Battle of Dak To

The Battle of Dak To was a battle fought between a combined force, composed of American and South Vietnamese elements, and the North Vietnamese Army, from November 2 to November 22, 1967, in Kontum Province, in the Central Highlands, South Vietnam. The Battle for Dak To was one of a series of offensives conducted by the North Vietnamese Army which started during the second half of the year.

Lying on a flat valley floor, Dak To was surrounded by ridges that rose into peaks which stretched westward and southwestward towards the tri-border region where South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia met. Since 1965, Dak To had been used as a Forward Operations Base by the highly classified US Studies and Observations Group (SOG), which launched reconnaissance teams from there in order to gather intelligence on the Ho Chi Minh Trail across the border in Laos. During the summer of 1967, heavy contact with North Vietnamese forces (PAVN: People´s Army of Vietnam) in the area prompted the launching of Operation Greeley, which was a combined search and destroy effort by elements of the US 4th Infantry Division, the US 173rd Airborne Brigade, and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) 42nd Infantry Regiment and Airborne units. The fighting was intense and lasted into the fall, when the North Vietnamese fell back to their former positions. Perhaps, the most violent part of the Battle of Dak To was the fighting for Hill 875 which involved two battalions of the 173d Airborne Brigade and the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry, which was airlifted into the battle area from Darlac Province.

Nevertheless, by late October, US intelligence proved that local Viet Cong elements had been reinforced and combined into the 1st PAVN Division (North Vietnamese Army’s division), which was had the mission to capture Dak To and destroy a brigade-size US unit. Information provided by intelligence gave the allies a good indication of the locations and intentions of North Vietnamese forces. This intelligence prompted the launching of Operation MacArthur, and brought the units back to the area along with more reinforcements from the ARVN Airborne Division. The battles that erupted on the hill masses south and southeast of Dak To became some of the most hard-fought and bloody battles of the Vietnam War and a major American victory.

The Battle of Dak To during in November 1967 was a disaster for the 1st North Vietnamese Army Division. Although the enemy had expected to gain an important psychological victory by swiftly striking western Kontum Province from border sanctuaries, his four fresh regiments were decisively defeated in what a ranking Communist officer termed a "useless and bloody battle." In a classic example of allied superiority in firepower and maneuver, fifteen U.S. and Vietnamese battalions beat the enemy to the punch and sent the survivors limping back to their sanctuaries.


Battle of Dak To (Video)

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Thor is Carlos Benito Camacho, the manager and writer of this blog.

2 thoughts on “Battle of Dak To”

  1. I have written a book about the 3/12th Recon Platoon which fought from hill 1338 and ending on Aug 14 1968 with our Recon team surrounded by the 40th Reinforced Artillery regiment. The name of my book is Apache Recon–Because of the Brave. Apache 5 was surrounded by the 40th Artillery Regiment as we stood in their way of getting back across the border after a battle with the ARVN’s 6th Division. a Company 3/12th 4th ID relieved us on Aug 14 1968 and after we were safe at firebase 29 the NVA shot rockets into Alpha Co killing 15 including LT Leo Hadley our old Recon Platoon Leader.We from Apache 5 have lived with that guilt for 42 years. i have kept relations with members of Apache 5 since and all have been found to have PTSD from our tour.

  2. On 14 Aug 68 Bravo Battery of the 6th Bn, 29th Arty was the 105mm artillery support unit for Alpha Company 3rd Bn 12th Inf. Bravo Battery provided Alpha Company with the Forward Observer (FO) team consisting of an Arty officer and 2 enlisted men.

    On 14 Aug an Arty PFC, who had been drafted into military service, volunteered to be the RTO on the FO team that accompanied Alpha Company’s recon mission that relieved another recon unit, which had been in direct contact with an NVA Artillery Battalion. The Arty PFC volunteered for the mission because he “was tired of humping ammo” at the fire support base.

    Within an hour of relieving the other recon unit, Alpha Company recon platoon came under heavy enemy artillery fire. The infantry officer and the Arty FO officer (1Lt Daniel Neuburger) were killed in the initial attack. No other officers were in the recon unit.

    Taking the initiative, the Arty PFC who had been trained as a “cannon cocker” secured an undamaged radio and began calling in defensive artillery fire. Throughout a long night the Arty PFC rallied the surviving members of the infantry platoon and kept the NVA at bay with artillery barrages. The next day the Arty PFC was able to lead the surviving soldiers to safety, and even though suffering from a head wound himself, refused evacuation until all of the other wounded were safely evacuated. Fifteen members of the recon mission were killed during this battle. Most if not all of the survivors suffer from PTSD.

    For his extraordinary heroism under enemy fire, the Arty PFC was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, 2nd only to the Congressional Medal of Honor. He is the highest decorated member of the approximately 2,500 men who served in the 6th Bn, 29th Arty in the 4 years it was in Vietnam.

    The name of the Arty PFC is Jack L. Marinacci. He has a steel plate in his head from the wounds he suffered on 14 Aug 68. The citation for his Distinguished Service Cross can be found at:

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