M/75 RGR & 71st LRP & 199 LRRP HISTORY
71st Infantry Detachment (AIRBORNE, LRP)
The 199th Infantry Brigade deployed to the Republic of Vietnam in December 1966. The Brigade's primary objective to protect Saigon and the numerous complexes that provided direction and support for the country's entire defense.
Despite the magnitude of the 199th Infantry Brigade's security assignment the Brigade had been sent to Vietnam without any long-range patrol assets.
On 20 December 1967, the 71st Infantry Detachment (Long Range Patrol) was activated by sixty one troops chosen by General Forbes from the ranks of Company F, 51st Infantry (II Field Force Long Range Patrol) Within a month the unit was fully operational and acquainted with it's Long Binh sector.
One hour before midnight 31 January 1968 a LRP patrol gave the brigade it's initial warning that the Tet Offensive had began. This report propelled the Redcatchers of the 199th into maelstrom of continuous fighting and emergency reaction tasks throughout the eastern Saigon defensive zone. For six months the reconnaissance detachment performed important surveillance and ambush work in the Binh Hoa and Long Binh area of operation.
The Tet campaign was concluded by the end of May 1968, and the 199th Infantry Brigade was relocated southwest of Saigon, into the extensive marshlands commonly called the "pineapple" plantation. The flat swampy region offered an ideal Viet Cong approach corridor to Saigon and General Westmoreland believed that the brigade's presence would hamper this well-known enemy route into the capital. The 71st (LRP) was based at "Horseshoe Bend" and conducted regular patrols into the bomb scarred rice paddies, elephant grass, and stretches of fruit thickets and nipa palm.
The 71st (LRP) highlighted the "LIGHT, SWIFT, and ACCURATE" trademark of the brigade. For over a year the LRRP's of the 71st watched scores of footbridges, embankment pathways, and other guerrilla traveled avenues across the paddy landscape. The recon teams also operated effectively from Navy Patrol Boats that scoured the Song Vam Co Dong and landed ambush parties along the mud flats and reed-covered shores. During this time the brigade recon framework was enhanced and the 71st was expanded and transformed into a Ranger company.
On 15 January 1969, Lt. Robert Eason Jr. took over the 71st with an assigned priority to reorganize it into a brigade-level ranger company by the end of the month. In conformity with this schedule on 1 February Brigade commander Brigadier Gen. Frederic Davis activated Company M (Ranger), 75th Infantry. The Ranger structure gave the 199th a reinforced combat reconnaissance and surveillance capability. Rangers from Company M were know to patrol in two man teams, however the six man Ranger team was standard and a twelve man heavy team was used for combat patrols in most instances.
In June 1969 the 199th moved into a new operational area northeast of Saigon and resettled at Fire Support Base Blackhorse in Long Khanh Province. The region was geographically different from the old swampy terrain. The rangers found the change initially unsettling because they were on unfamiliar ground facing a more hardened professional soldier than they had faced before.
The majority of combat operations in Long Khanh Province invariably encountered elements of two large, well-trained, and highly disciplined organizations, the 274th VC Regiment and the 33rd NVA Regiment. For many soldiers, facing disciplined and aggressive enemy soldiers was an unpleasant task compared to fighting the guerrillas in the old Pineapple zone. Other soldiers liked the new area better, noting the relative absence of booby traps and mine contraptions that had caused such high casualties during plantation patrols.
The rangers were soon unleashed in an ambitious extended reconnaissance campaign to locate NVA and VC hiding places, resupply points, and infiltration routes. The Redcatcher Ranger Teams were sent into the gloomy rain forests northeast of Trang Bom, north of Dinh Quan, and along the heavily vegetated Lga Nga and Dong Nai rivers. The ranger scouts grappled with the enemy in a series of sharp clashes. From these opening skirmishes, the rangers learned that their opponents were highly elusive but willing to stand and fight when cornered or occupying good positions. However the Rangers gained confidence as its incessant raiding began to unbalance NVA and VC attempts to safeguard previously uncontested supply lines and caches.
The persistent Ranger reconnaissance campaign continued to relentlessly, as sustained pressure was applied on the network of supply lines used by the two enemy regiments. By 5 February 1969 the rangers had interdicted so many supply trails that he 274th VC Regiment was reduced to eating bananas and roots. The 33rd NVA regiment withdrew from Long Khanh province altogether, and ranger company patrols were ordered to continue tracking it into Binh Tuy province.
The expanded reconnaissance campaign forced the rangers to arrange long distance communications. For example, in late March 1970, one team was placed on a remote mountain top and set up a radio relay point for two weeks. This duty was extremely hazardous, because it involved transmitting signals from a static location. Mobil long range patrols also became more dangerous as scattered forays were launched deep into North Vietnamese strongholds.
In mid July 1970, the rangers were moved to fire support base Mace, near Gia Ray in Binh Tuy province. The ranger teams prepared to go deeper in pursuit of the elusive NVA. Instead they were informed that their exemplary reconnaissance pursuit campaign was about to end. The Brigade had received orders that it was scheduled for redeployment from Vietnam as part of the Army's Keystone Robin Increment IV program.
On 9 September the Ranger company ceased active combat operations. And the last four ranger teams were extracted by helicopter from the field for consolidation at Fire Support Base Mace. The veteran Redcatcher Rangers were moved by truck convoy to Camp Frenzell Jones in Long Binh and started stand down procedures. Company M (Ranger), 75th Infantry. Was reduced to zero strength on 24 September and officially deactivated effective 12 October 1970.
The 71st (LRP) and Company M (Ranger), 75th Infantry combat reconnaissance record was a model of effective scouting progression that produced one of the most successful ranger endeavors of the Vietnam War. The LRRP patrollers and rangers were adjusted from close in installation defense around Long Binh, to short range swamp patrols monitoring assignments in the Pineapple plantation, and finally to independent long range ranger patrols on a sustained reconnaissance campaign in enemy dominated territory. This proper ground work enabled Company M to achieve superior results during its relentless tracking of two formidable regiments.