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Operation Coronado V was a riverine military operation conducted by the Mobile Riverine Force of the United States and elements of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam[1] from 12 September to 5 October 1967 in an attempt to shut down Vietcong strongholds in the Mekong Delta.

Contents

Intelligence

Brigadier General Nguyen Manh Thanh, commander of the ARVN 7th Division, was given information that the Viet Cong 263d Main Force Battalion had been in the vicinity of Cam Son and Ban Long in the past 10–14 days. Although this was based mainly on possible double agents, the Mobile Riverine Force had found it highly reliable in identifying enemy base areas. In Dinh Tuong Province particularly the force repeatedly had found the Viet Cong in regions reported to be base areas.[2]

Start of operation

On 12 September, the Mobile Riverine Force entered the Ban Long area with three battalions. The 3d and 5th Battalions of the 60th Infantry, under the control of the 2d Brigade, used helicopter and overland movement to access the major east-west forested portion of the Ban Long area. This was due to the fact that the assault craft of the force were unable to navigate the local waterways.[2]

As the 3d Battalion, 60th Infantry, moved into the forest it found a communist force in well-prepared positions. Assisted by artillery and close air support, the Americans advanced to the east. Under the pressure of the American infantry advance and supporting fire, the Vietcong attempted to evade to the north and northwest, exposing themselves along thinly vegetated rice paddy dikes. The 5th Battalion, 60th Infantry, northwest of the 3d Battalion, engaged a platoon of the enemy; fire from M113 armored personnel carriers and mortars killed or dispersed the communists.[2]

At approximately 1430 a battalion of Dinh Tuong Province Regional Forces was sent in by helicopter northeast of the 3d Battalion, 60th Infantry.[2] The South Vietnamese battalion engaged the communists, who were on the run after the attacks by the 3d and 5th Battalions, 60th Infantry. The Mobile Riverine Force lost 9 killed and 23 wounded, all from the 3d Battalion. The three anti-communist battalions killed 134 communists and captured 39. Although the bulk of the Vietcong escaped on 12 September, the Mobile Riverine Force continued to search the Ban Long area until they returned to base on 14 September.[3]

After consulting with General Fulton, Colonel David concluded that if an operation was launched around Cam Son on 15 September, the Americans might be able to find the 514th Local Force Battalion. The plan was to attack the area in central Cam Son; previous operations had yielded evidence that it was the location of the communists' heaviest fortifications. In order to not alert the communists and give them time to escape, David decided to withhold preparatory and reconnaissance fire until the American assault craft passed a wide curve in the Rach Ba Rai referred to as "Snoopy's Nose".[3] Helicopter flights over the area were to be limited until the assault craft passed Snoopy's Nose. The movement of the 5th Battalion, 60th Infantry by ground vehicles into the Cam Son area from Cai Lay was to be delayed until the 3d Battalion, 60th Infantry, and 3d Battalion, 47th Infantry, entered the Rach Ba Rai aboard armored troop carriers (ATCs). Finally, to provide a higher degree of flexibility in case the Vietcong was found, the 2d Battalion, 60th Infantry, 3d Brigade, was designated a reserve force by the 9th Division. If required, this battalion from the 9th Division would be employed by helicopter, staging from Dong Tam after moving from the battalion's base in Long An Province.[3]

Key elements of the maneuver were the landing of the 3d Battalion, 60th Infantry north of an eastward bend in the Rach Ba Rai and the movement of the 5th Battalion, 60th Infantry from the northeast. Both battalions would attack into a series of tree lines which the American planners believed had been used by the communists in the past to escape fighting.[3]

As the 3d Battalion, 60th Infantry, moved up the Rach Ba Rai at approximately 0715 on 15 September, fire was withheld, and the assault craft moved steadily around Snoopy's Nose. By 0730 the lead boats were nearing Beach White Two where a company of Lieutenant Colonel Mercer M. Doty's 3d Battalion, 60th Infantry, was to land when the flotilla came under heavy rocket, automatic, and small arms fire from both sides of the stream.[3]

Most communist fire came from the east, and the organic firepower of the American assault craft came primarily to the right flank of the force. In the smoke and confusion the assault craft maneuvered to fire weapons or to avoid other American craft temporarily out of control. One ATC proceeded north of the lead minesweepers and landed on Beach White Two with the company commander and one platoon of Company B of Colonel Doty's battalion.[4]

During the 15–20 minutes following the beginning of hostilities, the flow of information through the American command and control communications net did little to reflect the situation. Colonel Doty, flying over the boats and observing the apparent mobility of all assault craft and the success of one ATC in arriving at Beach White Two, was convinced that his unit could proceed and land at the assigned beaches. Lieutenant Commander Francis E. Rhodes, Jr., commanding the assault craft supporting Colonel Doty, issued an order at 0758 for all boats to turn back and assemble in the vicinity of Beaches Red One and Two. Commander Rhodes' decision was based on casualties to boat crews and damage to minesweepers. The standing orders of Task Force 117 required that minesweepers precede troop-carrying ATCs, but he could not continue minesweeping to Beach White One. To act contrary to this procedure would constitute an action outside the "limits permitted by accepted tactical practices" of the Navy task force.[4]

