The 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division
We stand together: then, now, and always.
     
Home  
Flower Fund  
Guest Book  
Message Board  
Email Members  
Reunions/Events  
Contact Us  
     
  History  
Photographs  
Unit History  
Past Reunions  
     
Objectives  
Post Exchange  
Links  
     
 
     
 

Vietnam History  1 April 1967 to 31 December 1968

   
 

3rd Battalion (Airborne), 506th Infantry (CURRAHEES)
1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Screaming Eagles)


3rd Battalion (Airborne), 506th Infantry (CURRAHEES)
1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Screaming Eagles)

Department of the Army
Lineage and Honors
506th Infantry (Currahee)

Constituted 1 July 1942 in the Army of the United States as the 506th Parachute Infantry

Activated 20 July 1942 at Camp Toccoa, Georgia

Attached 1 June 1943 to the 101st Airborne Division

Assigned 1 March 1945 as an organic element of the 101st Airborne Division

Inactivated 30 November 1945 at Auxerre, France

Redesignated 18 June 1948 as the 506th Airborne Infantry and designated a Regular Army unit

Activated 6 July 1948 at camp Breckinridge, Kentucky

Inactivated 1 April 1949 at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky

Activated 25 August 1950 at Carp Breckinridge, Kentucky

Inactivated 1 December 1953 at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky

Activated 15 May 1954 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina

Relieved 25 April 1957 from assignment to the 101st Airborne Division and reorganized as the 506th Infantry, a parent regiment under the Combat Awns Regimental System




The blue shield is for the Infantry, the 506th's Arm of Service.
The thunderbolt indicates the unit's particular threat and technique of attack, striking with speed, power, and surprise from the sky. The six parachutes represent the fact that the 506th was the sixth parachute regiment activated in the United States Army.

The green silhouette represents Currahee mountain, the site of the regiment’s activation at Camp Toombs (later Camp Toccoa) Georgia and symbolizes the organization’s strength, independence and ability to stand alone, for which: paratroopers are renowned. Significantly, Currahee is a Cherokee Indian word meaning, "Stand alone".

Currahee Mountain further represents the foundation of the 506th’s training. It was on this tough, rugged little mountain what the men of the 506th were sufficiently hardened to enable them to break the world march record held by the Japanese Army. The 506th gained nationwide attention for this feat. “Currahee” was the cry of the 506th paratroopers as they cleared the door of their first jump and it will continue to be their cry when in combat.

BATTALION PRAYER

Almighty God, we invoke Thy blessings on this 3attalion. Grant than a spirit of sacrifice that will inspire them to do the little things of their military life in an extraordinary manner for the love of their country. May the value of perseverance and the spirit of aggressiveness always characterize the Currahees in their struggle with the enemy.
May they follow the traditions of the 3d an 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, though landing the last of their Regiment in Normandy, bravely gave the last two lives of The Screaming Eagles on the Alpen Strasse in WW II. Here on this day, on their rendezvous with destiny, may their courage and strength keep them free.
Standing close, yet united to their brother paratroopers, may their efforts defeat the enemy and bring to their fellowman the right to life, liberty, and happiness.
Bless and protect their loved ones at home.
In Thy name, we ask these blessings. Amen.


From Ft. Campbell KY, to Vietnam

The 3d Bn (Abn) 506th Infantry was reactivated on 1 May 1967 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky for the specific purpose of deployment to Vietnam to join the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. At this time, the remainder of the Division was not yet alerted for deployment, therefore the 3/506th immediately attracted many young troopers eager to deploy to Vietnam with an airborne unit. Under the firm and excellent guidance of the Battalion Commander, LTC John P. Geraci, the Battalion immediately began training for their ultimate goal: combat in Vietnam. The Battalion provided the aggressor force for the entire Division operation Goblin Hunt I, and although they were organized only two weeks prior to the operation, they were highly commended for their performance by the Division Commander, MG Ben Sternburg. Throughout the weeks of training at Fort Campbell and the surrounding area, the Battalion began to develop into a well organized, highly flexible team. The "Currahees" conducted a battalion airborne drop at Fort Stewart, Georgia to commence a two week jungle and swamp training programs, and spent two weeks in the Cherokee National Forest conducting mountain training.

Training turned to reality when, on 2 October 1967, the battalion departed from Oakland, California aboard the USNS Weigal for Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam. Met at Cam Rahn Bay by the Brigade Commander, BG Matheson, and the Deputy Commander of IFFV, BG Blanchard, the battalion was quickly on their way to Phan Rang for their processing and initial orientation on operation in Vietnam. On 8 November the "Currahees" were honored with a visit from General William Westmoreland, who personally welcomed them to Vietnam and the 1st Brigade. At this time also, the first indication was received that there might be, in the near future, the opportunity of a lifetime for the 3-506th, a combat jump, every heart skipped a beat as the General asked the Battalion if they were interested in a combat jump.

Having completed their processing, and oozing with confidence, the battalion moved out on Operation Rose. Making the first helicopter assault for the 506th in Vietnam, Company B, commanded by CPT William Landgraf, Sarasota, Florida, landed in the mountains south of Phan Rang. Company B was immediately followed by Company C, commanded by CPT Nicholas Nahas, Beaumont, Texas, and Company A, commanded by CPT Thomas F. Gaffney, Swainsboro, Georgia. Landing on multiple LZ's there was a minimum of contact and the 506th was off to a flying start.
Although there was very light contact on Operation Rose, the initial weeks gave the 506th the opportunity to test and confirm the procedures and SOP's they had developed in training at Fort Campbell. It also proved to be an outstanding shakedown for the ensuing operation in the Song Mao and Bao Lao Loc area, Operation Klamath Falls. The battalion made its first major contact when, on 2 January 1968, Company C made contact with elements of the 186th main force VC Battalion in the mountains south of Bao Loc. Reinforced by Company A, the "Currahees" swept through the base camp area of the VC battalion, capturing several radios, a large number of weapons, and over 1000 bottles of penicillin and other medical supplies. Only seven bodies were found; however, several months later a Kit Carson Scout who had been with the 186th Battalion revealed that over 35 VC had been killed in the contact.

