OPERATION FINNEY HILL
Combat Operation after Action Report
SUBJECT: Combat Operations after Action Report
23d Infantry Division
APO San Francisco 96374
1. NAME OF OPERATION: Finney Hill
2. DATES OF OPERATION: 010601 March – 011200 July 1971
3. LOCATION: Quang Ngai Province from the Song Tra Khuc River south to the Mr I/ MR Boundary, from the South China Sea west to vicinity the Song Re River. Map Vietnam, 1:1,000,000 series L607, Sheets 6639, 6739, 6738, 6638.
4. COMMAND AND CONTROL HEADQUARTERS:
a. 1 March – 11 April 1971: 198th Infantry Brigade
b. 12 April – 1 July 1971 11th Infantry Brigade
5. REPORTING OFFICERS:
a. Colonel William R. Richardson, Commanding Officer, 198th Infantry Brigade, 1 March – 18 March 1971.
b. Colonel Charles R. Smith, Commanding Officer, 198th Infantry Brigade, 19 March – 11 April 1971.
c. Colonel Warner S. Goodwin JR., Commanding Officer, 11th Infantry Brigade, 12 April – 1 July 1971.
6. TASK ORGANIZATION:
198th Infantry Brigade Control
1-14th Artillery (DS)
B co, 26th Engineer (DS)
57th Infantry Platoon (Scout Dog)
87th Chemical Detachment
3d Battalion 1st Infantry
1st Battalion 6th Infantry
1st Battalion 20 Infantry
4th Battalion 21 Infantry
1st Battalion 52 Infantry
c. 12-April – 1July 1971
11th Infantry Brigade Control
HHC, 11th Brigade
6-11 Artillery (DS)
3/26 Engineers (DS)
1/23 MP Company
3/B/523 Signal Battalion
Det 328 Radio Research Unit
TMI, 635 MI Detachment
90th Chemical Detachment
A/23d Support and Transportation Battalion (DS)
D/723d Maintenance Battalion (DS)
59th Infantry Platoon ( Scout Dog)
B/23d Medical Battalion
3-1 Infantry 1-20 infantry
Sqd/C/26 Eng (DS) Sqd/C/26th Eng (DS)
D/6-11 Arty (DS) A/6-11 Arty (DS)
4-21 Infantry (1 March –5 June) 4-3 Infantry (8 April – 3 May)
Sqd/C/26 Eng (DS) Sqd/C/26th Eng (DS)
B/6-11 Arty (DS) C/6-11 Arty (DS)
TF 23 Calvary (5 May – 1 July)
E Trp, 1st Cav
H Trp, 17th Cav
7. SUPPORTING FORCES: Artillery fire support was provided by 1st Battalion 14th Artillery and by6th Battalion 11th Artillery operating in Direct Support for the 198th Infantry Brigade and the 11th Infantry Brigade respectively. Elements of the 1st Battalion, 82 Artillery supported the Direct Support Artillery Battalions in the General Support Reinforcing role. Air Cavalry supports was provided by B Company, 123d Aviation Battalion. Helicopter Support for combat assaults, air moves, and routine resupply was provided by the 174th Assault Helicopter Company. Tactical air support was requested thru 23d Infantry Division on an as needed basis. Air strikes were targeted against enemy base areas, Known enemy position, and contact missions to suppress or destroy the enemy as he attempted to disengage from U>S> units.
8. INTELLIGENCE: See Annex A (Intelligence)
9. MISSION: To conduct unilateral and combined operations with ARVN forces to locate and destroy the VC Quang Ngai Provincial Headquarters and the 21st NVA Regiment. Additionally, to assist in the GVN Pacification and Revolutionary Development Program by conducting combat operations in conjunction with RF/PF forces to destroy VC/NVA forces and to assist in the Rice Denial Program.
