besieged 7th Cavalry troopers at the landing zone they would
call "Bitch," it looked like the Little Bighorn
all over again.
T. Banko, III
Air Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was the first U.S. Army division
to be deployed to Vietnam, and it fought the first major engagement
of the war, the November 1965 battle of the Ia Drang in II
Corps in the Central Highlands. In early 1968, the division
deployed to I Corps to help with the battle for Hue and later
moved farther north to relieve the siege of Khe Sanh. Later
that year, it deployed to III Corps to blunt a threatened
enemy attack on Saigon.
the Cavís Operation Liberty Canyon, a 571-mile foray from
the sands around Camp Evans and Highway 1 to the triple canopy
of the Cambodian border, the modern bearers of General George
Armstrong Custerís 7th Cavalry standards landed at Quan Loi
on Halloween night. Immediately afterward, the brigade assaulted
to within four kilometers of the Cambodian border to establish
LZ (landing zone) Billy.
outset, things didnít augur well for Delta Company, 2nd Battalion,
7th Cavalry (2/7). The air assault into Billy was planned
to drop the company into a huge, grassy meadow. Instead, they
plopped neck-deep in swamp water. The ground water made it
impossible to dig down, and expected enemy concentrations
made it too scary to build bunkers up. But somehow, as was
usually the case, they got the job done, building a passable
"home" for themselves, their "redleg"
support -- the cannon cockers of the 2nd Battalion, 19th Artillery
-- and a couple of squads of engineers. And, of course, for
the "birds" as well: helicopters completed 181 sorties
in two days as the Cav got operational in a big hurry.
a minute too soon, either. The "Cold Steel" battalionís
first blood was drawn from Bravo Company on November 2, when
the soldiers ran smack into an NVA (North Vietnamese Army)
bunker complex while returning from a company-size reconnaissance
almost made it back to Billyís confines when the trailing
platoon was cut off from the company by intense small-arms
fire. Captain Bill Meara turned his troops around and went
to the beleaguered platoonís support. At the same time, "Cold
Steel Six," Lt. Col. Addison Davis III, battalion commander
of 2/7, saddled up Delta and Charlie Companies and moved them
to block the NVA force. But the NVA werenít going anywhere.
Dug in deep in reinforced bunkers, they took on the blocking
force too. But they didnít stop Captain Meara.
He was determined
to rescue his trapped platoon. So determined, in fact, he
personally led an assault against a bunker, killing two NVA
and silencing its crew-served weapon. He died taking on a
second bunker, but not before he eliminated the NVA in that
one, too. The momentum didnít die with Meara. In seconds,
Davis had the company moving forward, routing bunkers as they
went. Davis personally recovered Mearaís body and carried
it out of the line of fire. He then directed a lethal shower
of artillery, Air Force fighter-bombers and ARA (aerial rocket
artillery) fire that drove the enemy into the jungle. On November
4, 1968, Maj. Gen. George I. Forsythe, the division commander,
made the trip to Billy to pin a much deserved Silver Star
on Cold Steel Six. Next
(c) 2000, PRIMEDIA Enthusiast Publications, Inc.