Operation Klamath Falls ended on a quiet note. The month long operation of rugged mountain fighting netted an enemy body count of eighteen (18) and a total of nineteen (19) captured weapons. This was not accomplished without cost however. Ten paratroopers died during the operation and twenty-two were wounded. But the Currahees learned a lesson that was to influence their future. "Charlie" was no longer the elusive super-soldier, but an adversary who could be net in the most trying of combat conditions, and be beaten. This new knowledge the Currahees were destined to demonstrate in the Battle of Phan Thiet. But this was in the future of course, and for the time being the paratroopers thought only of their well deserved break and of the copious quantities of beer they were to consume. And some, who had heard whispered rumors, wondered at the prospect of a “combat blast."

Preparation for the Combat Blast

On 8 January all elements of the battalion were extracted from the AO and the next day made the long dusty journey to Phan Rang by convoy. Ice cold beer was waiting in Phan Rang and the Currahees thoughts drifted from the war. With no perimeter responsibility every effort was made to allow the weary paratroopers time for relaxation. Most of the men took advantage of this time to go on pass to the nearby "Strip" where they relaxed and enjoyed themselves.

January 11th was a day of fun and feasting. A beach party was held for the battalion at the base beach with great quantities of sizzling steaks and cold drinks. There were organized sports, swimming, and just plain lounging around, but the center of conversation and much speculation was the rumor of the "combat blast" that by now had spread throughout the battalion. Throughout the day knotted groups of troopers could be heard debating the jump. The party finally broke up late in the afternoon with all in high spirits even if slightly sunburned.

On 12 January the battalion formed in mass for a memorial service to honor those who had fallen in combat. It was a simple service with bayoneted rifles imbedded in the ground with steel pots and jungle boots. It was a traditional service yet symbolic of the departed Currahees and pregnant with meaning. After the service, an awards ceremony was conducted to present the battalion's first awards to deserving men. The Purple Heart was presented posthumously to PFC Winston C. Hamilton of Charleston, South Carolina, the first man to die in combat in the battalion. PFC Alton P. Langston of Wilson, North Carolina, and PFC Gilbert D. Bennet of Hialeah, Florida, also received the Purple Heart Award for being wounded in action.

The Army Commendation Medal with "V" Device was the first valor award presented in the Battalion. Awarded the medal were Sgt Roger K. Shannon of Providence, Rhode Island, SP4 Erskine L. Widemon of Vessemer, Alabama, and PFC Robert K. Davis of Benton, Illinois.

The prospect of the combat jump slowly materialized into more than rumor. 14 January the Battalion area was sealed off with concertina and marshalling officially began. The Battalion 0peration Order was given by LTC John Geraci at 1930 hours and early the next morning the Company Commanders issued their orders. Throughout the battalion area groups of troopers gathered around sand tables and briefing maps to receive the order. It was finally going to happen. The Battalion would jump as a unit on a Drop Zone northwest of Song Be at 1000 hours 17 January.

Throughout the remainder of the afternoon and the next day the area buzzed with preparation. Late on the afternoon of the fifteenth, LTC Geraci gathered the Battalion to give them a final briefing. At the fast moment however, word came from General Westmoreland that the jump was canceled and that the Battalion was to immediately assume a more important mission at Phan Thiet as soon as possible.

Phan Thiet

The new mission required the Battalion to move as quickly as possible to Phan Thiet and prepare to take over AD Byrd from Tack Force 2d, 7th Cavalry. Responding immediately, the Currahees packed their equipment and were enroute by road convoy twenty-four hours later. The journey was hot and dusty but without incident and the convoy closed at Phan Thiet in the late afternoon of 17 January.

In many ways the Battalion had to adjust. No longer was a separate battalion, but the leader of a combined task force there many new resources available. The base at LZ Betty encompassed an airstrip capable of accommodating aircraft as large as C-130's. From the seaward side of the LZ, Navy LSD's brought needed supplies and a destroyer cruised the adjacent waters with instant fire support. Other elements of the Task Force varied from the 568th Medical Evac Facility and its attached Medivac choppers to an entire company of the 27th Engineers-capable of road clearing and other diverse missions. Two batteries of 105nn artillery, D Battery, 2d of the 320th and B Battery, 5th of the 27th, supplemented by A Battery, 4th of the 60th, provided immediate fire support. In addition, the 192d Assault Helicopter Company with its slicks and gunships stood ready to meat the needs of the Currahees.

With all this support however, Phan Thiet was still a sudden change for the fighting Currahees. A coastal city thriving on its vast fishery; float and surrounded by a fertile expanse of rice lands, it was a stark contrast to the rugged mountains of past operations. Many problems arose to challenge the paratroopers. No longer was land navigation a matter of resection and reading terrain features but hinged on a steady compass and an accurate pace. With the open flat and, each rice paddy was a potential ambush site and tactical formations along with security became paramount. Where in the remote mountains civilians were non-existent, they were now an every day fact of life to be warily watched, but also to be won over. Even such a basic element as water posed a problem in the blistering heat. But the battalion was supported by a task force now and each problem was met and overcome in a concerted effort.

At 1900 hours, 19 January, the 3d Battalion (Airborne), 506th Infantry officially took over tactical control of AO Byrd from the 2d Battalion, 7th Cavalry and promptly changed the name to AO McLain. A0 McClain encompassed 300 square miles of terrain ranging from rich coastal plains to remote mountains. Within the A0 the battalion had the mission of conducting operations in support of revolutionary development. The revolutionary development concept had evolved as an early pacification experiment in the Phan Thiet area, and experts had come to view the Phan Thiet region as a model of the effective pacification program.

