Commanders Diary

12-18-June 68

 Week of 12-18 June 1968   

12 June - A - 129; B - 128; C - 132; HQ - 125. Total 514. Pass on to Comdrs!
  (a) Have a light (oil drum - gas/oil) all night long effective tonite. Report location to Flexible [3rd BDE call sign].
(b) Fire by Air CAV at permission of grnd comdr - strobe light, flashlight - star cluster.
  (c) Emphasis on counter-rocket activities.
  (d) Ambushes - emphasize likely areas of ingress.
  (e) Charlie [C Co.] send roving patrol into area B1.
  (f) 1st element down 0730.
  (F) B Co. prepare small gas/oil cans for nite identification for A.S.
  Rec'd ltr ML
  Quiet nite. TSN hit by RKTS - A & C Co. RIF'd. B Co. local RIF. Eng CO [platoon leader] accidentally shot self. Culvert in.   

13 June -  [Field strength] 584.  A & C Co's airmobiled - C Co. found cache - 10- 122 RKTS, MTR, FZ;  82 -82 mm mortar rds w/ fuses; prop chgs, 7 cases AK-47 ammo, 4 sampans.  Rec'd ltr Shirley.

 From the  Operational Report  of the 25th Infantry Division for Period Ending 31 July  1968 for 13  June: "C Company, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry (Mech) sweeping through a  swamp midway between SAIGON and DUC HOA (XS695950) at 0915 hours,  discovered and confiscated a large enemy ammunition cache located in  four sunken sampans.  The cache included 10 complete 122 rockets, 82, 82mm mortar rounds, 12 cans of  82mm fuses, 24 cans of 82mm primer, and 5,250  AK-47 rifle rounds."  

Vol 3 No. 29          TROPIC LIGHTNING NEWS          July 15, 1968 

Tomahawks Search, Probe; Find Sunken “Treasure”

1ST BDE – A constant month-long vigil over Tan Son Nhut air base by the 4th  Battalion (Mechanized), 23d Infantry has been highlighted by finding a  sunken rocket and mortar cache.
   The Tomahawks have been charged with the mission of keeping the Communists away from the Allied air base.
    By day they make eagle flights to suspected VC strongholds; and by  night they search surrounding areas for enemy rocket and mortar launch  sites.
   Success traveled with the Tomahawks as intelligence reports  suggested one area where the rockets were being smuggled in.  Company C made an eagle flight into the area, eight miles northwest of  Saigon. They had walked through the swamps and canals for about 1,000  meters when suddenly they spotted a fresh sampan trail going through the  swamp.
   “I’ve got a strong hunch this is it,” said Company  Commander First Lieutenant Gennero Mellis, from Mt. Vernon, N.Y.  There  they were; three sampans submerged in the swamp.
   From the air, Lieutenant Colonel Clifford C. Neilson,  of Mobile, Ala., Battalion Commander, spotted another sampan about 50  meters from the other three.
   The excavation began as the Tomahawks  literally had to dive under water to retrieve the cache.  The prize  consisted of 10 122mm rockets with warheads, nine 122mm rocket fuses, 82  rounds of 82mm mortars, 24 cans of primers, 12 cans of fuses for the mortars, and more than 5,300  rounds of AK-47 ammunition. 

14 June - [Field strength] 573. PFC James Lee Myer C Co US 64128813.  To SGT E5. SP4 Johnny Jones Jr A Co US 54665794
  Quiet nite. B spotted Rocket fire - S [probably Scouts (Recon)] alerted  to investigate 3 confirmed rocket sites at 0500. Sent C Co. mtd & B  Co. dismtd to check out. Arrived in area 0600. C Co. found nothing. B Co. found sampan  w/carbine, M16, RPG, ammo, documents. Killed 2 VC - 1 VC got away. A  & C Co's swept swamp. Negative findings. LTG Weyand [CG, III FFV and former CG, 25 ID] visited 1045-1115. Gave him briefing. C Co. moved to new location. Rec'd ltr ML.   