10. CONCEPT OF OPERATION:
a. MANUEVER: The concept of ground operations for Finney Hill remained essentially the same as in the past. Each battalion, normally, maintained one Rifle Company on its fire support base and three-rifle companies operation in the battalion’s AO. The rifle companies were to find and destroy the enemy in his base areas and to deny him access to populated areas. This was accomplished by employing the techniques of saturation patrols and ambushes. Flexibility in operations was maintained throughout Finney Hill by the extensive use of combat assaults and night movements. Rice Denial operations were conducted in conjunction with RF/PF forces to further enhance the GVN pacification program.
b. Fires: During Operation Finney Hill each maneuver battalion was supported by 105mm Artillery Battery in direct support. In addition, the fires of 155mm, 8 inch, and 175mm guns were available on request. When the tactical situation dictated artillery was repositioned by road or air movement to better support the ground operations. Both tactical air support and helicopter gun-ships were available to all ground units upon request.
a. 1-7 March: Most of the contacts during the first week of the operation were confined to the lowlands. The enemy made numerous attacks on RF/PF outposts and ARVN Fire Support Bases on 2 March. On 3 March Recon Company, 4th ARVN Regiment at BS615610 killed 24 NVA. D/1-52 while in ambush position at BS290585 killed one NVA. On 4 March, D/1-52 engaged and killed four NVA at BS290585. Also on 4 March, 1-4 ARVN ambushed and killed five NVA. On 5 March, D/1-52 engaged a squad of NVA, killing three and capturing two NVA. D/1-1 Cavalry engaged an unknown size enemy force on 6 March at BS345445 killing five VC.
b. 8 –14 March: On 9 March B/123 Aviation at BS 339802 engaged an enemy force killing five NVA. On the same day, 2/6 ARVN conducted a raid at BS510763 and BS506748, killing seven VC and capturing 20 VC, one M-16 and 1,000pounds of rice. C/1-52, at BS396816 engaged one squad of VC killing two. C/1-6 at BS472894 engaged an unknown size enemy element capturing three VC and three AK-47’s. Again on the 10 March A/1-20 had a mechanical ambush detonate killing one NVA. On 11 March 3-6 ARVN at BS545774 engaged the enemy resulting in four VC KIA. On 12 March 1-6 ARVN at BS420800 found the graves of 25 VC KBA. A/4-21 engaged and killed one VC at BS766357 on 13 March.
c. 15-21 March:B/1-52 at BS399803 engaged an enemy unit, killing three VC on 15 March. Also on the 15th Recon/1-20 engaged and killed one VC capturing one M-16 at grid BS728453. On 17 March, A/4-21 engaged and killed one NVA and captured a 9mm pistol at BS777337. On 18 March, C/1-52 engaged 10-15 NVA killing three. On 19 March 1-6 ARVN at grid BS564762 made contact with two companies of VC resulting in 16 ARVN KIA, two ARVN WIA, and 35 ARVN MIA. Two significant contacts were made on 20 March 1971: First the 3-6 ARVN engaged an unknown sized enemy force at BS418809 resulting in 28 VC KIA. C/1-52 also made contact at BS564762 resulting in 15 NVA KIA.
d. 22-31 March: On 24 March the 6 ARVN Regiment accounted for 24 enemy KIA in numerous small engagements throughout their AO. On the same day C/1-52 engaged and killed five VC at BS347817. On 25 March D/1-20 conducted a raid at BS726433 resulting in 4,000 pounds of rice CIA. While conducting operations on the same day B/123 Aviation killed seven VC at BS4922657. On the 28 March, two significant contacts were made. C/1-52 at BS390802 engaged approximately 30 NVA resulting in three NVA KIA and 12NVA KBA. The 2-6 ARVN at BS508828 engaged 40 VC resulting in 12 VC KIA. On the 28 and 29 March A/4-21 had two small engagements resulting in three VC/NVA KIA. On the 29th C/4-21 engaged and killed one VC at BS795260. The last two days of March passed without contact.
