Company E, 52nd Infantry (LRP) (United States)

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Company E, 52nd Infantry Regiment (LRP) was a 120 man-sized unit attached to the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in Vietnam in 1967-68. On December 20, 1967, HHC Company (LRRP), 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), was redesignated Company E, 52nd Infantry (LRP), and on February 1, 1969, it was redesignated H Company, 75th Infantry (Ranger).[1][2]

History[edit]

In November 1966 Captain James D. James, a Special Forces-trained officer was selected to establish a long-range reconnaissance patrol detachment, HHC Company, based on other all volunteer LRP units forming in Vietnam, and the two already formed in Germany: Company D, 17th Infantry (LRP) in V Corps, headquartered in Frankfurt; and Company C, VII Corps, 58th Infantry, headquartered in Stuttgart. HHC Company became operational in February 1967 and on December 20, 1967, HHC (LRRP) was redesignated Company E (LRP), 52nd Infantry (Airborne).

Company E participated in some of the most notable battles of the Vietnam War and as Company H, 75th Infantry, it became the most decorated and longest serving unit in LRP / Ranger history. Company H, 75th Infantry, also lost the last two Rangers of the Vietnam War: Sgt Elvis Weldon Osborne, Jr.[1], and Cpl. Jeffery Alan Maurer [2], both killed in action June 9, 1972.[1][3] In all, approximately 1,000 men served in this unit of which 45 men were killed in Vietnam and Cambodia and approximately 400 were wounded or injured on patrol.[4]

Company E was commanded by Captain Michael Gooding and his operations and intelligence section was commanded by Staff Sergeant Thomas Campbell. In January 1968 Operation Jeb Stuart commenced and Company E and the 1st Cavalry Division with its vast air assets moved north to Camp Evans, north of Huế and up to LZ Sharon and LZ Betty, south of Quảng Trị City, near the coast in the I Corps Tactical Zone. Operation Jeb Stuart was conducted because the 3rd U.S. Marine Division and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) were engaged in heavy combat at the Khe Sanh combat base and along the DMZ. As a result, the 1st and 3rd Platoons of Company E, 52nd Infantry (LRP) were based at Camp Evans to support the 2nd and 3rd Brigades, 1st Cavalry Division, while the 2nd Platoon was stationed at LZ Betty (Headquarters 1st Brigade).[1]

Tet Offensive[edit]

January 27, 1968. 1st Cav LRP, Sgt. Doug Parkinson, manning an M2 .50 atop the water tower at LZ Betty.

In the early morning hours of January 31, 1968, the largest battle of the Vietnam War, the Tet Offensive, was launched by 84,000 enemy soldiers across South Vietnam. In the 1st Cavalry Division's area of operation, the NVA and Vietcong forces struck the Marines at Huế, south of Camp Evans. As the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, fought to cut off enemy reinforcements pouring into Huế, at Quảng Trị City, five enemy battalions, most from the 324th NVA Division, attacked the city and LZ Betty. To stop allied troops from intervening, three other enemy infantry battalions deployed as blocking forces, all supported by a 122mm-rocket battalion and two heavy-weapons companies armed with 82mm mortars and 75mm recoilless rifles. At LZ Betty Captain Gooding and his 2nd Platoon, Company E, commanded by Lieutenant Joseph Dilger, directed mortar, artillery, and small arms fire against charging enemy troops from atop the LZ's forty-foot water tower. After two days of intense fighting by the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, and the 1st ARVN Division (Mechanized), 900 NVA and Vietcong soldiers were killed in and around Quảng Trị City and LZ Betty. However, across South Vietnam, 1,000 Americans, 2,100 ARVNs, 14,000 civilians, and 32,000 NVA and Vietcong lay dead.[1]

Operation Pegasus: Relief of the Khe Sanh combat base[edit]

April 1968. Company E LRPs at LZ Stud awaiting Khe Sanh patrol. Sgt. Bob Whitten on right (KIA 5/8/68).

