Operation ATTLEBORO

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For more information, see: Joint warfare in South Vietnam 1964-1968.

Operation ATTLEBORO was the first mission of the Vietnam War for the newly arrived 196th Light Infantry Brigade[1] begins its first mission, not expecting intense combat, and with live-fire training certainly a goal.[2] The operation, whicht was to be the first of five major "search and destroy" missions of the 1966-1967 winter-spring campaign, eventually involved 22,000 troops. [3] It took six weeks, with 150 Americans and over 1000 Viet Cong dead, eventually rising to need a division in control rather than a brigade. The operation had engaged the 9th Viet Cong Division, which was out of action until October 1967.

The Brigade initally had four infantry battalions with strong support elements. Starting on September 14, 1966, its initial phase called for battalion-sized airmobile operations in Tay Ninh Province, in what was designated War Zone C, or the "Iron Triangle" The War Zones were areas used for Viet Cong training, logistics and command.

Its second phase began November 1 and ended November 5, 1966. Due to the large amount of supplies captured, an additional battalion, 1/27 "Wolfhounds" from the U.S. 25th Division, was attached to the 196th, to help with dealing with the supplies, and the command post discovered at Dau Tieng. 1/27, commanded by MAJ Guy Meloy, was initially assigned to guard the Dau Tieng airstrip and to make air assault patrols over the areas where supplies were discovered.

Meloy was told to block a highway with one company, while the two battalions of the 196th moved out in four directions, four kilometers from the block. He objected, saying it may have looked feasible to the new brigade staff, it did not properly consider the difficulties of jungle warfare. This was indeed the case over the next three days; the terrain split battalions, communications between brigade and battalion often failed, and, at one point, Meloy was forced to command 11 infantry companies while another battalion commander led only his headquarters. A typical battalion has a headquarters plus 3 or 4 companies.

Meloy was able to airlift another company four kilometers west of the block, which soon came under heavy fire, later found to be from the Reconnaissance Battalion of the 9th VC Division. At this time, higher headquarters reinforced the 196th with another battalion of the 27th, under LTC William C. Barrott. Its new plan was intended to retain control; by now, overall command had passed from the 196th Brigade to 1st Division, under MG William DuPuy. [4]

References

  1. 196th Light Infantry Brigade Association, Unit History
  2. Operation Attleboro: The 196th’s Light Infantry Brigade Baptism By Fire in the Vietnam War
  3. Long, Austin (2008), Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence: The U.S. Military and Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1960–1970 and 2003–2006, Rand Corporation, Rand Corporation Counterinsurgency Occasional Paper 6, pp. 13-14
  4. "The Giant Spoiler", Time Magazine, November 18, 1966