The battalion initially employed its maneuver elements in four areas. Alpha Company was assigned the mission of securing the battalion base at LZ Betty and conducting combat assaults along with extensive platoon size patrolling in assigned areas. Bravo Company was responsible for securing LZ Bartlett, a 105mm artillery fire base on the edge of the mountains, and conducting cloverleaf and ambush patrols. To the Currahee Shock Force fell the task of securing the fire base at LZ Judy, halfway between the coast and LZ Bartlett in the mountains. Charlie Company was assigned the mission of being "Swing Company." In late January this entailed providing security for the Rome Plows, an engineer heavy equipment platoon, who were clearing likely ambush sites along Route 1 between Phan Thiet and Phan Rang.

With few exceptions, the last days of January were quiet, with each company conducting assigned operations and encountering negligible contact. One of the few exceptions occurred during the early morning hours of 28 January when an ambush patrol composed of a platoon from the Shock Force and a platoon of PRU's ambushed an estimated 40 Viet Cong southwest of LZ Bartlett (AN 770196), killing nine VC and capturing miscellaneous supplies and documents.

On 29 January, all offensive operations in the A0 ceased at 1800 hours in observance of the Tet cease fire. Although the night was quiet at Phan Thiet, the Viet Cong launched their Tet offensive in other areas of the country and at 0945 hours, 30 January, the Tat cease fire was terminated and offensive operations went into full swing.

The Viet Cong TET Offensive of Phan Thiet

At 0230 hours, 31 January an estimated reinforced battalion initiated coordinated attacks against ARVN and US insta1lations as the TET Offensive erupted in Phan Thiet. Company A departed LZ Betty's perimeter at midmorning and were soon fighting the Currahees first battle of TET. Engaging an unknown sized Viet Cong unit, the Currahees killed thirteen Viet Cong and captured 10 weapons. This proved to be the first in a long, hard series of battles to drive the Viet Cong from their foothold in Phan Thiet.

During the next few days, contact was light. Company C continued to secure the Rome Plows, while B Company searched and cleared in their area, encountering sporadic contact and setting up numerous ambushes. On 2 February, as Alpha Company swept the outlying "Disneyland" area of Phan Thiet (AN 835114), they encountered a reinforced company guarding a battalion headquarters. For six hours they battled the entrenched Viet Cong, inflicting heavy casualties and finally linking up with Bravo Company at 1745 hours. Four paratroopers were killed and ten wounded in this action. The dead included SFC Philip A. Chassion, SFC James A. Bunn, SP4 Franklin G. Brooks and PFC Andrew L. Daniel. There were many feats of individual heroism this day. When the unit was cut off from the bodies of their dead, 2Lt John Harrison lead a night patrol through heavy fighting to recover the bodies of the fallen Currahees. For his gallant action he was awarded the Silver Star by General Omar Barsanti along with SP4 John P. Melgaard and SGT Arlen R. Mayfield.

On 4 February, 1968, Company A was extracted from the AO to act as the Battalion reserve and Company C was inserted from their security mission with Rome Plows. Throughout the next two days there was light sporadic contact. Late on the afternoon of 6 February, Charlie Company made contact west of "Disneyland" (AN 802]18) with a reinforced Viet Cong company in bunker positions. 'Until late into the night the Currahees of Charlie Company fought ferociously with the VC who were armed with automatic weapons, mortars and B-40 rockets. When the contact was finally broken, the company had suffered thirty wounded and two dead. SGT Paul Cline, who was killed while heroically protecting a fallen comrade from enemy fire, was subsequently recommended for the Medal of Honor. Thirteen enemy were killed in the action. Due to its heavy casualties, Company C was extracted to LZ Betty to reorganize and assume the role of battalion reserve.

In the next two days the Battalion organized a task force composed of Companies A and B and a company of the Mike Force attached from Special Forces. The operation kicked off on the morning of 8 February supported by Quad-50’s, and twin 40mm Dusters. Sweeping the "Disneyland" area where Companies A and C had had their big contacts (vicinity AN 808115) northwest of Phan Thiet, they drove the enemy from their fortified positions. The task force caught over a hundred Viet Cong in the open and decimated them with TAC Air, gunships and artillery. The enemy, badly beaten, retreated to the mountains north and west. A search of the area the next morning revealed 53 Enemy dead and over 40 fresh graves.

From 9 February to 17 February there was only light contact. The Battalion broke down into company sized elements, searching for the scattered enemy. Company C went north during this period to clear Highway 201 between Data Lac and Dalat. The other companies continued search and clear operations in the vicinity of Phan Thiet.

On 14 February, LTC Robert Elton took over command of the Battalion from LTC John P. Geraci who was being promoted to Colonel to assume the duties of MAN Senior advisor for the Delta Region. It was under the leadership of LTC Elton that the battalion fought the second battle of Phan Thiet.

