This is a book review by Randy L Harvey of Ia Drang 1965 - The Struggle for Vietnam's Pleiku Province by authors J. P. Harris and J. Kenneth Eward and illustrator Edouard A Groult with series editor Marcus Cowper.

The History

The Pleiku campaign of October-November 1965 was a major event on the Vietnam War, involving the first substantial battles between the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and the US Army.  Playing a major role in the campaign was the US1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), a new type of formation equipped with a large fleet of helicopters.  In the wake of the PAVN siege of the Special Forces camp at Plei Me, the division was tasked with pursuing the retreating Communists.  The resultant clashes at landing zones X-Ray and Albany between the PAVN troops based in the Chu Pong Massif and the 1stCavalry have become iconic, and are superbly documented here using detailed maps, specially commissioned bird’s-eye-views, period photographs, and vivid battlescenes. *

* Quoted from the back cover of the book. 

The Book

Osprey Publications has released Ia Drang 1965 - The Struggle for Vietnam's Pleiku as Number 345 in their Campaign series. It is a soft cover book with 96 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs and color photographs, color illustrations with accompanying black and white illustrations, detailed captions and more. It has a 2020 copyright, a publication date of January 23, 2020 and the ISBN is 978-1-4728-3515-4.  Detailing the command strategies, tactics and battle experiences of the opposing forces throughout the crucial stages of the campaign the book details the battles that took place in the Pleiku Province during the war in Vietnam between the American and Vietnamese forces.

 

THE CONTENTS:

-     The Strategic Background

-     Chronology

 -    Opposing Commanders

                - North Vietnamese

                - South Vietnamese

                 - American

- Opposing Forces

                 -The PAVN

                 -The ARVN

                -US and South Vietnamese Special Forces and CIDG

                -The US 1st Cavalry Division

               -Orders of battle

   -     Opposing Plans

  -     The Campaign

              -PAVN preparations for the Pleiku campaign, September – October 1965

             -The siege and relief of Plei Me, October 19-25, 1965

             -Initiating the pursuit, October 27-30, 1965

            -The hospital firefight, November 1, 1965

            -The Ia Drang ambush and LZ Mary, November 3 -4, 1965

            -The last days of 1st Brigade, November 4-12, 1965

           -3rd Brigade takes over, November 9-12, 1965

           -The raid on Catecka, November 12/13, 1965

          -The shift toward the Chu Pong Massif, November 10-14, 1965

         -LZ X-Ray, November 14-16, 1965

        -LZ Albany, November 17-18, 1965

        -LZ Crooks and LZ Columbus, November 18, 1965

       -ARVN Airborne Brigade operations, November 18-27, 1965

-     Aftermath

-     The Battlefields Today

-     Bibliography

-     Index

 

THE TEXT:

 Authors J. P. Harris and J. Kenneth Eward cover the pivotal moments between the North Vietnamese and American and South Vietnamese militaries facing each other during the battles for the Pleiku Provence. J. P. Harris and J. Kenneth Eward give a step-by-step narration of each of the battles which, with the accompanying maps, helps place the reader at the battles and makes it easy for the reader to understand what took place and why.  As well as providing information on the separate battles, J. P. Harris and J. Kenneth Eward detail the organization of the military units, weapons and equipment used by both sides as well as the fighting techniques of the combatants and their successes and failures. Along with their own words, J. P. Harris and J. Kenneth Eward also provide quotes from a North Vietnamese B3 political commissar as well an excerpt from an American after-action review providing specific details.  Also provided are details of battlefield conditions, and other such information, which provides a feeling of what the men were putting up with during the fighting to help the reader understand what took place from the overall picture down to the most minute details.  The battles are all discussed from prior to the fighting, to the actions taken during the fighting and the actions and end results after the fighting had ceased.  The authors provide detailed information on the commanders on both sides of the conflict and their strengths and weaknesses as leaders and what they did before, during and after the fighting, why they made the decisions that they made and the outcome of their decisions.  Military support is also detailed in regard to reserve forces, air support, artillery support, etc. and their strengths and weaknesses.  The use of air mobility in its first major use and the downsides and strengths of this new type of combat is also well discussed.  The text in the book is nicely written and well detailed. As I read through the text, I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors.  Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings.  I feel that if the text is well written then it shows that the author has taken the time to be a professional with their writing.  Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book on the battles that took place in the Pleiku Province during the war in Vietnam between the American and Vietnamese forces to their personal library will be pleased with this very informative and interesting book.   

