Saturday, August 18, 2007













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.

RANGER Jerry Conners, Captain (jconners_98@yahoo.com) 775-847-0214 (Ranger Class 502), Master Parachutist (Honor Graduate of 101st ABN Jumpmaster Class), Special Forces Weapons Expert (1964-65 SF MOI, Weapons & Branch), 101st RECONDO (Brand Number 1919), Army Aviator, AMOC, NRAS-PAL, Military Intelligence Officer Advance Course, Task Force Gramas [Special Operations] ... "Loose Nukes" Recovery Team Greece/Turkey 1974, Sensitive Weapons Theft (RAF Anti-Terrorist Operation) Interdiction Team Misseau, Fort Campbell Sport Parachute Club 1963-64, Distinguished Military Graduate University of Nevada.

"Coureur des Bois"
Chinese Bandit 13
Chinese Bandit Recon LRRP Team 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav
http://www.militarytimes.com/forum/album.php?albumid=24 ...photocopies of my military records and phographs
http://www.docstoc.com/profile/rangerconners ... for more articles on the combat and reconnaissance patrols performed by the Chinese Bandits

Friday, August 3, 2007

Raindrops and tracking the NVA during Operation Crazy Horse


























Raindrops and tracking the NVA during Operation Crazy Horse, May 22-23, 1966 by RANGER Jerry Conners, Chinese Bandit 13 and War Eagle 13

The patrol moved north to the location where we encountered abandoned NVA bunkers that contained the body of one NVA soldier that was discovered in one of the deeper excavations. While evaluating the bunker complex, an American rifle squad consisting of 8 men approached from the north “team carrying” one of their men (believed to be a SP/4 Parks) in a poncho litter. The man was semi-conscious and the poncho was filled to his armpits in a mixture of his blood and rain. I called for medivac and had some of the patrol members bring in the UH-1. The man was evacuated to the sound of rifle and machine gun fire from the surrounding hills when the aircraft was on approach and during departure. The UH-1 was not damaged and I was informed many years later that Parks had survived.
We resumed our search of the bunkers and located another trail having fresh barefoot and non-American boot marks leading to the west up the hill in the direction that we had been directed to recon.
We had been in contact with NVA forces for two days. The eight-man patrol, including myself, had little or no sleep for three days and we had experienced near continuous movement in the steep and heavily treed mountainous terrain in the area we call ‘Happy Valley’. We had been mistakenly attacked by two UH-1 gunships earlier in the afternoon and although no one was injured, our sole PRC radio was damaged and unable to transmit when the RTO sought cover from the four 2.75 FFAR that were launched in our direction. I had made the decision to proceed in our mission to complete the planned patrol route without reliable radio communications.
The patrol was moving downhill along the trail approaching the stream located in the valley below which marked the limit of the authorized area of operation. Anticipating contact with the NVA at any moment, we were not spread out long distances as was the norm when searching for the NVA but remained in line of sight of each other. The point man, Combat Jones, stopped near the stream and signaled enemy contact ahead. I advanced to join him after signaling the others of the situation.
As I approached Jones, he pointed toward the stream near the trail crossing where the trail led up the hill on the far side of the stream. The bloated bodies of two NVA troops were lying in the water still clad in their uniforms and web gear. I waded into the water and examined the bodies. They had no weapons and their wounds appeared to have been from irregular shaped fragments, not bullets. The surrounding area showed evidence of 2.75 FFAR impacts.
Jones and I scouted both sides of the stream and did not locate trails running parallel to the waterway. I returned to my position in the patrol and signaled Jones to proceed. He entered the water and we followed him for less than two hours to where a game trail intersection was anticipated. Jones stopped when he saw the large abandoned but overgrown slash and burn clearing on his right. We halted in the stream and I advanced ahead of Jones searching for the trail that was quickly located less than 100 meters in front of where we had halted. The trail had recently been actively used by the NVA. As I returned to Jones, he pointed vigorously over my left shoulder in the direction of the upper edge of the slash and burn clearing. I turned to see more than 30 NVA troops filing down the edge of the clearing towards the stream. I was concerned that any movement in the stream would dislodge silt, sands or debris that might mark the water further downstream; however, I carefully moved back along the patrol positioned and briefed each man to not move and what was occurring out front. Returning to Jones who had been left to observe, he informed me that he had counted more than 200 NVA who continued to file out of the tree line at the top of the clearing. We remained in position for another thirty minutes until the last NVA was observed. Jones’ total count had reached 423 men that wore khaki uniforms and were carrying only individual weapons. No crew-served weapons were observed. At about the time we lost sight of the last NVA trailing the others, we heard NVA crossing the stream ahead of us. Their crossing made no detectable noise but their distinctive sing song language could be heard for more than 100 meters.
While the NVA filed unseen but heard ahead of us, artillery fire began to impact several thousand meters further down the valley and was advancing in our direction. It was later learned that this was an impromptu H&I fire mission. The artillery fire continued for about five minutes and the closest rounds fell only about 1000 meters from our position. The NVA could be heard to be advancing uphill in the direction of friendly forces. They shouted often during the artillery barrage.
I looked at my stainless steel Omega SeaMaster watch when the last of the NVA crossing the steam was heard. We remained in position for another 10 minutes and then began our movement downstream towards the trail. I kept looking back at the patrol but could only see Jones wearing his in-country made scroll patch and red scarf grinning back at me. I remained in the point position as was common for NCOs to do when closing with the enemy. Nightfall was approaching and I intended to move around the NVA if they stopped during the night. I came to the trail and quickly searched for NVA stragglers along the route they had used on the lower edge of the slash and burn clearing while Jones held the patrol in the water.
Not locating any remaining NVA near the stream, I rejoined the patrol and briefed Cpl Matsuoka, my team leader, of my concerns of further NVA approaching from our rear as we followed the sighted NVA up the hill.
We had about thirty minutes of adequate light remaining under overcast skies before EENT and as we began to follow the 400+ NVA uphill. A light rain began to fall as the sound of an approach H-13 observation helicopter was heard overhead. On point, I stopped the patrol and located the helicopter flying along the stream at about 2000 feet AGL. I waited until the noise of the helicopter was no longer a factor and continued up the hill as the rain continued to fall. I had only advanced about 75 meters up the hill from the stream where a small tree opening in the trail allowed the rainfall to impact the trail. I watched the droplets land in one set of NVA tracks. I studied the track that consisted of a flat smoothly worn ‘tennis shoe’ like print. There were many droplet impacts in the track and I examined several more as I moved slowly leaning over the trail. A fresh imprint with no water droplet markings lay before me. I watched as raindrops fell into the fresh track. I had not intended to become that close. I turned and gave the ‘freeze’ signal that was passed along the patrol filing behind me. I gave a second signal using two fingers racked across my upper arm that was also passed down the line. I waited facing the enemy’s position until Cpl Matsuoka joined me. I pointed to the prints near me and the raindrop markings that indicated the closeness of the NVA. I instructed him to observe from beside a tree along the trail located about 10 meters from where we were kneeling and to remain in place as I held the men in position while I considered the merits of withdrawing or at least getting some distance between the NVA and ourselves.
A few minutes later the sound of the returning H-13 was heard and I again waited until the helicopter was clear of the area. As the sounds of the H-13 disappeared two M-16 shots rang out in quick succession. Again, I signaled to hold and began moving uphill towards Matsuoka who I met coming down the trail. He explained that one NVA had come within 10 feet of him before he fired. As he spoke we could hear the singsong speech of NVA coming down the hill towards us. I ran towards the patrol and with Matsuoka’s assistance quickly put the men on line with myself adjacent to the trail on the left and Jones on the other side of the trail.
Going on line was an ignorant decision and I knew it immediately. I yelled to Matsuoka to take the men down the trail and follow the stream back along our route and then take the first major stream drainage uphill that led in the direction of the friendly forces and keep moving until darkness, then wait for me. I ordered Jones to remain with me. As the men ran past us and down the trail I knew that Jones and I would die in the next few minutes. I pulled the pin from my only fragmentation grenade and waited for the NVA to overrun us. The NVA kept yelling amongst one another and fanned out along either side of the trail for a distance of about 50 meters but they did not advance. Jones and I remained in position as more of the NVA filed down the hill to join their comrades that were less than 30 meters in front of where we were laying. I looked at my watch and the grenade I held in my left hand. It was getting dark and the patrol had been gone about 10 minutes. I turned towards Jones and said “Run and join the patrol.” He responded, “No, I am staying with you.” I reached across the trail and pulled him towards me. “Get out of here and I will be right behind you. Now.” Jones spun around on his stomach and alligator crawled down the trail as fast as he could move. I followed him with the grenade still in my hand and the pin left behind. I dropped my ranger patrol cap with its ‘merit’ badges along the trail but could not pick it up without stopping. The cap was left behind. The trail was steeper as we neared the stream and Jones jumped to his feet and ran and then jumped into the stream. I followed him and we both ran up the stream from the direction we had come earlier.
It was now dark enough to make our being followed difficult and we did not hear the NVA in pursuit. After about five minutes we came to the junction of the stream drainage that I had intended Matsuoka to follow uphill. I was concerned that he may have taken another route but continued to run up the shallow stream for about five minutes where we found the other members of the patrol forming a line perpendicular to the stream flow. I spoke as loud as appropriate, “Follow me!” and continued up the stream for another half an hour. We were exhausted from days without sleep, walking the long patrol distance, running from the NVA and the anxiety of the recent contact with the enemy. We had approached a steep section of the stream where numerous small waterfalls had formed. The rain was still falling lightly.
Still holding the grenade, I directed the men to form a line in the deep-water pockets amongst the rocks. As the men filed by I told them we would rest and “Sleep if you want to.” Once we were secure in what seemed to be a safe hiding place, I intended to dedicate my best thoughts to getting the patrol out of harms way and quickly decided to rest a few hours and then move up hill during darkness to link up with the friendly forces at first light. I wanted to sleep but could not with the grenade in my hand. I loosened some C-ration wire from my LBE harness and fashioned a pin that I twisted into the pin holes of the grenade. I snapped my LBE to Jones’s who was bobbing in the water next to me and fell asleep. I awoke some time later to the sounds of the NVA searching for us. Their voices and the beams of their flashlights came near enough to be heard and seen but they did not approach the stream in which we were hiding but continued downhill. I fell back asleep thinking that we could only rest a few more minutes before resuming our movement up the hill. The sky was lighting when I awoke again.
I briefed the men who formed a circle around me near the stream where we had been resting and warned them of the dangers of approaching an American combat unit that was not expecting our arrival.
Jones led us up the mountain. When we neared the ridgeline and where I expected our troops to be located. I yelled, “American troops approaching, hold your fire.” Before I could make another request SSG Grimes yelled back, “This is Chinese Bandit 11, stay put and I will be down to lead you through.” In a few minutes, I saw him approaching. He said, “They believe you were missing in action and had ‘bought the farm. I told them ‘no way’.” I shoved him and said, “Never.” The rain had stopped. As we walked up the hill and down into the valley to join the rest of the unit I watched the sun come up over the other hill and I told Grimes, “I thought I would never see the sun again.” He just stared at me.
I watched as the men filed by in their jungle fatigues and patrol caps. They were full of ‘piss and vinegar’ and the tired faces that I had seen the night before were gone. They were celebrating being alive.

