|Quan Loi - August 12-13, 1969|
I was SSG Thomas L. Mathis, a member of the 1st Squadron 4th Calvary of the 1st Infantry Division on the night of August 12, 1969.
Alpha Troop ¼ Cav had been working around Quan Loi for a couple of weeks in early August. We had been doing sweeps from the Northwest, South, and Southeast of the base. I was not told what and why we were so active in the area. Most of us were unaware that a large offensive was suspected and the area around Quan Loi was a prime target. I assume intelligence was aware of this as I look on our actions in retrospect.
Alpha Troop at full strength consisted of three platoons of (3 M48 tanks, 6 Acavs, and about 30 men) as well as another 8 or so men and three vehicles of headquarters armored vehicles. On the night of August 12, we were deployed in a screening fashion with 1st platoon two clicks south and west of Quan Loi, 2nd platoon East of Quan Loi on road 303, and headquarters and the 3rd platoon South of Quan Loi. My platoon ( 1st ) was sitting around the strong point we had made in the middle of the road when the fireworks began around Quan Loi. We knew they were getting a ground attack. Lots of tracers, illumination, and gunship’s around Quan Loi let us know it was a pretty good attack.
Around 2400 hrs. the 2nd platoon east of Quan Loi began to see images in the starlight scopes. They engaged the images and the fight began to develop.
Slow at first as if the NVA really didn’t want to fight but had been caught in a night movement. The fight developed without assistance for a while due to radio malfunctions of the Platoon SGT. There was no Platoon Leader (1 LT.) with them that night. The 2nd battled the NVA for at least an hour before a gunship passing over head was able to pick up their radio and relay it to our C.O. The 3rd platoon and headquarters immediately reinforced the 2nd Platoon. After another 30 minutes, the 1st platoon was asked to join the battle. Each platoon moved east down road 303 to the sight of the 2nd Platoon reconing by fire as we approached the battle. We fought the NVA until almost day break. We were unable to get artillery or gunship assistance until about 4:00 A.M. due to concentration of support around Quan Loi. At about 5:00, The battle began to cool. Sporadic fire would crank up as NVA attempted to escape the sight. We had expended approximately 150 tank canister rounds, 40,000 rounds of 50 caliber machine gun ammo and probably 100,000 rounds of 30 caliber, M-16, claymores, M-79 grenades, etc. We had lost two KIA and about eight wounded. We policed up about thirty NVA bodies.
Our C.O. estimated the NVA force at about 100 to 150. Later we found out through intelligence and POW’s captured in the area, that we had battled the entire 272nd Battalion of NVA. The body count climbed for about a week as the dead were found hidden in the area. There was estimated to be about 66 NVA KIA. The rest of the story seems to be that the unit that hit Quan Loi was a sapper unit to penetrate the base and cut a hole in the perimeter and the 272nd Battalion that ran into 1/4th =Cav one click to the east was on the way to join the attack on Quan Loi and push through the openings cut by the sapper and primary attack units. We were working OP Con to 1/16 Mech of the 1st Air Cav unit. Their C.O. came to the field and talked to us, thanking us for our effort and decorated those that were recommended. He said he was recommending our Troop for a presidential unit citation but I never heard any more about it after that day.
I knew Quan Loi had been hit pretty hard; we had some comrades in the base that night that relayed the picture to us the next day. We entered the base the next day for awhile. The wire had been completely destroyed for a long section which the day before looked like an impregnable stack of concertina wire. It was a hot night for a lot of us and I am proud to read the account from members of the 6/27th Artillery and how it all fit together.
Thomas L Mathis
A Troop, 1/4 Cav, 1st Infantry Division.
Prepared and Loyal