC, informed me
that the 3rd BDE was to be deployed to Pleiku, Vietnam and that an
Advanced Party should leave within a week. This information was, of
course, TOP SECRET at that time.
The 3rd Brigade was tailored as a Separate
Brigade Task Force and would be under the Operational Control of the CG
First Field Force Commanded by Maj Gen Stanley Larsen whose Headquarters
was some 100 miles Southeast of Pleiku on the Coast at Nha Trang .
Before leaving Schofield Barracks, the 1st
Bn 5th Mech was moved to the 2nd Brigade and the 1st Bn, 14th
Infantry commanded by Lt Col Gilbert Proctor was assigned to the 3rd Bde.
In addition to the three infantry battalions, and the direct support
artillery battalion, there was a Provisional Support Battalion,
consisting of various combat and service support elements such as
Medical, Signal, Ordnance, and Administrative units . Plus, there was a
combat engineer company, a cavalry troop and a tank company. The overall
strength of this separate brigade task force was about 4200 people.
The 3rd Bde, less the 1/14 and the large
armor and engineer equipment, deployed by air. The code name of the
airlift was "Operation Blue Light". The Air Force dedicated 12
C-141 and 4 C -133 aircraft to this operation. The Advance Party,
utilizing three C-141 aircraft, departed for Pleiku on or about December
16th. (I do not recall the exact date) The Main Body started deployment
on December 25th and I departed Schofield Barracks at that time. Major
(P) Phil Feir, was the Brigade Executive Officer. He remained at
Schofield to supervise the movement and to close out the brigade
responsibilities as the last elements of the brigade departed.
The 1/14th Inf, after spending 12 days at
sea, arrived at Cam Ran Bay on January 17th, 1966. Our initial mission
was to build a Base Camp about 4 miles East of Pleiku, establish
communications, and to ensure the protection of
the base as the units phased in. A plane arrived about every six hours.
In addition, we had the mission of securing Hwy 19 (?) from the Coast to
Pleiku as our out sized and logistical elements moved via that route to
As I recall, the 3rd BDE completed its move
to Pleiku during the 3rd week in January 1966 which was eight days ahead
of the target date that had been set by MACV.
Operation Blue Light was completed without
incident and was, at that time, the largest Air Force/Army movement in
point of number troops moved and the amount of ton miles flown. The 61st
Military Air Lift Wing flew 225 missions, transporting more than 4700
Tons of cargo plus approximately 4000 troops. A total of 225 missions
were flown during this movement.
Even before the Brigade had closed, we were
ordered to perform search and destroy missions in the vicinity of some
of the Special Forces Camps which were located in the Central Highlands.
Starting during the latter part of January,
the 2nd Bn of the 35th Inf was given missions along Hwy 19 near the Man
Yang Pass. This area had a history of frequent activity by the VC from
which they launched ambushes and attacks on traffic using this highway
which was a main avenue of communications. The 1/35 and 1/14 Battalions
were engaged in search and
destroy missions West of Pleiku. This operation was named Taylor.
During the early February, the Brigade less
the 2/35 Bn, was moved to Darlac Prov and commenced Operation Garfield
which started in the Ban Me Thuot area and moved North toward Buon
Brieng, which was a Montanyard village. Garfield continued for about
five weeks during which time over 300 VC and NVA were killed, many
individual and crew served weapons and communications equipment was
captured, an estimated 60 tons of rice was denied the enemy and a large
field hospital with modern surgical equipment and supplies was
Operation Garfield lasted about five weeks.
After which, the 3rd Bde moved right into Operation Lincoln, where the
area of operations was from the Chu Pong Mountain/Idrang River, North
toward Duk To Special Forces Camp. As this Operation got under way, two
Republic of Korea Infantry Battalions were attached to the 3rd Bde.
During Operation Lincoln, elements of at least five NVA Regiments made
repeated attacks coming from their positions
located across the border in Cambodia. During one pre dawn attack, the
NVA had very heavy losses when they hit the main defenses of the 1/14th
and the two Korean Battalions.
During Operation Lincoln the 3rd Bde was
placed under the Op Con of the 1st Air Cav Div.
Following Operation Lincoln, the 3rd Bde
participated in several search and destroy operations in the Pleiku,
Kontum, and Dak To areas. And, in an operation in the vicinity of a
large tea plantation (the name of which I do not remember) located South
and West of Pleiku.
The next major Operation was Paul Revere.
The area of operation was to the South and West of Pleiku and West
toward the Cambodian Border.
Around the first of May, I turned the 3rd
Bde over to Brig Gen Glenn D. Walker. Gen Walker had been one of the two
Assistant Division Commanders of the 25th Infantry Division. The other
Assistant Division Commander, Brig Gen Ted Desaussure later was assigned
to command a Separate Brigade attached to the 25th Inf Div in the Chu
Chi area. Both of these changes in command were directed by GEN
I remained with the 3rd Bde as the Deputy
Commander for a few weeks before being assigned to Second Field Force
Headquarters at Long Bien as the G3. Long Bien is located about 20 miles
North of Saigon. I remained in that position until the end of 1966 when
my tour in Vietnam was completed.
Dick, the above is presented for your
information and is a chronology of what transpired (as I remember) from
the time we were alerted until we closed in at Pleiku and almost
immediately entered into a series of combat operations.
Finally, I want to state that the Bde was
well trained, and the morale was high. About two weeks before we started
the deployment, the 3rd Bde won the Division Football Championship with
a 10 wins and no losses This alone, was a great morale builder.
May 18, 2000
Good Day Colonel Stoutner,
I am Dick Arnold, Historian for the Cacti
Association. It is my understanding that you have intimate knowledge of
the 25th's 3rd Brigade deployment to Vietnam in December of
1965 and also was involved with the Cacti for some period after that.
I have several projects on-going. My first
emphasis is on confirming down to battalion and company level, all
Vietnam KIAs of the two Cacti battalions; I am also doing that for the
1/14 Golden Dragons. To date, I have confirmed about 670 men and figure
that is roughly 75% of total.
My next emphasis will be to start compiling
an accurate accounting of movements and key engagements for the Cacti
battalions during their Vietnam commitment. Sir, you probably are aware
that we were switched to the 4th Division in August of 1967.
This switch has resulted in us being a bit like orphans as we are given
short shrift in both the 25th and 4th histories. I am personally
committed to remedying this oversight as the Cacti have a rich and
glorious history that needs to be documented.
Colonel Stoutner, I would be grateful for
any help you can render.