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Fort Carson division's cannons held off Viet Cong in 1967 battle

By: JOE BERG Fort Carson
November 12, 2017 Updated: November 12, 2017 at 4:10 am
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A 2nd Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, crew poses beside its 105mm howitzer circa 1967. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Center of Military History.)

Fort Carson is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 4th Infantry Division with stories about the unit's past. This article tells the story of one of the 4th Infantry Division's early fights in Vietnam, the March 12, 1967, battle of Suoi Tre.

To support its mission in the upcoming Operation Junction City, the 3rd Brigade transported soldiers by helicopter into the jungle near the village of Suoi Tre, northwest of Saigon, to build an artillery fire base.

The first two units on the ground were the 3rd Battalion of the 22nd Infantry Regiment, and the 2nd Battalion, of the 77th Field Artillery Regiment. Later, elements of 2nd Battalion of the 12th Infantry Regiment arrived as well.

These units arranged themselves in a circular perimeter and began to build the fire base that was to be known as Fire Support Base Gold.

Before dawn on March 21, an ambush patrol from the 22nd Infantry, began to detect noise outside the perimeter. Then, Viet Cong forces attacked, firing 650 mortar rounds while more than 1,000 insurgents swarmed the position.

The waves of enemy attackers gradually overwhelmed the eastern side of the perimeter and by 8:40 a.m. the American infantry had withdrawn to secondary positions alongside the gun batteries of artillery battalion.

By this point in the battle, the 4th Infantry Division artillerymen were committed to reinforcing the line with directly fired artillery missions - that's using a 105mm artillery piece like a rifle.

Aiming through the barrels of their lowered artillery pieces, the artillerymen fired shot after shot at point-blank range into attacking Viet Cong until almost all the ammunition was expended and the gunners were reduced to firing flares at the enemy.

Fortunately, help was close at hand. Along with swarms of supporting aircraft, three battalions came charging down from the southwest to relieve the endangered position.

At 9 a.m., the lead elements of 2nd Battalion of the 12th Infantry Regiment reached the fire base, and when tanks arrived 12 minutes later, the tide had decisively turned.

Spitting canister rounds from their 90mm cannons and prodigious quantities of machine-gun fire, the tanks and personnel carriers of the armored and mechanized infantry battalions pushed the Viet Cong back.

By 10:45 a.m., the battle was over and the perimeter of the fire base was restored to American hands.

The Viet Cong left more than 650 troops on the battlefield, and the Americans had 36 killed and 190 wounded.

This year, the veterans of Suoi Tre celebrated their 50th anniversary with the soldiers of the 4th Division during a "Heritage Week" in their honor March 20-23 on Fort Carson.

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