2nd Squadron 17th Cavalry

101st Airborne Division

History in Vietnam

1967 - 1968


2/17th Cavalry 101st Airborne Division

History in Vietnam 1967-1968


A Troop deployed to Vietnam with the 1st Bde 101st during the summer of '65.


HHT, B Troop and a shanghi’d Aero Rifle Platoon of C Troop deployed to RVN in December '67. (The rest of C Troop did not deploy). We landed in Bien Hoa, which was to be our base camp. We were commanded by then Ltc Julius W. Becton (LTG ret). 


In the couple of weeks we were at Bien Hoa, seven M113 Armored personnel carriers were “appropriated” by resourceful cavalrymen. Six went to B Troop’s 2nd platoon; one was kept by the maintenance section as a recovery vehicle.


Our first operation was at Song Be in Jan '68. A few days after we arrived we were joined by the 1st Bde 101st, and at that time A Troop was returned to the 2/17 Cav. Our troop strength at that time was reported to be 417.


HHT had a HQ section, Commo Plt, Medical Plt, Maint Plt, Radar Squad, and mess section. A Troop and B Troop each had 3 recon platoons, each consisting of a scout section (M60 machine guns mounted on M151 jeeps), and anti-tank section (106mm recoiless rifles mounted on M151 jeeps), a rifle squad with its own 3/4 ton truck, and a mortar section, also with its own truck. We were basically motorized infantry. (B Troop’s 2nd platoon was the exception.) The Aero Rifle Platoon (C Troop) was in reality a rifle platoon since we didn’t have any organic helicopters.


We were at Song Be when the Communist Tet Offensive broke out 1/31/68. Song Be was one of the few provincial capitals that was not attacked that night, we suspect because we had two highly successful ambushes that night and bagged their command party and probably a separate security element intended to ambush what would have been our counterattack route. Two weeks later, Song Be was attacked by an NVA battalion. The 2/17th Cav was reinforced with D Company 1/506th Inf and a company from the ARVN 31st Ranger Battalion. The combined force defeated in detail the D212 NVA Battalion, which suffered 243 KIAs. U.S. casualties were 6 KIAs and 45 wounded.


In February we deployed to Thua Thien Province to join the fighting that was still going on around Hue. When the 1st Air Cav was dispatched to relieve the Marines surrounded at Khe Sanh (Operation Pegusus), The 2/17th Cav assumed a huge area of operation east of Highway 1, from Quang Tri to Hue. This was the “Street Without Joy” area. Our mission was largely an economy of force operation to keep the NVA from filtering back into the area while the 1st Air Cav was gone. We “rat patrolled” all over the area in jeeps and on foot. We operated out of Camp Evans (former 1st Air Cav base) and LZ Pinky.


The fighting continued heavy through June. During that time we fought almost on a daily basis and had major successful battalion-size engagements at Cao Bang (twice) and La Chu. During this time the 2/17th Cav was attached to the 2nd Brigade 101st Task Force.


In mid May  we returned to what had grown into Camp Eagle, the division base camp, a half dozen klicks southwest of Hue. On May 21st Camp Eagle was attacked by rockets and a saper battalion to celebrate Ho Chi Minh’s birthday. Those that got inside the wire were all killed.


Our area of operation was now the area south of Hue, from Hwy 1 to the coast. We had two fire support bases, Foward and Saber. During that time A Troop encountered another NVA battalion.  The rest of the 2/17th Cav joined the action and was reinforced with B company 1/501st inf and various local RVN forces to surround the trapped NVA battalion. The NVA unit had 171 KIAs and 45 surrendered the next day. We had not lost a single man.


In late June we returned to LZ Pinky in anticipation of a second “mini-Tet offensive.” Pinky was positioned northwest of Hue, in the direct path where the NVA had attacked Hue during Tet. The spot had been an NVA command post. Mini-Tet occurred in other parts of the country, but Hue was completely spared. Our spoiling attacks over the previous three months had caught the NVA battalions in their assembly points.


In late July we returned to Camp Eagle, and never again operated in squadron strength. At that time there were no significant NVA/VC troop formations left to fight. By that point the 2/17th Cav had accounted for 823 enemy killed


D Troop, a legitimate Air Cav Troop, joined us in the fall. The division LRRP Company also joined us at that time. For the remainder of the year our mission was more conventional reconnaissance over the entire division area of operations.


As best as I can tell, we had 46 members of HHT, A Troop, B Troop and the Aero Rifle Platoon killed in 1968. 254 cavalrymen were wounded (not returned to battle). Another 5 members of the LRRP company were killed during that time.


For these actions the 2/17th Cav was awarded a Valorous Unit Citation and a Meritorious Unit Citation. The 2/17th Cav was also awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm while assigned to the 2nd Brigade Task Force.


Wm Robertson