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173d Airborne Operations

1. Opord 5- 17-65 7 May - 9 July 1965 Bien Hoa Area

OPORD 16-65 found the 173d Airborne Brigade participating in the largest (to date) troop movement, helicopter assaults and the first major American - Vietnamese combat operations from 27 to 30 June 1965. This operation, deep into War Zone D, included five infantry battalions, one artillery battalion, a composite battalion of cavalry, armor and engineers, and one support battalion. The lst Battalion 503d Infantry heli-lifted to the west of Tan Uyen. Again from 6 to 9 July, The 173d Airborne Brigade under OPORD 17-65, attacked War Zone D north of the Dong Nai River just south of the previous operation. Between the two operations the Brigade captured approximately 30 VC, inflicted casualties on an additional 500 VC, destroyed over 300 VC structures and over 200 tons of food and supplies. Both operations proved that the VC strongholds were not impregnable.

2. Frag Order 1- 11-65 7 June 1965- 2 August 1965 Bien Hoa Area

On 27 June, the brigade participated in the first joint U.S.-ARVN operation of the war. Nine battalions were involved in this mission which penetrated deep into the Western part of the Tan Uyen area of War Zone. Over 400 VC casualties resulted from this combined operation. This was the first major engagement between the VC and the 173D. The brigade destroyed a hard-core VC battalion.

3. PLEIKU 10 August 1965 - 5 September 1965 Pleiku- Kontum

The brigade loaded its men on C-130s and C-123s to relieve the siege of the Special Forces CIDG Camp at Du Co, about four kilometers from Cambodia. The 173d provided security in the Thanh Binh Pass by conducting many platoon andcompany size sweeps of the area. Early September, the 1/503rd were ordered to Kontum. During this operation VC activity decreased to an 18 month low.

4. BIG RED 7 September 1965- 8 October 1965 Ben Cat, Puoc Ving, Di An, Phu Loc

Following a airmobile assault, the 1/503rd destroyed two VC hospitals, a signal school, and several training camps. As a result ofthe combat operations, 17 village chiefs, some of whom had not been to their villages in over a year, returned. Elections and religious ceremonies were also held.

5. IRON TRIANGLE 8-14 October 1965 Ben Cat

A lightning strike by helicopters following the first B-52 air strike in support of ground troops resulted in 106 VC killed.

6. NEW HOPE 21-27 October 1965 Di An, Phu Loi

The 2/503rd and B/3/319th cleared the area in preparation for the establishment of the 1st Infantry Division in that area.

7. HUMP 5-9 November 1965 War Zone

Great video streaming click here.The 1/503rd encountered a large enemy force. Moving on line, the brigade found itself locked in a battle with a main line VC regiment. The VC left their trenches and charged into a furious barrage of fire from the brigade. They were mauled by the 173D leaving 403 Killed on the battlefield.The complete account is here.

8. NEW LIFE 21 November - 17 December 1965 La Nga River Valley

The 173d moved three infantry battalions, four artillery batteries, the Calvary troop and the command section by air to Vo Dat. The brigade's mission was to prevent the rice harvest in the area from falling into the hands of the VC. For the first time, the brigade used the Long Range Patrols (LRPs), these small patrols would usually be infiltrated by helicopter deep into the enemy rear where they would operate independently for weeks at a time.

9. SMASH 17-23 December 1965 Phuoc Tuy

Operating approximately 50 kilometers southeast of Bien Hoa on the Courtenay Rubber Plantation, the 1st and 2nd of the 503rd along with the 1st/RAR began saturation patrolling. On the morning of December 18th the recon platoon of the 2/503rd encountered a defended VC trench system supported by numerous machine guns. B Company smashed into the enemy from a different direction and overran the enemy position resulting in 62 VC killed.

10. MARAUDER 1-8 January 1966 Hua Nghia Province

The New year began with the 173d deploying from Bien Hoa to the swamps and canals in the Plain of Reeds, west of Saigon. Both the 1/503rd and the 2/503rd air assaulted into hot LZs; but the Vietcong found that the US Paratroopers were not so easy to push around. 2/503 reacted strongly on the hot LZ, counter-attacked, outflanked the enemy and killed at least 114 VC by body count and captured most of the important documents of the VC 506th Battalion. 1/RAR being airlifted into adjacent positions along the Oriental River in the Plain of Reed area of the Mekong Delta. The next morning , the 2/503rd fought through a series of fortified enemy positions using air, artillery and tear gas to rout the VC. 326 VC suspects were rounded up along with large numbers killed in the actions decimating the VC 267th battalion.