At 1745H, 17 February, 1968, the NLCV liar Roam at Than Thiet received a flash message alerting Binh Thuan Province of the possibility of another country wide attack on major cities by VC and NVA units, At 2340 hours a VC radio message was monitored which indicated that the attack on Phan Thiet would begin at 0300 hours the following morning. Simultaneously VC attacked the Provincial Prison and the “Y” gate leading into the western sector of the city. At the prison, the Viet Cong released 500 prisoners but was unable to win access to the “Y” gate. Elements of Company B moved into Phan Thiet at 0800 hours to secure the Province Headquarters. At that time the Viet Cong controlled the northwestern sector of the city and the Province hospital. By 1800 hours the VC had been forced from the prison. Reinforced by company A, Company B spent a quiet night at the Province Headquarters until about 0510 hours when an estimated Viet Cong Battalion attacked from the east. The two Currahee companies repulsed the attack with the aid of gunships and a Spooky.
The next morning, Alpha Company moved out and forded the Song Ca River (AN 823083). While conducting a sweep of the northern bank of the rivers, the company engaged an unknown sized enemy force in well congealed bunkers. Encountering stiff resistance, they were forced to fall back and call in TAC Air. Company A remained in contact until dark when they pulled back into a defensive perimeter. During this engagement, they sustained eight KIA's and nineteen WIA's.
During this same time periled, Company B attacked northwest, from Province Headquarters, encountering light resistance and linking up with the Mike Force. Attacking together they encountered heavy B-40 and 57mm Recoilless Rifle fire and called in TAC Air and artillery to dislodge the energy from the bunkers. Small advance was made and by evening they consolidated in a perimeter (AN 039094).

On 20 February, Company A held a blocking position along the river while Company B together with Company C, which had joined them early in the morning, resumed the attack northwest (vicinity AN 235094). Although numerous air strikes were called in, the enemy apparently moved out of the area and reoccupied their positions after the air strikes TAC Air, gunships and 106mm recoilless Rifles had little effect on enemy positions. By night fall B and C Companies had advanced only 4O0 meters from their starting point and withdrew to secure Sector Headquarters. A search of the same area the next morning revealed a body count of 289 confirmed enemy dead.

On the morning of 21 February, Company C and the Mike Force were air assaulted into Company A's location. The three company task force swept northwest encountering little resistance, with Alpha being extracted that evening. Intelligence reports during this period indicated that the VC had been expecting an ammunition resupply which never materialized. As a result of extensive air, artillery and ground attacks, the enemy were withdrawing, leaving behind only a small delaying force. The city proper had been cleared of all Viet Cong pockets of resistance.

On 23 February, Company C and the Mike Force encountered an entrenched Viet Cong platoon northwest of the city and quickly routed then, killing several. For the remainder of February the Battalion continued pursuing the Viet Cong to the northwest and north encountering only sporadic contact.

After the severe mauling the Viet Cong received during their TET Offensive, they withdrew to the mountains to reorganize and establish a logistical system of caches and support personnel. At the hands of the Currahees, the enemy's manpower had been severely depleted. The 3d Battalion, 506th Infantry alone had a confirmed enemy body count of over 500 during the TET Offensive. As the bettered remnants of VC withdrew from the Phan Thiet area, they impressed military aged men, 13 to 45 years old, from local villages to bolster their ranks.

During March it was the battalion’s mission to prevent the Viet Cong from massing to train new recruits, to seek out and destroy VC supply points, and to deny him access to his traditional base areas. In a phase. the Battalion was find’em, fix’em, fight'em. and finish’em”. To this and the elements of the battalion relentlessly hounded the VC. On 1 March, Company C was air assaulted, into LZ Judy from which they began to push northwest toward the VC base area known as "The Bowl". At the same time, Company A began operations in the area east and southeast of LZ Bartlett moving to the northwest. Both units encountered sporadic contact, destroying bunker systems and caches as they moved. Company B provided convoy security and continued to upgrade the defenses at LZ Betty. During this period, the Currahee Shock Force continued reconnaissance operations in the area of LZ Judy and in the area south of LZ Bartlett, making light contact. As the threat to the city subsided, the Battalion developed new concepts for seeking out and destroying the enemy. One of these concepts was "Night hunter" whereby free movement by the VC at night was effectively reduced. Utilizing: a utility helicopter with starlight scopes mounted in the doors, a flareship and two armed helicopters as chase ships, the Currahees flying, at treetop level surprised VC marching along trails supposedly under the cover of darkness. Once a target is spotted, the troopers manning the starlight scopes mark the target with tracers from their M-16's. Immediately, the gun ships swoop in with miniguns and rockets blazing to destroy the target. At the same time, the flare ships drop flares to turn the night into day and expose the Viet Cong. Such new tactics accounted for numerous VC kills.

On 12 March, the Currahee Shock Force was reorganized establishing a new Reconnaissance/Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol Platoon under the leadership of 1Lt Roy D. Summers. Captain David M. Person, the outgoing Commander of the Shock Force, assumed the command of Company B. Captain William Landgraf left Company B to take over the responsibility of S-4. The new Reconnaissance Platoon began operation under the concept of a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol Units. Breaking down into six man teams, they were inserted clandestinely into remote regions of the area of operations to locate the enemy while larger units stood by as a reaction force to come in and reinforce, once the contact was established. The new platoon quickly established for itself a reputation for finding the enemy and getting itself out of tight situations. An example of this occurred on 13 March. Recon Team II was operating in the area southeast of LZ Bartlett. Throughout the day they had observed 10 - 15 man groups of Viet Cong. Set in their night locations, they observed two platoons of Viet Cong moving across a rice paddy to their front and engaged them with artillery and gunships. The results were decimating, but as the team attempted to withdraw, they were struck from the rear by an additional 150 VC. In the ensuing battle, the team fought for its life and in combination with artillery and gunships inflicted heavy casualties on the VC. As the team was about to expend the last of its ammunition and in real danger of being overrun, ships from the 192d Assault Helicopter Company managed to extract the team with a miraculous absence of serious casualties. This type of professionalism under intense pressure became a trademark of the battalion Reconnaissance Platoon. Their ability to clandestinely enter enemy areas unobserved has proved an invaluable asset in gathering intelligence information and in baffling and harassing the enemy.

With the reports of Recon's LRRP teams and the findings of the Chemical Detachment's "People Sniffer", it became increasingly evident that the Viet Cong were operating out of a mountainous valley northwest of LZ Bartlett. Responding to this intelligence, a mass CS strike or persistent CS was conducted in this valley known as "The Bow1" and the VC were denied access to another base area.

