Battle of Prek Klok II
|Battle of Prek Klok II|
|Part of Operation Junction City, Vietnam War|
|United States||Viet Cong|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Edward J. Collins||Unknown|
|One battalion with air support||Two battalions|
|Casualties and losses|
|3 killed, 38 wounded||197 killed, 5 captured|
The Battle of Prek Klok II occurred on March 10, 1967, during Operation Junction City when American military forces were conducting a search and destroy operation against the Viet Cong forces in Tay Ninh Province west of the capital of South Vietnam, Saigon. During the course of the operation they had already had a significant engagement in the Battle of Prek Klok I. During the night, Artillery Fire Support Patrol Base II at Prek Klok was attacked by two communist battalions, resulting in a short battle. This was the second major battle of Operation Junction City. The communists started by mortaring the base and launching anti-tank fire at the armored personnel carriers (APCs) surrounding the base. Attacks came from the north and east, followed by an infantry charge out of wooded areas from the southwest. With the help of air strikes from nearby planes, as well as artillery and ample supplies flown in by helicopter, the Americans easily repelled the communist attack, which consisted of two battalions. The Americans killed 197 communists but lost only three of their men.
On the evening of March 10, the 2d Battalion (Mechanized), 2d Infantry (minus Company B), commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Edward J. Collins, was securing the perimeter of Artillery Fire Support Patrol Base II located at Prek Klok on Route 4, 20 kilometres (12 mi) north of Nui Ba Den. Inside the circular "wagon train" perimeter of the base were the headquarters, and B and C Batteries of the 2d Battalion, 33d Artillery under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles D. Daniel, as well as elements of the 168th Engineer Battalion. The engineers were engaged in building a Special Forces and Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) camp and airfield in the area. The point of the CIDG was to involve local villagers from minority religious and ethnic groups in anti-communist defense efforts in isolated rural areas.
Nui Ba Den had long been a stronghold for guerrilla fighters for over a century. During the 19th century, the area was a favored organizing area and hideout for rebel movements opposed to the ruling Nguyen Dynasty of Vietnam. It was heavily used by religiously motivated peasant movements that were usually led by millenarian self-styled mystics. This continued into the 20th century as these new religious movements were often able to quickly gather supporters through claims of supernatural powers and promises to defeat French colonialists. The rugged terrain and dense foliage made the area ideal for guerillas and the communists had entrenched themselves there in recent times.
The 2d Battalion's armored personnel carriers (APCs) were placed at 50-metre (55 yd) intervals around the base perimeter. The areas between the tracks were protected by foxholes manned by infantry, engineers, and artillerymen. Just after sunset, the troops on the perimeter fired their weapons to test their readiness and put on a show of force to the communists in the vicinity. Ambush patrols and listening posts left the perimeter of the base for their sentry positions in the surrounding jungle for the night. At about 20:30, men of an A Company listening post to the east of the perimeter, while moving into position, reported seeing and engaging three Viet Cong with unknown results. Collins placed the battalion on 75 percent alert and artillery harassing fires continued.
At 2200 the Viet Cong commenced a heavy mortar attack on the circle of American troops. Within two minutes, the Americans began to respond through heavy mortar platoons led by Sergeant First Class Kenneth D. Davis. In all, Davis and his men fired a total of 435 rounds during the battle. In a period of half an hour, around 200 rounds of 120-mm, 82-mm, and 60-mm communist mortar fire exploded inside the base. The Viet Cong also employed 75-mm. recoilless rifles and RPG-2 antitank weapons against the perimeter of the base. Several tracks were hit and 20 US troops were wounded and helicopters were brought in to evacuate the injured.
As soon as the mortar barrage ended, Colonel Collins directed all his units to conduct a reconnaissance by fire of the area 200–600 meters beyond the perimeter. After the reconnaissance by fire ended, two communist battalions launched a ground attack from the east into the positions held by A Company at about 2230. During the attack, Staff Sergeant Richard A. Griffin of A Company ran from his sheltered position to resupply his comrades along the perimeter with ammunition. When the ground attack began, he returned to his machine gun and placed a heavy volume of accurate fire on the enemy. He was later awarded the Bronze Star with valor.
The Americans at the camp called the 3d Brigade tactical command post at Suoi Da to request to provide close tactical air support, artillery, medical evacuation for the wounded, and ammunition resupply. Medical evacuation and resupply were provided by five Hueys and a light fire team. The helicopters made 64 sorties were flown into Bases I and II. With their landing lights on, the aircraft brought in 16 tons of supplies. One hundred tactical air sorties supported the American ground forces.
In addition to the main infantry attack from the east, the Viet Cong launched smaller attacks from the northeast and southeast with recoilless rifles and automatic weapons one the A Company positions. Three of Company A's armored personnel carriers were hit by RPG-2 rounds and one track received a direct hit from a mortar round.
On the southwestern side of the American base, C Company was met by another communist attack head on. Moving parallel to the highway along the western side of the road, the Viet Cong ran across 500 meters of open ground towards C Company's positions from the southwest. Continuous fire from the Americans quickly overwhelmed the communists. The company never reported seeing more than a platoon of Viet Cong in the clearing, although many more communists fired from the woods.
When the mortar attack started, the artillery defensive concentrations which ringed the entire perimeter of the base were fired. As the communist attacks commenced, adjustments in the aim were made toward and onto the attacks. Nearby US artillery units at Bases I and III as well as at Prek Klok base itself swept the area around the perimeter with over five thousand rounds, while the 3d Brigade's forward air controllers directed the air strikes.
When the first US Air Force flight arrived in the area, Route 4 was declared a fire co-ordination line between the artillery and the aircraft. To the west of the road the artillery fired to stop the communist assault, while to the east American air power dropped bombs, rockets, and fired 20-mm cannon fire. The massive and use of air strikes and artillery was the main reason for the eventual US victory.
After an hour of heavy fighting, the main part of the Viet Cong attack had been repelled. Sniper fire continued as the Viet Cong withdrew, and it was about 04:30 that the communists stopped firing. Early morning ground and aerial observation of the area disclosed 197 enemy killed, while five wounded Viet Cong were taken prisoner, along with 12 weapons and some documents. The Americans lost 3 killed and 38 wounded. From the captured documents the attacking communist force was determined by the Americans to be two battalions of the 272d Regiment of the 9th Viet Cong Division.
- Rogers, p. 118.
- Rogers, p. 119.
- Chapuis, pp. 110–130.
- Rogers, p. 120.
- Rogers, p. 121.
- Chapuis, Oscar (2000). The Last Emperors of Vietnam: From Tu Duc to Bao Dai. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-31170-6.
- Rogers, Bernard William (1989). Vietnam Studies Cedar Falls – Junction City: A Turning Point. United States Army Center of Military History.