Note: This article was originally posted on the Jumping Mustang home page by Col Mertel, USA Retired in 2000.

RANGER Jerry Conners, Captain (jconners_98@yahoo.com) 775-847-0214 (Ranger Class 502), Master Parachutist (Honor Graduate of 101st ABN Jumpmaster Class), Special Forces Weapons Expert (1964-65 SF MOI, Weapons & Branch), 101st RECONDO (Brand Number 1919), Army Aviator, AMOC, NRAS-PAL, Military Intelligence Officer Advance Course, Task Force Gramas [Special Operations] ... "Loose Nukes" Recovery Team Greece/Turkey 1974, Sensitive Weapons Theft (RAF Anti-Terrorist Operation) Interdiction Team Misseau, Fort Campbell Sport Parachute Club 1963-64, Distinguished Military Graduate University of Nevada.
"Coureur des Bois"
Chinese Bandit 13
Chinese Bandit Recon LRRP Team 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav
http://www.militarytimes.com/forum/album.php?albumid=24 ...photocopies of my military records and phographs
http://www.docstoc.com/profile/rangerconners ... for more articles on the combat and reconnaissance patrols performed by the Chinese Bandits

Night Movement and Tracking Techniques along N Border of Cambodia

Night Movement and Tracking Techniques along the Northern Border of Cambodia by RANGER Jerry Conners, Chinese Bandit 13…Spring 1966 DOD/MACV directed Long-Range Reconnaissance Operations

