crossed rifles

VIETNAM - Early Days (cont.)

OCTOBER 1968 - MAY 1969

A4 became the home for many elements of 1/61. Normal military house keeping and administration was conducted from the bunkers inside the firebase. But preparation for combat was the focus of the officers and men of the battalion.
The next named operation was OPERATION RICH. It was conducted 23-27 Oct 1968 and named for LT Rich who was killed in an earlier operation on Rocket Ridge. This was another sweep into the DMZ but this time it was a dismounted operation. Departing A-4 (Con Thien) during the hours of darkness, the BN moved north and with some elements using rope bridges, crossed a tributary of the Ben Hai River. Turning east and then south they made heavy contact with NVA forces dug in near an old French railroad line. This operation was the first true Combined Arms Operation for the Brigade. Naval gunfire, USAF close air support and USMC helicopters all worked with the Infantry, Armor and supporting Artillery of TF 1/61. The operation culminated in a classic battle of maneuver, fire power and shock action. Named after a small village in the area, the Battle of Kinh Mon showed the true potential of US Army mechanized forces in combat. These penetrations of the DMZ, under the "Hot Pursuit" policy, reached deeper into the DMZ than any previous US unit action. For his actions in attacking a dug in mortar position during the operation LT Joe Abernathy was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
For these operations the BN was recommended for an award of the Presidential Unit Citation and the 1st BN 61st Infantry was awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm.
Clearly actions by the 61st were having success as these notes show.

Scout Platoon in Group Flame Track firing (LEFT) LZ SHARON NOV 1968 PLAT SGT LINDERMAN gives Recon Platoon the Word.
And yes, that is Ron Castro in the center of the picture, checking to make sure he still has his can of peaches.

(RIGHT) A Flame Platoon track "lights off"


As part of NAPOLEON SALINE II & MARSHALLMOUNTAIN (01 November 1968 to 28 February 1969) units of 1/61 conducted operation around the Cua Viet Naval Base (Task Force Clearwater) and LZ Tombstone. During one of these operations in December 1968 WO 2 John Garrigan, Australian Army Training Team Vietnam, was aboard the command track of B/1/61 coordinating operations of the Provisional RF/PF forces. While attempting to cross a deep tributary of the Cua Viet river the track hit a submerged object, flooded and sunk. WO 2 Garrigan was unable to escape and drown.

Operations throughout the area continued with patrols and ambushes. The fight was taken to the NVA with heavy artillery, both Army and from Navy ships off Qua Viet. Catkiller L-19 aircraft (off site - use browser back to return) adjusted fires and denied the NVA any safe places to rest and reorganize. In the early spring of 1969 (16 March - 29 April), the BN along with other units, formed Task Force Remagen. From 16 March to 11 April TF Remagen was controlled by TF 1-77 Armor and from 11 April through 29 April it was controlled by TF 1-61 Inf (M). On April 8, the TF initiated operation ELLIS RAVINE, a search and clear operation in Ba Long valley. TF Remagen opened Hwy. 9 west past Khe Sanh, and past Lang Ve to the border of Laos.
During this time the TF was also tasked to assist in the relief of LRRP Team Elk River which had been surrounded by the NVA. Total losses were 4 KIA US (2 from 1/77 and 2 from 1/61) while there were 36 NVA bodies recovered. The BN also combat lost 3 M113s and 1 M48 tank and destroyed (and buried) them on site.
After some 43 days of sporadic but intense contact the TF returned to Quang Tri and LZ Sharon.

Next came Operation MASSACHUSETTS BAY, with the battalions of the Brigade conducted patrolling and ambushes in the area of Base Area 101 and the Districts of the Quang Tri Province, from April 23 to May 25, 1969. The 1st Brigade provided security to friendly people and denied access to rice producing area to NVA and VC. During this time the Flame Platoon, often working with the Recon Platoon, began to prove its worth.