2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment 1967-68

Company B, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) Bravo Company, 2nd Bn, 8th Cav Regt. 1st Cavalry Division Bravo, 2-8th Cav - Co B, 2-8th Cav Regt. - B Co, 2-8 Cav Co B, 2/8 Cav Regt. - Co B, 2-8 Cav, 1st Cav Div - B/2-8, 1st Cavalry Div - B 2/8, 1st Cav Div

The Battle of Tam Quan


The Battle of Tam Quan took place between  6 and 20 December, and was one of the largest battles in our division area of operations during 1967. This battle began and ended with the discovery of enemy radio antennas secured to the top of tall trees. The battle started when a helicopter scout team discovered an enemy radio antenna late in the afternoon of 6 December and our brigade started deploying the following units as they became available: 1st and 2nd Battalions, 8th Cavalry; 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry; and 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry (Mechanized).  As the 1st Bn 50th Mechanized Infantry had recently deployed to Vietnam and placed with the brigade, this was their first major battle and they made good use of their M113 armored personnel carriers equipped with 50 cal. machine guns. In addition, elements of the ARVN 40th  Infantry Regiment particpated in this battle.

The enemy force was one of our well-known opponents, the 22nd NVA Regiment, which was in the process of preparing to conduct a major attack on ARVN installations at Tam Quan. This was one of those rare occasions where we discovered and surprised a large enemy force, and where we initiated and controlled the battle. The heaviest fighting took place south of Tam Quan, sometimes involving hand-to-hand battles in enemy trenches, and the battle was characterized by the massive use of artillery, tactical air support, and numerous air assaults by 1st Brigade units, while the mechanized companies were used to fix the enemy and attack fortified positions.

Thanks to Sven Gerlith.                                                                                                                   

On 7 December, Task Force 1-8 Cav, composed of 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, and a company of the 50th Infantry, joined the 40th ARVN to attack the NVA enemy from the west, while our battalion was given the mission of establishing blocking positions by the South China Sea coast to prevent enemy forces from escaping along the coast. Both TF 1-8 and the ARVN attacking units encountered stiff resistance. Around 0900 hours, two companies of 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry were air assaulted into landing zones – Bravo Company at map coordinates BS 935065, and Charlie Company at BS 930075. As we moved to take up our blocking positions, there was a lot of 50 cal. machine gun bullets flying over our heads and we assumed that this was fire from the 50th mechanized infantry company. Bravo and Charlie companies searched their respective areas and at about 1500 hours, both companies converged at a wooded area in the vicinity of BS 926072. The two commanders, Captain Peter O’Sullivan and Captain Thomas Flatley, discussed the new mission they had just received from battalion directing both companies to attack from east to west, while Task Force 1-8 Cav and elements of the 40th ARVN attacked from west to east, and with the enemy regiment in between these two forces. The plan of attack that we developed and coordinated was as follows: Charlie Company would proceed due west across a large rice paddy and through the woods on the other side, while Bravo Company would move southwest for about 500 meters and then west. We would coordinate our movement so that both of our units were on line as we moved west and to prevent friendly casualties in the wooded areas, we established a boundary line between our two units.

At 1645 hours, Charlie Company was halfway across the rice paddy when the enemy opened fire from the treeline, killing and wounding many members of the company including Captain Flatley and several other members of his command group. According to the 1st Brigade Combat Operations After Action Report, Charlie Company “was pinned down by intensive automatic weapons fire while crossing a rice paddy vicinity BS 922072”. Meanwhile, Bravo Company maneuvered over to the southern flank of this woodline and then proceeded north to attack the enemy force that had Charlie Company pinned down in the rice paddy. As Charlie Company was leaderless during this period, there was a major problem in establishing control of their small arms fire while we moved north in front of their positions. Eventually, the Battalion Commander, LTC John Stannard, took command of Charlie Company and they were finally extracted from the rice paddy at 1900 hours. Later that evening, Captain Michael Berdy assumed command of Charlie Company. However, two weeks later in yet another tragic event, Captain Berdy and several members of his Charlie Company command group were killed when their helicopter crashed on 26 December 1967. And yet another tragedy occurred two weeks later when Captain Charles Wilcox, who assumed command of Charlie Company on 26 December 1967, was Killed In Action by an enemy grenade on January 9, 1968. (NOTE: The Vietnam War Memorial states that Captain Flately was killed in action on 8 December, whereas the Combat After Action Report states 7 December).    

According to the 1st Brigade Combat After Action Report, the activities of Bravo and Charlie companies for 8 December are as follows; “the two companies of the 2-8 Cav had only light resistance from snipers throughout the day and at 1520 hours, were air assaulted to vicinity BS 876114 in response to an intelligence report indicating the 9th Bn, 22 NVA Regiment was located in that area. The companies established numerous ambushes and sent out Miller Teams but had no contact”. For 9 December: “The 2-8 Cav continued to search for the 9th Bn, 22nd NVA Regiment in the Bong Son Plains west of Highway 1 but failed to make contact”.

