Operation Cocoa Beach
After unsuccessful attempts to lure large enemy units into combat in Operation Crimp (8–14 January 1966) and Operation Mastiff (21–27 February 1966), Colonel William Brodbeck, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division decided to reduce the size of units sent into the field in order to invite enemy attack. The plan called for a series of battalion sized operations around Bau Bang west of Highway 13, north of Lai Khê, where the Viet Cong 272nd Regiment of the 9th Division was believed to be operating.
On 4 March patrols discovered trenches that could be used as jumping off positions for an attack on the patrol base.:176
In the early morning of 5 March a patrol led by 2Lt Robert John Hibbs detected movement north of the base. At dawn they observed a supply column of children and armed women to the northeast of the base which met up with a company of Viet Cong coming from the north. The Viet Cong and some of the supply column moved south towards the patrol which then triggered two Claymore mines and began engaging the Viet Cong. The patrol then disengaged and moved back to the base, fighting through another enemy unit 100m from the base perimeter. 2Lt Hibbs and his sergeant stopped to help a wounded man, but were hit by Viet Cong machine-gun fire, 2Lt Hibbs then attacked the machine-gun position and was mortally wounded. The Viet Cong then launched an attack on the northern perimeter of patrol base but were repulsed and then started attacking from multiple directions. Airstrikes were called in and by mid-morning the Viet Cong withdrew.:176–7
At 10:50 the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment was deployed by helicopter to a landing zone 2 kilometres northeast of the patrol base in an attempt to block the retreating attackers. The Battalion moved southwest towards the patrol base engaging a small Viet Cong unit and reached the patrol base at 14:30.:177
On 6 March the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment was also deployed into the area and the 3 Battalions swept the area finding only Viet Cong dead and equipment. The operation concluded on 8 March 1966.:178
Operation Cocoa Beach was a US tactical success. Total US casualties were 15 killed, while US claimed the Viet Cong losses were 199 killed (body count).:178
- Carland, John (2000). Combat Operations: Stemming the Tide, May 1965 to October 1966. Government Printing Office. p. 175. ISBN 9781782663430.
- "Combat after action report – Operation Cocoa Beach". Defense Technical Information Center. 3 April 1966. p. 1. Retrieved 16 March 2017.