Battle of Ong Thanh 1967- bloodiest U.S. defeat during Vietnam War.

Discussion in 'Military History' started by Kunal Biswas, Dec 30, 2010.

  1. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Battle of Ong Thanh 1967


    The Battle of Ong Thanh was a battle of the Vietnam War that occurred on October 17, 1967.

    During this little known battle, the soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry (the "Black Lions"), were ambushed and subsequently decimated by a well-entrenched and prepared National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF), or Viet Cong, regiment,

    In 1967 U.S. commanders in the battlefield were under pressure to engage the NLF and destroy them in decisive battles. Under such pressure, many U.S. officers were dismissed as a result of their failure to engage the NLF in large operations. The 2-28th Infantry was no different; in 1967 Lieutenant Colonel Terry de la Mesa Allen, Jr. took command of the battalion after many of the units' officers were dismissed from their post.

    The lack of contact had much to do with the NLF's reluctance to fight large-scale battles, where superior American firepower would prove decisive. Instead NLF units often conducted hit-and-run operations against U.S troops. After taking over as commander of the 2-28th, Terry Allen, Jr.'s immediate objective was to find elements of the NLF 9th Division as part of Operation Shenandoah II.

    On October 15, 1967, the NLF 271st Regiment, part of the 9th NLF Division and one of the most experienced NLF regiments in the country, arrived in Lai Khe within the 2nd Battalion's area of operation. The main objective of the regiment was to find food supplies instead of engaging American troops. The 271st Regiment went for days without food, and there were no supplies to be found. When local NLF units could not assist the 271st Regiment, Colonel Vo Minh Triet decided to dig in and wait.


    Shortly after breakfast at 08:00 on October 17, Lt. Col. Allen personally led two companies from his unit and headed out for the jungle. While out pursuing the NLF in the jungle near Ong Thanh, about 50 miles (80 km) north of Saigon, the soldiers of the 2-28th were ambushed by the NLF 271st Regiment, one of three regiments belonging to the NLF 9th Division.

    The 2-28th were ambushed by an enemy they had pursued: first appeared a small group of NLF troops and then there were waves of enemy troops surged to attack. The Alpha and Delta Companies were pinned down as NLF snipers opened fire from all directions; the two companies took cover and returned fire. As part of their tactic the NLF ran parallel to the American column to "hug the enemy," and closed up on U.S soldiers to make artillery and air strikes difficult to accomplish without massive American casualties. As a result air support could not be requested although artillery fire was called in, which killed U.S soldiers along with the NLF.

    During the battle the Black Lions were virtually wiped out by the entrenched NLF units, Alpha Company was wiped out in 20 minutes while Delta Company took heavy casualties. 2nd Battalion commander Allen was killed while 1LT Clark Welch (Commanding Officer of Delta Company) was wounded during the firefight. By the time the sun went down, 59 soldiers were dead and 75 wounded—this from two half-strength companies and a headquarters section, totaling fewer than 200 men. The battalion, which was no larger than a typical rifle company, had been destroyed while the brigade Operations Officer, James Shelton, was in Brigade Headquarters during the worst of the fighting, trying to coordinate artillery, medivac wounded and even giving advice to a soldier on how to use cigarette-pack cellophane to close a sucking chest wound.

    After a couple of hours, the NLF had withdrawn their forces and the American survivors were evacuated by helicopter. On October 18 the 271st Regiment withdrew from the area and moved north for refit and rearm, allowing American units to return and collect bodies that could not be retrieved the previous day.

    During the war the U.S. Army's news services and some American newspapers reported the battle as an American victory. See Viet Cong and PAVN strategy and tactics for more information on NLF and PAVN fighting methods.





    http://www.ftsillocsphotoproject.com/OCS-OngThanh/ong-thanh.pdf
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
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  3. Tshering22

    Tshering22 Sikkimese Saber Senior Member

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    Vietnamese are masters of bush war and hence this skill of theirs makes it all the more important for our forces to cooperate and learn from them; especially the counter-terrorist forces of NE that are busy battling terrorists and fundamentalist forces. It could only add advantage and additional skill to our forest warfare units and special forces.
     
