|Part of the Vietnam War|
Infantrymen attacking out of a UH-1D helicopter during Operation Attleboro.
| United States
| Viet Cong
|Commanders and leaders|
|Guy S. Meloy
William E. DePuy
|196th Light Infantry Brigade
1st Infantry Division
4th Infantry Division
27th Infantry Regiment
| 9th Vietcong Division
101st NVA Regiment
|Casualties and losses|
|155 killed and 494 wounded||US report: 2,130 killed
Operation Attleboro was a Vietnam War search and destroy operation by the 196th Light Infantry Brigade with the objective to discover the location(s) of the North Vietnamese or Viet Cong base areas and force them to fight. The operation was named after Attleboro, Massachusetts, where the brigade had been formed. Operation Attleboro turned out to be the largest series of air mobile operations to that time, involving all or elements of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, 25th Division, 1st Infantry Division, and a brigade of the 4th Division, as well as numerous Army of the Republic of Vietnam and Regional Forces/Popular Forces and Nungs. In the end, the operation became a corps operation commanded by II Field Forces.
The 196th Light Infantry Brigade initiated Operation Attleboro on September 14, 1966 in the Tay Ninh Province, however no significant contact was made with North Vietnamese Army (NVA) or Viet Cong (VC) forces until October 19, 1966 when a sizable NVA base area was discovered. By early November, U.S. forces had expanded to include the 1st and 2nd battalions of the 27th Infantry Regiment (25th Infantry Division), the 3rd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and two brigades of the 1st Infantry Division.
The most significant fighting occurred when Viet Cong forces assaulted the US perimeter at Suoi Da on November 8. The assault was defeated by artillery and air strikes. Afterwards, a large Viet Cong base camp was detected. It was one of the largest hauls to date in the war, with the American forces seizing two million pounds of rice; 116 transportation bicycles; approximately 25,000 Chinese-made hand grenades (many containing tear gas); 481 M18 Claymore anti-personnel mines; 80 rocket launchers; 25 machine guns; myriad number of pistols; rifles like AKMs and AK-47s; clothing; tobacco; miscellaneous foods like cooking oil, salt and fish; and bountiful gallons of petroleum.
Operation Attleboro was the first field test of the U.S. Army's new search and destroy doctrine and set a pattern that would be later exhibited other large operations including Cedar Falls and Junction City. These operations began with massive B-52 Arc Light bombing strikes followed by helicopter and ground sweeps that usually made sporadic contact with VC and NVA forces. Americans often uncovered evidence of hasty departure (i.e. abandoned camps, vacated tunnels, caches of food and supplies) indicating that the communist forces had been alerted by the preparations for upcoming search-and-destroy missions.
US intelligence later estimated VC/PAVN losses during Operation Attleboro as 2,130 killed, 900 wounded, and over 200 missing or captured. Allied losses totaled 155 killed and 494 wounded.
U.S. military spokesmen claimed that the most significant result of Operation Attleboro was the severe blow struck against the communists' supply system. In fact, however, the operation failed to eradicate the Viet Cong's political domination in Tay Ninh Province, as they quietly returned to the area from their sanctuaries in Cambodia just after the American withdrawal.
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