LZ 10 Alpha - Operation Paul Revere I
May 28-31, 1966

                                                                  1st & 2nd Battalions
25th Infantry Division           35th Infantry Regiment

                                                                                                                                                            

By early May 1966 it became apparent that North Vietnamese Army forces in western Pleiku Province had recovered the capability to threaten a strike against Pleiku City. Elements of the 25th Infantry Division were relocated in order to strengthen the US presence in the area and to build a defensive cordon west of Pleiku City.

OPERATION PAUL REVERE I began the first of four phases of OPERATION PAUL REVERE which started 10 May 1966 and ended 25 December 1966.

The 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry (2/35 Inf), as part of the 3d Brigade Task Force displaced from Pleiku by motor convoy on 10 May 1966, to OASIS (ZA 107276) to provide a reaction and security force for the forward base, and to conduct search and destroy operations initially in Area of Operations (AO) 21 and 22.

Intelligence indicated that the 66th NVA Regiment was moving east. Analysis of the terrain and force locations convinced the US commander that the NVA would move through the center of three east-west river valleys, since the northern and southern routes were guarded by the US Special Forces camps at Plei Djering and Duc Co. He accordingly directed the 2nd Bn, 35th Infantry to establish a forward command post in the area of concern and conduct rifle company sweeps across the NVA's likely route of march.

Plans were for the operation to occur in three phases:

Phase I: Conduct motor move 10 May 1966 from Pleiku to Brigade forward base.

Phase II: Conduct rapid search and destroy operations in AO 21 and 22 to determine whether there were heavy enemy concentrations in the area.

Phase III: Conduct reconnaissance operations to detect enemy activity and to locate routes of movement. Establish blocking positions and ambushes on principal routes of movement to disrupt enemy efforts to reconnoiter, infiltrate, withdraw, or establish caches in area.

Phase I and II were completed on 17 May 1966 without contact.

On 22 May 1966, the Reconnaissance Platoon, 2/35 Inf, conducted a helicopter lift into LZ 29A and began a longrange in the North and West portions of the AO. During its patrol, the platoon accounted for four NVA KIA and one NVA WIA. There were no friendly casualties.

On 27 May 1966, the 2/35 Inf conducted a combat assault into AO 11 and 12 with companies A and B landing at LZ 12A (YA 908385). The rest of the battalion were inserted at LZ 11A (YA 873369). Companies A and B later closed to LZ 11A after conducting search and destroy operations. The Battalion CP at LZ 11 Alpha was 12 kilometers northwest of Duc Co. Bravo Company 2/35 was directed to prepare for an air assault into LZ 10 Alpha, about 14 kilometers north-northwest of Duc Co with instructions to conduct a sweep back to LZ 11 Alpha, 10 kilometers to the west. Based on a terrain analysis, the valley associated with LZ 10A (YA 769376) appeared to be a likely area for use by enemy forces. The airlift into LZ 10 Alpha was planned for 28 May 1966.

LZ 10 Alpha was an oval swampy area, perhaps 170 meters long by 100 meters wide, surrounded by treelines and higher terrain. On the morning of 28 May, a monsoon downpour delayed the assault. By accident, artillery preparation fires were laid against another landing area some 3 kilometers distant - an error that worked to the American's advantage.

The NVA regimental command post and base area was only a kilometer north of LZ 10 Alpha, and the NVA commander had recognized the potential for an air assault into the clearing. He had emplaced five 12.5mm heavy machine guns around the oval clearing, together with sufficient troops to provide an initial defense against an air assault. However, two factors worked against him: the off-target artillery prep fires led him to divert troops to that area, and the heavy rains had flooded both LZ 10 Alpha and the heavy machine gun pits, causing the NVA defenders to withdraw to higher ground. The appearance of the Americans at LZ 10-A in the midst of a downpour was a complete, and unpleasant, surprise to the NVA.

At 1100, the first lift of nine HU-1D helicopters placed 63 men into the LZ without incident. As the lst platoon secured the NW portion of the LZ, suddenly they began to receive heavy enemy small arms fire from an estimated reinforced squad. After the initial contact, which resulted in four US casualties, the LZ appeared secure; however, as medevac aircraft attempted to land, extremely heavy fire was received from the NW. The DUSTOFF aircraft was driven off with several hits. The estimate of enemy strength was raised to a reinforced platoon. Following the DUSTOFF incident, the volume of fire declined, although occasional sniper and Automatic Weapons fire continued as friendly troops attempted to move.

While the initial landings were not entirely unopposed, the opposition was far less than could have been arranged. Bravo Company 2/35 was able to bring in about half its men before enemy fire became heavy enough to discourage further landings - and the 60-odd US soldiers on the ground, together with air and artillery support, were enough to capture the five unmanned 12.5mm guns and thoroughly disrupt the NVA defenders. By nightfall, the remainder of Bravo 2/35, all of Alpha 1/35, and six mortars were in place at LZ 10-A.

Following the initial medevac attempt, 52d Aviation Battalion gunships made repeated passes firing both machineguns and rockets into the wood lines running north and south. Particularly heavy fire was delivered against a machine gun which was firings across the flank of the 1st platoon from the SW and could not be reached by friendly small arms fire. The gunships, however, did not suppress enemy fire to the degree required. Friendly positions were marked with smoke and two A1E Skyraider aircraft strafed and dropped napalm on the machinegun position.

Still the machine gun continued in action. Another flight (F4C jet aircraft) appeared on the scene and shortly thereafter neutralized the enemy position with 500 pound bombs. The A1E's meanwhile, were effectively suppressing enemy fire to the north.

