Operation Crazy Horse

Operation Crazy Horse (16 May to 5 June 1966), named after Lakota warrior Crazy Horse, was a search and destroy mission during the Vietnam War conducted by military forces of the United States, South Vietnam, and the Republic of South Korea in two valleys in Bình Định Province of South Vietnam.

The objective of the operation was to destroy the Viet Cong (VC) 2nd Regiment (approximately 2,000 men) believed to be in the area and thereby prevent an attack on the Vinh Thanh Civilian Irregular Defense Group camp. The U.S. forces had the continuing objective of protecting Highway 19 and the base camp of the 1st Cavalry Division at An Khe from harassment by the VC.


In September 1965, the 1st Cavalry Division, newly arrived in South Vietnam, carved out Camp Radcliff, its base, near the town of An Khe to ensure that Highway 19 which reached from the coast of South Vietnam to the Central Highlands city of Pleiku remained under the control of allied forces. Almost immediately the 1st Cavalry began mounting operations against communist forces in the Vinh Thanh valley, 10 miles (16 km) northwest of An Khe. Vinh Thanh Valley was small, approximately 12 miles (19 km) long and less than 3 miles (4.8 km) wide, but heavily populated and dominated by the Viet Cong.[3]

10 miles (16 km) east of Vinh Thanh Valley was the Suoi Ca Valley. The two valleys were separated by a chain of heavily-forested mountains rising as much as 2,600 feet (790 m) over the river valleys. The soldiers dubbed Suoi Ca Valley "Happy Valley" (not to be confused with another American-named "Happy Valley" near the city of Danang). A trail crossing the mountains between the two valleys was named the "Oregon Trail." The U.S. estimated that a regiment of main force VC guerrillas controlled Suoi Ca Valley.

In late 1965, sweeps through the two valleys by the 1st Cavalry failed to find large numbers of VC. They were believed to have fled the valleys, but to have returned after the 1st Cavalry withdrew to its base.[3]

In early May 1966, Montagnard irregulars and U.S. Special Forces soldiers in the Vinh Thanh valley reported clashes and increased activity by the Viet Cong in the area and a possible major attack on 19 May, the birthday of North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh. 1st Cavalry Division commander General John Norton ordered Operation Crazy Horse to preempt the attack and attempt to destroy the VC regiment believed to be in the area. Norton was prepared to dedicate up to five battalions of 1st Cavalry troopers to the task.[2]:219-20

Troops Boarding Helicopter During Operation Crazy Horse
American soldiers board helicopters at An Khe during Operation Crazy Horse

The operation

Phase One. The Americans began Operation Crazy Horse with heavy harassing artillery fire designed to disrupt a possible attack on the CIDG camp and to prepare for a helicopter landing. The initial helicopter landing was at Landing Zone Hereford on a ridge overlooking the Vinh Thanh valley and Special Forces camp three miles (5 km) distant.

Shortly after landing on May 16, Company E from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment became engaged with a VC battalion on a ridge near the landing zone. Because of bad weather, little air support was available to the Americans who were surrounded, during a break in the rain Company C 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment was landed and moved to support Company E. After an all-night fight at close quarters, the VC withdrew leaving behind 38 bodies and having killed 28 Americans.[4][2]:220-1 Persuaded that they had located the VC regiment, Norton sent in two battalions on May 17 to find and pursue the VC. The 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment landed at Landing Zone Hereford while the 2/12th Cavalry touched down at Landing Zone Horse, in the mountains east of the Vinh Thanh Valley. The strategy was that the Americans would trap the VC between the two battalions, but, after initial firefights, the Americans searched eastward for several days mostly without success.[2]:221-4

Operation Crazy Horse Vietnam
American soldiers fan out from Landing Zone Hereford

Last Stand at LZ Zone Hereford. On 21 May, the situation at Landing Zone Hereford had been quiet for several days. Over the protests of the company commander, an under-strength weapons platoon of 20 soldiers was left alone at the landing zone while one company of the 1st Cavalry returned to An Khe and another departed the landing zone by foot on a search and destroy mission. Less than an hour after the platoon was left alone, the VC attacked with mortars followed by an infantry assault. Within the few minutes until reinforcements could arrive, 15 American soldiers and a journalist, Sam Castan, were killed. The VC retired uncontested from the area.[5][2]:226

Phase Two. On May 24, in the wake of the VC attack at Landing Zone Hereford, General Norton changed strategies, called off search and destroy missions temporarily as he no longer wanted his soldiers "to go banging around in the enemy's backyard," and attempted instead to encircle the area where the VC were believed to be, cut off their escape routes, and called in artillery and airstrikes while Americans, South Korean, and South Vietnamese military units attempted to ambush VC units presumed to be fleeing the area. The peak allied strength devoted to Operation Crazy Horse was four American, one Vietnamese, one South Korean, and one CIDG (Montagnard with Special Forces advisers) battalions. One of the few significant clashes came on May 26 at Landing Zone Monkey where an American company was briefly under siege and a helicopter was shot down. By the end of May, it was apparent that most of the VC had escaped. Operation Crazy Horse was officially terminated on 5 June.[2]:226-8


Despite the failure by the Americans to engage the VC in large battles of attrition, the U.S. declared Operation Crazy Horse a success. The U.S. estimated that 507 VC had been killed at a loss of 83 Americans, 14 South Koreans, 8 South Vietnamese, and an unrecorded number of Montagnards. The operation also revealed, however, a limitation of airmobile warfare in heavily forested mountains. With only a few feasible places where helicopters could land, communist soldiers could anticipate likely landing sites and prepare to contest the landing or ambush the Americans as they fanned out from the landing zone.[2]:227-8

Three months later the 1st Cavalry was back in Binh Dinh again with Operation Thayer to attempt once again to eliminate North Vietnamese and VC influence in the province.