11. CRIMP 8-14 January 1966 Binh Buong, West of Hobo Woods

The Australians made contact first, and after heavy fighting, the RAR and the 173d unmasked an extensive set of underground tunnels, captured several 12.7mm antiaircraft guns, killing over 128 VC and capturing another 91 while detaining 509 suspects. Operation CRIMP began on January 7, 1966 with the Ist Infantry Division being airlifted southwest of the Iron Triangle to Phu Loi. The mission was to destroy the Viet Cong Military Region political-military headquarters. On January a the lst Battalion Royal Australian Regiment deployed as the lead element of the 173d Airborne Brigade and quickly made contact with the enemy and captured many weapons including four new 12.7mm anti-aircraft guns. The 173d Airborne Brigade operation in the Ho Bo Woods resulted in close to 130 VC killed, 90 captured and well over 500 suspects detained. A major operation Crimp, the biggest American assault of the Vietnam conflict, had discovered what the French and Vietnamese knew years ago and could do nothing about a modern catacombs that took years to build.

Paratroopers and infantrymen pushing about 25 miles north of Saigon failed to entrap Viet Cong insurgents who have lived there in comparative comfort and safety underground but they did find what one soldier described as the New York subway.

As we moved forward, we saw one trench and tunnel after another. Some of the trenches were at least 6 to 12 feet deep. Some of the tunnels were 1,640 feet long. There were side tunnels leading from the main ones. There were enough holes in the ground to house a division. The soil is hard clay, real hard. it just about puts a granite roof on the tunnel complex. The whole thing runs northwest toward the Cambodia border, probably stretching 35 or 40 miles. t was empty.Tear gas attacks only brought out some women and children and an old man. The complex is so built that it is easy to imagine the Viet Cong moving a lot of people a long distance without ever being exposed to attack for very long. We could see the Viet Cong from time to time but they couldn't be caught. They leaped into ordinary holes but the holes always had a corridor to a main tunnel and an exit. Its like trying to catch moles that have and a safe exit.

To destroy the entire complex would take a month and enough explosives to dynamite a mountain. But that's what the American force is determined to do. This operation revealed the extensive tunnel complex in the Iron Triangle and the Cu Chi area. Cu Chi in Hau Nghia Province west of the Iron Triangle is one of the most heavily fortified enemy redoubts in the Saigon area. Its population, with the exception of a number of Catholic hamlets, was controlled by the VC. Over time we found the tunnels contained headquarters and command and control facilities, hospitals, weapons factories, living and training facilities, kitchens, wells, cashes of food and supplies, air-raid and bomb shelters, and even latrines and graveyards. The tunnels would continue to be a problem and serve as a staging area for the attack on Saigon during the January 1968 Tet Offensive. The problem would not be solved until 1970 when B-52s, using ground penetrating delayed-fused bombs, destroyed the tunnels by creating 30 foot deep craters in the laterite clay.

12. ON GUARD 17-21 January 1966 Di An, Phu Loi

13. PHOENIX 26 February - 22 March 1966 Binh Duong & Bien Hoa Province

14. SILVER CITY 9-22 March 1966 Long Khanh Province

The 173d Airborne Brigade (SEP), including elements of the 1st Royal Australian Regiment, conducted a heliborne assault near the Song Be River in War Zone "D" to initiate Operation Silver City. The first few days of the operations consisted of thorough screening of the area, leading to the discovery of vast quantities of food, munitions, bunkers, tunnel systems documents, and several large VC base camps.

The seventh day of Operation Silver City will long be remembered by the troopers of the 173d, for on this day the 2/503rd Infantry Task Force was attacked from all directions by the 501st VC Battalion. The troopers held their perimeter while inflicting heavy losses on the guerrillas. Resupply of needy ammunition was effected during the battle by helicopter at no small risk to equipment and crews. Numerous tactical air strikes were initiated with great effectiveness. The VC had to resort to chaining their machine gunners to the tripods of their weapons, but even these measures could not stop the crack troopers of the 173d.

The 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry was directed to reinforce the 2nd Battalion during the battle. The VC element was nearly annihilated by this time and chose to break contact rather than tackle two battalions of SKY SOLDIERS. Four hours after initial contact, all VC were routed or destroyed.

The after-action mop-up patrols counted a total of 302 VC bodies with only seven US losses, the highest kill ratio to date. Throughout the rest of the operation it was indicated that an estimated 150 additional VC dead had been dragged away.

15. DENVER 10-25 April 1966 Song Be, Phuoc Long Province

The brigade task force discovered over 34 tons of rice and 2,167 documents during patrols and Eagle flights with no major elements of VC encountered.

