Operation Buffalo (1967)

Operation Buffalo (2–14 July 1967) was an operation of the Vietnam War that took place in the southern half of the Demilitarized Zone, around Con Thien.


2 July

On the morning of 2 July, Alpha and Bravo Companies, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines made their way up north on Highway 561 and secured a crossroad as their first objective. As they went further north between Gia Binh and An Kha, near a place called "The Market Place" (16°55′37″N 107°00′00″E / 16.927°N 107.00°E), they made contact with the elements of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) 90th Regiment when sniper fire began to break out, enemy fire intensified as efforts were made by the 3rd Platoon to suppress it. Tri-directional ambushes had virtually decimated company B.[2] Alpha Company, sent to rescue Company B was ambushed.[2] During the battle the PAVN used flamethrowers in combat for the first time setting fire to hedgerows along Highway 561 forcing the Marines out into the open, exposing them to artillery, mortar and small arms fire, causing heavy casualties on A and B Companies and prevented them from linking up. B Company Headquarters was wiped out when a single PAVN artillery round exploded within the command group. The company commander, Capt. Sterling K. Coates, two platoon leaders, the radio operator, forward observer and several others were killed.[3]:96

Airstrikes disrupted PAVN attempts to "hug" the 1st Platoon, eventually allowing the 1st Platoon and the battered 2nd Platoon to link up. 1/9's commander, LtCol Richard Schening, sent out a small rescue force involving C and D Companies supported by four tanks.[3]:98 Using helicopter and tank fire to disperse enemy troops, D Company was able to secure a helicopter landing zone for the evacuation of casualties. C Company then continued to move north under heavy fire to rescue what was left of the two Companies.[3]:99

Out of nearly 400 Marines, the two Companies suffered 84 killed, 190 wounded and 9 missing making this the worst one-day loss for the Marines in Vietnam. Only 27 Marines from B/1/9 and about 90 from A/1/9 were fit for duty after the first day.[3]:100 U.S. forces reported that the PAVN suffered 55 killed with another 88 believed to have been killed, but unaccounted for.

3–5 July

On 3 July a USAF observer spotted more than 100 PAVN soldiers moving south from positions north of Con Thien, Battery E, 3/12 Marines fired on them killing 75 men.[3]:100

On the morning of 4 July, following 12 hours of preparatory airstrikes, 3/9 Marines supported by Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/3 Marines attacked towards the Marketplace ambush site to recover the bodies of those killed on 2 July. 3/9 Marines met heavy resistance from the PAVN southwest of the Marketplace and by the end of the day had suffered 15 dead and 33 wounded, while BLT 1/3 suffered 11 wounded.[3]:100

On 5 July the Marines operating north of Con Thien came under artillery and mortar fire, but there was little ground contact and the Marines were able to collect the dead from the 2 July fighting. It was reported that some of the marines were shot at point-blank range by the PAVN, some of the bodies had been booby-trapped while others had been mutilated by the PAVN.[2]:218 In the afternoon PAVN soldiers were seen 3 km northeast of Con Thien and artillery and tactical air strikes were called in resulting in US claims of an estimated 200 PAVN killed.[3]:100

6–7 July

On the morning of 6 July BLT 2/3 ran into a PAVN force north of Con Thien and killed 35 PAVN for the loss of 5 killed and 25 wounded.[3]:100 Company A, 9th Marines reinforced by the survivors of Company C and a detachment of the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion moved northeast of Con Thien and established a forward fighting position. By the afternoon 1/3 and 2/3 Marines were stopped by PAVN artillery fire and an aerial observer reported that 400 PAVN soldiers had crossed the Ben Hai River and were heading towards the two Battalions. The PAVN force was unaware of the presence of Company A 9th Marines who were able to ambush the PAVN force, the PAVN quickly reorganized and attacked Company A, but were unable to penetrate their lines and Marine artillery fire effectively boxed in the defending Marines. The following morning Company A counted 154 PAVN dead, while suffering only 12 wounded. While the PAVN force attacked Company A, the remainder of the PAVN 90th Regiment attacked 1/3 and 2/3 Marines achieving negligible results before breaking contact at 21:30.[3]:102

