During its 19-day duration CEDAR FALLS compiled some im-pressive statistics. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces accounted for nearly 750 confirmed enemy dead and 280 prisoners. In addition, there were 540 Viet Cong Chieu Hoi ralliers, 512 suspects detained, and 5,987 refugees evacuated. Enemy equipment losses were 23 crew-served weapons, 590 individual weapons, and over 2,800 explosive items such as mines, grenades, and mortar and artillery rounds. Over 60,000 rounds of small arms ammunition were captured, as were many miscellaneous items of equipment, including over 7,500 uniforms. Some 1,100 bunkers, 525 tunnels, and over 500 structures were destroyed. Captured were 3,700 tons of rice- enough to feed 13,000 troops for a full year- and more than a half million pages of assorted documents.
U.S. battle losses totaled 72 killed, 337 wounded; those for the South Vietnamese, 11 killed and 8 wounded. U.S. equipment lost included 1 tank and 3 armored personnel carriers (APC's). Damage was sustained by 3 tanks, 9 APC's, 1 tankdozer, 2 quarter-ton trucks (jeeps), and 2 light observation helicopters. The South Vietnamese lost 3 individual weapons.
In addition, eleven square kilometers of jungle were cleared and many miles of road in the area were made passable. These roads, the landing zones cleared, and the swaths cut at intervals through the jungle would all make any future penetration of the area much simpler.
As had been expected, main force elements were contacted only rarely. The 1st, 7th, and 8th Viet Cong Main Force Battalions of Military Region IV did not conduct an organized defense of their areas, apparently having been directed to disperse and avoid con-tact. Task Force DEANE did report prisoners taken from the 61st Local Force Company of the Phu Loi Battalion and from small rear services elements.
A review of the interrogation reports of those who rallied, were taken prisoner, or detained indicated that the majority were from Viet Cong infrastructure in the area. Over three hundred of the ralliers and prisoners were from local guerrilla units, primarily
from Ben Cat District. Personnel from combat support elements, such as farmers and laborers, accounted for the second largest category, about 25 percent. Only a few top-level cadres were identi-fied in interrogation reports, including an executive officer of Tay Ninh Military School, a captain from the Military Region IV political staff section, a lieutenant from a small guard unit, and two North Vietnamese political cadres, including the mathematics professor schooled at Peking University.
It appeared from the near-total absence of enemy acts of sabo-tage or attacks on government posts in or around Saigon during the operation that the grasp of the infrastructure upon the former inhabitants of the Iron Triangle area had been severely impaired. General Westmoreland, in commenting on Cedar Falls during a Mission Council meeting, stated that the operation had been a very disruptive one for the enemy in the Iron Triangle area. He added that it had been very impressive in its results, being the first operation in which the number of enemy captured and detained equaled the number of enemy killed.
In analyzing CEDAR FALLS, General Seaman discussed the opera-tion from several aspects. With respect to surprise, he wrote:
Security in planning and deception in deployment resulted in surprising the enemy. The light initial contact and the lack of a well-coordinated defense indicated that not only did the enemy not expect our attack but was unable to react when it came. The final casualty figures show that he had been in the Iron Triangle in considerable strength, despite his weak defense.
General Seaman pointed out that application of the principle of mass had quickly and effectively sealed and thoroughly searched the area of operations by using a higher troop density than had ever before been used or been possible. This greatly improved the effectiveness of cordon and search tactics and was reflected in the high proportion of Viet Cong ralliers. "Not being able to hide or escape," he indicated, "their choice was to surrender."
General Knowles of the 196th Brigade highlighted another factor which contributed to more ralliers than before: CEDAR FALLS was a longer operation than most.
Operation CEDAR FALLS demonstrated the value of extended operations within VC controlled areas. The length of the operation gave the small unit commanders and the troops time enough to become familiar with the terrain, as well as the VC situation. Unlike many other operations where troops go into an area for two or three day search and destroy mis-sions, Cedar Falls provided the much needed continuity of effort to effectively accomplish the mission.
General Knowles also directed the following comments at the critics of mechanized units being used in counterinsurgency operations:
Mechanized infantry has proven to be highly successful in search and destroy operations. With their capability for rapid reaction and firepower, a mechanized battalion can effectively control twice as much terrain as an infantry battalion. Rapid penetrations into VC controlled areas to secure LZ's for airmobile units provides an added security measure for aircraft as well as personnel when introducing units into the combat zone. The constant movement of mech units back and forth through an area keeps the VC moving and creates targets for friendly ambushes and artillery and air.
In summarizing the effects on the enemy, General Seaman said:
(1) A major portion of the enemy's base and control center for operation against the Capital Military District has been destroyed. This repre-sents the loss of an investment of twenty years. The enemy's offensive capability against the Capital Military District has been reduced by loss of personnel, equipment and facilities.
(2) Over 3,700 tons of rice have been captured or destroyed. . . .More significant than the loss itself is the resultant diversion of manpower to reconstitute his stores.
(3) All of the civilian inhabitants of the area, some 6,000 plus their livestock were evacuated. This will deny the enemy food, manpower, revenue, transportation and intelligence.
