Falcon Logo used Courtesy of Jim Bowers, 77th FA Assn.


647 Viet Cong Killed in 4-Hour Battle
Reactionary Drill Saves Artillerymen

I corrected the incorrect number of enemy KIA.--MP
   A battlefield dress-rehearsal is credited with preventing the enemy from completely overrunning the fire support base of the 3rd Bde 4th Inf. Div., during the massive Viet Cong attack at Soui Tre, March 21.
   Lt. Col. John W. Vessey, commander of the 2nd Bn., 77th Arty., reported that the night before the attack, the artillery reactionary force of 50 men had rehearsed in what turned out to be the exact area where they were needed during the attack.
   His comment to the rehearsal was, “It sure paid off.”
   Co. B, 3rd Bn., 22nd Inf., was in danger of losing its position.
   “They had pulled back into a tight circle and hand-to-hand combat had flared up in many places,” stated one officer.  The 105mm howitzers were firing at .point blank range and the rounds were landing “about 75 meters to our front and we couldn’t lower the tubes anymore,” Col. Vessey stated.
   It was at this point of the battle that the reactionary force was committed.
   As the battle raged, units of the 3rd Bde., 4th Inf. Div., were rushing through heavy jungle in an attempt to reinforce the beleaguered infantry and artillery.  The 2nd Bn Mech, 22nd Inf., and the 2nd Bn., 34th Armor, were pushing in from the west and the 2nd Bn.,12th Inf., was moving in from the northwest.
   “It was the closest thing to the ‘Late-Late Show’ I have ever seen - it was the cavalry coming to the rescue and we were sure happy to see those tracks come out of the woodline,” said one officer.
   The armored personnel carriers and tanks moved across the clearing using all available firepower to save the hard-pressed U.S. troopers.   They were able to perform to the maximum of their ability in the clear flat terrain where the battle was being fought.   A tremendous attack through the support base area and directly into the VC lines drove the enemy back across a huge field where the VC were rendered helpless against the armored vehicles.
   Leaving behind all of the dead and wounded they could not drag, the defeated VC sought the cover of dense jungle where heavy pounding by artillery and airstrikes killed more of the badly mauled and surprised crack VC regiment.
   Documents found showed that intensive planning was involved in the massive attack on elements of the 25th Inf. Div.   The documents indicated that three battalions of the enemy were from the 272nd Main Force Regt. regarded as one of the best organized and equipped VC units.    

- Aerial view of the besieged fire support base shortly after enemy troops broke contact and fled, leaving 647 of their dead behind.  A few hours earlier, troops of the crack VC 272nd Main Force Regiment attempted to overrun this position with human wave assaults.   (Photo By SP4 Adrian E. Wecer


Patrol’s Find Signals Start Of Big Fight

   The 3rd Bde., 4th Inf. Div., under operational control of the 25th Inf. Div., routed an estimated Viet Cong Regiment recently 30 km north of Tay Ninh during Operation “Junction City.”
   A total of 647 Viet Cong were killed in the four-hour, pre-dawn battle.   It was believed to be the largest number of enemy soldiers killed in a single engagement during the Vietnam war.
   A patrol sweeping an area near the perimeter of a fire support base in War Zone C made contact with the enemy at 6:40 a.m., touching off one of the fiercest battles of the Vietnam war.   The enemy struck back with mortar, automatic weapons and small arms fire.

1st Day of Spring – Helluva Day At Artillery Base

SMOKE - The smoke from thousands of rounds of small arms, machinegun, automatic
weapons and artillery fire hangs over the scene of the victory.
WEARY DEFENDERS - Capt. George Shoemaker, Co. B Commander, and two of his men wearily rest following the four hour battle.

Grenade Laden Artilleryman Turns ‘Grunt’ on Battlefield
   Sgt. James W. Evans of Buffalo N.Y. was working as a gunner for the 2nd Bn., 77th Arty., when the biggest battle of the Vietnam war started during "Operation Junction City"
   The forward base camp of the 3rd Bde was hit in the early morning hours by the tough 272nd Main Force. (Viet Cong) Regiment with a full scale attack.   Mortars were falling everywhere and enemy soldiers began coming towards the American bunkers in screaming human waves.
   Evans, a 26-year old gunner from Btry A was picked to work with a reaction force to drive the advancing enemy back away from the hard hit perimeter.   His M-14 jammed and Evans had to work the bolt by hand as he fired into the on-rushing ranks of Viet Cong.
   Co. B of the 3rd Bn., 22nd Inf., was forced to pull back, but Evans grabbed a sandbag full of hand grenades, placed the bag between his teeth, grabbed a grenade with each hand and started killing Viet Cong within five meters of his position.
   Evans ran forward, again with the sandbag clenched between his teeth, and started throwing more grenades.   He held at the new perimeter line until armored personnel carriers from the 2nd Bn.,22nd Inf. reinforced the Ivymen ending the four hour battle.


Col. Bender Praises Soui Tre Defenders
“It was a team show all the way - artillery, air and infantry all worked together.” So described the biggest battle of “Junction City” by Lt. Col. John A. Bender, commander of the 3rd Bn., 22nd Inf., the unit that blunted a suicidal human wave Viet Cong attack near Tay Ninh.
   Col. Bender, a West Point graduate with the class of ‘49, was personally awarded the Silver Star by Gen. W. C. Westmoreland after the 3rd Bde 4th Inf. Div. repulsed an attack by the elite 272nd Main Force Viet Cong Regiment, killing at last report 635 enemy soldiers.
   Presented by Gen. Westmoreland in Saigon at a nightly press conference it was Bender’s second such award during his 24-year Army career.
   “The teamwork was the one thing that turned the battle,” the colonel said as he scanned the battle site.   “They came in at us on three sides after hitting us with mortars.”
   The colonel, sitting bare-chested in the hot afternoon sun, said a number of mortar and rocket rounds fell into the fire support base - when the VC had already started their human wave attacks.
   His hammock and poncho liner were filled with tiny shrapnel holes.   There wasn’t a tree in the area that wasn’t marred by bullets,fire or shrapnel.  The four hour battle was one of the most intense the war has seen.
   “This was the first big fight these men have engaged in and they were magnificent.  No one shirked his duty,” said Col. Bender.
   During the battle, Col. Bender was constantly running from his bunker with rounds falling around him, directing his men into defensive positions, giving encouragement, keeping platoons and companies from falling back, and making sure the Viet Cong did not succeed in overrunning the camp.
   Relaxed with a cigarette in his hand the colonel scanned the camp with a clear stare.   “The men were magnificent,” he said.

Westy Calls 4th Div. Fight Major Victory

   Gen. William C. Westmoreland climbed on the hood of the jeep and stared at the men of the 3rd Bde., 4th Inf. Div. who just hours before had killed 635 Viet Cong during an attack on the brigade’s forward base camp during Operation “Junction City.”
   “This battle,” the general said, as he squinted into the harsh sun, “is a major victory of the Vietnam war.”
   He explained the main reason for the gigantic battle and the effect it had on the Viet Cong morale.
   “I was out of the country at the time (the general was visiting President Johnson on Guam and the Viet Cong felt it was a good time to win a large victory and build up their morale.   They wanted and needed a victory,” he said.
   Every man in the forward camp was engaged in the fight - many in vicious hand-to-hand battles.
   “It’s rare,” Gen. Westmoreland - said as he scanned the battlefield,
“that an artilleryman has to fight like an infantryman,
(ED: Which was bullshit)
but you men (the 2nd Bn., 77th Arty) did an excellent job.”