Land Clearing 101

From the initial start-up of Land Clearing operations in South Vietnam back in the Spring of 1967, when the 3 original Land Clearing Platoons of the 27th, the 86th, and the 35th Engineers came onto the scene in South Vietnam, tactics and logistics were still a formative aspect of the process. But, with roughly 100 men assigned to each of these units, they learned and jelled in fairly short order. It is not to say that mistakes were not made along the way, as accidents did occur from time to time, even as the Platoons evolved to become ‘Teams,’ and to later become formal ‘Companies’ within their respective Battalions and areas of operation. In fact, several of our noted KIAs over the 5year existence of these unique and innovative Army engineer units had come not from enemy action, but from unfortunate errors that led to costly accidents where lives were lost, while severe injuries had also occurred as a result.

But, as time and new methods developed, accidents were minimized, and tactics were heightened to bring production levels up, in reflecting on the average acreage cleared in
a day. The daily work involved with each unit's field operation had become a coordinated 'team' effort, with all working unit members performing their assigned tasks, to not only make it happen, but in maintaining things on a regular basis. Like cogs or spokes on a wheel, each member of a Land Clearing unit represented a single supporting element in determining and realizing the success of each assigned mission. It is to say that no single element (or man) was more important than any other in this process, in relating to the overall make-up of each of these LC units. From the Supply personnel, to Cooks and company Mess, to various Mechanics and Plow Operators, to Lowboy and Fuel Truck drivers, along with Platoon Leaders and Sergeants, and to Clerks and the Company Commander, all of these positions and several more were designed to collectively support and serve the needs and direction of Land Clearing operations in Vietnam.

Because of the unique system and personnel make-up involved with Land Clearing and its specific methods of operation, all of the LC units in Vietnam over the course of time were of little difference. Essentially, one Land Clearing unit was largely the same in its overall make-up as any other. The only notable difference probably involved the terrain in which they worked and the type of vegetation that had to be removed. But, for a unit to depart on a 45 day field operation, with logistics in place for convoy travel, and with the coordinated supply of food, fuel and other essentials brought in by air, while set up in a circular berm encampment called a Night Defensive Position, or NDP, and while also having mechanized security elements from various Infantry Divisions positioned with their tanks and Armored Personnel Carriers set up all around the NDP's perimeter berm at night, while also serving to secure the activities of the plows by day, this was all standard operational procedure for a Land Clearing unit on any given mission.

But, the main point here, which lends itself to the team aspect of things, is that it took each and every one of us to form the very nucleus of what ultimately resulted in our respective Land Clearing unit's overall success. And, make no mistake about that...tactical Land Clearing in South Vietnam was a complete success.
So, never let it be said that your involvement in this historic endeavor didn't really make much of a difference; because it did, as it was your dedicated efforts that helped to save countless lives while clearing the way for others in South Vietnam.


Terry T. Brown
86th Land Clearing Team – 86th Engineer Battalion - 1968
501st Land Clearing Company – 62nd Engineer Battalion – 1969