8 RAR -The Eighth Battalion of the
Operations Cung Chung 2 & 3
Operation Decade's end and Cung Chung ll's beginning merged into each other on the 2nd and 3rd August. D Company handed back Brigid on the 2nd to 7 RAR, returned to Nui Dat and took over the Long Dien sector from B Company. C Company maintained its stance round Hoa Long, while A and B Companies were redeployed to the area west of the tri-village complex.
A Company moved by air and APC on the 2nd,with the three platoons locating themselves on tracks to the west and north west of Ap Suoi Nghe. B Company moved on the 3rd setting up Company Headquarters in Le Loi and ambushing in the area of Binh Ba, Duc Trung and Duc My. At the same time all companies re-deployed the road check points, that had been a feature of Cung Chung 1, in co-operation with the district police.
Although reports had been received over the previous week of Vietcong penetration into Binh Ba, there was no great confidence that there would be much contact, at least until movement patterns had been established. This pessimism was soon dispelled by 6 Platoon B Cqmpany,' who on moving to their ambush position on the 3rd through the rubber, sited three enemy dressed in green, who broke and ran on the platoons approach. Shortly after 3 Platoon, A Company also moving to their ambush, north west of Nui Nghe heard movement from the north, set up an immediate ambush and killed the three enemy moving towards them, demonstrating the value of consistent alertness.
The area in which A Company was now located was obviously very promising with much sign of movement. It appeared likely that C41 or the Chau Duc Company which intelligence reports had located in the Chau Pha Valley, were the enemy force involved.
On the 6th two separate small bunker systems were discovered which had apparently been vacated after the 3 Platoon contact on the 3rd and there was evidence of movement out of the a(ea to the north east.
On the 7th A and B Companies were moved back to Nui Dat for the Battalion Birthday celebrations on the 8th, the intention being to relocate A Company in the same area to follow up on the 9th.' This did not take place because the area of operations was handed back to 2 RAR, and when A Company redeployed they were given part of the Long Dien sector.
No contact was made for the next few days, but on the night of the 11-1 2 a dramatic change of fortune occurred. On this night the normal Hoa Long series of ambushes took place with 8 Platoon occupying the area adjacent to the French Fort, south west of Hoa Long, a continuously good ambush site. The platoon had an elaborate cover plan for the insertion of the ambush, involving movement by trucks at dusk through the ambush site to Baria, then turning round and coming back with the troops detrucking from moving vehicles on the return journey. The ambush was set and at about 2100 hours reported seeing about fifty enemy moving into Hoa Long about one hundred metres from their location. No action was taken to disclose the ambush, but the ambush commander, Sergeant Sherrin decided to relocate his platoon to cover the track used by the enemy into Hoa Long.
At about 0315 hours the enemy were again seen moving out of Hoa Long, using the same track that had been used for the movement in. The ambush was sprung and was so effective that there was little fire returned. Seventeen enemy were killed immediately and later two more enemy were killed and five prisoners taken by APCs that the Commanding Officer reacted from Nui Dat to exploit the success of the ambush. Early the following morning RF platoons combed Hoa Long for additional wounded and a further prisoner was captured cycling out of the village.
That afternoon another member of the group rallied as a Hoi Chanh. It was apparent that the original group of about fifty had split into two and moved out of the village using the same route, the 8 Platoon ambush accounting for the first group in its entirety and some of the second group. The prisoners were identified as members of C41 and the Chau Duc Company and it was obvious that the result of the ambush would be felt by them for some time to come.
On the 12th A Company did a thorough sweep and search of the area to the south of the village while the RF continued to search the village interior. It was considered probable that a large proportion of the second group were still hiding in the village in the unlocated bunkers that had been a target for search teams from the Battalion on two previous occasions.
The amount of food captured after the contact, including 550 lbs. of rice, proved that the party was on a major resupply mission and was probably heading back to the Chau Pha Valley. Subsequent intelligence suggested that the remainder of the party had moved back into Hoa Long on contact, lain up undetected and moved out of the village two nights later.
For the next ten days no further contact was made, but on the night of the 23rd August a report was received that a party of about 100 men had entered Hoa Long from the northwest. This report was confirmed by the District Chief of Long Le District Major Tri. If a party of this size was prepared to move into Hoa Long once, it was obvious that the same might happen again, as it was very necessary for the enemy to re-establish his political influence in the village, after the reverse he had suffered on the 12th.
