VIETNAM - Mid Years (cont.)

July 1969 - March 1971

(LEFT) MOUNTAIN TANKS-A painting by Tank Company Commander O'Neill upon return from Operation Mountain High

(RIGHT) Co Commander Captain John Warne studies experimental Flame Rocket manual on Illusion Hill
Operations in AO Orange continued through 1969 and into the summer of 1970. Losses, although never heavy, also continued. Hardly a day without the death of a friend and compatriot.
COL OSTEEN completed his tour as Brigade Commander and was replaced by Brigader General BURKE, an armor officer and the first General Officer to command the Brigade. The tempo of operations continued. BG Burke decided that TF 161 would not return to FSB Sharon but would stay in AO Orange indefinitely. ALPHA 4 and CHARLIE 2 became the TFs permanent home. To some, this was a good thing. Living in Red Devil and Sharon meant shined boots, starched fatigues and general REMF type harassment. It also meant drug and race problems that seemed to go away in the field.
CHARLIE-2 also had a radar platoon from 5/4 Arty. Nobody in my area had any idea what they did but they were there and doing what ever radar platoons do.

Now that 1/5 was commanded by a General Officer and, with the Marines gone, the senior US Headquarters in Northern I Corps, it was clear that a new and improved Camp Red Devil was needed. And so, one was built. It was a major change, new buildings and new facilities. For the "Old Timers" the new base was hard to believe.

During this time, still under the original orders to control AO Orange, TF 1/61 participated in numerous Verbal Fragmentary Order (VFO) missions to include VFOs Navy Protect, Mountain High, Clinched Fist, Bird Down, Phantom Lake, Skinny Dip and Illusion Hill. The missions of these VFOs ranged from providing protection to Cua Viet Naval Base (Navy Protect) to maneuvering M48 main battle tanks into the mountains west of Rocket Ridge in order to place direct fire on NVA artillery caves (Mountain High) to twice maneuvering north to recover downed Air Force pilots during periods of heavy fog and rain (Bird Down). The BN also conducted its first Joint and Combined operation. It worked north of the ROCKPILE with two battalions of US Marines and one Batallion of the Army of Viet Nam (ARVN), all under one command. For this operation the TF was awarded two Vietnamese Unit Cross of Gallantry Medals.
Additional recognition came in the form of messages from XXIV Corps, III MAF and Brigade. The conflict might have been "Winding Down" in the other areas of VIETNAM but not along the DMZ.

(LEFT) Rocket Ridge

(RIGHT) UH-1 Landing

(These pictures are thumb nails, click for larger view.)

These operations were not without price. And some much more so than others. On 20 Sept 1970 a helicopter from C/158 of the 101Airborne Division was hit by NVA fire while inserting a Ranger LRRP from P/75. Five Rangers and four Aircrew were killed. One Ranger (SP 4 David Slone) survived. A Rapid Reaction Force (Sparrow Hawk) from A/1/61 led by LT Richard Stube was inserted to conduct evacuation operations. At the crash site they came under mortar fire. LT Stube and PVT Michael Linville were killed and the Ranger Company commander (Capt Fred Johnson) was seriously wounded. The New York Times reported this as the heaviest action of the month anywhere in South Vietnam.

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