The rebuilding of Firebase Ripcord was supposed to be a covert operation, but the NVA watched, learned, and finally attacked the base from the surrounding hilltops. During the siege, the president warned the military to keep this under wraps and not to discuss this battle with the press. After Hamburger Hill the preceding year, mention of this battle and those killed would be catastrophic back home. Here’s a summary of what happened:
by Bernie Weisz
The aftermath of the battle for Ripcord, July 25, 1970.
The Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord was a 23-day battle between the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division and the North Vietnamese Army from July 1, 1970, until July 23, 1970. It was one of the last major confrontations between United States ground forces and North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Little was known about the battle until 1985, when the FSB Ripcord Association was founded. Three Medals of Honor and six Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded to participants for actions during the operations.
President Nixon secretly began the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam early in 1969. As the only full-strength division remaining in Vietnam in early 1970, the 101st Airborne Division was ordered to conduct the planned offensive Operation Texas Star near the A Shau Valley. On March 12, 1970, the 3rd Brigade, 101st began rebuilding abandoned Fire Support Base Ripcord which relied, as with most remote bases at the time, on a helicopter lifeline to get supplies in and the personnel out. The firebase was to be used for a planned offensive by the 101st to destroy NVA supply bases in the mountains overlooking the valley. Located on the eastern edge of the valley, and taking place at the same time as the Cambodian Incursion, the operation was considered covert. As the 101st Airborne Division planned the attack on enemy supply bases, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) was secretly observing their activities.
From March 12 until June 30, the NVA was sporadically attacking the firebase. After weeks of reconnaissance by the NVA, on the morning of July 1, 1970, the North Vietnamese Army launched a mortar attack on the firebase. During the 23-day siege, 75 US servicemen were killed, including Colonel Andre Lucas, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor; and First Lt. Bob Kalsu, the only active pro athlete to be killed during the war. Fighting from four hilltops, surrounded, and outnumbered nearly ten to one, U.S. forces caused heavy losses on eight enemy battalions, before an aerial withdrawal under heavy mortar, anti-aircraft, and small arms fire.
After the U.S. Army withdrew from the firebase, USAF B-52 heavy bombers were sent to carpet bomb the area. Major General (ret) Ben Harrison, then the commander of the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne at FSB Ripcord, is of the opinion that perhaps the NVA losses at Ripcord, just as the losses of their major offensives of the Ia Drang in 1965 and Tet in 1968, dulled the offensive capability of NVA for two full years, resulting in the delaying of their Easter Offensive from 1971 to 1972.
Click on the link below to see short videos filmed prior to the siege on Firebase Ripcord.
For more about this battle and how Bob Kalsu died, please check out this additional article on my website: https://cherrieswriter.com/2022/02/05/the-buffalo-bills-were-the-only-pro-sports-team-to-lose-an-active-player-in-vietnam/
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I just beg to differ on your description on the outstanding 101st being the only full strength division in Vietnam, early 1970. Was in the Americal at that time and it was quite a large and mobile full strength division, with three active infantry brigades, the 11th, 198th and the 196th, in the Southern I Corp AO of Quang Ngai, Quang Tin, and southern Quang Nam.provinces. Oh Yeah ! Thank you for an excellent story.
The Q-4 Radar on Ripcord was my unit and when we were taken off of Ripcord the chopper received so much fire he had to drop the Radar and everything else had to call in air support to destroy it all all of this happened just before I was to come home I never prayed so much in my life as I did then you see I had went over with the Division in 67 and wanted to come back with it but after Ripcord I didn’t push my luck anymore Welcome Home my Brothers and God Bless
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Thanks for sharing such amazing story!
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This was the era of time I spent in the 1st of the 501st 101st Airborn Division. We patroled the surrounding areas as an Infrantry unit. Co. A.2ND Platoon. We later moved up on the DMZ North of Quang Tree. That is where Lt. Peter Durney (Road Runner) Myself and my new RTO ( so new I can’t remember his name) was wounded after I returned from R&R and went wirh Peter to 1st platoon. I was getting short myself when I was wounded, so short that that same day I was to return to the rear to start processing out.
Though we have reunions every two years and have done so for some 6 years now, it is difficult to get everything into proper prospective with Dates and times and even people. I am sure as with most 40 plus years leaves things sketchy @ best.
I do enjoy reading articles regarding the war and events that happened with respect to the mindset of other individuals. At least It gives me a sence of sanity and leaves me not feeling like I was on an Island with all the distorted thoughts that I have encountered.
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