Contact through the end of March and into early April continued sporadic and light with elements of the Task Force encountering only small scattered groups of Viet Cong.

On 4 April, the entire Battalion returned to LZ Betty for the first stand down for the entire Battalion since leaving Phan Rang in early January. Needless to say, this was well deserved and to celebrate it a fantastic show of Australian dancing girls and a rock and roll band was imported. The entire Task Force was invited to the show. There were several trailers of free beer and soda and the place was packed three hours before show time despite the sweltering sun. The show itself was a great success with the troops leaving with uplifted spirits.

After the brief stand down, the men of the 3d Battalion returned to the unending task of searching out and destroying Charlie. Through the first week following the stand down, it appeared as if the Viet Cong had completely disappeared and consequently the Battalion broke down into platoon sized elements in an attempt to regain contact. On 13 April the technique paid off when Captain David M. Person and one of his platoons from Company B ambushed an estimated reinforced VC Platoon from a night ambush position. The fierce battle that followed lasted until first light when a search of the area revealed nine enemy dead and nine weapons captured. Although the platoon suffered nine wounded, the outstanding support provided by the Dustoff crews made possible the absence of fatalities. In a daring night hoist extraction under fire, they extracted five critically wounded paratroopers from the battle area.

Operation MR-6

After this action, contact became more and more scattered and it became obvious that the Viet Cong had withdrawn to their traditional mountain base which was the headquarters for all Viet Cong activity in Binh Thuan Province. This base area was called MR-6 to designate Viet Cong Military Region Six. It was this area that the next operation was directed.

In preparation for the operation, all available reconnaissance assets were employed. Special agent reports definitely fixed the enemy in this location. Aerial photographs, Red Haze, and personnel detection missions were flown to locate probable troop concentrations. Through these and special agent reports a definite pattern was established which enabled the Battalion to develop a plan of flexibility which could respond to movement trends. Through past experience, it was determined that evasion would be the enemy's tactic. At this time the concentrations of enemy activities seemed to be to the south of the objective area.

On 25 April Operation MR-6 kicked off with Company A combat assaulting in to secure the Forward TOC and fire support base. Companies B and C conducted combat assaults in separate locations and broke down to platoon sized elements. In addition, the 208th Mobile Strike Force Company, elements of the 44th ARVN Regiment and a CIDG Company were part of the operation. For the first two days, there was negative contact and later, light contact. It quickly became obvious that contact was the last thing the enemy wanted and to avoid it he had broken down into small groups. Small unit operations of platoons were the only successful operations. The Recon Teams were the principal assets that kept the Battalion informed as to VC movement and intent. All information was quickly disseminated and as many as one third of all LRRP contacts were reacted upon with the insertion of troops on the ground.

Through 8 May, contact continued light with the Batta1ion killing only VC in small isolated groups. Nevertheless, the technique of small unit operations was paying off in a slow but consistent body count. On the afternoon of 8 May, a platoon of Company B engaged the first enemy force of any size. For three hours they battled two platoons of Viet Cong killing two. The platoon suffered two KIA and 11 WIA which were the heaviest friendly casualties of the operation. This was the sole large contact of the operation. Until the operation terminated on 16 May, there was only light contact with small isolated groups of Viet Cong. The enemy had broken down to as small as two man groups and by his intense desire to avoid contact, the enemy situation simply dissipated. Very shortly after the Battalion withdrew from the area of operation, the enemy moved directly back to original objective area.

Although the twenty-one day operation was no startling success, it emphasized the value of small unit operations. Fifty-three Viet Cong were killed, two wounded, and fifteen weapons captured alone with a considerable quantity of communications equipment.

During the last few days of operation MR-6 enemy activity increased in the area of Sung Mao and on 11 May Company C was extracted and combat assaulted into the area south of Song Mao. They immediately came into heavy contact with a reinforced company. Caught in the open, the Currahees of Charlie Company fought back with everything from artillery to air strikes. By nightfall, contact was broken. The paratroopers had suffered eleven wounded. Sweeping the area the next day, they uncovered twelve VC dead, and several weapons. For the next several days they continued to have intermittent contact until 19 May when they were extracted and combat assaulted into the next area of operation, Operation Rockne Gold.

Operation Rockne Gold

Operation Rockne Gold was scheduled to commence on 19 May in the mountainous area south of Phan Rang. This was the some area in which the Battalion conducted its first combat operation in Vietnam - Operation Rose, in November of 1967. There were many similarities between the two operations. Even the enemy situation had remained relatively the same. The Battalion was assigned the mission of locating and destroying the 610 NVA Battalion and the HT-112 Company in the vicinity of Secret Jose Area 35. On I]-Lay, all companies of the Battalion made combat assaults into the A.O. The 206 MSF Company secured the Forward TOC which was located on the same hill that the TOC occupied during Operation Rose. Throughout the eight day operation there almost no contact. All indicators of enemy presence occurred in the northern sector of the objective area. The enemy proved to be extremely evasive. The few enemy found were not well equipped, were lackadaisical and predominantly VC living in surrounding hamlets. A total of four Viet Cong were killed and four weapons captured. On 27 May the Battalion was extracted to a new area of operation.

Operation Banjo Royce

On 28 May 1968 elements of the 186th1J6th Main Force Battalion and the 810 Company attacked the northwest portion of the city of Dalat. Attacks continued in the area through the first week in June. On 9 June the Battalion received the mission to move to the vicinity of Dalat to conduct operations against these enemy units. The movement to Camly Airfield marked the first time in the Vietnam War that American combat troops had ever operated in the Dalat area. After a brief opening ceremony by the mayor of the city the Currahees moved out. Operation Banjo Royce proved to be the beginning of what was to become the standard method of operation for the 506th, namely combined operations with local ARVN units. On this particular operation, the Battalion was joined by the 2d Vietnamese Ranger Group, three Mobi1e Strike Force companies and elements of the 44th ARVN Regiment.

