What Went Wrong At LZ Albany?
As I now set my thoughts to paper, some 38 years after the disaster at LZ Albany, with the added value of hindsight, and as one of those caught in the ambush, I believe that I can at least make a few comments about what went wrong or right in that fight. This is in no way a professional analysis. A professional might find completely different answers. In addition to my speculation, we must ask what if any, military procedures might not have been followed.
First, I have the highest respect for the bravery of those many souls who gave their lives for their country on November 17, 1965, in the ambush at LZ Albany, and for those now living with disabliities and dark memories of that time.
It is my personal belief that although the ambush took place on that above mentioned date, the disaster at LZ Albany had is roots much earlier, even before the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, left Ft Benning, Georgia, and it started with a political decision.
Using an event that is now sometimes called doubtful, then President Lyndon Johnson, used the "Gulf Of Tokin Incident" as a reason, for ordering the 1st Cavalry Division to Vietnam. Between the time of his order and the departure date of the 3rd Brigade, things had to happen almost at lightning speed, reducing or totally eliminating badly needed training that could possibly have helped to prevent the coming disaster, in only three months time.
While the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, had trained much with the 11th Air Assault Division, the 2nd Battalion had no such training. Having just one "familiarization" flight with the helicopters was the extent of our airmobile experience at Ft Benning. We received our M-16 rifles, only ten days before departure. My platoon had been trained as a Davy Crocket Platoon and was converted over to a mortar platoon for the new mission. We shipped out without even a Platoon Leader who normally would be a 2nd Lt. Our training as a mortar platoon was very limited and our training with other elements of the Company was even less. To say that we were combat trained or combat ready, would have ranked as one of the greatest lies ever told.
When we arrived in Vietnam, in September of 1965, we went from ship to shore then to helicopters for the flight to the 1st Cavalry Division base camp. Only minutes into our flight, one of our choppers had mechanical problems and we had to land to provide cover for the disabled machine. We were deployed in a perimeter, in a water filled rice paddy. We may have looked bold with our M-16's, but the only problem was that not one soul had even a single bullet for any weapon! So much for good planning. Luck was with us that day though, and we finally made it safely to the base camp.