After action report: Firebase Ripcord, 23 July 1970

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After action report: Firebase Ripcord, 23 July 1970  (1970) 
the United States Government
see File:Ripcordafteraction.pdf
HEADQUARTERS

101ST AIRBORNE DIVISION (AIRMOBILE)

APO SAN FRANCISCO 96383

AVDG-CS 23 July 1970

Subject: Firebase Ripcord

To: Commanding General
XXIV Corps
APO 96 349


1. BACKGROUND. Fire Support/Operational Base RIPCORD was to be opened on
or about 1 April 1970 as a key forward fire support/operational base in the
division's summer offensive plans against the 803d and 29th NVA Regiments in
the A SHAU VALLEY area. Mutually supporting firebases would be opened at
FSB BRADLEY (105mm how) and AIRBORNE (105mm how). AIRBORNE, in turn, was
within mutually supporting range of FSB KATHRYN (155mm how).

2. OCCUPATION. Assaults into the FSB RIPCORD area by elements of the 3d
Brigade, 101st Airborne Division and 1st Regiment, 1st Infantry Division (Arvn)
on 5 March 1970 were delayed due to inclement weather in the AO. On 13 March,
A/2-506 Infantry was to combat assault into an LZ on Hill 902, 2 kilometers
south of FSB RIPCORD. Just prior to insertion, this LZ was determined unsatis-
factory and insertion was made into the alternate LZ. The alternate LZ was
FSB RIPCORD. A/2-506 began to receive intense mortar, recoilless rifle and
small arms fire on the LZ. This fire continued until the company was ordered
off the hill to the east. On 14 March, elements of the 1st Regiment (ARVN)
captured documents indicating the locations of units of the 6th NVA Regiment
in the RIPCORD area. ARVN and US units were extracted on 15 March. Extensive
air and artillery strikes were conducted until 1 April, when US and ARVN
units again assaulted into the RIPCORD area. This assault had been delayed
since 17 March due to unsatisfactory weather conditions. B/2-506 Infantry
assaulted onto the firebase on 1 April, and again the enemy employed intense
mortar, recoiless rifle and small arms fire. At approximately 1830 hours,
the company moved about 700 meters east of RIPCORD.

3. OPERATIONS IN THE FSB RIPCORD AREA. During the period 2-10 April,
2/506 Infantry and 2 battalions of the 1st ARVN Regiment conducted ground
combat operations around FSB RIPCORD to locate and destroy enemy mortar and
recoilless rifle positions. These operations were conducted within 3000 meters
of and all around the firebase. On 11 April, c/2-506 Infantry assaulted
RIPCORD and secured the firebase by 0800 hours. The battalion light CP
and engineer support elements were lifted into the firebase on 11 April.
Inclement weather precluded insertions of artillery into the firebase
until 16 April. During the period 16 April to 1 July, the battalion con-
tinued construction and conducted security operations around the firebase

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AVDG-CS 23 July 1970
SUBJECT: Firebase Ripcord

without significant stand-off (indirect fire) attack on the firebase. During
the period 1-22 July, FSB RIPCORD was subjected to daily attacks by morar,
recoilless rifle, RPG, and sporadic machinegun and small arms fire from enemy
locations all around the firebase. On 18 July, a CH47 aircraft was shot
down on the firebase. The aircraft crashed in a 105mm ammunition storage
area and burst into flames. The resulting fire and exploding artillery
ammunition destroyed 5 105mm howitzers, 2 106mm recoilless rifles, one
mechanical mule, and several other items of equipment. The remaining 105mm
howitzer on the firebase was damaged.

