Operation Crimp (8–14 January 1966), also known as the Battle of the Ho Bo Woods, was a joint US-Australian military operation during the Vietnam War, which took place 20 kilometres (12 mi) north of Cu Chi in Binh Duong Province, South Vietnam. The operation targeted a key Viet Cong headquarters that was believed to be concealed underground, and involved two brigades under the command of the US 1st Infantry Division, including the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR) which was attached to the US 173rd Airborne Brigade. Heavy fighting resulted in significant casualties on both sides, but the combined American and Australian force was able to uncover an extensive tunnel network covering more than 200 kilometres (120 mi).
The operation was the largest allied military action mounted during the war in South Vietnam to that point, and the first fought at division level. Despite some success, the allied force was only able to partially clear the area and it remained a key communist transit and supply base throughout the war. The tunnels were later used as a staging area for the attack on Saigon during the 1968 Tet offensive before they were largely destroyed by heavy bombing from American B-52 bombers in 1970, ending their utility.
Although the initial American commitment to the war in Vietnam had been limited to advice and materiel support, by 1964 there were 21,000 US advisors in South Vietnam. However, with the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) weakened by successive defeats at the hands of the communists, the South Vietnamese government faltering, and Saigon threatened with a major offensive, the worsening situation led to a significant escalation of the war in 1965, with a large-scale commitment of US ground troops under the command of General William Westmoreland. At first the Americans had adopted a cautious strategy, applied to the strictly limited role of base defence by US Marine units. This was abandoned in April 1965, and replaced by a new "enclave strategy" of defending key coastal population centres and installations. This strategy required the introduction of nine additional US battalions, or 14,000 troops, to bring the total in Vietnam to 13. Allied nations of the Free World Military Forces were expected to contribute another four battalions.
Westmoreland planned to develop a series of defensive positions around Saigon before expanding operations to pacify the South Vietnamese country-side and as a result a number of sites close to Viet Cong dominated areas were subsequently chosen to be developed into semi-permanent divisional-level bases. Such areas included Di An which was intended to become the headquarters of the US 1st Infantry Division, while the US 25th Infantry Division would be based in the vicinity of Cu Chi. However, large-scale military operations to clear the intended base areas had to wait until the dry season. Yet the allied enclave strategy proved only transitory and further setbacks led to additional troop increases to halt the losing trend. With the situation reaching crisis point during the Viet Cong wet season offensive in June 1965, Westmoreland requested further reinforcement and US and allied forces increased to 44 battalions which would be used to directly bolster the ARVN.
Australia's growing involvement in Vietnam reflected the American build up. In 1963, the Australian government had committed a small advisory team, known as the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV), to help train the South Vietnamese forces. However, in June 1965 the decision to commit ground troops was made, and the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment—originally commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Ivan 'Lou' Brumfield—was dispatched. Supporting 1 RAR was 1 Troop, A Squadron, 4th/19th Prince of Wales's Light Horse equipped with M-113 Armoured Personnel Carriers, artillery from 105th Field Battery, Royal Australian Artillery and 161st Field Battery, Royal New Zealand Artillery, and 161st Reconnaissance Flight operating Cessna 180s and Bell H-13 Sioux light observation helicopters; in total 1,400 personnel. The Australian and New Zealand units were attached to the US 173rd Airborne Brigade under the command of Brigadier General Ellis W. Williamson in Bien Hoa and operated throughout the III Corps Tactical Zone to help establish the Bien Hoa-Vung Tau enclave. Although logistics and resupply were primarily provided by the Americans, a small logistic unit—1st Australian Logistics Company—was situated at Bien Hoa airbase. Unlike later Australian units that served in Vietnam, which included conscripts, 1 RAR was manned by regular personnel only.
Attached to US forces, 1 RAR would primarily be employed in search and destroy operations using the newly developed doctrine of airmobile operations, utilising helicopters to insert light infantry and artillery into an area of operations, and to support them with aerial mobility, fire support, casualty evacuation, and resupply. The battalion commenced operations in late June 1965 and initially focussed on defeating the Viet Cong's wet season offensive. During this time US 173rd Brigade, including 1 RAR, conducted a number of operations into War Zone D—a major communist base area at the junction of Phuoc Long, Long Khanh, Bien Hoa and Binh Duong provinces—as well as in the Iron Triangle, formed by the confluence of the Saigon and Thi Tinh rivers and Route 7, where they fought a number of significant actions including the Battle of Gang Toi on 8 November. Meanwhile, Brumfield was replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Alex Preece, after an old football injury forced his evacuation to Australia in mid-November. During the period 21 November to 16 December 1 RAR was involved in Operation New Life in the La Nga Valley, 75 kilometres (47 mi) north-east of Bien Hoa in an attempt to deny the Viet Cong access to the rice harvest. On 24 November D Company, 1 RAR carried out a deliberate attack on the fortified village of Duc Hanh which had been occupied by the Viet Cong, killing 10 and wounding four without loss. Operation Marauder on the Plain of Reeds in the Mekong Delta was subsequently launched on New Years Day 1966.
