The History and Sacrifices of an Infantry Battalion in the Vietnam War 1968-1971

By David W. Taylor

Our Waris the only known history of an infantry battalion of the Vietnam War that is written in a narrative style instead of pages of excerpts from reports, and tables of data. This is the three-year combat history of the 5th/46th Infantry Battalion of the 198th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division.

The author himself served with the battalion he writes about in in 1969 where, in the course of 4-1/2 months he was hit from shrapnel from a mine; was hospitalized for malaria and was shot twice. At the National Archives Taylor copied over 23,000 pages of the battalions Daily Staff Journal, the brigade Operations Orders, Plans and Summaries and interviewed over 100 veterans of the battalion. In  Our War he chronicles the battalion’s struggles with enemy as well as the changing tactics and attitudes among the infantry as the war changed from Search and Destroy missions to pacification and Vietnamization.

Taylor’s battalion, the same battalion the famed Vietnam War author Tim O’Brien served in, fought Vietcong (VC) guerillas in the most heavily mined area of the Vietnam War, the notorious Batangan Peninsula (near My Lai and “Pinkville”). The battalion also operated in the dense mountainous jungles against North Vietnamese (NVA) regulars and in three years located four NVA hospitals during their sweeps. In one enemy hospital they encountered two captured peasant women who had been used by the enemy for intravenous blood transfusions to wounded enemy soldiers and were barely alive when found.

The reader will learn the personal sacrifices of war experienced by young soldiers, the successes and failures of battles, and the experiences that would shape young men forever.

DEDICATION   v
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS  vi
PREFACE  xv
Chapter 1: GENESIS June 1965-October 1967 1
Chapter 2: REPORT FOR DUTY October 1967 -March 1968 12
Chapter 3: LANDING ZONE GATOR 28
Chapter 4: IN-COUNTRY March –June 4, 1968 39
Chapter 5: THE PROFESSIONALS June 5-July 10 1968 66
Chapter 6: TASK FORCE COOKSEY July 11-September 17, 1968 97
Chapter 7: GOLDEN FLEECE September 18, 1968 –January 12, 1969 128
Chapter 8: RUSSELL BEACH January 13 –February 9, 1969 167
Chapter 9: EXTENSIVE PACIFICATION February 10 –May 13, 1969 206
Chapter 10: GENEVA PARK May 14 –July 14, 1969 251
Chapter 11: NANTUCKET BEACH July 15 -August 31, 1969 297
Chapter 12: CLEAR, HOLD AND PACIFY September 1 –December 31, 1969 339
Chapter 13: RETRIBUTION January 1, 1970 –March 31, 1970 383
Chapter 14 DEATH AND DESTRUCTION April 1 -June 30, 1970 424
Chapter 15 TACTICAL HEGEMONY July 1 –September 30, 1970 465
Chapter 16 BEGINNING OF THE END October 1 –December 31, 1970 506
Chapter 17 END OF THE TUNNEL January 1 –February 28, 1971 546
Chapter 18 FINAL SACRIFICES February 29 -May 22, 1971 585
Chapter 19 REVELATION May 1971 –March 2011 629
Appendix A LEST WE FORGET 655
BIBLIOGRAPHY 661
INDEX 667

Published by: War Journal Publishing LLC 
P.O. Box 10 
Medina, Ohio 44258-0010  

© 2011 by David W. Taylor
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher.  

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 
LCCN: 2011920663 
Taylor, David W. 1946 –  

Our War –The History and Sacrifices of an Infantry Battalion in the Vietnam War –1968-1971 
David W. Taylor

Includes bibliography, references and index

  1. Vietnamese Conflict, 1961-1975, Campaigns Vietnam, Wheeler/Wallowa, Burlington Trial, Task Force Cooksey, Golden Fleece, Russell Beach/Bold Mariner, Geneva Park, Nantucket Beach, Accelerated Pacification
  2. Vietnamese Conflict 1961-1975
  3. United States Army. Infantry Brigade, 198th –History
  4. Vietnamese Conflict, 1968-1971 –Personal Narratives, American
  5. Taylor, David W. 1946 ­

ISBN 978-0-9832683-0-7

Printed in the United States of America First Edition, First Printing

Printed in 2011

Maps designed by Frank R. Mika

Our War Covers

enemy. Part of the lead element walked on the right flank of the trail and found Chinese (Chicom) grenades. It was apparent they had interrupted  the enemy’s work at preparing booby traps.

