W3 Company - Operational Timeline
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MARCH 1970 - W3 COMPANY ACTIVITIES
This section has a detailed timeline for W3 Company activities from 1 to 31 March 1970
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glossary: xxxxH 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.
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 YS571668
1300H locstat 3Pl YS566685
Dave Simeon and section at Horseshoe
1045H locstat 3Pl YS565667
1252H locstat 3Pl YS566651
1140H 3Pl locstat Horseshoe, 1205H 3Pl locstat FSPB WILTON [confusion in logs]
0940H 1Pl at YS580600
1045H 1Pl at YS580592
1227H 1Pl at YS582586
Bob Newson on ARVN training patrol
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
1655H night location 1Pl YS558590
approaching Horseshoe Hill from
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
1150H locstat 1Pl elm YS574587, stationary until 1700H when they rejoined 1Pl.
ARVN waiting on range outside Horseshoe Hill
[tough day for D8 CRAZY
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
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
Overnight patrols were conducted by ARVN conjointly with W3 soldiers.
Comd 1ATF visited W Coy at 0920H
(Pte TWM Paenga V4 Coy was KIA during a clash)
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.
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.
1045H locstat 3Pl YS577584
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.
1145H locstat c/s51Z YS583595
resupply in field by 9Sqn RAAF helicopter
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 YS590599
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
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.
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.
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].
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.
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.
03005H the searchlight at Bunker C caught 3-4 VC in the light at YS499618 and engaged with W3 mortars, results unknown.
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.
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