December 31 1967 - Black Knights

December 31 1967 – Phuc Tuy Province, III Corps

Two platoons from C Troop departed Blackhorse about 0300H and were ambushed about six miles south on QL 2 going to Vung Tau. Their mission was to escort the third and final convoy of 60 vehicles belonging to an aviation battalion from Vung Tau starting about 0900H.  The two platoons were rendered combat ineffective with 10 KIAs.  

KIAs are: Dickey Chamblee, David Lee Drought, Joseph Lyle Farmer,
Henry Maurice Staffo Hale, Cecil Ben Jones Jr., Moses John Lewis,
Ernest Delbert Marcum, Jose Santana Jr., James Edward Thompson, and
James Blakenship,

In his book, titled "Ringed In Steel", MAJ Mahler, the squadron XO, writes that at about 0400H on a straight stretch of road between two slight rises, the lead tank was hit by a rocket that instantly killed the driver. The vehicle spacing was 200 yards. The lead tank of the second platoon was hit and the last track in the column was blown up by a command-detonated mine. In ten minutes it was all over.

The ambushing force had hidden in the clumps of fallen trees that remained, ironically, from the effort to clear the road edges of growth for 100 yards on both sides to prevent the enemy from lurking in the undergrowth. The enemy had been in this deadfall, no farther than ten yards from the road edge, and at that range, they could not miss.

MAJ Mahler carefully outlines several of the 'mistakes' that collectively contributed to this event. Of the 45 troopers who had been out, 25 were WIA and 10 KIA. Three of the dead, from the last track, were wounded or burned beyond recognition and had to be listed as MIA because their remains could not be positively identified.

Miraculously, many of the wounded had suffered only burns and would be coming back to duty in a day or so. Of the two tanks and nine ACAVs in the column, one tank and four ACAVs were good only for salvage. He does not list the aviation units that provided medivacs and other support for the recovery effort, but one can assume D/3/5 Cav was involved. The CG of the 9th Infantry replaced the squadron commander three days after this event took place.

Combat After Action Reports are being requested and additional information will be added once it is receive