PFC David Wayne Derry
The following is an account of actions that Company B, 2nd Battalion of the 22nd Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division were involved in during the last few weeks of March 1968.
Company B, 2nd Battalion of the 22nd Infantry Regiment was task organized under the 25th Infantry Division to participate in Operation Wilderness in March of 1968. The operation was the second in a series of operations to counter North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong (VC) following the Tet Offensive starting in January 1968.
The previous U.S. Operation Yellowstone had been very successful in achieving a similar mission in a neighboring province. The 25th Infantry Division task force was assigned to seek out and destroy enemy forces and equipment in the vicinity of the town Tay Ninh and the province of Dau Tieng to facilitate freedom of movement in the area.
In the Tay Ninh to Dau Tieng area enemy forces had established base camps and cache locations that were enabling NVA and VC operations within the region with good supply lines leading to the Cambodian border approximately 30km to the west.
The NVA and VC forces were estimated at around 2,500 to 3,000 personnel of which 1,200 were considered combat Soldiers.
The weather was overall very good, allowing for full air support coverage, and the terrain was generally flat but varied from triple canopy jungle with narrow roads to large open fields and rice paddies typically restricting vehicle movement to established roads.
From 18-21 March 1968. B Co., 2-22nd Infantry Regiment’s specific mission was to conduct base-camp security operations as well as conduct reconnaissance in force (RIF) clearing the main supply route (MSR) between the province Dau Tieng and the town of Tay Ninh.
On 18 March, B Company had sustained heavy casualties when nine U.S. Soldiers were killed in action as a result of a heavy bombardment of their base camp of approximately 40 80mm mortar rounds. Over the next few days mortar fire continued, however did not result in any additional casualties.
Each day B Company would conduct RIF to sweep, clear and “re-open” the MSR between the province Dau Tieng and the town of Tay Ninh due to heavy enemy activity in the area.
Due to the terrain constraints, B Company was mostly constrained to mechanized travel on the MSR.
22 March 1968. B Company conducted route clearance on the same MSR using a RIF with Recon Platoon in support. From what the records show, approximately mid-morning the lead armor personnel carrier, most likely an M113, hit a 50lb pressure detonated anti-tank mine in the vicinity of the red arrow on the attached map. The explosion resulted in the death of PFC Derry and the wounding of another American Soldier along with heavily damaging the M113 they were riding in.
The following several days B Company returned to base camp security and route- clearance duties, however now with accompanying engineer support for route clearance. During this point in the war it was a typical tactic for U.S. Soldiers to line the floor and top of the M113’s in sandbags for additional protection as well as riding on the roof of the vehicle as the threat from sniper fire was less than the threat of hitting a mine or improvised explosive device.
The above account is the best information available to the First Army Command Historian based upon given information regarding PFC David Derry and regarding the 25th Infantry Division’s actions during the week of 18-22 March 1968.
The information was requested by Lieutenant General Antonio A. Aguto, Commanding First Army.
Compiled by Captain Kevin Braafladt
First Army Command Historian