A year after the historic Ia Drang battle, the enemy was still there

Contributors: Jim DeLoney, Ray Delano, Joe Cook
Comments added by Dennis Dauphin, Webmaster



Reference the battle on the Cambodian border on 19 Nov 66, I was the FO out with the B/1/14 infantry rifle company.  CPT Ware was the Infantry CO suffered a sucking chest wound and was replaced by a 1Lt Scott during the battle.  I started directing artillery fire at 12 noon when all hell broke loose, and actually called fire in until about the next morning.  During the night, the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) would try to move in on us.  When the infantry OP's (outposts) would alert me, I would call in some defensive target rounds.  The never got in to us that night. One ammo bearer for one of the infantry M-60 machine gunners carried a 45-cal pistol.  After the battle, he told me that every time I walked a volley of 105 artillery shells in from behind the NVA (they had gotten out of their bunkers to attack us by then), that they would panic and charge our lines.  He said he gunned them down with his 45.  Said it was like shooting "ducks in a pond". The enemy body count for that battle was 166 KIA, which was taken 3 days after the battle. The night of 19Nov66, the Infantry BnCO flew out to the field where the battle was fought and talked to me, as the senior fire support officer in the fight, among other staff members.  He wanted my recommendations on how to conduct support fire (artillery, air strikes, etc.) from that point on.  I recommended that we pull our units back and call in the B-52's with their 750-lb bombs using fuse delay to penetrate the triple canopy in the high trees where we were fighting.  This way the bombs would be on the ground before exploding; thus, the NVA's bunkers would only serve as death traps to them.  The LtCol did exactly as we discussed.  We pulled back to the 2/9 Arty Bn position on 20Nov66, the day after the battle, which was about 3 miles from the battle scene (best I can remember).  When the B-52's unloaded, the 750 pound bombs sailed over our heads, at a very high altitude of course.  We watched the bombs fall, but we couldn't see the planes.  On impact and explosion, the ground shook.  I got in my bunker in case one of the bombs fell short, but when the ground shook, I scrambled out of the bunker figuring my chances were better in the open.  The first air strike was off target a little, so they were given corrections and rolled in the second time plastering the NVA bunker complex.  It was impressive.  Three days after the battle, they sent another infantry rifle company, not my company, in to survey the damage.  They discovered that the NVA had been dragging bodies back through the jungle toward the Cambodian border for 3 days, but they had left 166 bodies in the bunkers.  Some we had killed during the battle and they stuffed their bodies in the bunkers.  Others had taken cover in the bunkers and were killed by the concussion of the 750 pound bombs exploding even thought they didn't have a scratch on their bodies.  They had blood running out of all the opening in their bodies and never moved from their position in the bunker when the bombs hit.  The NVA tried to remove their KIA's from the battlefield to try to convince us that we had not killed any of them.
We suffered about 25 KIA and another 50 WIA's.  The best I can remember we had two U.S. Army rifle companies and one CIDG (Civilian Irregular Defense Group - an idea concocted by the CIA back in 1961 to get the South Vietnamese involved) company, for a total of over 300 men.  The enemy had at least one regiment, and possibly many more in a bunker complex they had constructed.  They massed across the river (border between South Vietnam and Cambodia), scouted us, and attacked.
Lt Dave Whaley replaced me as FO after this battle.  At that time, I became the Air Observer for five months, flying some 180 missions.  Up until that time I served as FO for five months for B/1/14th.  My last two months in Vietnam I spent as a FO for another infantry rifle company on the South China Sea.  I don't remember the names of LZ's much because I really wasn't in them hardly at all.
I was told that the Army Times wrote that battle up as one of the largest battles in the war in the year 1966.

Lt Jim Deloney,
FO, 2/9th FA,
assigned to B-1-14



More on the 19Nov66 Battle:

Just to add a little more about the battle on the 19 Nov 66, this battle was part of the overall battle that the 1st Bn, 14th Infantry Regiment fought during that month .  On the 11Nov 66, "A" Company was flown in to the Area to help relieve a SF team that had a CIDG company; they were ambushed and needed help.   Lt (Dennis) Munden and I were assigned to "A" Company (FO Party) so he may know a little more than me and remember more.  We flew in on 11Nov 66 to a hot LZ and we did relieve the SF Team  We stayed in the area and on the 13Nov 66, "A" Company got ambushed by an NVA Battalion...the same one that hit Bravo Company on the 19th.  In fact, Bravo & Charlie were clearing the area when they were hit.  "B" Battery fired over 900 rounds on the 13th for Lt Munden.  Bravo and Charlie were clearing the area when they were hit.  "B" Battery fired over 900 rounds on the 13th for Lt Munden and it was his accurate fire direction that helped keep us from getting over run by Human Wave attacks.  We lost 16 men in Alpha Company that day.  Myself, I spent most of the battle running across an open field with Lt. Grant.  The "A" Company commander liked to split the Company up into two separate forces to cover a wider area. So Lt Munden would have me go with Lt Grant's group while he stayed with the Command Group.  That way he could control all of the fires.  All I needed to do was keep him informed where we were at all times.  Anyway, after we were relieved by Charlie Company,  they were moved in to help us.  We were moved back to LZ Lane for a rest and Bravo and Charlie Companies were sent back out to pursue the NVA Battalion.  As Jim tells it, it was an exciting two weeks near the Cambodian border for "B" Battery, 2/9th and the 1st Bn 14th Inf.   Bravo Battery's  cannon cockers were hustling and shooting constantly .  The website for the 1st Bn, 14th Infantry Regiment (Golden Dragons) has the complete operations report from the 13th Nov -when we left LZ Lane.  They also have the map with coordinates and positions for all the 14th's companies .  The commander of Alpha Company states in an interview that he gave that if it wasn't for B/2/9th Battery's fire, we would have not come out of it.  Me, I will always credit Lt Munden he was dead on with the artillery fire.  I don't know it Dennis Munden remembers but because we were so close to the border, one unit did not fire because of a so called "redline".  {Not allowed to fire over the border}. I believe the comment made back to them was I don't see no damn line.  Oh, one more thing…as Lt Munden's Recon Sgt, I would always try to let him know to get behind some good cover in this fight.  He chose a small log and a banana tree…not the best cover and he kept looking over them to adjust the fire… and every time the NVA would sing a tune to him.
Ray Delano
econ Sgt, FO Party

