The Geneva Accords stated that the division was to be temporary, and that national elections in 1956 would reunite the country. But the United States did not want to see Vietnam turn into a communist state, so the US supported the creation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, which provided defense for South Vietnam.
North Vietnam, then called the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, wanted a communist state, and South Vietnam, then called the Republic of Vietnam, wanted a non-communist state. In 1956, Ngo Dihn Diem, an anti-communist, won the presidential election in South Vietnam. But communist opposition in the south caused Diem numerous problems. And in 1959, southern communists decided to implement greater violence to try to oust Diem. This led to the formation of the National Liberation Front (NLF).
The NLF was a group of communists and non-communists who opposed diem and sought his ouster. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy sent a group to South Vietnam to determine what actions the US needed to take to assist them. When the group returned, they proffered recommendations in what became known as the "December 1961 White Paper" that indicated a need for an increased military presence; but many of the advisors of Kennedy wanted a complete pullout from the country.
In the end, Kennedy compromised and decided to increase the number of military advisors, but with the objective of not to engage in a massive military buildup. But in 1963, the government of Diem quickly began to unravel. The downfall began when Diem's brother accused Buddhist monks of harboring communists -- his brother then began raiding Buddhist pagodas in an attempt to find these communists
The Buddhist monks immediately began protesting in the streets, and in Saigon
on 05 October, 1963, one monk died by self-immolation. This incident caused
international outrage and Diem was soon overthrown and killed. On 02 August,
1964, North Vietnam attacked an American ship in the Gulf of Tonkin that
resulted in congress enacted the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which granted the
president broad war powers.
Lyndon B. Johnson was the president at the time, and the Gulf of Tonkin
incident and the resultant resolution marked the beginning of the major
military build up of America in the Vietnam War. In 1965, massive bombing
missions by the US in North Vietnam, known as Operation ROLLING THUNDER,
quickly escalated the conflict.
Within 90 days of becoming the Army's first air mobile division, the First
Team was back in combat as the first fully committed division of the Vietnam
War. An advance party, on board C-124s and C-130s, arrived at Nha Trang
between the 19th and 27th of August 1965. They joined with advance liaison
forces and established a temporary base camp near An Khe, 36 miles inland from
the costal city of Qui Nhon. The remainder of the 1st Cavalry Division arrived
by ship, landing at the harbor of Qui Nhon on the 12th and 13th of September,
the 44th anniversary of the 1st Cavalry Division. In the Oriental calendar
year of the "Horse", mounted soldiers had returned to war wearing the famous
and feared patch of the First Cavalry Division. The First Team had entered its
third war - and the longest tour of duty in combat history.
On 23 October 1965, the first real combat test came at the historic order of General Westmoreland to send the First Team into an air assault mission to pursue and fight the enemy across 2,500 square miles of jungle. Troopers of the 1st Brigade and 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry swooped down on the NVA 33rd regiment before it could get away from Plei Me. The enemy regiment was scattered in the confusion and was quickly smashed.
