|U.S. Army Land Clearing Engineers In Vietnam 1967~71
In Honor Of Those Brave Men who, fought together as one to
defeat the enemy and complete their missions.
| Just 20 miles north of Saigon, the "Iron Triangle" was a near impenetrable stronghold where the jungle protected a labyrinth of enemy staging areas and resupply points. Operation Cedar Falls, the first in a series of U.S. offensives in 1967, was about to violate this sanctuary.
After six infantry, armor and cavalry battalions sealed the 40-square-mile area on January 9, 1967, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (11th ACR) attacked west of Ben Cat. Engineers atop unusual-looking bulldozers rode alongside and sometimes preceded the cavalry troops. When the dozers formed into echelons and moved straight into jungle so thick it could stop a tank without to much difficulty, the cavalrymen's expressions quickly changed to astonishment.
The specially modified D7E bulldozers were known as "Rome Plows," a name borrowed from the company that made them, the Rome Plow Company in Cedertown, Georgia.
The process that brought the plows to the Iron Triangle began in September 1965. Having observed the VC tactics for the past year, General William C. Westmoreland, commander of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam (USMACV), told his staff to develop options for jungle-clearing to expose VC base camps and infiltration routes. Experience had shown that conventional infantry sweeps merely displaced the enemy temporarily. When the soldiers left, the VC returned. Clearing the jungle would remove the sanctuary. Unfortunately, there was no established doctrine or procedure for doing this.
| The search ended when the Department of the Army recommended the Rome Plow, already in use in the United States to cut fire breaks. The system used a D7E dozer fitted with a reinforced cage to protect the operator while heavy tubular steel skeleton extended from the cage to the front of the dozer to shield the engine. The heart of the system, however, was a special oversized blade produced by the Rome Plow Company, originally located in Rome, Georgia, which later moved to Cedertown, Georgia where it remains in operation today.
Rome's K/G blade was wider than the dozer, nearly as tall as a man, and weighed more than 2 1/2 tons. Mounted at a 30-degree angle to cast debris aside, the blade rode 6 inches above ground level to cut trunks but to leave root systems intact to prevent erosion. Besides it extremely sharp slicing edge, the spade curved more than the conventional earth-moving blade and a re-inforced steel "stinger" protruded from its left side. The driver used the stinger to weaken large trees by stabbing them repeatedly and twisting the tractor.
Lastly Rome Plows used tactical cuts to support combat operations. This mission included clearing landing zones, base camps, and security zones around villages and forts, and often involved elements of both area and road cuts. The tactical cut, not surprisingly, was the most hazardous operation for Rome Plow Operators.
Although Engineers solved many problems during 1967, two significant impediments hindered land~clearing operations, natural obstacles and maintenance. In addition to snipers, mines, collapsed tunnels and hidden bomb craters, drivers faced the daily challenge of the jungle itself. Mahogany trees 200 feet tall fell on top of the dozers, branches penetrated protective cabs, and there was always dust or mud and temperatures that could exceed 130 degrees. Then there were the snakes, insects and worst of all, bees that often brought cutting to a halt. Many operators became causalities before crews discovered that green smoke helped disperse the swarms. Other varieties of smoke were ineffective. Bees produced one third greater number of casualties among Rome Plow units following mines and night mortar attacks.
| USMACV reorganized the teams into land-clearing companies late in 1968, each with 163 men and a maintenance platoon. Despite this, operators still performed most in-field maintenance and showed a remarkable ability to keep the machines running. Their effectiveness resulted in the formation of the Army's first land-clearing Battalion in January 1969, the 62nd Engineer Battalion (Land Clearing). Based at Long Binh, the battalion absorbed the 27th and 86th land-clearing teams into the 60th and the 501st companies and formed a third dozer company, the 984th. The battalion also had an all-important heavy maintenance company. Assigned the mission to support II FFORCEV, the battalion allocated one company per combat division.
In I FFORCV, the 18th Engineer Brigade organized its Rome Plows differently to deal with more restricted terrain and unreliable road network. Instead of a battalion, the 18th deployed one of its three land-clearing companies to each of its three engineer groups.
In mid April 1970, Rome Plows led American and Vietnamese Units into Cambodia. The dozers opened roads, cleared airfields and bases, and uncovered enemy camps and facilities on both sides of the border. When President Nixon ordered their withdrawal, Rome Plows had already cleared in a 18 month period of 14 Dec. 1968 ~ 30 July 1969, 1 July 1969 ~ 31 Dec. 1970 and 1 Jan. 1971 ~ 31 Dec. 1971 a total of 284,681 acres of jungle, performed numerous mine-clearing operations, and destroyed more than 1,000 VC structures. Other statistics for this period include: total days in the cut, 1,794 ~ Average per plow per day: 158.69, average acres per day: 158.69, average plows in cut per day: 21.3, KIA ~ 25 and wounded 566.
Meanwhile several land~clearing companies were standing down as the number of U.S. personnel in Vietnam decreased. As each company deactivated, its equipment went to a Vietnamese engineer unit.
The 62nd trained and helped form the ARVN 218th, 118th and the 318th Vietnamese Land~Clearing Companies. One company was each assigned to support each of Vietnam's three mititary regions. Vietnamese operators gradually relieved the U.S. land-clearing units until December 1971 when the last U.S. Land~Clearing Company, the 60th Engineer LC, deactivated.
The men who operated and maintained the plows, as much as the equipment's design, gave the Rome Plow it's well deserved reputation as one of the innovative and effective weapons in Vietnam.
These dedicated soldiers daily faced the dangers of combat and refused to yield to snipers, mines, exhausting temperatures or grueling hours fighting jungle tree by tree. They also suffered extremely high casualties. Despite these adversities, or perhaps because of them, Rome Plow crews consistently had the higher rate of voluntary extension in Vietnam of any group of Engineers. These were the men who made the Rome Plow synonymous with Land~Clearing and Jungle~Busting.
Information & Statistics Provided By:
Jack "Chief" Thomas~27th LCT & 1SGT Andy Anderson~60th LC
|These Men Are Known As The:
Jungle Eaters, Land Barons, Bushwackers,
Ryders Raiders, Rome Plows and the Rome Runners
The Makers of The U.S. Army Land~Clearing Engineers !
1102 Sierra Vista Rd.
Gatesville, TX 76528
This is only a brief history as the biggest majority of the history, of these GREAT men seems to have been lost or destroyed. Any and all contributaions to this would be greatly appreciated. This site will be in a constant state of construction as new information is gathered and corrections/additions made.
Donations of Photos and discriptions from all units/teams needed also.
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VERY ELITE LAND CLEARING TEAMS/UNITS.