(4) The capture of over 500,000 separate pages of documents including crypto-material, has given us valuable intelligence. The enemy's security programs have been compromised to include records continuity.
(5) Realization of the seriousness of these losses by the leadership in North Vietnam, COSVN and the VC-dominated populace will have a serious psychological impact.
From every aspect, the enemy had suffered a great defeat. In the words of General Seaman, they would now have to "re-evaluate the relative capabilities of their forces as opposed to ours."
In his analysis of Cedar Falls, General Seaman also commented favorably upon another key area, the working relationship between U.S. and South Vietnamese forces:
Cooperation between U.S. and Vietnamese military and civilian agencies was excellent. This was particularly true in the evacuation of the civilian population. Both the ARVN airborne units and the River Assault
Groups provided invaluable assistance in securing and transporting the refugees. Civilian and military personnel of both nations worked in close harmony to organize and build the PHU CUONG refugee camp on very short notice. On the purely military side, ARVN units contributed sig-nificantly to the effectiveness of the cordon. The ARVN River Assault Groups made a unique contribution by their patrolling along the river lines.
General DePuy, in his analysis of Operation CEDAR FALLS, stated:
Operation CEDAR FALLS was long overdue. The Iron Triangle and nearby village of BEN SUC had been lucrative targets for some time. How-ever, this was the first time sufficient forces and equipment were available to properly execute such an undertaking.
The Triangle had been a notorious VC haven. From its confines attacks were launched on the surrounding area, and VC control over such areas was uncontested. Ralliers confirmed that the Triangle contained numer-ous tunnels and bunkers and huge stores of foodstuffs and equipment. Continual bombing and artillery fires certainly disrupted VC activity, but civilian occupants in the area hampered free-fire activities. Addition-ally, B-52 strikes and artillery bombardment could not be exploited with ground troops. There were simply no access routes, air or ground, into the heart of the Triangle. The few existing ox cart roads and foot trails were heavily mined and booby trapped. The 100 square kilometers of the Iron Triangle provided a secure jungle haven which no one division could seal, search and destroy.
We had no idea at the beginning that Operation CEDAR FALLS would turn out to be the most significant operation thus far conducted by the 1st Infantry Division. It is most significant in many respects. First of all, it was aimed at the headquarters, Military Region IV. This head-quarters is responsible for operations in and around SAIGON. The head-quarters directed attacks on TAN SON NHUT and on U.S. troop billets in SAIGON itself.
For the first time in the history of the war in Vietnam, infantry-engineer bulldozer teams cut their way through the jungle, finding and destroying base camps, creating landing zones, pushing back the jungle from roads which can now be used for rapid repenetration of the area. One entire jungle area was completely eliminated. All in all, the engineers cut down 9 square kilometers of solid jungle. This is a technique which will be used again in the penetration of other VC war zones and base areas- a technique pioneered by the 1st Division. Everyone who worked with the engineers recognizes the tremendous contribution they made to the success of the operation.
In addition to the destruction of the base area of Military Region IV, the most significant and unexpected result was the surrender of so many Viet Cong. This has never happened before in the war in Vietnam, and in this area, at least, is a reflection of the complete breakdown in confidence and morale on the part of the VC.
Although I do not expect the war to end quickly, I believe this has been a decisive turning point in the III Corps area; a tremendous boost to the morale of the Vietnamese Government and Army; and a blow from which the VC in this area may never recover.
In nineteen days, II Field Force, Vietnam, had converted the Iron Triangle from a haven to a sealed battleground and then to a military no-man's-land. Years of work spent tunneling and hoarding supplies were nullified. The civilian population was removed, making any enemy attempt to rebuild doubly difficult. Concealment, particularly along lines of communication, was stripped away, exposing the area to future surveillance. Finally, the area was designated a specified strike zone so that it could be interdicted with ease should the enemy attempt to rebuild. A strategic enemy base had been decisively engaged and destroyed.
By all accounts Cedar Falls had to be one of the significant operations in the Vietnam War. Certainly it was the significant operation in January 1967; however, that did not mean that there were no operations being conducted in other areas of Vietnam. In fact, in the III Corps Tactical Zone itself there were eighteen separate major military operations conducted during that month, fifteen of them resulting in contact with the enemy.
Intelligence sources summarized the situation in the III Corps area as Cedar Falls came to a close as follows, perhaps providing some insight into what the future might have in store:
During Operation Cedar Falls the VC losses in personnel were the equivalent of three battalions. These losses however, were widely scattered and cannot be attributed to specific units. . . . [This defeat] coupled with the recent defeat of [9th VC Division] regiments with resultant loss of major supply stockpiles in the Iron Triangle, Tay Ninh and Phuoc Tuy Provinces indicate the VC will require time for resupply, replacement, retraining, and re-indoctrination. To gain time the VC will, in all probability adapt their Winter Campaign Plan to divert attention from Tay Ninh and other areas selected for reoccupation.
But Generals Westmoreland and Seaman and II Field Force, Vietnam, were not going to give the enemy the time they required or the opportunity to divert attention from the areas in which they had been hit. On the horizon loomed JUNCTION CITY, an operation which was to carry the war deep into enemy sanctuaries in War Zone C for an extended period.
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