e. 1-11 April: The month started off with D/1-1 Cavalry at BS683584 engaging one squad of VC killing four. On 2 April D/1-52 engaged one platoon of NVA netting five KIA. On 3 April, Night Hawk Saber engaged approximately 20 VC at BS756530 killing 11. On 4 April, B/1-20 had a mechanical ambush detonate resulting in one NVA KIA and one AK-47 CIA. The next action occurred on 7 April when D/1-52 found an enemy base area. The base area was occupied and the ensuing fight resulted in six NVA KIA. On 8 April, Recon/3-1 engaged a VC moving along the river at BS485758 resulting in one VC KIA. ON 9 April snipers from B/4-21 captured one VC and one AK-47. C/3-1 had a mechanical ambush detonate at BS459709 resulting in one NVA WIA/CIA. Operation Finney Hill was terminated for the 198th Infantry Brigade on 11 April and the 11th Infantry Brigade assumed control of the operation.
f. 12-18April: On 14 April D/1-20 found a destroyed NVA base camp containing seven NVA KIA and one destroyed 82mm mortar tube. The base camp was believed to have been destroyed by an air strike. On 16 April C/3-1 found six graves containing six NVA killed by small arms fire. Credit for the kills was given to Charlie Company for a previous engagement. On 18 April D/4-3 engaged two NVA at BS438501 resulting in two NVA KIA and two AK-47’s CIA. Seven additional VC/NVA were killed in the Brigade area in several small engagements.
g. 19-25 April: This Week was costly for the 11th Brigade due to booby traps. A total of seven U.S. were killed and 16 U.S. wounded in two incidents in the AO. In other action, Recon/3-1 killed one NVA and captured one AK-47’s when a mechanical ambush detonated at BS471655. On 25 April D/3-1 engaged and killed one NVA and captured one M-16. On the same day A/1-20 ambushed one VC resulting in one VC KIA.
h. 26 April – 2 May: The week was highlighted on 29 April when D/3-1 found a weapons cache containing 129 US and Foreign weapons. The cache was located at BS497669. In other action on the same day Recon/4-21 had a mechanical ambush detonate resulting in two NVA KIA. On 30 April A/1-20 made contact with four NVA resulting in four NVA KIA. Later in the Day D/1-20 made contact with an unknown size enemy force resulting in four NVA KIA. A/4-21 had a mechanical ambush detonate resulting in one NVA KIA and one AK-47 CIA.
i. 3-9 May: Action was light this week but several major changes took place with the 11th Brigade. On 3 May 4-3 Battalion was released from Operation Finney Hill and moved to join the 198th Brigade. Then on 6 May Task Force 23d Cavalry joined the 11th Brigade and began combat operations to support: Finney Hill. B Troop, 1st Cavalry on 8 and 9 May, operating with a PF platoon captured one VC, three weapons, and 3,000 pounds of rice. On 4 May Recon/1-20 engaged and killed two VC in a brief encounter. A mechanical ambush set up by A/3-1 also accounted for one NVA KIA on 4 May. B/123 Aviation while working in vicinity BS510523 engaged and killed six NVA.
j. 10-16 May: Action was light this week in the 11th Brigade AO with TF 23d Cavalry accounting for most of the action. On 12 May E Troop 1st Cavalry captured 10 tons of rice while killing one VC and capturing another. On 10 May A/4-21 engaged and killed one NVA at BS736286. B/1-20 had a mechanical ambush detonate on 11 May resulting in one NVA KIA, and on 16 May A/4-21 made contact with an unknown size enemy force resulting in one VC KIA.
k. 17-23 May: On 17 May Recon/1-20, while in an ambush position, engaged and killed three VC. On the same day, E troop 1st Cavalry found a rice cache containing 5.5 tons of rice. On 20 May B/1-20 made contact with an unknown size enemy force resulting in two VC KIA. On 23 May B/1-20 again made contact resulting in Two more VC KIA and one AK-47 and one Carbine CIA.
