'Big Red One' troops blast VC at Cambodian border
SAIGON — U.S. infantrymen Sunday killed an estimated 142 Viet Cong during a bitter clash in heavy jungle near the Cambodian border, it was reported Monday.
The fighting broke out when a company from the 1st Inf. Div. ran into heavy fire from a large VC force while on an operation near Lo Go, an abandoned village on the Cai Bac river about 55 miles northwest of Saigon.
The American unit called in reinforcements and, with the help of air and artillery support, caught the guerrillas in a deadly trap.
Forty-two of the VC dead were verified by body count. U.S. officers estimated at least another 100 Reds died in the battle. American casualties were described as light.
It was the heaviest fighting yet in Operation Birmingham, which opened April 24 when some 3,000 U.S. infantrymen, backed up by Vietnamese units, swept into rugged terrain along the Cambodian border in Tay Ninh province.
The area has long been a VC stronghold and a major infiltration point into the south.
Last week, the troops uncovered a large underground hospital that intelligence reports indicated was built to support the headquarters of the communist's central office, South Vietnam — described by a 1st Inf. Div. spokesman as the "highest level VC headquarters located in the Republic of Vietnam."
Other elements of the Red headquarters complex are believed to be spread throughout the thick jungle north of Tay Ninh, the province capital.
So far, Operation Birmingham has netted a total of 79 Viet Cong confirmed killed by body count, plus another 100 believed dead in Sunday's action. Six guerrillas have been captured.
In other ground action:
— Five guerrillas were killed when a column of Marine amphibious vehicles blasted a small VC unit with 105mm howitzer fire about 20 miles southwest of Da Nang.
The amphibious tractors opened fire after the Viet Cong hit the column with small .arms fire.
In another Marine action nearby, two Viet Cong were killed when a Leatherneck recon patrol caught a group of Reds moving across a small bridge and called in artillery fire.
— Units of the 25th Div. wound up Operation Longfellow in north western Kontum province with a final tally of six guerrillas dead and 66 suspects detained.
— Marines ended Operation Osage after killing five Viet Cong in minor clashes about 20 miles northwest of Da Nang.