W3 Company - Operational Timeline

index of individual and service stories


This section has a detailed timeline for W3 Company activities from 1 to 28 February 1970

offer corrections and updates to this detail - send hereRoger Greenaway with radio kit [Rowsell]

glossaryxxxxH is a time in 24-hour clock, if six-digit the first two are date
is a 6-figure map grid read left to right then bottom to top
[BC] actual body count, [BT] wounded VC identified by blood trail
full glossary here

Summary.  During early February 1970 W3 Coy continued operations to the west of Route 2, enjoying further success in a number of contacts with NVA or VC.  Mid month they were withdrawn for their first 48-hour recreational leave in Vung Tau and then replaced A Coy 6RAR/NZ as the garrison at the Horseshoe permanent base SE of NUI DAT and on the outskirts of DAT DO.

Pte Greenaway with radio kit [Rowsell]

Meanwhile back in Nui Dat 6RAR Routine Orders dated 1 Feb made speeding a prevalent offence within the battalion, describing the incidents of speeding as ‘unusual’.  Routine Orders published on 13 Feb however neglected to include speeding among the other prevalent offences [see link] – such is war...

6RAR was starting to publish administrative orders in preparation for their relief by 2RAR and return to Australia in May 1970.

Routine Orders also included this notice:

The HQ 1ATF TAOR Patrol schedules indicate W Coy rear details did TAOR ptl and ambushes on nights 1, 3, 9, 14 and 28 Feb, being dropped off and retrieved by truck, or walking out and back through the NUI DAT perimeter wire.

1ATF issued an advisory on the state of NVA/VC food supplies, that on the evidence from VC casualties and PW there was a general lack of food available to the NVA/VC inside Phuoc Tuy Province.  The advisory is here.

1 Feb
W Coy Night Locations: Coy HQ YS438870, 1Pl YS452891 and ambush YS449887, 2Pl YS429860 and ambush YS430868, 3Pl YS443885 and ambush YS443878, Pnr YS414869.

2 Feb
W Coy Night Locations: Coy HQ YS438870, 1Pl YS449882 and ambush YS454878, 2Pl YS427867, 3Pl YS445889 and ambush YS451893, Pnr YS454868.

3 Feb
0816H at YS449882 1Pl detained a male with bloodstained clothing and carrying 11,000 piaster.  He was released by national police.

Contact:  1925H [in dark] at YS449890 1Pl contacted 1 NVA, 1x NVA KIA.  1Pl were establishing an ambush in the vicinity of a house and the VC approached in darkness while a sentry was placing a claymore.  The VC was observed by another sentry  but the VC fired at the soldier placing the claymore who fired back and a body was found the following morning.  A second VC must have been present as no weapon was recovered.

W Coy Night Locations: Coy HQ YS438870, 1Pl YS449890 and ambush YS452883, 2Pl YS418858, 3Pl YS456893 and ambush YS451893, Pnr YS431856.

4 Feb
0710H at YS449890 1Pl contacted 1x VC, VC KIA.  KIA identified as Coy 2ic of C17(RR) Coy 274 Regt. 

1520H at YS418864 2Pl sighted 1x VC, VC not engaged.

Contact:  1930H [in dark] at YS445897 3Pl contacted 3x VC who took a shortcut between two tracks and walked into the rear of the ambush.  3Pl engaged at 15m range but all VC survived.  Arty illumination was fired to assist the platoon.

Contact:  1930H at YS431856 Pnr Pl contacted x2 VC travelling 30-40m away from the ambushed track, Pnr engaged and heard sounds of dragging, next morning drag marks were found indicating 1x VC WIA [drag marks].

W Coy Night Locations: Coy HQ YS438870, 1Pl YS448882 and ambush YS447889, 2Pl YS418858, 3Pl YS455897 and ambush YS448894, Pnr YS431856.

W Coy significant locations 1 -12 Feb 1970

5 Feb
0940H 1ATF advised that TET Truce period was from 051800H until 061800H

1030H at YS433857 Pnr Pl located a small abandoned camp with laundry on the line.

1345H at YS436855 Pnr Pl located a cache and rest area, clothing and personal items were destroyed.

W Coy significant locations
1 -12 Feb 1970

Contact:  1755H at 430850 Pnr Pl contacted 2x VC, 1x VC KIA.  [TET Truce started 5-minutes later - but Op Summary from 6RAR/NZ records the time as 1810H].  Report says VC approached rear of ambush and initiated the contact.  VC KIA was identified as sect comd staff sect 74 Arty Rkt Regt.

1800H TET Truce started, units could take no offensive action but were to ensure their own security.

W Coy Night Locations: Coy HQ YS438870, 1Pl YS456868 and ambush YS447865, 2Pl YS426868, 3Pl YS430873 and ambush YS433885, Pnr YS430850.