The Chinese Bandits had been performing extended patrolling operations since their arrival in Vietnam in the fall of 1965 and our SOP’s, including mission preparations, had become routine as our teamwork constantly improved. Warning and operations orders were routinely given, however only some priority pre-insertion rehearsals, refresher training and other preparations were performed and were primarily focused on suspected enemy and indigenous population location reports, area studies, route navigation and night movement techniques. The tentative routes had been planned for night-only movement that would take place primarily along the ridgeline border of Cambodia or Laos and Vietnam with several routes extending eastward into small valleys and the adjacent hilltops. Contrary to policy, the routes and other critical control points were plotted in black pencil directly onto the topographic maps that we would be carrying. Small penlight flashlights having a red tinted lens were carried by all team members and would be used to read and analyze the maps during periods of darkness when necessary.A small wooded area was located near our Mustang LZ at An Khe where we were billeted in tents. This tree area was used to conduct rehearsals and other refresher patrol training exercises. For a few hours on the day and night prior to the long-range reconnaissance mission, the Chinese Bandit LRRP team conducted refresher drills to improve our track perception skills of on trail and off trail terrain. The drill that was the most beneficial required each man to assume the front leaning rest position with their arms and hands extended in a manner which formed a small square opening between both hands when the thumb tips met and were held perpendicular to the main body axis while the other fingers were oriented parallel. After examining the area between the hands for one minute, each person would mark the limits of the square while kneeling on one knee after removing the small green colored Memorandum booklet and short wood lead pencil from their breast pocket and attempt to sketch what was observed in the square solely relying on their memory of what was observed. We would critique each individual sketch and strived to detect any missing details that were observed but not sketched. During those drills that were conducted in darkness, the prone positioned was omitted but the hand orientation used to delineate the square area that was observed while kneeling where the penlight flashlight was used to illuminate the area being evaluated and sketched. I had been shown this drill as a child while training with German Boy Scouts during a scout jamboree held in the black forest and had observed for ten years that everyone subjected to the sketching drill improved to detect more details with practice. Most persons failed to detect a majority of the clearly delineated details within the area being observed during their first attempts. Even relatively undisturbed flat and seemingly feature-less terrain typically contained large amounts of information that was detected and sketched only after practicing in a variety of terrain, light and weather conditions. Indentations, scratches, texture, colors, moisture content, plant, animal and microbial matter, rain drops, etc. were only observed and sketched with practice. In my patrol cap I carried a flexible 12-inch straight edge fabricated from a 2-inch wide strip of thin sheet metal that had issued luminescent taped fixed to one side. The tape was the same material that was used for the markers sewn on the back of our patrol caps. Several others carried the same device that was used to detect depth changes during light and darkness when the straight edge was placed horizontal along the surface being evaluated. During darkness the faint shadows created by the luminescence revealed details that the brighter red light did not and any variation in depth below the straight edge was more evident. Black permanent ink was used to mark twelve inches with halve and quarter inch increments. The scale was used to measure the dimensions of tracks and various items, including wildlife droppings and spent ammunition casings. Longer measurements, such as the distance between tracks, was measured using the luminescent notches made on a walking stick inlaid with foxfire and notched carvings. The captured NVA rucksack that I carried had several modifications that included extending the pack straps to provide a more comfortable fit and enhanced ease of movement; and a section of a shelter half was sewn on the upper frame of the pack forming a cape which was large enough to extend over my head and provide a tent above any trail that was being examined during the darkness when lighting was used. This procedure provided concealment of the lighting and improved the lighting control that was needed to create the shadowing required to detect details. A local Vietnamese tailor whose shop was located near the newly established “Sin City” at An Khe had made the pack modifications. He made several other items for the Chinese Bandits including the special 40mm bandoleers. Since our arrival in country, I had many opportunities to examine the trails and off trail areas where while kneeling over the site being examined, the rucksack would be allowed to slide forward to the back of my head, allowing me to easily grab the cape and pull it over my head and cover the trail. I would then remove my patrol cap and the luminescent straight edge and penlight. The luminescent tabs on the back of the cap were also used to create faint shadows when needed. Night movement required excellent night vision that demanded a diet containing beta-carotene and Vitamin A. We were concerned that the single LRRP dehydrated ration that we consumed every other day might not provide sufficient amounts of nutrients to optimize night vision and we augmented our diet with the consumption of a variety of green grasses. The soft stems that were pulled from the nodes were the only part of the plant eaten. Although, no tests were performed to confirm the night vision value of the grass consumption, we did not experience night blindness or noticeable night vision decreases after prolonged patrolling. The soft grass stems did not cause observed digestive problems and were filling. One ‘Jungle Chocolate’ candy bar was also consumed daily by each man and the wild fruits were frequently found in the mountainous areas along the border. Extreme dysentery and bouts with malaria adversely effected night vision performance. Every effort was made for every man to remain in the field and complete the long-range reconnaissance missions along the border; however, men weakened by disease or other debilitating did not perform tracking and other critical duties. On only one occasion was one of the LRRP team members evacuated. Louis Tyler had lost consciousness and we were unable to control the fever that was the result of malaria. He was evacuated by helicopter from a small clearing in the forest that required modifying our route plans and increased the likelihood of our being detected. Tyler’s night vision had severely diminished earlier and he was unable to track but merely follow closely behind another patrol member. At least six weeks was routinely required for an individual’s body to adjust to the environments of SE Asia and for the initial effects of amebic dysentery and malaria to subside. However, disease and illness was expected to flare up at intervals where persons were expected to function marginally. The Chinese Bandit LRRP Team was comprised of individuals that did not exhibit strong reactions to the diseases experienced in SE Asia. Malaria tolerance in the local population was well documented and it was believed that some otherwise healthy American troops exhibited this same tolerance. Alcohol also diminishes night vision performance and a policy of not drinking alcoholic beverages three days prior to patrols was adopted. Smoking was believed to also have an adverse impact on night vision but was primarily prohibited for reasons related to general health and decreases to the sense of smell. Alcohol and tobacco consumption restrictions were not adhered to by half of the LRRP team members. I regret not enforcing these rules and at the time only chose to lead by example. Chewing tobacco was not done during patrols. Spitting along the route would have made it easier to be followed. Our military issued jungle boots and use of walking sticks left distinctive markings that were easily followed unless individual patrol members exercised the necessary precautions. On trail movement was not routinely permitted when the trail surface was easily marked as was the case in soft or muddy conditions. Many areas along our route such conditions were encountered and provided the opportunity for the NVA to leave tracks whereas we did not. During the spring and early summer of 1966, we did not detect any efforts by the NVA to minimize making tracks on trails but made use of camouflage during movement and in their bivouac sites. It is also my belief that their tracking techniques were not exhaustive and unless obvious telltale signs were left, the NVA would not detect our presence nor be successful in their attempts to locate us. Camouflage sticks were never carried and not used since it was believed that prolonged contact with the skin caused infantigo-like infections and the odor masked the natural smells of the environment. Some team members did carry red, black and yellow pastel sticks that were intended to be applied as war paint. Although we had opted to carrying limited weapons and equipment, many of us would not abandon the pastel sticks that had no intended use on a reconnaissance operation where contact was to be avoided at all cost. One of SLA Marshall’s books contains a reference to the fact that the Chinese Bandits did not wear camouflage ‘paint’. Jungle ‘rot’ sores were prevented only from frequent stream crossing baths and a constant effort to keep clean using only the available abundance of fresh water. Several photos were taken while in the rear areas that depict members wearing camouflage paste, however, the material was always removed to prevent the infections. Prior to occupying our observation sites during the last several hours of night movement, the LRRP team moved only off trail to minimize being followed; however since anyone following the team for any period of time would have easily concluded that we were following the ridge line trail along the border. This was one of the reasons that we occasionally changed directions and moved into the valleys and occupied hilltop observation points east of the border. I did carry a set of tight fitting black tennis shoes that had the flat and featureless soles that were commonly worn by most NVA. The larger length of the shoe did not allow indiscriminate movement but did optimize my ‘counter tracking’ efforts. We did