W3 Company - Operational Timeline

index of individual and service stories

MARCH 1970 - W3 COMPANY ACTIVITIES

This section has a detailed timeline for W3 Company activities from 1 to 31 March 1970

offer corrections and updates to this detail - send here

glossaryxxxxH is a time in 24-hour clock, if six-digit the first two are date.  YSxxxxxx is a 6-figure map grid read left to right then bottom to top.  KIA killed in action - WIA wounded in action - full glossary here

Summary.  During March 1970 W3 Coy continued operations from Horseshoe Hill, while also working with the ARVN sub-units who arrived for operational experience.  The ARVN training period finished with a combined operation [Op RAVEN] from 25 to 30 March 1970.  3Pl was detached back to 6RAR/NZ control on 1 until 5 March 1970 [3Pl with 6RAR extracts from AWM95-7-6-31].

'chalk' waiting to board a 'slick'

The available records are confusing as to W Coy activities since an activity might be recorded in 1ATF, 6RAR/NZ or a minor unit log depending on who was interested in controlling the activity.  Unless shown otherwise the night location of Coy HQ W3 Coy and other platoons can be assumed as Horseshoe Hill.

W Coy rear details in Nui Dat conducted TAOR patrols on the nights 8, 12, 31 Mar and 2 Apr 70.

1 March
NZ Minister of  Defence Hon David Thompson and NZ Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Sir Leonard Thornton were in Nui Dat and visited W3 Coy at the Horseshoe at 1345H for 30 minutes.  After a busy day visiting all NZ subunits in 1ATF they departed at 1615H for Saigon.

1220 3Pl warned to react to sighting of 15 VC at YS5465, nothing eventuated.

1420H 3Pl W Coy was placed under Op Con B Coy 6RAR to boost forces for a ground clearance operation in the area YS5769.

Contact:  1520H at YS571668 3Pl in contact with x3 well camouflaged VC who withdrew West.  It was surmised that the VC were either sentries or the advance guard of a larger formation.

Night Locations: W Coy Horseshoe, 3Pl YS571668Dave Simeon & section at Horseshoe

2 March
0847H at YS572675 3Pl located a crossing point used by VC within the previous 72 hours.

1300H locstat 3Pl YS566685

3 March
Contact: 
1135H at YS562665 3Pl were in contact at 30M distance with x3 well camouflaged VC, 1x VC KIA and a pack with documents was captured.

Dave Simeon and section at Horseshoe

4 Mar
4 Fd Regt RAA arrived in Nui Dat to replace 1 Fd Regt, firing their first gun round operationally at 1140H 7 Mar.  4 Fd Regt provided a direct support field artillery battery to the ANZAC battalion for the remainder of the W3 Coy tour.

1045H locstat 3Pl YS565667

1252H locstat 3Pl YS566651

5 March
Locstats at 0735H: 1Pl (-) 2Pl (-) back in Horseshoe – [likely local ambushes, no mention of them leaving]

1140H 3Pl locstat Horseshoe, 1205H 3Pl locstat FSPB WILTON [confusion in logs]

6 Mar
6RAR returned to Nui Dat at the end of Op GISBORNE.Bob Newson on joint-ARVN training patrol

0940H 1Pl at YS580600

1045H 1Pl at YS580592

1227H 1Pl at YS582586

Bob Newson on ARVN training patrol

7 Mar
Contact: 
0715H at YS585588 1Pl were in contact with 6x VC at 10 metres distance who fired a RPG into the platoon, x2 VC KIA.  1Pl swept tracks and located x6 packs containing 200lbs rice, 20lb salt, 2lb tobacco, 7lb brown sugar, and a small amount of tea.  There was also four sets of freshly laundered green uniforms.  One VC KIA had a promotion certificate identifying him as a squad leader of C8 D440.

1215H at Horseshoe a platoon of 3/48 ARVN arrived to replace the platoon from 4/48 ARVN currently undergoing training, problem was 3/48 were a week early.

1335H locstat 1Pl YS583586

8 Mar
1317H locstat 1Pl 584581 moving NE to ambush track systemappoaching Horseshoe Hill from East, looking down on Bunker C in foreground [Young]

1655H night location 1Pl YS558590

approaching Horseshoe Hill from East, looking
down on Bunker C in foreground [Young]

9 Mar
0905H locstat 1Pl YS589593

Comd 1ATF and new COMAFV Maj Gen Fraser visited W Coy at 1400H for about an hour, read another account here.