16. DEXTER 4-6 May 1966 Tan Uyen

The brigade initiated the three day operation in the northwest portion of Bien Hoa province.

17. HARDIHOOD 16 May- 8 June 1966 Phuoc Tuy Province

On 19 May the 1/503rd Infantry became engaged with an estimated fifty VC. The firefight that ensued resulted in twenty VC killed with minimal friendly casualties.

18. HOLLANDIA 9-17 June 1966 Phuoc Tuy Province

The brigade deployed to the Lon Hai Peninsula, east of Vung Tau, to search for elements of the 274th and 275th VC regiments and their controlling headquarters. Two deserted base camps revealed sizeable quantities of rice and miscellaneous equipment.

19. YORKTOWN 23 June - 8 July 1966 Long Khanh Province

Approximately 37 miles east of Bien Hoa in Xuan Loc Province three platoons of A/2/503rd Infantry engaged an enemy force between 75-100 enemy strong employing 50 caliber machine guns and grenade launchers.

20. AURORA I 9-17 July 1966 Long Khanh Province

Conducting search and destroy operations in northern Long Khanh Province and eliminating VC tax collecting in the province.

21. AURORA II 17 July - 3 August 1966 Long Khanh, Binh Tuy Lam Duong Province

Similar to Aurora I, the brigade deployed 80 kilometers northeast of Bien Hoa. 25 Sampans were sighted and subsequently destroyed by gunships, tactical air and artillery fire.

22. TOLEDO 10 August - 7 September 1966 Phuoc Tuy & Binh Tuy Provinces

The Sky Soldiers uncovered over 125,000 rounds of small arms ammunition, over 50 tons of rice, 10 base camps, 75 huts and 5 tunnel systems in the May Tao Secret Zone.

23. ATLANTIC CITY 13-22 September 1966 Dau Ting Airfield

The 4th Battalion and B Battery/ 319th Artillery provided airport security.

24. SIOUX CITY 26 September - 9 October 1966 Xom Cat

The 1st and 2nd Battalions along with artillery support deployed 23 kilometers northeast of Bien Hoa. They discovered numerous food, weapons and vehicular maintenance caches.

25. ROBIN 10-17 October 1966 Phu My to Bear Cat

Elements of the brigade provided highway security from Phu My north to Bear Cat along Highway 15 for the newly arrived 3d Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.

26. ATTLEBORO 7-20 November 1966 Minh Thanh

The 2/503d Infantry and A/3/319th Artillery boarded planes for Minh Thanh in Tay Ninh Province. They encountered several base camps, bivouac and training sites.

27. WACO 25 November - 2 December 1966 Bien Hoa Area

The brigade reassumes responsibility for the Tactical Area of Responsibility for the area surrounding Bien Hoa.

28. WINCHESTER 8 October - 4 December 1966

The 4/503rd Infantry's mission was to relieve the 2d Battalion of the 26th Marine Division and to occupy and maintain control of an assigned sector of the Da Nang TAOR.

Throughout the 58 day period the paratroopers conducted numerous day and night patrols in addition to providing security for the daily convoys of troops and supplies moving through I Corps.

29. CANARY/ DUCK 7 December 1966 - 5 January 1967 Phu My to Bear Cat

The 173d conducted a two phase highway security operation along Highway 15 from Phu My to Long Binh and from Phu My to Bear Cat for elements of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade and the 9th Infantry Division.

30. NIAGARA/ CEDAR FALLS 5-25 January 1967 Cau Dinh Jungle Iron Triangle

With most of the other units occupying blocking positions, the 173d's three infantry battalions swept and cleared the Iron Triangle- locating and destroying small troop concentrations and tunnel systems. The 51st Chemical Detachment, 173d Engineer Company, as well as infantry volunteer "tunnel rat" teams, fearlessly explored the VC tunnels, bringing out large caches of weapons and supplies and VC captives. The combined effort resulted in over 1,000 tons of rice and 200 crew-served and individual weapons captured. Sixty-five enemy were taken prisoner of war; many were routed out of the extensive tunnel and bunker systems. The Brigade left 85 enemy dead in the rice paddies and jungle of the Triangle-"E" Troop of the 17th Cavalry alone accounted for 73 VC killed in action.

31. BIG SPRINGS 30 January - 16 February 1967 War Zone D

Twenty-six base camps were discovered in "D" Zone, and enemy troops were often encountered during the search of these camps. Brigade elements located and destroyed over 1,000 bunkers, 78 huts, more than 24 tons of rice and 24 weapons. Brigade ground units with air support accounted for 79 Viet Cong dead.

