A Spiked Ambush
Early January 1968 was fairly quiet in our area of
operations. The 22nd NVA Regiment was hiding in one of their many
sanctuaries and they were certainly not combat effective after sustaining
such heavy losses during the recent Battle of Tam Quan. VC units in our Binh
Dinh Province were also in bad shape as documented in the following
statement by the former Chief of Staff of a sapper battalion: "I do not know
whether you have known or not but I can say that during the period from
September 1967 to January 1968 the liberating forces were driven near to the
abyss, especially in the areas of Khanh Hoa, Phu Yen and Binh Dinh, where
ARVN and allied forces enlarged their areas of activities to an extent that
the VC had never thought of."
However, the local VC guerrillas were active and we went after them. One of our target areas in January was a picturesque village located on the edge of the hills on the west side of the Bong Son plain. Intelligence reports indicated that this village was probably pro-VC and it was ideally situated for guerrilla activities because of the easy access to an extensive mountainous region. Whenever US units operated in the vicinity of this village, there was never any sign of military age men or boys and we were firmly convinced that they were hiding in the hills.
Therefore, we decided on a night ambush employing all of Bravo Company and this was set in motion in accordance with a detailed deception plan. Moving from south to north, we conducted a sweep along the edge of the hills and timed it so that we arrived at our target village at around 1300 hours. We took our lunch break between the village and the hills and there we put the finishing touches to our plan for the ambush. We selected the ambush positions for each of the platoons, specified the fire zones, identified the trails that we would use to move into position, the order of movement, and the artillery forward observer prepared an artillery fire plan with provisions for illumination. A little over an hour later, we continued with our sweep north and late in the afternoon, we selected the location for our night defense and followed all of our normal procedures, to include receiving supplies by helicopter etc. At dusk, Bravo Company started quietly moving back towards our target village and it took us well over an hour to reach our ambush site. Each platoon moved into position without any problems and then we had a long night ahead of us.
The banging in the village started around thirty minutes after we had occupied our ambush positions. It was very faint at first, but it gradually became louder and louder as other households in the village understood the purpose of the signal and joined the clamor. It was the wives and mothers who were beating on their pots and pans in order to send a danger signal to their husbands or sons in the nearby hills. These women kept it up throughout the night and it was a very effective counteraction. No VC guerrillas activated our ambush that night and we had to admit with a bit of a smile that we had been outwitted by these pot beating wives and mothers. And of course, we did not take any reprisal action against the villagers for spiking our ambush, but continued our sweep northwards at first light. However, the pot beaters confirmed our suspicions that this village was without a doubt pro-VC.
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