Horseshoes with Charlie On 22 February 1967 a gigantic military horseshoe was pitched into the pit of War Zone C and the largest operation of the Vietnamese war was underway. (See JUNCTION CITY I map attached) By evening of the 22d, a casual observer flying over war zone C would have spotted settling dust as the well-aimed horseshoe slid into place. That settling dust was a direct result of mechanized, airmobile, and airborne forces of the US 25th Infantry Division, the 173d Airborne Brigade and the BIG RED ONE. The western and northwestern portions of the horseshoe were occupied by the 25th Infantry Division. The northeastern and eastern portions of the horse- shoe were occupied by forces of the 1st Infantry Division and 173d Airborne fantry Division and 173d Airborne Brigade.
From MINH THANH the 1st Bn, 2d Inf, 1st Bn 26th Inf and 1st Bn, 28th Inf conducted heliborne assualts in the north along route 246. From QUAN LOI, the 4th Bn, 503d Inf and 1st Bn, 503d Inf of the 173d Airborne Brigade under the operational control of the 1st Division, conducted heliborne assaults in the northeast along Route 246. From BIEN HOA the 2d Bn, 503d Inf conducted the first battalion-size parachute assault since the Korean War. Their drop zone was north of KATUM along route 246. The eastern portion of the horseshoe was occupied by the 1st Sqdn, 4th Cav with Co B, 34th Armor attached, the 2d Bn (Mech), 2d Inf and the 1st Bn, 2d 16th Inf. From 1st Sqdn, 4th Cav positions in the south to 1st Bn. Inf positions in the north, 12 batteries of artillery thundered 105mm, 155mm, and 8 inch howitzer support. When all blocking units were in position, search and destroy forces surgedd into the end of the horse- shoe blocking forces in the north. As those forces charged north, let’s consider some of the reasons which brought about Operation JUNCTION CITY. In November 1966 the 1st Infantry Division entered the southern portions of War zone C on Operation ATTLEBORO. The operation yielded large stores of VC foodstuffs and munitions and uncovered extensive logistical, administrative, and train- ing complexes. In addition, forces of the 9th VC Division were encountered in well fortified base areas. ATTLEBORO yeilded 1136 tons of rice and 845 VC killed. If southern War Zone C was so productive, northern War Zone C, along the Cambodian border, was probably an equally ripe target. To confirm this, during the months of December, January, and early February, a thorough evaluation was made of documents captured during ATTLEBORO; a concentrated intelligence-gathering effort was focused on War Zone C. Captured enemy materiel, documents, prisoners, and ralliers indicated that both the Central Organization for South Vietnam (COSVN) and the 9th VC Division Headquarters were located in northern War Zone C. In short, the most logical pit for that giant horseshoe was northern War Zone C. The forces pouring into the open end of the horseshoe continued their thrust northward. The 2d Bn, 28th Inf was helilifted into the area, and in coordination with all forces around the horseshoe, conducted search and destroy operations. On 28 February, just east of Route TL 4, Co B, 1st Bn, 16th Inf engaged two battalions of the 101st North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Regiment. The brief engagement cost the NVA Regiment 167 killed. All units continued their missions, locating rice, supplies, munitions, base camps, and training areas throughout the zone of operations. As JUNCTION CITY entered its third week with only one major enemy encounter and sizeable but unspectacular equipment finds, a prominent news magazine in the United States asked its readers, "Whatever became of JUNCTION CITY?" An answer developed as the BIG RED ONE prepared to charge into phase II of JUNCTION CITY and encounter three additional regiments of the 9th VC Division. However, before JUNCTION CITY I was finished an additional major engagement took place. On 10 March 1967 the 2d Bn (Mech), 2d Inf, minus Co B, was attacked at a fire support base along Route TL 4 by the 272d VC Regiment. The attack was initiated by a heavy 30 minute mortar, recoiless rifle fire preparation, employing 120mm, 82mm, and 60mm mortars and 57mm recoiless rifles. Near the end of the barrage the enemy launched a two battalion ground attack on the eastern portion of the perimeter, The attack met withering US caliber .50 and M60 machine gun fire from armored personnel carriers and ground-mounted positions. As the battle continued, mutually supporting artillery bases rained over 5000 rounds of artillery into the area surrounding the base being attacked. Forward air controllers directed over 100 sorties of tactical fighter support. The battle ended at 0500 hours. A police of the surrounding area revealed 196 VC killed and five wounded PW’s. Friendly casualties were three killed and 38 wounded. Only ten of the wounded required evac- uation. One week later, the 1st Infantry Division terminated Phase I of Operation JUNCTION CITY. On 180001 March 1967 the Division initiated Operjation JUNCTION CITY II. The area of operations was immediately east of the JUNCTION CITY I area, extending into the eastern portion of War Zone C between KATUM and Route 13. (SEE JUNCTION CITY II map attached.) This area was selected for a number of important reasons. First, a CIDG compound and airstrip were to be constructed along Route 246 west of AN LOC. Forces in the area would provide security for engineer work parties. Second, this area was the only remaining portion of War Zone C which had never before been searched by US forces. In mid-February 1967, Operation TUCSON had covered the area south of MINH THANH between the Michelin Plantation and Route 13. JUNCTION CITY I covered the western portions of Zone C. To completely blanket the zone, the JUNCTION CITY II area was selected. Third, intell- igence gathered from documents, informers, ralliers, aerial observers, and airborne radar indicated substantial VC traffic flowing northeast and southwest in the same general direction as the SAIGON River, north of DAU TIENG. JUNCTION CITY II was the last phase of a plan designed to sweep through War Zone C in TAY NlNH province and to demonstrate to the VC that an area they use as their major stronghold and headquarters for all South Vietnam is vulnerable to entry by American forces. prior to this time no American forces had ever operated in eastern war Zone C.