32. JUNCTION CITY 22 February - 15 March 1967 Tay Ninh Province

At 0900 Hours the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry along with A Battery, 319th Artillery led by Brigadier General John R. Deane, Jr. made the only combat parachute jump of the war in War Zone .

The overall operation employed a large contingent of forces: The 1st and 25th Divisions, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, elements of the 4th and 9th Infantry Divisions, South Vietnamese units and the 173d Airborne Brigade.

Operation Junction City's objective was to locate and destroy the Central Office South Vietnam (COSVN), the supreme headquarters of the Viet Cong in the Republic of Vietnam. The accomplishments of Phase I were significant: 266 VC killed, 4 captured. The complete destruction of the COSVN Public Information Office for Psychological Propaganda and a COSVN Signal site dealt a heavy blow to the enemy propaganda effort.

33. JUNCTION CITY II 20 March- 13 April 1967 Minh Thanh

Phase two began with the establishment of fire support bases along Route 13 from Lai Khe to Quan Loi (east of An Loc). A Troop, 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry came under attack north of the village of Bau Bang. Massed troops of the VC 273rd Regiment erupted out of the rubber plantation, swarming over the ACAVs and tanks on the southeastern perimeter. Calling in artillery support from A/3/319th the VC were destroyed leaving behind 227 killed while the Americans only suffered 3 casualties.

34. NEWARK 18-30 April 1967 War Zone D

35. FORT WAYNE 1-4 May 1967 War Zone D

36. DAYTON 5-17 May 1967 Phuoc Tay Province

37. CINCINNATI 17-23 May 1967 Bien Hoa/ Long Binh Area

38. WINCHESTER 23-31 May 1967 Pleiku

39. FRANCIS MARION 1-18 June 1967 Pleiku

40. STILWELL 18-22 June 1967 Dak To / Kontum

The Battle of the Slopes began as a routine search and destroy mission involving the 2/503rd. Alpha company began leaving its night lager when its point squad ran into several NVAs. An intense firefight occurred preventing 2nd platoon from linking up with its point squad. A company perimeter came under attack by the NVA cutting off the 2nd and 3rd platoons. The 1st and 2nd platoons were down to fifteen effective men when radio contact was lost. The 2nd platoon withdrew his remaining men to the Company Command Post, which then moved back up the ridge to a more defensible position. Two more enemy assaults were made on A company's CP before C company would hook up with them.

The NVA's 24th Regiment was well dug in and prevented C company from linking up with the lost platoon. That night, while anticipating an all out attack, the men heard shots punctuated by screams as the NVA executed the wounded. 43 out of 76 slain Sky Soldiers had fatal wounds in the back of their heads.

Combat Operations After Action Report

Battle of The Slopes, Hill 1338 with some chilling audio tapes from radio transmissions during the battle.

41. GREELEY 18 June - 14 October 1967 Dak To / Kontum

The 4/503rd was rapidly deployed to the Central Highlands after the Battle of the Slopes. A/3/319th Artillery was moved to the Dak Seang Special Forces Camp where it remained in place until Early September, 1967. It acted as Battalion HQ for several Battery's in support of 4th Bat. On 10 July, moving up Hill 830, A company came under intense fire from the NVA. On 12 July, after taking the hill, D Company discovered a single network consisting of 60 bunkers with supporting foxholes. In short order, two more bunker complexes were discovered.

42. BOLLING 19 September 1967 - 31 January 1968 Tuy Hoa / Phu Hiep

The 2/503rd along with A/3/319th returned to the coastal area for a short time to regroup and refit its units with men and equipment while conducting patrols in their TAO. A/3/319th returned to the Dak To area after a short time.

43. MACARTHUR 1 November - 14 December 1967 Dak To / Kontum

On November 6th two companies from the 4th Battalion, 503d Infantry encountered elements of the NVA 66th Regiment on the Ngok Kom Leat chain of hills south of Ben Het. Seven Sky Soldiers fell from enemy bullets. On Veteran's Day Task Force Black made up of elements of C/1/503 and two platoons from D/1/503 were ambushed. American losses from the ambush were 20 killed, 154 wounded and 2 missing. PFC Barnes was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor because of this action.

On November 19, the 2/503d Infantry began climbing Hill 875. Companies C and D were hit with automatic weapons fire as they reached the first of two ridges. As the men moved up and spread out on line they came under fire by recoilless rifle fire and rifle grenades. A Company secured the rear when it came under intense attack by the NVA. PFC Carlos Lozada received the Congressional Medal of Honor for holding off the enemy while the remainder of the company made its way up the hill to join the rest of the battalion.

