Regulars find base camp

By SGT Louis Miller

LZ DOTTIE, (198th Inf. Bde. IO) – A large open area caused infantrymen from the 198th Infantry
Brigade to move through a heavily vegetated area southeast of Chu Lai recently.  The detour
netted the infantrymen a Viet Cong base camp and one enemy soldier killed.

 A platoon from Charlie Company, 1stBattalion, 6th Infantry was maneuvering through a
thick area when the “Regulars” came to an open space.  Although it would have been shorter to
move across the large open area, Staff Sergeant William Mennefee of Cleveland, decided to have
his men cut through the thick brush.

 Spcialist 4 David Compton of Louisville, Ill., pointman led the platoon through part of the
area without too much trouble, but he became suspicious when he spotted two passage ways
through a thick hedgerow.  Mennefee ordered that the patrol set up a day laager position a short
distance away.  The “Regulars” then sent a patrol back to check the area.

 “When our patrol moved through the small tunnel-like passage ways, we found a Viet
Cong base camp,” he said.  “When the whole patrol was through the hedgerow, we began
checking out the area for booby traps.”

 The camp was 500 feet long and 200 feet wide, and had a trench line around the position.
Also, the Viet Cong had tied the tops of the hedges and trees together, and pulled them over the
area so that the camp couldn’t be observed from the air.

 While investigating the enemy camp, the “Regulars” uncovered sleeping positions,
fortified fighting positions, clothes, and freshly cut hair.  The camp appeared to have been used

 The “Regulars” set up a night defensive position near the enemy camp site in hopes that
the Viet Cong would try to use the camp again.  It turned out to be a good decision because the
“Regulars” engaged and killed a Viet Cong when he entered the camp that night.

 At first light the next morning, the “Regulars” swept the area of contact and found a
homemade pack, ten pounds of rice, and a canteen cup.  Mennifee plotted artillery on the enemy
camp, and accurate artillery fire completely destroyed the Viet Cong base.

 Due to a massive land clearing project in the area, the Viet Cong will be hard pressed to
find another suitable site.  Hundreds of Viet Cong tunnels have been uncovered and destroyed in
the past few months.

 “I am glad we destroyed this camp,” he said.  “I imagine it is one of the last sanctuaries
that the enemy had in this area.” [End of article from the Americal newspaper]

 [Additional details of the operation mentioned in the newspaper article have been gleaned
from the official S2/S3/S5 Journal created at the LZ Dottie TOC, and now stored with the
military documents collection at the National Archives II in College Park, MD.

 On 14 January 1971, the 3rd Platoon, Co. C, 1st Bn 6th Inf, participated in a night combat
air assault from LZ Dottie into a LZ at BS 636 934.  Night ambushes at BS 627 923 and BS 630
930 were unproductive.  At 1427 hours on 16 Jan 70, the C35 element under SSG Mennefee
discovered the base camp at BS 627 909.  The journal provides details:

“Item #43 1445 C36 [sic] at 627909 18[sic] 1427 found a V.C. base camp big enough to
accommodate 35 men.  Complex was 500 x 100 meters & showed signs of recent use.  Neg
personnel in the area.  Found underground placements for hammocks and bunkers.  Also found a
couple of medical bottles and human feces not more than 72 hrs old.  Bde Forrey MFR JG.”

 A cross-reference check with the 1st Bn 14th Arty TOC journal found in the National
Archives II  provided details about the fire mission SSG Mennefee called to destroy the site:
161602-1625 at BS 625 909 A/1-82 (4 tubes of 155mm howitzers) fired 8 rounds in adjustment
and 34 rounds HE on the base camp.  D/1-82 (8" guns) fired an additional 34 rounds HE at the
same target.  Both units fired from LZ Dottie.

 The newspaper reference to the ambush resulting in one VC KIA is somewhat inaccurate.
That incident actually involved the C36 element under 1LT Johnston and their confrontation with
eight VC at BS 624 909 on 2045 hours 17 Jan 71.  Once the enemy base camp was destroyed, the
VC may very well have been searching for another area to set up camp.  The land clearing
operations had striped much of the vegetation in the area and severely limited their options.  See
the related stories on this site for additional details.]

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