9th Cavalry Regiment
Vietnam War
"We Can, We Will"

Division Of Vietnam - 1954
The roots of the Vietnam War started in 1946 with the beginning of the First Indochina War. Vietnam was under French control at that time (as was Laos and Cambodia), and the Vietnamese, under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, wanted independence. So the Vietnamese and French fought each other in Vietnam. Eventually, in 1954, the Vietnamese defeated the French and both countries signed the Geneva Peace Accords, which, among other things, established a temporary division in Vietnam at the 17th parallel. The division of the country eventually led to the Vietnamese War.

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.

Air Cavalry Unit
The 1st Cavalry Division went home in 1965, but only long enough to be reorganized and be prepared for a new mission. On 01 July 1965, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was officially activated. It was made up of resources of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) and brought to full strength by transfer of specialized elements of the 2nd Infantry Division. As a part of this reorganization, the 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment was redesignated the 1st Squadron (Airborne), 9th Cavalry Regiment. On 03 July 1965, in Doughboy Stadium at Fort Benning, Georgia the colors of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) were cased and retired. As the band played the rousing strains of Garryowen, the colors of the 1st Cavalry Division were moved onto the field.

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.

Interrogating VC Prisoner
On 10 October 1965, in Operation SHINY BAYONET,the First Team initiated their first brigade-size airmobile action against the enemy. The air assault task force consisted of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 7th Cavalry, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry and the 1st Battalion, 21st Artillery. Rather than standing and fighting, the Viet Cong chose to disperse and slip away. Only light contact was achieved. The troopers had but a short wait before they faced a tougher test of their fighting skills; the 35-day Pleiku Campaign.

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. The 3rd Brigade joined the fighting on 09 November. Five days later, the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry air assaulted into the Ia Drang Valley near the Chu Pong Massif. Landing Zone X-Ray was "hot" from the start. At Landing Zone X-Ray, the Division's first medal of honor in the Vietnam War was awarded to 2nd Lt. Walter J. Marm of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry. The fighting, the most intensive combat in the history of the division, raged for three days. When the Pleiku Campaign ended on 25 November, troopers of the First Team 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 given 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.

On 17 December, after a short rest, the 3rd Brigade went into action to conduct a four day operation known as CLEAN HOUSE in the vicinity of Binh Khe, in Binh Dinh Province's Soui Ca Valley. From a position northeast of the valley, troopers moved down from high ground to sweep through suspected VC areas.

On 02 - 28 October Operation IRVING was established to entrap Viet Cong soldiers who were fleeing Operation THAYER I. Operation IRVING was one of a trio of operations launched by American, South Vietnamese and south Korean forces. The mission was intended to trap the enemy in a pocket between a group of hills and the coastline of Binj Dinh Province. The operations were complicated by a heavy concentration of civilians living in the operational area. Great care was taken to minimize civilian casualties.

Trapped in a tight cordon, the enemy lost 2,063 killed. The free World Allies captured 2,071 NVA and Viet Cong troops - an unusually large number in Vietnam fighting. The 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. It was awarded for valor and aggressive pursuit of the enemy on 2 October, after reinforcing a "Blue Team" platoon from "A" Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment that was heavily engaged and outnumbered.

On 31 October, Paul Revere IV was launched By the 2nd Brigade. Its units included - 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry; 2nd Battalion 12th Cavalry; Troop "B", 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry and the 1st Battalion, 77th Artillery. The operation called for extensive search and destroy in the areas of Chu Pong and the Ia Drang Valley, as well as along the Cambodian Border. With only one exception only light contact with the enemy was achieved. In mid-morning of 21 November, Company "C", 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry was searching south of Duc Co along the border. Suddenly the 2nd Platoon began trading fire with a force of significant size. The 3rd Platoon tried to go to the aid of the 2nd Platoon but itself was surrounded by large numbers of North Vietnamese. The two units of outnumbered fought desperately. Artillery was called in on top of the position of the 3rd Platoon in a last ditch attempt to turn back the enemy. Both platoons were decimated by machine guns and grenades and overrun. One trooper, badly wounded. survived. The 101 "C" Regiment of the 10th NVA Division paid a very high price for its victory. It lost nearly 150 of their men. On 27 December Operation PAUL REVERE IV was closed out and 2nd Brigade troopers added their strength to Operation THAYER II.

