Kentucky Jumper: the Chapter Ends

August 05, 2014 at 5:05 PM

By SP5 Van M. Gilreath
From the Fall 1969 issue of Rendezvous with Destiny magazine

On the evening of August 14, another chapter in the Screaming Eagle saga came to an end as Operation Kentucky Jumper passed into history after 167 days of action in and around the A Shau Valley. Ending at the same moment was Operation Montgomery Rendezvous, the last of a series of three operations conducted under Kentucky Jumper.

In Massachusetts Striker, Screaming Eagles entered the A Shau for the first time since a short raid conducted the previous August. In the initial assault into abandoned Fire Base Veghel, Screaming Eagles were successful in driving off elements of the 9th NVA Regiment entrenched there.

On April 20, elements of the 1st Battalion (Airmobile), 502nd Infantry uncovered a 100-ton cache of signal equipment, munitions and medical supplies along the "Yellow Brick Road" 45 miles west of Da Nang. This cache, one of the biggest of the year in I Corps, yielded 13 trucks, 600 SKS rifles and tons of other supplies.

Following Striker, Operation Apache Snow saw 101st troopers sweep the valley. Beginning May 8th with a massive combat assault in 70 helicopters, elements of the 101st's 2nd and 3rd Brigades, the 3rd Marine Division, 9th Regiment, and the 1st ARVN Division were placed in strategic positions along the Laotian border to the west of the A Shau.

The troopers moved eastward, catching the NVA off guard by this unexpected and unprecedented rear assault, curring off the enemy's withdrawal routes into Laos and setting the stage for the Division's hardest battle, the struggle for Dong Ap Bia. For 10 days, two NVA battalions defended the 1,300 foot peak against artillery, air strikes, and ground assaults. The final assault was accomplished by Screaming Eagles of the 3rd Battalion (Airmobile), 187th Infantry, 2nd Battalion (Airmobile), 501st Infantry, 1st Battalion (Airmobile), 506th Infantry, and the 2nd Brigade of the 34th ARVN Regiment as they drove remaining elements of the 20th NVA Regiment from the massive bunker complex.

In the final phase of Kentucky Jumper, Operation Montgomery Rendezvous, the 326th Engineer Battalion (Airmobile) cut a 1,500 foot runway onto the rugged valley floor. Seven days after the first bulldozer arrived, an Air Force C7A "Caribou" twin engine transport touched down, becoming the first fixed-wing aircraft to land in the A Shau since the days of French rule.

Later, on June 20, armored personnel carriers of the 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry and the 1st ARVN Division's 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry rumbled into the valley along the newly completed Route 547, a twisting, winding road cut through the rugged jungle by the 27th Engineer Battalion. Later, heavy armor, tanks, and self-propelled howitzers joined them, roaming even to the summit of Dong Ap Bia without opposition.

Although Montgomery Rendezvous and Kentucky Jumper closed on August 14, Screaming Eagles continued to operate in the valley until October 1, when elements of the 3rd Brigade moved north to an area of operations west of Quang Tri, screening the redeployment of the 3rd Marine Division. But in their wake, troopers of the 101st left a decimated enemy, severed supply lines, and shattered communications.

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