Operation Buffalo (1967)

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Operation Buffalo
Part of Vietnam War
Date 2–14 July 1967
Location Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam
Result United States victory
Belligerents
 United States  North Vietnam
Commanders and leaders
Col. George E. Jerue, 9th Marines Commander
Lt.Col Richard J. Schening 1/9 Commander
Capt. Albert C. Slater, Jr. A Company
Capt. Sterling K. Coates B Company 
Lt.Col Peter A. Wickmire 1/3 Commander
Maj. Wendell O. Beard 2/3 Commander
Võ Nguyên Giáp
Strength
4 Marine Battalions
~3,000
90th Regiment, 324B NVA Division
~ 1,500
Casualties and losses
159 killed
345 wounded
1 missing
US claimed: 1,290 killed (plus 513 probably killed)
1 POW

Operation Buffalo (2–14 July 1967) was an operation of the Vietnam War that took place in the southern half of the Demilitarized Zone, around Con Thien.

Order of battle[edit]

United States Marine Corps
North Vietnamese Army (NVA)

2 July[edit]

On the morning of 2 July Alpha and Bravo Companies, 1st Battalion 9th Marines made their way up north on Highway 561 and secured a crossroad as their first objective. As they went further north between Gia Binh and An Kha, near a place called "The Market Place", they made contact with the elements of the NVA 90th Regiment when sniper fire began to break out, enemy fire intensified as efforts were made by the 3rd Platoon to suppress it. The NVA used flamethrowers in combat for the first time setting fire to hedgerows along Highway 561 forcing the Marines out into the open, exposing them to artillery, mortar and small arms fire, causing heavy casualties on A and B Companies and prevented them from linking up. B Company Headquarters was wiped out when a single NVA artillery round exploded within the command group. The company commander, Capt. Sterling K. Coates, two platoon leaders, the radio operator, forward observer and several others were killed.[2]

Airstrikes disrupted NVA attempts to "hug" the 1st Platoon, eventually allowing the 1st Platoon and the battered 2nd Platoon to link up. 1/9's commander, LtCol Richard Schening, sent out a small rescue force involving C and D Companies supported by four tanks.[3] Using helicopter and tank fire to disperse enemy troops, D Company was able to secure a helicopter landing zone for the evacuation of casualties. C Company then continued to move north under heavy fire to rescue what was left of the two Companies.[4]

Out of nearly 400 Marines, the two Companies suffered 84 killed, 190 wounded and 9 missing making this the worst one-day loss for the Marines in Vietnam. Only 27 Marines from B/1/9 and about 90 from A/1/9 were fit for duty after the first day.[5]

3–5 July[edit]

On 3 July a USAF observer spotted more than 100 NVA soldiers moving south from positions north of Con Thien, Battery E, 3/12 Marines fired on them killing 75 men.[5]

On the morning of 4 July, following 12 hours of preparatory airstrikes, 3/9 Marines supported by Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/3 Marines attacked towards the Marketplace ambush site to recover the bodies of those killed on 2 July. 3/9 Marines met heavy resistsance from the NVA southwest of the Marketplace and by the end of the day had suffered 15 dead and 33 wounded, while BLT 1/3 suffered 11 wounded.[5]

On 5 July the Marines operating north of Con Thien came under artillery and mortar fire, but there was little ground contact and the Marines were able to collect the dead from the 2 July fighting. In the afternoon NVA soldiers were seen 3 km northeast of Con Thien and artillery and tactical air strikes were called in resulting in an estimated 200 NVA killed.[5]

6–7 July[edit]

On the morning of 6 July BLT 2/3 ran into an NVA force north of Con Thien and killed 35 NVA for the loss of 5 killed and 25 wounded.[5] Company A 9th Marines reinforced by the survivors of Company C and a detachment of the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion moved northeast of Con Thien and established a forward fighting position. By the afternoon 1/3 and 2/3 Marines were stopped by NVA artillery fire and an aerial observer reported that 400 NVA soldiers had crossed the Ben Hai River and were heading towards the two Battalions. The NVA force was unaware of the presence of Company A 9th Marines who were able to ambush the NVA force, the NVA quickly reorganized and attacked Company A, but were unable to penetrate their lines and Marine artillery fire effectively boxed in the defending Marines. The following morning Company A counted 154 NVA dead, while suffering only 12 wounded. While the NVA force attacked Company A, the remainder of the NVA 90th Regiment attacked 1/3 and 2/3 Marines achieving negligible results before breaking contact at 21:30.[6]

Also on 6 July the NVA fired eight SAM-2s from positions north of the DMZ hitting an A-4E #151032 of VMA-311 as it conducted close air support in front of 1/3's lines. The pilot Maj. Ralph Brubaker ejected successfully and was rescued the following day.[7]

On the morning of 7 July Company A was withdrawn into the Battalion perimeter just before a heavy NVA artillery bombardment hit their ambush positions of the previous day. 7 July saw minimal ground contact and the Marines spent most of the day trying to achieve an accurate NVA body count, but this proved difficult due to the carnage caused by the artillery and air strikes.[8]

8 July[edit]

On the morning of 8 July BLT 2/3 moved southwest towards the Cam Lo River when they discovered an NVA bunker complex. Air and artillery strikes were called in and then Company G attacked the bunkers, the NVA lost 39 killed while the Marines suffered 2 dead and 29 wounded. In the afternoon Company G engaged another NVA force and the NVA lost 118 killed while the Marines suffered 14 dead and 43 wounded.[9]

9–14 July[edit]

For the remainder of the operation there were no further ground contacts and the Marines only encountered mines and harassing artillery fire.[9]

Aftermath[edit]

The operation ended on the 14 July with total Marine casualties for the operation of 159 killed, 345 wounded. U.S reported the NVA suffered 1,290 confirmed killed and a further 513 probably killed. 164 bunkers and 15 artillery and rocket positions were destroyed. 1st Lt Gatlin J. Howell and SSgt Leon R. Burns were both awarded the Navy Cross for their actions during this battle.[7][10]

The Marines launch Operation Hickory II and Operation Kingfisher in the same general area within days of the conclusion of Operation Buffalo.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Davis, Gerald (4 July 1967). SRB. 
  2. ^ Telfer, p.96
  3. ^ Telfer, p.98
  4. ^ Telfer, p.99
  5. ^ a b c d e Telfer, p.100
  6. ^ Telfer, p.102
  7. ^ a b Telfer, p.104
  8. ^ Telfer, p.102-3
  9. ^ a b Telfer, p.103
  10. ^ Operation Buffalo
Bibliography
  • Bowman, John S. (1989). The Vietnam War Day by Day. New York: Mallard Books. ISBN 0-7924-5087-6. 
  • Nolan, Keith W. (December 1, 1992). Operation Buffalo: USMC Fight for the DMZ. Dell. ISBN 0-440-21310-X. 
  • Telfer, Gary I. (1984). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: Fighting the North Vietnamese 1967. History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. ISBN 978-1482538878. 
Web

External links[edit]