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Posted on Apr 17, 2006 in Front Page Features, War College

Snoopy’s Point – Vietnam

By Wild Bill Wilder

Task Force 116

To once and for all recapture the waterways of the Delta, Task Force 116 (code named Game Warden) was formed on December 18th, 1965. Initially, the Navy had nothing in its inventory to fight this kind of war. It was a war not quite on water and not quite on land, and yet it was both. In a lightning campaign, a series of large and small naval craft were modified for the task. If not available, they were produced. The classic example of excellence was the tiny PBR (Patrol Boat Riverine, or as its crew renamed it, “Proud, Reliable, and Brave”).

To have more of an impact on enemy operations in the Delta, however, the fighting would have to be taken inland. When the patrol boats cleaned up the rivers, the enemy simply melted away into the thick foliage, out of sight of the guns. To root them out, army land forces would have to be used. The Republic of South Vietnam committed the 7th and 21st Divisions, plus various naval and marine units. From the United States came units of the 9th Division. A second task force was formed; this one called Task Force 117. Its craft included armored troop carriers called ATCs. To support them, heavily armed and armored craft known as “monitors" (recalling the unique ship of the Civil War) were designed. They carried every type of weapon including twin 40mm guns, grenade launchers, mortars and flamethrowers.

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These forces were active in the IV Corps and the Rung Sat Special Zone (RSSZ) at the mouth of the Saigon River. TF 117 was organized into four 400-men river assault squadrons. Each squadron had troop carriers and five monitors. At Dong Tam the task force also kept a barracks ship and numerous barges, the larger of which carried 105mm howitzers for quick artillery support. It was a well-equipped, highly motivated force that provided a serious challenge to the 263rd and 516th Main Force VC battalions that were attempting to control the area. From June 1967 through July 1968 this mobile Riverine force conducted one attack after another against their enemy in Operation Coronado.


A Navy machine gunner of the Riverine Force

VC Ambush on the Rach Ba Rai

Not everything, however, went in favor of the Allies. One of the biggest actions of TF 117 took place on September 15-16 1967 along the Rach Ba Rai River. Colonel Bert A. David’s Mobile Riverine Brigade had just come back from one encounter with the 263rd VC Main Force battalion and was going back for more. The Colonel’s plan was to trap the enemy in their positions along the river, about 8 miles north of its confluence with the Mekong River. They were supposedly entrenched along a twist in the river called “Snoopy’s Point” (because its shape resembled the nose of the famous “Peanuts” dog). He planned on pushing the 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry past the point to Beach White One. Another battalion, the 3rd of the 47th would come overland from the south. The empty river craft would form a block at the river.

Finally, another battalion of the 60th Infantry would enter from the east in M-113 troop carriers with tank support. This latter force would serve as the hammer that would slam down on the anvil of the previously mentioned units. This would leave the VC with no way out and allow them to be cut to pieces with artillery and air support.

That was the plan. But, as so often happens in war, the enemy did not cooperate. Instead of holding their fire as the ships moved passed, headed to Beach White One, the enemy chose to open fire from carefully concealed points along the river bank, some positions so close to the waterline that the guns on the ships could not depress enough to return fire. RPG rounds buzzed like angry hornets and pummeled the armor of the ATC’s and the monitors. T-91-1, an Armored Troop Carrier (ATC), received five RPG hits in less than a minute and was ordered to the rear.

Instead, its captain chose to stay and fight. Navy Sea Wolf helicopters darted in and out, firing miniguns and rockets into suspected enemy emplacements. The fighting raged for hours, with some of the ATCs managing to get their human and armored cargo on land. Once on shore, however, the situation did not improve. Hardly had the men landed when fire from Viet Cong riflemen began to wreak havoc. Automatic weapons fire increased the carnage. Screams of pain and calls for medical attention could be heard above the din of small arms fire and bursting mortar shells. Grenadiers took position and returned fire with canister rounds from the M-79’s. Air support was called in and an immediate dispatch was sent, ordering the 2nd Battalion, 60th Regiment in from the east by helicopter.

The first landing at Snoopy’s Point proved to be a washout. There was not enough manpower on shore and the enemy was still too full of life. The boats that had put the troops ashore were called back under heavy enemy fire to evacuate those who had landed. It was a tough fight getting them out. Once done, however, US artillery and air support pummeled the river banks mercilessly. By the afternoon, the complete 3rd battalion was brought ashore and instead of assuming a blocking position, immediately went to the offensive, moving south. Although the Viet Cong continued to resist fiercely, army firepower took it to the enemy with such strength they were forced back continuously.

By now the shadows of night were enveloping the area and Lt. Colonel Doty put his men into defensive positions for possible counterattacks by VC forces still in the area. Nothing of consequence, however, took place. The next morning, as troops from inland closed the trap around the Viet Cong, it was evident that the Communist troops had evacuated the area during the night.

In the cleanup which followed, over 200 enemy bunkers were uncovered and at least 79 VC bodies still remained with evidence that others had been removed by the survivors. American losses included seven killed and 123 wounded, most of them from the 2d Battalion. What had been a near disaster for the Riverine Forces had been converted into a victory by the heroic efforts of the United States soldiers, sailors, and airmen who had joined in the fight.

Partial Bibliography

The Illustrated History of the Riverine Force-Vietnam, J Forbes & R Williams
Nam, The Vietnam Experience – Vietnam, J Pimlott
Mekong-Vietnam, M Fenelon III
Seven Firefights in Vietnam, Various
Brown Water-Black Berets-Vietnam, TJ Cutler

Author Information:

Wild Bill Wilder, a native of Atlanta, Georgia, was introduced to modern warfare as a tot in World War II when his father and uncle went off to war in the USAAF. It was an experience that influenced him greatly throughout his life. After graduating from Toccoa Falls College in 1962, he spent the next 10 years in public service in various countries in Central America. He then worked in public transportation until his retirement in 1999. Wild Bill now has even more time to dedicate to his passion – wargaming. In 1997 he formed a group called "Wild Bill’s Raiders." From small beginnings the Raiders expanded into five separate web sites and gave top-notch coverage to a number of popular wargames. Bill has also been a vital part of the production of 13 different games, including SPWAW, Combat Mission, The Operational Art of War, and John Tiller’s Squad Battles series. He has authored over 1300 scenarios and campaigns for these and other games over the last nine years. At age 68, Bill is also a prolific writer, with his primary focus on warfare of the 20th century. To quote him, "Wargaming is a passion that never dies with the passing of the years. Instead it only intensifies as new and better wargames are produced. It is in military history that one finds often written in blood the glory and the grief of mankind!"

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