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The withdrawal of the airborne brigade would be fortuitous in one respect. That happened in the latter half of October. According to a briefing given to Gen. Westmoreland early in December, it was at that time that the U.

United States

Peers pulled his mechanized troops, substituting the foot sloggers of Lt. John P. Richard H. Along with it went Lt. Glen D. A battalion of the South Vietnamese 42nd Regiment held Dak To itself, and another was sprinkled around the area. Scout patrols indicated the enemy was on the move.

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Before dawn on November 2, a bo doi sergeant named Vu Hong surrendered to a U. Hong said he was a member of a fifty-man reconnaissance unit scouting out potential firing positions for rockets and artillery. Hong proceeded to detail the locations of every element of the North Vietnamese 1st Division.

His own 66th Regiment was on the march toward Ben Het. The th was moving toward there from the northwest. The 24th Regiment supposedly had hacked its way along jungle trails southwest toward Tan Canh, and the 32nd was approaching Dak To itself from the southwest. It was a lot for a sergeant to know. The indications were that the North Vietnamese had seven thousand troops in the area.

In any case, I Field Force took no chances. First to arrive was Lt. James H.

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As much artillery as could be brought to bear, plus forty aircraft, plastered the position. The firefight occurred just two or three hundred meters from where a company of airborne troops nearly had been massacred in the June battle that touched off Operation Greeley. The next morning his Alpha Company air-assaulted onto the next ridge.

Before long, both battalions were engaged. At this point, Gen. Rosson ordered the remainder of the rd Brigade into the sector and gave Gen. Peers control of the operation. Leo H. Schweiter left it behind for extra training and sweeps around Tuy Hoa. Schweiter moved quickly and had his men in position by November 6.

They were also to establish a new firebase on Hill The weakest, Capt. The CIDGs ran away. Johnson pushed his companies hard, ordering the others to relieve Dog, where Capt. Baird, badly wounded, still led his men. Dog held out all night. The next morning the enemy was gone.

Johnson decided on a helicopter assault, flinging his last company onto the crest of the hill at the climax of this fight. There was no Landing Zone and the bombing did not clear one. Johnson requested more and heavier bombing, and even that barely beat down the jungle growth. The company ended up in the middle of a North Vietnamese defense complex. The ensuing fight went through the night.

There were heavy losses. Battalion commander Johnson wanted to go on, but Gen. David J. It, too, had heavy contact. Schweiter had to intervene with the battalion commander to get the relief force into action. The two-company force lost 20 dead, wounded, and two missing. The relieving company suffered an additional 30 wounded. Hardy was killed, leaving Dog Company with just one officer standing, plus about 50 GIs. There were just 40 men left in Charlie Company. The Dak To airstrip was chaotic from a logistics standpoint.

There had been a series of accidents over several months involving aircraft and ground vehicles, caused by vehicles forced to drive on the airstrip to stay out of the mud. In two accidents in September, Cs collided with trucks.

Dak To: America's Sky Soldiers in South Vietnam's Central Highlands

An accident in mid-October, when the ground vehicle was a bulldozer, resulted in the death of the dozer driver and the loss of the aircraft, which took off successfully but crashed on landing. The new battle brought an emergency lift to deliver a three-day supply reserve. Troop movements were on top of that requirement, leading to very heavy use of the airstrip. Emergency runway lights were installed for night flights. Hugh E. The warning was prophetic. The Barrage Continues. The battle for Hill turned out to be only a prelude. The North Vietnamese hurled more than a battalion at the position.

One officer believed it was one of the biggest ground attacks of the war. Americans counted enemy dead on the ground the next day.

The Defenders of Dak To

Belnap moved west and had another daylong fight, this time on Hill The battalion claimed a hundred enemy dead, but was heavily damaged in turn. A smashed helicopter on the LZ burned all day, preventing medical evacuations or supply runs. The Americans were in a meat grinder. On the night of November 12, Dak To received its first direct attack, a mortar barrage of forty-four rounds.

go to site Several vehicles were damaged and two men wounded. An even bigger hit took place three days later. That morning a barrage of about ten rounds hit the airfield, where several Cs were loading elements of the ARVN 9th Airborne to return to Saigon. One plane was set on fire, wounding the battalion commander and two of his officers. Another C blew up.

The third plane survived, backed away by two crewmembers during a lull in the bombardment. Joseph K. Glenn and Sgt.

Joseph H. Mack were awarded Silver Stars for saving the aircraft. A fourth C, just landing, accelerated and took off again. Late that afternoon, the barrage resumed and seventy-eight more mortars fell on Dak To. This time shells hit the ammunition dump, igniting a fire that spread from bunker to bunker. After that, there was nothing to be done.

Steel flew through the air almost all night.