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Features >> Articles >> No Deros Delta

No Deros Delta

For the besieged 7th Cavalry troopers at the landing zone they would call "Bitch," it looked like the Little Bighorn all over again.

By Stephen T. Banko, III

The 1st 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.

Spearheading 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.

From the 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.

And not 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 in force.

Bravo had 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 >>

Copyright (c) 2000, PRIMEDIA Enthusiast Publications, Inc.

Jim Schueckler
"Soon we were heading towards the mountains with a Huey full of mail, food, Christmas cargo, and two American young women."

Tom Fowler
"Fortunately, the firefight, such as it was, did not last long and nobody inside our company area was hurt."

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The average cost per B-52 mission during Vietnam was $41,421, with an average of 27 tons of munitions dropped.
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