Lam Son 719
1st BDE 5th DIV in LAM SON 719

Part 1 (Dewey Canon) 29 January 1971 to 07 February 1971 Tanks, personnel carriers, self propelled artillery and engineer equipment pushed west along Route 9, securing and rebuilding the road as they went. Enlarging existing Fire Support Bases, opening old bases and building new ones, the US ground troops cleared an axis of advance for the ARVN forces that followed. Where needed new roads were build and new bridges constructed to insure the free flow of supplies for the forces crossing the border. Army Engineers, with the help of CH 54A heavy lift helicopters, constructed five new bridges as the advance continued. Upon reaching the Laotian border and establishing strong defensive positions the 1/5 had done its initial job and Phase I of Lam Son 719 was finished.



Part 2 (extracted from the official ORLL dated 30 APR 71 for the period 07 February 1971 to 16 March 1971)
The Brigade conducted a mobile defense over approximately a 100 kilometer front. Armored cavalry units operated with TF 3-5 screening the northern flank and TF 1-1 screening the southern flank. Infantry elements were employed in the mountainous terrain, operating in team, squad and platoon sized elements for maximum saturation of the area of operations. Infantry and cavalry units continued the constructions of tank trails. TF 1-77 was released to the control of 3rd Bde, 101st Abn Div (AMBL) on 03 March 1971. Red Devil Road was open to wheeled vehicles on 18 March. Red Devil Drive was constructed from Ham Nghi west to the Laotian border.
(NOTE: During this period the line companies of 1/61 rotated with two normally assigned to TF 1/77 and one with 1/61 at C2 or A4.)

Part 3 (extracted from the official ORLL dated 30 APR 71 for the period 16 March 1971 to 08 April 1971)
The 1/5 Brigade continued the mobile defense in zone. TF 1-77 was returned to Brigade control and conducted a tactical road march to Ham Nghi, then attacked south along QL-9, relieving TF 1-1 in place. 1-1 Cav and 4-3 Inf were released to the control of the 11th Bde, 23rd Inf Div on 28 March. The 1/5 Brigade assisted the reentry of RVNAF forces from Laos into South Vietnam. In the final stages, the Brigade conducted a covering force operation, protecting the redeployment of RVNAF and US forces from the area of operations to eastern Quang Tri Province. TF 1-77 and TF 3-5 constituted the actual covering force, with TF 1-77 covering along QL-9, passing through the 11th Bde, 23rd Inf Div, then OPCON to 3rd Bde, 101st Abn Div (AMBL). TF 3-5 covered the redeployment along Axis Brown, screened the extraction of TF 3-187, and then redeployed to Quang Tri Combat Base through the 3rd Bde, 101st Abn Div (AMBL). All brigade units closed out of the area of operations on 08 April, when the TF 1-77 redeployed from Ca Lu to Quang Tri Combat Base.


TF 1-11
1/11 Inf (-)
4 Scout Dogs Sqd (+)/A/7 Engr
Trp/3-5 Cav (OPCON, on order)

TF 1-61
1-61 Inf (M) (-2 Co's)
A/4-12 Cav
Co/1-77 Arm
Btry/1-82 FA (155T)
2 Mine Dogs
2 Scout Dogs
Sqd/A/7 Engr

TF 3-5
3-5 Cav (-1 Trp)
A/7 Engr (-)
2 Mine Dogs
A/1/11Inf(-) (on order)

TF 1-77
1-77 Arm (-1 Co)
A/1-61 Inf (M)
B/1-61 Inf (M)
A/3-5 Cav
Co (+)/14 Engr (DS)
2 Mine Dogs

TF 4-3
4-3 Inf (-)
3 Scout Dogs
Trp/3-5 Cav (OPCON, on order)

TF 3-187
Sqd/14 Engr (DS)
4 Scout Dogs

TF 1-1
1-1 Arm Cav (- Air Cav Trp)

5-4 Arty (DS)
1-82 Arty (-)
Plt/A/7 Engr
75th Spt Bn
C/3-17 Cav
F/8 Cav
P/75 Ranger
298th Signal Co
407 RRD
HHC, Bde
43d Scout Dog Platoon (-)
85th Cml Det

