Katum Convoy
~ 720th Military Police Battalion Reunion Association ~ Vietnam History Project ~
This Page Last Updated    26 April 2008
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18th Bde.
Katum... was a forward firebase about 55 nautical miles northwest of Bien Hoa and on the 3 mile buffer zone boundary of Cambodia, in Tay Ninh Province, north west of Tay Ninh City, III Corps Tactical Zone.
        In 1966 the 25th Infantry Division arrived in Vietnam and set up their base at Cu Chi and Tay Ninh. The border areas which included Katum were part of their Area of Operation.
25th ID

        The airfield at Katum was constructed during Operation JUNCTION CITY in the late winter of early 1967. The site was the drop zone for the paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Infantry who jumped over it in the only major American airborne operation of the war. Airborne engineers constructed two airfields in the same general region of their objective area. Tonlecham, the other airfield, along with Katum was one of the two most dreaded forward airfields in South Vietnam.

        The problem at Katum was that it lay very close to the Cambodian border, so close that North Vietnamese artillery across the border in South Vietnam's "neutral" neighbor could shell the airfield at will. It was also close enough that the Communists could transport crew-served weapons across the river and position them off the approach end of the runway and shoot up landing C-130s and C-123s almost at will.

        The base was staffed by U.S. Special Forces A Team 322 in February 1968 to interdict North Vietnamese Army units that used the safety of Cambodia to strike at the Tay Ninh Cu Chi area. They nicknamed the base “Ka-boom."
5th SF
        On 31 October 1970 it was turned over to the 84th ARVN (Army of The Republic of Vietnam) Border Ranger Battalion. It is unknown what U.S. units used it after 31 October 1970, and probably under the umbrella of MACV.
1 April The 720th MP Battalion was assigned to provide escort security for the Long Binh to Katum convoy. The Katum run was the tail end of the Tay Ninh Convoy. During the month April the convoy was being run twice weekly.
        Difficulty was experienced in obtaining highway clearance, the 6th ARVN Ranger Battalion, which was responsible for sweeping the southern portion of Highway TL-4 from Tay Ninh to Prek Klck, did not commence mine sweeping operations until the latter part of the day, and occasionally, the highway was not swept for mines during the day. This resulted in the convoy being delayed for periods ranging from several hours to several days.
        During one occasion in April, the Kautm convoy was held up at Tay Ninh for four days before the road could be freed of mines and booby traps. On this particular occasion, the 6th ARVN Ranger Battalion located a total of 8 mines the first day, however, they failed to carry proper detonation devises to destroy them with. On the second day three additional mines were located which delayed the convoy for an additional two days. The roadway was ultimately cleared of mines and booby traps on the fourth day and the convoy was allowed to proceed to its destination.
17 April Highway TL-4 was declared cleared by ARVN troops responsible for conducting a mine detector sweep. The resupply convoy was barely underway when a truck behind the lead C Company, 720th MP Battalion V100 Armored Commando Car of SP/4 Peter Proserpi hit a land mine injuring two soldiers. SP/4 Proserpi assisted in their MEDEVAC after which the convoy continued. SP/4 Proserpi continued to visually search for signs of additional land mines as he drove on. He located seven additional mines, which he marked to enable the rest of the convoy to pass safely. After closing into Katum, SP/4 Proserpi, with several other men, drove back down the road to the marked mines and destroyed them with explosives preventing additional casualties. SP/4 Proserpi was recommended for and received a Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service for his actions that date.
        During the first month the lack of proper mine clearing by the ARVN’s resulted in the injury to 2 U.S. personnel and damage to 2 government vehicles. The Katum convoy had also been subjected to 122mm Katusha Rocket attacks during which three rockets were fired at the convoy, and during the month of April a total of 23 mines were located on Highway TL-4.
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