Battle of Dak To
This article includes a
The Battle of Đắk Tô, also known as the Battle of Đắk Tô - Tân Cảnh (
During the summer of 1967, heavy contact with PAVN forces in the area prompted the launching of Operation Greeley, a combined search and destroy effort by elements of the
By late October, however, U.S. intelligence indicated that local communist units had been reinforced and combined into the PAVN 1st Division, which was tasked with the capture of Đắk Tô and the destruction of a
During the early stages of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, several U.S. Special Forces
Đắk Tô lies on a flat valley floor, surrounded by waves of ridgelines that rise into peaks (some as high as 4,000-foot (1,200 m)) that stretch westward and southwestward towards the tri-border region where South Vietnam, Laos, and
In January 1967, Major-General (later LTG)
Throughout the middle of 1967, however, western Kon Tum Province became a magnet for several PAVN spoiling attacks and it appeared that the North Vietnamese were paying an increasing amount of attention to the area. Immediately after taking command, Peers instituted guidelines for his units in order to prevent them from being isolated and overrun in the rugged terrain, which also did much to negate the U.S. superiority in firepower. Battalions were to act as single units instead of breaking down into individual companies in order to search for their enemy. If rifle companies had to act independently, they were not to operate more than one kilometer or one hour's march from one another. If contact with the enemy was made, the unit was to be immediately reinforced. These measures went far in reducing the 4th Infantry's casualties.
These heavy enemy contacts prompted Peers to request reinforcement and, as a result, on 17 June, two battalions of Brigadier General
On 20 June, Charlie Company, 2nd battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry (C/2/503) discovered the bodies of a Special Forces CIDG unit that had been missing for four days on Hill 1338 ( ), the dominant hill mass south of Dak To. Supported by Alpha Company, the Americans moved up the hill and set up for the night. At 06:58 the following morning, Alpha Company began moving alone up a ridge finger and triggered an ambush by the 6th Battalion of the 24th PAVN Regiment. Charlie Company was ordered to go to support, but heavy vegetation and difficult terrain made movement extremely difficult. Artillery support was rendered ineffective by the limited range of visibility and the "belt-grabbing" - or "hugging" - tactics of the North Vietnamese. Close air support was impossible for the same reasons. Alpha Company managed to survive repeated attacks throughout the day and night, but the cost was heavy. Of the 137 men that comprised the unit, 76 had been killed and another 23 wounded. A search of the battlefield revealed only 15 dead North Vietnamese.
U.S. headquarters press releases, made four days after the conclusion of what came to be called " The Battle of the Slopes", claimed that 475 North Vietnamese had been killed while the 173rd's combat after action report claimed 513 enemy dead. The men of Alpha Company estimated that only 50–75 PAVN troops had been killed during the entire action. Such losses among American troops could not go unpunished. The operations officer of the 4th Infantry went so far as to recommend that General Deane be relieved of command. Such a drastic measure, however, would only provide more grist for what was becoming a public relations fiasco. In the end, the commander and junior officers of Charlie Company (whose only crime was that of caution) were transferred to other units.
In response to the destruction of Alpha Company,
After establishing Fire Support Base 4 on Hill 664, approximately 11 kilometers southwest of Đắk Tô, the 4th Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry found the North Vietnamese K-101D Battalion of the Doc Lap Regiment on 10 July. As the four companies of the battalion neared the crest of Hill 830 they were struck by a wall of small arms and machine gun fire and blasted by
North Vietnamese pressure against CIDG outposts at
About a kilometer from the camp, the Army advisers and the 8th Airborne came upon the bodies of the lost Special Forces patrol, all dead, including the camp commander. As the 8th Airborne moved up the mountain, the lead elements were taking small arms fire. Before long, it was obvious that the PAVN troops had filtered down on all sides. By noon of 4 August, the 8th Airborne with its advisers were in a fight that lasted several days. When the unit finally overwhelmed the PAVN forces because of superior firepower in air and artillery, it reached the top of the mountain and found a fully operational PAVN Headquarters, complete with hospital facilities and anti-aircraft emplacements. During the three-day battle, the 8th Airborne Battalion alone withstood six separate ground attacks and casualties among all the South Vietnamese units were heavy.
By mid-August, contact with PAVN forces decreased, leading the Americans to conclude that they had withdrawn across the border. The bulk of the ARVN Airborne units were then returned to their bases around Saigon for rest and refitting. On 23 August, General Deane turned over command of the 173rd to Brigadier General Leo H. Schweiter. On 17 September, two battalions of the 173rd departed the area to protect the rice harvest in