Chinese Bandits LRRP Tm 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav 1965-66 Cambodia/Laos Border LRRP


Jerome Conners

Spring 1966 Long Range Patrol by J Conners

A Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol was formed from members of the 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav Recon platoon and attached to division headquarters in the spring of 1966 as directed by the Department of Defense where seven LRRP teams from the US Army Special Forces, US Marine Corps, Navy and other Army units were established to conduct simultaneous patrols within the Republic of Vietnam.

The Chinese Bandit five man team members were SSG Robert Grimes (Acting Platoon Leader of the Recon Platoon), SGT J Conners, Keijo Hyvonen, Louis Tyler, and Terry Stevens. The first long range patrol was conducted along a 75 km route adjacent to the Cambodian and Laotian borders for a period of twelve days and was performed while the other DOD directed teams performed LRRP patrols in other portions of Vietnam. The major objective of the patrol was to locate North Vietnamese positions that had been reported along the border and to obtain specific essential elements of information that included descriptions of the enemy’s uniforms, weapons, communication and other equipment and the presence of any Caucasian personnel.

We wore a mixture of uniforms including standard issue jungle fatigues, WWII vintage camouflage fatigues and 'tiger fatigues'. All members wore patrol caps, LBE with two canteens, two ammo pouches, one butt pack and carried M-16 rifles (taped with slings removed) with bayonets. Two members of the patrol also wore NVA captured rucksacks. Only one 35mm camera and two sets of binoculars were carried. The first LRRP rations were issued and each member carried 6 after removing the outer package and discarding everything except the main dehydrated meal. We intended to only eat one meal per day and our diet was supplemented by a variety of foods including ‘jungle chocolate candy bars’. Only one PRC-25 radio was carried; however, a vertical half-rhombic antenna was carried in addition to the two other standard antennas. Only one SOI was carried and used to prepare the coded daily reports what were transmitted. No fragmentation grenades were carried and only two smoke grenades, one by both Grimes and myself. Several of us wore the 101st Recondo School taped soap dish containing sutures, morphine and other emergency medical items secured to our LBE harness. All members of the patrol had a wound piece of ‘550 chord’ secured to our harness with a 2000 pound tensile strength snap link.

SSG Grimes and I drove a jeep to Division G-2 where captured NVA equipment was stacked in front of the entrance. We were given a briefing that included descriptions of the area we were to patrol and the locations of suspected NVA regiments. We were instructed to recommend and plot our routes and request for pre-arranged fire support after Grimes flew a low reconnaissance of the area in an OH-13. Grimes and I returned to the Battalion area and tentatively selected the routes and observation points from the supplied topographic maps and aerial photographs. We gave the LRRP patrol members a warning order prior to Grimes performing the reconnaissance flight. Upon his return we discussed what he had observed and did not alter our intended routes. The entire patrol participated in the preparation of the operations order that was later given by SSG Grimes. There were no rehearsals performed and the time prior to departure was spent studying maps and checking equipment.

We were inserted about two hours before nightfall using one UH-1 that made only one descent and hover for unloading located near an active and believed to be safe farming area located about 25 km east of the area where we would be operating. We moved rapidly into the tree covered mountainous at the southern limit of the patrol area and proceed through the night to our first observation and study area.

Movement, consisting of walking the approximately 18 hour point to point routes, was intended to be limited to late evening and night navigation with daily situation reports were made in the early morning to airborne Air Force aircraft from positions selected on mountain tops that afforded the opportunity to observe long distances. Rising smoke from what was believed to be cooking fires was plotted on the topographic maps that we carried; however, the planned patrol route was not altered and these sightings were not evaluated from close range. We remained on game trails during most of the movements between observation points. We did not expect the enemy to establish ambush sites or set out mines and booby traps in these areas that were believed to be only occupied by NVA troops. On several occasions we discovered enemy boot prints at stream and trail junctions but not along the trail routes that we were following. We wore issued jungle boots and altered our routes to avoid trails with damp and soft surfaces where our boots would have made an impression. This was difficult to achieve during night movement.

An emergency extraction was necessary when Tyler became unconscious with a malaria fever. At the risk of compromising our location, we requested a single UH-1 to a small tree lined hilltop where we used a rope hoist secured to Tyler’s snap link to lift him from a rock to the skids of the hovering helicopter where the crew were able to grab and lift him onboard. After the aircraft departed, we moved quickly along a game trail down to a valley and up to another mountain ridge where we ‘lay-dogged’ until nightfall and then resumed our patrol as planned.

We were able to zig-sag along our planned routes and complete the daily observation reports from the pre-selected observation points. Close enemy observation was only made on the last day of the patrol where we were to be extracted by two UH-1s from an area located in the northern limits of the patrol area. Eight NVA were found gathering firewood with their rifles leaning against one tree. That encounter will be described in a separate writing.

We were extracted by two UH-1s from a LZ which we had occupied for an entire morning. The areas and trails leading into the LZ were reconned by different team members and we were certain that no enemy troops were within several miles. The UH-1s arrived mid-day and on time and we dove aboard the helicopters and returned to base camp where we requested and were given ice cream, milk and different meals while we prepared our combined de-briefing report that was given by Grimes to G-2 and other division staff late that afternoon. No other LRRP members accompanied him. When he returned, he informed us that everyone was surprised that we had not become lost since the other six teams had more difficulty navigating. When he and I were alone, he asked, “Would you like to dye your skin brown, put on black pajamas and parachute into North Vietnam?” “We have a chance to be the first ‘Sting-Ray’ team."
Sting Ray Team?

It is my understanding that the USMC formed Sting Ray Teams in Kon Tum province in the summer of 1966. The reconnaissance teams were used to locate large NVA bivouac/mobile sites and used indirect fire to destroy them. I do not know the begin and end dates of these USMC units/missions. They did have success but I do not know the details. I believe they also operated in larger than 5 man teams...8-9 men????

I do not believe that the term was used in SF or other military units performing long range reconnaissance missions during the Vietnam war...nor was their a committment to use US long range reconnaissance forces to locate NVA CPs that were initially identified by other means (aerial recon, etc).

The Chinese Bandits conducted other LRRP operations along the Cambodia and Laos borders but were disbanded prior to November 1966...but did not direct fire on any large NVA target. The term Sting Ray was NEVER designated for these LRRP operations conducted by the Chinese Bandits.

A recon NCO (1st Infantry???) did so in 1967??? the intelligence report when searching for this subject matter as an officer. Something that was declassified by 1971.

I contend that it would have not been difficult for US long range reconnaissance units to locate NVA bivouac sites along the border and then direct B-52 missions to destroy these targets. I believe that we would have continued our missions along the border and performed this role if we had not made the political/strategic decision to limit operations in in Cambodia and Laos.