BATTLE OF IA DRANG VALLEY
10 May 2010
The Battle of Ia Drang Valley was a series of engagements between the U.S 1st Cavalry Division and the B-3 front, North Vietnamese Army. It was a battle between one US division and three NVA regiments. This was the first and last battle between NVA forces and U.S forces of similar size. This battle took place from 11-14-1965, thru 11-18-1965. The geography of the Ia Drang Valley was a challenge for any commander. The Ia Drang River flowed through the valley along with several streams. These streams flowed to the west and southwest across the Cambodian border. The battlefield consisted of about 1,500 sq miles of what, by map, appeared to be flat rolling terrain. The Dominate terrain feature was the Chu Pong Massif. The Cho Pong Massif rose to 732m above sea level at its highest point. It was covered with triple canopy rainforest and offered thousands of hiding places for the NVA. The Cho Pong was in the southwestern portion of the 1st Cav area of operations and straddled the Vietnamese- Cambodian border. There were few passable roads to eastern and northern borders of the AO. Much of the valley itself was also covered in with heavy jungle vegetation and trees as high as 100ft tall. The areas considered open, might have lacked trees, but were covered with elephant grass ranging from one to five foot tall and littered with ant hills up to eight feet tall. The terrain coupled with the extreme weather difference between day and night must have only added to the stress of high intensity combat. Unbeknownst to U.S forces the B-3 front had established a stronghold at the base of the Cho Pong Massif. These NVA forces were commanded by General Chu Huy Man, and consisted of the 32nd, 33rd, and 66th regiments. Each regiment consisted of around 2000 fighting men. Some of these men were infantry and some were engineers. There weapon of choice was the all too familiar AK-47. Two of the three regiments were veteran fighters with combat experience against the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). General Chu Huy Man was also a Combat veteran of the1st Indochinese war against the French. These forces have been occupying the valley since September. They had ample time to rehearse, target, develop ambush sites, and master the terrain. The B-3 front used simple tactics and well disciplined soldiers to maintain pressure on ARVN forces. They would attack small outpost while another unit would prepare to ambush the ARVN reinforcements. They also used a TTP called “hugging”. This tactic called for the NVA forces to get so close to opposing force that it would not allow them the use of any firepower advantage. These NVA forces were of high morale, and formed an extremely cohesive unit. The U.S 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was commanded by Major general Harry Kinnard. This unit had been training for two years at Fort Benning Georgia on new methods of air assault. The division was made up of 3 brigade headquarters, 8 infantry battalions, an air cavalry squadron, an aerial artillery battery, 3 direct support artillery battalions, an aviation company, and normal support elements. The 1st Cavalry Division might have been well equipped and superbly trained, but still faced challenges with manning. Thousands of soldiers were ineligible for deployment due to estimated time of separation (ETS). The loss of experienced combat ready troops is an especially difficult challenge to overcome due to the lack of experienced personnel to replace them. To add to the difficulties the soldiers were issued a new primary weapon (M-16 rifle) just 10 days before their deployment and were at the An Khe base camp less than 90 days after the unit was activated. Also a resilient strand of malaria became an issue almost immediately after their arrival in theater causing an additional loss of a 1,000 men. The...
References: Burbeck, James. "IA Drang 1965." THE WAR TIMES JOURNAL, unknown: 1.
Lt. Gen. Hal Moore (USA - Ret.), Joe Galloway. We Were Soldiers Once... and Young. Random House Publishing Group, 1993.
Moore, LTC Hal. The official Department of the Army After Action Review of the Battle of Ia Drang. After Action Review, Department Of The Army, 1965.
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