Commanders Diary

5-11 June 68

Diary 5 - 11 June 1968   

5 June - 1:45+2:00+1:00. [This is the first diary entry recording hours accumulated for my  command & control helicopter hour usage. The digits show the number  of hours on that day. When I accumulated 25 hours of combat-related  missions, I submitted a form, requesting award of an Air Medal (or oak  leaf cluster(s)). At the end of my tour, I had received 6 A.M.s, about  average for a 25th ID battalion commander.] Quiet nite. Airmobiled [AM] A  & C into LZs due W of TSN on edge of swamp at 1020 & 1050.  Pickup 1245. LZ 1300. Pickup 1500. Closed 1530. Critiqued airmobile  exercises - several S1/S4 problems - no ice. Went to TSN off club for 2  hrs. Ltr fr ML. 

This was the battalion's and my own first  experience at AirMobile operations. It was a military culture shock to  be deprived of the "comfort" and mobility of the APC and be thrust into a  rice paddy with no way out except by a helicopter coming and finding  you.   

  As subsequent diary entries will show during 5  June-1 July 1968, the Tomahawks conducted six, 2 company and three, 1  company AM operations; one entry is unclear on the number. On 4 July the  battalion returned to its purely mechanized method of transportation,  and did not AM again during my command period.   

  Ideally, BDE would allocate the battalion a  flight of 10 UH-1 Huey troop carrier helicopters (nicknamed "slicks").  To permit the battalion to fight as a 3 company, force, each flight  should have been used 3 times to pick-up and insert troops in a landing  zone (LZ) within slick range and then, come back in the late afternoon  to pick them up and return to the NDP. The demand for the limited number of slicks was such that only 1 or  2 flights were available to 4/23, resulting in commitment of only 1 or 2  companies.   

  Each slick could carry 8, fully loaded  infantrymen, resulting in 80 soldiers lifted in a flight from a given  spot and inserted in an LZ. This meant that 80 of the usual 100- 130  available personnel in a company went on an AM operation. (I do not  remember what the others did but knowing soldiers, I am sure they were  gainfully employed.)   

   If an LZ was defended (by enemy forces), it  was referred to as "hot", if undefended, it was "cold." In all the AM  operations we participated in June & July 1968, the LZs were cold.   

  The inserted company (or companies operating  together) would perform one of two missions: seal and search a village  for VC and weapons or RIF rice paddies, looking for arms caches in  sunken sampans.  

As Mohawk 6, I was allocated a separate command  and control Huey that differed from a troop carrier in that it had 3 FM  radio sets for my use. They permitted me to monitor the BDE command  net, communicate on the battalion net with the commander of inserted  companies, and monitor the net of one of the inserted companies. When  all companies were inserted, my radiotelephone operator (RTO) and I landed and joined one of them and slogged along with everyone  else.   

  Although  I was in good physical condition, I soon found, that my 37 year-old  body was no match for the typical, 18 year-old draftee when it came to  walking for 6 hours through knee-deep paddies at 100+ degrees and 100+%  humidity. I was always grateful for the breaks so we could pull off the  leeches.   

6 June - [field strength] 554 Heavy rain. Quiet nite - airmobile exercises canceled because of difficulty in Manchu AO [Manchu was the nickname of the 9th Infantry, a battalion of which was assigned the 25th Div. AO was area of operations, short for TAOR]. B Co. moved to new location. A Co. conducted mtd  [mounted] RIF & C Co. dismtd RIF. Visited bridge. Took Co Comdrs to  supper. On return Intel report of big atk - 18 Bns.   

Strength [MTOE authorized for combat elements in field]
  A    100 [182]
  B    128 [182]
  C    125 [182]
  HQ  125 [194]
  total   478 [740]
  [I have no explanation as to why the field strength is shown above as 554 and the detailed breakdown shows 478.]
Wrote ML & Doug & Clark [my two sons]   

7 June -  2+1 3/4+ 1 3/4+ 1 ½ + ½ [Field strength] 567. Quiet nite. Spotted RKTS [probably either 107mm or 122mm rockets, used by NVA to attack Saigon] being fired. Airmobiled B Co. in at 0910 to ck RKTS site - A Co. lost a/c [probably meaning a troop-carrying helicopter] had to secure 6 slightly injured. A & B Co. continued to AM until 1530. B Co. given mission to conduct night sweep. D 1/27 OPCON [to 4/23] for night sweep. B Co. sprung ambush vic XS709978.  Killed 3 VC carry rice 2130. No mail.   

8 June - 1 3/4+2 1/4+1+3/4 [Field strength] 561.  Airmobile A & C Co.  A Co. hit small VC unit vic  XS 694935 at  1030. Rooted them out. Killed 6 & captured 3 weapons. Gun ships  killed 1. B Co. stood down. Col Miller [CO, 2d Bde] guidance-Keep one company active each nite. No mail.   

9 June - Switched Mohawk prime command [FM radio net frequency] to  32.80. Quiet nite. B Co. stand down until 1630 - moved out to NL w/  tracks - will have RP. A & C Co. moved out 0800 - bad traffic jam -  jumped off dismtd 1000. RIF for approx. 7 KM. Neg. results. Notified  1400 to put Co. in blocking psn. Moved C Co. to psn, closed 1630 with 4.2 mortar [platoon] & 3 tanks. C Co. went  OPCON to Trojan [3d Bde] 1800. Rec'd 2 letters ML, 1 tape ML, 1 letter Shirley. 

Radio call signs, such as “Mohawk”, were  assigned by the 25ID Signal Officer. Within RVN, each call sign was  unique to prevent possible confusion and misidentification of units.  Each call sign was a single 1 or 2 syllable word, associated in someway  with the unit's history or crest. Logically, the 4/23 call sign should  have been Tomahawk, not Mohawk.    

  When  I inquired about this seeming inconsistency I was told that prior to  the 1966 arrival of the 4/23 in RVN, Tomahawk was assigned to another  unit. Hence the somewhat Native American-related Mohawk was used.

  Once assigned, the call sign was used in non-radio conversation as shorthand to identify a unit, for instance "Mohawk" was based at TNBC.

  Radio  frequencies were changed on a regular basis, supposedly to confuse NVA  radio intercept operators. It was not until August 1968, that it was  realized that the habitual use of the same call sign gave the NVA  interceptors immediate identification of units after a frequency change.  From then on, two word non-unit related call signs came in vogue. My first non-Mohawk call sign was "Gray Ghost".  

10 June - [Field strength] 542.  45th malaria pill. Quiet nite. B Co. spotted rct firing site; swept  area, neg; C Co. OPCON Trojan in blocking position. A Co. RIF'd. Neg.  Results.
 Rec'd 2 letters from ML. Wrote ML.   

11 June - [Field strength] 544. OPCON 3d Bde Col Ashley. Quiet nite. B Co. operated NDP vic. Rainy Towels [unknown radio call sign] village. Neg results. A & C Co. RIF'd. Neg results. 1200 OPCON 3d Bde [next items must have been the CO's guidance] 1st establish patrol base - co size - and maintain pressure nite and day. 2d - increase scty of Rt 1 bridge by AP [ambush patrol]. 3d  - Continue to stir around. B Co. given nite patrol base mission. Recon  on bridge. At 1900, culvert blown 1500 m from B Co. - neg results from  nite activities,
 Rec'd letter ML, Pop, Vickie. Sent ML tape.  


Cliff Neilson
Mohawk 6
May-Nov 1968    

Illegitimi nil carborundum