Author Recounts Pivotal Battle from Vietnam War

Author Recounts Pivotal Battle from Vietnam War

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Fifty-eight years ago, newly promoted Colonel Harold G. Moore was in the midst of a six-week military operation as he led troops from the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) against a North Vietnamese division in the Battle of Bong Son.

Moore had proved the value of the air assault concept a few months earlier in the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley. This new operation was significantly larger—and deadlier—yet it is much less known today.

Kenneth P. White set out to rectify that situation with The Battle of Bong Son: Operation Masher/White Wing 1966. White served as an infantryman in the 1st Cavalry Division’s Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol unit, and his book is the first full account of the battle. It is also the latest title in the AUSA Book Program.

The Book Program sat down with White to talk about The Battle of Bong Son.


AUSA: What inspired you to write this story?

White: Operation Masher/White Wing marked the start of the ground war in Vietnam. It was the largest operation to date and proved to be one of the costliest battles of the entire war. Writing this book was my way of helping to ensure the legacy of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) during the Vietnam War.


AUSA: Why did the operation have two names, Masher and White Wing?

White: President Johnson reacted angrily to the name Masher. He felt that the name was too crude in light of the fact that the U.S. was promoting pacification as a key strategy for the war, and he ordered a change. The new name chosen by General Westmoreland and his commanders was rumored to be White Dove, but at the last minute they thought better of their choice and settled instead on White Wing.


AUSA: Some will be familiar with Col. Hal Moore from his actions at the earlier battle of Landing Zone X-Ray, as featured in We Were Soldiers Once…And Young. What would you like readers to know about his leadership in Bong Son?

White: Hal Moore demonstrated time after time in the Battle of Bong Son that he was a natural leader who inspired confidence in those around him and moved them to action.


AUSA: What is the legacy of the battle?

White: The Battle of Bong Son demonstrated that the 1st Cav—together with the USAF, the ARVN, elements of the ROK Capital Division, the U.S. Marines, and the U.S. Navy—had the firepower, mobility, and leadership to find the enemy and deliver a severe blow. But without a complementing plan at the strategic level to stop the unabated flow of Communist troops and supplies into South Vietnam, it just wasn't clear how General Westmoreland and the U.S. military could ever achieve victory. Operation Masher/White Wing clearly exposed this flaw in the U.S. strategy.


AUSA: Now that The Battle of Bong Son has been published, what’s next for you?

White: I would like to document that period in the 1st Cav's history immediately following Operation Masher/White Wing, ending at the start of 1968 when General Westmoreland ordered the 1st Cav to terminate its operations in the Bong Son area and move north to the DMZ to reinforce the besieged U.S. Marines at the Marine Combat Base at Khe Sanh.


Please visit to order a copy of The Battle of Bong Son.