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

Khe Sanh and A Shau Valley Operations

General Westmoreland tasked the 1st Cavalry Division with the combined mission of relieving the besieged US Marines at Khe Sanh and thereafter conducting a reconnaissance in force in the A Shau Valley. These large-scale operations were known as Operation Pegasus and Operation Delaware.  

Khe Sanh - Operation Pegasus

The relief of the 26th Marine Regiment at Khe Sanh commenced on 1 April. On 21 January, NVA forces had completely surrounded this US Marine Regiment at Khe Sanh with a superior force of three to one. The enemy not only had a significant numerical advantage but they also commanded the initiative by preventing the Marines from conducting offensive operations outside of the base. Despite heavy bombardments by B-52s, tactical air and intensive counter artillery fires, the NVA was able to pound the runway and key installations at Khe Sanh with rockets, artillery and mortars throughout the 66-day siege. On 23 February, for example, the Marines reported receiving over 1,300 incoming rounds.

The 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Brigade led the attack west by establishing two firebases almost halfway to Khe Sanh, while two battalions of the 1st Marine Regiment conducted a ground attack following Route 9 west toward Khe Sanh. Two days later, the 2nd Brigade landed three battalions southeast of the Khe Sanh base and attacked northwest toward the base. Enemy resistance was considered moderate until units of the 26th Marine Regiment who had been under siege at Khe Sanh for over two months, attacked and secured Hill 471 on 4 April. The following morning at first light, an enemy battalion charged up Hill 471 in a traditional infantry attack. According to the Marines on Hill 471, it was a very one-sided firefight as the attacking NVA forces were mowed-down by a combination of artillery fire, tactical air strikes and automatic fire from the Marine defenders.

The mission of our brigade was to continue security of Quang Tri and to conduct operations south and west of the city. On 5 April, the 1st Bn 8th Cav was air assaulted into a LZ Snapper, located south of Khe Sanh and overlooking Route 9. Like the Marines on Hill 471, the 1st Bn 8th Cav was also subjected to an NVA attack on the following morning and once again, the enemy was forced to retreat after suffering high casualties. It is believed that our battalion established a blocking position close to the “Rock Pile”, where the forward battalion command post was subjected to a 122mm rocket attack.

The relief of Khe Sanh was effected on 8 April, and the 1st Cavalry Division assumed responsibility for the Khe Sanh base and securing the area. In his concluding remarks on Operation Pegasus, the Commanding General of the 1st Cavalry Division, General Tolson, stated: “In fifteen days, the division had entered the area of operations, defeated the enemy, relieved Khe Sanh, and been extracted from the assault-only to assault again four days later into the heart of the North Vietnamese Army's bastion in the A Shau Valley”.

A Shau Valley - Operation Delaware

It is important to note that the NVA “initiated” the Battle of Dak To (Nov 67), the Battle of Tam Quan (Dec 67), the siege of Khe Sanh (Jan-Apr 68), and the Tet Offensive (Jan-Apr 68). Now it was our turn to go on the offensive and on 19 April 1968, we “initiated” a large-scale attack on NVA forces in one of their most important jungle sanctuaries, the notorious A Shau Valley.

The NVA overran the US Special Forces Camp in A Shau in March 1966, and according to General Tolson, Commanding General of the 1st Cavalry Division: ”The enemy had always considered the A Shau Valley to be his personal real estate and it was a symbol of his relative invulnerability.” For the NVA, the valley became a crucial part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail and served as one of their main points of entry for the infiltration of troops and supplies into the I Corps Tactical Zone. The A Shau Valley is less than ten kilometers from Laos, a country that the NVA exploited as a safe haven for moving troops and supplies into South Vietnam. Because of international law restrictions, US and allied forces were not allowed to engage NVA forces operating in Laos. Consequently, when the NVA bombarded us in the A Shau Valley with rockets and artillery fired from locations in Laos, we were unable to take any form of counteraction to silence their guns.