Charlie Company’s 1st platoon was sent from the abandoned NVA hospital, less than one-half mile to the east, to assist the recon platoon. Lt. Harold Aldrich, new to the field, led the 1st platoon. By 4:00PM they moved in behind the recon grunts. Lee Gunton, an experienced rifleman who came over with the company from Fort Hood, told his buddy next to him, “We are either going to find nothing or every gook in the world is around the next corner.” With those words spoken, heavy enemy fire broke out and three members of the first platoon immediately went down with wounds. Three soldiers from recon were also wounded, including Care and his RTO. Automatic weapons fire poured from a tree line thirty to forty feet to their front. Gunton’s squad, led by Russ “Pappy” Welder, took cover behind a small mound of dirt. Lt. Aldrich yelled, “Prepare to assault!” Gunton, only three men away from Aldrich told another grunt, “Tell him only the Marines do that.” They assaulted none-the-less and luck was with Gunton, whose rifle jammed after firing only two rounds. When they reached the tree line the firing stopped and the enemy pulled back. It was apparent the force firing on them was a small, harassing force, but they were well-positioned north, west, and south of the beleaguered soldiers at very close range with good camouflage and excellent fields of fire.

Harassing fire broke out time and time again at very close range, making every grunt a hero just by his participation in the event. Sergeant Larry Thomas, a squad leader with the recon platoon was at the point of the file when the fire fight first began. He insured a strong base of fire was placed on the insurgents as he crawled from man to man. With their ammunition getting low, he made it back to LT. Alrich’s platoon, which was also under fire, to obtain extra ammo and bring it back to his troops. When his platoon leader, Lt. Care, was wounded, he moved to take command of the platoon and keep the unit in check. Thomas was awarded the Bronze Star for valor for his leadership.

The enemy fire steadily rose in intensity and Lyon lost no time in requesting air strikes before the situation worsened. Napalm and five hundred pound bombs were requested, especially for the northern side of their position, on the steep ridgelines rising up from the river. At 5:00PM an Air Force Forward Air Controller (FAC “23”) flew overhead and radioed help was on the way. The process took time to develop from

110

the air, but the grunts knew that with the FAC above, control of the fire fight would shift to them. By 5:45PM jet aircraft were dropping their ordnance, with helicopter gunships firing machine gun and cannon fire in-between the sortie’s made by the jets. The FAC orchestrated the air support while the grunts sought cover. The heavy gun support from the air, both jets and gunships, were fired at “Danger Close” range. One canister of napalm was dropped behind Gunton and his squad, hitting the ground and skipping over them, before exploding. Both the aircraft and helicopters took enemy fire as they made their strikes. At 6:30PM FAC 23, low on fuel, checked out and FAC 19 continued coordinating the strike for twenty more minutes.

Charlie Company’s commander, Larry Johnson, arrived with more troops to take control of the ground operation. A dustoff was called for the wounded. LT Care was placed on the Dustoff’s crowded floor, his head hanging below one of the door gunners and his M-60, who was returning machine gun fire on an enemy gun position that was attempting to destroy the Dustoff. The M-60, just inches above the platoon leaders head, caused excruciating pain in his ears. As the bird pulled pitch to gain altitude, the enemy obliged Care by placing an AK-47 round through the door-gunners wrist, which stopped the firing. The remaining grunts on the ground searched the area while jets patiently circled above. The enemy fire ceased. Various positions were found with overhead cover, revealing well-established observations posts to thwart the advance of an approaching force.

During a break the next day, Charlie’s newest platoon leader, Lt Aldrich, asked his squad leader “Pappy” Welder, how he had done the previous day. Pappy took a long puff on his cigarette and said, “Well sir, you fucked up.” Aldrich asked “How?” “We don’t assault over here. That’s what we have artillery and aircraft for.” The platoon never assaulted a treeline again and Aldrich, in the words of his men, “Became a hell of a leader once he got the swing of things.” Aldrich lost a leg two months later, when his RTO stepped on a mine. Amidst all the heavy fighting in the valley, the battalion took an unexpected casualty on August 17 when PFC Paul Meaux, 23 and single, from Kaplan, Louisiana died of natural causes at the 2nd Surgical Hospital in Chu Lai.

The morning of August 18 found Charlie Company and the recon platoon west of the NVA hospital and east of the Thanh River, the distance between the two points being not more than one mile. East of the hospital were Delta’s third platoon with some Special Forces CIDG

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Chapter 3: Landing Zone Gator

Chapter 3: Landing Zone Gator. The 5th/46th Battalion's initial area of operations included dense mountainous terrain, the rolling hills and dense foliage of the Piedmont and the open and sandy coastal lowlands

Chapter 8: Operation Russel Beach

Chapter 8: Operation Russell BeachOperation Russell Beach was the largest combined amphibious and ground operation in the Vietnam War, designed to decimate the 48th Vietcong Local Force Battalion in the most heavily mined area of the war, the Batangan Peninsula.

Chapter 13: Area of Operation Serene

Chapter 13: Area of Operation Serene.Late 1969 saw the 5th/46th Battalion begin shifting to pacification and “Vietnamization” operations, but encountered the frustrations of poor performance from the South Vietnamese and continued pressure for body counts from American commanders

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