Unexpected: Disrupting the Viet Cong’s Supply Lines During the Vietnam War.
Sergeant Arnold Krause, aged 19, sitting on sacks of grain unexpectedly discovered in USA sacks, at a Viet Cong base (A Krause, 212warriors.com)
SSG Arnold Krause C 2/12th Infantry was interviewed by Peter Alan Lloyd as part of his research for BACK (see: http://peteralanlloyd.com/back-part-2/backpackers-meet-the-vietnam-war-back-screenplay-finally-finished/)
Life on patrol with Charlie Company of the Second Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment in Vietnam.
I was 19 when I was drafted into the Army in September of 1967 and after going through Basic at Ft. Lewis, Wa. and AIT training at Ft. Polk (home of “Tigerland”) La., I got my orders to go to Vietnam in March of 1968.
Upon arriving in country, and passing through the 90th Replacement Center in Ben Hoi, I was assigned to Charlie Co, 3rd Plt., 2/12th Infantry located in Camp Rainer, Dau Tieng. I arrived in Vietnam as a PFC (Private First Class), was promoted to SP4 (Specialist 4th Class) in July, and made Sergeant in August. The 25th division had a leadership development school at Cu Chi that lasted about 8 to 10 days and was designed to teach NCOs the basics of being a leader. Just before I return home in February, I was promoted to Staff Sgt. arriving home in March of 1969.August 22nd, upon completing my NCO schooling at Cu Chi, I returned to the field where the unit was still operating south of Hoc Mon. My platoon leader, 1LT R.W. “Bud” McDaniel, who will soon take over as the company commander in September for Charlie Co., tells me I am taking over third squad. There are five men in the squad, a grenadier (M-79) and four riflemen (M-16’s) plus myself. Soon after my promotion our unit moved from Hoc Mon area up to Trang Bang and settled in at FSB (Fire Support Base) Stuart. About a month later we moved North about six clicks and established FSB Pershing. The Battalion remained in this area from October 1968 until about May of 1970 as its TAO, tactical area of operation.
During our time at Pershing our focus was to primarily disrupt the flow of men and supplies from Cambodia down through war zone C and D and into Saigon.Our job was also to engage the enemy at every opportunity and eliminate them.
The VC supply Trail passed down through the East side of Dau Tieng and through the Michelin rubber plantation. This was one of the hottest spots in Vietnam. If you look at charts of casualties, you will find Hau Nghia province and Tay Ninh province right up there in the number of casualties.
It was also the most direct route to the capital because of the direction of the rivers which the VC could use their sanpans to ferry supplies, in addition to using the trails.
The Trail also wound through the iron triangle, which was a Viet Cong-dominated area, between the Thi-Tinh and Saigon rivers, next to Cu Chi district. It then crossed the Saigon River in the Hobo Woods and Filhol rubber plantation, bypassing Cu Chi and on towards the outskirts of the capital, Saigon.
So our base was surrounded by some of the hottest areas of real estate in South Vietnam at the time.
Most of our operations consisted of search and destroy missions, reconnaissance in force, either on foot, or using Eagle flights, which were intended as a show of strength, moving in by Huey UH1-D helicopters and sometimes CH-47 Chinooks, the latter only to secured landing zones. There was a vast array of assault helicopter companies that supported the 25th division in this area.
During the months of October and November the company and the Battalion engaged in many battles with the Viet Cong and NVA. We relied heavily on the utilization of combat assaults to surprise the enemy and catch them in areas that were favorable to us in defeating the enemy.
The VC normally would ambush you, get someone injured, not killed, then try and draw you into a rescue effort in hopes of killing more. They would organize and co ordinate large nighttime activities, ground assaults at NDP’s, night defensive positions. These would be places where we stopped at night and dug in. We would deploy concertina wire and claymore mines around our location and then sit and wait, like bait, to see if Charlie would try and hit us either with mortar fire, or ground assault.
We would rely on artillery fire and aerial support if attacked. In these instances, the F.O., forward observer for artillery, would zero in the closest battery support to our location. He would have the artillery fire air bursts of White Phosphorous by having them calculate from the center of our location, These airbursts would then encircle or position overhead with each gun. So when the shit hit the fan, they could drop down from these calculations and hit the enemy with HP, high explosive.
