Commanders Diary

29 May-4 June 68

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