This monograph about events in early 1967 has been written in retrospect after four and a half years; I found the view somewhat fuzzy. However, I also found that by immersing myself in the references available it was possible to refresh my memory con-siderably. Therefore, even with the aberrations which may result from the passage of time, I believe that the following observations concerning CEDAR FALLS and JUNCTION CITY are valid.
Building upon the experience gained in slapping together Operation ATTLEBORO while on the move, CEDAR FALLS-JUNCTION CITY confirmed that we could utilize large quantities of all types of available forces, weapons, and equipment in a successful, co-ordinated operation against large enemy main force units. These operations also confirmed the ATTLEBORO experience that such multidivisional operations have a place in modern counter-insurgency warfare. Thus it was that at the time the enemy believed he had the third and last phase of his planned aggression successfully under way- beginning with the battle of Binh Gia two years earlier- he now found himself facing even larger forces than he could assemble
CEDAR FALLS-JUNCTION CITY also revealed that it was possible to plan for such large operations while maintaining a fairly high degree of secrecy about them. They also confirmed that properly planned and implemented cover and deception operations could permit the prepositioning of forces for the main operation without tipping our hand as to the size, location, or even the possibility of that operation.
The intelligence which was developed prior to these operations was impressive in its accuracy. Not only was it generally correct concerning the activities of major enemy elements, it was also quite accurate with respect to the location of installations and facil-ities. Of the 177 separate enemy facilities uncovered by the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment during CEDAR FALLS, 156 (88 percent) were located within 500 meters of the site shown in intelligence holdings before the operation. The average distance error was 200 meters. During JUNCTION CITY the accuracy was slightly less than 40 percent located within 500 meters of their predicted sites-still a respectable figure. Thus both operations lent credibility to the system of pattern activity analysis.
The engineer support which was provided during CEDAR FALLS-JUNCTION CITY was typical of that which I observed during my entire tour in Vietnam: outstanding. I found that there was never any mission too difficult for the engineer commands. Even by mid-1966 our engineers had changed the face of Vietnam; I can imagine how it must appear now. During CEDAR FALLS and JUNCTION CITY the tasks undertaken-many of them extremely difficult-were made to look easy.1 The success of the jungle-destruction operation using Rome Plows, bulldozers, and tankdozers was particularly impressive. However, the discouraging aspect of such operations is that it takes but a short time for the jungle to grow again. After all, the clearing operation does not completely eliminate the jungle by digging it out by its roots; rather it cuts it off a short distance above the ground. Once the jungle has been cut, some system must be devised to keep it from growing back; otherwise, it must be cut again and again.
Another outstanding aspect of CEDAR FALLS-JUNCTION CITY was the close air support provided by the Air Force; it was typical of the support the Air Force always gave the Big Red One, the only outfit for which I can speak authoritatively. The short reaction time; the intense desire by the forward air controller- and the pilots of the flight he was directing- to put the ordnance exactly on the spot desired by the ground commander; the ability to lay down cluster bomb unit runs within thirty meters of friendly forces in order to cause the enemy to break contact; and the ability to bring in air strikes at night under artifical illumination where one slight mistake in depth perception meant "so long" were all capabilities which left a lasting impression upon us infantrymen. Surely there were occasions when the flights arrived over the target without the kind of ordnance requested, but not often. I could not be more out-spoken in my praise for the professionalism displayed by the sup-porting Air Force personnel.
One of the unsung heroes of CEDAR FALLS-JUNCTION CITY was the logistical arm which kept us in food, clothing, ammunition, gas, weapons, medical supplies-everything we consumed or used.
1If our military system has taught us anything over the years it is that a command is a reflection of its commander. There is no question in my mind but that the 1st Engineer Bat-talion of the 1st Division, the engineer unit whose operations I observed most, accomplished the myriad tasks which faced it in so professional a manner largely because of its commander, Colonel Kiernan. He had graduated number one in his West Point class, was a big strapping man, had a "can do" additude and an infectious sense of humor, and figured there was nothing which he and his command could not do- and he was right. These characteristics permeated his command and made it what surely must have been the finest engineer outfit in Vietnam among many which were outstanding. (Colonel Kiernan met a tragic death when his heli-copter skid caught a high-tension wire as it flew low under the flight pattern of Bien Hoa airport, just seven days before he was to return home.)
Logistical troops repaired our damaged equipment, evacuated our dead and wounded. The operations were the largest ever sup-ported, and they extended over greater distances. During Phase I a forward logistical operations control center was established at Tay Ninh with the primary mission of controlling three forward support areas located at Trai Bi, the French Fort, and Suoi Da. At Minh Thanh the Big Red One established a forward support ele-ment and the 1st Brigade, 9th Division, received its supplies at Lai Khe. On five days of the first week of Phase I, the 173d Brigade and the 25th Division received airdrops. During that phase a trailer transfer point was established at Tay Ninh which permitted the five-ton tractors from Saigon-Long Binh depots to drop their loaded trailers and return to the depots with empties. During Phase II the regular Tay Ninh Supply Point took care of the 25th Division units while a forward support area was established at Quan Loi. From 21 March to 7 April the 196th Brigade was sup-ported primarily by airdrop. Also during Phase II it was found possible to "throughput" artillery ammunition from the Long Binh Ammunition Supply Dump directly to the fire support bases, resulting in considerable savings in personnel, material handling equipment, transportation, and time. (The throughput operation also was quite exciting to the drivers and their "shotguns.") Except for resupplying the units at Minh Thanh by air, daily resupply from Saigon-Long Binh during Phase II was by truck, with airlift backup available in an emergency.