Thanks to Sven Gerlith

The A Shau Valley was notorious because it left a lifelong mark on most of us and we have great difficulty explaining why. The most likely explanation was our exposure to many awesome and startling experiences during this violent three-week operation, such as: The shattering explosions from the C-130 Hercules aircraft loaded with ammunition that was shot down close to our position with the loss of all the crewmembers. Being repeatedly shelled by NVA artillery guns from locations in Laos and knowing that our folks were not allowed to return the fire. Constant contacts with enemy forces involving many firefights, ambushes and sniping activity. The large number of our helicopters hit by enemy antiaircraft fire. The disturbing sound of enemy tanks moving at night on the valley floor. While the triple canopy jungle prevented the optimal use of our airmobile capabilities at Dak To, the operational requirement to conserve helicopter fuel created a similar situation during the A Shau Valley operation. To evade enemy antiaircraft fire, our helicopters had to make a high altitude climb over the mountains and then a sharp spiral descent into the A Shau Valley. Conducting combat operations on such a vital stretch of the notorious and dangerous Ho Chi Minh Trail. Tensely watching the sequence after the shooting down of a US Air Force F-105 jet fighter with the ejection of the pilot and his slow descent by parachute to safety. The large quantities of enemy material captured, ranging from sophisticated military equipment to a stock of bikinis. The noise and shock waves generated by B-52 strikes close to our position. Then there was the unknown factor as succinctly stated by Captain John Taylor (Cavalry Magazine, 1968): "The feeling the majority of the men had upon first coming into the valley was a sort of fear; distinctly different from that felt during Hue or Khe Sanh. We had heard so many stories about A Shau... the possibilities of running into large concentrations. We had a fear of the unknown. We thought that just around any corner we would run into a battalion of North Vietnamese." Even the “Dictionary of the Vietnam War” made an attempt to capture some of our extraordinary experiences with this description: “The A Shau Valley was the scene of much fighting throughout the war, and it acquired a fearsome reputation for soldiers on both sides. Being a veteran of A Shau Valley operations became a mark of distinction among combat veterans.”

For Bravo Company, the A Shau Valley operation began with a truck convoy from Quang Tri to the large staging area in the vicinity of Camp Evans, the 1st Cavalry Division base camp at Hue-Phu Bai. The following photos show Bravo Company on the way to this staging area.

Charles Haynes is standing and passing the radio handset to Captain Tillitt. Charles Haynes was severely wounded in the A Shau Valley on 6 May 1968, and died as a result of his injuries on 20 October 1972. Sgt. Navarro is sitting and facing the camera. The driver is the trooper in the white tee shirt/flack vest and on his left with back to camera
is Lewis (?), one of our medics.

Thanks to Gene Hedberg

Thanks to Ralph Mercado
Thanks to Jim Smith


Thanks to Ralph Mercado

Thanks to Ralph Mercado

Thanks to Gene Hedberg

Thanks to Ralph Mercado

In addition to the marshalling of large number of troops for this operation, there was also the massing of the 1st Cavalry Division helicopter assets for use in supporting the A Shau Valley operation. It was very unusual to have so many helicopters assembled at one location and this photo only shows some of them.


Thanks to Jim Smith


Bravo Company spent several days at this staging area where we trained for the unknown, starting with zeroing our weapons one more time. Many different factors contributed to creating a high state of tension, also known as an increase in the “pucker factor”, about the forthcoming airmobile assault into the A Shau Valley. Reports from our Air Cavalry Squadron filtered down to us about the magnitude and effectiveness of the NVA anti-aircraft defense capability in the A Shau Valley, and the vulnerability of our helicopters to these anti-aircraft weapons that included 50 caliber and 37mm anti-aircraft guns. This NVA anti-air threat was a completely new ballgame for the 1st Cavalry Division and it had a major impact on the way we conducted airmobile operations in the A Shau Vally. Furthermore, the issuance of the “Super Bazooka” to selected Bravo Company troopers also raised the pucker factor a notch or two. The Super Bazooka was a more powerful infantry antitank weapon than the disposable one that we normally carried, called the Light Antitank Weapon (LAW).
Issuing bazookas to our platoons meant that enemy forces in the A Shau Valley had tanks!
Once again, the presence of NVA tanks was a new ballgame for us cavalry troopers and something very eerie. While at the staging area one of our troopers recalls, “training like crazy with the bazooka and being able to hit a refrigerator box from around a of a mile or more up the side of a hill”. Among others, we also reviewed our procedures for rappelling from helicopters.