request and the military did produce military boots with NVA shoe and human print soles. We did not receive these boots in 1966 but I have read of their later use in Vietnam and have received personal correspondence from some of those that used them indicating that the boot design was not without its own problems. Another thing that I would have changed in our Chinese Bandit LRRP Team uniform was the use of an NVA-like tennis shoe. It is also my understanding that some LRRP teams later wore such tennis shoes. During my Special Forces training prior to my assignment to the Chinese Bandits, I had been briefed on the frequent TDY uniform of many Special Forces teams operating in foreign countries that consisted of dark sweat shirts, blue Levis and local tennis shoes. I regret not adopting the use of a local tennis shoes SOP, albeit locating a sizes of the normal American foot size took a concentrated effort. The Chinese Bandits wore a mixture of uniforms including standard issue jungle fatigues, WWII vintage M42 jungle camouflage fatigues with the metal thirteen star buttons, and tiger fatigues. I normally wore one of my father’s M42 jungle camouflage fatigues. I had brought two pairs to Vietnam in 1965 and preferred the jacket having the “JUSMAAG” scroll patch on the upper left arm. Both pairs were treated with the stock water repellant that was issued to all companies but rarely used. SSG Robert Grimes preferred and only wore tiger fatigues on long-range reconnaissance operations. The remainder of the team normally wore the standard jungle fatigues and jungle boots; however several of the shorter members wore various items of captured NVA clothing on occasion. The small black leeches seem to prefer attaching to the skin in areas where clothing covered the body. I also carried and frequently wore a pair of issued khaki combat swimming trunks and would don the shorts and remove my shirt when leech infested areas were encountered. The tennis shoes and ‘shorts only’ dress would have appeared similar to that worn by indigenous personnel who occasionally hunted in the mountains and when observed for a distance had the advantage of appearing non-military. It was not uncommon on long-range reconnaissance operations for me to remain in this form of casual dress for many days. The long-range reconnaissance patrols that we performed in the spring and early summer were not conducted under the monsoon rains and the shorts and tennis shoes were adequate and provided an optimized indigenous appearance. However, I did not recommend this uniform during NATO debriefings and took efforts to conceal that it was a sometimes-preferred means of dressing, especially in the damp ‘triple canopy’ mountainous terrain where leeches were often encountered. Since our movements were conducted primarily during hours of darkness, a level of tolerance was required for the mosquitoes. To my knowledge no other LRRP team members wore shorts during the operations along the border; however, they would have been permitted to do so and observed me wearing them during our daily reassemblies. I also regret not formally recommending this indigenous uniform for use in the central highlands during the dry season. Night movement that incorporated tracking and counter-tracking objectives was the norm and sustaining a 3 km per hour movement rate was easily accomplished in the mountainous regions of the Central Highlands. We were lightly equipped and capable of moving during darkness 25 miles daily; however, the assigned mission areas often permitted moving at much slower rates and allowed for a more thorough search. Small active infrared observation devices were carried and used to examine trails for evidence of tracks and longer distance monitoring. The range of the IR light source was limited to about 50 yards that minimized its long-range applications; however, the opportunity to observe the night activity of animals, including insects, snakes and large mammals was enhanced and aided in keeping the user alert and interested in the nighttime surroundings. Many experiments were conducted using the small device in conjunction with the other luminescent tools to examine and evaluate the trail for tracks and other markings. The IR light source was removed from the IR monitoring unit and placed at different angles to provide detection of depressions or other trail disturbances and was beneficial in analyzing any nighttime situation. In practice, our night movement normally involved evaluation of NVA tracks only at locations where tracks were anticipated. Trail junctions and routes near stream crossings and along muddy sections of the trail and all approaches into our daily observation positions were routinely examined whereas the majority of the route was not examined. Rest halts were never conducted but any possible sight, sound or smell that might indicate NVA contact was investigated which included examining the trail for tracks. It was not uncommon to hear the distinctive singsong voices in the distance and the smell of smoke and other human activity odors during our nighttime movements. Each discovery was evaluated from a distance and recorded in our Memorandum booklets and often plotted on the topographic maps. In the spring and summer of 1966, we did not observe or anticipate the NVA to booby trap or establish ambush sites in the area that they considered as ‘no man’s’ land and the sole domain of the NVA. We took no precautions to detect mines or any other devices along the trail other than normal visual scanning that was often afforded during periods when star and moon light penetrated the trees and during our day light scouting in the areas near our assigned day time occupied observation points. It was also observed and widely reported that the NVA noise and light discipline was poor in all areas along the border. The Chinese Bandit LRRP Team had experienced a detect first success since early January and no information had been obtained that movement along the northern borders of Cambodia and southern Laos would encounter an increased level of NVA alertness or an improvement in their noise and light discipline. Suspected regimental size CPs were plotted on the aerial photographs that we were provided during the early planning stages of each LRRP mission and updated with daily reconnaissance flights including that performed my the LRRP team leaders using OH-13 aircraft. Each trail leading into the suspected NVA sites was thoroughly evaluated for evidence of enemy usage. One of the most important mission preparations was the conduct of a thorough map study by each individual team member and construction of the ‘sand table’. Each person was required to ‘spider overlay’ their individual topographic maps where a red colored lead pencil was used to trace down each ridgeline and finger to the intercept with the valley floor and a blue or green colored lead pencil was used to trace up the smaller valleys until intercepting the hilltops of the area that encompassing the first days movement after insertion. As this process was completed, the topographic map became a spider-like network of red and blue lines that gradual became denser. This same exercise was conducted to some degree during the daytime prior to each day’s night movement. The procedure assisted in visualizing the terrain in three dimensions and forced focus on the terrain along our intended routes. The subsequent daily routes were only partially delineated with the red ridgeline and valley traces. Once each individual had satisfactorily completed their spider overlays, some members created a ‘sand table’ of the entire route. The table was created directly on the cleared ground near our tents at An Khe and consisted of one-foot equals two kilometers scaled squares that contained mounded dirt to outline the hilltops and valleys. The vertical scale was exaggerated but done in a manner that ‘line of sight’ could be visualized. Each observation and assembly point, including emergency escape assembly points, preplanned fire target and the expected NVA regimental CPs were marked using items cut out of paper. The table was large and did not contain the topographic detail of our spider overlay topographic maps. Mastery of topographic maps and terrain association was essential and required of each long-range reconnaissance patrol member and taught to all members of the entire Chinese Bandit Recon Platoon. Any Chinese Bandit that did not demonstrate the ability to 3D visualize topographic maps in the spider overlay and sand table exercises was not permitted to conduct long-ranger reconnaissance or combat operations. In addition, each man was expected to know the meaning of every mark and label on the topographic maps in use. No ‘pace-counts’ were performed during night movement and persons were expected to have memorized the topography and other critical information of the entire day route prior to departing each day. Stevens, my RTO was also expected to be aware of his actual coordinate position, at all times, within six digits WITHOUT consulting his topographic maps. Stevens conducted map checks at all high and low ground points. He mastered this skill after only two months of effort and could call for a fire mission or provide approximate coordinates in the event of an emergency in a matter of seconds. He was the only person expected to be making map checks on a regular basis and no one was in a position to discuss their map location with him, including myself. When unexpected enemy or other critical sites were located, the positions were posted on each man’s topographic map. It was interesting to compare these plots with those of the other team members during the occupation of our daily observation positions. Any errors in plotting were resolved and corrected on each man’s topographic map. No actual overlays were used but all notes and plots were made directly onto each man’s map, although the procedure was in contradiction with normal security procedures, we did so to ease movement and minimize what was carried. The reconsolidated maps and notes that were submitted after each operation were placed over new maps and overlay paper was used during after action debriefings. The actual green Memorandum books and topographic maps were NOT submitted for examination and some of these documents survive today. I sent one Memorandum book home to my father and younger brother that contained sections describing me following wild or escaped elephants for a day in addition to the other information that I recorded. Again, these protocols were add odds with what was expected but the information was normally used and shared with the entire Chinese Bandit Recon Platoon and the information was deemed beneficial enough to warrant deviation from normal policy. I have no doubt that intelligence specialists will find fault with what we did. We deviated from dress uniform, communications and intelligence reporting and