CHAPTER IX

The Warm-Up Tosses: GADSDEN and TUCSON

Twenty days before the beginning of JUNCTION GTY prelimi-nary operations were started by the 25th Infantry Division under code name Operation GADSDEN. Twelve days later, on 14 February 1967, the 1st Division's Operation TUCSON jumped off. The primary objective of these operations was the positioning of men and mate-riel on the western and eastern flanks of the JUNCTION CITY operational area; however, they would become significant in their own right.

Operation Gadsden

Officially classified as a search and destroy operation, GADSDEN employed two brigades of the U.S. 25th Infantry Division under the command of Major General Frederick C. Weyand. Involved were the 3d Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, commanded by Colonel Marshall B. Garth, and the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Brigadier General Richard T. Knowles commanding.

The GADSDEN area of operation was some thirty kilometers northwest of Tay Ninh, in the vicinity of Lo Go and Xom Gina, South Vietnamese villages on the Cambodian border. (Map 9) The terrain is generally flat and the vegetation ranges from rice fields to triple-canopy jungle. During the operation grasslands in the area were as tall as six feet. There was some heavy mud in paddy areas, but most of the previously flooded positions had dried, thus facilitating overland movement. Weather was favorable for the operation.

Before the operation it was suspected that elements of the 271st and 272d Viet Cong Regiments, 70th Guard Regiment, 680th Training Regiment, and miscellaneous elements subordinate to the Central Office of South Vietnam-including several medical units-might be encountered. According to intelligence sources, Lo Go was a major supply center of the Viet Cong forces where shipments from Cambodia were transferred to local units. Therefore, the area of operation was believed to contain extensive supply and ammunition caches, communications storage areas, hospital facilities, base camps, and major training complexes. In addition,

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personnel and supply routes to and from Cambodia were expected to be found.

The plans stipulated that Operation GADSDEN be conducted in several phases. During Phase I, forces would be positioned for the attack with combat elements established as close to the operational area as Trai Bi. Phase II, starting on D-day, would include a two-brigade attack to the west to seize two intermediate objectives, secure landing zones, and establish fire support bases. This would be followed by attacks on Lo Go and Xom Giua. Other objectives would be designated later. Search and destroy missions would be conducted in the zone, and blocking positions would be established to seal infiltration and exfiltration routes along the border during Phase III. During the last phase the units would expand the area of operation to the southeast to search for and destroy enemy forces and base camps.

Using a combination of airmobile assaults and attacks by mechanized battalions, the operation went as planned. During the 20-day duration of GADSDEN, the fighting was typified by small unit actions. Even though the fortifications encountered were extensive and many were capable of withstanding very heavy artillery and air strikes, the enemy chose not to stand and fight but rather to employ guerrilla tactics.

Evidence was uncovered to confirm that in the operational area were located a training area for main force Viet Cong units which included an obstacle course and an elaborate land navigation course; a rest and recuperation center including numerous medical facilities and supplies, as well as a 100-gallon still with 2,000 gallons of mash and 50 bottles of alcohol; an ordnance facility for fabricating and storing bombs, artillery rounds, and grenades; and numerous caches of food and other material. Also identified in the area were the postal transportation section, the current affairs section, and the military staff directorate of the Central Office of South Vietnam. Captured documents and ralliers identified elements of the 3d Battalion? 271st Viet Cong Regiment; the 3d Battalion, 70th Viet Cong Regiment; the 680th Training Regiment; and a medical unit subordinate to the Central Office.

In addition to confirming the location of various units and installations in the area, GADSDEN inflicted some fairly significant losses upon the enemy. His casualties totaled at least 161 killed and 2 captured. He lost 26 weapons, 390 tons of rice (of which 50 percent was evacuated), salt, sugar, tea, soap, cigarettes, and 550 pounds of documents. Five hundred fifty huts, 590 bunkers, and 28 sampans were destroyed, as were numerous items of explo-

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sives and ammunition. U.S. battle losses were 29 killed and 107 wounded.

GADSDEN also accomplished its primary mission of positioning troops and supplies for JUNCTION CITY. The chances of success for that operation were bolstered by the opinion expressed by Colonel Garth: "GADSDEN proved the ability of mechanized units to operate in heavily vegetated terrain and that U.S. forces have the capability of moving at their desire within War Zone C."

Operation Tucson

TUCSON was a 1st Infantry Division operation employing the 1st Brigade under Colonel William B. Caldwell and the 3d Brigade under Colonel Sidney M. Marks. The triangular-shaped area of operations was located in the southwestern corner of Binh Long Province; the town of Minh Thanh was at the north corner, Bau Long on Route 13 at the east corner, and the eastern edge of the Michelin Plantation at the western corner. (Map 10) The terrain is gently rolling with the differences in elevation varying less than

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forty meters. Cross-country movement is generally good along the edges of the area and along the main roads, Routes 239, 242, and 245. The other areas, moderate to dense jungle, are unsuitable for vehicular traffic and poor for foot traffic.

The area was believed to be an enemy sanctuary containing numerous storage sites and base camps. In addition, it was this area, part of the Long Nguyen secret zone, which contained a portion of the "northern rice route," the major logistical and troop channel between War Zones C and D. Enemy units believed to be operating in the area included elements of the 272d Regiment and the Phu Loi Battalion. Other Viet Cong units included the Ben Cat District (local force) Company and one local force platoon from Chon Thanh. Elements of the Binh Long Province and Chon Thanh District Committees were also thought to be in the area.

The plan called for the 1st Brigade to employ a cavalry squadron to attack south from Minh Thanh along Provincial Routes 13 and 242 to secure a position in the center of the operational area. One battalion of mechanized infantry would sweep southwest from Minh Thanh on Route 245 along the edge of the triangular area,

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taking up blocking positions in a 15-kilometer arc along Route 245 and in the northeastern portion of the Michelin Plantation. Two battalions of infantry would then attack southwest from Minh Thanh between the positions of the cavalry and mechanized forces and conduct search and destroy operations. On the east, under the control of the division's 3d Brigade, a second cavalry squadron (3d of the 5th Regiment of the U.S. 9th Division) would attack north along Route 13 to Bau Long, then turn to the west for eight kilometers, establish a blocking position, and conduct search and destroy operations. Two infantry battalions would make an airmobile assault into landing zones on the southern edge of the operational area between the 3d of the 5th's blocking position and the eastern corner of the Michelin Plantation. From there they would search and destroy. One infantry battalion would be held at Minh Thanh as a Rapid Reaction Force.

The operation was conducted as planned with only sporadic contact with small elements of the enemy. Although captured docu-ments revealed that the 272d Viet Cong Regiment had recently been in the area, only local guards for the caches and base camps were contacted. The period 14-17 February was used for search and destroy operations during which 1,700 tons of rice and 27 tons of salt were found, almost all uncovered by 3d Brigade elements in caches 50 to 200 meters from the trail along which their initial landing zones were located. (This rice would have fed thirteen enemy battalions for one year.)

The enemy lost 13 killed; U.S. casualties were 3 killed and 65 wounded. A few weapons and some small arms ammunition and explosives were found. About 150 installations were destroyed; among them was a regimental-size base camp with four mess halls and a barbed-wire-inclosed cage dug into the ground which appeared to have been a prisoner of war enclosure large enough for about 30 persons.

It was with great disappointment and reluctance that the search and destroy operations came to a close after only four days, since it was obvious that only a fraction of the rice in the area had been discovered. However, it was necessary for the 1st Division to spend the next four days, 18-21 February, completing the primary mission of TUCSON, positioning its troops and preparing them for JUNCTION CITY.

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