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Tragedy at LZ Albany

"It ran through my mind for a moment, "did his father feel something, did anybody? Was she reaching for a can of peas in the supermarket and feel a tug or a jolt and not know what it was? Does anybody close to him know that he just died?"--U.S.soldier

"No matter what you did you got hit," wrote Jack Smith, son of the famous news commentator Howard K. Smith, then a soldier with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, about the NVA ambush of his unit near Landing Zone Albany on November 17, 1965. "The snipers in the trees just waited for someone to move, then shot him. I could hear the North Vietnamese entering the woods from our right. They were creeping along, arguing and babbling among themselves, calling to each other when they found a live G.I. Then they shot him."

This was the tragic postlude to the victory at LZ X-Ray the day before. As the NVA withdrew, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile)'s 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry was ordered to move overland some two miles northwest to a jungle clearing called "LZ Albany". It was seen as a "walk in the sun". Unbeknown to the 7th Cavalry, however, the NVA had staked out all the clearings in the area, and its 8th Battalion, 66th Regiment, which had been held in reserve during the fight at LZ X-Ray, was alerted to their approach. Strung out for 550 yards along the line of march, the NVA sprang the ambush as the column reached the edge of LZ Albany. Thus began what one observer called "the most savage one-day fight of the Vietnam War."

The 400 men of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry were both surprised and outnumbered. Enemy forces included both the 550-man NVA 8th Battalion, 66th Regiment and remnants of the 1st and 3rd NVA battalions, 33rd Regiment, which had retreated from Landing Zone X-Ray the day before. When the battle ended the next morning, 155 U.S. soldiers had been killed and another 124 wounded.

Well-trained, well equipped, and highly motivated, the 1st U.S. Cavalry Division was the U.S. Army's elite division. Its 7th Cavalry, which experienced such tragic losses in the wake of victory in the Ia Drang, is most famous for its part in the Battle of Little Big Horn, where it met both death and glory under General Custer in 1876.