policies. Sometimes to achieve what was required in the most optimized manner, and at other times motivated only by our own zeal regarding collecting intelligence information at close quarters with the NVA. Everyone understood the strategic and tactical importance of not being detected or leaving evidence behind that would alert the NVA to our operating in the area. Any increased vigilance on the part of the NVA operating along the border would have made ground reconnaissance operations significantly more difficult and dangerous. Although we were confident that we would not be discovered, three response plans were developed in the event the Chinese Bandit LRRP team was detected or suspected of being detected by the NVA or any other indigenous personnel. In the event of detection resulting in the exchange of fire, our sole strategy was to immediately break contact and run rapidly to pre-designated assembly points that were located along the route. In the event that we did not successfully transmit our daily surveillance report and the report received by the overhead airborne Air Force aircraft, then a search and recovery operation was to be launched immediately in the area between our last reported position and the next scheduled reporting point. The search area was to be expanded to all areas along the route until the Chinese Bandit LRRP team was recovered or until the decision was made to abort the search and recovery efforts. Each man carried a VS-17 panel and signal mirror that would allow for the marking of extraction sites near each pre-designated assembly point. Breaking contact did not emphasize keeping the six team together but an ‘every man for himself’ approach. The LRRP team was normally spread over a distance of several miles. The team carried only one radio and the operator followed the LRRP Team leader and maintained a line of sight distance from him or closer as the situation required. The radio operator also responsible for initiating calls for fire support and maintained a constant awareness of the adjacent pre-planned fire missions that would be provided solely by aerial fire support. In the event of an attack, the radio operator would call for fire support while running to break contact and the Chinese Bandit LRRP Team leader was to make every effort to join his radio operator and move together towards the pre-designated assembly of their choice. All other team members normally were extended beyond line of sight distances and any effort at regrouping would have decreased the flexibility needed when evading any pursuing NVA troops. In any situation where we were detected by the NVA or indigenous personnel but not fired upon or being pursued by them, then an effort was to be made to assemble the team and move together and coordinate for an extraction of the team. In either the detection scenarios, it was important for team members to assess any heard rifle or other small arms firing to determine if the firing was that of the NVA and if the fire was directed at one or more of the Chinese Bandits. Since the NVA were using some US and other foreign weapons during this period of the Vietnam War, merely hearing the sound of small arms fire and determining the weapons type by sound did not provide confirmation of detection or engagement. Although it was observed that the NVA rarely discharged weapons unless in an actual engagement, it was important that any Chinese Bandit LRRP Team member not assume that other members were engaged merely by the sound of weapons fire in the vicinity of the patrols route. We had the opportunity to make use of Air Force emergency radios that could have been carried by each member of the LRRP Team. We failed to take advantage of these radios that would have provided improved communications to coordinate the decisions for aborting missions and inter-team coordinations during critical situations. It was believed that the threat of our detection was greatest by indigenous persons and not the NVA. Generally, the local population knew the area better and often hunted on and off trail areas. The discovery of off trail disturbances and any discarded items, intentional or otherwise, that we made during our movements could be expected to have been made by anyone moving and slowly stalking prey. We made many inquiries to determine if the local population were using the trails and hunting and gathering crops in the mountainous areas along the border and were informed that such activities were rare now with the large presence of NVA and Saigon backed forces frequenting the region. Our patrolling confirmed this assessment, however, we remained vigilant and concerned that any disturbances or debris left behind would be discovered by the local hunters and those collecting food from abandoned slash and burn fields and our presence reported to the NVA. In 1965 and 1966, many of the local population where still hunting and carrying homemade crossbows and arrows; rifles made from steel pipe using a threaded cap at one end and a hole drilled near the rear having a spring loaded hinge which detonated a toy pistol cap… the pipe was normally mounted to a carved wooden stock and secured by wire; and vintage Japanese and other bolt action rifles and pistols. Boys and men of all ages actively hunted and fished in areas near any hamlet unless military units, any military unit, were operating in the area. The threat of booby traps was not yet a widespread problem and these local area hunters would reenter their hunting areas when the military units were believed to have departed. They wore a variety of clothing and were often barefoot. The older men often hunted large game, including elephants, barking deer, anteaters, and gibbons and monkeys. Monkey blood and whiskey was a ceremonial drink amongst many of the upland high peoples. One hunting technique involved occupying positions, often in trees, near watering areas, and shooting the animals at close range. Another method specific to gibbon hunting involved slow cross-county movement where gibbons were heard in the high trees and then shooting a female gibbon which was carrying her baby. The dead female was used for food and source of blood and the baby gibbon sold in the market place and often shipped to larger cities and abroad to traders and zoos. Locals also placed fish traps in the larger streams and rivers and frequently traveled to these locations and removed any fish that had been captured. These locations were especially well traveled and recorded on our maps as possible contact sites with the local populations. These indigenous hunters were our greatest threat, not the NVA, and unless counter tracking methods were used and used well, then we would be detected or evidence of our being in the area detected after our extraction. Fortunately I had hunted with the hill tribes of SE Asia prior to my assignment to the Chinese Bandits and my focus always including the effort to locate the local hunters, who were encountered on occasion and our detection by them was thought to have been avoided. I believed at the time and now that any special operations-like teams should spend a minimum of one month hunting with local populations in the area of operations or an adjacent country with a nearly identical environment immediately prior to conducting any long-range reconnaissance operations in a hostile area. Waste disposal was stressed and necessary to minimize detection. Our waste disposal and minimization protocols included the following: We consumed the wax paper wrapper of the 'jungle chocolate bars'; We only carried the dehydrated food portion of LRP ration and retained the plastic wrapper that was later used to package any items collected. The plastic bags were licked clean and filled with stream water again and drank to recover any nutrients; We only carried one white plastic spoon that doubled as a vertical half rhombic antenna insulator (this antenna was for emergency use only)...airborne aircraft were on station above during scheduled transmissions...if the spoon broke than the parts were carried; We carried only one toothbrush that was used often without paste or other cleaner. It was a common practice for persons to often keep the toothbrush in their mouths even after the sweet flavor of the paste was gone; No soap or other personal hygiene items were carried or used. We regularly rinsed daily during the stream crossings and routes were partially selected to provide this opportunity; Mosquito repellant was carried by some members but not permitted for use unless 'approved'...the small black leeches were often left in place...many deviated from this policy; No extra clothing (many deviated from this policy also)...including dry socks, combat swimming trunks, tennis shoes, and distinctive headgear. We stayed wet after rains and streams crossings; No toilet paper was carried and wiping was done with vegetation or the bare hand which typically required scheduling immediately prior to stream crossings to allow for washing up. Feces were buried carefully off trail and with the assumption would be uncovered by animals. With the minimal amount of food that we were able to carry and consume, bowel movements were not common or were the growth of body hair; Urination was performed also off trail on forest litter and along the sides of already saturated tree trunks; . Trail blazing debris in mountains along the Laos and Cambodia Borders was done using foxfire branches which were replenished at night and placed on the ground along the right side of the trail using four symbols (STOP...link up; DANGER LEFT; DANGER RIGHT; and DANGER AHEAD). The last man in the formation recovered the foxfire that was given to the lead person during each morning assembly at the designated observation points; Foraged food waste such as fish bones of rotted fish removed from stream traps were placed in pockets until dry and then 'chewed'; fruit pits were 'sucked on'...savored like the wrappings of the 'jungle chocolate bar' wrappers and eventually buried in the same manner as feces; the wild limes that were consumed skin and all as were the other food found around abandoned slash and burn areas; Rifles, pistols, knives and machetes were cleaned with soap and water prior to missions and shaken in the water at stream crossings and a new round was chambered daily. Ammunition was not oiled but wiped down when initially transferred to magazines in base camp. We did not experience weapons malfunctions during test firings before and after operations; If the 101st Recondo emergency soap dish wrapped to our LBE was opened to administer morphine or other drugs or to perform suturing, then the contents were resealed and rewrapped with the old tape. The tape was good for reuse if the effort was made to keep it untangled while removing or at least good enough until the mission was completed; All LRRP personnel were to be non-smokers and or chewers since both diminish the sense of smell. Many