NVA units and supplies were continuously coming down what was dubbed the ‘Ho Chi Minh Trail’ (HCM trail), a complex, semi-concealed network of roads, trails, waterways, and mountain paths originating in North Vietnam, looping through the border areas of neutral Laos and Cambodia, and crossing into SVN at various points. These were well-trained, well-equipped, uniformed units that entered the fray alongside the VC. For the North Vietnamese troops, coming down the trail was a long, arduous journey, all the more so given steady US bombing the length of the route. Still they came, and, since the NVA and VC traveled light, only modest amounts of materiel had to make it through the gauntlet to supply them in the battle zone.
began assaulting as soon as contact was made....They immediately made physical contact with us and stay[ed] as close as possible, even between our ranks....so that we couldn't use [our] artillery or air strikes.
NVA Assault Troops
The counter-tactic worked so well for the 174th Regiment that word went out to all NVA commands in SVN to use it. As the war ground on, US commanders changed and adapted their tactics accordingly, but of course it was too late for the men of Company A of the 173rd Airborne.