4. EXTRACTION FROM FSB RIPCORD. At 230545 July 70, the 3d Brigade began
operations for the extraction of the 2-506 Infantry from FSB RIPCORD and
field locations south of the firebase. During the night of 22-23 July,
massive artillery and air fires were employed throughout the area against
known and suspected enemy locations. More than 2232 mixed caliber artillery
rounds were fired in support of the extraction. The US Air Force, Marines,
and Navy flew 35 preplanned and immediate air strikes, for a total of 74
sorties. Fourteen CH47 aircraft were employed commencing at 0545 hours to
extract 22 sorties, which included 1 155mm howitzer battery (6 tubes),
2 M-405 dozers, communications equipment, 1 M55 multiple machinegun (Quad-50),
and 1 damaged 105mm howitzer. The CH47 extraction operations proceeded
smoothly until 0740 hours whtn 1 CH47 was shot down on the firebase by enemy
12.7mm machinegun fire. The aircraft was forced to land amidst the 105mm
howitzers which had been destroyed on 18 July and thus prevented the landing
of additional airraft to extract the remaining artillery pieces and two
106mm recoilless rifles. The CH47 received a direct hit by an unknown type
enemy mortar round, causing the aircraft to burn and explode. The aircraft
was destroyed. Eight additional CH47 aircraft received hits during the ex-
tractions; 4 are non flyable. B/2-506 Infantry began extracting at 0745
hours by UH1H aircraft but was delayed until 0935 hours by heavy enemy 60mm
and 82mm mortar fires. The extractions was conducted by infiltrating one
UH1H aircraft at a time into the firebase. The extraction from FSB RIPCORD
was complete at 1214 hours. Companies A and D/5-506 Infantry extracted from
a pickup zone 1 1/2 kilometers south of FSB RIPCORD commencing at 1301 hours.
Sporadic small arms fire was received during the extraction. There were no
casualties or damage. The extraction of 2-506 Infantry units from the RIPCORD
area was complete at 1407 hours. During the extraction, FSB RIPCORD was under
constant fire from numerous enemy mortars of 60mm and 82mm caliber. Several
hundred rounds impacted throughout the firebase during the operation. Heavy
12.7mm anti-aircraft fire was directed against the aircraft flying into the
firebase. Air, artillery, and ARA destroyed several enemy mortars and 12.7mm
machineguns. In addition, numerous enemy driven into the open by CS were
killed by air, artillery, and ARA.

5. RATIONALE FOR CLOSING FSB RIPCORD. In early July, it became obvious
that NVA forces were massing in an attempt to control the RIPCORD area.
The enemy buildup of forces and the tempo of mortar, RPG, and anti-aircraft
fire steadily increased during the first half of the month. Byt the third
week of July, it was apparent that the cost and effort required for the self-
defense of RIPCORD placed the accomplishment of the primary mission, i.e.
operations in the BRADLEY-AIRBORNE area, in grave jeapordy. The closing of

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AVDG-CS 23 July 1970
SUBJECT: Firebase Ripcord

RIPCORD would make troops available for offensive use against the enemy
supply caches and logistic installations to the rear of the NVA forces massed
around RIPCORD. The cache sites in the AIRBORNE-BRADLEY areas are believed
to be part of the base areas of the 803d and 29th NVA Regiments. The concen-
tration of NVA forces around RIPCORD would further facilitate operations in
areas to the south and southeast. Therefore, the decision to extract from
RIPCORD was made, and operations into the AIRBORNE-BRADLEY areas will be
undertaken as a part of operations CHICAGO PEAK. Additional factors of
critical importance in the decision to close FSB RIPCORD were the domestic
and foreign political implications of another US firebase undergoing a KHE
SANH or DIEN BIEN PHU siege. RIPCORD, in given an inordinate amount of adverse
publicity, might well have jeopardized the program of Viethamization. RIPCORD
opertions caused heavy NVA casualties and drew the enemy from his cache sites,
causing him to mass and thus to present numerous targets vulnerable to
heavy air attack and artillery fire.

6. ENEMY LOSSES. From 13 March through 23 July, the enemy suffered 422 NVA
KIA, 6 NVA PW, and 93 individual and 24 crew-served weapons captured.

7. FRIENDLY LOSSES.

a. During the same period, US losses were 68 KIA and 443 WIA. Casualties

during the extraction on 23 July were 3 KIA and 20 WIA.

b. Aircraft losses on or near the firebase include:

(1) UH1H
Minor damabe 13
Major damage 10
Destroyed 3

(2) OH6A
Minor damage 1
Major damage 4
Destroyed 3

(3) CH47
Minor damage 5
Major damage 3
Destroyed 2

(4) In addition, 60 aircraft received combat damage which required limited

repair.

8. PLANNED OPERATIONS. Planned offensive operations will be initiated on or
about 25 July with the combat assault of one infantry battalion to open a fire
support/operational base which will provide support for the insertion of 2 ARVN
infantry battalions on or about 28-30 July 1970. A detailed plan will follow.

FOR THE COMMANDER:

HUGH A. MACDONALD
Colonel, GS

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This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).