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SUBJECT:  Combat Operations After Action Report

 

 

1.   NAME AND TYPE OF OPERATION:

 

       a.    Name: Operation Sullivan (OPORD 14-68)

       b.    Type:   Search and Destroy

 

2.    DATES OF OPERATION:  130700 September 1968 - 131940 September 1968.

 

3.    LOCATION:  Northern Quang Tri Province in the southern half of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Map, Vietnam, 1:50,000 ams series L7014, Sheets 6342 I, Cam Lo, and 6442 IV, Quang Tri. Operational Area bounded by coordinates YD 1177, YD1170, YD 2077, YD 2070.

 

4.    COMMAND HEADQUARTERS:  1st Battalion, 77th Armor, 1st Infantry Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (Mech) APO 96477.

 

5.    UNIT COMMANDER:

 

       a. Task Force 1-77

 

1.     Commanding Officer 1st Battalion, 77th Armor, Lieutenant Colonel John M. Pickarts

2.     Commanding Officer A Company 1st Battalion, 77th Armor, Captain James A. Herrington

3.     Commanding Officer C Company 1st Battalion, 77th Armor, Captain Darrel Blalock

4.     Commanding Officer D Company 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry, Captain Donald B. Smallwood

5.     Commanding Officer B Company, 1st Battalion (M), 61st

 

         b. Task Force 1-11

 

1.     Commanding Officer 1st Battalion 11th Infantry, Lieutenant Colonel Seiby F. Little Jr.

2.     Commanding Officer A Company 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry, Leonard A. Ragus

3.     Commanding Officer A Troop 1st Battalion, 12th

 

6.      TASK ORGANIZATION:    (See OPORD 14-68)

 

                                                                  TF  1-77

 

                                                                   1-77 Armor (-B Co., - 1 Plt/A Co.)

                                                                    B Co., 1-61 Mech

                                                                    D Co., 1-11 Inf

 

                                                                    TF  1-11

 

                                                                    Plat, A/7 Engr

                                                                    Co. A 1-11 Inf

                                                                    A/Trp 4-12 Cav

 

 

 

       a. The 1/77 Armor consists of A Headquarters Company, three Armor Companies (one com-

           pany was detached in TF 1/11 at time of opn) and a service company. B Co 1/61 and D

          Co 1/11 were attached to make a dismounted sweep once the objective had been secured.

          D Co 1/11, a light Infantry Company, was mounted for this operation on tracks from the

          1/77 Scout Platoon and three M113’s borrowed from 1/61.

 

       b. Task Force 1/11, consisting of A Co 1/11 and A/Trp 4-12 Cav, secured Objective Romeo

           2000 meters to the southeast of the primary objective. They were prepared to move on

           on order to support operations on Objective Sierra.

 

7.    SUPPORTING FORCES:

 

       a. Army Aviation:

           The Brigade Aviation section provided one (1) LOH for Command and Control to 1/77

           Armor. Four (4) medevac missions were flown in support of the operation.

 

       b. Tactical Air Support:

          (1) During the conduct of Operation Sullivan a total of four (4) missions were flown in

           support of ground forces. See enclosure 2 (Tactical Air Support)

          (2) The following type missions were flown: four (4) Immediate.

          (3) The forward Air Controller proved to be an asset not only in directing strikes, but also

          in aiding the ground commanders in navigation and target detection.

 

       c. Naval Gun Fire:

           Naval Gun Fire was utilized to provide preparation fires but did not fire in direct support

           of the ground forces.

 

8.    INTELLIGENCE:

 

       (a) Enemy strength and exact locations and dispositions within the area of operations were

        not known prior to the start of the operation. Order of Battle data indicated that the 138th

        Independent Regiment was operating in the area in strength amounting to a reinforced

        battalion. 

 

       (b) Although some equipment and clothing were found during the operation there was noth-

        ing of hard intelligence value turned up.

