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until near dark when the enemy withdrew, the Cavalry troopers sustained casualties
of three dead and five wounded and evacuated. They killed 39 North Vietnamese
with the armed helicopters accounting for most of the enemy losses.
The American troops also recovered several enemy weapons left behind
by the retreating NVA and took two wounded prisoners. Under interrogation,
the two captives related that they had recently infiltrated into their
new sector through the mountains to the northwest together with about
1,000 other North Vietnamese troops. They stated that they had recently
passed a rocket firing position with six 122mm rocket launchers and
observed numerous antiaircraft emplacements. Upon learning this intelligence,
Colonel Campbell placed his entire 3d Brigade on full alert.46

In the early hours of 3 January, shortly after the initial assaults
in the Da Nang area, the NVA 2d Division struck, under the cover of
darkness, four of the 3d Brigade's fire bases: Ross, Leslie, Colt, and
Baldy. At Baldy, located about 15,000 meters northeast of Ross near
Route 1, and Colt, about 10,000 meters east of Ross, the enemy limited
himself to mortar attacks. The NVA division reserved its main efforts
for Ross and Leslie, throwing the 3d and 21st Regiments
against the two firebases. At Leslie, about 5,000 meters to the southwest
of Ross, enemy infantry followed closely upon the initial mortar and
rocket barrage. Although the North Vietnamese initially broke through
the bunker line, the 1st Cavalry defenders threw back the enemy with
heavy losses. At Ross, an even larger North Vietnamese force used "human
wave" tactics. The men of the 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry, however, on
Ross, were ready. According to one account. Captain Charles A. Krohn,
the battalion intelligence officer, had made an analysis of past NVA
attacks and found a pattern. The NVA depended on the preparatory mortars
and rockets to keep the defenders under cover with their heads down
while enemy sappers cut the wire and cleared away obstacles. Krohn suggested
that the 2d Battalion troopers attempt during the shelling to keep their
eyes on the perimeter irrespective of the shelling and continue firing.
Even with the implementation of the intelligence officer's recommendations,
the defense of Ross was a near thing. At one point, 3d Brigade artillerymen
on Ross lowered their guns and fired canister rounds directly into the
attackers. By 0530, the fighting at Ross was over and the NVA withdrew,
defeated. At both perimeters, the 1st Cavalry troopers counted a total
of 331 NVA dead at a cost of 18 Americans KIA, 137 evacuated and wounded,
and 3 missing in action.47


Further south, in the Que Son Valley, near Hiep Due, an undermanned 1st VC Regiment, the remaining infantry regiment of the 2d NVA Division, hit a firebase of the Americal Division's 196th Light Infantry Brigade. Poorly coordinated with its forces badly dispersed, the enemy attack soon faltered. Colonel Louis Gelling, the 196th commander, formed the brigade into two task forces and rapidly took the initiative. By 9 January, the 196th had accounted for over 400 of the enemy.48


Although the 1st Cavalry troops on Leslie had repulsed the ground assault on their positions, the North Vietnamese continued to maintain pressure on the American fire base. NVA antiaircraft units had occupied the high ground overlooking Leslie and their guns made any resupply of the base an extremely hazardous venture. Colonel Campbell, the 3d Brigade commander, later recalled that Leslie "was not resupplied for a period of about nine days because of the ring of 12.7mm's [enemy antiair machine guns] around it." During what amounted to the siege of Fire Base Leslie, enemy gunners shot down 7 1st Air Cavalry helicopters and damaged 26 more seriously enough to put them temporarily out of commission.49

Despite the deteriorating weather which limited both fixed-wing and
helicopter support, the 196th and the 3d Brigade carried the fight to
the enemy. With preregistered points based on key terrain earmarked
on the captured enemy map, Colonel Campbell's artillery placed heavy
fires on suspected enemy positions. Preplanned B-52 strikes flying high
above the clouds also rained down a devastating amount of explosives
upon presumed NVA concentration areas. With this support, occasionally
reinforced by Marine and Air Force tactical fixed-wing aircraft and
Army gunships when the weather permitted, the Army infantry attempted
to outmaneu-ver and close with the enemy. Gelling's 196th engaged in
several night company-size fire fights, often in a driving rain storm.
Both the 3d Brigade and the 196th took a heavy toll of the 2d NVA
Division
in the Que Son Valley. By the time the fighting ended
in mid-January, the Army brigades had killed more than a 1,000 enemy
at a cost of about 100 American lives. Although still remaining in the
field, the 2d NVA suffered losses that impaired its future
effectiveness.50




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