 

THE PHOTOGRAPHS:

 A total of 34 black and white photographs and 31 color photographs are included in this volume. The photographs range from wide angle photographs to close-up detailed photographs.  Some of the photographs appear to have been taken from video as opposed to being still frame photographs.  The majority of the photographs are clear and easily viewable; however, a few have an out of focus look to them and some appear to be too dark, and others appear too light.  This can be typical for military photographs and the quality of the photographs is of no fault of the author and do not take anything away from the book.  Authors J. P. Harris and J. Kenneth Eward stuck to the title of the book and chose subject specific photographs and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book.  The majority, if not all, of the photographs will prove to be a wealth of information to anyone interested in the American military, South Vietnamese military, North Vietnamese military, aircraft and armored vehicles and the war in Vietnam as well as the uniforms, weapons and warfare of the period due to the details they contain.  The accompanying photographs definitely help give the reader a visual reference for the text that they are reading.   

 

Some of the photographs that I found to be interesting were of: 

-     US Piasecki H-21 Shawnee “Flying Banana” helicopters

-     US M41A3 Walker Bulldog tanks

-     US M113 Armored Personnel Carrier (APC)

-     US Boeing CH-47A Chinook and US Bell UH-1DIroquois helicopters on the flight deck of the USS Boxer

-     US Boeing CH-47A Chinook helicopter transporting a US M102 howitzer by sling load

-     South Vietnamese ARVN Rangers armed with US weapons – M1 Thompson submachine gun, M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (B.A.R.),M79 grenade launcher, and M1 carbine.

-     US Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe “Skycrane” helicopter

-     US Bell OH-13S Sioux helicopter

-     US Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe “Skycrane” helicopter cargo pod, also known as a “people pod”

-     US Bell UH-1B Iroquois gunship helicopter

-     Chinese produced copy of a Type 54 12.7mmheavy machine gun with a homemade replacement anti-aircraft sight fashioned from local materials

-     US North American F-100 Super Sabre fighter-bombers

-     US Douglas A-1E Skyraider ground attack aircraft

-     US 1st Cavalry troops with captured enemy small arms

 

Various small arms shown throughout this volume are:

 

-     Russian and Chinese AK-47 assault rifles

-     US XM16E1 (M16A1)

-     US M1 Garand

-     US M1 carbine

-     US M60 light machinegun

-     US 1911 .45 pistol

-     US M1 Garand with attached grenade launcher

-     US M1A1 Thompson submachine gun

-     Soviet RPD light machine gun

 

THE ILLUSTRATIONS:

 There are 3 two-page color illustrations by illustrator Edouard A Groult.  The color illustrations are each accompanied by a black and white copy of the same illustration that describes the scene and points out and describes key areas of interest.  The illustrations are very well done, nicely detailed and are of:

Plate A

Plei Me Camp

-          Two-page illustration of the main gate of the Plei Me camp with US and South Vietnamese Special Forces team members interacting with two local Jarai women and a Jarai child. 

Plate B

LZ X-Ray, November 14, 1965

-         A two-page action scene depicting troops of Charlie Company exiting a UH-1D helicopter and it touches down in the landing zone.  This illustration is shown on the front cover of the book.   

Plate C

LZ Albany, November 17, 1965

-         A two-page action scene depicting troops of the PAVN 8th battalion, 65th regiment assaulting the command group of Alpha Company, 2/7 Cavalry.     

