CHAPTER XII

Phase II-East to West

Technically speaking, Junction City II was scheduled to begin at one minute past midnight on the morning of 18 March. However, for some elements of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division it started much earlier as they repositioned themselves and strove to complete the required facilities before the attack into eastern War Zone C began.

By 3 March, two of the three battalions of the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, which had assaulted by helicopter on D-day into the northern portion of the Phase I horseshoe, had been withdrawn from that operational area. The 1st Division engineers had com-pleted their operations in the Phase I area by that date as well; they too were withdrawn and repositioned along the east side of War Zone C.

On 4 March the 1st Brigade, 9th U.S. Division, came under the operational control of the 1st Division. It was assigned the initial mission of opening Route 13 from Lai Khe north to Quan Loi for one or two days in order that several large convoys might pass; included in those convoys would be the men and equipment of the 1st Engineers. On 7 March the forces of the 1st Brigade, 1st Divi-sion, and of the 1st Engineers would join and the preparatory work for Phase II would commence. The mission assigned the 1st Brigade of the Big Red One was to open Route 246 west and south-west of An Loc and to secure the engineer construction party at the site where 246 crosses the Saigon River and the engineer work parties constructing the Special Forces and Civilian Irregular Defense Group camp and airfield on the west side of the river. The mission of the 1st Engineers was to improve Route 246 to the Saigon River, construct a Bailey bridge over the river, and com-mence construction of an airstrip just west of the bridge site. (The construction of the camp would be the responsibility of a non--divisional engineer unit.) After Phase II began, the 1st Engineers had, in addition to its usual support role, the mission of opening and maintaining Route 246 from the Bailey bridge to a fire support base which would be established at Sroc Con Trang, five kilometers northwest of the bridge.

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The bridge was started on the 8th; since it was 210 feet long it was necessary to construct a concrete center pier for support. By noon on the 12th the bridge was open for traffic. By 18 March- the opening of Phase II- Route 246 had been opened and in fact improved to a distance of just over 6 kilometers west of the bridge site to the turnoff to Sroc Con Trang. By the 18th the jungle had been cleared from 1,800 feet of the runway, shaping and compact-ing of the subgrade continued, and 400 feet of runway had been completed. Phase II could begin.

The II Field Force mission for the second phase remained the same as for the first; all that changed was the focus of activity. During this phase, Lieutenant General Bruce Palmer, Jr., suc-ceeded General Seaman as the commanding general of II Field Force, Vietnam.

The mission of the Big Red One for Phase II was to continue security of the bridge site and Routes 246 and 244 within the zone; to construct and secure the Special Forces and Civilian Irregular Defense Group camp and airfield; and to place two brigades astride the two enemy routes of communication in eastern War Zone C and have them conduct search and destroy operations. For resupply purposes it was also necessary to keep Route 13 open from Lai Khe to Quan Loi most of the period.

In addition to its organic 1st and 2d Brigades (Colonels Cald-well and Grimsley), the 1st Division would have available the 1st Brigade, 9th Division (Colonel Maurice W. Kendall who was suc-ceeded by Colonel Donald A. Seibert during the period), which would remain attached until 29 March; the 173d Airborne Brigade (General Deane), attached from 20 March to 13 April; and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (-) (Colonel Cobb), attached from 1 through 15 April. One of the squadrons of the 11th would be attached for the entire phase.

The mission of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division would con-tinue to be the security of Route 246, the bridge site, the camp and airfield, and some of the twelve fire support patrol bases the division would establish (stretching from Lai Khe north to Quan Loi, west to Sroc Con Trang, and south on Route 244 from its junc-tion with 246). The 1st Brigade, 9th Division, except for one week, would be responsible for keeping Route 13 open from Lai Khe to Quan Loi, for escorting convoys along it, and for defending as-signed fire bases in its operational area. (One such fire base at Ap Bau Bang was attacked on 20 March.) It would also conduct considerable searching and destroying-with some success- adjacent to Route 13. On 1 April the 11th Armored Cavalry Regi-ment (-) was to be attached to the 1st Division and would assume

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the mission of the 1st of the 9th until the end of Phase II. Escorting as many as two hundred vehicles a day through the 55-kilometer run, these units kept enemy firings upon convoys to very few (only two under the 11th Armored Cavalry with no damage). (Map 14)

On 17 April the 2d Brigade, 1st Division, was relieved of its Revolutionary Development operations by the 2d Brigade and joined JUNCTION CITY for the first time. Commencing on 21 March the 2d Brigade would insert two battalions into Landing Zones BRAVO and CHARLIE in Objective Area FAUST northwest of Sroc Con Trang (and only 2 kilometers south of the Cambodian border); they would conduct search and destroy operations south to Route 246. By 29 March the brigade was to secure Fire Support Patrol Base THRUST along Route 244, 1,500 meters south of its junction with Route 246. On 30 and 31 March it was to conduct airmobile assaults with at least two battalions into Landing Zone GEORGE in Objective Area SIOUX, deep in War Zone C just 5 kilometers east of Bo Tuc and 2 kilometers north of Route 246. (The battle of Ap Gu would take place in Area Sioux on 1 April.) The 2d was also to

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secure Fire Support Patrol Base C (Sroc Con Trang) and its assigned portion of Routes 246 and 244.

