Although largely neglected by Vietnam War historians and authors, all elements of the 199th LIB played an intricate and heavy role in the 1968 Tet Offensive around the Saigon-Long Binh-Bien Hoa area.
(Click on the image below to access the official Tet Offensive After-Action Report for the 199th Infantry Brigade)
Portions of the 2-3rd Infantry on the BMB bunker line, 1 February 1968. (40th PIO)
Dick Freeman, 40th PIO
In the early morning hours of 31 January 1968, the Brigade Main Base at Camp Frenzell-Jones came under heavy 122mm rocket, mortar, and crew-served weapons fire.Following the artillery assault came waves of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese from the 274th and 275th Viet Cong Main Force Regiments.The mission of the enemy units were to overrun BMB on their way into Saigon. They were to replenish their supplies, weapons, and ammunition at BMB after destroying all components of the 199th!
Thanks, however, to the strategic decisions made by Colonel Davison, his staff, various reconnaissance units, and the men of the Brigade's 179th Military Intelligence Detachment, the 199th's personnel at Camp Frenzell-Jones were more than ready for the assault.
As was shown, the men from the 7th Support Battalion, 856th Radio Research Detachment, 313th Signal, 87th Engineers and other supporting units changed their plans.
North Vietnamese 122mm rockets which slammed into BMB in the early morning hours of 31 January 1968.
Action along the BMB perimeter, 31 January 1968.
Members of the 4-12th Infantry surveying VC/NVA casualties in Ho Nai Village after action there. (40th PIO)
The next morning after the all clear and in the days to follow, it was reported that over 500 enemy KIA’s were in and around the base camp's perimeter wire.Camp Frenzell-Jones had been hit hard but not breached.
Ho Nai Village, right across the road from BMB had been heavily infiltrated and overrun, however. For the next two days, elements of the 4-12th Infantry would be heavily engaged in clearing all enemy forces from the village.
Remnants of the 275th Viet Cong Main Force Regiment after engaging the 4-12th Infantry in Ho Nai Village. (40th PIO).
Action in Ho Nai Village. Note the Huey gunship making a run in the upper left.
APC from D Troop, 17th Cav hit by RPG in Ho Nai Village.
For the next several days, all of the Brigade’s attached units were engaged in heavy combat across the Saigon/Long Binh/Bien Hoa area.
As the 199th was the only major reaction force in and around Saigon during the first days of Tet, they were charged with clearing the infamous Cholon district of Saigon.
The Redcatchers, mostly from the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry, who were used to jungle fighting, became experts in urban warfare within minutes. This style of fighting quickly became similar in nature to what their fathers and uncles had to endure while clearing Germany in the closing months of World War II.
The above video depicts what is believed to be CPT Tony Smaldone's Alpha Company, 3-7th Infantry only hours after taking and securing the Phu Tho Racetrack in the heart of the Cholon district of Saigon. Of major strategic importance, the racetrack was at the hub of five major roads coming into the city. The NVA/VC forces fighting in Saigon were using the track as a command post and rallying point prior to the 3-7th Infantry capturing it.
**UPDATE, 20 September 2011: I received a fantastic email from Bob Cheatham who served with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry from January 1968 - December 1968. Bob was present during the Tet Offensive and incredibly, is one of the men on the footage above! Talk about a blast from the past...
I entered the country on January 1st 1968 and left on 12/31/1968. I know Captain Antonio V. Smaldone personally (at least back then).
I watched the video believed to be of Captain Smaldone’s A Company 3/7/199thLIB. I can identify some of the personnel as well today as if it were February of 1968. I can remember when the video was shot. This “might” be of D/3/7/199 though rather than A company, but not quite sure.
Look at the time frames of the video and the names I provide are those during those segments.
:46 to :54 The tall young man with the slow gait is Thomas Babb. He was from Georgia.
:55 to 1:05 This man was company commander, his name was Jim Gentile. He was a First Lieutenant. He left the unit not long after these missions, not sure if he went back home, etc.