l. 24-30 May: On 27 May B/1-20 left a mechanical ambush in an old NDP resulting in two VC KIA and two AK-47’s CIA. On 28 and 29 May B/123d Aviation made contact with an unknown size force resulting in four NVA KIA and one AK-47 CIA. Sniper team from 3-1 accounted for one VC on killed on 28 May.
m. 31-May – 6 June: Action this was light with TF 23d Cavalry accounting for most of the contacts. On 1 June H-17 Cavalry had a mechanical ambush detonate resulting in two VC/NVA KIA. On 4 June the capture one VC while operating from a day ambush position. And on 4 June while operating with the RF’s troops and they engaged an unknown size enemy force resulting in two VC/NVA KIA and four VC/NVA CIA. On 5 June 4-21 Battalion departed LZ Bronco for other operations, those ending their operations in Finney Hill.
n. 7-13 June: Action was Very light in the 11th Brigade with only two small contacts resulting in three VC/NVA KIA and one AK-47 CIA.
o. 14-20 June: Action picked up in the AO this week with the enemy again coming up short. On 16 June E troop 1st Cavalry operating with RF troops engaged an unknown size enemy fore resulting in three VC/NVA KIA and one VC WIA/CIA. On 17 June D/3-1 had a mechanical ambush detonate resulting in three NVA KIA and three AK-47’s CIA. Snipers from 3-1 also killed one VC on 19 June. On 20 June Charlie/1-20 engaged nine NVA with packs and weapons resulting in two NVA KIA and One AK 47 CIA.
p. 21-27 June: Action was again light in the AO this week. In one engagement E Troop 1st Cavalry killed two VC/NVA and captured six VC/NVA. On 21 June A/1-20 had a mechanical ambush detonate resulting in one NVA KIA. On 22 June the 11th Brigade CP moved from LZ Bronco to FSB Dottie.
q. 28 June-1 July: Negative contacts within 11th Brigade AO.
SUMMARY: The 11th Infantry Brigade’s combat operations during Operations Finney Hill were generally characterized by small unit actions. No major unit contacts were made during the reporting period. The enemy continually operated in small units and avoided contact wherever possible. Mechanical ambushes resulted in many enemy kills during the operation and greatly restricted the enemy’s freedom of movement.
CIA - 36
CSWC - 33
1 March – 11 April
12 April –1 July
NBD - 3
13. ADMINISTRATIVE MATTERS:
14. SPECIAL EQUIPMENT AND TECHNIQUES: During the operations Finney Hill units made customs use of war dogs particularly the scout and tracker dog teams. The units reported these teams to be extremely helpful in most cases. Units also made extensive use of flame drops by CH-47 aircraft to burn off vegetation in known booby-trap area's. The flame drops were used to uncover bunkers, trenches, and rice caches, some difficulty was encountered on occasion by inaccurate or premature drops caused by pilot error or equipment failure.
15. COMMANDER’S ANALYSIS:
a. Operations during Finney Hill were characterized by widely dispersed units, utilizing saturation patrols and ambushes to reduce the enemy’s ability to move.
Eagle flights were used throughout the operation and were particularly effective in the lowland areas. Combined operations with RVN and RF/PF forces also met with success especially in populated areas. In addition, the employment of mechanical ambushes on enemy lines of communications has proven to be an effective means of restricting enemy movement.
b. Armored Cavalry operations with the RF/PF forces proves to be quite effective. Encouraged by the firepower and mobility of the armored vehicles the RF/PF forces were willing to operate away from their fixed defensive positions thus gaining valuable field experience. These combined operations were also quite effective in finding enemy food and equipment caches. This also enable the U. S. and ARVN forces to engage the enemy in the unpopulated mountain regions.
c. Overall the operation must be termed a success. The Brigade successfully limited the enemy’s ability to move and thus kept him from massing his forces for a major attack. The GVN Pacification program made significant progress in the last five months and with the state of training of the ARVN and RF/PF at this time it should continue to improve.
