BATTLE



CAP 1-3-9, had 116 confirmed NVA and VC KIAs on the night of September 13, 1969 when the 6th Battalion of the 21st NVA Regiment reinforced with Viet Cong attacked the CAP to annihilate the Marines.


Some villagers went to the CAP's command post in the middle hamlet to let them know that there was some commotion at the school house in the west hamlet. Sgt. Michael Murphy, the CAP Commander, sent PFC Gary Holmes and Ngyuen But (the CAP's interpreter whose name was pronounced "Boog") and two others from the night command post (CP) to find out what was the cause of the disturbance.

When Holmes and But approached the school house at about 0100 they saw soldiers with packs milling around. They we able to see their silhouettes even though it was pitch black (it was the second night of a new moon) because the NVA had set some of the hooches on fire. The four man team was fired on and But was shot in the thigh. The team helped But get back to some of the approximately 35 Popular Forces (PFs) in the village and then proceeded to the CP to update Sgt. Murphy.

Little did the CAP know that they were now engaged in combat with the 6th Battalion of the 21st NVA Regiment reinforced with Viet Cong (VC). Other members of the CAP included L/Cpls Reggie Childs, Sam Parker, and Richard Wayne Sherrill, PFCs Jerry Meyer, David Lummis, and James McKnight, and HM3 Dewey Ray Burns. Meyer, Lummis, and McKnight had been in the field for less than two weeks and had not yet engaged in combat.

The NVA entered through the west hamlet. One recollection was that VC sappers went through the fences. They were approximately 75 to 100 meters inside the village by the time they were at the school house.

Most of the village was set on fire as a result of the NVA lighting hooches on fire when the villages would not tell them the answer to the question, "Where are the Marines?"  The fire was so large that it was seen as an orange glow over a mountain range 14 kilometers away at Combined Action Company (CACO) 1-3's headquarters in Binh Son. To the Marines in the village, the fire seemed to be all around them.  

The fighting broke out on 9 George at the same time as it did in the village. The two Marines and 17 Popular Forces on 9 George were engaged in hand-to-hand combat with VC sappers. The sappers used satchel charges and grenades, which were heard and seen by the Marines in the village at the bottom of 9 George. Because 9 George was a radio relay for the CAP and because the two Marines on 9 George were fighting for their lives, 9 George was unable to communicate with anyone for about an hour. The lack of communication with 9 George caused the CAP to think that the enemy had overrun the hill. The lack of communication also caused CACO 1-3 to know that 9 was under heavy attack, but not to know any details other than the lack of communication and glow of An Phong burning led them to believe.  It was a relief, especially to 9, when 9 George got back on the radio because 9 George was the CAP’s communication lifeline.  Without 9 George being able to communicate the CAP had little if any chance of survival.

Spooky, a C-130 converted into a gunship capable of firing 6,000 rounds per minute from each of its guns, arrived on site around 0300. It circled the village and when it fired on the enemy the tracers looked like a steady red stream extending downward from the plane. It was accompanied by helicopters that dropped flares to illuminate the area. The CAP felt helpless when Spooky had to leave.

The CAP remained relatively stationary during the night and defended the CP area. Fortunately, the main body of the NVA that swept the village did not uncover where the Marines were.

F-4s arrived on sight around first light and commenced to bomb two large NVA groups that were near the waterfall on the west hillside.

A reactionary force from CACO 1-3 consisting of the company executive officer, 1stLt James J. Mulhearn Jr., and the company supply sergeant, Sgt. Robert B. Wray, and the 1st CAG commander, Lt. Col. Hennigan, arrived around 0530 with much needed ammunition and grenades. They helped push some groups of NVA in a westward direction across the base of 9 George into a blocking force made up of Marines and PFs from 9. This action resulted in numerous NVA KIAs.

