COMBAT RECON IN VIETNAM
RANGERS AT WAR
SHELBY L. STANTON
Many Cobra Lightning patrols were “walk-out” ventures that formed part of the roving security around the larger Cu Chi vicinity. Just outside the division main base at Cu Chi was Observation Post (OP) Ann-Margaret, a wire-entangled outpost guarding the wooden bridge that led to the Filhol Plantation. Night ambush missions were routinely staged from OP Ann-Margaret to discourage enemy demolition raids against the bridge. Five man recon team Cobra 1-5, led by Staff Sergeant Soetaert, established a night ambush position outside Ann-Margaret well after dark on 6 April, 1968. The night passed quietly, but the team saw three Viet Cong soldiers on the following morning. Staff Sergeant Soetaert relocated the team. The next night passed uneventfully, except for sounds of distant rifle shots.
On the morning of 8 April the patrollers organized a river outpost and observed several large sampans. Most looked suspicious, but the patrol did not fire because they were flying South Vietnamese flags. A night curfew on friendly canal traffic went into effect at sunset, but more sampans glided past the team position. The Americans shot one boater, who was wearing military suspenders with equipment and then withdrew to their night defensive position. Everything was quiet until 9:10 p. m., when three rifle grenades suddenly exploded inside the small patrol perimeter. The surprise blasts caused several casualties, and Soetaert moved his wounded men from spot to spot until they succeeded in reaching the Ann-Margaret outpost gate at dawn.