The following is not the official history of the 71St LRP Detachment, but rather my synopsis. To know the history of the 71St,
one must know a little about the 199th Light Infantry Brigade. The 199th was formed because of, and for the war in Vietnam.
It was shaped around three historical Infantry units, and was desiginated on March 23rd 1966, as the 199th (Seperate) Light
Infantry Brigade. It's motto was to become, "Light, Swift, and Accurate". After some state side training periods
at Fort Benning and Fort Shelby, the 199th was deployed to Vietnam in Nov 1966. It set up headquarters in the Long Binh area
of Vietnam. It's primary mission was the defense of Saigon. The 199th distinguished itself during the four years it was
deployed in Vietnam. The men of the 199th became known as "Redcatchers". The name was derived from both it's colorful
shoulder patch, and the units effectiveness against the "Reds", or communists. The destinctive patch is shown at
different locations on this web site, and a detailed history of the units exploits can be found on several different web sites
devoted to the history of the 199th. I have linked some of those sites on the related military unit page.
as good as the the 199th was, one thing it didn't have when it arrived in Vietnam was any Long Range Patrol assets. That's
where the history of the 71st begins.
The Army had been developing the concept of small 4-6 man independant
operating reconnassiance gathering units since the late 1950's. They were developed in post war Germany as part of the U.S.
commitment to NATO. Their style was influenced by the SAS, (British Special Air Services). The SAS used effctively, in World
War II, small independantly operating deep reconnaissance patrols. Soon the need for and advantage of, these stealthy type,
intelligence gathering units, was realized in Vietnam. The 199th realized it's need, and on Dec 20, 1967 formed the 71st
Infantry Detachment (Long Range Patrol). The 61 men, who made up the 71St, did not just appear out of thin air. They were
chosen by General Forbes from the ranks of Company F, 51st Infantry. Soon the 71st was up and operational, and within a month,
doing recon work in the Long Binh, Binh Hoa area. The effectiveness and value of the 71St to the 199th was soon obvious.
One hour short of midnight on Jan 31st 1968, (can you say Tet!) a lrrp team of the 71st reported large enemy troop movements
in the Long Binh area. An hours notice proved very valuable to the "Redcatchers" of the 199th. History records
the reaction of the 199th to the Tet offensive in it's area of operation. In a nut shell, the 199th kicked ass!
the next six months the 71St continued to patrol in this same area. Then the 199th was deployed to an area southwest of Saigon,
known as "The Pineapples". The 71St went too, based at "Horseshoe Bend". This swampy area was an approach
corridor to Saigon for the VC. It was a area of nipa palm, rice paddies, elephant grass, aboandoned pineapple fields, mud
flats, and reed covered banks of the Song Vam CO Dong, and the canals that connected to it. For approximately the next year,
the 71St put teams into this area to watch footbridges, trails, canals, etc. Approximately half way through this campaign,
I joined the 71St. Many times we went out just overnight to monitor a canal for VC traffic. The VC were ingenious at using
the tide effected canals to move supplies in and out of the Siagon area. We often worked from Navy PBR's. Patrol Boat River
to be exact. These were my favorite Navy craft. They had radar to help us find our exact drop off points. It had a "twin
fifty" up front, besides a M-60 and a grenade launcher. We sometimes went out in a big open boat powered by an outboard
motor. We didn't go far in these, with the PBR's being used most of the time. We used choppers to from time to time, but
mostly PBR's. The longest patrols I remember were only 3 days long in this area of operation. We seldom went out on patrol
without seeing or hearing the VC. This area was heavily booby trapped, and many "Redcatchers" were wounded in this
area of operation. I became the Teamleader of team 1-3 during this time. It was during this time that the 71St was expanded
and became M Company (Ranger) 75th Infantry.
In June of 1969, the Area of Operation changed. The 199th move northeast
to Long Khanh province. The unit settled at Fire Support Base Blackhorse. The terrain and enemy were both different. In
the "Pineapples" the VC were local cadre type, not as trained and disciplined as the VC of the 274th VC Regiment.
There was also the 33rd NVA Regiment to contend with. The mines and booby traps of the "Pineapple" region were
gone, but they were replaced with a tougher enemy. The Redcatcher Rangers now patroled the rain forests of Trang Bom, Dinh
Quan, and the river banks of the Lga Nga and Dong Nai. Initial contact with these more professional soldiers took some getting
use to. They didn't fold up as easy as the ones they were use to fighting in the "Pineapples". They were elusive,
and would stand and fight when cornered, or when occuping good positions. A series of sharp clashes ensued as the Rangers
kept up incessant raiding pressure on the supply lines of these to enemy units. They were so effective that by Feburary of
1969 the 33rd NVA Regiment withdrew from Long Khanh Province, and the 274th VC Regiment was reduced to eating bananas and
roots. The Rangers followed the 33rd NVA into Binh Tuy province. The longer patrols now called for some teams being placed
on remote mountain tops to act as radio relays. This was dangerous work for those Rangers, as they braodcast radio signals
from static locations, anf the patrols were longer, with teams going deeper into North Vietnamese strongholds. In mid July
of 1970 the Redcatcher Rangers were moved to Fire Supportbase Mace, near Gia Ray in Binh Tuy province. They were preparing
to go deeper into NVA country when they got the word that their mission was about over. The 199th had received orders to
stand down. It was time for the South Vietnamese units to assume their share of the fighting. It was time for the Redcatchers
to go home. The Rangers were shipped back to Camp Frenzell Jones in Long Binh and started stand down procedures. By Sept
24th, they were reduced to zero strength, and on Oct 12th, 1970, were deactivated. The 71st LRP - M Co (Ranger) 75th Infantry,
ceased to exist.
Whatever a person may think about that whole thing, summed up in one word, Vietnam, is personal.
One thing for sure, everyone has their own opinion. Did we lose, or just quit?
Should we have been there or not? Who
really knows, and at this pont in time, It really doesn't matter. The one thing I do know for sure is, I will never forget
it! And I'll will never forget what it was to be a LRRP!