In March 1968 the 1st Cavalry Division and Company E moved west to LZ Stud, the staging area for Operation Pegasus to break the siege of the Marine combat base at Khe Sanh---the second largest battle of the war. All three brigades participated in this vast airmobile operation, along with a Marine armor thrust from Ca Lu along Route 9. B-52s alone dropped more than 75,000 tons of bombs on North Vietnamese soldiers from the 304th and 325th Divisions encroaching the combat base in trenches. As these two elite enemy divisions, with history at Dien Bien Phu and the Ia Drang Valley, depleted, the 1st Cavalry Division deployed Company E long-range reconnaissance teams to flank its airmobile advance as the division leapfrogged west, seizing key hilltops as fire support bases along Route 9 so the Marines could continue pushing forward. At 0:800 hours April 8, members of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, linked-up with the Marines at the combat base, ending the 77-day siege.[1][5]

Operation Delaware: Air Assault into A Shau Valley[edit]

LRPs on Signal Hill directing artillery on enemy trucks below.

On April 19, 1968, as the 2nd Brigade continued leapfrogging west to the Laotian border, the 1st and 3rd Brigades (about 11,000 men and 300 helicopters) swung southwest and air assaulted A Shau Valley, commencing Operation Delaware. Since satellite communications were a thing of the future, a daring long-range penetration operation was launched by members of Company E, 52nd Infantry (LRP) against the North Vietnamese Army when they seized "Signal Hill" the name attributed to the peak of Dong Re Lao Mountain, a densely forested 4,879-foot mountain, midway in the valley, so the 1st and 3rd Brigades, slugging it out hidden deep behind the towering wall of mountains, could communicate with Camp Evans near the coast or with approaching aircraft.[1][6]

Operation Jeb Stuart III[edit]

July 26, 1968. Two 1st Cav LRP teams, Quang Tri, Vietnam.

On May 17, 1968, Operation Jeb Stuart III commenced in Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên Provinces from Huế City up to the DMZ. By this date the 1st Cavalry Division had completed its mission in A Shau Valley, disrupting the flow of troops and supplies from North Vietnam through Laos, and resumed security operations in the eastern regions of these two provinces. Operation Jeb Stuart III continued until November 3, 1968, when the division moved south near Cambodia in Operation Liberty Canyon.[1][7]

75th Ranger Regiment[edit]

In 1974 Company H, 75th Infantry (Ranger) colors and lineage was passed to the 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.[1]

Company E in film[edit]

Oliver Stones' movie Platoon (1986) was based partially on his experiences in the unit. Stone served as a rifleman in both the 25th Infantry Division and the 1st Cavalry Division. In April 1968 Oliver Stone volunteered for the 1st Cavalry Division's Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol training, but was dropped from the unit after completing the course. Platoon depicts two soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Company E, 52nd Infantry (LRP), specifically, S/Sgt, John Barnes portrayed by Tom Berenger and Sgt. Juan Angel Elias portrayed by Willem Dafoe. Stone melds his experience as an infantryman and the characters of Barnes and Elias through the eyes of a green young soldier, Charlie Sheen. The film shows troops of Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment in 1967.[1][8]

Sgt. Barnes honorably retired from the U.S. Army as a Sergeant Major and Sgt. Elias[3] was killed in action in Quang Tri Province on May 29, 1968, when a grenade he and his team were rigging as a booby trap on an enemy trail accidentally exploded causing the loss of his life and that of Cpl. Donald Robert Miller,[4] and fellow team member, Sgt. Larry Curtis, to lose an eye.[1]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Robert C. Ankony, Lurps: A Ranger's Diary of Tet, Khe Sanh, A Shau, and Quang Tri, revised ed., Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Lanham, MD (2009).
  2. ^ Kregg Jorgenson, LRRP Company Command: The Cav's LRP/Rangers in Vietnam, 1968–1969. New York: Ballantine Books (2000)
  3. ^ http://www.vvmf.org/wall-of-faces/
  4. ^ http://www.lrrprangers.com/
  5. ^ Lt. Gen. William Westmoreland, A Soldier Reports, Garden City, New York: Doubleday, (1976).
  6. ^ Robert C. Ankony, “No Peace in the Valley,” Vietnam magazine, Oct. 2008, 26-31
  7. ^ Lt. Gen. John J. Tolson, Vietnam Studies: Airmobility 1961–71, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C. (1973).
  8. ^ Kenneth White, "Company H, 75th Infantry (Ranger)" Saber, 1st Cavalry Division Association, Jul.Aug. 2012, 15-17.

Further reading[edit]