The first major leadership change for the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, came when LTC John D. White, the battalion commander, was lost due to illness, just before the Pleiku Campaign.
Now jumping forward to the Pleiku Campaign and Operation Silver Bayonet in November of 1965, the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, who had been trained in the airmobile concept at Ft Benning, made the assault in LZ X-Ray on November 14. That battle and it's events are well documented elsewhere. The 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry was already taking part in the campaign as part of the the Divisions 3rd Brigade, and was sent to LZ X-Ray as relief for the 1st Battalion, who were to be extracted. Sending the untrained 2nd Battalion in as relief in this hot combat situation, might be called by some as nothing short of criminal, but I would say that it was ill advised at the least. Up to this point, we had already been one day and one night without any sleep and so were already not in good condition. The 2nd Battalion was the least trained available unit and that fact had to be known at least at the Brigade level if not at Division level. Many had not had any infantry training since their Basic training.
I for one never really knew what we were doing or why. My job as a Spec 4, was in the FDC of the D Company mortar platoon and I sometimes carried a platoon radio. I believe there was a breakdown at some level to giving us the information on the combat situation. Since we did not have a Platoon Officer, that may have been the point of the breakdown, but in any case, we in the lower ranks were not aware of how serious the situation was. A few of us guys casually walked out in front of our lines at LZ X-Ray and wondered about the NVA bodies we found. We didn't know that only hours before, the NVA had been attacking here. No one felt any special concern about where we were at or if we were in any danger of being shot at. We simply hadn't been told.
By now we had been two days and one night without sleep on the evening of November 16th, as we were told to dig in. We had been told that we should be on alert as night fell. Shots during the night, at one time heavy, kept everyone on edge, nobody slept.
The morning of November 17, we had now been two days and two nights without sleep and were both physically and mentally, seriously degraded. The things against us were starting to mount as we began the march towards LZ Columbus. We were leaving so that B-52's could bomb the Chu Pong Massif near LZ X-Ray, where the enemy camps were believed to be. As the 5th Cavalry led off the march towards Columbus, they walked covering artillery fire in front of them as they proceeded, eventually reaching LZ Columbus safely.
Both of the 2nd Battalion leaders, LTC Robert McDade and Major Frank Henry, had been with us only a few days and had never trained with the battalion. In addition, LTC McDade had not commanded any infantry units for several years. The Division Commander, Major General H. W. O. Kinnard, had given the battalion to McDade as a personal favor, for work MCDade had done in the 11th Air Assault Division at Ft Benning. McDade would need the command on his records in order to get the promotion to full Colonel.