Wikipaedia’s Description of the Fighting that Capt. John M. Lenti Participated in at Dak Seang During the First Week of August 1967, the Beginning of the Battle of Dak To
PHOTO OF CAPT. JOHN M. LENTI IN VIETNAM — This photo, taken at a U.S. Special Forces Camp shortly after fighting at Dak Seang, the beginning of the Battle of Dak To, shows (left to right) Maj. Fitz Chandler, task force commander; Col. Leroy Stanley, senior U.S. Army advisor, Vietnamese Airborne Division; Capt. John M. Lenti, advisor, Vietnamese 8th Airborne Battalion; Maj. Dick Pifier and Maj. Dick Iori, both Task Force commanders. They had traveled from Saigon to Dak To, believing Lenti was wounded or dead. “I was happy to disappoint them,” recalled Lenti, who later helped extract the bodies of the Special Forces Team commander and one of his team plus several local troops. “The Battle of Dak To was the prelude to the TET offensive in Jan 1968 and the subsequent battle at Khe Sanh that was held by the Marines,” Lenti explained. “This attack at the Marine base was a diversion to fix U.S. forces — to keep them engaged so as to divert attention from the real NVA effort, the Tet Offensive. It was also the time the NVA introduced tanks and overran the Special Forces camp at Lang Vey between Dak To and Khe Sanh.”
North Vietnamese pressure against CIDG outposts at Dak Seang and Dak Pek, 20 and 45 kilometers north of Dak To respectively, was the impetus for dispatching the 42nd ARVN Infantry Regiment into the area while the ARVN Airborne battalion moved to Dak Seang. On 4 August, the 1st of the 42nd encountered the North Vietnamese on a hilltop west of Dak Seang, setting off a three-day battle that drew in the South Vietnamese paratroopers. The 8th Airborne, along with U.S. Army advisers, was airlifted into a small unimproved air field next to the Special Forces camp at Dak Seang. The camp was under sporadic fire and probing ground attack by PAVN forces. This occurred when its Special Forces commander and a patrol failed to return and the camp received what appeared to be preparatory fire for a full scale ground attack by PAVN. The terrain was high mountains with triple canopy jungle. The importance of the Dak Seang camp was that it lay astride the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the main infiltration route of the PAVN into the South.
About a kilometer from the camp, the Army advisers and the 8th Airborne came upon the bodies of the lost Special Forces patrol, all dead, including the camp commander. As the 8th Airborne moved up the mountain, the lead elements were taking small arms fire. Before long, it was obvious that the PAVN troops had filtered down on all sides. By noon of 4 August, the 8th Airborne with its advisers were in a fight that lasted several days. When the unit finally overwhelmed the PAVN forces because of superior firepower in air and artillery, it reached the top of the mountain and found a fully operational PAVN Headquarters, complete with hospital facilities and anti-aircraft emplacements. During the three-day battle, the 8th Airborne Battalion alone withstood six separate ground attacks and casualties among all the South Vietnamese units were heavy.