Footnote from the 2/9th Webmaster:  I was the FO for A/2/35 having just arrived in-country just weeks before.  Due to the extensive fighting at the Cambodian Border, additional units were sent to support the 1/14th.  A/2/35 took up a position near the Border and was getting hit with enemy mortar fire.  I determined the location of the incoming mortars and called in my very first Fire Mission as a newly assigned FO.  After providing the coordinates and request for fire, the Bn Fire Net came on the air, interrupted the mission, and told the battery NOT to fire my mission.  My coordinates were  across the border!  Having arrived in Vietnam less than a month, this had a profound effect on me.  I knew, right then and there, this was going to be a long and bloody process.  I would never consider a "second tour" and completed my Active Service obligation in October, 1967.
Dennis Dauphin
Forward Observer, A/2/35
November, 1966


LETTERS TO HOME re: Battle of 19Nov66

LZ - Lane - Nov. 1966

{The dates shown are from the stamp date on envelopes to Mother and Dad; also, the: letters written a day or two or more later.   I do not remember how I came to know what is recorded in the letters but only allow that the information may be "BS", accurate, or drawn from the AAR's.}

Thus the following are from letters sent home:

11Oct66 -- We are still in the field till 21Oct66 and then to Base Camp for CMMI (Command Material and Maintenance  Inspection) and then back to Field.

13Oct66 - Today 2 VC; came up with 2 rifles.  We ("B" Battery) fired 155 rounds. Tomorrow; Ground Pounders going out to see what is out there. Lots of rice found and given to local villagers.

13Nov66 - located at "3G" (LZ) -about 20 miles East of Pleiku  but on 12Nov, "B" Battery moved to area of Plei Djereng.  And then radio's start crackling -- The CIDG (Civilian Irregular Defense Group) and Special Forces were hit head on by some PAVN (Peoples Army of Vietnam).

18Nov66 - LZ LANE  
Battery position is 4000 meters from Cambodian Border and 8 miles West of Plei Djereng.

 The following day 19Nov66:  "A" Company of the 1/14th Infantry lost almost 50 per cent of Company. 18 KIA and 25 WIA. The Company was on patrol and walked into a platoon-size Unit of PAVN Ambush. Then the PAVN were reinforced by a Battalion.

"A" Company called in for artillery support. We then poured it on. (This might have been when we "kinked" one of the howitzers during the fire mission). During the fire mission, I was on the radio and thought during the mission that the RTO voice changed "during an adjustment" and I told the Battery Commander.  He told me to challenge the RTO - which I did and the RTO replied correctly. (Later finding out the Company Commander took over the Radio, and the RTO started another Mission.) Thus starting "B" Battery on TWO missions. So we divided our Battery to cover the two missions. ( "A" Company talks of splitting up the Company during the Fire fight.)   Then an air strike was to come in and we, "B" Battery, were ordered to "lift" our fire mission. But the air strike coordination took longer (about 20 minutes in duration)  than expected and the Infantry Company took some more hard hits. The air strike arrived and then we started up again. (In the letter home -- I make the statement that "B" Battery credited with 80 Enemy KIA's.)  

24Nov66 - Started day by getting into our bunkers (by this time we were now digging in and sandbagging; in beginning - Jan66 we did no sandbagging in Base Camp.) Anyway (wrote in letter)-- started day by getting into bunkers (covered) and waiting on a B-52 Air Strike on a VC tunnel complex. We went into bunkers about 0400hrs and about 2500 meters north of the Strike Zone (We felt concussions in ground). After the B-52 Air Strike and F-104s followed up; our Infantry moved into area for "mop up". This same area that a few days before our Infantry was hit hard. (That is Plei Djereng area).

I was told (or somehow found out) the VC tunnel complex had 4 to 6 feet of overhead, and the tunnels were connecting many different bunkers. So, the Infantry pulled out of the immediate area and the B-52s, 8" howitzers and the 175mm guns, and of course, 105s all fired onto the tunnel complex. Report I quote in letter claims 200 enemy KIA, found. Then the Infantry was sent to base camp to regroup and another unit was brought out.

The above occurring near Thanksgiving.   Chow that was flown out to us and it was good and we even got ice cream. (They even sent out a menu of the Thanksgiving Meal)

Sgt Joe Cook
"B" Battery FDC


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