Night ambushes were apparently conducted from the Horseshoe to YS475623 and YS488632

10 Mar
1000H locstat 1Pl elm YS585590

1150H locstat 1Pl elm YS574587, stationary until 1700H when they rejoined 1Pl.

location of significant activities in vicinity of Horseshoe Hill March 1970
location of significant activities in vicinity of Horseshoe Hill March 1970

11Mar
1120H at YS493625 there was an accident on the weapons range outside the Horseshoe, x3 ARVN and x1 NZ were accidentally wounded when x1 ARVN trod on a M79 blind [unexploded projectile].  All ARVN WIA were evacuated with shrapnel wounds, 1x NZ WIA was moved to 8 Fd Amb Nui Dat for treatment to a cut lip.  [who was the NZ WIA..?]  Maj Torrance requested the mine clearing APC GEORGE do a sweep of the range the following morning but the engineers advised that GEORGE was designed to detonate pressure initiated devices and might not be useful for the clearance of unexploded ammunition.

12 MarARVN waiting on range ourside Horseshoe Hill
ARVN training continued but 18 ARVN Div advised that a 3rd Coy would not be sent as planned [their intention was to delay this training until late May or June 70].  ARVN conducted overnight patrols conjointly with W3 soldiers to practise patrolling, RIF and ambushing.  Locstats at 1320H were YS514622, YS531623, and YS548622.

ARVN waiting on range outside Horseshoe Hill

13 Mar
APC training started with ARVN, 1Sect 3Cav worked with ARVN most days until 30 Mar.

14 Mar
Comd 1ATF visited W Coy at 1145H

15 Mar [tough day for D8 CRAZY drivers]
At 1501H at YS493617 the driver of D8 CRAZY [Spr Cosgrove RAE] was wounded in the neck and forehead by a mine while dislodging the Horseshoe minefield fence.

At 1620H the replacement driver of D8 CRAZY [Spr Woods RAE] was wounded by shrapnel in both legs while inside the dozer as he cleared mines from inside the Horseshoe minefield, the shrapnel penetrated the armoured dozer through the air vent.  Spr Woods was casevac'd around 1700H. 

1645H locstat 2Pl YS590597

16 Mar
1935H the Horseshoe CP sent a tracked load carrier [TLC] from the US battery [C/2/35] to the DAT DO PF compound with large fire extinguishers to assist fight a fire that was threatening the compound ammo dump.  The local indirect fire support crews had a habit of hanging the discarded charge bags from arty and mortar projectiles on the concertina wire, these had been ignited by a flare and burnt around the perimeter igniting approx x9 M16 mines.  There were no casualties and little damage but Allied soldiers from the Horseshoe who assisted fight the fire were required to wear flak jackets and steel helmets.  The fire was no longer threatening at 2000H but cache found under tree in Light Green area 18 March 1970 [Brooker]continued burning until at least midnight.

17 Mar
Comd 1ATF visited W Coy at 1000H

18 Mar

0845H at YS580590 3Pl located a small cache about 4-days old located under trees above ground.  Contents included food and 1x RPG7 damaged by arty fire, x3 rockets for RPG7.  Contents destroyed in situ.

Comd 1ATF visited W Coy at 0900H

cache found under tree in Light Green area
18 March 1970 [Brooker]

19 Mar

Overnight patrols were conducted by ARVN conjointly with W3 soldiers.

Comd 1ATF visited W Coy at 0920H

During the early evening the W3 mortars and the US 155mm battery at the Horseshoe fired in support of the RF post at HOI MY YS5056 toward the coast on Route 44 who was engaged by a coy strength party of VC, there was some house-to-house fighting and x5 PF were WIA and later dusted off.  The ARVN training patrol c/s 56 observed a group of VC west of their location.  C/s 56 conducted a sweep the following morning with no results and returned to the Horseshoe.  The other two ARVN patrols also returned at first light.Dave Wright died of wounds 19 March 1970

NOTICAS FATAL - Pte David Wright [left] succumbed to secondary infections [likely renal failure] from his earlier wounds in January and died in Concord Repatriation Hospital Sydney on 19 March 1970.  Dave had been well enough by early March 1970 to be writing from Concord to friends in W3 and his death was sudden and unexpected, so sudden that a last letter was received in SVN after news of his death.
 

20 Mar
Comd 1ATF visited W Coy at 1000H

1045H locstat 3Pl YS577584

21 Mar
1520H night locstat ARVN ptl c/s55 YS523603.  APC training continued north of Route 23.

22 Mar
DComd 1ATF visited W Coy at 0940 [Comd was on R&C]

23 Mar
Comd 1ATF visited W Coy at 1015H

1500H 3Pl returned to Horseshoe.

1930H ARVN c/s54 detained 3x VC suspects aged 10-15 years old and suspected of being an advance element of a VC patrol.