On occasion there were hitches in the logistics system, but, from my observation, they were few and far between. The logisticians should take pride in their performance.
Operations CEDAR FALLS and JUNCTION CITY confirmed in the minds of most of us the decisive role played by artillery and air during major battles such as those fought with the 9th Viet Cong Division. They also verified the need to get as much firepower as possible on an attacking enemy without delay and, in this regard, to establish a fire co-ordination line and use artillery and air strikes simultaneously. Again these operations verified the need to have artillery fire (preferably 105-mm., because of its rapid rate of fire) available to support any unit, regardless of size, when operating in an area in which contact with the enemy is possible. Further, CEDAR FALLS and JUNCTION CITY again showed us the wisdom of having fire support bases mutually supporting.
There has always been much discussion about the type of fight-ing position one should require his men to dig and the manner in which a night defensive position should be organized. Different commanders have varying ideas, and a position for the flat terrain
found in most of the III Corps zone might not be the proper one for use in the Central Highlands. However, those of us in the Big Red One were convinced that the "DePuy" fighting position2 was right for us. That position called for a hole deep enough for a man to stand in with his helmet on, with full overhead cover reinforced by logs or steel rods, properly camouflaged, with two firing ports, each set at a Degree angle from a line directly to the front. An enemy weapon firing at the front of the fighting position could not hit a firing port, but struck the thick berm in front. Each indi-vidual fighting position was so placed that it could mutually sup-port the positions on either side. Thus, the night defensive position was mutually supporting all around with interlocking fires. (Our soldiers didn't stop digging and building until their positions were finished.) The value of this concept was proved during the heavy mortar, rocket, and recoilless rifle attack at the outset of the battle of Ap Gu on 1 April. Everyone was in his fighting position and only twelve men were wounded during the shelling.
The experience of the 3d Brigade, 4th Division, on 19 March, when it went into a "hot" landing zone with unfortunate results, supported the contention of many of us that, unless there are civil-ians in the area, troops should never be brought into a landing zone on an airmobile assault unless the zone and surrounding area have been covered by an artillery and air strike preparation. As mentioned above, the use of bombs with instantaneous fuzes was also essential for those specific areas in the landing zone where the lift helicopters would touch down in order to cut the wires lead-ing to command-detonated explosives.
With respect to the enemy contacted during the two operations, we found most of them dedicated, well-disciplined, persistent, tenacious, and courageous, often displaying more "guts" than sense. It was a sheer physical impossibility to keep him from slip-ping away whenever he wished if he were in terrain with which he was familiar-generally the case. The jungle is usually just too thick and too widespread to hope ever to keep him from getting away; thus the option to fight was usually his. We also found it very difficult to prevent him from mining the roads at night. The routes were just too extensive for the number of troops available. We could not expect our men to outpost the roads all night and beat the jungle on search and destroy all day. We resorted to nightly "thunder runs" in which a small armored detachment ran down stretches of road at different times on different nights trying to discourage mining. Before using the routes the next day, mine
2Named for Major General (now Lieutenant General) William E. DePuy, then commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division, who designed it.
clearing teams swept them; then they were outposted, with search and destroy operations away from the roads.
One could not help but wonder about the efficacy of the enemy's intelligence system in light of his attacks during Phases I and II, particularly the ones on 10 and 20 March against mechanized and cavalry units on the perimeters. To many of us these attacks seemed stupid. However, looking at the international scene, it may well have been that Hanoi wished to score a major victory about the time of the Guam Conference between President Lyndon B. Johnson and officials of the South Vietnamese government held on 20-21 March. Having failed in his endeavors on 10, 20, and 21 March, it appeared that out of sheer desperation he tried one more time to chalk up a victory at Ap Gu on 1 April. From these four battles he should have learned that if his attack is not successful enough to overrun the defensive position in the first few minutes, he risks being decimated by artillery and air strikes.
One of the discouraging features of both CEDAR FALLS and JUNCTION CITY was the fact that we had insufficient forces, either U.S. or South Vietnamese, to permit us to continue to operate in the Iron Triangle and War Zone C and thereby prevent the Viet Cong from returning. In neither instance were we able to stay around, and it was not long before there was evidence of the enemy's return. Only two days after the termination of CEDAR FALLS I was checking out the Iron Triangle by helicopter and saw many persons who appeared to be Viet Cong riding bicycles or wandering around on foot. We set up some Eagle flights from our division cavalry squadron and went in, set up roadblocks, and picked up thirty-one men who were suspect. One of our choppers was fired upon as it went in. Later in the day we found some Viet Cong hiding in the extreme southeastern part of the triangle along the Thi Tinh River; they made the mistake of firing upon us.