The plan for the second phase in War Zone C was quite simple: place two brigades of infantry, reinforced with armored and mechanized forces, across the flow of VC traffic. The 2d Brigade and 173d Airborne Brigade, under operational control of the 1st Division, were chosen for the task. They executed search and destroy operations in the general area, indicated on the JUNCTION CITY II map, attached. The lst Brigade secured QUAN LOI, Route 246 to the bridge site, and Route 245 to MINH THANH. the lst Brigade of the 9th vision also under 1st Division controled Route-13 from LAI KHE to QUAN LOI. During this phase of the operation the lst Infantry Division controlled five brigades and an armored cavalry regiment in addition to supporting artillery, engineer, aviation, signal, and logistical units. Two significant enemy contacts occurred during JUNCTION CITY II. the first took place at a destroyed village named BAU BANG, eight miles north of LAI KHE along Route 13. At that location, the 3d Sqdn, 5th Cavalry was securing B Battery, 7th Bn, 9th Artillery inside a perimeter of 20 M113 armored personnel carriers and six M48A3 tanks. At ten minutes past midnight on 20 March the base came under heavy caliber .50 machine gun, mortar, and recoiless rifle fire. At 0135 hours the perimeter came under heavy ground attack from two battalions of the 273d VC Regiment reinforced with local guerrillas. Heavy enemy machine gun fire was directed into the perimeter from along a railroad track embankment 50-100 meters east of the perimeter. Friendly forces replied with intensive, Sustained small arms fires, M60 and caliber .50 machine gun fires, 90mm tank fires, 4.2 inch mortar fires, 3000 rounds of 105mm, 155mm, 8 inch, and 175mm artillery fires, coupled with 87 sorties of tactical fighter support. A police of the battle area the following morning revealed 231 VC killed and three wounded PW's. US forces sustained three killed and 63 wounded; 26 of the wounded were evacuated. As in the 10 March battle, the ability of the mechanized/ armored perimeter to fight off repeated attacks kept the VC in position for friendly artillery and air attack. The second major enemy contact involved the lst Bn, 2d Inf, the lst Bn, 16th Inf and the lst Bn, 26th Inf. On 30 March the lst Bn, 26th Inf conducted a heliborne assault east of KATUM along Route 246. On the following day, the lst Bn, 2d Inf landed in the same area. At 1255 hours on 31 March, the reconnaissance platoon of the lst Bn, 26th Inf made heavy enemy contact with an unknown VC force, Co B was sent to reinforce the recon platoon and encountered caliber .50 machine gun fires, recoiless rifle fires, claymores, and mortars, indicating a main force VC unit. Extensive artillery and air strikes forced the VC to break contact at 1700 hours. All elements of the 26th Inf returned to night defensive positions, dug in, and waited for morning. The lst Bn, 16th Inf (-) had been helilifted into the area by 1730 hours to reinforce the position. At 0500 hours on 1 April a heavy enemy mortar barrage began to fall into the 16th and 26th Inf positions. The firing lasted for 15 minutes. lst Bn, 2d Inf to the southwest also came under mortar attack. At 0522 hours enemy ground attacks were launched from the north and east against the 26th Infantry. US ground forces returned a heavy volume of small arms fires while artillery was massed on the east and air strikes delivering anti-personnel bomblets and napalm in the north. The massive US response broke the enemy contact. Immediate interrogation of a captured VC indic- ated that the enemy reassembly area was to the east of the battle site. Air and artillery were shifted into the area and