16. RECOMMONDATION: Continued emphasis should be placed on the training of junior officers and non-commissioned officers in small unit patrolling and ambush techniques.
WARNER S. GOODWIN, JR.
ANNEX A (INTELLIGENCE) to AFTER ACTION REPORT FINNEY HILL
1. THE AREA OF OPERATION:
a. Weather: The weather during operation Finney Hill was generally seasonal and had very little effect upon the planning and execution of combat operations. Early April was variable with occasional rain. Air operations during April were slightly limited due to restricted visibility in the low ground caused by early morning fog. Early morning clouds usually cleared by mid-morning to become scattered to broken in the late afternoon. The latter part of April brought generally clearer weather with isolated afternoon and evening thunderstorms in the mountains. During the first week of May air operations were again hampered by the effects of tropical storm WANDA. The only isolated thunderstorms in the western parts of the AO causing no significant influence on combat operations.
(1) This area of operations is part of the northern high-lands of South Vietnam and is characterized by three type of terrain; the wide belt of mountains in the west, a narrow transitional piedmont in the central portion of the AO, and the coastal plains in the east.
(a) The western portion of the AO consists of rugged, jungle-covered mountains rising to elevations in excess of 4,000 feet and intersected by numerous small river valleys. This area offers maximum concealment while at the same time hindering foot movement of friendly forces making complete searches of the area extremely difficult.
(b) The narrow piedmont consists of undulating hills compartments by numerous river valleys. These waterways extend like fingers from the eastern piedmont, the hill range from 30 to 70 meters in elevation, with slopes between 10 and 20 degrees.
(c) The coastal plains are a relatively flat strip, extending the length of the AO. The plains are interspersed with isolated hills and ridges and are sectioned in many areas by rice paddies, bounded by dikes two to five feet high and eight to ten feet wide. The eastern edge of the coastal plains consists of beaches covered by scattered scrub brush.
(2) The principle rivers are the Nuoc Ong (generally runs Northwest to Southeast in the high mountainous area), the Son Tra Bong, Song Tra Khuc, and Son VE which come from the west and flow eastward through the piedmont and coastal plains to the South China Sea, and the Song Re and Dak Selo which run north-south in the mountainous region.
(3) Evergreen secondary forests are predominant in the mountains. Areas of grass and deciduous trees are interspersed throughout the area and dry cultivation is widespread. Trees range in height from 25 to 30 meters, with a few as high as 50 meters. Tree canopy is continuous in large areas. In the coastal plains, rice and dry crops are the major vegetation. Rice fields are filled to depths of 6 to 18 inches and drained just prior to harvest in March and August. When mature, rice forms a dense green grass, tree to four feet tall, villages and hamlets are often surrounded by dense vegetation including thick hedges between houses.
(4) In the highlands, the key terrain is generally those sections of high ground from which control can be exerted over is valleys, the cultivation areas and the road or trail networks on the valley floors. In the piedmont area, the key terrain in the high ground which controls the valleys opening out to the east. On the coastal plain, key terrain features include the high ground and those locations that control waterways, roads, and ports of entry.
