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IA DRANG 1965
AND THE DEFENSE OF LANDING ZONE X-RAY


 

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features
Click here to view Map 1 (98k)LZ X-Ray Map 1
flash animated battle map
Click here to view Map 2 (161k)LZ X-Ray Map 2
flash animated battle map
Click here to view Map 3 (156k)LZ X-Ray Map 3
flash animated battle map

By James Burbeck
In the late morning of November 14, 1965, several platoons of American troops landed by helicopter at a clearing located in the Ia Drang River Valley, Vietnam. Over the next few hours they were followed by more men from their battalion, the 1st of the 7th Cavalry, which was one of the best trained and equipped air-mobile formations in the U.S. arsenal. They came to fight the North Vietnamese Army on its own ground and opened that effort with a visit to this clearing that was code-named X-Ray. The clearing was figuratively in the front yard of a fully trained infantry division of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN). Weeks before, the North Vietnamese commanders heard of the Seventh's deployment to their region and they were keen to fight. They knew it would be necessary to fight bloody battles in order to formulate countermeasures to the new techniques of waging air-mobile war. Both sides received more than they expected though, for a battle developed which quickly spiraled to a crescendo of violence not yet seen in the war. When it ended almost 48 hours later, literally thousands of soldiers from both sides lay dead in the hot tropical sun.

The first group compelled to take their pulverized formations away from the X-Ray perimeter was the PAVN command. Their troops had attacked in closed formations and been chewed to pieces by machine gun and artillery fire. They achieved a measure of revenge in the coming days when they caught a different American battalion as it rested along a nearby jungle trail. However, that was another battle. The living, wounded and dead of the first and second battalions of the US 7th Cavalry were flown back to their bases, given fresh food and clothes, and reformed for another day of fighting. The survivors of Landing Zone X-Ray have always had an aura of fame about them. They fought in the first violent "stand up" fight of the war, and they won... barely. Certainly both sides walked away from this fight with a stronger respect for their opponents. Today, retired warriors from both sides cooperate with mutual visits and research trips to help understand those few days in late 1965.

The heroic acts that typified simple minute to minute existence at X-Ray continue to be relived in the lives of the veterans. For the very man who appears on the cover of the Ia Drang campaign book We Were Soldier's Once... and Young, died in the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. Rick Rescola was vice-president for corporate security for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, and he ordered his employees in the South Tower to evacuate despite official requests to remain in the building. He was last photographed holding a megaphone, ordering his people to keep moving as they evacuated.

 
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