15 June - B  Co received 30 rds 82mm mortar - A & C quiet. A & C RIF'd; neg.  Results. Drew 2 airboats. B Co. moved to new location. Rec'd contingency  mission to protect B/6/77 Arty. Passed [assigned mission] to R [Recon]. Rec'd ltr ML; wrote ML.

The Tomahawk Navy or How Higher Headquarters Always Knows Best:

Usually,  the Army determines there is a requirement for a specific equipment  type. The Army then goes through a cycle where it performs research  & development, conducts field tests, and eventually if it seems  reasonable and affordable, produces the item. When stocks are sufficient, it issues  the equipment to appropriate units. Once in service, the item is  continually reviewed for improvement. Items as prosaic as the helmet,  jungle boots, and meals-ready-to-eat are subject to this cycle.    

  Such a development cycle was not the case for  airboats. The requirement arose suddenly and unexpectedly: small NVA/VC  units moved at will through the rice paddies, and tributary streams and  rivers in the Mekong River delta SW of Saigon. They fired 107 mm and  122 mm rockets into Saigon's suburbs, causing occasional fires but  little effective damage.
  When US troops began to operate in the area to intercept and destroy these  enemy units, the troop transport of choice was the helicopter. While  helicopters could insert troops into the surrounding rice paddies, the  troops' speed through ankle to knee- deep water was slowed and their  search area limited.

  The requirement arose for a boat that could operate at high speed, traverse shallow water, and carry a number of combat troops.   

  Such a boat had long been used in Florida's  Everglade Swamp for various commercial and recreational purposes. The  so-called airboat was a shallow draft, aluminum skiff-like vessel  capable of carrying 6-8 men at 30-40 mph. It was propelled by a large  aircraft propeller encase in a cowling and powered with a small aircraft  engine that operated on aircraft fuel.   

  The Army short-circuited its usual  development and procurement practices, bought a number of these boats;  air shipped them to RVN, and issued them to units such as the 4/23  defending Saigon. No operational or maintenance training was provided  and air boat-equipped units were left to develop tactics and perform  maintenance as best they could.   

  When 4/23 was issued 2 airboats, I decided to  assign them to Recon. The first problem to be solved was how and with  what weapon to equip the boats. After first trying a bow-mounted .50 cal  Browning machine gun, which proved too heavy, the second choice of a  bow-mounted 7.62 mm M-60 light machine gun was adopted. The crews read  the manuals which came with the boats; figured out how to start, stop, and operate them; determined how many  combat-loaded soldiers could safely ride in them, and Recon Flotilla was  off and running! (To be continued.)


16 June - [Field strength] 573. Quiet nite in Mohawk AO - Trojan [call sign of 2d BN/27th INF] on north, Dragon [call sign 2d BN/14th INF] on S had small action - A Co. stand down, B Co. local RIF, C Co. airmobiled 0730. Found 14 1/4 lb blocks TNT. Mailed tape to Pop, wrote letter to ML   

17 June - [Field strength] 592.  46th malaria pill. Unquiet nite. 2150 received contingency mission to  be prepared to resend to emergency in Trojan area. Coord w/ Warrior  & Flexible [call sign of 2nd & 3rd BDE, respectively] - nothing came of it -Recon captured POW trying to turn claymores around; movement in vic. of bridge until 0100 - flare ships & mortars. B Co. reported movement - negative results. C Co. stand down. A Co. RIF'd in tree lines S of AO; checked village for VC. No mail.   

18 June - HQ PFC Jeffrey Teger US 52751447 [no further information why this name was here.] R AP spotted 10 men 2400 - C Co. spotted AA fire [anti-aircraft]. Neg.  results. A & C Co's airmobile in a long stream. Worked N to S;  captured 2 POW & 1 AK-47. Field strengths A Co. 129; B Co. 128, C  Co. 117, HHC 125. Mailed ltr Pop. Rec'd letter ML, Vic.  


Cliff Neilson
"Mohawk 6"
May-Nov 1968   

Illegitimi nil carborundum