Contact:  2000H at YS505618 ARVN c/s54 engaged movement to their front with small arms fire and a sweep at first light found 1x VC KIA with a US M16 rifle, a pack with 20m kilos rice and documents which indicated the VC was a member of the DAT DO guerrilla unit.  The patrol was operating without radio coverage at the time as the radio handset was broken.resupply in field by 9Sqn RAAF helicopter

24 Mar
1045H locstat 1Pl (-) YS584587, element c/s51Z YS588591

1145H locstat c/s51Z YS583595

resupply in field by 9Sqn RAAF helicopter

25 Mar
main body 6RAR deployed into AO AUCKLAND

Op RAVEN:  0800H W Coy with ARVN and APC deployed from Horseshoe Hill on Op RAVEN [appears 1Pl remained behind at Horseshoe] - 6RAR DO Logs continue to show W Coy ‘at Horseshoe’. 

The HQ 1ATF operations instruction 13/70 dated 24 March 1970 for Op RAVEN is here.  In outline the operation was to return the ARVN company of 5 Cav Regt 18 ARVN Div who had been training with W3 Coy to their base at XUAN LOC over a 4-day period.  The combined force comprised ARVN coy with elements W3 Coy, troop APC and AMC sect from B Sqn 3Cav Regt, CET from 1 Fd Sqn [engineers] and a mortar section from 6RAR/NZ.  Basically the force was allocated two different AO along the route north and to the east of SH2  [AO Rose and AO Tulip] in which to conduct RIF and ambush operations.  For research purposes the 'force' was allocated c/s 62 on the 1ATF Comd Net from 250700H until their return to Horseshoe Hill on 30 Mar 70.

Op RAVEN:  1055H locstat W Coy YS522698

Horseshoe:  1100H at YS492616 a mine was seen exploding from the Horseshoe but no movement was observed in the area.  At 1446H DAT DO advised that two youth aged 13 and 15 had been killed and their bodies were still inside the minefield.  A team from 1 Fd Sqn [engineers] used a mine clearing APC to penetrate the minefield in an attempt to recover the bodies but detonated four mines and damaged the vehicle.  The following morning the engineers used a D8 bulldozer [POWER] to pull the bodies out with toggles and the recovery was finished by 261100H.  The youth’s mother stated to SVN national police that they were sent to collect firewood but there was none in the area so the inference was they were attempting to lift M16 mines in imitation of their elders.

Horseshoe:  1130H locstat 1Pl(-) YS593598, c/s51Z YS590599approximate route of Op RAVEN [see Op Order for more accurate references] Young

Op RAVEN:  1220H locstat W Coy YS518705,

Op RAVEN:  1300H locstat W Coy YS515715

Op RAVEN:  1400H locstat W Coy YS508735

Op RAVEN:  1520H locstat W Coy YS508745

approximate route of Op RAVEN
[see Op Order for more accurate references]

26 Mar
Op RAVEN:  Comd 1ATF visited W Coy at 1000H

Horseshoe:  1140H at YS592611 1Pl located a cache with a large quantity of drugs and other field items in a hole approx 2’x2’x4’. The medical supplies were backloaded to NUI DAT for identification while x47 VC hammocks were retained by the platoon.

Op RAVEN:  1700H at YS496890 W Coy (-) arranged a DUSTOFF to evacuate 1x ARVN with a GSW to the foot.

27 Mar
Contact: 
Op RAVEN:  0450H at YS520895 ARVN c/s54 contacted 3-4 VC, 1x VC KIA and pack with food located during sweep at first light.  The documents indentified the VC KIA as 2ic Baria-Long Hoa Provincial unit.  Food was x12 Kilos sugar, noodles and tobacco.

Horseshoe:  0800H 3Pl (-) returned to Horseshoe

Horseshoe:  1115H locstat 1Pl YS591613

Horseshoe:  1625H at YS598606 1Pl sighted x3 VC dressed in black with weapons and packs moving south, there was no engagement.

Horseshoe:  A near tragedy - at 1930H the Horseshoe CP queried the 1ATF CP as to why the church at YS489651 had been occupied during the previous nights.  BARIA LO responded at 2330H that the church was Roman Catholic and had a special dispensation to remain open at night during Easter [in 1970 Easter was 27 March Good Friday and 29 March Easter Sunday].  The next morning the District Chief from DAT DO stated he knew nothing about any clearance to use the church at night.  At midnight 28 Mar artillery fire was directed at further lights at the church.  A Horseshoe patrol went out early 29 Mar and reported no damage other than ‘a few hunks off the church’ [nearest round landed within 10 metres] and that there was normal activity around the area [no further comment in logs concerning lights at night near the church].

