Commanders Diary

15-21 May 68


15 May - Took command 0900. 

On 15 May, 4/23 was OPCON to 1st Bde. The Division Commander, Major  General Mearns conducted the change of command ceremony on a dusty field  not far from Go Dau Hau, scene of repeated heavy fighting. I relieved  LTC Avery S. Fullerton, an Engineer officer who had previously commanded  the 65th Engineer Battalion, the 25th Division combat engineer  battalion. Avery was a World War II infantry veteran, USMA Class of 1949 graduate, and a battle-tested commander. He led the 4/23  through Tet, the NVA New Year's offensive; and the follow-on mini-TET.  General Mearns presented Avery with a Silver Star, they got in the  General's chopper and left. I was in charge.
  When I  assumed command the battalion was short vehicles, officers, and combat  soldiers, a condition in which it remained during my entire 6-month command.
  I assemble my staff and company  commanders, all battle experienced and weary, I could feel that I was  now in a "try out" period and they would be the judges if I passed. Gave  them a pep talk.
  Before leaving, the Division Commander  told me he was making arrangements for me to move the battalion to TNBC  for a stand down [battalion freed from combat responsibility.]  

Stand down  until 1200. Moved out 1330, moved vic. Ap Tram Loc XT6503. Deployed.  Min. contact. Withdrew 1800 occupied blocking position north of My Hanh  church.
  [Here followed what appear to be a series of inter-related directives, cautions, and observations.]
1st Bde Comdr Notes [Lt. Col. (P) Hodson]
1. H& I fire - plan based on intel. [Harassment & Interdiction fire was unobserved artillery fire,  usually at night into areas of suspected or likely enemy activity.]
2. Kit Carson scouts - should have 5-6/Bn. [KC Scouts were SVN nationals supposedly trained to help lead US forces to NVA/VC areas. I do not recall who trained them, how they were assigned, or if any were assigned to 4/23.]
 3. Foxhole strength - keep close check on light duty. [Light duty was a medical term used by doctors to designate individuals  that temporarily were incapable of performing their duties. For an  infantryman, this usually meant being left in a base camp and off combat  assignments.]
4. Over strength in HQ Co -Force medics & other non-combat troops. Keep Bde Comdr informed. [The meaning of this is unclear to me.]
  5. Use 11B's only when authorized - use twice wounded. [11B was the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) designator for  infantry rifleman. Probably there was concern that 11B's were being  improperly siphoned off for non-direct combat assignments. Twice wounded 11B's were usually exempted from  further combat duty and the suggestion was to use them instead of the  combat-eligible 11B's.]
 6. Organizing for LPs [listening posts], Patrols, etc - stay within organizational frame work. Maintain tactical integrity.
7. Fire hazards in base camp.
  8. Reporting - accurate, timely-use preliminary reports-don't wait.
  9. Defensive driving.
  10. PC drivers have license.
  11. Lateral extensions for APC. [An APC driver steered by pulling back or moving forward a lever on  either side of his seat. These levers were called laterals. If a driver  were inside when the APC hit a mine, he was usually killed or seriously wounded. By  extending the laterals with pipe or bars, through the driver's hatch to  the top of the APC, the driver could control the vehicle while  minimizing the danger to himself. Why the Bde CO felt it necessary to  include this in his instructions is beyond me.]
12. Helicopters - when in contact, helicopters will be made available.
  13. Staff procedure - night operations, reporting procedures.
  14.Know your weapons & what is available -use your tools - example CS [a type on irritant tear gas], flame thrower, smoke
  15. Combined operations done whenever possible. Coord w/ district.[Combined meant with RVN forces - regulars, Regional Force, Police. The  district was a sub-division of a province commanded by a RVN officer.]
16. Professionalism - watch & guide.
  17. Bunching up - Keep dispersed.
  *18. Accidents - double-check [to be ] used in mortar plats - stress prevention - control of weapons - as soon as action lightens up, accidents increase. Chain of Command letters, monthly safety lecture.
  19. Discipline - Very bad in base camp. Haircuts, bathing, clean clothes.
  20. Failure to hold ground - do not break contact. Maintain pressure.
  21. SADEA - subversive literature.[No idea what this means.]
22. Wet season hygiene - dry feet, inspections.
  23. Hyperventilation [?] - don't panic in wells
24. Red Rocket. [I believe this was a nickname for an emergency message, notifying recipient of impending action.]
25. Division msn [mission] - Interdict & destroy VC/NVA exfiltrating from Saigon.    

  The following  lists appears to be items the Bde CO told me to emphasize when I took  command. It would be logical to believe that at my first company  commanders' meeting shortly after taking command, I would have reviewed  these.
Salt tablets w/ water
  Mortar crew proficiency
  Weapon security   claymore unhook
  The Claymore was a cigar  box-size, parabolic-shaped explosive block with embedded ball  bearing-like shrapnel to be used above ground in front of a position. A  soldier detonated it with either a detonator cap ("cap") or detonating  cord ("Det cord"). For safety purposes, the detonating device had to be  unhooked when the claymore was moved. 
  Casualty reporting
  Twice wounded
  Twice  wounded soldiers were given the choice to be moved out of the direct  combat zone and into less dangerous jobs. Most took the opportunity.
Use of Arty    Keeping FO close
  The Forward Observer (FO) was an artillery officer whose job was to bring  artillery fire on the enemy. He had to remain close to the commander to  get directions as to where fire was to be placed and when.
Range of Radar?
Scout dogs, flame throwers, laws w/AP  [ambush  patrol] Occasionally scout dog units would be attached to front line infantry to accompany troops and detect hidden enemy  soldiers. There were four APC with mounted flame throwers. Light  antitank weapons (LAW) were one-time use rockets useful against enemy in  foxholes and bunkers.
Three claymores set up 2 w/ det cord, 1 w/cap
  In a defensive position, each APC was required to set up 3 claymores.
Police, prostitution, protection
  Police means to keep the area  clean and sanitary; prostitution was rampant in the villages near FSB  and base camps; protection meant being vigilant 24/7.