The other two companies of our battalion, Alpha and Delta, make their appearance in the Combat After Action Report on 10 December. This indicates that they replaced Bravo and Charlie companies in the Tam Quan battle on this date and we were probably assigned the mission of securing firebases. Since Bravo Company had been conducting combat operations continuously since early November, we deserved a break. However, as the following events show, we were back in the battle sometime prior to 19 December. On 19 December, Bravo Company was located several kilometers north of the Bong Son River and close to the South China Sea, and conducting a broad sweep in a southerly direction towards the river. Around noon, one of our platoons discovered an extensive series of trenches that had been occupied within the last twelve hours by a large enemy unit, which we estimated to be at least a battalion-sized unit. We reported this to Battalion Headquarters and requested a helicopter scout team to search the area to the south of our position. On the other side of the Bong Son River, in a village called An Nghiep, the scout team located an enemy antenna attached to the top of a tree and what appeared to be a bunker complex underneath. This was the start of the final firefight in the Battle of Tam Quan and this combat operation was controlled by our battalion.

Delta Company combat assaulted to the east of An Nghiep, but received heavy fire as they approached the village and they were ordered to withdraw. The next action was to deploy a Psychological Warfare Team. The team orbited the village in a helicopter, urging civilians to leave the area and encouraging the NVA forces to surrender. A few civilians departed the area, but the NVA refused to surrender. Thereafter, artillery fires were directed on known enemy positions and enemy bunkers were bombed with a total of six air strikes. Prior to the commencement of these air strikes, Bravo Company was air assaulted to a LZ south of An Nghiep. During the commencement of the airstrikes, both Bravo Company and Delta Company started moving towards the hamlet, and Charlie Company 1/50 Mech started moving into position on the north bank of the Bong Son River. During our advance towards An Nghiep, jet fighter bombers flew directly overhead firing 20mm cannons (the hot brass bounced off our helmets) and then dropped 1000 lb bombs on the enemy bunkers in An Nghiep. By nightfall, the village area was surrounded by three companies under the command of LTC Stannard, who had deployed a small battalion command group that was collocated with Bravo Company. These three units were Bravo Company, Delta Company, and Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 50th Mechanized Infantry. We had illumination during most of the night and NVA soldiers attempted to entice us to leave our positions by crying out for help. One NVA soldier attempting to break out of the encirclement was so surprised when he stumbled into one of our positions (Cheyenne?) that he dropped his weapon and fled. A known weak point of our encirclement was the Bong Son River which was covered from the north bank by Charlie Company 1/50, who had been assigned a screening mission covering a very large sector. During the night, many of the enemy escaped by crawling unhindered from the village of An Nghiep to the river and swimming down the Bong Son River, while others were killed or wounded as they attempted to escape through our lines.

The following is a photograph of the hamlet of An Nghiep, scene of the 19 December operation during the Battle of Tam Quan.


All available forces of the 1st Brigade were used to pursue the remnants of this enemy battalion who were attempting to escape to their sanctuaries in the mountains west of Bong Son. Cheyenne was part of these pursuing forces under the operational control of C/1/50th Inf (Mech). On 20 December, Cheyenne was transported across the Bong Son River on Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) and conducted search and destroy operations in conjunction with C/1/50th Inf (Mech). The following photographs were taken during this operation:



During this operation, one of the APCs hit a mine or dud artillery round, resulting in several US casualties from C/1/50th Mech and these troopers were medevaced by special helicopters to the US Army medical hospital. There were five of these APCs which transported Cheyenne during this operation, however, there was one APC that none of our troopers would ride on because it was a flamethrower and contained large tanks of highly inflammable petroleum products, commonly referred to as a "Zippo".

The Battle of Tam Quan officially ended at midnight 20 December, however, our battalion units “remained in An Nghiep for three days digging through the demolished bunkers and fortified positions recovering enemy bodies and weapons”.
In the following photo, the excavator that we used for digging out the bunkers and fortified positions was delivered by a CH-54 Crane to our position at An Nghiep hamlet.



Thanks to Ray Bono for above five photographs.

US casualties during the Battle of Tam Quan were 58 killed in action and 250 wounded in action. In the 1st Brigade After Action Report, estimated casualty figures for the 22nd NVA Regiment casualties are listed as 650 killed in action. According to the Commanding General of the 1st Cavalry Division, General Tolson, “the Battle of Tam Quan had a much greater significance than we realized at the time. In that area, it pre-empted the enemy's Tet offensive even though the full impact wasn't then realized. As a result, that part of Binh Dinh Was the least effected of any part of South Vietnam during Tet.

We were extracted from An Nghiep on 24 December and spent the night on LZ English. We had BBQ chicken that evening and we were served Christmas dinner with all the trimmings shortly before noon on 25 December. At 1330 hours on 25 December, we were back in the field conducting combat operations (it is possible that we relieved Charlie Company who went to the Bob Hope Show).


Thanks to Bill Sherwood

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