by Paul Giunta

"A" Detachment was based in Bien Hoa City, working from an Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) artillery compound. The ARVN generally came to their encampment at 8:00 A.M. and left at 5:00 P.M. Over 15 months time, they seem to have fired off about 10 rounds. The ARVN said they had been fighting the war for some 20 years, and their mission had become a routine job for them.

When "A" Detachment first arrived in the Republic of Vietnam, it mainly did map updates, subsequently moving on to field intelligence gathering and assessment. It was based at Long Bien, which was a Army equipment depot, not the airbase location favored for MIBARS operations. When subsequently moved to Bien Hoa Airbase, "A" Detachment was quartered in tents with no running water. Showers and latrine facilities were improvised, but even these rudimentary facilities were better than being located out in the field.

After six months in tents, "A" Detachment was moved to the northern side of the city of Bien Hoa, on the Song Dong Nai River, near an ARVN swift boat company. The swift boat personnel took their duty seriously, and they provided some security for "A" Detachment. A fuel depot across the street from the "A" Detachment compound was mortared at one point. During the first Tet Offensive in 1968, the Saw Mill was hit by a rocket but it did not explode. The rocket was stuck in the wall. Only the outer casing exploded and did not damage anything but I do remember a small piece of metal from it did rip my mosquito netting. I was not in bed - ( Tim Hayes) probably at the "club".
The ESSO depot was across the street from the Saw Mill. Not sure if the VC were mortaring the ESSO depot or us? Det A billets were a converted saw mill. Looking back on it all, I can't believe they stuck us there. Our heavy weapons were M-14s and a dozen or so grenades. I understand they moved out of the compound and on to the Bien Hoa airbase in 1970.

"A" Detachment’s area of responsibility was mainly III Corps and some of II Corps. It supported the 173rd Airborne and the 1st Air Cavalry, as well as other units. It handled the Iron Triangle located near Ben Cat, off of Route 13. "A" Detachment’s imagery analysts studied Laos and Cambodia using imagery obtained by SLAR [side-looking airborne radar] to monitor Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army activity on the Ho Chi Minh trail. They also did work for an engineer battalion that was repairing the road to Ben Cat for an assault on the Iron Triangle.

Perhaps "A" Detachment's biggest claim to fame was the support that it provided for the Operation Junction City airborne assault. It did the combat intelligence assessment for that jump. Analysts identified a jump zone near the specified target area but advised that it was poor at best. Irregardless, it was stated that General Westmoreland wanted an airborne operation. Rumor has it that the general’s command helicopter made a wrong turn and that he missed the jump.




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