6 Feb
1015H at YS439865 Pnr Pl contacted 2x VC who initiated the contact, VC survived. [incident during the TET truce]

W Coy Night Locations: Coy HQ YS438870, 1Pl YS454864 and ambush YS445869, 2Pl YS426868, 3Pl YS419881 and ambush YS433885, Pnr YS437857.

7 Feb
1725H at YS428852 Pnr Pl contacted 1x VC, VC KIA.  VC identified as the political officer [2ic] of 74 NVA Arty Regt and he had been earlier wounded in the right arm.

W Coy Night Locations: Coy HQ YS438870, 1Pl YS450858 and ambush YS453869, 2Pl YS426868, 3Pl YS412878 and ambush YS418880, Pnr YS428853.

8 Feb
Pnr Pl detached from W Coy and joined D Coy.

Contact:  1600H at YS376857 3Pl contacted 5-6 VC in ‘contact rear’.  The platoon was inadvertently moving parallel to a track.  When the lead scout paused to report finding the track a VC party moving along the track bumped the rear section of the platoon who engaged them at a range of 10m.  1x VC was KIA in the initial engagement but the machine gun jammed when the gunners sweat rag caught in the belt links and was pulled into the gun mechanism.  When the platoon quickly followed up obvious blood trails dead VC were found 30m and 100m away from the point of contact.  Five VC packs were recovered, all VC were members of HQ staff and Rear Services of SR4.  A fuller account of the contact is here.

W Coy Night Locations: Coy HQ and 1Pl YS394866, 2Pl YS387863, 3Pl YS376856 and ambush YS375862.

9 Feb
W Coy Night Locations: Coy HQ and 1Pl YS377843, 2Pl YS368846, 3Pl YS377846.

10 Feb
W Coy Night Locations: Coy HQ and 2Pl YS374834, 1Pl YS374838, 3Pl YS375836.

11 Feb
0935H at YS374827 1Pl contacted 1x VC, VC KIA.  1Pl were following a track and the encounter was a classic 'contact front' where the scout encountered and shot the VC at close range then moved quickly further along the track to block the approach while the sect comd also fired at the VC to ensure there was no further threat.  The VC was a member of Finance Sect SR4.

W Coy Night Locations: Coy HQ and 2Pl YS363824, 1Pl YS376820, 3Pl YS379822.

12 Feb
1135H from PZ at YS365823 W Coy extracted by air back to Nui Dat.

W Coy Night Locations: complete at NUI DAT.

13 - 14 Feb
W Coy Night Locations: rifle platoon and Coy HQ complete at Peter Badcoe Club 1ALSG VUNG TAU for their first R in C recreation break.

[13 February 1970 Black Sabbath, arguably the first heavy metal album, was released]

15 Febfeatures of terrain and habitation in vicinity of Horseshoe Hill
W Coy relieved A Coy 6RAR/NZ at the Horseshoe and were detached from 6RAR/NZ to operational control of HQ 1ATF.  W3 mortar section was already at the Horseshoe having arrived the previous day.

Background to the Horseshoe.  The Horseshoe [officially referred to as Horseshoe Hill], a crescent shaped hill [the southern end was open] just north of the village of DAT DO and 8Km SE of the task force base at NUI DAT had been established as a permanent company base by 5RAR early in 1967 [photos of the Horseshoe taken in 1970 are here].  A fortnight after V Coy arrived in SVN [13 May 67] they relieved A Coy 6 RAR at the Horseshoe, remaining until 3 July 67, and their website reports that throughout this time they effectively built the position from a rudimentary defended position to a fully dug-in and bunkered fortified base.  It was hard work digging into the cone of an extinct volcano, basically solid rock with no shade, and after nearly six weeks V Coy were glad to leave.  The Australian coy that relieved them finished the construction using engineer mechanical plant.

features of terrain and habitation
in vicinity of Horseshoe Hill

Due to its height above the otherwise flat plain the Horseshoe overlooked the approaches to the village of DAT DO on Route 44.  It was supposed to help secure the barbed wire fence and barrier minefield, built by 1ATF in 1967, that stretched from the Horseshoe south and parallel to Route 44 for 11Km to the coast.  However the Horseshoe position had no control over most of this length, particularly at night, and the local villagers easily lifted mines from the field for the VC to mine other areas where Australian and New Zealand troops were likely to patrol. 