Also on 6 July the PAVN fired eight SAM-2s from positions north of the DMZ hitting an A-4E #151032 of VMA-311 as it conducted close air support in front of 1/3's lines. The pilot Maj. Ralph Brubaker ejected successfully and was rescued the following day.[3]:104

On the morning of 7 July Company A was withdrawn into the Battalion perimeter just before a heavy PAVN artillery bombardment hit their ambush positions of the previous day. 7 July saw minimal ground contact and the Marines spent most of the day trying to achieve an accurate PAVN body count, but this proved difficult due to the carnage caused by the artillery and air strikes.[3]:102–3

8 July

On the morning of 8 July BLT 2/3 moved southwest towards the Cam Lo River when they discovered a PAVN bunker complex. Air and artillery strikes were called in and then Company G attacked the bunkers, the PAVN lost 39 killed while the Marines suffered 2 dead and 29 wounded. In the afternoon Company G engaged another PAVN force and the PAVN lost 118 killed while the Marines suffered 14 dead and 43 wounded.[3]:103

9–14 July

For the remainder of the operation there were no further ground contacts and the Marines only encountered mines and harassing artillery fire.[3]:103


The operation ended on 14 July with total Marine casualties for the operation amounting to 159 killed, 845 wounded and 1 missing. U.S. forces claimed that the PAVN suffered 1,290 killed and a further 513 probably killed. 164 bunkers and 15 artillery and rocket positions were destroyed. Around 100 PAVN weapons were recovered or captured.[1]

One marine who fought in the operation recounted 40 years later that he and other Marines were cynical of claimed PAVN casualty figures in the fighting along the DMZ, stating that "If we sent in a body count of fifteen to the headquarters for the Marines Corps in Vietnam, it would turn into twenty or thirty and by the time it got to MACV in Saigon it would turn into fifty or sixty".[2]:218

1st Lt Gatlin J. Howell and SSgt Leon R. Burns were both awarded the Navy Cross for their actions during this battle.[3]:104

The Marines launched Operation Hickory II and Operation Kingfisher in the same general area within days of the conclusion of Operation Buffalo.


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.

  1. ^ a b c "Operation Buffalo" (PDF). U.S. Operations Report. Retrieved 28 November 2014. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ a b c d Ward, Geoffrey C.; Burns, ken (2017). The Vietnam War: An Intimate Historypublisher=Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 216–8. ISBN 9780307700254.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Telfer, Gary I. (1984). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: Fighting the North Vietnamese 1967. History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. ISBN 9781482538878. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

Further reading

  • Bowman, John S. (1989). The Vietnam War Day by Day. New York: Mallard Books. ISBN 0-7924-5087-6.
  • Nolan, Keith W. (December 1, 1992). Operation Buffalo: USMC Fight for the DMZ. Dell. ISBN 0-440-21310-X.

External links

List of United States servicemembers and civilians missing in action during the Vietnam War (1966–67)

This article is a list of US MIAs of the Vietnam War in the period 1966–67. In 1973, the United States listed 2,646 Americans as unaccounted for from the entire Vietnam War. By August 2017, 1604 Americans remained unaccounted for, of which 1026 were classified as further pursuit, 488 as no further pursuit and 90 as deferred.

McNamara Line

The McNamara Line was an operational strategy employed by the United States in 1966–1968 during the Vietnam War to prevent infiltration of South Vietnam by NVA forces from North Vietnam and Laos. The McNamara Line ran across South Vietnam from the South China Sea to the Laotian border along the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The eastern part included fortified field segments with Khe Sanh as linchpin, along with stretches, where roads and trails were guarded by the high-tech acoustic and heat-detecting sensors on the ground and interdicted from the air. A sophisticated electronic surveillance was backed with assorted types of mines, including so-called gravel mines, and troops at choke points. Named the barrier system by Robert McNamara, it was one of the key elements, along with gradual aerial bombing, of his war strategy in Vietnam.

Operation Buffalo

Operation Buffalo may refer to:

The breakout from the Operation Shingle Anzio beachhead by the U.S. VI Corps commencing on 23 May 1944

Operation Buffalo (1956), four open-air nuclear tests in South Australia in late 1956

Operation Buffalo (1967), a Vietnam War operation in July 1967 by the U.S. 9th Marine Regiment

Operation Büffel (Buffalo), the withdrawal of the German 9th Army under General Walter Model in March 1943

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