Ia Drang Valley Battle. Essay on History



The battle of the Ia Drang Valley remains one the bloodiest war the United States Army has ever experienced (Moore & Galloway, 1992). It redefined the character of war and increased the vehemence of the Vietnam War.  Central to this battle was the United States Army’s 450-man 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Division led by Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Moore in an effort to eliminate and undertake the North Vietnamese led by General Chu Huy Man.  This essay will analyze the savage Ia Drang Valley Battle between the United States Army and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) from November 14 to November 17, 1965, and the impact the United States Artillery had in the battle. 

Battle Analysis

The Ia Drang Valley battle started on November 14, 1965.  Colonel (Col) Brown had ordered Lieutenant Colonel Moore to lead 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Division in an airmobile search and destroy party (Albright, Cash, & Sandstrum, 1970). At 1048 hours, Captain John Herren led the Bravo Company down at Landing Zone(LZ) X-Ray. The other Companies, Alpha, Charlie, and Delta, followed.  Unfortunately, the Battalion landed near the post of General Chu Huy Man who was plotting their annihilation.  Taking advantage of the terrain by camouflaging in the trees and brush, General Man’s soldiers rained fire using automatic weapons in a well planned ambush. 

The United States Army was profoundly outmanned. According to Moore and Galloway (1992), most of the soldiers were born in the 1950s. As an experimental combat division, the majority had little to no experience.  More so, 1st Battalion which consisted of 450 men fought against more than 2,000 trained, experienced, and war-hardened North Vietnamese soldiers (Albright et al., 1970).  Shortly after the United States troopers arrived, one of Bravo Company’s platoons found themselves surrounded by the enemy (Albright et al., 1970; Moore & Galloway, 1992).  By the time 1st Battalion had been rescued more than a day later, most of its men had either been killed or injured. 

The NVA enhanced their assault on November 15, 1965.  The North Vietnamese commanders launched a three company assault from the front targeting Charlie Company of 1st Battalion. (Albright et al., 1970). Fifteen minutes later, the United States Army was awash with more powerful attacks consisting of two flank assaults from opposite directions and a dozen mortars exploding creating mass shrapnel injuries within their perimeter.  Some of the North Vietnamese breached Charlie Company’s area killing fellow wounded soldiers that they were protecting.  By noon, Charlie Company had no officers left. Out of the 106 men, 40 men died, and 22 were wounded in the two and half hours of bloody combat (Moore & Galloway, 1992).

On November 15, 1965, “Broken Arrow” code overrode all communications. NVA was proving to be a force that needed reckoning.  Every time a wave of NVA soldiers were killed, other elements would appear almost instantly surrounding the entire perimeter. NVA had interconnected underground tunnels and rooms which allowed them to move quickly and constinstley from all directions. As the NVA continuously made an effective effort to obliterate United States Army troops, LTC Moore made a swift and sound decision to call for reinforcements, hence, the Broken Arrow code. Every available support aircraft was on a rescue mission to aid the 1st Battalion in distress.   

Close air support (CAS) came in 10 minutes (Albright et al., 1970). Iron bombs and napalm from the A-Is and F-100 aircraft engulfed the battlefield.  As the vehemence increased, lines became tangled, and smoke obscured the enemy. Two F-100s lunged in for a bomb and ran with the first craft dropping napalm on both the NVA and American soldiers. Both forces took casualties and many more were wounded.  

The 2nd Battalion joined the battle on November 15, 1965. Within the first 24 hours, NVA had killed, wounded, and exhausted most of the 1st Battalion, thereby prompting Col Brown to send more soldiers. The 2nd Battalion improved the US outnumbered situation, thus helping defeat the highly skilled NVA. Under the protection of the 2nd Battalion, most of the 1st Battalion, including the dead were airlifted out of the desolate Ia Drang Valley on November 16, 1965 (Moore & Galloway, 1992).  

The Ia Drang Valley was a slaughterhouse. The US had 79 killed in action (KIA) and 121 wounded (Keister, 2016; Moore & Galloway, 1992). All the soldiers were accounted for before the airlift.  NVA suffered 634 KIA with an additional 1,215 wounded and killed by the aerial artillery attacks (ARA) (Keister, 2016; Moore & Galloway, 1992).  

US Artillery and its Impact

Artillery action began on November 14, 1965.  Before Bravo Company arrived, a 105mm artillery rounds continuously pounded the areas surrounding Landing Zone X-Ray (Moore & Galloway, 1992).  As the aircraft neared, ARA slammed the perimeter with grenades, 2.75-inch rockets, and machine guns. This secured the way for Bravo Company to land and perform operations without casualties.  

The enemy engulfed the 2nd Platoon of Bravo Company.  LTC Moore called for artillery fire, aerial rocket artillery, and airstrikes (Moore & Galloway, 1992). The US artillery batteries and ARA responded promptly and engaged targets with precision. The accurate position of the United States Artillery enhanced its effectiveness by launching barrages on the North Vietnamese which burned most of their soldiers alive.  The ARA unleashed 2.75inch rockets over X-Ray while the Airforce fighter-bombers dropped 250 and 500-pound bombs and napalm canisters (Moore & Galloway, 1992).  

The utilization of the United States Artillery prevented a catastrophe that ground forces would have faced without canon and aerial artillery attack support. For those three days, the four artillery batteries and ARA became the backbone of the battle. Whenever soldiers were engulfed, the artillery units would be called upon for fire support. For instance, when the 1st and 2nd Platoon of  Bravo Company and 3rd Platoon of Alpha Company faced possible defeat, the artillery rained fire on the enemy, thus allowing them to reassemble (Moore & Galloway, 1992).  

The ARA pilots had incredible flexibility, quick response time, and could react fast in the ever-changing environment (Moore & Galloway, 1992). The 20th Artillery provided the ARA that plummeted the Chu Pong slopes and destroyed the enemy's housing. Five miles away at LZ Falcon, the 21st Artillery fired 105mm howitzers raining hell on the NVA. The cannon crewmembers at LZ Falcon were sleep deprived for three days and nights in support of the Cavalry ground units during the battle at Ia Drang Valley (Moore & Galloway, 1992).  

Conclusion

The Ia Drang Valley Battle was vehemence beyond measure. Both sides suffered significant losses. Although the United States Army deployed to North Vietnam with inexperienced soldiers, the field artillery came to their rescue as a saving grace. Had artillery not been involved, the NVA would have demolished the United States Army Cavalry that landed on Landing Zone X-Ray the day of November 14, 1965.