VietNam War Major Battles – Battle of Dak To

Major Battles – Battle of Dak To

June – December 1967

Series of battles at the Special Forces camp at Dak To. On 17 June, Dak To came under heavy mortar fire. During the next few days, the 2nd Battalion, 503d Infantry Regiment, 173d Airborne Brigade searched Hill 1338 for the attackers. On 22 June, Company A encountered a battalion of the 42th People’s Army of Vietanm (PAVN) Infantry Regiment but encountered difficulty in fighting in the jungle-covered mountains. U.S. losses were 76 killed in action and 23 wounded in action. PAVN losses were extimated at 475, which is disputed.

Major Battles - Battle of Dak ToMajor Battles - Battle of Dak To
Major Battles – Battle of Dak To

During July, companies from the 173d Airborne Brigade continued to patrol near Dak To. Documents found in PAVN camps indicated three PAVN regiments were in the area with a mission to attack U.S. Army Special Forces camps blocking infiltration routes into South Vietnam. On 7 July, Company B, 4th Battalion, 503d Infantry met a strong PAVN force on Hill 830. Contacts countinued throughout the month. In late 1967, the PAVN began moving more units south to prepare for the Tet Offensive. Units from the U.S. 4th Infantry and 1st Cavalry Divisions, units from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), and other battalions from the 173d Airborne Brigade deployed to Dak To.

During 1-9 November, companies from the 8th Infantry and 12th Infantry, 4th Division, and from the 173d Airborne engaged in savage fighting near Hill 823. Examination of PAVN dead revealed fresh, well-equipped troops. A major battle occured on 11 November between the 66th PAVN Regiment and U.S. units on Hill 724, where the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry, fought off a PAVN attack. On Hill 223, Companies A,C, and D, 1st Battalion of the 503d Infantry, 173d Brigade, encountered a PAVN battalion. Hit by fire from the well-camouflaged PAVN, they were surrounded. Company C of the 4th Battalion of the 503d landed about 800 meter from the battle and relieved the 1st Battalion.

Between 12 and 15 November, units from the 1st and 2d Battalions, 503d Infantry encountered PAVN troops in bunkers and trenches. In the ensuing battles, U.S. troops lost numerous killed. PAVN rockets, meanwhile, destroyed the ammunition dump at the Dak To fire support base. On 19 November, the 2d Battalion of the 503d began moving up Hill 875, unaware that infront of them the 174th PAVN Regiment occupied bunkers and trenches connected by tunnels. PAVN troops closed behind the two advancing companies. Company A’s command post was overrun and its remnants, plus Companies C and D, were surrounded. In late afternoon, a U.S. Air Force fighter dropped a 500-pound bomb in the middle of Company C, Killing 42 Americans and wounding 45. Throughout 20 November, te survivors repelled numerous PAVN attacks. That night, three companies from the 4th Battalion of the 503d arrived to reinforce the defenders. Units from the 4th Division and 42d ARVN Infantry Regiment encountered PAVN troops west, south, and northeast of Dak To. The 4th Battalion, with two 4th Division companies, did not gain the crest of Hill 875 until 22 November.

In these engagements, known collectively as the Battle of Dak To, the PAVN failed to achieve one of their main objectives -the destruction of an American unit, although they had come close. Three PAVN regiments scheduled to participate in the upcoming Tet Offensive were so mauled that they had to be withdrawn to refit.