On 09 November, after the completion of the search of the 1st Brigade
throughout the operational area, the 3rd Brigade took control of Operation
SILVER BAYONET. Five days later, on 14 November, the 1st Battalion, 7th
Cavalry, reinforced by elements of the 2nd Battalion, air assaulted into the
Ia Drang Valley near the Chu Pong Massif. During the insertion, with only two
of the rifle companies on the ground, they were attacked by North Vietnamese
regulars. Suddenly LZ X-Ray was "hot" from the start and only by heroic
efforts of the lift ship pilots from the 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion
were the remainder of the battalion and the first reinforcements from the 2nd
Battalion, 7th Cavalry able to land, At LZ X-Ray, the fighting was the most
intensive combat in the history of the Division, from bayonets used in
hand-to-hand combat, to artillery and tactical air support. During the
engagement of the first day, the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry was reduced to
approximately 340 officers and men; none missing. NVA casualties were much
higher due to the awesome American fire support; six enemy are captured and
On the same day and battle, Major Bruce P. Crandall, while serving with "A" Company, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), was lifting troops for a search and destroy mission from Plei Me, Vietnam, to Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley. On the fourth troop lift, the airlift began to take enemy fire, and by the time the aircraft had refueled and returned for the next troop lift, the enemy had Landing Zone X-Ray targeted. As Major Crandall and the first eight helicopters landed to discharge troops on his fifth troop lift, his unarmed helicopter came under such intense enemy fire that the ground commander ordered the second flight of eight aircraft to abort their mission. As Major Crandall flew back to Plei Me, his base of operations, he determined that the ground commander of the besieged infantry batallion desperately needed more ammunition. Major Crandall then decided to adjust his base of operations to Artillery Firebase Falcon in order to shorten the flight distance to deliver ammunition and evacuate wounded soldiers. While medical evacuation was not his mission, he immediately sought volunteers and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, led the two aircraft to Landing Zone X-Ray. Despite the fact that the landing zone was still under relentless enemy fire, Major Crandall landed and proceeded to supervise the loading of seriously wounded soldiers aboard his aircraft. Major Crandall's voluntary decision to land under the most extreme fire instilled in the other pilots the will and spirit to continue to land their own aircraft, and in the ground forces the realization that they would be resupplied and that friendly wounded would be promptly evacuated. This greatly enhanced morale and the will to fight at a critical time. After his first medical evacuation, Major Crandall continued to fly into and out of the landing zone throughout the day and into the evening. That day he completed a total of 22 flights, most under intense enemy fire, retiring from the battlefield only after all possible service had been rendered to the Infantry Battalion. His actions provided critical resupply of ammunition and evacuation of the wounded. Major Crandall's daring acts of bravery and courage in the face of an overwhelming and determined enemy are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army. For his valiant action, Major Bruce P. Crandall received the Medal of Honor.
It was during the battle at LZ X-Ray that "A" Company, 7th Cavalry was moving through the valley to relieve a friendly unit surrounded by an enemy force of estimated regimental size. First Lieutenant Walter J. Marm led his platoon through withering fire until they were finally forced to take cover. Realizing that his platoon could not hold very long, and seeing four enemy soldiers moving into his position, he moved under heavy fire and annihilated all four. Then, seeing that his platoon was receiving intense fire from a concealed machine gun, he deliberately exposed himself to draw its fire. Locating its position, he attempted to destroy it with an antitank weapon. Although he inflicted casualties, the weapon did not silence the enemy fire. Disregarding the intense fire directed on him and his platoon, he charged thirty meters across open ground and hurled grenades into the enemy position, killing some of the eight insurgents manning it. Although severely wounded, when his grenades were expended, and armed with only a rifle, he continued the momentum of his assault on the position and killed the remainder of the enemy. For his valiant action, First Lieutenant Walter J. Marm was awarded the Medal of Honor.
The next day, 15th November, the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry marched into LZ X-Ray from LZ Victor, located two miles east. Joining in with the main body of "C" Company, 7th Cavalry, the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry continued on unopposed to rescue their cut-off platoon. They brought the platoon back with all wounded and dead. Of the twenty-nine man platoon, nine were killed and thirteen were wounded. Survivors of "C" Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry was replaced on line by the fresh "B" Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry. The battalions formed a strong perimeter and prepared for more action in the night.
On 16th November, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, having seventy-nine men killed and one hundred-twenty one wounded was ordered back to the rear for reorganization. The battle continued for two more days. With the help of reinforcements and overwhelming firepower, the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry and 1st and 2nd Battalions, 7th Cavalry forced the North Vietnamese to abandon their attack and withdraw back into Cambodia.
By 1500 hours, the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry turned over LZ X-Ray to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry and 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry. After helping clear the area, the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry and the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, less "A" Company were airlifted to the Camp Holloway airfield at Pleiku City.
On the morning of 17 November, with the close out of action at LZ X-Ray, the
2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, with "A" Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry
attached, walked out of LZ X-Ray and headed for a location, identified as LZ
Albany, to set up blocking positions to reinforce the exhausted skytroopers
and prepare for extraction from the battle area and get out of the area
targeted for an impending B-52 strike.
Early in the afternoon of 17 November, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Command Group and "A" Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry reached LZ Albany. The column was 550 yards long. "C" Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry and "A" Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry put out flank security. Not known at the time, NAV soldiers of the fresh 8th Battalion, 66th Regiment (which had not seen action) deployed down the northeast side of the column. Survivors of the 33rd NAV Regiment deployed at the head of the 2nd Battalion column. As they drew near LZ Albany, the exhausted troopers was ambushed by the NVA units.