deviated from this policy but NOT when on LRRP operations and therefore waste disposal for these items was not a factor; During 1965 and early 1966 drug use was not prevalent and NO Chinese Bandit LRRP Team members were pot heads or had smoked POT or used other drugs; therefore no disposal issues regarding drug use were necessary. There were other waste disposal procedures and many were very detailed and constantly evolving. The topics included sharpening pencils, etc. It was a mistake to wear anything other than clothing that resembled the NVA or the indigenous populations, however, each of us wore uniforms that were preferred and reflected sentiments rather than optimized for the terrain, weather and enemy situation. I regret not studying more carefully the enemy and local attire, and then specifying a uniform that was more appropriate. In the case of the dry season along the border in 1965 and early 1966 that uniform would have included combat swimming trucks, that have the large leg openings which provided ease of movement and good air circulation and tennis shoes that had soles identical to that worn by some of the NVA and local population. We did request and the military did produce a jungle boot having human footprint and NVA soles. The boots were not available until after the Chinese Bandits were disbanded and I have been informed that some special operations teams did use them and found them inadequate for a number of reasons. A third and not well developed or approved escape protocol was discussed amongst team members that considered escape routes through Laos and Cambodia to the safe refuge afforded by Thailand which was located approximately 250 kilometers from the tri-border area where the Chinese Bandit LRRP operations were performed. Operating along the border line afforded escape routes in both directions and the decision was made that each LRRP Team member had the discretion to use the best terrain during their escape efforts and that cross border maneuvering was not prohibited. When patrolling along the actual border, fifty percent of the terrain that afforded the best escape route was located beyond the border of South Vietnam. Each team member carried a portion of a ‘one over the world’ scale topographic map that encompassed the tri-border area of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos that also included the area extending to the border of Thailand. Area and other order of battle information were requested for both sides of the border and this information contained the same degree of detail. We had been provided road maps of the same regions that depicted the general geography, including cities and land usage. Copies of these maps were not carried during operations along the border but were studied to evaluate the feasibility and potential routes of escape that would provide adequate concealment for night movement and possible foraging opportunities. We did seek approval for this cross border escape option but each man knew that it was an option if the approved escape protocols were deemed more dangerous. If this option had been executed during the later days of any long-range reconnaissance mission, then our carried food supply would have been depleted and therefore, foraging near hamlets and fields that were encountered would have taken place. Night cross-country routes in heavily forested areas were deemed safer than any movement near occupied hamlets and villages. Dogs, pigs and other domestic animals were typically alert at night and any disturbances would have been investigated, therefore, the plan was to proceed without attempts to gather foods and maintain a minimum 25 kilometer per day rate of movement when enroute towards Thailand. It would not have been difficult and the option was viable. The escape plan options permitted the team to focus on locating the enemy and performing the evaluations that were feasible from a distance and maintaining such distance that minimized any chance encounters with the NVA or being detected. The Chinese Bandit LRRP Team used foxfire, an aid to night tracking and trail marking extensively in the spring and summer of 1966. Foxfire covered branches were placed along side of trails to provide information to following team members and to provide additional nighttime illumination. The branches were collected by the last man of the patrol and redistributed when the team reassembled during the daily occupation of the observation assembly areas. Constant efforts were made to identify the plants and animals of the Central Highlands and the understanding provided immeasurable benefits. Leaves from the several trees that provided the most common encountered edible wild fruits were collected and provided to intelligence staff on completion of previous patrols and we were informed of the name of the tree, where the trees were expected to grow and some information that confirmed the edibility and nutritional value of the fruits that augmented our diet. Spider webs were especially interesting to team members and when it was observed that certain species of web tending spiders erected their webs at different times of night and in different types of habitat and at different heights above the trail surface, several us made the effort to evaluate web encounters as an indicator of recent trail activity. The webs were often easy to detect in certain nighttime light conditions and any disturbed or damaged web was reason to suspect the presence of something that recently passed along the trail. It was also observed that some species of spiders erected their webs early in the evening and removed them early in the morning. Any disturbance of these webs was a good indication that the damage had occurred during the same night when they were encountered. We later made requests for more information of the spider web building activities but were not provided any follow-up information on the subject. Many suspected animal nighttime sounds were investigated. Moving files of ants often created a noise that was suspected to be the sound of a crawling snake. Each suspected ‘crawling’ snake investigation resulted in the discovery of insects moving in a file formation. Many snakes were encountered but few at night and they were never found by any sound that was made but solely by visual detection. The large black jungle forest scorpion also was solely detected by visual sightings. Our knowledge of the preferred habitat of mosquitoes and the small black land leeches enabled us to avoid them to some extent. When they were encountered we typically deviated from our intended route and occupation sites to escape them. Drier and areas having more air movement were areas preferred for movement and observation points. However, frequent encounters with mosquitoes and leeches could not be avoided and mosquito repellent was used against both of these pests, despite our internal policy not to do so. The repellent greatly reduced the sense of smell of anyone using the liquid and every effort was made to restrict the use of the repellent and stream crossings provided the opportunity to bath and wash away the liquid and smell of it. We had decided that the repellent would not be carried on the LRRP operations along the border; however, several persons did not comply with this requirement and we all shared the repellent when invested with the leeches. Soap, toothpaste and other lotions were also not carried or used by any Chinese Bandit LRRP team member. Toothbrushes were carried and used often. Gun solvents and weapons cleaning equipment was not carried either. We relied solely on frequent stream crossings to clean our bodies, uniforms and equipment, including shaking the rifles vigorously in the water. All equipment including weapons had been washed with soap and water since November 1965 and little oils or solvents could be detected on them. Our ammunition was not washed but wiped dry of any oils. The M16 rifles only required re-chambering a round each day to remain functional and prevent jamming. In the few situations when we did fire our weapons no misfires had occurred during the long-range reconnaissance operations that were only scheduled for a two-week period. Test firing in base camp or during patrols that were deemed ‘secured’ did not result in weapon malfunctions. I later opted to carry my personal Browning Hi-Power M35 pistol with only one fully loaded magazine. The pistol was carried in a brown issued shoulder holster. It was cumbersome to carry a M16 rifle that was the LRRP teams designated personal weapon and the walking stick that I used. The rifles were typically carried at the ‘Ranger carry’ with slings removed and silenced with duct tape wrappings and strips of camouflage fabric. While moving at night with the rifle it was necessary to store the walking stick between my harness straps near my waist and could do so only in vegetation that provided a four-foot wide ease of movement. The foxfire inlayed stick was used primarily for trail signaling at night and carrying the Browning pistol provided improved ease of movement. The pistol had a blue finish and would easily rust without daily cleaning with solvents and oils. I decided to not clean the pistol and intended to rub off any rusting using ‘elbow grease’ only. The pistol was purchased as a used weapon and was in excellent condition but was rusted and pitted after only one week of patrolling and attempting to rub off the rust that began accumulating immediately after washing the pistol in hot water and soap at base camp. The Browning was left in the rear for the remainder of my tour and I carried a cleaned with water and sand only issued M1911A1 during subsequent patrolling. A new round was chambered in the .45 caliber pistol each morning and did not malfunction when test fired or during target practice. I can still remember the smell of the odors of gun solvents, oils and insecticides that permeated the tents at base camp. Other than our own sweat and the odor of our food, the Chinese Bandit LRRP Team smelled of the surrounding mountainous jungle. The importance of not using any substance that would decrease our sense of smell was emphasized daily when the odor of smoke and animals and people that were encountered were detected from distances that required training, experience and vigilance. Bandit LRRP team members were instructed to moisten their nose hair using fresh water to enhance their sense of smell and were required to practice ‘sniffing the air’ which required shifting the head and seeking out air movements that were expected due to the prevailing wind and air movements created by topography and moving water. Heightening the sense of smell, hearing and vision was always practiced when we ‘lay dogged’ after insertions and during the frequent encounters with variations in vegetation, weather, topology or light conditions. Not being detected and detecting required our constant efforts at improvement.

