Ambush At LZ Albany, They Came In Swarms
The shooting started at the head of the column, slow at first, then rapidly building as the firing moved down the line. It seemed to be coming mainly from the right side of the column. The NVA troops had been told to attack in many small groups and from many directions. Because of the tall grass, you could hear the shooting but couldn't see the shooter. There was no way to tell if it was friend or foe. How many were killed by friendly fire will never be known. Without leaders, the fight degenerated into a melee where everyone was shooting at anything. Many NVA were in the trees and they were almost impossible to spot.
The 3rd Brigade Headquarters were quick to learn that something terrible had gone wrong on what was supposed to be an easy hike through the woods. There are many accounts of the battle written elsewhere and I will not now try to re-create those stories of personal heroism. Suffice now to say that there were many acts of bravery that day. Early in the fight, the battalion was cut in half and then into many smaller groups. The fighting was hand to hand. It was kill or be killed. Early attempts to get artillery support were not successful. If we had only walked that artillery in front of us when we marched, maybe we could now have been receiving that support. The thick jungle and smoke, hid the attempts to see where shells were falling so that fire could be adjusted onto those area's where it was now so desperately needed. The same thing was happening in the air. Nobady could see anything. There was helicopter gun ships waiting overhead with 2.75 inch rockets and they had nowhere to shoot.
After about two hours, the Air Force and their old Korean War vintage A-1E's began to find their marks and the artillery began to find their targets. The A-1E's connected with Napalm and 250 pounds bombs and worked with their 20 mm cannon. Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, 5th Cav was waiting at LZ Columbus where two batteries of 105 mm artillery were now firing. B Company began to march overland and would eventually link up with those at the rear end of the beleagured column, where they would spend the coming night.
Bravo Company of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cav was already back at Camp Holloway at Pleiku, when they got the word they were needed and so just before 7 PM, they were landing near the head of the battalion in LZ Albany.
The night was harrowing. NVA were killing our wounded troops laying out in the fields. Flare ships kept the area illuminated until they ran out of flares, then the 105's started with their illumination. About 1 AM more choppers came in under fire, dropping off ammo and taking out a load of the worst injured.
On the morning of November 18th, the scene of the carnage could be seen. That afternoon a battalion of the NVA 33rd Regiment attacked LZ Columbus, but after several hours were driven off. It was not until November 19th when the last of the troops were lifted out of LZ Albany, but for many the nightmares had not yet begun. For many those nightmares would last for years, for some they would never stop. The artillery was moved to a new LZ, a few miles away. The chase of the NVA went on.