The Commanding Officer as a result, decided to concentrate three companies on the western side of Hoa Long in an area ambush and to deploy the fourth to cover the neck of the Chau Pha Valley well to the north west, the valley being established as the enemy route into Hoa Long.
On the night of the 26th A, C and D Companies established an L shaped ambush to the west of the village with A and C Companies on the eastern side of the L and D Company plus the Assault Pioneers in the southern portion. On the 27th B Company deployed to its location in the Chau Pha Valley and the trap was set.
On the 25th the Assault Pioneers vacated lsa, which was handed back to 7 RAR. By the lst September no further contact had been made and no entries into Hoa Long had been reported. B Company moved back to Nui Dat by air and relieved C Company of its role on the north west side of Hoa Long. A few days prior to this D Company had been redeployed from its south westerly stance and had moved into ambush positions due south of Hoa Long. Hoa Long was now very tightly covered on two sides by the Battalion with the RF and PF occupying the eastern edge of the village.
On 3rd September C Company deployed to the north east and north of the village leaving only the east not covered by Battalion ambushes. If any doubts were felt of the enemy's intentions, they were dispelled on the morning of 5th September when it was learned that a party of 25-30 Vietcong had entered the village the night before from the west and left some hours later by the same route. The information was confirmed that same day by a Hoi Chanh who remained in the village when his party left and rallied to the District Post the next morning. He showed the route that had been used in detail and the point where Route 2 had been crossed and the perimeter wire cut. The Vietcong group had actually moved between the left flank of B Company and the right flank of A Company and aided by the rain and the lack of moon had managed to move in and out, without contact. It was apparent from the Hoi Chanh's statement that the location of the ambushes was not known and that luck had played a major part in the entry.
The following day another Hoi Chanh, a girl, rallied. She had been a member of the same party and on the way out had dropped off in the foothills of the Dinhs, hidden and moved back to Hoa Long with the villagers the following evening.
Early on the night of the 6th - 7th a half platoon ambush of 7 Platoon C Company fired at ten enemy who appeared to be moving north out of Hoa Long. The opening range was 150 metres and although the party dispersed there were no known casualties. As the enemy was heavily laden with food it was obvious they had come out of one of the villages although whether Hoa Long or Long Dien was not known.
In the ambushes various early warning devices and heavy weapons were now deployed nightly. All companies had liberal supplies of Starlight Scopes which were proving particularly useful in the open paddies. B Company in addition had a large NOD (Night Observation Device) that gave excellent vision for over 1000 metres down Route 2 west of the village, and was sited in conjunction with a 106MM RCL firing splintex.
A further refinement, beginning on the night of the 9th was the deployment of a team of four snipers with an ambush party, to the hills just east of the Nui Dinhs known as The Three Sisters. This party had been trained by the 25th Infantry Division (US) Sniper School at Cu Chi and had been loaned American M14 sniper rifles for the operation. The area of deployment east of the hills, gave a commanding view of the paddi to the north, south and east. With the capacity to hit a man at 500 metres at night, the sniper team were a valuable addition to the Battalions potential effectiveness.
On the 10th radar equipment working from the top of Nui Dat hill was placed under operational control of the Battalion and swept the areas of the Chau Pha Valley, the eastern edge of the Dinhs and the south and south east of Hoa Long, nightly. Its effectiveness was proved on the night of the 13th-14th when a group of from 20 - 30 enemy was located in the foothills of the Nui Dinhs. Although this group appeared to be setting itself for a move into Hoa Long from the west, nothing eventuated.
On the 10th September Operation Cung Chung Ill had officially begun. This did not affect the Battalions deployment, but had increased the area of operations, by taking over 2 RAR's former territory including most of Route 15 east to Route 2. W Company 2 RAR-NZ came under operational control of the Battalion and continued to operate to the north of the Nui Thi Vais against the D65 sappers.
