VIETNAM Early Days (Cont.)
JANUARY 1969 - JUNE 1969
If you have to ask you don't
want to know.
The next major operation for the 1/61 was Operation Utah Mesa (12 June '69 - 9 July '69) as part of Joint Task Group (JTG) Guadalcanal. The mission was to open QL-9 and then search and clear the area south of QL-9 from CB Vandegrift to the Khe Sanh Plain. The search and clear operations started 16 June 1969 with the CP for the JTG and TF Mustang (1st BN 61st Infantry, with Alfa Company 1st BN 77th Armor attached) at LZ Hawk (XD 907400). (The CPs moved to FSB Tenaru on 22 June 1969.) TF Mustang was directed to conduct operations in the vicinity of Khe Sanh village. An ARVN unit had made heavy contact in that area and 1/61 moved by armored vehicles to join the fight. The NVA reacted to this intrusion by launching a series of night attacks against the ground units. The first came against B/1/61 on 18 June. Before dawn that day, the NVA hit the soldiers' night defensive position located just east of Lang Vei. After breaking through the perimeter, the NVA swarmed over the NDP, fighting the soldiers at close quarters. The NVA pulled out at dawn, leaving forty-one bodies behind. After three days of heavy fighting the NVA broke contact. The U.S. Army units lost eleven killed and fifteen wounded. As had been the case with Operation Remagen, all resupply was done by air.
This operation terminated 9 July and all units returned to their home bases. 1/61 returned to LZ Sharon and conducted saturation patrols in the "Back Yard".
These operations were the precursor of what was to come. The tempo of operations continued without abatement.
Line companies were spread across the BDE AO. A Company played the Desert Fox and became nomads
on the beach. Then LZ Tombstone and LZ Sally. B Company was cross attached to the 1/77 Armor and C Company with the BN Headquarters worked out of Sharon. Operations included ambushes around Cua Viet, perimeter defense at C-2 and search and destroy operations to the west on Rocket Ridge and Mutter's Ridge.
There was no doubt, the battalion was learning the trade of combat in Vietnam. Each day brought a new challenge and sometimes a simple answer.
As the BN fine tuned its combat ability another part of the BDE began to flex its muscle. The 1/5 Aviation Section, call sign "BATMAN", with its Light Observation Helicopters (LOH) and its Utility Helicopters (UH) were flying, learning the area and adding a new dimension to the BN's ground operations. Soon this detachment would be augmented with aircraft from the 101st Airmobile Division. Their awesome firepower required new tactics and dedicated young pilots. They learned and fought and died with their air machines but the real answers came from the men on the ground.
(LEFT)RICE PADDIES NEAR THE COAST
(RIGHT) GROUND-GUIDES IN