(d) Enemy Situation:
(1) Estimated strength, location and disposition of enemy forces at the start of the operation:
21st NVA Regt Hq 500 BS4442
60th NVA Bn 300 BS UNLOC
70th NVA Bn 350 BS5748
80th NVA Bn 300 BS UNLOC
403d NVA Sapper Bn 270 BS7829
107th NVA Hvy Wpns Bn 168 BS5157
40th NVA Sapper Bn 190 BS6349
120th LF Montgd Bn 300 BS2367
406th MF Sapper Bn 400 BS3981
38th LF Bn 160 BS7246
48th LF Bn 200 BS5486
C-18th LF Co 20 BS6458
C-19th LF Co 18 BS7561
C-29th LF Co 75 BS6434
21st LF Sapper Co 70 BS4877
P-31 LF Co 20 BS6390
C-45 LF Co 40 BS7156
K-51 LF Co 07 BS6989
C-65 LF Co 09 BS7271
C-71z LF Co 25 BS7286
C-72z LF Co (T-18) 40 BS3878
C-75 LF Co (may include C-65LF) 40 BS7468
95A LF Sapper Co 20 BS6398 81st LF Co 40 BS5266
95n LF Sapper Co 40 BS5092
120th LF Sapper Co 30 BS8734
C-212th LF Co 70 BS5390
C-219th LF Co 50 BS8242
506A LF Sapper Co 65 BS5875
506B LF Sapper Co 30 BS6390
(2)Enemy situation Anticipated:
(a) A continuation of the current policy of limited scale offensive activities utilizing local force units and guerrillas with MF/NVA was anticipated in the AO. The offensive was to be directed primarily against the GVN pacification program in the coastal lowlands. It would be characterized by enemy interference into the local population, and upset the GVN program through kidnappings and assassinations of government officials.
(b) A continuation of LOC interdiction throughout the AO. Key bridges along QL-1 were expected to be primary targets for water sapper attacks. The FWMAF/RVNAF attempts to open and maintain inland routes to interior areas would be opposed by the employment of enemy snipers, road-blocks, and both pressure and command detonated mines.
(c) A continuation to conduct harassing, stand-off attacks by indirect fire against both US and ARVN installations as well as other government controlled areas. Such attacks could employ 60 and 81/82MM mortars, 57 and 75MM recoilless rifles, and 107, 122, and 104MM rockets.
(d) A continuation to deploy mines and booby-traps against RVN personnel, primarily in the coastal districts and US but also in protection of food and munitions caches in the western areas of the AO.
(e) A continuation to initiate and return fires against US aircraft, particularly in protection of rear base areas and supply caches. Enemy anti-air weapons range for small arms to 51 cal MG’s and RPG’s
(2) Enemy Situation Found: There were no significant contacts or unit identifications during the operating period. It is believed that the enemy made every effort to avoid contact with US forces. While doing so, the enemy was concerned primarily with political and logistical activities. The enemy increased supply routes in the piedmont. Primary targets for ground attacks were RF/MF OP’s with simultaneous diversionary stand off attacks against hamlets, villages, especially in MO DUC and DUC PHO Districts, as the enemy attempted to disrupt the GVN pacification program. There were no significant changes in enemy action or deployment during Operation FINNEY HILL.
4. PSYCHOLOGICAL OPERATIONS:
a. Leaflet Drops: Leaflet drops were increased, as contacts with the enemy grew more sporadic. Development of the pacification program provided as opportunity for the creation of new themes in both leaflets and psychological broadcast. Leaflet themes were oriented toward the area of operations; for example, the mountainous areas, with small populations were saturated with “Chieu Hoi, Fair Treatment of Prisoners, and Demoralization" Leaflets, all targeted against the specific enemy force known or thought to be operating in the area. In the heaving populated lowlands, leaflets messages were primarily “Rice Denial, Family Re-union, Pro-GVN,” and those targeted against a specific local force VC element.
b. Broadcast: “Early word” broadcast, featuring tapes emphasizing themes similar to those used in leaflet drops, were flown by helicopters and fixed wing aircraft throughout the 11th Brigade AO. As with the leaflets, their themes were varied according to the area in which the mission was flown. When ever possible, a recent rallier was recruited to make a broadcast targeted against his old unit. He was usually asked to fly with the psyops helicopter to pinpoint the location of his unit.
c. Medcaps: During Operation Finney Hill the brigade began an intensified effort to train Vietnamese medical personnel. One of the methods used was to require Vietnamese medical personnel to conduct all medcaps, with U.S. personnel acting only as advisors. This method proved effective in giving the civilian population confidence in their native medical personnel. The majority of the medical supplies had to be supplied by the U.S. due to a shortage in the Vietnamese supply system.
TRANSCRIPTED BY CHARLES S. SEKETA on December 22, 2003
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