The Battle of Xa Cam My was a battle of the Vietnam War fought over two days from April 11–12, 1966. Originally planned as a U.S. search and destroy mission intended to lure out the "crack" Viet Cong D800 Battalion, Charlie Company soon found itself fighting for survival in the rubber plantations of Xa Cam My, approximately 42 miles (68 km) east of Saigon. During this battle 134 men of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division were ambushed by the Viet Cong.
Operation Abilene was aimed at the local Viet Cong D800 Battalion. It involved units of the 1st Infantry Division (primarily the 16th Infantry Regiment), New Zealand artillery and the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.
Major General William E. DePuy, as commander of the 1st Infantry Division, planned to lure out the Viet Cong unit by using Charlie Company as a bait. Once the Viet Cong attacked the isolated company, DePuy planned to rush in other rifle companies to destroy the enemy.
The operation began on April 10, 1966, with soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division moving into positions between Saigon and Vung Tau in search of the elusive Viet Cong D800 Battalion. Unlike in previous operations, Charlie Company numbered only 134 because of casualties, leave and other reasons. In addition to the lack of numbers, the company was also cut off from Alpha and Bravo Companies.
On the following day as Charlie Company moved through the Courtenay Rubber Plantation, they encountered sporadic enemy fire with Viet Cong snipers attempting to knock the Americans off one by one. The sporadic fire allowed the Viet Cong to maneuver around the outnumbered Americans. By 14:00, VC officers were spotted around the positions of Charlie Company, directing the encirclement of U.S positions.
By that time it had become clear that the Viet Cong had taken the bait. However DePuy's gamble on other rifle companies arriving in time was thwarted by the thick jungle.
To minimize casualties and break the ambush, Charlie Company formed a circular perimeter with interlocking fire. The situation deteriorated as Charlie Company found itself increasingly isolated with only a distant hope of reinforcement. This was made worse when misdirected artillery fired upon Charlie Company instead of the aggressive VC forces.
The fighting continued well into the night with the desperate Charlie Company throwing all it had at the aggressive Viet Cong using tear gas grenades. However, their efforts were not enough to stop the Viet Cong from breaking through their lines. Through the night, small units from the Viet Cong D800 Battalion breached the American perimeter, retrieving their own casualties and slitting the throats of wounded U.S soldiers along the way.
After five hours of brutal fighting, what was left of Charlie Company formed a tight perimeter, protected by a barrage of artillery fire which came down at a rate of five or six rounds per minute. By 07:00 on April 12, the Viet Cong had disengaged from the battle before other U.S units could arrive. Charlie Company was nearly wiped out with a casualty rate of 80%.
Two posthumous Medals of Honor were awarded in conncection with this action. Sgt James W. Robinson, Jr. and A1C William H. Pitsenbarger. The latter was awarded in December 2000. SPEC-4 Johann Lang was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his heroic actions in the battle.
- Spencer C. Tucker The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War 2011 - Page 1 "On April 11 about 10 miles south of Cam My village, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment (nicknamed the ... of Colonel Albert E. Milloy's 2nd Brigade initiated a pitched battle against the well-trained D800 main-force Viet Cong ..."
- Weintraub, Joanne (2001-10-04). "'Life 360' uses thematic approach". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4196/is_20011004/ai_n10738381. Retrieved 2007-07-29. [dead link]
- The short film STAFF FILM REPORT 66-17A (1966) is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
- Men of the 1st Division, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, Rangers, Charlie Company Vietnam
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