The 4/39 Infantry Battalion arrived in Vietnam from Fort Riley, Kansas, on January 3, 1967, and was assigned to the 1st Brigade at the Division Bearcat base camp in Long Thanh North (southeast of Saigon in III Corps Tactical Zone). Under the command of LTC Clyde B. Bell, Jr. (January - August 1967) battalion operations were conducted predominately north of the Mekong Delta in the provinces surrounding Saigon. The terrain was hilly and fairly solid ground. Fatalities were incurred in Phouc Tuy, Go Cong, Hau Nghia, Bien Hoa, and Kien Tuong Provinces - 13 KIA (13 hostile).
Between November 1967- January 1968, under the command of LTC Daniel L. Baldwin III (August 1967 - February 1968) the battalion relocated from Bearcat to Ban Me Thuot (Darlac Province) in the Central Highlands of II Corps Tactical Zone. Here the terrain was firm and mountainous. During this period fatalities were suffered in Vinh Binh, Kien Tuong, Bien Hoa, Long Khanh, Phuoc Tuy, and Phuoc Long Provinces - 28 KIA (23 hostile, 1 accidental homicide, 4 non-hostile due to accident, and 1 from illness).
In February 1968 the battalion was transferred to the 3rd Brigade and moved five miles southeast of Saigon to Nha Be. Here under the command of LTC Robert L. Adcock (February - July 1968) elements of the battalion, operating in conjunction with the 3/39 Infantry, engaged a large force North Vietnamese Army unit in the Ong Song River section of Long An Province (April 22, 1969). On a reconnaissance-in-force mission occurring on the evening of March 17, 1968, conducted in the vicinity of Nha Be, a battalion infantryman distinguished himself and the 4/39 Infantry by becoming the battalion's only Medal of Honor recipient during the Vietnam War. The battalion sustained fatalities in Gia Dinh, Long An, Kien Tuong, and Tay Ninh Provinces - 21 KIA (18 hostile and 3 non-hostile due to accident).
At about this point in time the cohesiveness of command of the 4/39 Infantry Battalion began to decentralize through a series of diverse operations undertaken during the same period of time in various provinces of II, III, and IV Combat Tactical Zones.
On July 1, 1968, LTC William E. Berzinec succeeded LTC Adcock on normal 6-month rotation. While operations continued in the Nha Be area - on July 24, 1969 - the 4/39 was placed under the operational control of 1st Brigade while other elements of the battalion were OPCONed to the 2nd Brigade (July 11, 1968) to assist them in a three day sweep along the Song My Tho, 20 miles west of the city of My Tho. This was the 4/39's first combat operation in the aquatic environment of the Mekong Delta. The viability of adding a fourth battalion to the 2nd Brigade Mobile Riverine Force was being evaluated by Division. Tragedy unexpectedly befell the 4/39 at the end of the month when LTC Berzinec was killed by a large land mine while directing his troops in the field. Under his brief command the battalion sustained fatalities in Long An and Dinh Tuong Provinces - 4 KIA (4 hostile including the colonel).
LTC Berzinec was replaced with 1st Brigade executive officer, LTC Franklin A. Hart, who at the time took command of a battalion with elements conducting reconnaissance in force, foot mobile searches, and eagle flight operations northwest of Tan An for 3rd Brigade, mobile riverine operations in the Mekong Delta for 2nd Brigade, and local operations in the Nha Be battalion HQ area. During August 1968 the battalion participated in the longest (to date) operation of the Mobile Riverine Force. In November 1968 the 4/39 was redirected to Binh Long Province, northwest of Saigon. At the end of November the battalion was reassigned to 1st Brigade. Although battalion headquarters remained in Binh Long Province, elements of the battalion conducted a series of half-platoon size (12-15 men) night ambushes along canals in northwestern Dinh Tuong Province. These missions had been executed as an adjunct to Operation My Dien, which was part of overall Operation Giant Slingshot. The prime goal of Operation Giant Slingshot had been to interdict Communist waterborne movements against Saigon on the Vam Co Dong and the Vam Co Tre rivers near Ben Luc and on the Tra Cu north of Saigon. Operation My Dien was an off-shoot operation conducted in and on canals leading to Dong Tam in the Plain of Reeds of northwest Dinh Tuong Province. These night missions were coined aquabushes (as opposed to ambushes) by the Division newspaper and proved highly successful in interdicting VC canal movements. As a short-term expedient near the end of January 1969, the 4/39 was relocated into an unimproved Plain of Reeds position, northwest of Dong Tam, near the intersections of several canals. This area had been a sanctuary of main force Viet Cong who had heavily secured their base areas with mines and booby traps. During LTC Hart's command, the battalion suffered fatalities in Long An, Kien Hoa, and Dinh Tuong Provinces - 28 KIA (26 hostile, 1 non-hostile due to accident, and 1 from illness).