followed by a sweep, employ- ing the lst Bn, 2d Inf and lst Bn, 16th Inf. A total of 491 bodies were counted in and around the defenses of the lst Bn, 16th Inf and lst Bn, 26th Inf. The final count after a sweep of the area was 609 VC killed and three PW’s. friendly casualties were 10 US KIA and 64 WIA. JUNCTION CITY I and II achieved very significant results. The tabulated materiel results are attached as the last page of this narra- tiave. Not all of the units participating in Operation JUNCTION CITY had a chance to participate in one of these pitched battles. Those who did made the VC pay dearly for the mistaken idea that they could overrun a BIG RED ONE position. Other units contributed in other important ways. The lst Engineer Battalion, for instance, constructed two new airfields in War Zone C and erected a new bridge capable of carrying tanks across the SAIGON River into the zone. Highway 13 was held open for military traffic almost continuously for three months from SAIGON to QUAN LOI. Most important, the lst Infantry Division and other US units marched at will throughout the length and breadth of War Zone C destroying base camps and gathering vital information. No longer can the VC regard this area as a "safe haven". Incidentally Operation TUCSON from 14 to 22 February deprived the VC of 1700 tons of rice and JUNCTION CITY deprived them of 311 tons more for a total of 2011 tons. That is enough rice to feed 15 VC battalions of 500 men each for one year. Most significant of all, four regiments of the 9th VC Division were engaged in combat and resoundingly defeated. The 101st North Vietnamese Army Regiment and the 271st, 272d, 273d VC Main Force Regiments lost a combined total of 1203 combat soldiers killed in four separate battles. That is a substantial chunk of the fighting strength of any division. JUNCTION CITY permanently removed 1809 enemy soldiers from the field of battle. The enemy wounded figure could easily be twice that number. In the past two months the BIG RED ONE has dealt a staggering blow to the 9th VC Division from which it will take a long time to recover. "Whatever happened to JUNCTION CITY?" Ask Charlie; he may know! Prepared by the G-3 Section 1st Infantry Division Operation JUNCTION CITY Totals VIET CONG KILLED 1781 VIET CONG CAPTURED 25 VIET CONG RALLIERS ___3 TOTAL 1809 WEAPONS AND AMMUNITION Arty Ammo 98 rds M79 Ammo 88 rds Blasting Caps 1785 Mines 348 CBU 185 Mortar Ammo 519 rds Demolitions 1179 lbs Pack How Ammo 25 rds Det Cord 1600 m Small Arms Ammo 64,809 rds Flares 1013 Small Arms 251 Grenades 4019 FOODSTUFFS Beans 700 lbs Rice 311 tons Dried Fish 10 tons Salt 8 tons Milk 283 cans Sugar 75 lbs Peanuts 200 lbs EQUIPMENT Air Compressor Drill 2 Oil 535 gal Amp Meters 3 Oil Lamps 83 Auto Coils 3 Pencils 700 Auto Gears 5 Phones 23 Axes 2 Plastic Wpns Cases 82 Ball Point Pens 500 Radios 18 Batteries 6650 Reams of Carbon 10 Bicycles 127 Reams of paper 70 Bicycle Tires 200 Rulers 10 Bicycle Tubes 222 Sandals 7914 Bolt Threader 29 Sand Bags 586 Commo Wire 5 mi Sand Paper 8000 sheets Copper Wire 6000 ft Saws 6 Drafting Kit 1 Screw Drivers 20 Drill Bits 50 Sewing Machines 5 Dynamos 2 Shovels 226 Electrical Resistors 100 Solder 17 spools Electrical Wire 1825 ft Switchboards 2 Erasers 1750 Tap and Die Tools 50 Field Glasses 1 Tape Recorder 1 Generators 6 Tin 473 sheets Generator Brushes 50 Transformers 4 Hacksaw Blades 254 Transistor Radios 38 Hand Drills 50 Truck Gears 8 Hand Grinders 1 Typewriters 10 Kerosene 300 gal Uniforms 716 Machetes 4 Water Pump 1 Med Supplies 637 lbs
Note: This is a copy of the original made by Bill Baty on 1 Mar 2001 using OCR. My Thanks to Rick Nelson for submitting this report.