The enemy had prepared the battlefield extremely well. Hill 875 was no less than a fortress, with bunkers and trenches connected by tunnels. The underground bunkers had as much as two meters of overhead cover to protect their occupants from bombing and artillery, and slit gun ports opened onto excellent fields of fire. When the NVA infantry went on the attack, the soldiers were camouflaged and had prepared avenues of entry and withdrawal from the battlefield.

Chaplain Charles Watters was moving among the wounded men administering last rites when a jet fighter diving at over 300 miles per hour dropped a 500-pound bomb on the embattled battalion killing 42 troopers. He was also awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for this engagement.

On Thanksgiving Day the 4th Battalion assaulted up the hill with the remainder of the the 2nd Battalion, taking the peak at 1122. The capture of the Hill 875 marked the climax of the battle of Dak To. The 2nd battalion lost 107 men killed and 282 wounded and 10 MIA.

44. WALKER 16 January 1968 - 31 January 1969 An Khe

45. COCHISE 30 March 1968 - 31 January 1969 Bong Son

Elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade left the Central Highlands and moved to Coastal Region around Bong Son to conduct its 45th operation, Operation Cochise. The brigade was joined by the 1st Battalion, 50th Mechanized Infantry and elements of 1st Battalion, 69th Armor for the operation.

46. DARBY CREST 1 February - 15 April 1969 The Crescent of Hoai An District

The 173rd Airborne Brigade conducted its 46th operation, Operation Darby Crest, in the Crescent Valley of Hoai An District.

47. DARBY TRAIL 1 - 16 February 1969 Bong Son

48. DARBY MARCH 1 February - 6 March 1969 Tuy Hoa

49. STING RAY 6 - 10 March 1969 An Khe

50. DARBY PUNCH II 10 March - 24 May 1969 An Khe

The 173rd Airborne Brigade conducted its 50th operation, Operation Darby Punch II, in and around the city of An Khe.

 Combat Reports from 1st Battalion, 503rd Spring Operation Darby Punch II. March 20, 1970 Company C, 1st Platoon and 156th Reconnaissance Force engaged six VC at CR 006784. Contact was made at 400 meters but element pursued the enemy and pinned the VC down with small arms fire. The VC element broke contact leaving behind two VC KIA, one AK47, one M26 grenade and assorted documents. Three US were wounded by a M33 booby trap while pursuing the enemy.

March 21, 1970 Company C, 4th Platoon, while conducting a search-and-clear operation in the southern portion of their AO came upon a heavily booby trapped area. The point man initially hit a M26 booby trap at CR 055757 resulting in one US WIA. Five other US were WIA in the same area when a daisy chain booby trap with three M26's connected to each other by wires was tripped. Company B, 3rd Platoon, while on a patrol received one incoming fragmentation grenade. Element engaged the VC, swept the area and found a homemade rifle. There were no friendly or enemy casualties from this contact.

51. WASHINGTON GREEN 15 April 1969 - 1 January 1971 Binh Dinh Province

April 1, 1970 3rd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment (-) continued operations in Area of Operations Rock with negative contact. At 3:35 a.m. LZ Uplift received one incoming 82mm mortar round. At 4:45 a.m. Company A (-) was placed on 30 minute standby by 173rd. Between 4:35 a.m. and 5:05 a.m. LZ Uplift took 14 incoming 82mm rounds. A Flareship and Gunship were called in and expended all ordinance with unknown results. Total U.S. casualties were 29 WIA. Company B's 3rd Platoon found one .50 caliber ammunition can at BR 839796 with bandages and methiolate belonging to one male. Also found were unknown-type batteries (C type), U.S.-type stationary and assorted documents. LZ Uplift went on red alert status later in morning due toenemy activity. LZ English and LZ Bits were mortared.

52. GREENE LIGHTNING 1 January 1971 - 21 April 1971 Binh Dinh Province

The 173rd Airborne Brigade conducted its 52nd operation, Operation Greene Lightning, in Binh Dinh Province.

53. GREENE STORM 5 February - 15 March 1971 Binh Dinh Province

April, 1971 By Spring 1971 most American military units had been withdrawn from South Vietnam. Beginning in April 1971 the 173rd started redeploying back to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. By August 25 the movement was complete. With more than six years in the war zone the 173rd held the record for service in South Vietnam. During that time 1,748 Sky Soldiers gave their lives supporting America's policy in South Vietnam; more than 8,700 were wounded. The numbers surpassed that of many of the divisions that served in the war.

54. GREENE SURE 17 March - 21 April 1971

Binh Dinh ProvinceThe 173rd Airborne Brigade conducted its 54th and final operation, Operation Greene Sure, in Binh Dinh Province