1968 Supplement to Company F, 58th Infantry Unit History

By on November 7, 2011 in F/58th LRP

LONG RANGE PATROL OPERATIONS

The company finally had started to function in its intended capacity. That is, sending six-man teams deep within the jungles, far from friendly ground troops, with the assigned mission of reconnaissance primarily, but occasionally to attempt to snatch prisoners or to conduct ambushes. The helicopter was used for insertion and extraction. Five helicopters were used – the lift ship, a chase ship, two gun ships, and a Command and Control ship. The company was under the operational control of ACofS, G-2 and the five helicopters were assigned to the company whenever the company was engaged in missions. The pilots and crews were from the 160th Aviation Group, the “Black Widows” and the “Kingsmen” and they were truly both proficient and professional. They lived at the LRRP company when assigned and a rapport quickly developed. They became integral members of the “team” and were deeply respected and appreciated by every member of the company.

The company’s first long range patrol mission showed the company’s promise for the future, and set the pace for the rest of the year. The patrol was led by 1LT John W. Gay, Jr. into the mountainous area north-west of fire support base Birmingham in the vicinity of coordinates YD 677153. Their mission was to confirm sniffer readings in the area. The team was inserted at approximately 1300 hours. They were detected shortly after landing on the LZ and called in gunship strike at 1320 hours on three VC/NVA that they spotted overlooking the LZ. Since their presence had been detected they were extracted at 1450 hours. The result was one VC/NVA killed (by bodycount) and probably two others, but the bodies could not be spotted from the air. The team definitely confirmed the sniffer reading.

The following day two more teams were inserted out further to the west. Both teams were extracted under emergency conditions during the next two days with negative friendly casualties and two more VC/NVA killed.

In the following months many more missions were conducted with similar results. SSG James Johnson became known as “Contact Johnson” because on every mission he led he found the enemy. On two occasions he discovered enemy base camps, one was of battalion size, and called in airstrikes and artillery on them. Other teams were also finding the enemy, however, and the company became a prime source of intelligence for the Division G-2. The teams worked throughout the Division AO in the areas west of Hue and Camp Eagle all the way out to the A Shau Valley and south to the 85 east-west grid line and north to the 30 east-west grid line. Information of enemy movements, base camps, trail networks, bunker complexes, weapons and rocket firing positions were continuously reported. The company operated generally with three teams in the field at one time and it was found that normally a team could cover about two-thousand square meters in a three day period, and that became the average length of the missions.

On 25 June one platoon from the First ARVN Division’s Reconnaissance Company was made OPCON to the LRRP company. They moved into an area adjacent to the company area and a one week training program was immediately initiated. The ARVNs were quick to grasp the concepts used by the LRRPs and they proved themselves very capable soldiers. In the next two and a half weeks a total of six teams consisting of two ARVNs and four Americans were sent out, with the American Team Leaders in charge. The ARVN’s knowledge of the jungle proved a helpful contribution to the missions. On 19 July, however, the ARVN platoon was recalled to join its company.

The company 3 October was removed from the control of the G-2 and attached to the 2/17th Cavalry, and shortly thereafter moved to a new location on Camp Eagle. Construction of the new company area was accomplished in conjunction with LRRP missions and it was a busy time for all involved. Under the control of the 2/17th Cavalry the company’s commitments increased. Five and as many as eight teams were sent out on missions at one time. The company continued its exceptional performance with an increased number of enemy sightings and enemy kills.

On 19 November the company received its first casualty on a long range patrol mission. A twelve man team had sprung an ambush on ten VC/NVA and killed nine of them, one having escaped. After searching the bodies and confiscating the enemy’s weapons and documents they carried, the team moved a short distance away and began to prepare for extraction. As the point man began to move toward the LZ he was hit in four places with enemy automatic weapon’s fire. The team quickly returned suppressive fires and pulled the wounded man into the hastily established perimeter and became deeply engaged in a fire fight with the undetermined sized enemy force. During the battle an explosion, presumed to be a CHICOM claymere mine, killed four and wounded seven of the team members. A reaction force of two LRRP teams was immediately sent into assist the team in trouble, followed by the Aero rifle platoon of the 2/17th Cavalry. Before everyone was extracted and air strikes called in thirteen of the reaction force were wounded. Enemy casualties were twenty known dead, and many more presumed so.

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1968 Supplement to Company F, 58th Infantry Unit History

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