3-DIMENSIONAL‘BIRDS-EYE-VIEWS:

There are three3-dimensional ‘birds-eye-views’ included in this volume and there are of:

-         LZ X-Ray: November 14, 1965

          - The first day, which witnessed an American airmobile assault and effort to secure the LZ.

-         LZ-Xray: November 15-16 1965

           - The last two days of the battle, during which the 1st Cavalry force reinforced and defended the LZ  while rescuing a platoon that had been cut off the previous day.

-         LZ Albany, November 17, 1965

         - On November 17, after the conclusion of the battle at LZ X-Ray, the 2/7 Cavalry marched overland toward a small clearing designated LZ Albany a few kilometers to the north-northeast.  The PAVN 8thBattalion, 65th Infantry regiment was at that time marching in the opposite direction, toward X-Ray.  The North Vietnamese commander Le Xuan Phoi was faster to react to the chance encounter that Robert McCade, his American counter-part, and quickly moved his troops into positions around the LZ and the flanks of the American column(still stretching along the march route) before the Americans were even aware of their presence.  Thus began the battle.


THE CAPTIONS:

The captions are well written and explain the accompanying photographs and illustrations in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown.  The captions go into very specific detail as to the specific individuals shown and their military rank, specific military units, weapons, armored vehicle designations, aircraft designations, dates and locations and other such pertinent information.  I was impressed by J. P. Harris and J. Kenneth Eward’s captions as they are very helpful to the reader due to their detailed content as opposed to other captions that I have seen that are very brief and lacking in detail.  

 

MAPS:

There are 6 color maps included in this volume and they are of:

-         Pleiku and Bihn Dinh provinces

-         PAVN siege positions around Plei Me CID G camp, October 20, 1965

-         Battalion areas of operation, 1stBrigade, 1st Cavalry Division, October 29-November 2, 1965.

-         Plei Me and the pursuit, October19-November 6

-         Actions at LZs X-Ray, Albany, Columbus, and Crooks, November 1-18, 1965

-         Joint ARVN-US operations, November 18-27,1965

 

 PROFILES:

 There are 12 individual profiles of the opposing commanders included in this volume and they provide information on:

North Vietnamese

-         Major General Chu Huy Man

-         Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Huu An

South Vietnamese

-         Major General Nguyen Phuoc Vinh Loc

-         Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Trong Luat

American

-         General William Childs Westmoreland

-         Major General Stanley “Swede” Larsen

-         Major General Harry W. O. Kinnard

-         Colonel Richard T. Knowles

-         Colonel Harlow Clark

-         Colonel Thomas “Tim” Brown

-         Lieutenant Colonel Harold “Hal” Moore

-         Lieutenant Colonel Robert McDade

 

NOTES:

There are 3 notes included in this volume and they are: 

-         Authors’ acknowledgements

-         A note on map sources

-         Air Cavalry unit abbreviations

 

INFORMATIONAL CHARTS:

 There are 4 informational charts included in this volume and they are of: 

-         Key to military symbols

-         Key to unit identification

-         Acronyms

-         Conversions

 

CONCLUSION:

As with the other Osprey Publishing titles I was impressed with this book.  This is a very nice reference book that contains a well written informative text, many subject specific photographs and illustrations, well detailed captions and more, all detailing the battles that took place in the Pleiku Province during the war in Vietnam.  As with the other Osprey Publishing titles, I would have no hesitation to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal reference library. 

 An excellent volume by Osprey Publishing.  Definitely beneficial to the Vietnam war and Vietnamese and American militaries enthusiast and historian and the scale figure modeler.


Osprey Publishing also offers Ia Drang 1965 - The Struggle for Vietnam's Pleiku Province as:

eBook (ePub) ISBN: 978-1-4728-3514-7

 and

 eBook (PDF) ISBN: 978-1-4728-3513-0

 

Osprey Publishing’s, Ia Drang1965 - The Struggle for Vietnam's Pleiku Province is also available as a Kindle version through Amazon.

PRICE:

US $24.00 / UK £15.99 / CAN $32.50


Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here on the KitMaker Network when you make your purchase. Thank you.

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