 

       (c) Terrain and Weather:

 

       (1) Terrain within the area of operation was characterized by low rolling hills with occas-

        ional areas of bogs and paddy land.

       (2) Except for existing trails, the terrain was covered with heavy secondary vegetation.

       (3) Cover and Concealment in the terrain characterized by rolling hills was good due to

        natural terrain features, artillery craters, and the dense foliage.

       (4) The weather on 13 Sep was overcast with intermittent showers. Weather conditions

       caused cancellation of several air strikes.

       (5) Lighting conditions on 13 Sep were at 67% illumination.

 

9.    MISSION

       Task Force 1/77 attacks at 130700 Sep 68 to seize objective Sierra, to search and destroy

       Enemy forces, gain intelligence on enemy disposition and strength, and conduct asses-

       ment of ARC light #4.

 

10.  CONCEPT OF OPERATION:

       Operation Sullivan was a mounted penetration into the DMZ. The primary objective Sierra

       (YD 170770), was a suspected enemy concentration. This area was to be bombed by an

       ARC light mission and then a damage assessment made by 1/77 a few hours later. Objective

       Sierra had only one feasible route of approach and withdrawal. This necessitated securing

       intermediate objectives Alpha and Tango to ensure that the route of withdrawal was secure.

       Task Force 1/11 was to secure objective Romeo, to the southeast of Sierra, and prepare to

       move to Sierra on order.

 

11.    EXECUTION:

       a. By 130700 all units had moved to their respective LD’s and crossed on time. Elements of

       Task Force 1/77 were initially in a column with A Company leading. Sniper fire was taken

       from vicinity of YD134715 but the tracks rolled on to objective Alpha. Alpha was com-

       pletely vacant so they immediately moved on to objective Tango.

 

       b. A Company hit objective Tango at about 0800. They drove into the middle of an estim-

       ated NVA Platoon in bunkers and had the enemy scattering before anyone was fully aware

       of the situation. The terrain prohibited pursuit so they had to pull back and attempt to find

       a better route. At this time their VTR threw a track. The first elements of C Company and

       the Battalion Command Group arrived at Tango about fifteen (15) minutes after A Company

       They were able to relieve the pressure and allow A Company to break loose and continue to

       objective Sierra.

 

       c. An M-113 of B Company 1/61 had hit a mine at Vicinity YD 137724 and sustained three

       (3) WIA requiring a medevac. Otherwise the column had moved well up to objective Tango.

       Here a bottleneck was developing. D Company 1/11 was right behind A Company and un-

       able to move. B Company held on objective Alpha.

 

       d. Task Force 1/11 had moved out and had objective Romeo secured by 0930. In moving to

       the objective an M-113 of A Trp 4-12 Cav, hit a mine which blew off three (3) road wheels.

       They sustained three (3) WIA and required a medevac. In taking the objective some resis-

       tance was met. The skirmish resulted in eight (8) NVA KIA and four (4) friendly WIA. A

       subsequent search of Romeo netted three (3) 82mm mortars, 168 rounds 82mm mortar

       ammunition, and one (1) RPG with two (2) rounds of ammunition all of which were destroy-

       ed in place. An additional 300 rounds of 82mm and 60mm mortar ammunition was captured.

 

       e. At Tango the bottleneck was beginning to break up. C Company, 1/77 was maintaining

       contact with the enemy but not attempting to expand its perimeter. A Company had broken

       contact and proceeded toward Sierra. It was still maintaining a column hoping to achieve

       maximum speed and with it surprise. The trail was overgrown and the forward air controller

       helped to keep the column oriented on their objective. Two bogs were crossed enroute to the

       objective, the second of which, was crossed by only five (5) of the eleven (11) tanks. A Com

       pany held at this the southern edge of objective Sierra and fired in preplanned artillery con-

       centrations around the objective while waiting to be joined by the infantry.

 

       f. When the message was received that A Company had reached Sierra, LTC Pickarts order-

       ed B Company to move from objective Alpha through the position C Company was holding

       on Tango and on to Sierra. D Company followed them arriving in position at approximately

       1230 hours.

