In this ambush formation, maximum use is made of terrain features which block the enemies escape from the killing zone. Security elements guard the flanks of the assaulting and support elements so that even if the lead and tail elements of the enemy force are outside of the killing zone and attempt to flank the assault force they will be engaged.
Al Baker wrote,
The Point and Ambushes
The North Vietnamese Army’s tactic of ambushing the point unit of a rifle company was extremely effective, and unless immediate action was taken by the friendly unit, heavy casualties could result. If the enemy chose to stand and fight after springing an ambush, supporting arms would usually be used. If the enemy retreated, that was normally the end of the encounter because of the extreme difficulty in conducting a pursuit in dense jungle. In any event, the point squad leader had be able to relay to the company commander, via the platoon leader, an accurate estimate of the situation. Fire superiority had to be gained as soon as possible by the point element. Though this may appear difficult, small arms fire, LAW’s, M- 79’s, and hand-grenades fired in the direction of the enemy would usually do the job. By the time fire superiority was gained, the platoon leader would be up front communicating with the company commander concerning his estimate of the situation. As most ambushes of this nature took place at extremely close ranges, the leading elements usually had to withdraw a considerable distance if supporting arms were to be employed.
Before moving into an area where an ambush was likely, it was a good idea to consider the following:
In the 'L' shaped ambush the head of the enemy force takes fire from both front it's front and flank whilst the rest of the enemy element is engaged along it's length. Note the use of three security elements which guard all flanks of the ambush position.
Al Baker wrote,
Delta Mike 2,
V- SHAPED AMBUSH
In this ambush formation maximum fire is delivered against the head of the enemy force.
The Pin-Wheel formation is essentially a combination of two 'V' formations and could be employed at road or trail junctions, or in jungle areas. In this formation the enemy can approach from any direction and still be ambushed. Where an element has it's 'back' to the enemies line of approach then the ambushing force turns alternating troops in the element to engage the enemy (as in the South west and North West arms of the wheel in the diagram above).
In order to provide effective and secure Command and Control, as well as Support in all directions, the CP and Support Element are deployed in the center of the ambush position.
It has been pointed out by a number of Veterans that this particular formation may well have looked good on paper but was, in their experience, never used and particularly dangerous and likely to cause friendly fire casualties;
Delta Mike 2 wrote,
Al Baker, B Company Commander, 4/9 Infantry, wrote,
Vietnam Lessons Learned No. 39: Ambush Operations. US Army Military Assistance Advisory Group Vietnam (MAAG), March 1964.
Al Baker, B Company Commander, 4/9 Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, RVN, 67-68.
Fleet Marine Force Reference Publication (FMFRP) 12-40, Professional Knowledge Gained from Operational Experience in Vietnam, 1965-1966
Fleet Marine Force Reference Publication(FMFRP)12-41,Professional Knowledge Gained from Operational Experience in Vietnam, 1967
The full texts of both Al Baker and 'Delta Mike 2' regarding US Ambushes as detailed in Lessons Learned No. 39