The Dalat area consists of extremely rugged and steep mountains ranging up to 1600 meters and with narrow valleys. The majesty of the high ground is covered with forests and densely vegetated. Numerous base camps ranging from platoon to battalion size were discovered having been constructed within the last thirty days. Due to these numerous base camps and the frequency of light contacts, indications were that the VC were in the area, however, they had broken down into small groups and were staying concealed and avoiding contact. Although contact was light, the operation proved a success as the immediate area around Dalat was cleared of enemy forces.

On 18 June 1968, the change of command ceremony was held for the outgoing commander, LTC Robert M. Elton. The new Battalion Commander, LTC Walter E. Price of Stillwater, Oklahoma, had arrived at the beginning of the Dalat operation for an eight day transition. Present at the ceremony were Maier General Pears, I Field Force V Commander, Lt General Frank Clay, Deputy Division Commander, and Col John a. Collins III, 1st Brigade Commander. In the ceremony, LTC Elton was awarded the Silver Star and the Air Medal with "V" device.

Operation Harmon Green

On 18 June the Battalion began movement toward Bao Loc to reinforce a company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade which had made heavy contact. The move quickly demonstrated the flexibility required of an airborne trooper, as LTC Price assumed command in the morning and moved the Battalion to Bao Loc in the afternoon. The move to Bao Loc marked another first for the 506th. It was at this time that Task Force Cleland, later redesignated Task Force South, was formed. Task Force South was the first fully combined command in Vietnam. Composed of the 3d Bn (Abn) 506th Inf, the 3d Bn (Abn) 503d Infantry from the 173d Airborne Brigade, the 44th ARVN Regiment and the 2d Ranger Group, all operations were prepared and conducted under the joint supervision of both American and Vietnamese Commanders. As the Currahees complete their first year in Vietnam, the complete success of this method of operation is yet to be fully realized however, all preliminary indications are that the concept will become highly successful.

During the four days of Operation Harmon Green the Battalion made only one contact. This occurred on 18 June when a platoon of Company A encountered a Viet Cong platoon. In the action one trooper was wounded and 1Lt Arthur Quezada was killed as he valiantly lead a charge on the enemy position. Six Viet Gong were killed in the engagement.

The success of Harmon Green was in the large number of enemy supply caches discovered. A total of fifty-one enemy weapons were captured ranging from two 60mm mortars, complete, to several light machine guns. A mass of miscellaneous equipment was also captured. The operation was terminated on 27 June and the Battalion returned to AO McLain in the vicinity of Phan Thiet. Contact continued light until mid July with the maneuver companies of the Currahees conducting normal search and clear operations.

To assist the Regional and Popular Forces of Dinh Thuan Province, a five man RF/PF training team was established during this time period. Composed of veteran Currahees on a voluntary basis, this team works with the RF platoons on patrolling and ambush techniques so they might better defend their hamlets and discourage VC infiltration at night. The outstanding results achieved by this team are reflected in the thirty some ambushes per night placed out by PF units around their local hamlets.

Along these lines the Battalion established a LRRP training school under the supervision of the Reconnaissance Platoon. Initially begin as a one time affair, the first three week class was composed entirely of junior ARVN officers who in turn could return to their parent units and train selected personnel.The school has since become permanently established, administering extensive training in long range reconnaissance patrolling techniques to selected members of the 44th VN Regiment.

At 1000 hours, 17 July, the 2d 3n, 4th A 2VN Regiment came into heavy contact with a well entrenched Viet Cong 3attalion eight kilometers northeast of Phan Thiet, vicinity AN 934180. Immediately, all four rifle companies of the Battalion were diverted and combat assaulted into the open rice paddies of the contact area. Moving from four different LZ's, the companies sought to encircle the enemy and link up with the ARVN forces. Reconnoitering-in-force, Company A made the initial contact. The VC unleashed a deadly barrage of mortars, rockets and automatic weapons fire initially wounding several paratroopers. As Alpha sought to consolidate, Company B maneuvered to reinforce, both elements suffering causalities and several wounded paratrooper pinned down, there were many acts of individual gallantry and valor, as the battle raged into the night, gunships, artillery, air strikes and Spooky ships saturated the area with withering fire. One particularly unprecedented act of gallantry occurred when SSG Willie Washington of Palmetto, Florida, lead a volunteer team to the edge of the enemy positions to extract twelve wounded paratroopers from an inferno of exploding mortars and automatic weapons fire. This night the Battalion suffered thirty wounded and two dead. The ferocity of the contact prohibited closing the circle and by morning the badly mauled VC battalion had managed to escape with their dead and wounded. An unconfirmed agent report stated that sixty VC were killed in the action. Indications were that the VC had escaped into the densely vegetated Le Hong Phong forest. Contact was briefly reestablished when elements of the 7th of the 17th Cavalry engaged an unknown sized VC unit. The Currahees immediately pursued the enemy.

Four days later the elusive VC battalion was again located. Reacting swiftly, the maneuver elements of the Battalion combat assaulted into the area. Again darkness closed before encirclement could be completed. Ten VC were killed and four captured in the action. The Currahees suffered only minor casualties. ARVN forces in the action were hit hardest suffering six dead and thirty wounded. Again, the elusive enemy managed to slip out of the encirclement.

Information obtained from POW's confirmed the fact that again the Viet Cong had withdrawn to the region of the Le Hong Phong Forest and the 506th immediately deployed. LRRP operations were increased in the area but through the end of July there was minimal contact. The enemy had broken down into two and three man groups and sought to avoid contact.

