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Duc Lap Sweep Garners 200 Bunkers

By SP4 Larry Hagan

BAN ME THUOT—After suffering heavy losses, the NVA were driven from the Duc Lap Special Forces Camp and forced back into the jungle.

Now, even the jungle offers, little sanctuary for them.

Combined forces of, 4th Division’s 2nd Brigade, labeled Task Force Bright and commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John Daniels of Alexandria, Va., have pursued the communists deep into the forest and denied them the chance for a second attack on the camp. In a single day, elements of the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel William C. Moore of Alexandria, Va., uncovered nearly 200 NVA fortifications southwest of Ban Me Thuot.

Bunkers Recent

The majority of the positions appeared to be less than two days old.

Heavy drops of rain still clung to the trees as the men of the Cacti Blue moved out on the day’s operation.

Air and artillery power had earlier been employed in the area northeast of Duc Lap. It was now the battalion’s task to move in and sweep the area.

Company B had barely begun its sweep when it uncovered a small complex of bunkers and foxholes tucked away in a shallow ravine. The company cautiously approached the complex. Reaching the first bunker, a Cacti Blue soldier thrust his M16 into the opening and cut loose with a quick burst, "just to make sure nobody was home."

As the dust settled, the. Ivyman peered into the fortification

Nobody home.

Moving out, the company soon found a smaller complex and the slow painstaking process started again.

Night Location

Nearby, the Cacti reconnaissance platoon uncovered an enemy night location.

Freshly dug fox holes and makeshift shelters offered mute evidence that the NVA platoon had used the facility the night before. However, the previous evening had seen a B52 strike fall a short distance from the NVA, probably making sleep impossible.

After spending what must have been a sleepless night, the enemy fled.

As the platoon cheeked through the abandoned night location, a sweep, conducted by Company A, under the leadership of First Lieutenant Donald Latella of Philadelphia, uncovered a well camouflaged NVA kitchen complex, complete with mess area and cooking facilities.

The stoves had been dug into the ground with a network of tree limbs criss-crossed over their top. As smoke traveled through this network, it would be defused, making. it more difficult to detect.

Large cooking pots were found scattered throughout the facility and freshly cut foliage covered the entire complex.

Hurried Departure

It appeared that "Charlie" had again been forced to run for his life.

Meanwhile, Company B was continuing its search of the area. While assessing the damage inflicted by the B52 strike, the company broke into a small clearing and discovered an abandoned anti-aircraft position.

"The place was littered with old ammo boxes and foxholes," recalled Specialist 4 Dick Larson of Stewart, Mich.

After stopping for chow, the units moved out again.

Company A made the final and largest discovery of the day.

Strange Bush

Sweeping along a ridge line, the unit’s point man spotted a log protruding from a bush that "just didn’t look right."

Moving in to investigate, the Ivymen uncovered a battalion-sized bunker complex.

About 150 bunkers with overhead cover were found hidden in the dense undergrowth. Some were sleeping bunkers and others were fighting positions, but all were less than 48 hours old. As with the smaller complexes, the Ivymen carefully searched through the fortification.

Smoke belched from the tiny entrances as grenades and rifle fire preceded the men into the underground dwellings.

All evidence seemed to Indicate that the enemy had prepared the location, but had not had time to move into the bunkers.

Air and artillery units were notified of the discovery and plans were made for the destruction of the complex.

For the people of Duc Lap and the defenders of its neighboring special forces camp, the battle had ended, but for the surviving NVA, the fight was only changed.

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