Operation Kingfisher was a US Marine Corps operation that took place during the Vietnam War. The operation was executed in the western part of Leatherneck Square, lasting from 16 July to 31 October 1967.
Order of Battle
- United States Marine Corps
- 3rd Battalion 3rd Marines
- 2nd Battalion 4th Marines
- 3rd Battalion 4th Marines
- 2nd Battalion 9th Marines
- 3rd Battalion 9th Marines
- 3rd Battalion 26th Marines (7–11 September).
- North Vietnamese Army (NVA)
Following the conclusion of Operation Buffalo and Operation Hickory II, III MAF launched Operation Kingfisher in the same general area with the same objective of blocking the entry of NVA forces into Quang Tri Province.
This period saw only minor contact with the NVA.
2/9 Marines, supported by a platoon of M-48s, 3 M50 Ontos and 3 LVTEs moved north along Provincial Route 606 to make a spoiling attack into the DMZ, the unit made no contact with the NVA and set up a night defensive position near the Ben Hai River. The following morning as the unit was returning along the same route a command detonated mine exploded wounding 5 Marines. The NVA then opened fire with small arms and mortar fire and attacked the armored vehicles with RPGs. The NVA attempted to hug the US column negating the use of air support and the column broke up into several separate firefights. The isolated Marine Companies set up night defensive positions and were eventually relieved by 3/4 Marines on the morning of 30 July. Marine casualties for the operation were 23 dead and 251 wounded, while the NVA suffered 32 killed and a further 175 believed killed.
On the morning of 4 September, 3/4 Marines engaged an NVA force 1.5 km south of Con Thien, trapping the NVA force between two Companies of Marines. The NVA lost 38 killed and 1 captured, while the Marines lost 6 dead and 47 wounded.
On 7 September 3/26 Marines supported by M-48s envountered an NVA force 4.8 km south of Con Thien. The NVA lost 51 killed, while the Marines lost 14 killed.
On the evening of 10 September 3/26 Marines engaged the 812th NVA Regiment 6 km southwest of Con Thien. Some of the attacking NVA were wearing USMC helmets and flak jackets and they were well supported mortars and 140mm rockets. An RPG destroyed a flamethrower tank, but the NVA were unable to penetrate Marines lines and US artillery boxed in the Marines forcing the NVA to withdraw by 20:30. The following morning 140 NVA bodies were found around the Marine lines, the Marines had lost 34 dead and 192 wounded.
On the morning of 13 September, an NVA Company attacked the northeastern sector of the Con Thien base, but they failed to penetrate the base and were forced back by Marine small arms and artillery fire.
On the morning of 21 September 2/4 Marines conducted a patrol 1.8 km east of Con Thien, as the unit advanced through the hedgerows the lead Company, Company E came under sniper fire, then heavy weapons and mortar fire. Company G attempted to outflank the NVA positions, but was forced back by NVA small arms and mortar fire. Company E was eventually able to disengage and by dusk the fighting had died down. The Marines had lost 26 dead and 118 wounded. LCPL Jedh Colby Barker would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in this battle. The NVA were estimated to have lost 39 killed.
At 01:25 on 14 October NVA artillery hit the 2/4 Marine positions near the Washout Bridge between the C-2 Strongpoint and the Con Thien base. A night-ambush squad reported that a large NVA unit was moving past its position towards the bridge. Marine snipers using Starlight Scopes saw the NVA massing in front of Company H's position for the attack and opened fire causing the NVA to attack prematurely. The NVA failed to penetrate the Marine wire and withdrew.
At 02:30 the NVA attacked Company G, destroying a machine gun position with RPG fire, the NVA penetrated the wire and overran the Company command post killing the Company commander Capt. Jack W. Phillips, his forward observer and 3 Platoon leaders. Capt. James W McCarter was ordered to take command of Company G, but he was killed by NVA fire before he could read the Command Post. Company F was ordered to support Company G and supported by fire from an AC-47 the NVA was forced to withdraw by 04:30. The Marines had lost 21 dead and 23 wounded. SGT Paul H. Foster was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the battle. The NVA had lost 24 killed.
On 25 October 2/4 Marines began a sweep north along Route 561, there was no enemy contact but progress was slowed by heavy undergrowth and the unit set up a night position. That night NVA rockets hit the 2/4 position killing the Executive Officer, Major John Lawendowski and wounding the commanding officer Lt.Col. James Hammond and two others of the command group who were evacuated by helicopter. The regimental operations officer Lt Col. John C. Studt was flown in to take over command of 2/4.
On 26 October, 2/4 Marines, less Company F which remained at the night position to guard a stock of ammunitition, moved north and secured the objective by 13;00. The Battalion then came under NVA mortar and small arms fire. A UH-34D helicopter of HMM-363 was shot down as it attempted pick up casualties, killing the pilot and door gunner, another UH-34 attempted to land but was damaged and made a forced landing at the C-2 Strongpoint. Lt Col Studt called for reinforcements and Company F moved north to the Battalion position, while two Companies from 3/3 Marines moved north from the C-2 Strongpoint arriving at the 2/4 position at dusk. The NVA probed the Marine position with direct and indirect fire and ground attacks before withdrawing around 02:00 on 27 October. The following morning the Marines counted 19 NVA dead but were unable to police the area due to NVA mortar and artillery fire. The Marines had lost 8 dead and 45 wounded in the period from 25–27 October.
Operation Kingfisher concluded on 31 October, the Marines had suffered 340 dead and 1,461 wounded, while the NVA had suffered 1,117 killed and 5 captured. Operation Kingfisher was followed immediately by Operation Kentucky.
- "41 U.S. Marines in 11 Days of Fighting", Associated Press, September 23, 1967, retrieved March 8, 2010
- Telfer, p.132
- Telfer, p.125
- Telfer, pp.125–128
- Telfer, p.133
- Telfer, p.134
- Telfer, p.135
- Telfer, p.136
- Telfer, p.137
- Telfer, p.138
- Telfer, p.139