Thurman P. Woodfork

IN MEMORIAM – BATTLE OF DAK TO

A sip of Jose Cuervo for the brothers
so revered and dear…
In honor of the many brave comrades
who are no longer here…

To those who fought and persevered
on bitter Hill 875,
To those who breathed their last there,
and those who emerged alive:

You remain forever memorialized
in the hearts of all who were there;
While they live the sun will not rise upon
A day when they do not care.

Some gave all they had;
Some gave all they could.

Salute.

Author’s Note: For Terry Sutherland, who was there.

November 3, 1967
Battle of Dak To Begins

In some of the heaviest fighting seen in the Central Highlands area, heavy casualties are sustained by both sides in bloody battles around Dak To, about 280 miles north of Saigon near the Cambodian border.

The 1,000 U.S. troops there were reinforced with 3,500 additional troops from the U.S. 4th Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade. They faced four communist regiments of about 6,000 troops. The climax of the operation came in a savage battle from November 19-22 for Hill 875, 12 miles southwest of Dak To. The 173rd was victorious, forcing the North Vietnamese to abandon their last defensive line on the ridge of Hill 875, but the victory was a costly one because the paratroopers suffered the loss of 135 men, 30 of whom died as a result of an accidental U.S. air strike on U.S. positions. In the 19 days of action, North Vietnam fatalities were estimated at 1,455. Total U.S. casualties included 285 killed, 985 wounded, and 18 missing.

During this battle, the North Vietnamese failed to achieve one of their main objectives, which was the destruction of an American unit. They came close, but the Americans, despite heavy losses, had achieved the true victory: they mauled three enemy regiments so badly that they were unavailable for the Tet Offensive that the Communists launched in late January 1968.