In the early '60s, the Army predicted a large involvement in Southeast Asia and began building up
the 101st Airborne Division in addition to several other units. In July of 1965, the 101st was
ordered into combat.
The 1st Brigade (Separate) of the 101st Airborne Division landed at Cam Ranh Bay, South
Vietnam on July 29, 1965. It was the third unit to be shipped to the new war zone and was
comprised of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 327th Infantry and the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry.
After a brief period where the Soldiers acclimated themselves and received all their equipment, the
1st Brigade (Separate) went into action.
The Brigade was ordered into the Song Con Valley, about 20 miles northeast of the town of An
Khe. During one mission, the 2nd Bn, 502nd Infantry encountered heavy enemy fire at their
landing zone. Three company commanders were killed and the contact was so close, air support
and artillery could not be called in until they pulled back. That night, 100 sorties and 11,000
rounds of artillery hit the enemy. The next morning, the 2nd Bn 502nd Infantry was pulled out.
They later discovered that they had landed in the middle of a heavily entrenched enemy base.
For the rest of 1965, the 1st Brigade (Separate) continued to mount patrols and interdicted the
enemy supplies lines.
At the beginning of 1966, the enemy greatly reduced its operations. In May, the enemy began
massing in the Pleiku and Kontum provinces. The 1st Brigade was moved from An Khe to Dak
To, a Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) base camp in the northern area of South Vietnam.
Here as South Vietnamese force was surrounded by the 24th North Vietnamese Regiment. The
1st Brigade (Separate) was ordered in to reinforce the South Vietnamese position.
After evacuating the South Vietnamese forces, the 2nd Bn, 502nd Infantry established their lines
inside the abandoned camp and sent C Company forward in an exposed defensive position. On the
night of June 6, the 24th NVA Regiment attacked C Company in a brutal assault. In a desperate
attempt to stop the enemy advance, the commander of C Company called in air strikes on top of
his own position, killing NVA and Americans alike. It was a hard decision to make, but it worked.
The 24th NVA Regiment pulled back long enough for A Company 1/327 Infantry to be brought in
by helicopter to reinforce the C Company positions. With the arrival of A 1/327 Infantry, the 24th
NVA Regiment began to retreat.
The soldiers of 1st Brigade (Separate) pursued the enemy and several large scale air attacks were
called in. Hundreds of enemy soldiers were killed but the 24th NVA Regiment managed to escape
In October and November, 1966, the 4th Infantry Division and 1st Cavalry Divisions were heavily
engaged with enemy forces in the Kontum province. When it became clear that the enemy was
attempting to withdraw into Laos, a massive helicopter airlift of the 1st Brigade (Separate), 101st
Airborne Division landed just as the enemy was crossing into Laos and safety. Later, the 1st
Brigade (Separate) was ordered into reserve at Phu Yen.
In early 1967, the 1st Brigade (Separate) acted as a rapid reaction force, reinforcing American and
South Vietnamese forces when necessary and responding to enemy attacks. They had become
experts in rapid helicopter assaults.
In April of 1967, the 1st Brigade (Separate) was attached to Task Force OREGON and placed
under operational control of the III Marine Amphibious Force and moved to Chu Lai. At Chu Lai,
the 1st Brigade (Separate) assisted in a large-scale pacification effort in the Quang Tri province.
Later, the 1st Brigade (Separate) was called in to assist a Marine battalion finish off an enemy
attack around Khe Sahn, which would be the scene of a long, bloody siege in 1968.
In the fall of 1967, Task Force Oregon was reorganized into the 23rd Infantry Division. Better
known as the American Division.
|101st Airborne Division
Vietnam 1965 - 1967