  4. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    We are same as they are so does any other military, In this particular case other sides was too confident..

    We have many dedicated jungle warfare schools..
     
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  5. ashicjose

    ashicjose Regular Member

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    is the same fate o:emot0:f americans going to happen to the indian army, incase of a war with maoist in NE.
     
  6. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    U meant CRPF?
    Coz

    Army is not involved..






    CRPF is now is getting jungle training in Army Jungle schools..
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2010
  7. ashicjose

    ashicjose Regular Member

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    Yes sir, but I fear incase of a clash between IA and maoist what will be the result.
     
  8. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Fear?

    You need to see how we do in CT operation in Kashmir where Tangos are very professional compare to Maoists grunts..
    today any movement in j&k, even the slightest one can be detected by us, thanks to the locals who wanted us to be their with them..

    We operate over mountains, Jungle, snow covered peeks doing CT operations, CRPF is not even 25% of our efficiency..
    Thats the reason we train them, If Army accomplish this Internal matter like these kind of messes, then why CRPF and paramilitary are for?
    Btw, Indian gov have the largest paramilitary in the world under home ministry..


    They are learning, And i hope they wont do this kind of blunders in future..
     
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  9. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    Kunal if you have any info about the TET offensive it would make a good thread.
     
  10. Dave Berry

    Dave Berry New Member

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    I posted a photo on Facebook and identified my unit as 2/28th Inf. "Black Lions". Someone sent me the URL for this thread and asked if I was there. I was a US Army combat medic with the Black Lions and was at the Battle of Ong Thanh. I can't say that it was the bloodiest US defeat of the Vietnam War, but it was bad enough. It was a command failure at many levels. 1st Infantry Division Commander John Hay was known for relieving battalion commanders who weren't "aggressive" enough of their commands (aggressiveness being measured by body count). LTC Allen (Terry de la mesa Allen, Jr.), the son of famous WWII Division Commander Terry Allen, was having marital problems and had just taken emergency leave to go home. Being afraid of losing his command on top of his marriage, he ignored common sense and his subordinates. We were a Battalion -, with three under-strength rifle companies. Our Charlie Co. was attached to another battalion. There were no other units close enough to give support and a shortage of helicopters delayed our Charlie Co. and two rifle companies from another battalion being brought in as reinforcements. We had contact nearly every one of the previous 9 days of the operation (Shenandoah II). On the 16th we hit a basecamp and it was like poking an anthill. The VC came streaming out, but artillery support kept them at bay while we withdrew. When LTC Allen announced that the unit was going into the same general area the next day, LT Welch, the Delta Co. commander tried to tell him that there were a lot of VC out there - more men than we had. LTC Allen, calling Welch (one of the finest combat officers in the US Army) timid, or something to that effect, changed the order of march, putting Alpha Co. in the lead, with Delta in the rear. His HQ element, bloated to 13 men (all of whom were killed), was in the middle. LTC Allen usually overflew the patrols in his command & control helicopter. This was the only time that he took out a patrol personally, and it was because he wanted to be sure to get credit for the big body count that he expected that day. The end result was a big body count (American bodies) and all of us give him credit for that. If VC Regimental Commander Triet had pressed the attack, his force could have killed every one of us, including the small force left in our NDP (Night Defensive Position). He knew that he would lose a lot of his men to American artillery and air and elected to pull out. His unit was out of food and were supposed to be up near the Cambodian border to take part in attacks in the area of Loc Ninh, which occurred a few weeks later. If you would like to read about the battle in depth "The Beast Was Out There" by Brigadier General (Retired) Jim Shelton is an excellent book which deals with the tactical situation. Jim was the Battalion Operations Officer until that operation, so he knew all the players well. David Marinass' "They Marched Into Sunshine" is a much more in-depth book, which goes back and forth between Vietnam and the US, with anti-war protests at the University of Wisconsin, Madison balanced against Black Lions in the Vietnam jungle. There are a few YouTube videos with articles about the battle.