A company of Regional Forces (RFs), South Vietnamese soldiers who were better trained than Popular Forces but not as well trained as the South Vietnamese Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), arrived at 0930 when the battle was basically over. Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 52nd Regiment, Americal Division, U.  S. Army arrived at 1130. The fighting was essentially over when Alpha Company arrived.

The attack had two objectives, neither of which was accomplished. The first was to annihilate the Marines. The second was to disrupt the election that was to be held the next day. The NVA diary contained in the Psychological Operations (PysOps) section of this site indicated that the NVA was going to burn the village so that the villagers would have to leave the village for a few days.

Not only did the NVA and VC not accomplish their objectives, they failed miserably. There were 116 confirmed enemy KIA.  Additionally, 71 enemy weapons were confiscated. The number of enemy wounded was substantial, but not known.

L/CPL Richard Wayne Sherrill, HM3 Dewey Ray Burns, and eight Popular Forces were unfortunately killed in action.


Photos


 These are Department of Defense photos that were taken on or about September 15, 1969.

  
This is a photo of the west hamlet looking north.  Between the tree line that runs from left to right and the mountains was the Son Tra Bong River, the northern boundary of our area of operations (A/O).  The holes in the center left of the photo were inside the hooches and served as protection for the villagers during attacks.  This is the west hamlet looking northwest. The villagers were resolute in rebuilding their hooches


This was taken in the west hamlet in the area immediately behind the day command post (CP).  The photo faces southwest.  9 George and an adjacent hill are in the background.  This is in the middle hamlet looking north.  The mountains in the distance are about 3 clicks (kilometers) or 2 miles away.  They were often, as they were here, below the clouds.


A mamason and a co (girl) were searching for their belongings, probably in the middle hamlet.  The mountains are to the north Another photo taken in the middle hamlet.  Most of the hooches that were burned by the NVA were in the western and middle hamlets.


The fire set by the NVA was destructive to the point that very few things survived.  People, livestock, and clay pots among them.  This photo was taken facing northwest. This was probably facing north in the middle hamlet because not all of their hooches burned to the ground.



This is an aerial photo of An Phong that was taken such that south is at the top, west is to the right, north at the bottom and east is to the left.

Legend
  1. Base of 9 George
  2. School
  3. Landing Zone (LZ)
  4. Day Command Post (CP)
  5. West gate
  6. Bamboo fences
  7. West hamlet
  8. Rice paddiesMiddle hamlet
  9. Rice paddies
 
 

NVA document

This document belongs to Gary Holmes and is a museum quality artifact. He was a PFC when the battle occurred and he took it off an NVA who was KIA during the battle.

Two translations of this document exist, and they differ significantly.

The first was done in 2001 by Dong Tran, a Vietnamese Marine lieutenant during the war. His translation was made without knowing anything about the village of An Phong, the battle, or the document. His translation immediately follows this paragraph.

The second translation was done in 2009 by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Kligge. Fred is an Army vet who served in the war and his wife, Mia, is Vietnamese. Both are fluent in English and Vietnamese. Their translation is to the right of the NVA document.

Dong Tran's translation follows.

Lt. Dong said the star on the cover page indicated, "This is a big man. You know, lieutenant, captain, major, . . . general."

Pages 2 and 3 of the document are very difficult to read, largely due to the blood stains on the document. No translation was offered.

Pages 4 and 5 make references to the fact that the people of An Phong do not listen to the VC so the village will be burned, causing the people to move away for a period of time. These pages also indicate that the U. S. forces help the people of An Phong. If you look closely at the bottom left of the third image you can see the number 10. Eleven is also present, but is very difficult to see. Twelve is at the top right of the third image. These numbers are significant because they are the days immediately before the day the 6th Battalion of the 21st NVA Regiment attacked.