About the only difference between VC and NVA, was the uniforms. The NVA operated in larger numbers and were a military unit while VC were guerrilla fighters, squad and platoon strength normally, usually locals from the villages, but could also be regional.
To our East were many small Hamlets and villages that favored supporting the local VC forces. To our Northwest, the Boi Woods, to the Northeast laid the Hobo Woods and the Mushroom, three geographical strongholds for the enemy south of the Saigon River.
It was during this period of time, I believe in October, in which the company was on one of these missions near the southern side of the Saigon River at a time when we were sweeping through a heavily populated wooded area. As we are moving to this area we engaged a small force of VC and a firefight ensued.
After the enemy disengaged from the action we swept the area and discovered the rice cache that you see in the photograph at the top of this article. It was covered with vegetation above ground, most likely because it was going to be moved soon. As for the bags themselves, they were likely confiscated after being used somewhere else.
One time we found hospital supplies wrapped in U.S. newspaper, so nothing surprised us. There were several tons of rice found and we airlifted it back to FSB Pershing.
The photograph of me with the rice at the top of this article was taken soon after the Chinook helicopter had dropped the sling load of rice bags onto the helicopter pad.
The discovery of food stores, ammunitions, and medical supplies was not a daily occurrence but it happen a few times. Prior to the discovery of this food cache, when we were near Hoc Mon, we were specifically seeking out weapons caches based on Intel, and spent days scouring the banks of creeks and rivers looking for munitions hidden in the vegetation along the shore lines.
We frequently found in the field, small arms, mostly 5.56 Chicom rounds for the AK-47’s. Of the bigger stuff, occasionally we would find 75mm recoilless rifle rounds, 122mm rockets, 82mm and 60 mm mortar rounds, and tons of RPG-7’s – rocket propelled grenades, some artillery rounds, but not sure of what size.
VC tunnel complexes and spider holes, as they were called, were everywhere we went. I did very little tunnel work because I was too tall and manuvering in a tunnel was not easy. The tunnel holes or entrances in places were barely 18-20 inches wide, so it took a small man to get into these. Most of the “Tunnel Rat” guys packed their .45’s and a good knife and if they remembered, some sort of ear plug, but you still had to listen for the enemy. When the Division base camp was built at Cu Chi, it was right on top of the Cu Chi Tunnel complex, which I think was left over from the French struggles, but certainly expanded with time. Saying “on top” does not imply that the tunnels were in the base camp, but they were close by.
Cu Chi remained the 25th Div base camp from 1966 to 1971 when we began to pull out. Cu Chi got mortared or hit with 122mm rockets occasionally and did experience a few ground attacks. BUT, it was too big for the enemy to overrun. They got through the wire when I was there, and blew up a bunch of CH-47 Chinook helicopters.
In December of 68 I was given three more replacements which brought my squad up to nine, the highest strength I had experienced in any a squad I was associated with during my time in Nam. Most of the time our platoon strength was around 25 and a company strength varied between 75 to 100 men. Companies were usually four platoons, the fourth platoon a heavy weapons platoon (mortars) which usually stayed in the base camp.
It was an up-and-down year for my company and for my platoon. During the year that I was there we lost 22 men plus a medic, 12 from my platoon. During the month of December we lost our platoon leader, and two close friends of mine. I ended up as acting platoon Sgt. for about three weeks.
Turnover rate in the company during my period of time there was very high. Doing my own research, for a company that averaged between 100 and 120 men, we had close to 400 men listed on the company roster for a one-year. This list made up men arriving, rotating home, wounded and sent home, killed or reassigned to other units. As you can see a large turnover which translated into a lot of inexperienced men in the field that needed to be brought up to speed quickly, and I will talk about what can happen in those situations in another article.
For a modern-day take on the Vietnam War, POWs/MIAs and Adventure Backpackers trekking into the war-ravaged jungles of Asia, see: http://peteralanlloyd.com/back-part-2/backpackers-meet-the-vietnam-war-back-screenplay-finally-finished/
For POWs left behind after the war had ended, see also:
© Peter Alan Lloyd
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