At 1320 hours mortar rounds exploded in the clearing and down the length of the column followed by a violent assault which fragmented the column into small groups. When the firing began, the troopers drop into the tall elephant grass where it is impossible for the soldiers of either side to identify friend or foe except at extremely close range. Within minutes, the situation becomes a wild melee, a shoot-out, with the gunfighters killing not only the enemy but sometimes their friends just a few feet away.
For the next two hours, the battle roared. Douglas A-1E Skyraiders were brought in to drop napalm and 250 pound bombs which slowed down enemy actions. Artillery was brought in. By dark, "B" Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry had landed to reinforce LZ Albany. There was a small perimeter at LZ Albany and one at the tail of the column. In between troopers were being hounded and killed throughout the night. Also, in the night, a few isolated troopers escaped trying to make it to the artillery position at LZ Columbus.
On 18 November daylight broke over a quiet and tense battlefield. Survivors began the grim task of recovering the dead from the intermingled bodies of both sides. By the 19th of November, evacuation of the wounded and dead was complete. On 20 November, after 3 days and nights on that bloody, hellish, haunted battleground, the survivors of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry were airlifted out. The casualties for the NVA was reported as 403 dead and 150 wounded. Total First Team casualties at LZ Albany were reported as 151 killed, 121 wounded and 4 missing in action. Nearly half of the 300 men killed in the Pleiku Campaign died at LZ Albany.
When the Pleiku Campaign of SILVER BAYONET ended on 25 November, troopers of the First Team had paid a heavy price for its success, having lost some three hundred troopers killed in action. However, they had killed 3,561 North Vietnamese soldiers and captured 157 more. The troopers destroyed two of three regiments of a North Vietnamese Division, earning the first Presidential Unit Citation awarded to a division in Vietnam. The enemy had been given their first major defeat and their carefully laid plans for conquest had been torn apart.
The 1st Cavalry Division returned to its original base of operations at An Khe on Highway 19. Soon, the intelligence sections recommended a return to the Western Highlands early in 1966 in hopes of encountering the enemy reassembling in the unpopulated jungles. However a new threat emerged in the Province of Binh Dinh, a region of abrupt mountains and populated costal plains. The ARVN 22nd Division, responsible for that area, was spread thin in trying to keep Highway 19 open and secure. The intelligence staff of the 1st Cavalry Division had confirmed that the Vietcong Main Force 2nd Regiment and North Vietnamese 18th and 19th Regiments were operating in the area. These three regiments comprised the NVA Division, known as the "Sao Vang" Division.
On 25 January 1966, following the truce for the Tet holiday and Lunar New Year, "Masher/White Wing", which were the code names for the missions of the 3rd Brigade in Binh Dinh Province, began. The 3rd Brigade gathered their gear and weapons and began to move by highway and air to staging areas in Eastern Binh Dinh Province. The opening of phase of the mission included the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 12th Cavalry Regiment as well as the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry - a reconnaissance unit of helicopter gunships. The 1st Squadron, 9th Regiment reconnoitered ahead of the convey and along both sides of the road, searching for potential ambushes.
On 28 January, Operation "Masher", the first phase, began, The 3rd Brigade assaulted North of Bong San and LZ Dog and soon encountered heavy resistance by the NVA. Contact by the enemy diminished in the first two days of February as the North Vietnamese continued their withdrawal to the North and West. In the first week of combat, the division had lost 77 troopers and the enemy losses amounted to an estimated 1,350 KIA. Two Battalions of the NVA 22nd Regiment had been rendered ineffective.
On 07 February, Operation "White Wing" began the second phase of the "search and destroy" mission, On 16 February, following heavy enemy engagement, the battle weary 3rd Brigade, returned to the division's home base of An Khe and was replaced in the field by the 1st Brigade. While the 1st Brigade took patrolling in the valleys around LZ Bird, the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 5th Cavalry and 2nd Battalion, 12th, of the 2nd Brigade encircled the "Iron Triangle", the regimental headquarters of the NVA. Aided by artillery and air support, the three battalions continued fighting for four days against a tenacious enemy defense that finally collapsed after a B-52 strike.