The A Shau Valley is located due west from Camp Evans at Hue-Phu Bai, the 1st Cavalry Division base camp that was established when the division moved north at the start of the Tet Offensive. The A Shau Valley runs from northwest to southeast and lies between two high mountain ranges with elevations rising to over 1,000 meters, and with steep slopes varying from 20 to 45 degrees.  The weather for most of the operation was extremely poor with heavy clouds, fog, thunderstorms, and low ceilings that created many hazards for airmobile operations, aerial re-supply missions and tactical air support.

Operation Delaware was a large-scale airmobile and ground attack by three divisions – 1st Cavalry Division, 101st Airborne Division and 1st ARVN Division. While the ground attack followed Routes 547 and 547A toward the A Shau Valley, the main attack was the airmobile assault into the valley itself at A Luoi and Ta Bat by 1st Cavalry Division units. A Luoi was a very important objective because it had an abandoned airstrip that we wanted to use during Operation Delaware for aerial re-supply and as the location for the tactical operation centers for both the 1st Brigade and the 1st Cavalry Division.












Our Battalion was tasked to lead the main attack to secure the abandoned airstrip at A Luoi, located in the center of the A Shau Valley. However, this plan was changed at the last minute because our Air Cavalry Squadron reported very heavy antiaircraft fire in the vicinity of the A Luoi airstrip. Despite the fact that many of these antiaircraft positions had been destroyed by air strikes, the enemy established new positions each day. Therefore the 3rd Brigade conducted the initial assault into the northern part of the valley on 19 April, where the threat from antiaircraft fire was considered to be less intense. On 22 April, the 1st Bn 7th Cav had moved south and secured a landing zone where they could support our assault in the vicinity of the A Luoi airstrip.
Thanks to Sven Gerlith     Photo by Raz Reed

Our battalion assaulted into LZ Cecile, located two kilometers south of the A Luoi airstrip, on 24 April. There are several accounts from our troopers about their “memorable” chopper ride to our objective. Although this was a precarious operation, there was always room for humor and one of our troopers recalls that his chopper had a bus token change machine receptacle and a little sign that said, "Ashau E
xpress, deposit 25 Cents, ONE WAY!”
 In order to evade NVA antiaircraft fire, our Huey helicopters had to make a high altitude climb over the mountains and then a sharp spiral descent into the A Shau Valley. Consequently the helicopter trip was very long and very cold because we had to climb to an altitude of 11,000 feet to clear the cloud level. Many troopers commented on the cold ride with the doors wide open and how anxious they were to get out at the objective. Some recall receiving instructions not to jump out of the chopper until the skids hit the ground, but the enemy fire hitting the Huey as we approached the LZ prompted a hasty exit. In addition, it is highly likely that the US Air Force had used a “Daisy Cutter” bomb to clear the jungle on our designated landing zone and the chopper skids could not touch down because of bomb crators, tree stumps and jungle debris.

Huey pilots were also interested in off loading us as quickly as possible. Here is what a pilot with B/227th Assault Helicopter Battalion, Larry Russel, remembers about his experiences of the A Shau Valley operation: “I remember flying as fast as our new H models would go, low level down the valley. Then we'd stand the aircraft on its tail trying to stop. As we'd touch down and rock forward we'd be gone. All the grunts had heard about the huge aircraft losses and they were as anxious to get off as we were. Made for crappy formation flying for a while. We were so stressed out that we'd shove the cyclic around when ever anyone clicked the mike. Spent a night or two in my H model, parked on the A Loui airstrip. Think I slept with one hand on the battery switch and the other on the starter button. Sure didn't like that place.”