On October 25, Operation THAYER II continued the drive of pacification of the Binh Dinh Province. On 01 November troopers of "A" Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry and elements of the 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 Cay Giep mountains. In Thayer II the enemy suffered a punishing loss of 1,757 killed.

A month later, as Thayer II continued, the infantry platoon of "C" Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry drew fire from a large enemy force in the Hamlet of Phu Huu. The embattled platoon was relieved 90 minutes later by two platoons from "B", Company 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry. These troops arrived on the run from a nearby operation to help engage the well entrenched enemy. The fighting continued through the day and into the night. On 02 December, the next morning the troopers advanced into the hamlet and found that most of their adversaries had fled. The wounded NVA revealed that three platoons had driven off an enemy battalion.

On 09 December, a five day effort to evacuate all the civilians from Kim Son Valley, Operation ROVER, was launched. On 17 December, heavy contact was made in the Highway 506 Valley, just east of the Kim Son Valley. "C" Company, 8th Cavalry Regiment spotted and went after an enemy squad moving into the valley. Aircraft, called in to help, drew heavy ground fire from several positions. The infantry platoon of "A" Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry made an air assault into the valley and ran into heavy resistance. The 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry was also brought in, along with four infantry companies and two platoons from the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry. The First Team units attempted to encircle the enemy force who had "dug in". The encirclement was not complete and many of the enemy troops escaped at night. In a final sweep of the battle area on 19 December, 93 bodies of the enemy were found.

Exploring VC Cave Networks
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. ARVN soldiers familiar with the Bong Son Plain helped the skytroopers locate and eliminate the numerous caves and tunnels occupied by the enemy. Pershing became a tedious unglamorous mission that produced only 18 engagements in its 11 months. The use of Armored Personnel Carriers (APC's) of the 1st Battalion (mechanized), 50th Infantry Division, figured prominently in the battle of Tam Quan in December. The lumbering vehicles eased the dangerous task of assaulting the NVA's bunkers and entrenchments. Other units involved in the Tam Quan actions that smashed the enemy were 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, "B" Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry and the ARVN 40th Regiment.

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 destroyed.

Tet Offensive Theater
Moving to I Corps, Vietnam's northern most tactical zone, the division set up Camp Evans for their base camp. On January 31 1968, amid the celebration of the Vietnamese New Year, the enemy launched the Tet Offensive, a major effort to overrun South Vietnam. Some 7,000 enemy, well equipped, crack NVA regulars blasted their way into the imperial city of Hue, overpowering all but a few pockets of resistance held by ARVN troops and the US Marines. Within 24 hours, the invaders were joined by 7,000 NVA reinforcements. Almost simultaneously, to the North of Hue, five battalions of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong attacked Quang Tri City, the capital of Vietnam's northern province.

The 1st Brigade was not far from Quang Tri when the attacks began and was soon called to help the ARVN defenders. Four companies of skytroopers from the 1st Battalions of the 5th and 12 Cavalry Regiments quickly arrived at hot LZs around the Valley of Thon An Thai, just east of Quang Tri. The troopers knocked out the heavy weapons support of the NVA and squeezed the enemy from the rear. The enemy soon broke off the Quang Tri attack and split into small groups in an attempt to escape. For the next ten days, they would find themselves hounded by the 1st Brigade.