1:06 to 1:17 The young black man was Dewey Edwards. He was from Baltimore, Maryland.
1:18 to 1:25 The man carrying the M-79 I believe is Bob Cheatham from Brookings, South Dakota. That is me.
1:48 to 1:53. The man searching the hooch with the M-79 is also me. I can remember when this film / video was taken, as while I was searching the hooch, I was startled by a whirring sound, spun around and nearly shot the photographer. I “think” they might have been with either the Stars and Stripes magazine or some Army publication, not really sure.
"I was an infantryman from January 1st to until about May 1st, 1968, then I became the battalion mailman. I either drove to and from Long Binh to Saigon daily, or rode any battalion chopper that might be going out but often rode Air America choppers, which are the CIA choppers. The very first time I rode one of them, I had to sign a document releasing the GI insurance clause if I was KIA.
When I rode those, which was often, I rode with pigs and chickens and ducks, you name it. The choppers were resupplying the ARVN forces so I’d ride along, jump out at our base camps, deliver mail and then meet them back at another base camp where I’d get a ride back to Saigon (not Long Binh). They’d land at an ARVN compound and I’d hitchhike back to Long Binh. I must have done this 25 times. I’d ride the bus on the back, hanging on to my carbine, the mail sack and the ladder rack of the bus that gets to the roof of it.
My tenure as mailman was hairy, I must have been shot at or ambushed 10-15 times on that and every time I’d cross the “Y” bridge, the kids would jump in the back and steal anything they could. We were too short handed, so I was always alone, no riders unless it was someone heading back out to the field or someone coming back in at then end of the day. Sometimes I’d bring the Sergeant Major back in, but we’d have to stop at Ton Son Nhut for a few hours."
The significance of the Phu Tho Racetrack in the Cholon section of Saigon is readily seen in this image.
(Image of Phu Tho Racetrack courtesy of Bastien Mouray, France).
The article below was graciously donated by SGT Larry Merryman, 313th Signal Company HHC/298th Signal Platoon, 9/67 - 9/68.
L-R: Unknown, Jim Pence, Art Mearue(?), Chuck Scott, Larry Merryman (kneeling), Chuck Hopkins, unk, Frank Vallone (gloves), Al "Chief" Curo burying the dead after the human wave attacks on Camp Frenzell-Jones.
SGT Larry Merryman 313th Signal Company HHC, 199th LIB
199th Infantry Brigade (Sep)(Lt) Directory, 1968
Commanding General. BG Frederic E. Davison; SGM Othon Valent
Deputy Commanding Officer. COL Jeffrey G. Smith
SJA. CPT Donald P. Kirkpatrick
Information Officer. MAJ Ralph K. Anderson
Historian. LTC Richard E. Bjork.
Executive Officer. LTC William C. Carpenter III
Deputy Installation Coordinator. CPT Edward J. LaClare
Civilian Personnel Officer. 1LT Jerry D. Mitchell
Post Exchange Officer. 1LT Thomas R. Jensen
S1. MAJ Berry R. O'Shields (S1); 1LT John S. McBride (Asst S1); SFC David E. Pegram.