The Horseshoe position was more than a company patrol base, frequently hosting field and medium artillery that were supporting operations to the NE and SE and the resident company also became 'sheriff' for activities in the near vicinity of the base.  On the arrival of W3 Coy Maj Torrance noted that he became landlord to the following equipment and personnel:

Tp A Sqn 1Armd Regt x15 [people] with three Centurion tanks,
Admin Coy drivers x2,
1ATTV advisor x1,
det 104 Sigs Sqn x3,
det 110 Sigs Sqn x2,
sect 131Div Loc Tp with locating radars x13,
US Army searchlight team x5,
17 Construction Sqn x1,
1 Field Sqn x44,
W3 Coy mortars x10,
interpreters x6,
Aslt Pnr x5 and
US tracked howitzer battery x95 - see this story..!

1000H on 15 Feb Comd 1ATF visited W Coy for 20-minutes as part of a series of visits to deployed units. He and [during his absence mid-month on leave] the acting commander returned several times during the month [often daily according to the 1ATF HQ Duty Officers log].

During late February the records of platoon movement outside the Horseshoe are sketchy so unless shown otherwise the W3 Coy night locations are assumed to be 'complete at Horseshoe'.

16 - 18 Feb
Having settled in to a routine within the Horseshoe Maj Torrance started a period of refresher trainUS Army 8" propelled artillery at the Horseshoe March 1970 [Stock]ing where one platoon would be absent on patrol tasks while the other platoons had an opportunity to work on new operational procedures and to do range practise with individual and section weapons.  more detail here

US Army 8" propelled artillery at the Horseshoe March 1970 [Stock]

18 Feb 
A USAF C123 provider overflew the Horseshoe on an aerial spray mission which many later considered to have been delivering Agent Orange [AO], although the flight profile lacked all the hallmarks of an AO mission and Horseshoe Hill had no significant vegetation in the immediate vicinity.  further comment is here.

19 Feb
1100H at YS486624 a US Army Jetranger light helicopter crashed 150m from the road just outside the Horseshoe.  The two crew were not injured and a security element [APC and land rover] from the Horseshoe protected the site.  [anyone add any details..?]

Major John McGuire (V5 Company) visited during the course of his pre deployment reconnaissance.

Night location 1Pl YS5546351Pl leaving Horseshoe for close-by training (no packs visible) [Stock]

20 Feb
1510H 1Pl at YS553636

Night location 1Pl not recorded.

1Pl leaving Horseshoe for close-by training (no packs visible) [Stock]

21 Feb
0530H [approx] a B52 heavy bomber strike targeted the Lang Phuoc Hai mountains south west of the Horseshoe.  an account is here.

1210H 1Pl at YS556618

1330H an element of ARVN [AP1] arrived at the horseshoe to start training.   [anyone add any details..?]

Gate bunker controlling entrance to Horseshoe [Stock]1530H a 'Vietnamese national' [ARVN..?] was logged as having blown off two fingers and being transported to Dat Do for processing.  [Is this the story here..? some details don't match]

2145H the searchlight sited beside Bunker C [looking east] detected movement at YS515625 which was engaged with .50 cal MG fire from Bunker C.

Gate bunker controlling entrance to Horseshoe [Stock]

22 Feb
1115H 2Pl at YS538602

23 Feb
at 0030H a M16 mine in the close protection minefield around the horseshoe was detonated.  A check at day break found nothing.

24 Feb
nothing in report

W Coy significant locations 15 - 28 Feb 1970
W Coy significant locations 15 - 28 Feb 1970

25 Feb
A report at 1950H described how 3Pl were inserted by air at YS575662 during the day and moved to YS5866 locating extensive but old bunker systems, bloodstained bandages, and other sign only 3 - 4 days old.  3Pl intended to remain in the area as it 'shows a lot of promise'.

The 1ATF duty officer signing the duty officer report for 25 Feb [and several other days] was Capt Bret Bestic RNZIR [later Brigadier and Comd Land Force Command Auckland] .

26 Feb
At 1000H 3Pl at YS582669

At 1625H 3Pl at YS572672.

27 Feb
0930H [approx] 3Pl at YS571669

1130H Comd Aust Forces Vietnam [AFV] and party visited Horseshoe for 20-30 minutes.

28 Feb
6RAR/NZ less W Coy started a new operation [Op GISBORNE].

During the day elements from 18 ARVN Div started arriving at the Horseshoe for a training period with W Coy.  ARVN units involved were B Coy 5Cav Regt and 2 Coy 3Bn 48 Regt.

[Black Saturday - 8RAR lost nine KIA and 15 WIA when two mines exploded during a patrol in the Long Hai hills - details at the end of this link]

Night Location 3Pl YS571668

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

References: AWM95/7/6/29 January 1970 [6RAR], 6RAR History Book, AWM95/7/6/30 February 1970 [6RAR], AWM95-7-6-31 March 1970 [6RAR]  and AWM95-1-4-180 February 1970 [HQ 1ATF]

some W Coy contact after-action reports for Feb 70

read January 1970 timeline here          read March 1970 timeline here

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

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