RANGER Jerry Conners, Captain (jconners_98@yahoo.com) 775-847-0214 (Ranger Class 502), Master Parachutist (Honor Graduate of 101st ABN Jumpmaster Class), Special Forces Weapons Expert (1964-65 SF MOI, Weapons & Branch), 101st RECONDO (Brand Number 1919), Army Aviator, AMOC, NRAS-PAL, Military Intelligence Officer Advance Course, Task Force Gramas [Special Operations] ... "Loose Nukes" Recovery Team Greece/Turkey 1974, Sensitive Weapons Theft (RAF Anti-Terrorist Operation) Interdiction Team Misseau, Fort Campbell Sport Parachute Club 1963-64, Distinguished Military Graduate University of Nevada.
"Coureur des Bois"
Chinese Bandit 13
Chinese Bandit Recon LRRP Team 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav
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Spring 1966 Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol


SPRING 1966 LONG RANGE RECONNAISSANCE PATROL (LRRP) by RANGER Jerry Conners (Chinese Bandit 13)

A Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol was formed from members of the 1stBn (ABN) 8th Cav Recon platoon and attached to division headquartersin the spring of 1966 as directed by the Department of Defense whereseven LRRP teams from the US Army Special Forces, US Marine Corps,Navy and other Army units were established to conduct simultaneouspatrols within the Republic of Vietnam.The Chinese Bandit six man team members were SSG Robert Grimes(Acting Platoon Leader of the Recon Platoon), SGT Jerry Conners,Keijo Hyvonen, Frank Bishop, Louis Tyler, and Terry Stevens. Thefirst long range patrol was conducted along a 75 mile route adjacentto the Cambodian and Laotian borders for a period of twelve days andwas performed while the other DOD directed teams performed LRRPpatrols in other portions of Vietnam. The major objective of thepatrol was to locate North Vietnamese positions that had beenreported along the border and to obtain specific essential elementsof information that included descriptions of the enemy's uniforms,weapons, communication and other equipment and the presence of anyCaucasian personnel.We wore a mixture of uniforms including standard issue junglefatigues, WWII vintage M42 jungle camouflage fatigues and 'tigerfatigues'. All members wore patrol caps, LBE with two canteens, twoammo pouches containing four magazines each, one butt pack andcarried M-16 rifles (taped with slings removed) with bayonets. Twomembers of the patrol also wore NVA captured rucksacks. Only one 35mmcamera and two sets of binoculars and one small IR device werecarried. The first LRRP rations were issued and each member carriedsix after removing the outer package and discarding everything exceptthe main dehydrated meal. We intended to only eat one meal everyother day and our diet was supplemented by a variety of foodsincluding `jungle chocolate candy bars'. Only one PRC-25 radio wascarried; however, a vertical half-rhombic antenna was assembled inaddition to the two other standard antennas. Only one SOI was carriedand used to prepare the coded daily reports what were transmitted. Nofragmentation grenades were carried and only two smoke grenades, oneby both Grimes and myself. I carried the only signal mirror and asingle VS17 air panel to assist in any emergency extraction. Severalof us wore the 101st Recondo School taped soap dish containingsutures, morphine and other emergency medical items secured to ourLBE harness. All members of the patrol had a wound piece of `550chord' secured to our harness with a 2000 pound tensile strength snaplink.SSG Grimes and I drove a jeep to Division G-2 where captured NVAequipment was stacked in front of the entrance. We were given abriefing that included descriptions of the area we were to patrol andthe locations of suspected NVA regimental CPs. We were instructed torecommend and plot our routes and request for pre-arranged firesupport after Grimes completed his low aerial reconnaissance of thearea in an OH-13. Grimes and I returned to the Battalion area andtentatively selected the routes and observation points from thesupplied topographic maps and aerial photographs. We gave the LRRPpatrol members a warning order prior to Grimes performing thereconnaissance flight. Upon his return we discussed what he hadobserved and updated our information on the area but did not alterour intended routes. The entire patrol participated in thepreparation of the operations order that was later given by SSGGrimes. There were no rehearsals performed and the time prior todeparture was spent studying maps and checking equipment.We were inserted about two hours before nightfall using one UH-1 thatmade only one descent and hover for unloading located near an activeand believed to be safe farming area located about 2.5 km east of thearea where we would be operating. The actual LZ was located north ofthe area at coordinates 48PYA554597 and this area had been evaluatedfor enemy activity during Grimes' observation flight and by the lowlevel photo reconnnaissance performed by the Air Force. No enemycontact was anticipated and none were encountered. We moved rapidlyinto the tree-covered mountains at the southern limit of the patrolarea and proceeded northward along the border and through the nightto our first observation and study area (hilltop 847) and arrivedprior to BMAT. We had previously conducted numerous three daypatrols, including those along the Cambodia border, where we hadlocated and cleared a NVA Regimental CP and hospital; however theterrain had not been as steep but our navigation skills and physicalconditioning enabled us to move quickly.Movement, consisting of rapidly walking (routinely 3 km/hour)point topoint routes for approximately 18 hours, was intended to be limitedto late evening and night navigation with daily situation reportsmade in the early morning to airborne Air Force aircraft frompositions selected on mountain tops that afforded the opportunity toobserve long distances. Rising smoke from what was believed to becooking fires was plotted on the topographic maps that we carried;however, the planned patrol route was not altered and these sightingswere not evaluated from close range. We remained on well-worn andnarrow trails during most of the movements between observationpoints. We did not expect the enemy to establish ambush sites or setout mines and booby traps in these areas that were believed to beonly occupied by NVA troops. On several occasions we discovered enemyboot prints at stream and trail junctions but not along the trailroutes that we were following. We wore issued jungle boots andaltered our routes to avoid trails having damp and soft surfaceswhere our boots would have made an impression in the soil. This wasdifficult to achieve during night movement but when I checked ourtrail when doubling back during temporary halts, we managed to dowell at leaving no signs of our passing.After about a week of patrolling, an emergency extraction wasnecessary when Tyler became unconscious with a malaria fever. At therisk of compromising our location, we requested a single UH-1 to asmall tree lined hilltop where we used a rope hoist secured toTyler's snap link to lift him from a large rock outcropping to theskids of the hovering helicopter where the crew were able to grab andlift him onboard. After the aircraft departed, we moved quickly alonga narrow trail down to a valley and up to another mountain ridgewhere we `lay-dogged' until nightfall and then resumed our patrol asplanned.We were able to zig-zag along our planned routes and complete thedaily observation reports from the pre-selected observation points.Close enemy observation was only made on the last day of the patrolwhere we were to be extracted by two UH-1s from an area located inthe northern limits of the patrol area. Eight NVA were foundgathering firewood with their rifles leaning against one tree. Thatencounter will be described in a separate writing.We were extracted by two UH-1s from a LZ that we had occupied forthe entire morning. The areas and trails leading into the LZ werereconned by different team members and we were certain that no enemytroops were within several miles of the LZ. The UH-1s arrived mid-dayand on time and we dove aboard the helicopters and returned to basecamp where we requested and were given ice cream, milk and differentmeals while we prepared our combined de-briefing report that wasgiven by Grimes to G-2 and other division staff late that afternoon.No other LRRP members accompanied him. When he returned, he informedus that everyone was surprised that we had not become lost since theother six teams had more difficulty navigating. When he and I werealone, he asked, "Would you like to dye your skin brown, put on blackpajamas and parachute into North Vietnam?" "We have a chance to bethe first `Sting-Ray' team.

