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Viewing Topic "The 9th Division in the Battle of Tan Ngai, 1965"
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Posted by: Amaral The 9th Infantry Division had three regiments (the 13th, the 14th, and the 15th Regiments) and two organic 105-mm artillery battalions. (At the request of the men of the 13th Regiment who believed that the number thirteen was unlucky, the 13th Regiment was later changed to the 16th Regiment and the morale and performance of the regiment noticeably improved.) The total effective force of the division was about 10,000 men. One Ranger battalion (the 43rd Ranger), one armored regiment (with two M-113 APC Cavalry Troops) and one 155-mm artillery battalion were also attached to the division. Each province or military sector within the division Tactical Area had direct control over a number of Regional Forces (RF) companies and each district or military subsector had their organic Popular Forces (PF) platoons. Thus, the total effective force under the division's tactical control, including the RF and PF forces, amounted to about 60,000 men.


After my first modest military successes, I decided it was time to take on the VC regular battalions. I also decided that my next target would be the VC Vinh Binh Provincial Battalion and the battle would be set at the famous enemy secret base of the village of Tan Ngai, approximately five kilometers west of the District of Cau Ke. Tan Ngai, a fortified two-kilometer-long village located on the west bank of Cau Ke River, had been a Communist stronghold during the French colonial days. Tan Ngai so far had remained untouched and it was obvious that any attack on this fortified base would be risky.

I needed the support of armored units I were to win this important battle. Lieutenant Colonel Tin, the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment Commander, assured me that the M-113 APCs would be able to reach the open rice fields directly west of Tan Ngai by overcomming the thick mangroves on the northern bank of the Bassac River, provided that the landing would take place during high tide. I decided to launch the attack by using a combination of naval landing and heliborne operation. My plan called for transporting two battalions of the 15th Regiment and one M-113 Cavalry Troop by Navy LSTs (Landing Ship, Tank) from the Bassac ferry site south of Vinh Long to a landing site south of the village of Tan Ngai. The 15th Regiment would attack from the south and the APC troop, reinforced with the division's Reconnaissence Company, would take up position west of Tan Ngai and would be held in reserve for the main assault. The 43rd Ranger Battalion would be heliborne to a LZ north of Tan Ngai and would attack in a southerly direction. One battalion from the 15th Regiment would be held in reserve in Cau Ke District, where the division's CP would be located. To block enemy escape to the east, two RF companies from Vinh Binh Sector would occupy the eastern bank of the Cau Ke River.

Around 6:00 AM. on D-Day, two LSTs disgorged the 15th Regiment and one APC troop near the estuary of the Cau Ke River. At 6:30 AM., I circled the northern area of Tan Ngai and picked up the LZ for the 43rd Ranger Battalion whose first elements landed around 6:45 AM. Immediatly after landing, the two battalions of the 15th Regiment, as expected, met strong resistance from the enemy dug in behind dense trees and endless sugar canes fields. The 43rd was finally able to clear a landing path among the mangroves and to reach shore. At around 10:00 am., the APC troop took up position west of Tan Ngai and was ready for the assault.

By that time, it was obvious the enemy was trapped in Tan Ngai and had to fight for its life. Artillery and helicopter gunships were called in to support the attacking forces. At around 3:00 PM., the advance elements of the 43rd Rangers moving from the north and the 15th Regiment attacking from the south, were approximately 500 meters from each other and the enemy battalion dug in between these elements offered furious resistence.

I decided it was time for the final assault. After a heavy tactical airstrike followed by gunship close support, the APC troop went into action, blasting point blank at the VC identified fortifications at the edge of the village with all its organic .50 machine guns while attacking in the direction of the sugar cane fields between the collored grenade smokes that marked the positions of the advance elements of the 43rd Ranger and the 15th Regiment.

It should be noted that the wet terrain and the existence of many rivers and ravines prevented the use of regular army tanks in the Mekong Delta. This was the reason the tank squadron of the 2nd Armored Regiment was put under the control of IV Corps to be used for the defense of Can Tho Airport and also as a reserve for IV Corps. Although the M-113 APC was used for troop transportation and was more vulnerable to recoilless rifle fire than a regular tank, a M-113 Cavalry Troop, in addition to its organic .50 machine guns, was equipped with three 81-mm mortars, one 57-mm recoilless rifle, and one fire thrower. This formidable fire power, combined with timely and skillful tactical maneuvers, was a decisive factor in many victories in the Mekong Delta.

Around 4:00 AM., the battle of Tan Ngai ended. The APC troop and the supporting 9th Division's Reconnaissance Company occupied the assigned target and linked up with the 43rd Ranger and elements of the 15th Regiment. Lt. Gen. John Heintges, Deputy MAC-V, dropped in for a visit and I took him to the village of Tan Ngai to inspect the battlefield first hand. Enemy corpses were all around the dikes and in the rice paddies. I picked up one enemy AK-47 and presented it to General Heintges as a souvenir of his visit.

We suffered about twenty killed and fifty wounded. The enemy left around 150 dead along with numerous weapons, including recoilless rifles and machine guns. The Tan Ngai battle was the first major victory for the 9th Infantry Division. For all practical purposes, the VC Vinh Binh Provincial Battalion ceased to exist, at least for the time being, for I was aware that the enemy would soon draft young peasants and dig into their local units to replenish the effective force of the badly damaged battalion. But it would take at least six months for the Vinh Binh VC Provincial Battalion to become operational again. In the meantime, the Vinh Binh Province could take advantage of this respite to further its pacification program.

- General Lam Quang Thi, CO, "The Twenty-Five Year Century", pg. 142-146
Posted on: 06/08/2014 00:48:00

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Posted by: three
Total Posts: 7
Joined Date: Tuesday, 8 February 2011
Thank you for this first hand account.

Osprey I think the above supports this month's book vote and the need to revisit the South Vietnamese story in multiple voumes
Posted on: 06/08/2014 13:27:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
You are welcome. The book from which I typed this account is worth a look for anyone interested in the Vietnam War.
Posted on: 07/08/2014 17:59:00

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