16  May - Quiet night - 12 air strikes.* Failed to report unable to obtain  clearance for arty to fire (S3 & arty told to report this to Viking) [Radio call sign for 1st Bde CO. S3 battalion  operations officer and artillery liaison officer were collocated in the  operations APC];*Failed to have radar set(s) w/ mobile units (S2 tried to keep radar set & personnel w/ Recon [reconnaissance platoon] [S2 battalion intelligence officer collocated with S3.] Stayed in pos north of My Hanh church until 1200 - moved through previous day's a/s [air strike] area - found 9 KIA [Killed In Action, more accurately body count (BC.) (KIA were US; BC were NVA/VC)], 4 weapons, ammo, documents, web gear - 1500 returned to vic Duc Hoa - RON [remained over night] 4 patrols out - Recon spotted 2 VC. Church service 1830 - 45 attended  


17 May - Stand down - contact team arrived 1100 - visited by Gen Gleason [Assistant Division Commander]  & Col Brownell, Discom [Division Support Command] Comdr. Informed we will move to Tay Ninh. Contact team provided good service. Included PX
  Shower-Dx[direct exchange of dirty uniforms for clean ones] clothes - barber  

18 May - Left NL [night laager, an armored unit-peculiar term, for a combat formation  where APC's are circled in mutually supporting firing positions. The  term is of South African origin, originally meaning to circle the wagons  at night for protection.] 0820 - arrived Hiway 1 0930 arrive Tay Ninh 1330 - Gen Gleason arrived 1400 - I surveyed area w/ Sgt major [Sergeant Major, the highest ranking enlisted man in the battalion and a battalion commander's eyes and ears] - co [company commanders] & [battalion] staff meeting 1800. Too long - staff needs shaping up. 

The Battalion Command Sergeant Major (BCSM) was John E. Wise, an  infantryman's infantryman. He had been awarded a Combat Infantry Badge  (CIB) for service during WW II, during the Korean war, and during his  first Viet Nam tour with the 1st Infantry Division. As the battalion's  senior enlisted man, he had many responsibilities by regulation and as  many other's as he and I chose to assign him. One of his self-imposed duties was to be my body guard and keep me alive. He was  indefatigable, never seemed to sleep, exceptionally brave, and my strong  right arm.  

Wrote ML [my wife Mary Lou] 3 page letter - rec'd 3 letters from her plus 1 from pop [my Father]
Maint [maintenance of] - small arms, veh [vehicles], commo [communication equipment]
Personnel svcs [services]
4 Recon patrols - no combat
19 May Attended church 1030 - 25 + present
Inspected troops in motor pool
Ate lunch A-C Co. mess hall
Visited Spt Co. (B, 725) [Support Company for the battalion was B Company, 725 Maintenance Battalion] CO (Captain Taylor) S & S Bn [Supply & Support Battalion] CO (LTC Beherens)
BG [Brigadier General] Gleason visited briefly
Received 5 new Lt's [Lieutenants] 7 EM [enlisted men]
PX [Post Exchange] open special for Bn.
Rained - 5  82mm mortars [rounds] fell outside [base camp] perimeter 2  122mm [rockets]      PHILCAG [Philippine Civil Assistance Group compound] 2 122 MACV [Military Assistance Command Vietnam compound]
Rec'd rain jacket

20 May - Maint [maintenance] day - award ceremony w/ MG Mearns BG Gleason visited Rec'd soxs Wrote ML
 Need to do [all but the first item were lined out probably showing they had been done]
Tour perimeter w/ map
 Fix tape recorder wash clothes
 haircut color film cash check
 Review Rating scheme
 Inspection 1000-1600
 Ceremony 1500
 Meeting 1800
 Meeting w/ Co Comdrs [company commanders] & S1-S4 [principal staff officers S1-personnel, S2 - intelligence, S3 - operations, S4 - logistics]
Visit PAE [Pacific Architects and Engineers, a civilian firm, contracted to construct, maintain, and operate the large base camps all over RVN.]   

21 May - Command Management Maintenance Inspection (CMMI) courtesy
Failed 1. Wheel vehs [vehicles] 2. Small arms  3. Maint [maintenance] records; Passed combat vehs, commo [communication equipment]

The CMMI was a peacetime procedure superimposed on a wartime  environment and was performed by division specialists. Its ostensible  purpose was to give platoon-to-division commanders an objective view of  the combat readiness of their assigned equipment. In peacetime it was an  annual, must-do-well event. (Consequences for less than passing grades  in all phases was usually relief from command.) In RVN, it occurred after a battalion had been withdrawn from combat for several  days and afforded the opportunity to repair, refurbish, clean, and  maintain all assigned equipment. Equipment from mess stoves to flame  thrower APC were rigorously inspected by trained maintenance personnel.  Consequences for failing a phase were normally a concerted effort by all  hands to correct deficiencies lest they be the cause of a future combat death or injury.  

Visited PAE about generators.
Base camp attacked by ground infiltrators. Destroyed artillery ammo [ammunition] dump, 2 or 3 guns [artillery pieces], 6 KIA. Bn in a ready to reinforce role from 0100-0300. 6 VC. 1 company swept outside perimeter.  

Cliff Neilson
Mohawk 6
May-Nov 1968
Illegitimati non carborundum