 

       g. By this time activity had picked up on objective Tango. Again C Company was receiving

       small arms fire plus artillery or mortar rounds. It was ascertained that these rounds were com

       ing from the northwest and 5/4 Artillery and 1/77 Armor Mortar Platoon responded with

       counter-battery fires. The Forward Air Controller brought in an air strike dropping (14) 500lb

       napalm canisters to suppress the ground fire. This ordnance fell within 30 meters of friendly

       lines and was considered to be invaluable in helping to hold this vital piece of terrain. The

       Mortar Platoon provided continuous fire support throughout the afternoon, expending a total

       of 405 rounds. The forward trains were able to resupply the platoon with ammunition

       immediately upon request, thereby causing no unnecessary delay of fire support.

 

       h. On objective Sierra the infantryman had dismounted their tracks and were making a

      sweep of the area. In this sweep they found 14 rounds of 82mm mortar, bags of rice and salt,

      cooking utensils, and protective masks. There was no evidence that the area had been used

      recently. At this time a tight sheaf of three (3) artillery rounds fell between the A Company

      Commander’s tank and that of his First Sergeant. The Armor company pulled off two hund-

      red meters to avoid further artillery shellings and the infantrymen returned to their tracks.

      The Bn CO did not send A Company back to search after the Artillery subsided in that it was

      time to start the withdrawal.

 

      i. At 1350 hours the elements at Sierra began their withdrawal. A led out with the infantry

      companies following in close order. They passed through the door which C Company had

      held open since early that morning. A Company pulled in to the Market (YD 135728) at 1500

      hours and established a holding position to cover the withdrawal of C Company from Tango.

      B Company and D Company passed through this position and returned to A-4.

 

      j. C Company began to move off Tango at 1611 hours. Before they had cleared the position

      one of their APC’s threw a track. The Bn XO had already been called forward to supervise

      the recovery of several disabled tanks. The platoon Leader of the rear guard element was

      attempting to recover the APC and the Executive Officer of B Company was also bringing a

      disable vehicle through the position at this time. Enemy activity picked up with NVA forces

      moving south to cut off the withdrawal of these rear elements. This move was countered by a

      timely air strike in which ten (10) 500 lb. Bombs were dropped on enemy positions. This

      resulted in the destruction of ten (10) bunkers and an in determinant number of enemy troops.

 

      k. By 1730 these last elements had passed through the lines of A Company. As A Company

      turned to withdraw from the Market one of its tanks hit a mine. This again caused a delay

      which was covered by an Air Force sortie. This time the fighters dropped eight (8) 500 lb

      bombs destroying seven (7) bunkers, a possible automatic weapons position, and causing a

      a large secondary explosion.

 

      l. It was after 1800 when A Company finally got its entire column moving back to C-3 where

      it closed at 1940 hours.

 

 

12.    RESULTS:

 

      a. Casualties:

 

(1)  Enemy KIA – 35

(2)  Enemy WIA – unk

(3)  Enemy captured – none

(4)  Friendly KIA – none

(5)  Friendly WIA - 25

(6)  Friendly MIA – none

 

      b. Captured or destroyed enemy equipment or positions (See Incl 4)

 

13. ADMINISTRATIVE MATTERS:

 

      a. Supply

       (1) The movement of the battalion from C-3 to A-4 was led by the Battalion Support Group.

      This group included the Battalion Aid Station, Recovery Section, and supply trains and was

      Under the control of the Battalion Executive Officer. This enabled the m-548 cargo carriers

      Fitted with Mogas and Deisel fuel tanks to top-off the entire Battalion. This task was accom-

      plished in 42 minutes and gave the Battalion the capability of operating an hour longer in

      combat before refueling would become necessary.

      (2) The Forward Battalion Aid Station proved to be invaluable. They treated many cases on

      scene and ground evacuated them where otherwise medevac would have been necessary.

