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538th Clears Mang Giang Pass:  Grim History of Ambush Ends

castleSM.gif (1734 bytes)  Story and Photos by:  SP5 Robert Patterson  castleSM.gif (1734 bytes)

AN KHE  (299TH Bn)

While this Rome Plow mows down elephant grass near the Mang Giang Pass, a scout helicopter pilot, background, takes a breather to check out his ship.
Drivers eye view through the steel protective cage of a Rome plow belonging to the 538th Land Clearing Company
Mine crater and broken track serve as constant reminders of the hazards of land clearing in Mang Giang Pass
This Rome plow operator goes about his business knowing he is safe under the watchful eye of a 4th Infantry Division APC, which provided the armored securtiy for the Mang Giang Pass operation.
     June 24, 1954, shortly after the fall of Dien Bien Phu, the French Groupement Mobile 100 was ordered to evacuate the garrison at An Khe.
     Before dawn, supported by armor and mobile artillery, the task force of over 300 battle-hardened elite troops comprised of French, Cambodian and Vietnamese units struck out for Pleiku across 80 kilometers of Communist held road.  The road was highway QL-19.
     Mobile Group 100 never reached Pleiku.  A little after 2 p.m. the lead elements of the convoy entered the small valley that precedes the entrance of Mang Giang Pass.  Waiting for them was the Vietnamese People's Army Regiment 803 (Viet Minh).  Taking advantage of the six-foot high elephant grass growing almost to the shoulders of the road, the attackers virtually wiped out the entire task force in a matter of hours.
     Ten years later an Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) ammunition convoy out of Quang-Ngai, bound for Pleiku entered the same valley.  The lead trucks were destroyed by land mines, stopping the trailing vehicles.  Before air support could be called, the Viet Cong had severely damaged and partially stripped the convoy.
     Until recently, anyone who passed down QL-19 through the valley found himself flanked by the same elephant grass, with its grim history and ever present threat of ambush.
     The men of the 538th Land Clearing Company, under the supervision of the 299th engineer Battalion (Cbt), have recently changed all that.  Using Rome plows, giant bulldozers that cut a swath through the jungle trees and under- growth, they have cleared the vegetation away from the critical stretches of the highway out to 300 meters on either side.

     The dangers of such an operation are obvious.  Enemy mines are a constant threat. However the chances of ambushes are cut down by the armor security provided by the 4th Infantry Division, but there are no guarantees, especially at night.  But from now on, QL-19 will be a safer road for all Allied forces

Article submitted by Bobby Bunch

Rome Plows of the 538th Landclearing Company, 299th Engr Bn (Cbt) move to the "cut". the area surrounding Mang Giang Pass.

Published Article Links:


538th Come In

Highway  QL-14      '69

Van Canh  '69

Long Binh               '70

Highway QL-19       '70

Tam Quan District

An Khe Pass            '71

Duc My                    '71

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