The 173d Airborne Brigade was not initially included among the forces to participate in Phase II; however, as soon as Phase I ended the 1st Division made representations to II Field Force for another brigade. Consequently, the 173d was attached to the Big

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Red One on 20 March with the mission of securing the staging area at Minh Thanh and conducting airmobile assaults into eastern War Zone C beginning 23 March. On the 22d the 173d established Fire Support Patrol Base PARRY near Route 244, seven kilometers south of the junction of Routes 244 and 246. From 23 March until 7 April the brigade conducted airmobile assaults and search and de-stroy operations southwest, west, and northwest of PARRY; from 9-11 April the brigade did the same to the south and southeast of that base. On 13 April Phase II terminated for the 173d and it returned to Bien Hoa.

The mission of the 25th Infantry Division in Phase II was to continue offensive operations in War Zone C to destroy COSVN facilities and Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army forces and installations. It was also required to secure the artillery base at the French Fort and the Special Forces and Civilian Irregular Defense Group camp and airfield at Prek Klok, keeping Route 4 open be-tween these installations and Suoi Da. Forces to be used for these missions were the 196th Brigade and the ad Brigade of the 4th Division.

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Before the end of Phase I, the 196th Brigade (General Knowles) had already assumed the mission of securing the two installations along Route 4 and keeping that road open. The brigade remained in the general area of the French Fort and Prek Klok until 28 March, during which time it conducted search and destroy opera-tions and established blocking positions to the east of Route 4 in conjunction with a sweep being conducted by the 3d Brigade, 4th Division. Between 28 March and 7 April most of the brigade con-ducted "mobile brigade" operations in the northern portion of War Zone C. Moving every three or four days and conducting extensive search and destroy operations at each stop, the 196th succeeded in denying the Viet Cong freedom of access to the area. On 9 April JUNCTION CITY terminated for the 196th as it prepared to leave the II Field Force area and move north to Task Force OREGON in the I Corps zone.

In performing its mission in Phase II, the 3d Brigade, 4th Divi-sion (Colonel Garth), shifted its activities initially to the east. Its operational area was about in the center of War Zone C, bounded on the west by the 196th and on the east by the operational area of the 1st Division. On 19 March two infantry battalions and an artil-lery battalion (-) were airlifted into Fire Support Base GOLD located in the southeastern portion of the operational area; one of the infantry battalions secured the base and conducted operations around it, while the other conducted operations in the area to the west of GOLD. A mechanized infantry battalion and an attached tank battalion were also assigned operational areas. (On 21 March Fire Support Base GOLD would be the site of the battle of Suoi Tre.) These forces eventually turned southeast and conducted opera-tions back to their base camp at Dau Tieng, arriving on 8 April. On the 11th the brigade moved to an operational area in the southern portion of War Zone C north of Nui Ba Den. The 3d Brigade conducted operations in that area, as well as securing Tay Ninh city and Suoi Da, until 20 April when it returned to its base camp in Dau Tieng. On that date it was relieved of its mission by the 1st Brigade, 9th Division, and the 3d Brigade's participation in Junction City had ended.

During the twenty-nine days of Phase II operations in which intensive searching and destruction were performed, there were only three major battles, all initiated by the enemy. There were mortar attacks upon fire bases and upon battalion positions. For example, Fire Support Patrol Base C at Sroc Con Trang, one of the largest established in Junction City, sustained eleven mortar attacks. Enemy mining and ambush activities were conducted on Routes 246 and 244 and were mainly concentrated on either side

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of the junction of those two roads. Viet Cong in small three- to four-man groups could maintain continuous pressure on the roads. Although there were many contacts and some heated fire fights with enemy forces, none of these forces-except in the three battles-was significant. As the 173d Brigade found, it made contact of some type each of the twenty-two days it participated in Phase II, but the contacts were with small groups, never larger than platoon size. By the last week of this phase the enemy became increasingly more difficult to find. But this failure to dig out the enemy should not detract from the success attained by friendly forces as they continued to find and destroy installations and to discover vast amounts of supplies and equipment. All of this tended to nullify the years of labor expended by the enemy in building, digging, and tunneling and in accumulating, hauling, and hoarding supplies.

During Phase II the enemy left nearly 1,900 of his dead on the battlefield, had 19 captured, and lost over 240 weapons. And ap-parently in desperation for a big victory, the 9th Viet Cong Divi-sion had sacrificed its other regiments in futile attempts at the battles of Ap Bau Bang II, Suoi Tre, and Ap Gu.

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