On February 1, 1969, a few days after the move into the Plain of Reeds position, command of the battalion rotated to LTC David H. Hackworth. The battalion hardened its position while anticipating a move to Dong Tam. The battalion was, instead, diverted to FSB Moore. At the beginning of March the 2/39 was directed to establish a new base in western Dinh Tuong Province, north of the village of Ap An Tri (Giao Duc), along National Route QL-4. The name assigned to the new installation was Dickey. LTC Hackworth was an experienced combat officer, having served in the Korean War and an earlier tour in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division in the northern highlands of I Corps Tactical Zone. LTC Hackworth moved the 4/39 headquarters into the new fire support base, which he immediately renamed Danger. He also coined the nickname The Hardcore Battalion and demanded the greeting Hardcore Rondo, Sir! His forces were emplaced at four different locations: Headquarters & Headquarters Company and Company B - Battle Company - at FSB Danger (alternating with Company D - Dagger Company); the battalion kitchen and mortar platoon at District Headquarters in Ap An Tri; Company A - Alert Company - in a Vietnamese cemetery dubbed Tombstone Territory, a klick or so north of FSB Danger; and Company C - Claymore Company - at an abandoned school they named FSB Claymore. Combat and MEDCAP operations were centralized in IV Corps Tactical Zone. The battalion's days of wandering over II, III, and IV Corps Tactical Zones were now over. Under LTC Hackworth's 4-month command Hardcore fatalities were incurred in Kien Tuong, Sa Dec, Dinh Tuong, Kien Phong, and Kien Hoa Provinces - 25 KIA (23 hostile, 1 non-hostile air crash, and 1 intentional homicide).
On February 18, 1969, LTC Hackworth received a minor wound not requiring hospitalization, which resulted in his sixth Purple Heart. On March 25, 1969, he was again wounded and received his seventh Purple Heart. Although LTC Hackworth soon returned to his battalion, Division ordered him relieved. On May 25, 1969, command of the Hardcore Battalion was prematurely relinquished to MAJ James R. Taylor. Under Major Taylor's command the Hardcore Battalion endured fatalities in Kien Phong and Dinh Tuong Provinces - 11 KIA (11 hostile).
The last commanding officer of the 4/39 Infantry Battalion was MAJ Ronald J. Crooks who assumed command on July 21, 1969, for the sole purpose of returning the battalion to the United States on July 30, 1969. Under his command the 4/39 did not engage the enemy and, as a result, suffered no causalities.
♠♠♠- 4/39 Infantry Battalion Statistics -♠♠♠
♠-The 4/39 suffered the least number of combat deaths (118 hostile and 12 non-hostile) of the Division's 10 infantry battalions-♠
♠- 80% of battalion's 118 hostile deaths were Army of the United States (draftees) -♠
♠- 18% of the battalion's 118 hostile deaths were Regular Army (volunteers) -♠
♠- 2% of the battalion's 118 hostile deaths were officers (1 Regular and 3 Reserve) -♠
♠- 9% of the battalions 130 deaths (hostile and non-hostile) were non-hostile -♠
Background Sound: "Crying" - Roy Orbison 1962 RETURN TO FSB DANGER