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Diary 29 May - 4 June 1968: 

29 May - Quiet day. Stand down. Given reinforcing role to move south to bail out 4/12 if necessary. Cholon on fire. [Predominantly Chinese section of Saigon where US Post Exchange was located.] Heavy rains starting at 1400 through dark. All wheels, except one mess truck and trailer evacuated. Doubtful we'll be able to get out neatly. Decided to make Capt. Sisman S-4 and Lt Long Asst S-3 Air. Rec'd 1 old letter from Shirley & ML. No letters out. 

30 May - Quiet day. Swept village of [no entry] with B & C Co. dismounted. Alpha [A Co.] blocked on the north. Held medcap [Clinic for natives using organic medical personnel] Treated 91. Moved to a new position 600m NW of former psn. Slightly higher and much dryer. Paddies filling. Sent Charlie [C Co.] out at 1800 to occupy a blocking psn. Visited ROKs [Republic of Korea forces] Charlie spotted 2 VC. Wrote Mary Lou 3 pages ltr. 

31 May - Quiet day. Swept 1 village with ABC dismounted. Heavy rain 1400. Gave ROKs [an AK-47] rifle. A Co. sent out 1600 to establish NL [night lager]. Wrote Pop 3 page ltr. Rec'd letter & tape ML. Sent ML tape. 

1 June - PFC TRAMADEO Sep 1 PFC HARTMAN Sep 27 [Hartman entry lined through] Quiet day. OPCON 2d Bde 0700. Visited CO, 2d Bde. Rec'd mission to move to north 4 km, conduct RIFs. Send Co. to TNS. 1 plat to bridge on Rt 1. Move to vic XS754966 in grave yard. No rain. Recon returned. 3 Tks in ROK compound. B Co. AP [ambush patrol] let 85 VC in 5-7 groups pass by during period 0030- 0430. No US casualties. Rec'd ML letter. Sent ML letter.

2 June - 7 hour hard rain 0001-0700. Talked to Bde Comdr about unsatisfactory patrol performance. Brainstormed w/ S3. Set up standards & procedures. A Co. (-1 plat on bridge) plus Recon made mounted/dismounted sweep; B Co. made a dismounted block for a RF [RVN village-based Regional Force] sweep. C Co. (-) made local sweep. 1 Plat Co got dump trucks for road into area. B Co found old rocket site. Haircut (11 days) Rec'd letter from Vic & Pete, TIME [magazine] 24 May. 

3 June - Quiet night - received order to move to new NDP due west TNS at 0430. Started move from graveyard 0930 after building PSP [pierced steel planking] road, completed move from graveyard 1300. Closed into 3 sep. Co. psns west of TNS. Very little rain. Took shower, visited TNS officer's club. Had steak.

I found this to be a bit incongruous. On Saigon's defensive front line, and I felt secure enough to get a steak at the Officer's Club. The XO, Major Jeff Tuten, took over and about 6:00 PM I went by jeep through the TNS gate and on to the OC. While there, I met a gung-ho USAF LTC who was bored with HQ duty and wanted to see a little action. I told him if he could be out to the NL by early AM, I would let him accompany one of the line companies on a RIF. I returned to the NL about dark and Jeff went to the OC for his steak.
  
The USAF LTC showed up on time the next day, went on the RIF, and returned dusty, sunburned, and exhilarated. Thanked me profusely and I never saw him again. He is still probably telling war stories to his grand kids and down at the Legion Hall. Had he been injured, wounded, or killed, I am sure I would have been severely criticized for letting him go.
 

 *rec'd copy of Gen Westy to Mearns congrat TWX on battle 26-27 May [General William Westmoreland, COMUSMACV) to Major General Fillmore K. Mearns, CG, 25th Division message quoted above] 

  Strength [MTOE authorized for combat elements in field]
 A    100 [182]
 B    130 [182]
 C    125 [182]
 HQ 120 [194]
 total   475 [740]
 Rec'd letter & tape ML - ltr Pop & Shirley. Sent ML tape.
 

This is the diary's first entry about field strength; there will be many more. Field strength - in today's terminology, "boots on the ground" - was always a matter of critical concern to me. Without sufficient combat troops in the field, mission accomplishment was in jeopardy.
  
The battalion's main fighting strength were the 3 rifle companies and the Reconnaissance Platoon (included in the HQ figure above.)

  
Each rifle company was authorized 6 officers and 182 enlisted men.(see May 14 diary entry in Prelude for details.) Of these, the XO, first sergeant, supply sergeant, supply clerk, armorer, and company clerk would normally be in a rear area such as TNBC. This left a theoretical 182 "boots on the ground" in the field. As the figures above show, such was not the case.

  
An observer might ask the reasonable question: "Where were they all?" The answers lay in USA manpower policies and the flow of combat events.

    
Rifle companies never were at their authorized strength. The replacement stream was always behind in filling the ranks.

    
Replacements were assigned to companies upon arrival at Cu Chi, the Division HQ. Before reporting to their companies, they underwent 7 days jungle warfare training.

    
From those assigned, evacuated WIA and KIA reduced the strength but replacements did not appear in a timely fashion.

    
Assigned but not available for field duty were: recuperating and hospitalized WIA; men going on, or returning from R & R leave; and those going on sick call or medical appointments.

  
The bottom-line effect was that on any given day, only 60-70% of assigned combat troops were available in the field. Pragmatically, this meant that a rifle platoon leader would have only 26-30 of his authorized 43 available for combat duty. And after a series of combat actions, some platoons would be down to 20 men
 

4 June - [Field strength] 545. Quiet nite. Flap with Grecian Jigger [radio call sign of unknown unit] coord attack. 3 company RIFS. No results. Visited TSN PX. Briefed companies on air mobile tomorrow. No mail. Wrote ML & Father. Sent Gopher [a close friend] a get-well card. 

Although my diary entries contain no mention of it, the 4/23 obviously had received orders to conduct airmobile (AM) operations. This was to be a BIG change for virtually everyone in the battalion since no one had ever done this, at least in a combat mode.  
  
The probable cause for this change in operations was the increasingly negative effect of the monsoons on track operations in the Saigon area. We could no longer operate with impunity on dry rice paddies and narrow dusty roads. The deep mud prevented cross-country movement in areas where 2 weeks previous we had no trouble. Although later diary entries show we continued some mounted operations, it was clearly time for the Tomahawks to "learn how to fly!"
 

 

Cliff Neilson
Mohawk 6
May-Nov 1968

Illegitimi nil carborundum

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