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Operation Wheeler/Wallowa was a U.S. offensive operation during the Vietnam War, launched on 11 September 1967 and concluding in February 1968.
Operation Wheeler/Wallowa was launched as part of the operations conducted by Task Force Oregon, a multi-brigade force of the U.S Army, made up of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division; and the 3rd Brigade, 25 Infantry Division (later redesignated the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division), with its headquarters at Chu Lai. Its objective was to "blunt" the offensive by the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) 2nd Division, and allow units of the 3rd Marine Task Force to relocate to the Quang Tri Province. Shortly after the Task Force became operational, Brigadier General Samuel W. Koster took command. Three days later, the Task Force was reconstituted as the 23rd Infantry (Americal) Division. Wheeler/Wallowa actually started as two separate operations, which were merged in November 1967.
Operation Wheeler was launched on 11 September 1967, under the control of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. It was launched against troops of the 2nd Division of the PAVN to the northwest of Chu Lai. The operation was essentially a series of assaults and search-and-destroy missions against the 2nd Division. The operation was coordinated with the U.S. Marine Corps/Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) Operation Swift/Lien Ket 116 in the Quế Sơn Valley.
Operation Wallowa was launched on 4 October 1967 under the control of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, when it replaced the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division and two battalions of the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. The operation involved intensive surveillance of the Hiep Duc-Que Son Valley. Small units were combat assaulted into the area to find the enemy prior to the insertion of ready reaction forces.
On 11 November 1967 both Operations Wheeler and Wallowa were merged to facilitate coordination and control, under the authority of Koster, who was now a major general. Wheeler/Wallowa became a codename for a series of operations throughout Quang Nam and Quang Tin Provinces. Seven US Army infantry battalions were participating in the action.
On 12 February 1968, after participating in Task Force Miracle (the defense of Da Nang during the Tet Offensive), the 1st Battalion 6th Infantry returned south and conducted combat operations under the control of the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. On 27 February 1968, the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division tactical area of operations passed to the 196th Infantry Brigade and the 1st Battalion 6th Infantry came under their operational control. The 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division moved out of the Americal Division area and deployed in the II Corps Tactical Zone further to the south.
The operation ended on November 11, 1968. Although the series of search-and-destroy operations was claimed to be against known PAVN troops, several operations became controversial, as evidence indicated that rather than fighting troops of the PAVN, the soldiers under the Americal Division were engaging in the "mass murder" of civilian populations, the most well-known being Operation Son My, otherwise known as the My Lai massacre, where several hundred civilians were estimated to have been killed. Major General Koster, who was in charge of the Americal Division at the time, came under suspicion for not investigating thoroughly into the events of the massacre. The Peers Commission, which was charged with investigating the events that occurred at My Lai, found that several similar events had occurred in many villages in that area, carried out by troops of the Americal Division, under the heading of Wheeler/Wallowa.
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