PART 1 :
In preparation of my next article about the Battle of An Loc (1972) I have found the After Action Report of then Captain Mark Allyn Smith, call sign Zippo, of the Advisory Team 70, about the Battle of Loc Ninh (04 – 07. April 1972).
It was amazing to me, because during the battle An Loc-Binh Long in the Easter Offensive 1972 I was in An Loc with the ARVN´s 8th Airborne Battalion and he was with 9th regiment of ARVN´s 5th Infantry Division in Loc Ninh. But only after 39 years I know now more details about the fall of Loc Ninh from his story !
The story of then US-Captain Zippo has impressed me so much, that I would like to give here the whole story in his own words. The readers will then recognize, there is really a very narrow ridge between Heros and Cowards on the battlefield.
I. Introduction :
I have read a number of reports concerning the battle of Loc Ninh. The one most professionally disturbing is the one rendered by Major U. C. Collins while a student in the USA Command and General Staff College. One of the material sources from which he gathered information was Major Albert E. Carlson, currently Colonel Albert E. Carlson, Artillery. At the time of the Loc Ninh battle, Major Carlson was the Deputy Regimental Staff Advisor to the 9th ARVN Regiment. During the course of the battle, he was on the inner perimeter - not on the outer perimeter or in the Regimental Tactical Operations .Center (TOC). The important point is that, as an Artillery officer, Major Carlson was assigned to the inner perimeter and ordered to stay there prepared to offer advice to the tactical commander concerning fire support planning. Also to be noted is that as an Artillery officer and staff advisor to the ARVN, this is the job in which he had been trained. Sergeant Kenneth Wallingford was also assigned to the inner perimeter to assist Major Carlson. These men did not have access to the command group during this battle. Additionally, their capability to communicate was limited to one PRC-77 radio adjusted to only the assigned advisor frequency.
In regard to the tactical disposition of friendly and enemy forces, as related in Major Collins' report, they are based upon pure supposition by Major Carlson and are a complete fantasy.
As I recall, a majority of the events, as described in the report, either did not happen or did not occur as described.
Perhaps they are the opinion of Ed Carlson and the 5th DCAT after action report "writers" They could also be the opinion of some Washington based Vietnamese Generals. The opinions provided by these sources, however, are wrong and have no basis in fact.
The map shows the position of An Loc in the RVN´s Military Region III (MR-3) and the NVA´s attack directions in their Spring Invasion Campaign Nguyen Hue (1972).
Key locations of Binh Long Province of RVN´s Military Region III.
Aerial view of Loc Ninh surrounded by rubber plantations.
was the ground commander of all ARVN and U.S. forces during the battle of Loc Ninh. I wrote the attached report from that point of view. Within minutes of the on-set of the battle of Loc Ninh, command of all defending forces was passed to me by Lieutenant Colonel Richard Schott.
I retained this command authority for the duration of the battle; and, in fact, throughout the subsequent period of imprisonment in Cambodia.
From almost the opening moments of the battle, Colonel Vinh (Nguyen Cong Vinh), 9th ARVN Regimental Commander, did not command. Thirty five minutes into the battle, I superceeded his authority and relieved him of command for the reasons noted in the attached report. His staff then served under my command during the entire fight. LTC Richard Schott placed me in command and then protected me from all personnel who attempted to interfere.
Captain Mark Allyn Smith of Advisory Team 70, MACV, call sign Zippo, the American main figure on the ground in the Battle of Loc Ninh (April 1972). He was captured after the battle on 8th April 1972 during his E & E (Escape and Evasion) and held in a jungle prison camp in Kratie, Cambodia for the remaining 10 months. He was released at Loc Ninh in the general POW release on 12th February 1973 in accordance with the Paris Peace Accord 1973. Zippo retired from the US-Army as a Major in December 1996.