I Was There: Kevin O'Brien  Shortly after my arrival to join W Company at the Horseshoe, I went for a day time familiarisation tour of the sentry positions.  Whilst visiting the northern sentry position high on the crater rim, the sentries told me how they had seen some lights on previous evenings.  I advised them that dealing with this sort of thing is what the FOO did and to call me if they saw any more.  Later that night I was awakened by a telephone call from the sentry post telling me they had again seen lights.  I went to the post with compass, map and radio and observed with them.  Shortly before midnight I also observed a flash of light.  I then calculated the approximate position by compass bearing and estimating the distance; converted this to a grid reference and called in a fire mission from the Australian battery at Nui Dat.  After ground and air clearance was received I fired the first adjusting round.  The flash appeared well left of where the light had earlier been seen and a correction was ordered and another round fired.  The next round appeared on line, and roughly at the right distance, but as there were now no more lights to be seen it was impossible to judge the distance with any accuracy.  I then fired a round “Fire for Effect” (whole battery – six guns – 1 round each) followed by another at “Drop 200”.  At this stage I made the decision that we had certainly warned anyone off and that any further firing was a waste of ammunition and gave “End of Mission” to the guns.  After sitting with the sentries for a while longer and seeing no further lights I headed back to bed.  Not long after falling asleep, the phone rang again.  This time it was a patched in call from the Duty Officer at HQ 1ATF asking if I had just engaged a church.  There appeared to be some concern in his voice.  He indicated that the District HQ at BARIA had given approval for a Midnight Mass – but that the information had not been forwarded to 1ATF until after my mission.  I advised that certainly I had just fired at some lights, and yes I had seen a church symbol on the map – but assumed it was derelict and certainly out of bounds at night.  The morning after W Coy was ordered to send out a patrol to investigate – and this patrol reported that indeed one round had landed very near the Church and that apparently it was occupied with worshipers awaiting mass the night before.  Later that day a helicopter visited the Horseshoe with a number of HQ 1ATF senior officers, including the Brigade Catholic Chaplain.  In discussions he indicated some relief that we missed the Church.  In hindsight I think it was lucky that we got as close as we did – but it certainly shows how close we came to having a major incident – with what could have been tragic consequences.

28 Mar
Horseshoe:  Between 1400H and 1510H between YS589600 and YS590598 a light helicopter directed c/s51Z into a small bunker system where 3x RPG rounds were found.

Op RAVEN:  at 1930H a ARVN sentry engaged noises to his front, there was a language problem understanding what was happening and the NZ troops decided to wait for first light to sort it out.  It was subsequently reported that there was no results from the sentries actions.

Horseshoe:  Arty fire was directed at the catholic church North of the Horseshoe position [see notes above].

29 Mar
Horseshoe:  Patrol visited church engaged by artillery the previous night [see notes above].

Op RAVEN [assumed]:  Comd 1ATF visited W Coy at 1000H

Op RAVEN:  W Coy arrived at XUAN LOC around noon to unload their ARVN colleagues.  At 1315H 3Cav requested clearance for x15 APC to move through LONG BINH from XUAN LOC to NUI DAT, this was granted [Cav element became Convoy 0088-1428 for road control purposes] and W Coy stayed overnight with US forces at LONG BINH.

30 Mar
Op RAVEN:  W Coy left LONG BINH to return to Horseshoe Hill.

Op RAVEN:  1320H an entry [from Escort] says that ‘2Tp Cav arrived 1215H ex-LONG BINH with W Coy on board.’

Horseshoe:  1610H at YS569599 1x NZ was casevac with heat stroke, temp 104.5, possibly from 2Pl.

Horseshoe:  2009H at YS500627 a W3 element detected movement and illuminated the area and used GPMG fire.  Mortars at Horseshoe were stood-to in case a target was detected.

31 Mar
0250H at YS498620 [500 metres out and observed from Horseshoe] movement and lights was engaged with a M60 from the Horseshoe.

03005H the searchlight at Bunker C caught 3-4 VC in the light at YS499618 and engaged with W3 mortars, results unknown.US searchlight at Bunker C Horseshoe Hill [Young]

1140H locstat 2Pl YS563596

Contact:  1515H at YS565596 2Pl sighted x15 VC moving north to south over 300 metres away and engaged them with US 8" arty from the Horseshoe [see more details here].  It was a forlorn hope that placing arty fire behind the VC party might force it back toward 2Pl.  In the event a LFT was tasked to overfly the area and at 1700H they located a VC with pack and weapon, 1x VC KIA.  A sweep by 2Pl the following morning found numerous tracks leading away from the contact area but no further bodies or discarded equipment.

US searchlight at Bunker C [in rear] Horseshoe Hill [Young]

Footnote:  W Coy continued to operate out of Horseshoe Hill until early April.

 

References:
 1ATF_Mar70_AWM95-1-4-182 March 1970,
6RAR History Book,
6RAR_Mar70_AWM95-7-6-31 March 1970
1 Fd Sqn RAE Feb70 AWM95-4-2-56 February 1970
1 Fd Sqn RAE Mar70 AWM95-4-2-57 March 1970

W Coy contact after-action reports for Mar 70        

read February 1970 timeline here          read April 1970 timeline here

full glossary here     anyone can offer corrections and updates to this detail - send here

index of service stories