The A Shau Valley operation was also a daunting experience for the 1st Cavalry Division helicopter units. The helicopter flight from Camp Evans to the A Shau Valley should have been a twenty-minute flight but, in the words of General Tolson, it “was usually an hour and twenty minutes of stark terror” and one that required “heroic feats of airmanship”. We gain an appreciation for the horrendous difficulties confronting our helicopter crews from this account in the 227th Assault Helicopter Battalion’s After Action Report on their first operation in the Valley: “The entire flight into the A Shau was forced to climb to 6000 feet to fly over the clouds and descend one ship at a time into the valley through holes in the overcast.  The aircraft first made their approach from the west to a less than adequate LZ forced by a bomb crater in a small saddle stop Hill 122B.  From the time the first aircraft came through the clouds, it was apparent that it would be no ordinary assault.  Despite the 209 tactical air sorties and 21 B-52 strikes, each aircraft approaching LZ Tiger ran the gauntlet of withering anti-aircraft fire, including .50 caliber and 37mm guns.  The enemy gunners inflicted damage on a total of 25 1st Air Cav Div aircraft this first day.  It was considered to be the most formidable air defense yet faced by the 1st Air Cav Div in Vietnam.” On the 25 damaged helicopters during the first day, many pilots maintain that the actual number was much higher.

Thanks to Flying-Circus

Thanks to Ralph Mercado

Thanks to the 227th Assault Helicopter Battalion’s After Action Report, we are very fortunate to have their account of the initial combat assault of our battalion into the A Shau Valley and the subsequent emergency re-supply of ammunition mission:

“On 24 April, A Co and B Co with 6 aircraft each joined the 229th AHB to air assault elements of the 1st Bde into LZ Cecile, 2 kilometers south A Luoi Airfield.  Again weather played a significant part forcing the lifts to climb as high as 11,000 feet to clear the cloud tops.  Once over the valley and through the holes in the overcast the aircraft delay-chained from 13 Evens to the new 12, covered a route by the guns of both 229th AHB and 227th AHB, Cecile was a two ship 12 at the southern end of a ridge about 2200 feet high.  Although all aircraft were exposed to sniping fire on the approach the main threat came from an automatic weapons position about 500 meters down the ridge to the southeast.  Since the approach was made to the south, the enemy gunners get crack at each aircraft as it departed no matter which way it broke.  Very few hits were sustained, however, and no aircraft were lost as the lift of the 2/8 Cav on to Cecile was completed prior to 1400 hours.

Late in the afternoon B Co. was given the mission of an emergency re-supply of LZ Cecile.  The 2/8 Cav had run short of ammunition and supplies after making contact on the landing zone.  A hole was found in the overcast and the six aircraft climbed on top at 6000 feet.  A radar vector was obtained to get out to the valley and the ceiling in the A Shau Valley was forecast at about 800 feet.  When the aircraft arrived a hole was found in the vicinity of 12 tiger and the ships proceeded in trail from 8500 feet to 800 feet above the valley floor.  The ships low level was another story.  The flight received heavy automatic weapons fire during the entire traversing of the valley floor. One ship was hit in the engine tail pipe, but remained flyable.  The aircraft found a hole to climb through near 12 Tiger and exited the A Shau.”

Thanks to Jim Smith

There are several reports from Bravo Company troopers confirming that our Hueys received fire on the approach to the landing zone and that we had contact with the enemy shortly after landing.
Then there was the night march from LZ Cecile to the valley floor and “it was so dark we had to touch the guy in front to make sure we would not get lost”. This night march was probably conducted during our first night in the A Shau Valley as the mission for our battalion was to secure the abandoned airstrip at A Luoi. On the following day, the 1st Brigade Tactical Operations Center, the 1st Bn 8th Cav and 1st Bn 12th Cav were airlifted into the A Luoi airstrip, now known as LZ Stallion. On 26 April the buildup at A Luoi continued with fifteen airdrops of re-supply from C-130 aircraft.




Thanks to Flying-Circus

  Thanks to Jim Ford
The 1st Brigade units began reconnaissance in force operations and found numerous caches of enemy communications equipment, vehicles, ammunition and weapons. It was soon clear to 1st Cavalry Division units that all of the A Shau valley was one big enemy supply depot and we found telephone lines on masts, fuel lines that followed the main road, vehicle maintenance workshops, vast stores of food, 67 wheeled vehicles, tanks, bulldozers, huge quantities of various munitions and weapons, flame throwers, and we also located many of the heavy antiaircraft weapons that were used against us during the air assaults. Here is an account by one of our troopers: “Once on the ground, the discovery of what was determined to be an NVA R&R area of sorts. Wet NVA laundry still hanging on clotheslines, caches of rifles and munitions, a cave with all kinds of electronic gear, radios, amplifiers, microphones, huge piles of rice sacks and supplies. How about the elaborate water filtration system that the NVA had built out of the side of a bomb crater? The green slimy water seen at the top of the crater, after having flowed down and through a 50 ft long trough of reeds, rocks, and sand, now ready as potable drinking water”.


