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Operation STARLIGHT (sometimes written STARLITE) was the first offensive operation by the United States Marine Corps in the Vietnam War, in which they were joined by Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and Australian troops. It was initiated by a human-source intelligence report from the ARVN, confirmed by communications intelligence, establishing that the 1st Viet Cong Regiment was planning an attack against the port and logistics base at Chu Lai, which they were to call the Battle of Van Tuong, under Tran Van Tra.

On August 15, ARVN I Corps tactical zone commander Nguyen Chanh Thi told the senior U.S. Marine Corps general, Lew Walt. that a deserter reported a VC regiment that the 1st Viet Cong Regiment was in the village of Van Tuong, ready to attack the base at Chu Lai. Communications intelligence confirmed it. Walt could either alert the base defense, or counterattack. He picked the latter, picked a reaction force commander, alerted two battalions, and asked for one to move at fastest speed for his position. The VC underestimated how fast the marines could react. The Marines confirmed a previously experimental air-and-sea technique.[1] While the Marines took 54 dead, ground forces, artillery from Chu Lai, ships and air support combined to kill nearly 700 Vietcong soldiers, the bulk of two battalions.[2] U.S. forces took 45 dead and more than 200 wounded.


  1. Lehrack, Otto J., Leatherneck: Operation Starlite: The First Battle of the Vietnam War
  2. Pearson, Willard (1975), Vietnam Studies: The War in the Northern Provinces 1966-1968, Center for Military History, U.S. Department of the Army, p. 6