Dong Tran's conclusion was that the document was a battle plan for an attack on An Phong. His translation proved to be accurate because 1) the people of An Phong were refugees and as such were for South Vietnam, which of course meant they were against the VC, 2) the NVA and VC burned most of the village, 3) information gathered after the attack indicated that the attack was conducted to kill all the Marines and drive the villagers from An Phong for a few days so that the upcoming election would go the way the communist wanted it to go, and 4) The U. S. forces noted in this translation refer to CAP 1-3-9 and 9's objective was to help the people of An Phong live free from the threat of communism.

The Peoples’ Army of
Viet Nam


(Cover Page to the left)

Pages 2 & 3 (left)

10 OATHS OF HONOR
FOR THE SOLDIER OF THE PEOPLES’ ARMY OF VIET NAM

We the soldiers of the peoples’ army of Viet Nam, swear under the flag of our ancestors’ land:
  1. I swear: To sacrifice everything for our country Viet Nam, under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam, striving to make peace in Vietnam, independence and socialism, thus contributing positively to the struggle of the world’s people for peace and national independence, democracy and socialism.
  2. I swear: To absolutely obey the orders of my superiors and when given any mission to be dedicated and committed to it and implement it quickly and correctly.
  3. I swear: To love my country, continuously improve Socialist patriotism and proletariat internationalism, to train and fight with resolve to not be boastful of winning nor discouraged at loosing, no matter the hardship I will not be discouraged, even in life and death situations, I will not be discouraged. “Every task will be completed, every difficulty will be overcome, and every enemy will be defeated.”
  4. I swear: To try my best to learn the level of political, military, cultural, scientific and technical professionalism, thorough observance of the orders, rules, organizational training, discipline and regular working style, build increasingly powerful forces, always ready to fight.
  5. I swear: To uphold the spirit of collective socialism, to fulfill the task of defending the country, building socialism to fulfill international missions, to practice exemplary compliance, to mobilize people in every way, the advocates of the Party's policies and laws of the State.
  6. I swear: To absolutely always be alert and keep the secrets of army missions and the county. If I am captured by the enemy and must bear the pain of torture, I must be faithful as a liberator and never be a traitor or give up information.
  7. I swear:  To be tightly united like blood brothers, love each other as older and younger siblings; with all our hearts help each other in times of battle and times of calm.  The unit has one ideal.
  8. I swear: To use my strength to protect my weapon from damage or from falling into the hands of the enemy and to always keep my sprits raised to protect public property and not be greedy and wasteful.
  9. I swear: That when in contact with the people, I must do these three things:
  • Respect the people
  • Help the people
  • Protect the people

And practice these three things:
  • Don’t steal from the people
  • Don’t threaten the people
  • Don’t harass the people

Gain the love and trust of the people, thus creating in the soldier and the people, one mind.

        10.  I swear: To maintain a good quality and tradition of winning the war of the peoples’ army, to always self-criticize myself, to do nothing harmful to the honor of the national army and to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.



(pages 4 and 5 on the left)

12 RULES
WHEN IN CONTACT WITH CIVILIANS,
FOR THE PEOPLES’ ARMY OF VIET NAM


  1. Do not take [steal] even a needle or thread of the people.
  2. Buying and selling must be fair.
  3. Whatever you borrow from the people, you must ask and when finished, return it.  If you damage or loose it, you must compensate for it.
  4. If you are stationed at a civilian’s house, you must not harass the people and you must keep the house clean.
  5. You must strictly abide by the policy of ethnic and religious freedom and beliefs and customs of the people.
  6. You must unite closely with the people, respect the aged, love the young and treat women with decency.
  7. Don’t threaten and strike the people.
  8. You must protect life and the collective property of the state.
  9. There must be unity, respect and support of agencies, the Party and local armed forces.
  10. You must abide by the policy of the Party and the laws of the State in an exemplary manner.
  11. You must advocate positive propaganda, help mobilize the people to perform all the policies of the state and the law.  
  12. You must keep secrets and mobilize people to keep government and military secrets.
 

Periodicals

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NY Times

 1st CAG Command Chronologies

 

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