      (3) Battalion supply trucks were loaded with ammunition and ready to move on call from C-3

      All the Battalion’s resources were thus prepared and the Battalion could have sustained itself

      in combat for several days without outside support.

      (4) Communications were generally good, however, late in the day when the last elements

      were attempting to recover downed vehicles and withdraw from objective Tango, other log-

      istical net stations, unaware of the criticality of the recovery operation, were tying up the

      Battalion log net with administrative matters. This caused some operational traffic to be de-

      layed. It was agreed to use the service company command net to handle forward logistical

      traffic on future operations.

 

14.    SPECIAL EQUIPMENT AND TECHNIQUES:

 

      LTC Pickarts chose to control his forces from the ground rather than the air. Although he

      could not observe all elements he would have a better feel for the intensity of the action.

      The jump CP (S3 Air and Arty LO) remained at objective Tango for the entire day. From

      this position and with the advice of the S-3 in the air the commander was able to execute

      effective and timely control over the Battalion.

 

15.    COMMADERS ANALYSIS:

 

      The operation on the 13th of September was a typical penetration with the single qualification

      That objective Sierra offered only one route of approach and withdrawal. Hill56 (YD140730)

      was a strategic piece of terrain along the route of approach and would have to be held to en-

      sure that the withdrawal would not be cut off. We recommended to Brigade that they include

      Hill56 as an intermediate objective, which they did. As it turned out we had our heaviest con-

      tact on this position.

      In tailoring our forces for the operation we mounted D Company, 1/11 Infantry on tracks

      From our recon platoon and a few borrowed from 1/61 Infantry. This was imperative due to

      the distance to the objective. A driver and track commander were provided with each vehicle.

      Our movements were all made in column formation. This was due in part to the restrictive

      nature of the terrain, but primarily to achieve speed of movement through increased control.

      To be effective we had to get into the DMZ and on the objective fast, before the NVA could

      react to our presence. Actually, on the 13th A Company got to be objective Sierra much faster

      than anyone had expected.

 

      The operation itself went according to the plan and at no time was it necessary to deviate

      from it. Objective Tango was never secured. If a rifle Company had been available in reserve

      we could have fully exploited the contact which we had there.

 

                                                                          JOHN M. PICKARTS

                                                                          LTC,  Armor

                                                                          Commanding

 

 

 

 

INCLOSURE 3 TO COMBAT AFTER ACTION REPORT

 

 

CAPTURED OR DESTROYED ENEMY EQUIPMENT OR SUPPLIES

 

      This list combines the equipment captured or destroyed by both Task Force 1-77 and Task

      Force 1-11, with that destroyed by airstrikes.

 

 

                        ITEM                                                                       QUANTITY

 

                        Bunkers                                                                              47

 

                        82mm Mortars                                                                      6

 

                        82mm Rounds                                                                   482

 

                        RPG-2                                                                                    1

 

                        RPG-2, B-40 Rounds                                                             2

 

                        Claymore Mines, Chicom                                                       4

 

                        Soviet Small Arms Ammunition                                         100

 

 

 

ORDNANCE

 

 

 

13  1210           YD  195  745     14-500 lb Napalm Cannisters          Negative DDA

 

13  1358           YD  205  730       8-750 lb Bombs             Destroyed 3 Bkrs, 1 SA Pos, 1 Mtr Pos

 

13  1710           YD  139  733      10-500 lb Bombs            Destroyed 15 Bkrs

 

13  1755           YD   140  730       8-500 lb Bombs            Destroyed 7 Bkrs, 1 secondary  exp-

                                                                                             losion, 1 possibly AW Pos Destroyed 

 

 

 

 

INCLOSURE 1 TO COMBAT AFTER ACTION REPORT

 

 

ARTILLERY MISSIONS FOR OPERATION SULLIVAN

 

 

TYPE MISSION                      NUMBER OF MISSIONS                      NUMBER OF ROUNDS

 

Pre-planned                                                  16                                                            196

 

Observed Fire                                               30                                                            499

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