Thirty years after this photo was taken, we discovered that the pilot of this Chinook was Pat Murphy, C/228th Assault Helicopter Battalion, and here is his account from the Battalion website: This was “my ship, Crimson Tide 472, with its butt sitting on the edge of the LZ being unloaded as the front end is hovered. If I had known that this photo was being taken, I would have come out of the bird and posed for this guy.”



Blackfoot was assigned the mission of securing Hill 975 (see above map) and establishing an observation post to protect the A Luoi Airfield. By this time the airfield was being prepared to receive C-130 Hercules landing with supplies of ammunition and food. The airfield was not only important for aerial re-supply, but also because it was the location for the tactical operation centers for the 1st Brigade and the 1st Cavalry Division. Hill 975 overlooked the airfield and if the NVA controlled it, they could have engaged our aircraft using the airstrip with direct and indirect fire. Therefore, denying the enemy control over Hill 975 was very important and Blackfoot established an outpost manned by a squad at the base of the hill. One of our troopers recalls that when the platoon reached the top of Hill 975, they were bombarded with sticks thrown at them by Orangutans. The initial reaction to these sticks was a belief that the NVA were throwing hand grenades. We also had to clear a large tree on top of Hill 975 to permit the landing of choppers and one of our troopers suffered a broken leg when the tree fell on him. A Blackfoot trooper also remembers observing a NVA attack on the A Loui Airfield at the engineer sector of the perimeter. He recalls green tracers going in, red ones going out as the engineers burnt the barrel out on an M60. “ I can remember the tracers going up, down and sideways as the barrel flexed.”

The A Shau Valley operation left us with many vivid memories of our experiences. Many troopers remember the shortage of drinking water and some recall a shortage of C-Rations. Apparently we were issued three C-Ration meals on the morning of the air assault and the only re-supply that we received during the following 2-3 days was ammunition. One of our platoons discovered a cache
of “NVA rice and we ate that for a couple of days”. We were also desperately short of water and this is what one of our Mohawk troopers remembers about a patrol down the mountain to the valley floor in search of water: “We were loaded with canteens and we found water, but the eerie part of it was that it was at an N.V.A. camp and they had abandoned it quickly before our arrival. Their small fires were still smoldering. We filled our canteens from a piece of bamboo they had driven into the slope of a hill into a spring. Their ingenuity was remarkable. The sight of three smoldering fires had me terrified.”
Thanks to Jim Smith

Thanks to Ralph Mercado

There are several reports of enemy snipers operating close to our night defence positions and how the NVA shadowed our patrols. One of these snipers sneaked up on the Bravo Company Command Post on 6 May and shot Charles Haynes, our company radio operator.  As a consequence of reduced visibility in the dense jungle terrain on the mountains and the tall elephant grass on the valley floor, we had numerous meeting engagements that completely surprised both sides and often resulted in hasty firefights. Here is what one of our troopers remembers about the NVA tanks that suddenly started moving along the valley floor close to LZ Cecile. “
The night they fired the tanks up we were all standing around waiting to be interviewed by some famous newsman. He was at the next position to ours and I was rehearsing what I was going to say. Those tanks cranked up and when I turned back around the famous news guy was hauling a-- for the chopper. There must have been 50-60 guys shoulder to shoulder standing at the edge of that saddle between the two hills. I believe there were five of them. Whoever the FO was he was very good!”  The tanks stopped when our artillery illuminated the area and cranked up again when dark. We could hear their voices as they shouted orders and directions. The following day, Blackfoot was sent down to follow the tank tracks that led towards Laos. The NVA had reinforced the road with planking and cleverly camouflaged the road by tying young treetops together to form an arch.

