Operation Van Buren

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Operation Van Buren
Part of Vietnam War
Date15 January – 25 February 1966
LocationTuy Hòa Valley, Phú Yên Province, South Vietnam
13°06′00″N 109°10′55″E / 13.1°N 109.182°E / 13.1; 109.182
Result U.S. claims operational success
 United States
 South Korea
Vietnam North Vietnam
Commanders and leaders
BG Willard Pearson
Col. James S. Timothy
Maj. David Hackworth
United States 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division
South Korea 2nd Marine Brigade
95th Regiment, 5th Division
Casualties and losses
United States 55 killed
South Korea 45 killed
US body count: 346 killed
33 captured

Operation Van Buren was a harvest security operation conducted by the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division in the Tuy Hòa Valley, Phú Yên Province, lasting from 15 January to 25 February 1966.[1] During Operation Van Buren, many civilians were alleged to have been killed in and around the Tuy Hoa Valley by South Korean troops[2]. These were reported as "enemy KIA", as distinctions were not made concerning body counts. Following these operations, the area became a hotbed of resistance and Viet Cong activity[2].


The Tuy Hòa Valley was an important rice-growing region and in 1965 People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and Viet Cong forces had requisitioned much of the harvest to feed their troops. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam wanted to ensure the same would not occur again with the 1966 harvest. The PAVN 95th Regiment, 5th Division was believed to be located in the mountains around the Tuy Hòa Valley.[1]


On 15 January 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment was flown into Tuy Hòa Airfield. On 18 January 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment was landed by LST at Tuy Hòa Port. The 2/502nd proceeded to patrol north of the Đà Rằng River while the 2/327th and the South Korean 2nd Marine Brigade patrolled south of the Đà Rằng. On 31 January the South Koreans were attacked by the PAVN suffering heavy losses and they were withdrawn and replaced by the 1/327th.[1]:186

On 6 February a platoon from Company B, 2/502nd, came under fire as it approached the hamlet of Canh Tanh 4 (13°02′56″N 109°19′59″E / 13.049°N 109.333°E / 13.049; 109.333), approximately 20km southwest of Tuy Hòa. The company commander sent platoons to the south and west of the hamlet to try to encircle the enemy forces. Once in position the U.S. forces attacked but were met by heavy fire and withdrew to allow a total of 13 airstrikes on the position. The U.S. forces tightened their cordon overnight for a renewed assault in the morning, however they found that the enemy had abandoned the position overnight leaving behind 39 bodies and documents identifying them as members of the 5th Battalion, 95th Regiment.[1]:186–7

On 7 February Company C 2/502nd approached the hamlet of My Canh 2 (12°55′12″N 109°14′20″E / 12.920°N 109.239°E / 12.920; 109.239), 2km south of Canh Tanh 4 and came under heavy fire from entrenched forces pinning down the Company. Air and artillery strikes were called in and reinforcements from Company B and Tiger Force of 1/327th commanded by Maj. David Hackworth were landed by helicopter nearby. Maj Hackworth sent Tiger Force to the north of My Canh 2 and Company B to the south, Tiger Force would then launch a Hammer and anvil attack. As Tiger Force moved to its attacking position the cover thinned out and they were hit by PAVN fire suffering 7 killed. Maj. Hackworth then ordered Company B to attack and they were similarly caught in the open losing 19 killed, then withdrew into night defensive positions. Tiger Force was ordered to renew the attack and the unit commander Lieutenant James A. Gardner personally destroyed 4 machine gun positions with grenades before being killed, he would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. Tiger Force then moved under cover of artillery fire to join up with Company B 1/327th. The following morning after air and artillery strikes U.S. forces entered My Canh 2, the PAVN had abandoned the position overnight leaving 63 bodies and 60 weapons.[1]:187–9

The operation continued without any other major enagagements with the PAVN.[1]:189


Operation Van Buren officially concluded on 25 February, alleged PAVN losses were 346 killed and 33 captured, U.S. losses were 55 killed, South Korean losses were 45 killed.[1]:189 Repeated massacres were reported to have been conducted in this operation by South Korean troops, with no distinctions often being made between civilian and "PAVN" KIA[2]. These areas became a hotbed for Viet Cong activity following this operation.


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

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Carland, John (1999). Combat Operations: Stemming the Tide, May 1965 to October 1966 (PDF). Government Printing Office. p. 185. ISBN 9780160873102.
  2. ^ a b c Elliott, Mai (2010-02-08). RAND in Southeast Asia: A History of the Vietnam War Era. Rand Corporation. pp. 189–190. ISBN 9780833049155.