On 02 August, Operation "Paul Revere II" was commenced for the purposes of denying areas of the rich rice fields to the famished Viet Cong. Significant contact with the enemy did not occur until 08 August, at LZ Juliett. Company "A", 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry came under heavy fire from a reinforced enemy battalion. In several hours of intense fighting, Alpha Company turned back repeated mass attacks. Timely artillery and air strikes eliminated the opportunity for the enemy to surround the Skytroopers. The roar of helicopters from two companies from the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry arriving at LZ Juliett frightened the enemy, causing them to flee.
On 08 August, the advance party of the 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry had departed Peterson Field, Colorado and arrived Qui Nhon on 11 August. The main body of the 5th Battalion departed Fort Carson on 06 August and arrived Qui Nhon on 19 August 1966, joining the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 7th Cavalry, 3rd Brigade in Vietnam.
On 15 August, Operation "Paul Revere II" ended at the battle of Hill 534, on the southern portion of Chu Pong Massif near the Cambodian Border. The Operation had began on 02 August, after Company "A" 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry suddenly ran into a North Vietnamese battalion and Company "B", 2nd Battalion began slugging it out with enemy troops in bunkers. A total of two battalions of Skytroopers were committed to the fight. When it ended the next morning, 138 NVA bodies were counted.
At the end of Paul Revere II, which had killed a total of 861 of the enemy, a task force of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry was organized for Operation "Byrd". The task force was dispatched to Binh Thaun Province, at the southern area of II Corps, to support the Revolutionary Development Program and to bring the long months of Operation "Byrd" to a productive finish.
At that time the heavily populated province of Binh Thaun was almost totally
under the power of two Viet Cong Battalions. The South Vietnamese government
controlled little more than the provincial capital, Phan Thiet, a costal town
known for its fishermen and its fish sauce manufacturing industry. In 16
months the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry had fanned out from Phan Thiet and
cleared the enemy from the populous "triangle" area that stretched North and
West of Phan Thgiet. They also cleared provincial roads that had been closed
by the Viet Cong. Most significantly, the troopers reopened Highway 1, an
action the brought commerce back to life between Phan Thiet and Saigon.
On October 25, Operation "Thayer II" continued the drive to pacify the Binh Dinh Province. On 01 November, troopers of the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry became engaged in a sharp fight with the 93rd Battalion and the 2nd Viet Cong Regiment. The action took place in the vicinity of National Route 1 and Dam Tra-O Lake south of the Gay Giep mountains. In Thayer II the enemy suffered a punishing loss of 1,757 killed.On 13 February 1967, Operation "Pershing" began in a territory which was familiar to many skytroopers, the Bong Son Plain in northern Binh Dinh Province. For the first time, the First Cavalry Division committed all three of its brigades to the same battle area.
The division began 1968, by terminating Operation "Pershing", the longest of
the 1st Cavalry's Vietnam actions. When the operation ended on 21 January, the
enemy had lost 5,401 soldiers and 2,400 enemy soldiers had been captured. In
addition, some 1,300 individual and 137 crew weapons had been captured or
Following fierce fighting at Thorn La Chu, the 3rd Brigade moved toward
embattled city of Hue. The southwest wall of the city was soon taken after the
1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry overcome severe resistance and linked up with the
5th Battalion. At this point, the NVA and Viet Cong invaders were driven from
Hue by late February. The Tet Offensive was over. The NVA and Viet Cong had
suffered a massive defeat, with 32,000 killed and 5,800 captured.
On April 19 1968, Operation "Delaware" was launched into the cloud-shrouded A Shau Valley, near the Laotian border and 45 kilometers west of Hue. None of the Free World Forces had been in the valley since 1966, which was now being used as a way station on the supply route known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The first engagement was made by the 1st and 3rd Brigades. Under fire from mobile, 37 mm cannon and 0.50 caliber machine guns, they secured several landing zones. For the next month the brigades scoured the valley floor, clashing with enemy units and uncovering huge enemy caches of food, arms, ammunition, rockets, and Russian made tanks and bulldozers. By the time that Operation "Delaware" was ended on 17 May, the favorite VC sanctuary had been thoroughly disrupted.
