EDD Hogeboom: The Battle of the IA Drang Valley

Posted on February 19, 2012



The Legend of The Ia Drang Valley

The legend of the Ia Drang (pronounced: I Drang) refers to the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam.  It was the scene of a very significant firefight.  It was the very first time a contingent of troop-carrying helicopters inserted a large number of American troops deep into enemy territory.  The troops were inserted in the late afternoon on Nov. 3, 1965. C Troop’s Blues (combat ground troops) were to leave the Landing Zone (LZ) and set up ambushes for that night along heavily traveled trails used by the Viet Cong.  Lieutenant Colonel John B. Stockton, call sign Bullwhip Six, was the Commanding Officer of 1/9th Cavalry, the newly formed Air Mobile 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry known, historically, as the “1st of the 9th Air Cav) that flew the First Calvary Troopers into the Ia Drang Valley on November 3, 1965.  The idea was to hit the enemy and cause him to incur heavy losses due to the surprise of American Troops (having been inserted just before sundown on the 3rd) hitting them so deep and unexpectedly in their own territory.  Our Troops would fall back to the LZ and be extracted early the next day.  The planned ambushes became a firefight that lasted throughout the night, with heavy losses suffered by both sides.  Unknown to C Troop’s intelligence, this turned out to be an area heavily populated with overwhelming numbers of Viet Cong.  Lt. Col. Stockton tried to get upper levels of Command to send him additional helicopters and troops during that night and was refused.

Upper Command’s thinking was that our pilots and crews were not trained nor prepared to do night extractions.  Meanwhile, Col. Stockton’s ambush patrols, who were trying to get back to the LZ where they were originally inserted, were being over-run and over whelmed by the far greater numbers of enemy troops.

Finally, in the early morning hours, Col Stockton took it upon himself to order a reserve contingent of helicopters and troops to fly in and secure the area, find his missing patrols and get those left alive, as well as, the bodies of our dead back to the LZ and ultimately extract them.  It was finally accomplished without one man alive or dead being left behind in the enemy’s territory.  This was the beginning of the Air Calvary, as it became known from then on.

Lt. Col Stockton was ordered back to the states for disobeying Command’s earlier decision.  However, it was later proven that even though the reserve unit of Air Calvary he had ordered to fly into this very hot (a great deal of ground fire used against the American helicopters) LZ took losses.   The losses to those who initially were flown in, along with their helicopter crews, would have been far greater if Col Stockton had not taken it upon himself to do what he did to save as many of his men as he could.  He was later promoted to General before he retired from the Army.  He has since passed away, but still retains the Call Sign: Bullwhip Six.