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

  1. ^ a b Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures, 1492-2015, 4th ed. Micheal Clodfelter. Micheal Clodfelter. ISBN 978-0-7864-7470-7. P. 676
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Carland, John (2000). Combat Operations: Stemming the Tide, May 1965 to October 1966. United States Army Center of Military History. ISBN 9781782663430. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ a b "Publication, 1st Cavalry Division Association - Interim Report of Operations, First Cavalry Division, July 1965 to December 1966", ca. 1967, Folder 01, Box 01, Richard P. Carmody Collection". The Vietnam Center and Archive, Texas Tech University. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  4. ^ Tolson, John F. (1999). Airmobility 1961-1971. Department of the Army. pp. 98–99.
  5. ^ Christy, Michael (2012),"Last Stand at Landing Zone Hereford", Vietnam, http://www.historynet.com/last-stand-at-lz-hereford.htm, accessed 1 May 2015
1st Cavalry Division (United States)

The 1st Cavalry Division ("First Team") is a combined arms division and is one of the most decorated combat divisions of the United States Army. It is based at Fort Hood, Texas. It was formed in 1921 and served during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, with the Stabilization Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the Iraq War, in the War in Afghanistan and in Operation Freedom's Sentinel. As of October 2017, the 1st Cavalry Division is subordinate to III Corps and is commanded by Major General Paul T. Calvert.

The unit is unique in that it has served as a Cavalry (horse) Division, an Infantry Division, an Air Assault Division and an Armored Division throughout its existence.

2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division (United States)

The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division (the "Black Jack Brigade") is a cavalry unit of the United States Army based in Fort Hood, Texas.

3rd Division (Vietnam)

The 3rd Infantry Division also known as the Yellow Star Division is a division of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), first formed from Viet Cong (VC) and PAVN units in September 1965.

Capital Mechanized Infantry Division

The Capital Mechanized Infantry Division (hangul: 수도기계화보병사단; hanja:首都機械化步兵師團), also known as Tiger Division (hangul:맹호부대; hanja:猛虎部隊), is currently one of the six mechanized infantry divisions in the Republic of Korea Army. It is part of the VII Corps, 3rd ROK Army (TROKA), tasked with covering approaches to Seoul from North Korea and counterattack operations.

This division saw extensive combat both during the Korean War and the Vietnam War, where it was dispatched in September 1965, as a part of the Republic of Korea's contribution to the South Vietnamese war effort. The 1965 deployment became possible when in August of that year the Republic of Korea's National Assembly passed a bill authorizing the action. Recently, elements of this division were sent as Republic of Korea's contribution to the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq.

Landing Zone Hereford

Landing Zone Hereford was a U.S. Army base located northeast of Vĩnh Thạnh District, Bình Định in central Vietnam.

List of allied military operations of the Vietnam War (1966)

This article is a list of known military operations of the Vietnam War in 1966, conducted by the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam, the United States and their allies.

Operation Masher

Operation Masher (24 January—6 March 1966) was in early 1966 the largest search and destroy mission that had been carried out in the Vietnam War up until that time. It was a combined mission of the United States Army, Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), and Republic of Korea Army (ROK) in Bình Định Province on the central coast of South Vietnam. The People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) 3rd Division, made up of two regiments of North Vietnamese regulars and one regiment of main force Viet Cong (VC) guerrillas, controlled much of the land and many of the people of Bình Định Province, which had a total population of about 800,000. A CIA report in 1965 said that Binh Dinh was "just about lost" to the communists.The name "Operation Masher" was changed to "Operation White Wing", because President Lyndon Johnson wanted the name changed to one that sounded more benign. Adjacent to the operational area of Masher/White Wing in Quang Ngai province the U.S. and South Vietnamese Marine Corps carried out a complementary mission called Operation Double Eagle.The 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was the principal U.S. ground force involved in Operation Masher and that operation was marked as a success by its commanders. Claims are made that the PAVN 3rd Division had been dealt a hard blow, but intelligence reports indicated that a week after the withdrawal of the 1st Cavalry PAVN soldiers were returning to take control of the area where Operation Masher had taken place. Most of the PAVN/VC had slipped away prior to or during the operation, and discrepancy between weapons recovered and body count led to criticisms of the operation.Allegations that there were a reported six civilian casualties for every reported PAVN/VC casualty during the Fulbright Hearings prompted growing criticism of US conduct of the war and contributed to greater public dissension at home. During Operation Masher, the ROK Capital Division were alleged to have committed the Bình An/Tây Vinh massacre on 26 February 1966. The operation would create almost 125,000 homeless people in this province, and the PAVN/VC forces would reappear just months after the US had conducted the largest search and destroy in the war up to that point.

Outline of the Vietnam War

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Vietnam War:

Vietnam War – Cold War-era proxy war that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War (1946–54) and was fought between North Vietnam—supported by the Soviet Union, China and other communist allies—and the government of South Vietnam—supported by the United States, Philippines and other anti-communist allies. The Viet Cong (also known as the National Liberation Front, or NLF), a South Vietnamese communist common front aided by the North, fought a guerrilla war against anti-communist forces in the region. The People's Army of Vietnam, also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units to battle.

USS Alfred A. Cunningham

USS Alfred A. Cunningham (DD-752), an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer, is the only ship of the United States Navy to be named for Alfred Austell Cunningham, a USMC officer and aviator.

Alfred A. Cunningham (DD-752) was laid down on 23 February 1944 at Staten Island, New York, by the Bethlehem Steel Co.; launched on 3 August 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Alfred A. Cunningham, the widow of Lieutenant Colonel Cunningham; and commissioned on 23 November 1944, Commander Floyd B. T. Myhre in command.

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