ACCORDING TO THE VETERANS
Al Baker commanded B Company, 4/9th
Infantry, in the second half of 1967 and in to early January 1968. I invited Al
to comment on the US Army Lessons Learned No. 39, Ambush Operations. Here is his
I read your piece on ambushes and believe that it is
correct as far as the book went. Then there is the real thing. In my 3 and 1/2
years there I never saw intelligence that would dictate the time and place of
an ambush. Therefore we ambushed all night on likely avenues of approach. This
was particularly difficult because we operated all day and everyone needs
sleep. I was fond of three man positions with one asleep and two awake.
You can survive on 4 hours sleep if it is continuous. That's what we survived
As to the type of ambush, I never saw a pin wheel and never
hope to. Especially in limited visibility you need to do all you can to
prevent fratricide. So it you never want friendly fire going in the direction
of friendly forces. Our bullets will kill our troops the same as enemy fire. And
I never used mortars in support of an ambush. It is not accurate enough to
prevent friendly casualties. We used lots of Claymore mines in the kill zone
and to protect the security elements. In a linear ambush I would built a ring
main on the far side of the kill zone. The ring main was made with a web of
hand grenades linked together with detonation cord so they would explode
simultaneously. The firing mechanisms were unscrewed and removed, non-electric
blasting caps crimped on det cord replaced them. The grenades were strung in
trees on the far side of the linear ambush giving air burst effects to the
grenades. It was very effective.
In the killing zone the machine guns were sighted in so
that the long axis of the beaten zone would coincide with the long axis of the
enemy. This meant the that those guns would be firing parallel to the friendly
Communications were with string going from man to man. Tugs
would alert to enemy sited.
The stuff about the hamlets, I would omit. It just didn't work that way.
They were also mechanical ambushes. Trip wire activated groups of Claymore
mines. Like booby traps these devices were very effective in areas where they
was no civilian population. They were relatively easy to disarm and
disassemble. Set us similarly to the ring main the det cord and lead Claymore
were battery detonated using an electric blasting cap, the others were fired
by no electric blasting caps crimped to det cord. The circuit would be trip
wire activated so it did not have to be attended.
Artillery barrages where planned to ambush sites to be
fired after withdrawal to the rallying point. It was to prevent pursuit
of the ambushing forces and disrupt other forces.
I will be in touch,
DELTA MIKE 2
'Delta Mike 2' is a Veteran who served with the 1st Infantry
Division, 'The Big Red One', in RVN. He has also written extensively for
this site on many issues (see Delta Mike 2), and this is his reply to my
invitation to look over the US Army Lessons Learned
No. 39, Ambush Operations,
Well, I read the Official Ambush SOP y'all sent me.
It proves to me yet again their was "real life" and then there was
Some of the info was what was used in training in The World, but that crazy
Catherine Wheel Ambush had to be designed by some lifer fighting from behind a
desk in the Pentagon. That was one of the better pieces of Vietnam fantasy I
have ever come across.
As far as ambushes go, there was never any G2 provided and selected AP site
that I can remember. Every night was an ambush patrol for companies out in the
boonies. Each company, and sometimes Battalion Recon too, had a
re-enforced squad out there (usually 12 - 15 men). Sites were selected by
Battalion or the Company Commanders as far as I can remember.
Sometime there would be an AP dropped off during the daytime sweep by the
company or the battalion, and the AP would set up and wait for any gooks
that might be following the company / battalion.
We always used mortars for AP fire support, as there was no guarantee that we
could get a dedicated artillery battery. I have previously told
y'all about the problems of land navigation and fire support
registration and adjustment in the jungle. It is true that guns
were more accurate than mortars, if the FAO was any good and knew where he
was. When I had to adjust artillery or mortars, I was always ready to
crawl under my helmet until I could actually see the impact point for the
rounds. Which was hard to do in the jungle unless y'all were close to the
My company commander NEVER went out on an AP. Sometimes the platoon leader
would go out on an AP, but that was very rare (like once when we got a
new LT and he wanted to see how each squad leader actually ran his AP).
He was a smart LT (and an ex NCO).
As for ambush patrol formations, we used the straight line
(we could pin the gooks against an obstacle; river stream, cliff, etc), the
L (with the MG at the short end of the L, shooting down the length of
the enemy unit and almost always used at roads and trails),
the V (again used mainly on roads and trails) but by far the most common
AP formation was the circle. The circle provided good all around
protection for the patrol itself, and since we never really KNEW from which
direction the gooks would be coming from out in the jungle (where most AP's
too place). We used lots of claymore mines, grenades rigged to
explode at shoulder height in the trees, claymores sited to fire down the
length of ditches and waterways, and five or ten lengths of det
cord itself laid out along the bottom of a ditch, so that it could be
fired, using the det cord to disembowel or blow off the arms, legs, or
feet of any gooks that were laying on it or squatting/kneeling over it.
Pretty nasty stuff.
We also used to string commo wire at shoulder/neck height
like a garrot, at ankle height as a trip device, etc. Also as a trip
wires for use with grenades.
And we used the punji sticks that they taught us to fear
and be wary of.
Mechanical ambushes were used too. With claymores, grenades, mantraps, etc.
That's the way ambushes were done where I was .
Delta Mike Two
Back to Ambush Formations
I would like to express my thanks and gratitude to both Al
and 'Delta Mike 2' for taking the time to read over and reply to my emails on
the subject of US Ambush Operations. Thank you.
If you are a Veteran and would like to add your comments to
those of Al and DM2 then please feel free to email me as I would like to hear of
other Veterans experiences of ambushes.