174th Assault
Helicopter Company

Small Viet War Operations Can Turn Into Fierce Fights

The following is the text from a newspaper article published in
the STARS AND STRIPES on 24 January 1968.

Small Viet War Operations Can Turn Into Fierce Fights
24 January 1968

DUC PHO, Vietnam (IO) - The small unit battles in the Vietnam war can be unpredictable.

Infantrymen with the 198th Light Inf. Brigade, starting on a routine mission to set up a night ambush against the Viet Cong found out just how unpredictable these battles can be.

Capt. Anton G. Blieberger, Baton Rouge, La., commander of B Co., 1st Bn., 46th Inf. led his platoon-sized force into the rice paddies north of Duc Pho, and were completing ambush preparations when their plans were changed.

A priority call came from the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Jack A. Henson, requesting Blieberger to have his platoon ready for heliborne operations within 30 minutes.

Blieberger committed his 44-man-unit and what had started as a routine ambush mission was now an operation which showed promise of enemy contact.

A (174th Assault Helicopter Company) Shark gunship had sighted enemy sampans moving south on the Song Cau River in Southern I Corps. The chopper reported 70 to 80 suspected enemy in the group.

"This could do it." Blieberger said to his men as the Hueys swooped down to pick up his small force. Shortly after takeoff they were at their designated landing zone.

"The LZ was cold," Bleiberger said. "We thought it was a false alarm. Then we spotted the sampans on the river, a village on the other side."

"We made out 10 sampans, then 10 more. It looked like a definite enemy reinforcement to me," said Blieberger, a veteran of a previous year in Vietnam as an ARVN adviser.

While 34 of Blieberger's unit pushed across the deep river they drew fire from the sampans. For some of the men the water was almost over their heads. One man went under and immediate someone grabbed him and pulled him up. Then automatic weapons opened from a concrete bunker in the village.

"My men were firing their weapons by holding them over their heads--struggling to keep their balance in the murky water. But they were fighting mad and determined to get across," Blieberger said.

The small force had crossed the river and gained fire superiority: Shark gunships gave aerial support, and finally the enemy broke and ran.

"We hit the other side of the river and moved into the village. The enemy was totally disorganized. They started running in all directions so their fire became ineffective," Blieberger said.

After the company routed the few snipers left in the village, and the gunships finished off the sampans, B Co. counted 19 VC dead. Nine of these were credited to the Shark gunships from the 174th Aviation Co. In addition, seven VC were captured.

Two men from the company were wounded in the action... one by sniper, the other from an enemy grenade.

The operation was completed in less than three hours. The firefight lasted about thirty minutes. The men of B Co., expecting to spend a long, wet night in the rice paddies, had chalked up a the first significant victory for the 198th, a part of the Americal Division.