The Currahees of the 506th (Abn) Infantry have come a long way since that never-to-be-forgotten day in May 1967 when the entire battalion, consisting 60 men, made its parachute drop in Bastogne Drop Zone at Fort Campbell, Ky. The Battalion trained long and hard and upon arrival in Vietnam, in October was truly combat ready for what ever was to come.

From 1 August until 31 January 1969, the 3d Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile), a separate Battalion Task Force, OPCON to Task Force South, continuously provided a mobile reaction force for the Task Force South Commander while conducting combat, combined reconnaissance in force and pacification operations within the assigned area of operations in Binh Thuan Province and portions of Lam Don, Binh Thuan and Binh Tuy Provinces, Having the responsibility for one of the largest battalion size areas of Operation in RVN, the 3d 3attalion (Airmobile ), 506th Infantry successfully employed an active intelligence network throughout the AO which frequently allowed the unit to anticipate and react to enemy troop buildups, counteract enemy propaganda efforts, and exploit enemy weaknesses. Rapid airmobile employment of infantry units, usually of platoon size, was effective in reinforcing; friendly contacts and frequently frustrated enemy plans in areas known to be controlled by them. Often fleeing the airmobile assaults of the Currahees, the enemy frequently left weapons and food caches as well as valuable documents in their wake. Throughout the second half of Operation McLain, the determined Currahees kept the enemy off balance and denied him access to his traditional hideouts. During this period, as throughout Operation McLain, the courageous paratroopers inflicted heavy casualties on enemy soldiers, establishing an impressive eighteen to one (enemy to US) confirmed kill ratio. This impressive battlefield record was accomplished as the Currahees simultaneously conducted combined combat and training operations with indigenous troops and frequent operations with counterpart units of the 44th ARVN Regiment. These operations provided the 44th Regiment with valuable field training in employment of artillery and mortar fire support, airmobile operations and reconnaissance along with bushmaster (ambush) techniques. The results greatly reduced the enemy's strength in the villages and hamlets in Binh Thuan Province.

The first few days of August 1968 saw no enemy contact until the 3d platoon of A Company engage an estimated VC platoon (vic BN 055266). Gunships and artillery were employed and 2 VC were killed. From 4 August until 24 August 1968, enemy contact was light with Task Force 3-506 accounting for 4 VC Kill. The Battle of Dai Hoa-Xuan Phon, 25-26 August 1968 began with a report from PMACV indicating that an unknown size VC element was believed to be digging in near the vicinity of Dai Hoa new life hamlet. The report was received from MACV at 0250 hours. At 0935 hours, two RF Companies were reported to be in contact with an estimated two VC companies near Dai Hon. Plans coordination for employment of available resources were made with the Battalion Commander, 3-506th Inf, 44th ARVN Regiment Commander, the Binh Thuan Province Chief, and Province Senior Advisor. Company B, 3-506th Infantry was airlifted to join the Provisional Tank Platoon, 1-69th Armor and the 4-8th ARV APC Troop, and moved into contact as a tank-infantry team attacking from the east to the west. The 3d Battalion, 44th ARVN Regiment also attacked from east to west, south of Company B. The RF elements remained in position, blocking the enemy from the south, as A and D Companies, 3-506th Infantry moved into blocking position north of the contact area. The 4th Battalion, 44th Regiment began a combat assault into the area of contact but was delayed by heavy thunderstorms at the pickup zone. Units advancing to contact met heavy resistance from the enemy which was employing 3-40 rockets, 60mm and 82mm mortars, small arms and automatic weapons. Extensive artillery fire, gunships and air strikes were employed to suppress enemy fire. As the cordon began to tighten, indirect fire support was lifted and the ground elements maneuvered to gain fire superiority. By 2340 hours the cordon had been completed and contact continued into the night as artillery flares and "moonglow" lit the battlefield. dawn sweep of the contact area revealed the remaining VC has escaped before the cordon was established but had left twenty-four dead on the battlefield. Two VC officers were captured. Friendly units suffered light casualties.

The heavy fire support had in many cases impacted with direct hits on VC fortified positions, destroying then, and rendering the occupants decimated that a further body count was impossible. Some 12 positions were then buried with a bulldozer. Additionally, many blood trails and discarded bandages and weapons were also captured and destroyed. August had seen three major contacts with the enemy and frequent small encounters throughout the month. Enemy contact dropped significantly in September with the enemy evading friendly units in an effort to regroup and refurnish throughout the month. Even sniper activity was light during this time and the most significant results were obtained when reconnaissance in force operations disclosed enemy base camps, Suner and tunnel complexes and caches. These areas sometimes revealed valuable information and frequently showed recent use. Persistent CS and explosives were usually employed to destroy or deny the enemy access to these locations.

0peration Phuong Hoang

The 1st of October marked the beginning of Operation Phuong Hoang, a combined operation with District Headquarters’ forces, elements of the National Police Field Force (NPFF) and the 44th ARVN Regiment (minus) The Task Force's mission during the operation was to provide cordon forces for a week Lang search operation conducted by Binh Thuan Sector in the Ham Thuan and Thein Giao Districts. The search force consisted of the Commander and Staff, Him Thuan Sub -Sector, one NPFF Company, one section of the Armed Propaganda Team (APT), Vietnam Information Section (VIS), Chieu Hoi Team, Psy War Team (RVN) and a REDCAP team. During the ten days of operation, the villages of Phu Nhang, Duc Long, Phu Khanh, Phu Sum and Go Boi were cordoned and searched. On two occasions elements of Task Force 3-506 engaged the enemy in brief encounters as they moved into position. The results of the contacts were 1 US KIA, 3 US WIA, 7 VC KIA, and 2 weapons captured. The overall results of the search mission was 104 suspects detained, l0 confirmed VCI interrogated, identified, and imprisoned. Although the Vietnamese S-5 activities initially showed a lack of preparation and organization, as the operation continued, the S-5 activities showed gradual improvement as problems of teamwork and coordination were resolved. By the time the last cordon and search at Go Boi took place, the S-5 functions, as well as police activities, showed marked improvement and the operation flowed much more smoothly than earlier efforts.

