Blackhorse Hoofbeats

Echoes from the Regiment’s Service in Vietnam 1966 – 1972

Don Snedeker, 11th ACVVC Historian

1st Qtr 2022



·         The Blackhorse Moves In: From the Commander’s Analysis section of the Combat Operations After Action Report for Operation Atlanta (20 October – 8 December 1966): “Operation ATLANTA proved to be a most successful operation not only from the standpoint of casualties inflicted on the Viet Cong but the number of lines of communication [roads] that have been opened to friendly traffic. No longer can the Viet Cong freely utilize them for movement of their forces and supplies nor set up tax collection points to harass and extort money from the local populace… Geographical locations heretofore considered privileged Viet Cong sanctuaries were breached by the armored columns of the Blackhorse Regiment destroying base camps, fortifications, and capturing precious stores of food. The operation only further demonstrated the flexibility, effectiveness, and prowess of an Armored Cavalry Regiment in an insurgency environment.”


·         Operation Junction City: The Regiment (initially minus 2/11) participated in all three phases of Operation Junction City between 22 February and 14 May 1967. With over 35 combat battalions involved, this was the largest ground operation up to that point in the Vietnam War. The target of Operation Junction City was the Central Office for South Vietnam – COSVN, the Viet Cong Headquarters for all of South Vietnam – located deep in the heart of War Zone C, a 150-square-mile jungled plateau located 70 miles northwest of Saigon. Colonel William Cobb, 34th Colonel of the Regiment, assessed Operation Junction City as follows: “The unique dual combat capability of the Blackhorse Regiment… the ability to move fast and the capability to conduct detailed search and destroy operations – was clearly demonstrated during the operation… The success achieved by the squadrons in the search and destroy phase of the operation is shown by their discovery of large numbers of enemy base camps, medical facilities and fortified positions. The value of armor protection of fighting personnel was strikingly shown during the heavy and close-in fighting one squadron [1/11] experienced as it fought its way into a tenaciously defended VC Base Camp.” During the almost three months of Operation Junction City, the Regiment lost 9 Troopers killed and 141 wounded. Overall, there were 282 US soldiers killed in action – far less than the 13,500 that captured enemy documents later claimed. Over 2,700 enemy bodies were found on the battlefields of War Zone C during Operation Junction City.


·         “Hey Nguyen, got a light?”: Between late December 1967 and mid-January 1968, 1/11 and 2/11 conducted search and destroy operations along Highway 13 between Loc Ninh and the Cambodian border. The operation was designed to open Thunder Road for military traffic for the first time since the French were in charge, as well as to locate Viet Cong (VC) and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) units that were suspected of infiltrating across from Cambodia southwards toward Saigon. In mid-January, Alpha Troop came across “an intricate enemy base camp supply complex.” The base had obviously been hastily evacuated, as the Troopers found wet laundry hanging on the line and a just-used toothbrush in a cup. Cards wishing the guerrillas a happy Tet (Chinese New Year) from Uncle Ho were found throughout the above-ground structures hidden in the dense jungle. Bags of rice, estimated as enough to feed a VC company for three days, were stored inside the camp. Most interesting of all, however, was a cache of cigarette lighters – one for each man in the troop.


·         Bustin’ Jungle: From the Operation Montana Raider (12 April to 14 May 1969) after action report: “Extensive jungle busting operations take a heavy toll on all types of armored vehicles. This is especially true of tanks which are always placed in the lead. Mines, RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades], and maintenance failures make sustained operations for longer than 10 days almost impossible.”


·         Back to School: In addition to conducting combat operations, Blackhorse Troopers also gave and received a wide variety of specialized training courses. As an example, during the 3-month period from August to October 1969, 5 Regimental aviators attended a jungle survival course in the Philippines, 8 individuals attended a Prescribed Load List (PLL) course at Long Binh, and 13 Troopers attended the 1st Cav Division’s sniper school. During the same period, personnel from the Regimental Signal section provided instruction on the AN-PPS-4 ground surveillance radar and various night vision devices, 1/11 held a one-day course on the M548 Cargo Carrier, and the 919th Engineers provided demolition training to all three squadrons.


·         Local Modification: In early 1970, Air Cavalry Troop, using a locally fabricated mount, attached an XM191 4-tube launcher pod for the 66mm rocket – the same rocket used in the Light Anti-Tank Weapon or LAW – on an OH-6A Light Observation Helicopter (LOH). In the words of the official after action report, “This device was employed in a local test and was found to be excellent as an offensive anti-personnel weapon, as well as for marking targets.”


·         Vietnamese First Lady: From the March 1970 edition of the Blackhorse Newspaper: “Madame Thieu, wife of the President of the Republic of Vietnam, is now an honorary member of the Blackhorse. Captain Francis E. Mara, 3d Squadron chaplain, serving as the official escort for four Gold Star Mothers, attended a reception given in their honor by Madame Thieu. The first lady was curious about the Blackhorse patch on Father Mara’s shoulder. ‘In Vietnam a black horse is considered a sign of good luck,’ Father Mara explained. ‘In addition, Madame Thieu was born in the year of the horse, so naturally she asked me about the patch.’ The chaplain told her about the Blackhorse Regiment and the patch. He then gave her his regimental crest. ‘She was delighted to receive it,’ Father Mara said. ‘She said she considers the presence of the Blackhorse an omen of good fortune.’”


·         Too Much Nuoc Mam? The official interrogation report for Assistant Squad Leader Nguyen Xuan Tu, captured by Hotel Company, 2/11 on 5 May 1970 inside Cambodia, ends with the following observation from the 541st Military Intelligence Detachment Interrogator: “The source is an extremely slow moving and thinking individual. He became confused on simple questions and often, after a long pause for thought, forgot the question posed. What responses were given are believed to be valid.”


·         2/11 Carries On: From the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Redeployment After Action Report, dated 5 March 1971: “On 20 December 1970, the Regiment was notified that the 1st, 3d, and Provisional Squadrons would be included in redeployment Increment Six and was directed to prepare necessary plans to execute a phased stand-down of units commencing 1 February 1971, completing redeployment by 5 March 1971. The Regiment’s equipment was to be prepared for turn-in, the majority reverting to control of US Army Vietnam. Personnel would be reassigned to units remaining in Vietnam unless they met specific DEROS [Date Estimated Return from Overseas] criteria in which case they would be returned to CONUS [Continental United States] for reassignment or separation. The Regiment requested and received approval to leave the Regimental colors with the 2d Squadron, a non-color bearing unit, in the Republic of Vietnam. An honor guard detachment was to be formed to escort the redeploying units’ guidons to Fort Lewis, Washington for an appropriate ceremony and for safekeeping until the Regiment is reconstituted.”





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