A SWAP of Brigades - The
The facts behind a swap that forever confused the
history of two separate combat brigades and
perhaps left a legacy of injustice to the
men of both Brigades.
We have fielded a number of queries asking why several regiments, including
the 35th Infantry and the 14th Infantry, consider themselves as belonging to two divisions—the 25th and the 4th. Hopefully, the following explanation will
The 25th’s Third Brigade was the first unit of that division to deploy to Vietnam. Alerted for deployment from Hawaii to Vietnam on December 11, 1965; within two short weeks Operation “Blue Light” was underway. It would prove to be the largest airlift of men and equipment to a combat zone in military history. The 3rd Brigade advance party began to deploy on December 23 and the main body on December 27. The 1/14th went by boat while the 1/35th and 2/35th flew in Air Force C-133 Cargomasters and C-141 Starlifters. All told, counting the support units, 4,000 men and 9,000 tons of supplies were moved by air. The 3rd Brigade established their headquarters at Pleiku due to Westmoreland’s concern over continuing NVA presence in the Central Highlands.
The 2nd Brigade arrived in Vietnam on January 25, 1966 with the 1st Brigade following on April 29th. Both these brigades were stationed near Saigon at Cu Chi to help combat VC control in the Ho Bo Woods, Bo Loi Woods and the Iron Triangle. Thus early on the "Bronco Brigade", also known to the GI on the ground as the "Bastard Brigade", established a pattern of operating far from the rest of the division.
When the 4th Division arrived in Vietnam on September 25th, 1966, it stationed its 1st and 2nd Brigades in the lowlands of II Corps. However, it found a 3rd Brigade of the 25th already operating independently in that Corps — the men of the “Bronco Brigade.”
Because the 3rd Brigade of the 25th was so entrenched in Pleiku, and because that division was clamoring for another brigade to assist operations near Saigon, MACV decided on an unusual compromise. The 25th got a third brigade—that of the 4th Division, not its own. In return the 4th received operational control of the "Bronco Brigade". Thus a new brigade of fresh troops augmented the seasoned 25th near Saigon, while at least one veteran brigade operated with the 4th in the highlands.
In August of 1967, MACV devised what it hoped would be a solution to the confusing alignment of the 3rd Brigades. On August 1, 1967, the 4th and 25th swapped 3rd Brigades. In one stroke the 2/12, 2/22, and 3/22, operating near Dau Tieng, went over to the 25th, while the 1/35, 2/35, 1/14, 1/69 Armor and 2/9 FA, based in Pleiku, became part of the 4th.
So that is the story. While the swap was near cosmetic to those of us in-country at the time—the damn bullets still sounded scary no matter what division you belonged to—it certainly has made it difficult for the “Bronco Brigade” to receive the recognition it deserves in either Division’s official history.
-----by Dick Arnold from the Cacti Times
Webmaster's Footnotes: (1) Many thanks to Dick Arnold of the 35th Inf Regt Assn for providing such clarity on the brigade swap. There are some historians who continue to state that the 3rd Brigades "re-joined" their respective divisions. Obviously, they know not of which they speak. We used to burn those opinions with diesel fuel.
(2) There were reports and rumors of reports that the "big swap" resulted in a lot of acrimony between the commanding general of the 4th Div and the 3rd Brigade commander who was involuntarily swapped to his command. This resulted in several/many combat awards, well deserved and heroically earned, not being processed.