During the cease-fire for Tet, 8-12 February, the Iron Triangle was again literally crawling with what appeared to be Viet Cong. They could be seen riding into, out of, and within the triangle. Finally, in frustration, I was able to get the South Vietnamese civilian officials to set up some checkpoints at appropriate places to monitor identification and proper documentation. There was a definite lack of enthusiasm on the part of the South Vietnamese to do such things during Tet; however, we did discourage the enemy from flaunting his Tet freedom in our faces. Periodic reconnaissance of the triangle confirmed Viet Cong activity within it. When warranted, artillery and air strikes were brought in to engage them and discourage their activities.
During Phase I of JUNCTION CITY the 1st Engineers went to great effort to build the airfield capable of handling C-130's at Katum, just south of the Cambodian border; when that phase ended we packed up and left the airfield unsecured, expecting to use it the next time we went into that area (after checking it for mines and other devices). It did not take the enemy long to start mining it. Overflying the airstrip one week after the end of Phase I, we could count about twenty-five holes dug in and around the laterite strip and, through binoculars, could see what appeared to be demolition material lying near the holes.
In order to discourage the enemy from having complete free-dom in War Zone C again, General Westmoreland had intended to use the 196th Brigade as a "floating brigade" to conduct mobile operations in the Phase I area. However, the situation in I Corps area compelled him to withdraw the 196th in April and send it north. Reconnaissance flights over War Zone C following JUNCTION CITY revealed that the enemy was returning.
These two operations provided what might be called missed opportunities when evaluated in terms of what might have been if the commander could have written his own ticket; that is, had there been no constraints on time and forces available. For example, had we stayed in the CEDAR FALLS operation longer we could have rooted out more Viet Cong, received more ralliers, cut down more jungle, and destroyed more enemy facilities and installations. In JUNCTION CITY it appeared to some that at the beginning of Phase II, since we had already operated in the western half of War Zone C and had troops on the west at the end of Phase I, we should have made our push from west to east against a blocking force along the Saigon River. Or we could have left a blocking force along Route 4 from Prek Klok to Katum and on northeast to the Cambodian bor-der; our Phase II operation could then have pushed west against it. Another missed opportunity came as an aftermath to the battle of Ap Gu. Had forces been made available, they could have air assaulted into landing zones along the Cambodian border to block the withdrawal of the 271st Viet Cong Regiment as the 1st Battal-ion, 16th Infantry, and 1st Battalion, 2d Infantry, pursued them. But a discussion of missed opportunities is akin to Monday morning quarterbacking and probably has about the same validity.
The most lasting impression I have of these two operations- in fact of all my Vietnam tour- is of the magnificent American soldier who made them possible. Shortly after my return from Vietnam I had occasion to express my feelings about that soldier in a speech given on 19 October 1967 at the Yorktown Day celebra-
tion in Yorktown, Virginia. I find those words still appropriate to describe the soldier who fought in CEDAR FALLS and JUNCTION CITY.
. . . who is this American soldier in Vietnam? He is a boy, about 19 years of age, armed and in uniform, who did not choose to be there. He would have preferred to remain at home, comfortable, enjoying the many attractions and conveniences available to Americans; secure in the com-pany of his family, his friends, his sweetheart. Thoughts of those persons at home creep into his mind, even at times when he is trying to force him-self to concentrate on the battle at hand. And in the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam, this smooth-checked, bright-eyed, enthusiastic boy becomes a man. He lives with fear, he lives with carnage, he lives with death. Burned forever into his memory are ugly sights and awesome sor-rows which at times are almost too much for a boy, just turned man, to bear. He kills the enemy but questions the waste and folly of war. He sees his buddy killed beside him and asks why? Why was it his turn to go today and not mine? He exults in the victories won by his outfit, but he weeps with grief while attending the memorial services for his buddies who fell in the fight. He understands the cause for which he is fighting; his enthu-siasm, dedication and motivation are contagious. He looks with disgust at reports of those back home who question his being and fighting in the far-off place. He dismisses such reports with a shrug, remarking "Those guys back home just don't know what it's all about."
You will see your soldier in Vietnam digging his defensive fighting position In a driving monsoon rain, up to his waist in water and mud, stopping occasionally to bail out the position with his helmet. Or you will find him combating the heat and misery of the jungle floor. But whatever the conditions, he will greet you with a big smile and reassure you: "Don't worry about this position; we'll be ready; the Viet Cong will never take it."
That's your soldier in Vietnam today, a man, who knowing he has 12 months to serve in that country, has resolved to do an outstanding job for that period. To match his spirit, his courage, his determination, enthu-siasm and devotion with a comparable level of decisiveness, judgment, imagination and know-how is a challenge to every leader in Vietnam.
Return to the Table of Contents