Thanks to Jim Smith

Thanks to Ralph Mercado

It is highly likely that Bravo had secured LZ Cecile for a few days and the company was assigned a new mission on 4 May 1968. We departed the LZ with Blackfoot leading the company. Eventually we came to a corrugated (PCP planking) road and discovered a trail running parallel to this road with very fresh foot tracks. As the water was still seeping into these foot tracks, we requested an artillery fire mission on suspected enemy positions and this was denied. As it was a very rare occurrence to receive a denial for an artillery fire mission, this must have been due to a critical shortage of artillery rounds.  The enemy had established a well-camouflaged U shaped ambush centered on the road and trail with machine gun positions on the left and right flanks as we approached the ambush site. Fortunately, Blackfoot approached this NVA ambush on two fronts, one close to the road and the other close to the trail, and this caused the enemy to activate the ambush early and to disengage quickly. Two of our troopers were killed during this ambush, David Schultz and our medic, Dempsey Parrott. At least two of our troopers were wounded. We quickly evacuated all of our casualties by “Dust Off” air ambulances.

Those who witnessed the crash of the C-130 Hercules in the A Shau Valley will never forget it. It was 1400 hours on 26 April, and we all knew that the C-130 making its approach to air drop ammunition at A Luoi airstrip/ LZ Stallion had been hit by enemy antiaircraft fire and we sadly watched the gallant attempts by the pilot to maneuver the stricken aircraft toward a suitable site for a crash landing, but the C-130 hit some trees and the subsequent fire ignited the artillery munitions loaded on pallets inside the plane for the air drop. Later that night we heard and felt the US Air Force retaliating with B-52 strikes that caused secondary explosions to the south of our position. For a detailed account and photographs on the shooting down of this C-130, see the links at (description)
http://www.spectrumwd.com/c130/articles/aluoi.htm and (series of photographs of the crash) http://www.vhfcn.org/alouix.html

Damaged C-130 flying a low level S.E. to N.W. along the Valley Axis Just south of the southern end of LZ Stallion airstrip. The rear ramp is down.   Note the battle damage to the fuselage, position of the control surfaces, fuel streaming from the left wing, and the abandoned NVA Bulldozer in the foreground.

Shortly after the shooting down of the C-130, a Chinook was shot down at LZ Cecile and one of our Mohawk troopers provided this report on this incidence: “Our position on the perimeter was down the hill and the helicopter pad was up hill from us. A Chinook had dropped off its’ load and was starting to lift off when a NVA 50 Caliber machine gun opened up on it. The rounds were coming up the hill right over our heads. It dropped back to the ground from a very short distance. My guess would be the drop was around 20 feet. It all happened very quickly. I was paying more attention to the tracer rounds that were passing close over our heads. The downed Chinook was lightened then lifted out with a flying crane helicopter several days later.”


Thanks to Ralph Mercado

There is a story attached to the above photo. There was  a network news team who were in the process of making a comprehensive report on Bravo Company, but when they observed the shooting down of this Chinook on LZ Cecile, they quickly lost interest in us and hightailed it out of the A Shau Valley as fast as they could. As an example of rapid battlefield promotions during a single day, one of our troopers started off in the morning as pointman, then he became the fire team leader, and by the end of the day he was the squad leader.

During the A Shau Valley operation, the 1st Cavalry Division was confronted with the heaviest enemy air defense ever encountered in airmobile operations and the weather often aided the enemy. On many occasions, extremely poor visibility compelled our pilots to use flight paths underneath the clouds and NVA antiaircraft gunners exploited this by concentrating their fire on helicopters using these flight paths.

Extraction from the A Shau began on 10 May with elements of the 3d Brigade, while the remaining 1st Cavalry Division units continued offensive operations in the Valley until the end of Operation Delaware on 17 May. The A Shau Valley had not only served as a sanctuary, but also as an extremely important supply depot for NVA forces. According to General Tolson, “one of the greatest intangible results of this operation was the psychological blow to the enemy in discovering that there was no place in Vietnam where he could really establish a secure sanctuary. The enemy had always considered the A Shau Valley to be his personal real estate and it was a symbol of his relative invulnerability. Operation DELAWARE destroyed that symbol.”



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