The 1st Cavalry Division (Air Mobile) arrived in Vietnam in September 1965. Their mission was to defeat the enemy by pioneering a new concept of warfare that used helicopters to fly over enemy positions or rough terrain and insert troops directly into the battle area. On November 14, 1965 this concept was put to the test, when 450 Soldiers of the 1st battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, commanded by LTC Harold G. Moore, Jr., were airlifted to a point near the Cambodian border dubbed LZ X-Ray. Unknown to them, they had dropped into the midst of a major assembly area for the 2,000 man NVA 66th Regiment, augmented by another 700 soldiers of the NVA 33rd Regiment. The Chu Pong Massif, a 2,041 foot high mountain that overlooked the landing zone was honeycombed with tunnels linking NVA storage areas and quarters.
As American units fanned out around the LZ, 2nd Platoon of B Company, numbering 29 men, lost contact with the main body of troops while pursuing NVA soldiers. The platoon collided with over 500 enemy troops moving to assault the American position. The embattled platoon was surrounded and cut off from the main force during the three day battle that ensued. The entire 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry found themselves greatly outnumbered as they tenaciously defended the perimeter of their LZ. Soldiers fought for their lives against repeated
NVA assaults, while also trying to break out and relieve the isolated platoon. The Americans were supported by intense artillery fire and air attacks, including B-52's dropping tons of high explosives and fighter-bombers with napalm.
The battle raged through three days and two nights. Reinforced by elements of the 2nd battalion, 7th cavalry and the 5th Cavalry, the American perimeter around LZ XD-Ray held firm. On November 16 the NVA units melted into the surrounding woods and jungles. The isolated platoon had been rescued the day before. They had suffered many casualties, but most survived and the NVA never took their position. The Battle of the Ia Drang was the first engagement between US and NVA forces and revealed that the NVA were the true adversary the United States faced and not merely the Viet Cong.
"The din of battle was unbelievable. Rifles and machine guns and mortars and grenades rattled, banged and boomed. Two batteries of 105mm howitzers, twelve big guns located on another landing zone five miles distant were firing nonstop, their shells exploding no more than fifty yards outside the ring of shallow foxholes....We were dry-mouthed and our bowels churned with fear, and still the enemy came on in waves...."
LTG Hal Moore
We Were Soldiers Once.... and Young (1992)