Immediately following the air strike, the lst platoon maneuvered a squad to the southwestern portion of the LZ and made contact with two NVA. On contact, both fled into the woods to the west. A large number of packs and equipment plus one 12.7mm anti-aircraft weapon were found. The squad continued a clockwise sweep of the entire LZ. A second anti-aircraft gun was found virtually destroyed by the airstrike. Discovery of guns #3, 4 and 5 followed in quick succession as the sweep was completed.

At approximately 1430, the remainder of Company B was lifted into the LZ. With the exception of some automatic weapons fire at the aircraft, this lift was carried out without major incident. Enemy fire ceased as the aircraft departed. The perimeter was then reorganized and captured enemy equipment and gear were consolidated at the company CP.

Company B then began a sweep to the north to clear the area and obtain a body count. Sweep elements then moved out some 150 meters and returned; however, upon return, sniper fire again came from a bunker position at the north end of the LZ. Because the sweep elements of the lst and 2d platoons were mixed, a consolidated squad attacked the bunker with grenades. Two NVA were KIA and two were captured. Both POW's were returned to the brigade CP.

Because of this action, another sweep was generated. This sweep also received sniper fire from the NW. The 3d platoon maneuvered against the snipers, later determined to number two, and suffered one KIA and seven WIA, including the platoon leader who later in the day died of wounds. The snipers, were firing one semiautomatic and one automatic weapon from positions concealed behind trees. Both were killed by M-79 and M-60 MG fire.

At approximately 1630, the seriously wounded were lifted out. Prior to this, two medevac ships had been driven off by enemy fire. Additional wounded subsequently were lifted out without incident. The enemy was believed to have withdrawn. Resupply was requested.

Information was then received that Company A, 1st Bn, 35th Inf, would be lifted into the LZ as a reinforcing element and would be placed under OPCON of the 2/35 Inf. The 2/35 Infantry Executive Officer was lifted into the LZ to command the two company task force and to accomplish the mission of holding the LZ on the night of 28 May 1966.

Company A, 1/35 Infantry was lifted in at 1700. To assist in the landing, B 2/35 Inf put down a base of fire. No enemy fire was observed. The perimeter promptly was reorganized with A 1/35 Inf taking the western sector and B 2/35th Inf the eastern sector.

At approximately 1800, the Company A, 1/35 Inf, 81mm mortar section was lifted into the LZ along with one 4.2" mortar from the 2/35 Infantry. Total mortars available were four 81mm and two 107mm. All were located on an "island" (the LZ was essentially a swamp) in the northeastern sector of the LZ.

By 2000, all defensive concentrations had been fired and ammunition and ration resupply had arrived. Listening Post's were put out.

The NVA had reorganized and pulled together enough troops for a battalion-sized attack against the US perimeter, which began at about 1 am on 29 May. The task force was attacked along a 400 meter front confined to the north side of the LZ. The main attack appeared to be in a NW to S direction with a secondary attack driving NE to SW. The attack, which appeared to come in waves, lasted until 0300 and was followed thereafter by sporadic fire until 0430 hours. The attack was opposed by organic weapons and artillery firing from LZ 11 Alpha (which itself was under attack) and Duc Co.

The US mortars fired almost all of their ammunition (200 rds), some as close as 25 meters to friendly positions. This mortar fire was extremely effective and is thought to have prevented a probable breakthrough. Friendly task force casualties were one 1 KIA and nine WIA. The fighting ended when the NVA withdrew to the north.

At daybreak, staggered platoon sweeps out to 100 meters were ordered. Just as Alpha 1/35's 3rd Plt reached the 100 meter point, the NVA again attacked - and managed to get troops between 3rd Plt and the defensive perimeter. The 3rd Plt was able to fight its way through the NVA, but at a cost of 3 killed and 13 wounded.

Upon return of the sweep (approximately 0830), sniper fire again became frequent. In fact, B 2/35 Inf suffered its greatest number of casualties from sniper attacks. Much of the sniper fire was directed at the mortar positions, although it was believed that the primary reason for the enemy's return was to fire on incoming aircraft. These snipers also used automatic weapons. From 0830 to 1200, sniper fire was so heavy, the northern and eastern portions of the LZ effectively were pinned down. Armed helicopters were called to suppress the fire (causing 81mm fire on sniper positions to cease).

The NVA attacks continued throughout 29 May, and again were staved off with organic weapons, artillery, and air support. In midafternoon, Bravo 1/35, Charlie 1/35, and the Recon Plt 1/35 arrived under fire, bringing with them badly needed ammunition. At 1600, sweeps began again. The goal was to push the perimeter out 150 meters in order to provide more adequate LZ security. By 2000 hours, a new perimeter had been organized and dug in.

The obvious willingness of the Americans to reinforce the LZ apparently was enough to convince the NVA commander that he could not overrun the LZ and he began pulling his forces back to the north, leaving only a blocking force to slow any US advance. Thereafter, all remained quiet with the exception of occasional probes. Throughout the 2 days of the Battle of 10 Alpha, the rest of the 2/35 Infantry had light to heavy contacts in the area.

The last US soldier killed at LZ 10 Alpha was SP4 Donald C. Green, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry, who was shot during a perimeter sweep on 31 May. Eighteen other US soldiers died in the fighting on 28 and 29 May - but over 600 North Vietnamese bodies were found arond the LZ perimeter. The 66th NVA Regiment had lost nearly half its strength killed in action, and there must have been a great many more wounded.

The final US death associated with LZ 10 Alpha occurred almost 14 years after the fighting ended, when Sergeant William E. Humphrey, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 35 Infantry, died from the after-effects of wounds received on 28 May 1966.

Both Alpha 1/35 and Bravo 2/35 were awarded Presidential Unit Citations for their defense of LZ 10 Alpha.


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