Operation Le Hong Phong

Operation Le Hong Phung commenced on 11 October 1968 and concluded on 24 October 1968. The operation was a combined effort with elements of the 44th ARVN Regiment and the 4-8th Armored Cav Troop with the Provisional Platoon, 1-69th . Armor, and Task Force 3-506. The Le Hong Phong Forest, the origin of the operation's name, is a very densely vegetated region to the northeast of Phan Thiet. It is characterized by low, dense, thorny growth, thickly grown-over with vines and is sandy underfoot. The forest area is vast, encompassing about 400 square miles of terrain. Water is extremely scarce in the area with the only significant amount to be found in the "Twin Lakes" area in the southeast corner of the forest. In most areas movement is impeded by the undergrowth, which in turn affords the enemy excellent concealment from both aerial and ground observation. A VC stronghold since the Indochina War, the Lo Hone Thong Forest is saturated with bunker complexes and trail, networks. Contacts with the enemy ranged from sniper harassment to pitched battles with VC platoons. The combined forces succeeded in killing 35 VC, capturing one FCG, 1 and securing numerous weapons and documents. Friendly casualties were I US KIA and 6 US WIA. Upon completion of the combined operation, A Company, 3d 3attalion, 506th Infantry conducted a reconnaissance in force operations to the southwest and in the following seven days engaged two VC elements, killing two enemy soldiers. During the period 11 November to 17 November 1968, Task Force 3-506 and the 4th Battalion, 44th ARVN Regiment again conducted combined reconnaissance in force operations, this time in the southwest portion of Le Hong Phong Forest. During this time, the 4-8th ARVN Cavalry (APC) also conducted combined operations with the provisional Platoon, 1-60th Armor in the southwest portion of the Le Hong Phong Forest. Results of the operation were: 6 VC KIA, 1 VC ,POW, 2 AK-47s, 1 7_A2mm Chicom pistol and numerous documents CIA, No friendly casualties were sustained.

Double Eagle Operations

Operation Double Eagles 1 was the beginning of five combined Double Eagles operations which involved Task Force 3-506 in combined operations with each of the four battalions of the 44th ARVN Regiment from 23 November 1968 to 31 January 1969, when Operation Double Eagles V was terminated. At the beginning of each of the combined Double Eagles operations, a forward CP for the 3-506 and 44th Regiment were established in the AO as was a forward fire support base. The significance of these combined operations was not only in the large enemy body count establisher, but in the thoroughness of cooperation and planning that characterized each phase of tactical operations. The units of the 44th ARVN Regiment were not only exposed to up-to-date US operations, but took part in every phase of planning and execution of the combined operations. The allies were instrumental in the operation of the forward tactical operations centers, fire bases, and in the tactical ground operations themselves. This series of operations, lasting more than two months, established an important rapport among the allies and established not only fundamental tactics and operational procedures within the ARV N units, but proved to Task Force 3-506 their value as worthy allies in combat. The lessons learned and the continued development of their tactical effectiveness and their continued close association with the 3-506 was a source of great pride to the 44th Regiment, and it was reflected in their performance. Operation Double Eagles I took place north of Luong Ser. The task organization consisted of B Company 3-506th Infantry, 3d Troop, 7-17th Cavalry and the 3d Battalion 44th ARVN Regiment. Fire Support Base Kinnard Opened in support of the operation and employed 105mm artillery. Double Eagles II consisted of combined reconnaissance in force operations with the task organization consisting of the 1st and 3d Battalions, 44th ARVN Regiment and A, B and C Companies, 3d Battalion 506th Infantry. A combined forward CP for the 3-506th and 44th Regiment served also as fire support base, designated Ba Thinh, and was located in the area of operations. both 105mm artillery batteries were located at FSB Ba Tainh. It was at this time that the Currahees of the 3-506th welcomed their third Battalion Commander in LTC Manuel A. Alves who assumed command from LTC Walter B. Price. LTC Alves grasped the tactical situation immediately December 14, 1969 and led the Currahees into Double Eagle III (Phase I).

Combined operation Double Eagles III (These I) commenced on 17 December 1968 with reconnaissance in force operations being conducted northwest of Song Mao. The Task organization supporting Phase I consisted of Companies B and D and the Recon Platoon, 3-506th Info and the 1st battalion, 4th 44th ARVN Regiment and a fire support base designated Daniel. This operation terminated 23 December 1968. Task Force Double Eagles III (Phase II) began on 2)4 December 1968 with reconnaissance in force operations in an area of operations north of Thien Giao. The task organization consisted of B and D Companies, 3d battalion. 506th Infantry, the 1st battalion, 44th ARVN Regiment (minus) and the Recon Comp any of the 44th Regiment. 4 combined forward CP was established in the area of operations and designated Fire Support Base Andell. This phase of Double Eagles III terminated on 4 January 1969.

Combined operation Double Eagles IV took place from 7 January to 25 January 1969. During this period, Task Force: 3-506 and the 2d Battalion, 44th Regiment conducted operations north and northwest of Phan Thiet. Fire Support Base Zewert was established in the area of operations to provide support for the combined operation. This operation employed both reconnaissance in force and Bushmaster (ambush) tactics against the enemy. Double Eagles IV proved to be the must successful of all the Double Eagles operations in terms of enemy body count and enemy equipment camptured.
 

 
 
 
 
       
 
Members Only