The boat captain who passed the minesweepers and landed his ATC at White Beach One was thought to have pressed on by the fact that the infantry company commander was on board. The successful movement of this one assault craft was not known to Rhodes at the time of his decision. Colonel Doty was firm in his belief that the convoy could and should continue.[4]

While the 3d Battalion, 60th Infantry, and River Assault Squadron 11 evacuated casualties, resupplied, and reorganized at the Red Beaches, the 5th Battalion, 60th Infantry, moved overland toward Beach White One from the northeast. The 3d Battalion, 47th Infantry, was held his battalion south of the congested area of Beach Red, and prepared to resume movement on order.[4]

At approximately 1000 Doty's battalion began to move upstream, supported by artillery gunships and helicopters. The fire was as great as before but the convoy landed at Beaches White One and Two. Companies B and C had few wounded in this second run, but Company A had 18 men wounded in only one platoon. Both the assault craft and the infantry, who had responded to the communist fire, required resupply. Once ashore, the 3d Battalion, 60th Infantry, attacked south against heavy Vietcong resistance. The 3d Battalion, 47th Infantry landed at Beaches Red One and Two and pushed north. The 5th Battalion, 60th Infantry moved close enough to see the 3d Battalion, 60th Infantry by early afternoon.[5]

To encircle the communists south of Colonel Doty's battalion, the 2d Battalion, 60th Infantry was placed under the control of the 2d Brigade and landed by helicopter south of the 5th Battalion, 60th Infantry. By nightfall the 3d Battalion, 60th Infantry, unable to overcome the Vietcong, was ordered back to improve its defensive position. One ARVN battalion was landed by helicopter at approximately 1600, northwest of the 3d Battalion, 60th Infantry, and prepared to set up a position along the west bank of the Rach Ba Rai. The four American battalions were in an arc on the east side of the Rach Ba Rai. The stream was deemed a possible communist escape route to the west, although the 3d Battalion, 47th Infantry had seized a number of civilian boats just north of Route 212 during the late afternoon. Assault craft supporting the 3d Battalion, 47th Infantry, and 3d Battalion, 60th Infantry, were positioned to watch for communists and place fire along the stream; however, no US boats were deployed into the stream unless anti-communist troops were ashore.[5]

During darkness, air and artillery illumination was maintained over the area and artillery fire was placed within the partially encircled area on suspected communist locations. Between 0200 and 0430, small groups of Vietcong were observed and fired upon ahead of the 2d Battalion, 60th Infantry, and later the 3d Battalion, 47th Infantry. After 0430 on 16 September no more Viet Cong were sighted. On 16 September the 5th Battalion, 60th Infantry, led a sweep into the area, followed by sweeps by the two southern battalions forward of their positions. Resistance was light as most of the communist encountered on 15 September had been killed or had slipped away during the night.[5]

The US used, during the period 0730–1600 on 15 September, 10,273 rounds of 40-mm. ammunition, 16 rounds of 81-mm., 7,445 rounds of 20-mm., 20,934 rounds of .50-caliber, and 40,216 rounds of .30-caliber. The operation ended on 16 September after four days of heavy fighting in which the anti-communist forces lost 16 killed and 146 wounded and the Viet Cong suffered 213 dead.[6]

Later events

Following the Cam Son operation, the Mobile Riverine Force moved into Kien Hoa Province. Although operations during the remainder of September were widely dispersed in Ham Long, Giong Trom, and Huong My Districts, interrogation of local civilians revealed that they had prior knowledge of the operations. In Giong Trom, locals said that a Vietcong unit, believed to be part of the 516th Local Force Battalion, had been in the area, but had left the night before the Mobile Riverine Force arrived. This experience was typical of Mobile Riverine Force operations conducted in Kien Hoa Province in late 1967. Operations usually involved communist rocket launcher and recoilless rifle teams who delayed the Americans but inflicted few losses. Helicopters became invaluable during movement to detect and attack small communist formations armed with anti-tank weapons. These operations in Kien Hoa Province saw the first use of the long awaited assault support patrol boats.[6]

During the period 5–7 October, the Mobile Riverine Force ended Coronado V with an operation around Ban Long alongside the 7th ARVN Division that resulted in a battle with the 263d Vietcong Battalion. The Mobile Riverine Force lost 1 killed and 26 wounded, while the 7th ARVN Division suffered 6 dead and 36 wounded. The anti-communists claimed that their enemies lost 163 dead.[7]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Fulton, pp. 50–150.
  2. ^ a b c d Fulton, p. 128.
  3. ^ a b c d e Fulton, p. 129.
  4. ^ a b c d Fulton, p. 132.
  5. ^ a b c Fulton, p. 133.
  6. ^ a b Fulton, p. 134.
  7. ^ Fulton, p. 135.

References

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army Center of Military History.

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