Operation Eagles Claw 800

On the subject of joint operations with allies' units, I still remember operation Eagles Claw 800 in the beginning of 1967. In accordance with General Westmoreland's and General Cao Van Vien's plan, all Vietnamese, American and Korean units must implement operation Search and Destroy in 1967. Binh Dinh Province was the largest province, with 12 districts, the most populated province in South Vietnam (approximately 1 million habitants) and was the province most infected with Viet Cong. From 1945 to 1954, Binh Dinh was the capital of Communist Region 5 (the French army had never set foot in this region). During over 9 years under the communist control, many joined the Communist Party, others rallied up to the North, consequently almost every family had some ties with the Communist.

In this area, the Communists had the NVA 3 Yellow Stars Division, the renown Division of Communist Region 5, a Governor and Command Post composed of numerous local battalions, and innumerable guerillas. According to the planning maps of operation Eagles Claw 800, the four northern districts: Tam Quan, Bong Son, Phu My and Phu Cat the most populated areas, were assigned to 22nd Division with the mission to search and destroy and also to pacify the areas. The southern areas were: Qui Nhon, Tuy Phuoc, Phu Phong and Van Canh were operational areas of Korean White Tiger Division, and the four western districts: An Khe, Vinh Thanh, An Lao and Hoai An, treacherous and mountainous areas were designated as operational areas of the American 1st Cavalry Division, because this Division was equipped with plenty of helicopters and Air Force fire powers, and thus was the spear-headed force in the planning of the 3 Vietnamese, American and Korean General Staffs. The American 1st Cavalry Division was to operate in its operational area the first 3 days, then came the turn of the Vietnamese 22nd Division and the Korean White Tiger Division to operate in their respective operational area.

During the first 3 days, with ample helicopter supports, the American 1st Cavalry Division poured their units into the most secured areas of the Communists in Hoai An and Vinh Thanh districts, destroyed and burned up numerous rice storages of the Communists, the well protected rear service areas of Region 5 and of the 3 Yellow Stars Division. The American soldiers were very aggressive in their search and destroy the enemy, but the Communists were very clever in avoiding any contacts with the Americans because they knew the American units were very strong.

At 11:00 p.m. on day D+3, the Major General of the American 1st Cavalry Division's helicopter landed down at the 22nd Division headquarters. He went in to meet and confer with General Hieu. He requested that General Hieu abandon the attack into the direction West of district Phu My area and coordinated with the 1st Cavalry Division to attack into An Lao where he was convinced the 3 Yellow Stars Division had its units gathered. General Hieu called me in to confirm this intelligence information. I briefed General Hieu and the Commanding General of the 1st Cavalry Division that I had encountered a Viet Cong guerilla who resided in the mountainous areas west of Phu My district. I had spent a lot of money to feed this guerilla's family. A few days ago, he informed me that numerous units of the 3 Yellow Stars Division rallied at the boundary areas between Phu My and Hoai An districts. Based on previous confirmed information provided by this guerilla, I determined that he was believable. I reported to General Hieu and to the American General that a few regiments of the 3 Yellow Stars Division was hiding in the operational area above mentioned.

The American 1st Cavalry Division Commanding General said: "Today, I had a company of Rangers heli-lifted into that area to search and destroy the enemy, but no contact was made. I knew I did wrong in so doing because I stepped in the operational area of the 22nd Division, but because of my eagerness to destroy the enemy, I was forced to do so." He asked me: "Major (I was head of G2 Intelligence unit of the 22nd Division at that time), are you certain that the enemy is present in that area where the operation will be conducted?" I responded: "Major General, the Communists were extremely careful in avoiding to make contact with the American units because they were afraid of your fire-powers. I am convinced the 22nd Division will make contact with the 3 Yellow Stars Division at this target." General Hieu politely told the American General: "In the plan discussed by the three Vietnamese, American, Korean Divisions, our Division will go into our operational area tomorrow, we should not change our plan too early."

Based on intelligence information provided by G2, General Hieu ordered Lieutenant Colonel Bui Trach Dzan, Commander of 41st Regiment to only use 2 infantry Battalions and the Regiment Command Post unit to enter the operational area early in the morning and when the units reached the area around 3:00 p.m., to have the units settled down, have the soldiers take their supper and dig extremely solid defensive fox holes. This area was infested with Viet Cong informants. Knowing perfectly that these informants would signal to the Communists to attack our units when they knew the number of our units committed in the operational area, General Hieu made a plan to counter attack them with the force of armored cavalry. General Hieu hid one Infantry Battalion and one Armored Cavalry Regiment at a distance of 10 km away from the operational area, out of enemy sight.

At 2:00 a.m., Lieutenant Colonel Bui Trach Dzan radioed back to the headquarters that the enemy began attacking his units. General Hieu gave the order to the Armored Cavalry Regiment and the reserved Battalion to speed into the targeted area and to go behind the enemy line, to encircle the enemy, preventing the enemy from withdrawing and to destroy the enemy. The American 1st Cavalry, found out that we came into contact with the enemy, sent up helicopters to provide lightning support. Artillery of both Vietnamese and American Divisions fired continuously in support. Luminous rockets launched by the American 1st Cavalry were so bright that night became as clear as day. The Communists' night attack planning was sapped. Thirty minutes later, the Armored Cavalry Regiment and the reserved Battalion arrived at the scene on time, encircled the enemy and killed a lot of them. At 5:00 a.m. the Communists had to leak their wounds, disperse and withdraw into the jungle, leaving behind 300 KIA lying all over the place, numerous weapons and ammunition scattered all over the operational area.

General Hieu landed down by helicopter to inspect the battlefield. Fifteen minutes later, the Commanding General of the American 1st Cavalry Division also landed down at the operational area. Seeing that our units had achieved victory over the 3 Yellow Stars Division with glory, the American Major General came to see me, happily shook my hand and congratulated several times on the luring tactic achieved by the 22nd Division and on the exactitude of intelligence gathering achieved by its G2.

Colonel Trinh Tieu
Sacramento, California May 1995

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