Adjutant General. CPT Edwin H. Sutcliffe (AG); CPT Charles V. Seyfert (Pers); SGM John O'Connor (AG SGM)
Office of the American Red Cross. Mr. Oscar Holm (Fld Dir RC)
Provost Marshall. MAJ Richard A. Spaulding
Surgeon. MAJ Gary L. Bannister
Finance. MAJ James H. Mauldin; CPT Jack Sutherland; 1LT James R. Baker; SSG Robert L. Knapp
Chaplain. LTC Charles I. Fay
S2. MAJ Rudolf Levy (S2); CPT Robert McLaughlin (Asst S2); 1LT Robert Eason; MSG Lewis G. McGonigle
S3. LTC Robert J. Cottey (S3); MAJ Donald E. Reid (Asst S3); CPT Ormond Cunningham (Asst S3 Air); CPT Kervin R. Sellers (Bde CML Off); MSG Danny L. Casey
S4. MAJ Thomas R. Goodwin (S4); CPT Jack E. Daniels (Asst S4); CPT Eric Lunde (Trans Off); CW3 William E. Fisher, Jr (Food); MSG James H. Brown (Sup Sgt)
Aviation Officer. MAJ Delano Brister
Engineer. CPT Peter J. Cahill (CO); 1LT Peter C. Gordon (XO
Signal Officer. MAJ Franklyn W. Gross
Chemical Officer. CPT K.R. Sellers
S5. CPT Mark F. Moran (S5); 1LT Gilbert H. Hatcher (Pay Ops); SFC Frank E. Williams (NCOIC)
2D BN 3D INF. LTC M.J. Asensio Jr. (CO); MAJ Gerald L. Coffey (XO); MAJ Gerald L. Coffeey (S2); MAJ Ray B. Proffit (S3); CPT Richard H. Muller (S4); CPT K.T. Henry (S1); CSM Joseph H.R. Cormier
3D BN 7TH INF. LTC Roy J. Herte Jr. (CO); MAJ James F. MacGill (XO); 1LT William M. Carney (S1); 1LT William A. Trotter (S2); MAJ Robert E. Ehrhart (S3); CPT Antonio V. Smaldone (S4); SGM Roger H. Kramer
4TH BN 12TH INF. LTC Leon E. Lichtenwalter Jr. (CO); MAJ Edwin C. King (XO); CPT Theodore H. Lackland (S1); CPT Dennis Hightower (S2); MAJ Frank W. Gillespie (S3); CPT Peter H. Albers (S4); 1LT George K. Baumgardner (CommO); SGM Jerry L. Thompson
5TH BN 12TH INF. LTC Herbert H. Ray (CO); MAJ Benjamin Basil (XO); CPT William B. Garber Jr. (S1); 2LT Ronald L. Michelson (S2); MAJ Nicholas Wilson (S3); 1LT Randall O. Dice (S4); CPT Charles D. Nelson (CommO); SGM Guy Goddard
2D BN 40TH ARTY. LTC Frederick D. Bell Jr. (CO); MAJ John E. Hayes (XO); CPT Phillip L. Kenney (S1); CPT Thomas P. Tysdal (S2); MAJ Michael A. Stevenson (S3); CPT William E. Little Jr. (S4); CPT John A. Raiford (CommO); A/SGM Harry W. Swain
7TH CBT SPT BN. LTC Jack Gray (CO); JAJ Melvin L. Byrd (XO); MAJ Carroll M. Coomer (S2/S3); MAJ Hugh W. Gracey (Bde MaintO); MAJ James R. Stivison (Bde SupO); 1LT David W. Kuperstein (S4); 1LT Dixon Fletcher (S1); A/SGM Kenneth Epps
HHC 199TH INF BDE. CPT Donald K. Van Regenmorter
D TROOP 17 ARMORED CAVALRY. CPT Keith J. Phillips
87TH ENGINEER COMPANY. CPT Peter J. Cahill (CO); 1LT Peter C. Gordon (XO); 1LT Phillip Saluter (Plt Ldr); 1LT John Smith (Plt Ldr)
49TH SCOUT DOG PLT. 1LT David M. Greene
76TH INFANTRY COMBAT TRACKER TEAM. SSG Graham
71ST INFANTRY LONG RANGE PATROL. 1LT Donald C. Tillisch
179TH MI DET. MAJ Harvey P. Jefferson
40TH PI DET. MAJ Ralph K. Anderson
44TH MILITARY HISTORY DET. LTC Richard E. Bjork
503D CHEMICAL DET. 1LT Michael J. McCann
298TH SIGNAL PLATOON. 1LT Frank A. Szymarski
152 MILITARY POLICE PLT. 1LT Thomas J. Reif
856TH RADIO RESEARCH DET. CPT James R. Holbrook