Chinese Bandit Parachute Jumps and Patrolling at Pleiku, S. Vietnam in December 1965 by RANGER Jerry Conners, Chinese Bandit 13
After the Battle of Ia Drang where the Chinese Bandits would be awarded their first Presidential Unit Citation for Extraordinary Heroism, the entire Chinese Bandit Recon Platoon was relocated to Lake Pleiku where patrolling was conducted on the margin of the tea plantations and in support of other Jumping Mustang search and destroy missions in the Kontum area while operating with the 1st Bn 9th Cav. Aerial and ground reconnaissance efforts had confirmed that the NVA were withdrawing towards Cambodia and only small enemy units were believed to be operating in the area; however the local American and South Vietnamese units remained concerned that another large NVA attack would occur during Christmas or New Years Day. Our patrolling confirmed that no large NVA units were mobilizing in or near the area.
A parachute proficiency jump was scheduled for December 29, 1965 and the Chinese Bandits and portions of the Jumping Mustang 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav performed parachute jumps from UH-1’s on the drop zone located above the lake during a visit to our unit by General Westmoreland. Some of us had the opportunity to make more than one jump in the late afternoon. Several jumpmasters were used and most of the NCOs competed for the duty with RANGER Lawson obtaining the honor for the Chinese Bandits. This and other parachute activities are described briefly in Colonel Ken Mertel’s book.
We continued to patrol in the Pleiku area in preparation for the planned assault into Cambodia that was tentatively scheduled for January. We rotated the assignments of each Chinese Bandit to provide them the opportunity to perform different patrolling assignments and roles. Tyler displayed the strongest interest in performing the lead point position and an aptitude for tracking and detecting signs of enemy activity. Both reconnaissance and combat patrolling exercises were performed where Frank Spickler was responsible for the support team that included Hatcher and Carley with his M-60 machinegun. We were able to practice all of our immediate action drills and continue to improve our skills, especially in navigating long distances.
On the morning of December 30, we boarded two UH-1 helicopters where I was accompanied by the assault team in the lead helicopter and the trail aircraft transported Spickler’s support team. Our short flight would take us away from the tea plantations to a small village located west of Lake Pleiku where we were to be inserted on a two ship landing zone that offered no cover or concealment. The village was located about one kilometer from a South Vietnamese armored unit and had a civilian population of about 200 persons and enemy contact was not expected.
As we approached the landing zone, the Chinese Bandits positioned themselves on the struts with our patrol caps stowed and weapons readied. When the helicopter flared and settled to a running three feet hover, we jumped, ran and dropped to the ground about 30 meters from the departing helicopters. As the Chinese Bandits support team exited from the second helicopter and my assault team began to make zigzag runs towards the short fence that surrounded the village, we began receiving small arms fire from an unknown position within the village. I yelled for Frank to position the machine gun to the south near the street that divided the village in two parts and "Don’t let anyone get through!" A second later two bullets struck the ground near me and I detected those firing from a position near the fence and north of where we had landed. As I aimed to return fire, two rifle carrying khaki clad men darted away from the fence line and towards the center of the village.
We continued our charged without firing towards the cover and concealment that was available beyond the fence. Some Chinese Bandits went through and others vaulted and dove over the fence. The fence was intended to secure small livestock and broke easily when I charged through it. Frank’s support team ran the ‘100 yard dash’ along my assault teams left flank and I heard him yell that he was in position. From the time we had begun to receive fire until both teams were in position less than fifteen seconds had lapsed. I did not check on the condition of the Chinese Bandits but pressed the attack while yelling to Frank that we were heading north and repeated again "Don’t let them get through." As the assault team moved forward, I glanced back towards the landing zone and observed that no Chinese Bandits were down, as Tyler, and the two Halls began to maneuver I yelled to them to determine if they had been wounded and each man yelled back "No!" Without asking, Frank yelled from a distance that his men were ‘OK’.
We moved cautiously expecting contact but reached the north end of the village without finding anyone armed. Underground tunnels were located near each hut, which were constructed on stilts. Most men, women and children of the village moved to the safety of the underground bunkers as we approached but a few did not. Frank had not observed anyone crossing the street and I concluded that the enemy was hiding either on the side we had just searched or had crossed to the other side before Frank and his men had reached his observation and gun position.
The helicopters that had inserted us earlier had departed as planned and Stevens had been radioing situation reports as we were attacking. Two gunships and one command and control helicopter being flown by Colonel Mertel arrived overhead as we completed our search of the area east of the street being observed by Frank Spickler. Col. Mertel directed me to depart the village and move by foot to another landing zone for extraction while the gunships remained on station to provide supporting fires.
We did not return to the village and I did not question the decision to withdraw. The Jumping Mustang Daily Journal records that only four rounds were fired at the Chinese Bandits and that report is based solely on my report during the debriefing that occurred that evening in the Battalion Commander’s CP.
Chinese Bandit 13
Chinese Bandit Recon LRRP Team 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cavhttp://www.militarytimes.com/forum/album.php?albumid=24 ...photocopies of my military records and phographs