In late 1968, the Division moved and set up operations in III Corps at the
other end of South Vietnam. In February 1969, Operation "Cheyenne Sabre" began
in areas northeast of Bien Hoa. The year 1969 ended in a high note for the 1st
Cavalry Division. The enemy's domination of the northern areas of III Corps
had been smashed - thoroughly.
The efforts of the 1st Cavalry Division were not limited to direct enemy engagements but also, using the experiences gained during the occupation of Japan and Korea, encompassed the essential rebuilding of the war torn country of South Vietnam. As a result of its' gallant performance, the regiment was awarded two presidential Unit Citations and the Valorous Unit Citation.
Although 26 March 1971 officially marked the end of duties in Vietnam for the 1st Cavalry Division, President Nixon's program of "Vietnamization" required the continued presence of a strong US fighting force. The 2nd Battalion of the 5th Regiment, 1st Battalion of the 7th Regiment, 2nd Battalion of the 8th Regiment and 1st Battalion of the 12th Regiment along with specialized support units as "F" Troop, 9th Cavalry and Delta Company, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion helped establish the 3rd Brigade headquarters at Bien Hoa. Its primary mission was to interdict enemy infiltration and supply routes in War Zone D.
The 3rd Brigade was well equipped with helicopters from the 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion and later, a battery of "Blue Max", aerial field units and two air cavalry troops. A QRF (Quick Reaction Force) - known as "Blue Platoons", was maintained in support of any air assault action. The "Blues" traveled light, fought hard and had three primary missions; 1) to form a "field force" around any helicopter downed by enemy fire or mechanical failure; 2) to give quick backup to Ranger Patrols who made enemy contact; and 3) to search for enemy trails, caches and bunker complexes.
"Blue Max", "F" Battery, 79th Aerial Rocket Artillery, was another familiar aerial artillery unit. Greatly appreciated by troopers of the 1st Cavalry, its heavily armed Cobras flew a variety of fire missions in support of the operations of the 3rd Brigade. The pilots of "Blue Max" were among the most experienced combat fliers in the Vietnam War. Many had volunteered for the extra duty to cover the extended stay of the 1st Cavalry Division.
Most of the initial combat for the new brigade involved small skirmishes. But the actions became bigger and more significant. Two engagements in May of 1971 were typical operations. On 12 May the third platoon, Delta Company, 2/5th tangled with enemy forces holed up in bunker complexes. With help from the Air Force and 3rd Brigade Gunships, the troopers captured the complex. Fifteen days later, helicopters of Bravo Troop, 1/9th received ground fire while conducting a reconnaissance mission over a large bunker complex. Air strikes were called in and the troopers overran the complex.
Early in June, intelligence detected significant enemy movement toward the center of Long Khanh Province and its capital, Xuan Loc. On 14 June Delta Company of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry ran into an ambush in heavy jungle and engaged a company-sized enemy unit. The troopers were pinned down in a well-sprung trap. Cavalry field artillery soon pounded their North Vietnamese positions and heavy Cobra fire from Blue Max, "F" Battery of the 79th Aerial Rocket Artillery, swept down on the enemy positions keeping pressure on the withdrawing North Vietnamese throughout the night. The Brigade's timely movements had thwarted the enemy build up north of Xuan Loc.
By 31 March 1972, only 96,000 US troops were involved in the Vietnam combat operations. In mid June 1972, the stand-down ceremony for the 3rd Brigade was held in Bein Hoa and the colors were returned to the United States. The last trooper left from Tan Son Nhut on 21 June, completing the division recall which had started on 05 May 1971. With the 3rd Brigade completing their withdraw, the 1st Cavalry had been the first army division to go to Vietnam and the last to leave.
"Firsts" had become the trademark of the First Team.
On 27 January 1973, a cease-fire was signed in Paris by the United States, South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the National Liberation Front (NLF), the civilian arm of the South Vietnam Communists. A Four-Party Joint Military Commission was set up to implement such provisions as the withdrawal of foreign troops and the release of prisoners. An International Commission of Control and Supervision was established to oversee the cease-fire.
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