In the meantime, the 3rd Brigade had been given the difficult mission of driving the Communists from Hue and the surrounding areas. On 02 February, the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry made an initial assault outside of an ARVN outpost named PK-17, 10 kilometers northwest of Hue. On 05 February, under dense fog conditions the battalion spotted the NVA troops at a rice farming hamlet named Thon La Chu. The strength of the enemy was estimated to be 1,000 troops. The advance, under small arms fire, was slowed due to the lack of artillery support. Finally, the pilots of two aerial rocket artillery helicopters bravely flew through the fog and blasted the enemy. The barrage opened the way for the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment to made its first gains against the invaders.

The battle for Thon La Chu was far from being finished. They traded fire for two days and nights constantly, then the skytroopers the enemy with a risky night march. At sunrise of 05 February, the brigade was positioned on a hill overlooking the North Vietnamese. By 11 February the enemy was blocked both on the north and south, but remained too strong and well entrenched for a frontal attack. On 21 - 22 February, the brigade freed Thon La Chu and moved toward Hue where much of the fighting would be house to house.

The 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry blocked the escape route to the west. Two more battalions of the 1st Cavalry Division also joined in the fight. The 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry was stalled for a day by heavy enemy fire a kilometer outside Hue. The artillery blasted the NVA positions and the "Garryowen" unit linked up with its Bravo Company which had made an air assault into Hue. 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.

Air Evacuation
After shattering the enemy's dreams of a Tet victory, the 1st Cavalry Division "Sky-Troopers" initiated Operation PEGASUS to relieve the 3,500 US Marines and 2,100 ARVN soldiers besieged by nearly 20,000 enemy soldiers. On 01 April 1968, the 3rd Brigade, making a massive air assault within 5 miles of Khe Sanh, were soon followed by the 1st and 2nd Brigades and three ARVN Battalions. Company "A", 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry led the way, followed by Company "C", 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry. After four days of tough fighting, they marched into Khe Sanh to take over the defense of the battered base. Pursing the retreating North Vietnamese, the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry recaptured the Special Forces camp at Lang Vei uncovering large stockpiles of supplies and ammunition. The final statistics of Operation PEGASUS were 1,259 enemy killed and more than 750 weapons 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 Viet Cong 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. In November, an important discovery, that proved costly to the enemy, was along the border between II Corps and III Corps. "B" Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry found another canopy-concealed infiltration route and named it the "Jolley Trail" after the troop commander, Major Charles A. Jolley. By jungle standards the Jolley Trail was an elaborate, high speed roadway. It was paved with bamboo matting and lined every hundreds of yards with bunkers and bomb shelters. The trail was blasted by air strikes and patrolled repeatedly by 1st Cavalry helicopters and troopers on the ground. 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.

Air Insertion Operation
On 01 May 1970, the First Team was "First into Cambodia" hitting what was previously a Communist sanctuary. President Nixon has given the go-ahead for the surprise mission. Pushing into the "Fish Hook" region of the border and occupied the towns of Mimot and Snoul. Troopers deprived the enemy of much needed supplies and ammunition, scattering the enemy forces. The Cambodian Operation far exceeded all expectations and proved to be one of the most successful operations of the First Team. All aspects of ground and air combat were utilized. The campaign had severe political repercussions in the United States for the Nixon Administration. Pressure was mounting to remove America's fighting men from the Vietnam War. Although there would be further assault operations, the war was beginning to wind down for many troopers.

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 3rd Brigade (Reinforced), commanded by Brigadier General Jonathan R. Burton, included a battalion from each of the four cavalry regiments; 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 Field 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 Field 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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Copyright © 1996, Cavalry Outpost Publications ® and Trooper Wm. H. Boudreau, "F" Troop, 8th Cavalry Regiment (1946 - 1947). All rights to this body of work are reserved and are not in the public domain, or as noted in the bibliography. Reproduction, or transfer by electronic means, of the History of the 1st Cavalry Division, the subordinate units or any internal element, is not permitted without prior authorization. Readers are encouraged to link to any of the pages of this Web site, provided that proper acknowledgment attributing to the source of the data is made. The information or content of the material contained herein is subject to change without notice.

Revised 31 Oct '09 SpellChecked