RANGER Jerry Conners, Captain (jconners_98@yahoo.com) 775-847-0214 (Ranger Class 502), Master Parachutist (Honor Graduate of 101st ABN Jumpmaster Class), Special Forces Weapons Expert (1964-65 SF MOI, Weapons & Branch), 101st RECONDO (Brand Number 1919), Army Aviator, AMOC, NRAS-PAL, Military Intelligence Officer Advance Course, Task Force Gramas [Special Operations] ... "Loose Nukes" Recovery Team Greece/Turkey 1974, Sensitive Weapons Theft (RAF Anti-Terrorist Operation) Interdiction Team Misseau, Fort Campbell Sport Parachute Club 1963-64, Distinguished Military Graduate University of Nevada.
"Coureur des Bois"
Chinese Bandit 13
Chinese Bandit Recon LRRP Team 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav
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Thursday, August 2, 2007

Chinese Bandits 2d Unit Award for Extraordinary Heroism

Combat/Reconnaissance Patrol of the Recon 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav during Operation Nathan Hale June 23, 1966

On July 19, 1966 the 2d Bn (ABN) 327th Inf, 101st Airborne Division conducted air assaults northwest of Tuy Hoa in the vicinity of Trung Luong Valley and encountered heavy resistance and casualties from battles with the 66th, 95th and 18th Regiments of the North Vietnamese Army 302d Division. B and C Companies of the 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav, 1st Cav Division were inserted to reinforce the 2/327 Inf on June 20. B Co 1/8th Cav linked up with B Co 2/327 Inf in the morning on June 21 in the vicinity of LZ Eagle. The two airborne battalions experienced continuous attacks, including hand-to-hand combat, and inflicted heavy losses on the two NVA attacking battalions. One wounded NVA company commander was captured from the area in front of the rifle companies and reported his unit had been annihilated and the other NVA units had begun to withdraw on the evening of June 22d. On June 22, Recon 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav (Chinese Bandits) were extracted from reconnaissance operations being performed in Kontum Province and airlifted to Tuy Hoa airport and placed under the operational control of the 1st Bn 9th Cav, 1st Cav Division. At 0530, 23 June, the Chinese Bandits Recon Platoon and one Recon Platoon of the 1/9th Cav were inserted into separate landing zones southwest of LZ Eagle to regain contact with the one of the withdrawing NVA forces. The sun was shining and the weather dry and combat engagement was anticipated so the ranger patrol caps were stowed and helmets donned as the Bandits approached and then exited the helicopters on the tree lined hilltop LZ. Both landing zones were located adjacent to wide, ox cart size, trails that led to the higher hilltops where several hundred of the NVA 66th Regiment were believed to be occupying. The Bandit LZ was located along the ridgeline approaching the expected enemy position and the 1/9th Recon LZ was located further downhill in a draw on the Bandit's left flank. The Bandits moved along the ridgeline trail and at mid-morning, point man PFC Raymond Carley observed a NVA size squad moving towards them and away from the 1/9th Recon Platoon that was proceeding along the lower trail towards the intersection of both trails. Carley and three others moved into a position ahead in the vicinity of coordinates CQ 958626 where they were able to kill three of the fleeing NVA before the remaining NVA, wearing khaki uniforms and some tan helmets, retreated further uphill. The Bandits continued up hill along the trail with Carley now opting to carry the new AK47 that he had removed from one of the NVA and having given his own M16 and ammunition to the medic assigned to Recon. Anticipating a main NVA force to be occupying the intersection of the trails being used by the Bandits and the 1/9th Recon Platoon, the 25 man Chinese Bandit force advanced slowly along both sides of the trail while listening to the voices and sounds of the NVA preparing positions along the ridgeline ahead. Carley continued uphill ahead of the other Bandits until he located the first enemy positions and machinegun along the left side of the trail where the Bandits began to move into combat positions amongst the small and sparsely treed locations below the NVA. A second machinegun position was located on the right side of the trail and moments later a third NVA machinegun opened fire and the Bandits exchanged small arms fire (rifle, machinegun, and grenades) for several minutes as they attempted to advance and attack the NVA force. Operating without orders, SP/4 Frank Spickler, team leader of the 3d Scout Squad, immediately ran forward to assist Carley and those engaging the most concentrated NVA force located in the vicinity of coordinates CQ 962618 where he observed Carley laying along the trail about 30 feet in front of the nearest NVA position. Carley had been shot several times and although alive, he was unable to crawl clear of the withering fire. Spickler moved closer and avoided detection by the NVA until he attempted to cross the trail and pull Carley to safety. Heavy enemy fire prevented Spickler from advancing and he withdrew a short distance to obtain the assistance of other Bandits located near him. Spickler positioned one of the scouts in a location where the scout could provide suppressing fire during his effort to move Carley. Leaving his rifle with the other Bandits, Spickler again moved into position near Carley, he dashed towards him, dropping to a low crawl when the NVA fired on him and then rolling near Carley, he was able to hoist Carley on his back and quickly dragged him towards the side of the trail. During this attempt, Spickler felt the impact of bullets entering Carley. Once clear of the most intense fire, Spickler carried Carley to the medic who was already treating several, but less wounded Bandits. During his second attempt to retrieve Carley, Spickler had located SGT James Lester lying less than ten feet from where Carley had been laying. Again acting without orders, Spickler returned to the area in front of the enemy's position where he low crawled under fire and dragged the much heavier Lester clear of direct enemy fire. The Recon Platoon of the 1/9th Cav had quickly advanced along the wide trail located in the draw and came alongside the left flank of the Chinese Bandits, where both Recon Platoons unsuccessfully attempted a coordinated attack in an effort to over run the NVA positions located near the intersection of both trails. MSG Johnson, acting platoon leader of the Chinese Bandits, directed Spickler to move forward to a position between the lead scouts and the NVA and mark the position with smoke grenades. All available indirect fire mortars and artillery were positioned to support the other elements of the 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav and the 2d Bn (ABN) 327th Inf and only ARA equipped gunships were able to provide supporting fires. Spickler remained in position, marking the enemy lines while the gunships continually attacked the NVA located in front of the two Recon Platoons and on the higher hilltops for about thirty minutes. One gunship pass was made 'danger close' resulting in a 2.75-inch FF aerial rocket exploding and injury several Bandits, including SSG Robert Grimes, the 1st Scout Squad Leader and acting Platoon Sergeant.The NVA withdrew further uphill allowing the two Recon Platoons to carry their killed and wounded scouts along the side of the lower trail that had been used by the Recon Platoon of the 1/9th Cav. However, as darkness fell, another large NVA force resumed the attack and pursued the wounded men of both Recon Platoons as they made their way towards the LZ designated for extraction. Small firefights occurred throughout the night resulting in further Bandits being wounded. Approaching the LZ that was secured by other troops from the 3d Brigade, 1st Cav Division, in the early morning light, medivac helicopters arrived and both Recon Platoons were airlifted to a field medical station that had been located along Highway One. The bodies of Chinese Bandits PFC Raymond Carley and Sergeants James Lester and Honorio Ramirez and the other many wounded Bandits were left with the medics, doctors and nurses. The remaining Chinese Bandits rejoined the 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav and commenced patrolling in the area SW of LZ Eagle on June 26, 1966. This description of the actions taken by Carley and Spickler is only one of the many efforts made by the scouts of both Recon Platoons and warrant being written in recognition of those that fought that day on June 23, 1966. Efforts are underway to post the other detailed descriptions of those engagements on the Chinese Bandit LRRP Team Recon 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav homepage. Raymond Carley [ http://thewall-usa.com/guest.asp?recid=7869 ], our youngest Chinese Bandit, is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego County, California; Frank Spickler was awarded the Bronze Star with V Device (something that remains a source of irritation after forty years…it was initially discussed that he was to be given the Distinguished Service Cross); and Recon 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav was awarded its SECOND Presidential Unit Citation for valor. 101st Recondo Spickler was later shot in the lung while serving as the Platoon Sergeant of the 3d Platoon, C Company, 2d Bn (ABN) 501st Infantry, 101st Airborne Division and unable to remain on jump status and left the military in 1970. The 1965-66 Chinese Bandits were to remain a fighting airborne Recon Platoon with its LRRP Team performing extended long range reconnaissance operations along the borders of Laos and Cambodia until November 1966 when they were disbanded having lost most of its original NCOs and scouts. Extracted from written statement made by Duke Barrett and interviews with Frank Spickler and others serving with the Recon 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav on June 23, 1966; and the official after action reports of the 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav, and 2d Bn (ABN) 327th Infantry. Historical footnote: Nathan Hale (June 6, 1755 – September 22, 1776) was a captain in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Hale is best remembered for his "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country" speech before being hung following the Battle of Long Island. An account of his capture was written by Consider Tiffany, a British Loyalist, and obtained by the Library of Congress. In Tiffany's account, Major Robert Rogers of the Queens Rangers ("Rogers Rangers") was the individual responsible for his capture and personally apprehended him. More information can be obtained reference Nathan Hale's capture in the Library of Congress Information Bulletin-July-August 2003 on line at http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/0307-8/hale.html

RANGER Jerry Conners, Captain (jconners_98@yahoo.com) 775-847-0214 (Ranger Class 502), Master Parachutist (Honor Graduate of 101st ABN Jumpmaster Class), Special Forces Weapons Expert (1964-65 SF MOI, Weapons & Branch), 101st RECONDO (Brand Number 1919), Army Aviator, AMOC, NRAS-PAL, Military Intelligence Officer Advance Course, Task Force Gramas [Special Operations] ... "Loose Nukes" Recovery Team Greece/Turkey 1974, Sensitive Weapons Theft (RAF Anti-Terrorist Operation) Interdiction Team Misseau, Fort Campbell Sport Parachute Club 1963-64, Distinguished Military Graduate University of Nevada.
"Coureur des Bois"
Chinese Bandit 13
Chinese Bandit Recon LRRP Team 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav
http://www.militarytimes.com/forum/album.php?albumid=24 ...photocopies of my military records and phographs
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Chinese Bandit Recon LRRP Team 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav Historical HiLites






The Chinese Bandit Recon LRRP Team 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav 1965-66 was awarded TWO Presidential Unit Citations for extraordinary heroism for their participation in the Battles of the Ia Drang (Pleiku November 1965) and Nathan Hale (Trung Luong June 1966); conducted the historic FIRST NIGHT combat rappel lead by RANGER Lawson; and performed DOD/MACV directed long range reconnaissance (LRRP) operations lead by 101st RECONDO Grimes along the northern Cambodia and Southern Laos borders in the spring of 1966..."Laying Down FIRST Tracks in the Central Highlands…Chinese Bandits Border Scouts Penetrate Deeper".



RANGER Jerry Conners (http://www.blogger.com/jconners_98@yahoo.com)
RANGER Jerry Conners, Captain (jconners_98@yahoo.com) 775-847-0214 (Ranger Class 502), Master Parachutist (Honor Graduate of 101st ABN Jumpmaster Class), Special Forces Weapons Expert (1964-65 SF MOI, Weapons & Branch), 101st RECONDO (Brand Number 1919), Army Aviator, AMOC, NRAS-PAL, Military Intelligence Officer Advance Course, Task Force Gramas [Special Operations] ... "Loose Nukes" Recovery Team Greece/Turkey 1974, Sensitive Weapons Theft (RAF Anti-Terrorist Operation) Interdiction Team Misseau, Fort Campbell Sport Parachute Club 1963-64, Distinguished Military Graduate University of Nevada.
"Coureur des Bois"
Chinese Bandit 13
Chinese Bandit Recon LRRP Team 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav
http://www.militarytimes.com/forum/album.php?albumid=24 ...photocopies of my military records and phographs
http://www.docstoc.com/profile/rangerconners ... for more articles on the combat and reconnaissance patrols performed by the Chinese Bandits