    I apologize for this long message, but I wanted to clarify some points about the battle.
     
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  11. bose

    bose Senior Member Senior Member

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    Welcome to DFI !! Please introduce yourself in the community --> Introduction & Greetings.

    You can open a new thread to introduce your self to all members...
     
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  12. apple

    apple Regular Member

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    Thank you for your service, Mr. Berry.

    Have looked at your photos at pbase.com. Noticed you had one from Ho Bo woods.

    [​IMG]

    When were the 2/28 there? Did you ever get down to Phước Tuy Province i.e. inland from Vung Tau/ have any contact with the Australians?
     
  13. SREEKAR

    SREEKAR Regular Member

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    Clash between IA and maoist / naxals?
    It will be one sided game dude..
    If army is involved then take helicopters , aerial support , medic support for our jawans..I guess there won't be any clash between maoist and army
    Because our government refused to army to take them
    @Kunal Biswas @bose Sir, can u tell me why Army is not engaging maoist/naxal..
     
  14. rusellviper89

    rusellviper89 Regular Member

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    You don't use heavy weaponry in CI operation it is all about intelligence gathering and weeding them out slowly. You do not want the local population turned against you .
     
  15. Dave Berry

    Dave Berry New Member

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    I was in Vietnam from April '67 to April '68. Although I posted this particular photo in my RVN photo gallery, I didn't take it. It was taken by a good friend and fellow medic, Charles Smith, in late '68. I will upload the map of our AO (Area of Operations). We didn't go below Saigon that I recall during my tour. 85278634.fLts1MTJ.AOmap.tif.jpeg
     
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  16. apple

    apple Regular Member

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    You got to be there for Vietnamese New Years, lucky you...

    Despite the little Finnish flag on my profile, I'm from Australia. Our boys were in the III Corps area too. That was why I was asking the question. We'd been in Ho Bo woods and down the tunnels, but in 65-66. Just after your time we went to Lai Khe, which is on your map, for Mini Tet.
     
  17. Dave Berry

    Dave Berry New Member

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    Lai Khe was my basecamp. 3rd Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division. The idiocy of making a major basecamp with a (pretty much) hostile village inside it's perimeter still makes me burn. In Jan. '68, a couple of weeks before Tet, the Brigade Officers' Club was blown up by sappers, probably coming out of Lai Khe Village. 9 killed and 18 wounded in that one.
     
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  18. apple

    apple Regular Member

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    Yeah, the Australian Task Force in Nui Dat didn't allow any, including "friendly", Vietnamese into the base and resettled all the villagers, who lived within mortar range, elsewhere as we'd declared a free fire zone round the base. We were a bit lucky as that base wasn't set up till 66. We'd had advisors in SVN since 1962 and a couple of them had been in bases that had been overrun. So, we had a bit of knowledge about how not to set up a base.

    Didn't know there was an allied force camp in Lai Khe. Although, I guess that makes sense due to its proximity to Saigon. Our boys going over there led to our biggest battle of the war. Had always heard we were out in real "Indian (no, the other ones) country" so presumed there would not have been a US base nearby. I guess it's all comparative and as that area wasn't where our guys usually were it probably seemed a bit strange.

    Presume the Battle of Coral- Balmoral, wouldn't have been something you're familiar with as it was, just, after your time and guess American's would have had enough of their own battles that they wouldn't need to be learning about other people's fights.
     
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  19. Dave Berry

    Dave Berry New Member

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    I was not aware of the Battle of Coral-Balmoral, but I just looked it up. It took place after I left Vietnam. It looks as though you guys did a lot of damage to the combined VC/NVA force there, but it wasn't easy. I'm sure that the other Allied forces in that area, including the Big Red One, appreciated having the number of hostiles reduced by that much. Thank you for sharing the information!
     
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