After Action Reports for 29 January 1971 to 07 April 1971 list:
(KIA-Killed in Action, WIA-Wounded in Action, MIA-Missing in Action, MNH-Missing Non Hostile, NHD-Non Hostile Death)

1/5 Inf. (Mech)
HHC 1/5       KIA-1        WIA-5       MIA-1       MNH-0      NHD-1
1/11 Inf         KIA-13      WIA-120   MIA-0       MNH-0      NHD-2
1/61 Inf         KIA-7        WIA-47     MIA-0       MNH-0      NHD-1
1/77 Arm      KIA-3        WIA-62     MIA-0       MHN-0      NHD-0
3/5 Cav        KIA-21       WIA-131   MIA-2       MNH-1      NHD-5
5/4 Arty        KIA-0        WIA-8       MIA-0       MNH-0      NHD-2
75th Spt        KIA-3        WIA-4       MIA-0       MNH-0      NHD-2
A/4-12          KIA-0        WIA-25     MIA-0       MNH-0      NHD-0
P/75th Inf      KIA-4        WIA-20      MIA-0       MNH-0     NHD-0
A/7th Engr    KIA-2         WIA-7       MIA-0       MNH-0     NHD-0
43rd IPSD    KIA-1         WIA-2       MIA-0       MNH-0     NHD-0
TOTALs       KIA-55       WIA-431   MIA-3       MNH-1     NHD-13

Attached Units
4-3rd Inf         KIA-17      WIA-54     MIA-0      MNH-0      NHD-1
1-82 Arty       KIA-3        WIA-15     MIA-0       MNH-0      NHD-1
3/187 Inf        KIA-15      WIA-57     MIA-0       MNH-0      NHD-2
1/1 Cav          KIA-19      WIA-90     MIA-2       MNH-0      NHD-1
F-8 Air Cav    KIA-0        WIA-3       MIA-0       MNH-0     NHD-0
TOTALs         KIA-54      WIA-219  MIA-2       MNH-0      NHD-5

G.TOTALs   KIA-109     WIA-650   MIA-5      MNH-1     NHD-18

The 1/5 completed all its tasks and its operation was deemed a success. However for the individual rifleman this was the worst of times. Although causality figures were low for an operation of this size and duration the unrelenting mountains, the constant rocket and mortar fire and the lack of rest and re-supply made the period a soldier's nightmare. The old litany of Terrain, Forces and Logistics once again controlled the battlefield.
The terrain was some of the most challenging in all of South Vietnam. Not foothills, mountains. The Annamite Range in all its glory. High peaks (8000+ ft), deep ravines and heavy jungle and with rare exceptions no roads or trails. Cold at night and little water available for drinking or bathing. Always rain, clouds and fog somewhere.

The forces assigned to 1/5 for operations in this area were build around seven maneuver battalions. Three leg Infantry, one mechanized Infantry (leg Infantry with armor plated carriers), one tank battalion and two Cavalry Squadrons (Battalions). The four Infantry battalions were designed for this type of operation. However two of them were brought forward from warmer areas of operation and arrived with no cold weather gear and unprepared for long operations without aerial re-supply. The two cavalry squadrons were units that had been designed shortly after WW II to guard the East German Border and while equipped with heavy firepower they were, for the most part, restricted to movement on roads and trails. The tank battalion consisted of 60-ton tanks with no Infantry and was completely road bound. The end result was that only four of the seven battalions could take the fight to the enemy in the rugged terrain while the remaining three battalions were forced to operate on or near QL 9 and the roads and trails near the border. While cross attachment of Infantry units to other units seemed to solve this problem, these changes did not increase the number of riflemen in the field.

QL 9 provided reasonable access for logistical support and resupply to the brigade trains area near Khe Sanh. However as most helicopter assets were in use supporting the ARVN cross border forces, the movement of food, ammo and water to troops in the field was difficult. Additionally bad weather restricted the use of the limited helicopter supply missions. Constant enemy action, mines, ambushes and rocket fires further degraded the re-supply efforts.

Better planning might have alleviated these problems to some degree but no matter what, war in the mountains of Vietnam is hell. The 1st BDE 5th DIV (Mech) did its job successfully, in large part due to the quality of its soldiers and its small unit leadership. This operation, this unit and these men deserve more than a footnote.