By the 15th September nothing further had been heard from the Chau Duc, so the Commanding Officer decided to vary his tactics. In order to give the impression that the Battalion had lost interest in the village, the mortars and the Battalion Liaison Officer were brought back to Nui Dat and the Commanding Officer discontinued his daily visits to Major Tri, the District Chief. Two Companies D and C, were given new tasks, D Company to redeploy to the neck of the Chau Pha Valley to establish blocking ambushes and C Company to north of the Three Sisters, again ambushing the most likely route to the village from the Dinhs. The other two companies were given redefined areas of responsibility on the west, B Company spreading itself south and A Company moving south and east and covering the southern sector of Hoa Long. In addition B Company sent out a number of observation parties to lie up and cover the Song Dinh and the Song Cau while the remainder of the company was available to concentrate quickly, if movement was detected. The snipers were split, one team remaining with C Company and the other going to B.
On the 20th a platoon of W Company 2 RAR under operational control of the Battalion, contacted four Vietcong south east of Thai Tien village, killing one of them. The dead enemy was identified as a member of C41 and documents captured showed that C41 and the Chau Duc had been using Thai Thien as an alternative supply source to Hoa Long. It was also stated in the document that the ambushes around Hoa Long had prevented the Chau Duc using Hoa Long over the previous two weeks. The obvious course of action now, was to block Thai Thien which was adjacent to the AO which had been passed back to 2 RAR on the 21st.
The fact that the Chau Duc and C41 were forced to use Thai Thien contrary to the orders of Ba Long Province, was indicative of the problem they were facing.ThaiThienfrom the Vietcong viewpoint was the supplier of 274 Regiment, and the D65 sappers and could not afford for long to provide for anyone else.
On the 22nd the Battalion took over 7 RAR's AO, incorporating Long Dien and Dat Do. This area although dormant for some time, had become a greater focus of interest from the beginning of September. Renewed activity was a direct result of the infiltration back into the province of D445 after a period of retraining and reindoctrination. A kill by 7 RAR, east of Dat Do in mid September proved extremely valuable in revealing the future intentions of this formidable group. These included offensive action against district posts, the pacification programme and more specifically against Vietnamese government and Australian ambushes. Dat Do was the major point of interest with likely entrance routes from the south east to the north east.
Pressure was still to be applied to Hoa Long by B and D Companies, but the information concerning D445 was too specific to be ignored and two companies were directed to ambush to the east of Dat Do from the night of 22nd September. No contact occurred for the next few days, but at the end of the month 2 RAR ambushed a large party of Chau Duc guerillas killing five west of Ngai Giao. One prisoner was taken who produced nteresting intelligence, to the effect that the Chau Duc had become disillusioned with Hoa Long and had decided to try elsewhere for food. They were. in fact generally living off jungle gardens and had obtained little from the area of Binh Ba. This, tied in with the contact east of Thai Thien, proved conclusively how much the 8 RAR operations had hurt Chau Duc and C41.
No entries had been made since 5th September and the guerillas had been denied access to what was without doubt one of their major power bases in the province. Although no kills had been recorded by the Battalion against them for some time, there was no doubt that the operation in the vicinity of the village had been extremely effective.
On the 4th October the Battalion came out of operations and from that date to the 25th provided one company at a time on a rotation basis generally in the Hoa Long area. Again, as so often in the past the unexpected happened. On the night of 6th, 9 Platoon in the well used location south west of the village ambushed six, killing four and wounding one, who was captured. The guerillas were from the Vung Tau City unit and had been into Hoa Long for food. The PW was a hard-core North Vietnamese Political Officer with a history stretching back to 1954. One of the dead was the unit 21C. This ambush on the 6th was the Battalions last operational contact.
Operations Cung Chung ii and Cung Chung Ill had continued the work begun in Cung Chung i and Pho Hop and gave further proof if any was necessary, that the interdiction of village communication routes was a sound and profitable basic stance. All reports received, suggested that if the Vietcong hold on the villages was not broken, it was certainly seriously weakened. This, added to the obvious lowering of the local gueriila units morale, showed that considerable progress was being made, giving grounds for optimism if not complete confidence, in the military situation in Phuoc Tuy Province.
Tangible results of the two operations were:
2 Hoi Chanh
2 AK 47
490 assorted rounds
2 M16 mines
15 lbs explosive
870 lbs of rice
10 lbs of salt
243 lbs miscellaneous foodstuffs.
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Last modified: May 12, 1998