On 14 Jul 1967 the 3rd Battalion, 8th Infantry, was directed to establish a fire support base near Plei Ya Bo in Kontum Province. They did so, and then established two company positions further to the west; B Company's location was somewhat south of C Company's position. "A" Company was retained at the FSB for security and as the battalion reserve. B and C Companies conducted recon patrols in the areas around their respective positions. Terrain in the Bravo and Charlie Company areas was covered by single-canopy jungle with heavy underbrush limiting visibility to 20 to 50 yards.
In addition to the 3 Companies of Infantry, the task organization during the actual contact included artillery support from Battery C, 6th Battalion, 29th Artillery (105mm Howitzers) in direct support and Battery A, 5th Battalion, 16th Artillery (155mm Howitzers) reinforcing 29th Artillery. During the fight, Battery C fired 1894 rounds while Battery A fired1488 rounds in support. Also, Batteries C and D, 5th of the 16th Artillery, General Support (Reinforcing) (GSR) fired 2391 rounds of artillery. Finally, 4 other GSR artillery units fired another 1015 rounds in close-in, blocking, harassing, and denial fires. Twelve Air Force F-100 air sorties were flown during the 5 hour battle, many on open enemy troops in the area.
The operation, known as FRANCIS MARION (Duc Co III), on the morning of 23 July started out with business as usual - at 0900 B Company sent out three recon patrols, one each to their north, northwest, and southwest, while C Company sent out three patrols to their southwest and south. Everything changed at 1155, when the C/3/8's 3rd Platoon leader advised his company commander that 3rd Platoon, patrolling south of the company base, had been cut off and was surrounded. 1st Platoon, C/3/8, was directed to move to 3rd Plt's aid but was itself pinned in place by intensive small arms and mortar fire. At 1207, all contact with 3rd Plt was lost. 2nd Plt, returning from patrol, was ordered to hold in place about 800 meters southwest of the C Company position.
By 1230, the C Company position was under ground attack and B Company, which had regrouped and begun movement towards the C Company position, was taking heavy fire. Gunship, fixed-wing air support, and artillery fires were called in around the scattered American forces. By 1245 B Company had joined with C Company and together fought off an assault against the C Company command post. B Company initiated an immediate counter-attack to the south and southwest in an attempt to relieve C Company's isolated 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Platoons. At 1445 "A" Company 3/8 was airlifted into the fight and other ground forces were on the move toward the battle area. Supporting arms fires were brought down on several groups of enemy troops caught in the open.
By 1530, B Company troops had closed with C Company's isolated platoons and contact with enemy forces began to taper off. As additional US forces arrived in the area they were placed astride likely avenues of enemy withdrawal, but no further significant contacts were made. A subsequent sweep of the battle area recovered all American dead. 184 enemy bodies were recovered and 8 prisoners taken, together with large quantities of weapons, munitions, and other supplies. It was determined that the attacking force consisted of elements from the 4th, 5th, and 6th Battalions of the 32nd NVA Regiment, totaling perhaps 1200 men. An enemy base camp was found several kilometers southwest of the C/3/8 position, explaining both the numbers of enemy engaged and the ferocity of their attack on Bravo and Charlie 3/8.
The after-action report states that 19 Americans died and 53 others were wounded in the fight. The dead were
Two other men from Headquarters and HQ Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Infantry, were killed in action on 23 July, by American artillery rounds falling short of their target - SP4 Larry Ivan Sutton of Danbury, Wisconsin, and PFC Daniel Tramell of Bakersfield, California.
It was noted in the full after action report that 6688 rounds of artillery were fired by Company Forward Observers and the Battalion Artillery Liaison Officer ( located in the area) during the battle and overnight. It was not reported if these two men were killed as part of the battle or during some other event that occurred on the same day.
Read the detailed 3rd Battalion, 8th Infantry Combat Operations After Action Report (CAAR) here.
- - The Virtual Wall, July 10, 2014