Located 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) west of the Iron Triangle, the Ho Bo Woods were believed to contain the political-military headquarters of the communist 4th Military Region, which controlled all Viet Cong activity around the South Vietnamese capital, Saigon. Although its precise position was unknown, it was believed to be concealed in an extensive underground bunker system. Agents' reports, the interrogation of prisoners, and aerial surveillance all pointed to the presence of this vital communist facility. The headquarters itself was believed to be located in a 31-square-kilometre (12 sq mi) area of jungle and marshland, and to have four entrances guarded by a Viet Cong Regional Force company, while two Main Force battalions were also thought to be in the vicinity to afford additional security. Communist units detected in the Ho Bo Woods by allied intelligence included the C306 Local Force Company, 3rd Quyet Thang Battalion and 7th Cu Chi Battalion.[Note 1][Note 2] The commander of the Cu Chi Battalion was later identified after the war as Captain Nguyen Thanh Linh. In total, local communist defensive strength was believed to include 1,000 men.
In response, a large American 'search-and-destroy' operation was launched in January 1966, involving more the 8,000 troops commanded by the US 1st Infantry Division under Major General Jonathan O. Seaman, including the US 3rd Infantry Brigade, 1st Infantry Division and the US 173rd Airborne Brigade, which was attached to the division for the operation; in total six battalions plus supporting arms. Still attached to the US 173rd Airborne Brigade was the Australian battalion, 1 RAR—now commanded by Preece—with 105 Field Battery in direct support, as well as engineers from 3rd Field Troop, Royal Australian Engineers and the M113s from the Prince of Wales Light Horse. At the time it was the largest military operation mounted in South Vietnam, being the first divisional offensive to date. Preceded by a heavy aerial bombardment, the scheme of manoeuvre envisioned an airmobile assault by the US 173rd Brigade in the north and west, while the US 3rd Infantry Brigade would seal off the area to the south, in preparation for a sweep designed to push trapped communist forces eastwards against the Saigon River. 1 RAR's role was to establish a blocking position in a village beside the river on the northern flank of the brigade's area of operations.
In order to achieve tactical surprise, the operation was launched immediately following Operation Marauder, with the Australians and Americans redeployed by air. Prior to the assault, the 1 RAR Operations Officer, Major John Essex-Clarke, conducted an aerial reconnaissance of the proposed Landing Zone—known as LZ June—on 7 January. Observing a lack of ground foliage, he was concerned about the possibility of extensive Viet Cong defensive works close to the LZ, and with the support of Williamson the landing zone was subsequently switched to a less-exposed location. The original plan would have seen 1 RAR inserted directly on top of a heavily defended bunker system, and would have likely resulted in heavy casualties. Captain Sandy MacGregor, the commander of the 3rd Field Troop, was of the opinion that the "decision almost certainly saved hundreds of Australian lives."
The battle began at 09:30 on 8 January with heavy American preparatory fire from artillery, as well as napalm and airstrikes from B-52 bombers which resulted in significant defoliation. Soon after the airmobile operation commenced with the first American units being inserted by helicopter to the north, west and south. The US 3rd Infantry Brigade—under the command of Colonel William Brodbeck—was subsequently inserted by helicopter and by road. The brigade headquarters and command element departed Di An in convoy and reached Trung Lap on the western boundary of the brigade's area of operations by midday. Concurrently, two battalions were inserted by helicopter to the south-west, one blocking the south side of the Ho Bo Woods while the other conducted a sweep. The Americans were in contact almost immediately, although the engagements were generally small scale, or involving snipers. Meanwhile, the brigade's third battalion moved by road to Trung Lap and then moved on foot to its assigned search area.
In the north, 1 RAR was inserted into its new landing zone—LZ March—3 kilometres (1.9 mi) to the south-west. With B Company securing the site, the battalion moved on foot to the line of departure but not before they were mistakenly engaged by US helicopter gunships and artillery fire. However, after the Australians established communications, the shelling was halted and they began their advance. No sooner had the lead elements—D Company under the command of Major Ian Fisher—emerged into the cleared area that was originally to have been used as the battalion's LZ, when the forward platoon came under fire from Viet Cong positions in the tree-line on the north-east corner. In the action which followed, six Australians from 12 Platoon were wounded, including platoon commander Lieutenant Jim Bourke, who was shot through the jaw but remained in command until he passed out from loss of blood. Meanwhile, two medics who attempted to move forward to treat the casualties were themselves shot and killed.
Preece moved to push his other companies around each flank of D Company, and towards the battalion's original blocking position. Soon they were also in contact with small groups of Viet Cong from positions behind trees and in bunkers, while others popped up from spider holes and tunnel entrances; it became apparent to the Australians that they had stumbled across a significant Viet Cong force in extensive fortifications, sufficient to hold a battalion. B Company, under the command of Major Ian McFarlane, also uncovered a small dug-in hospital with simple transfusion equipment, documents and bandages. Meanwhile, the remaining battalions of the US 173rd Airborne Brigade had also been inserted. The 1st Battalion, US 503rd Infantry Regiment flew into LZ April at 12:00, while US 2/503rd Battalion arrived at LZ May at 14:30. With the insertion going largely according to plan, the brigades began their advance eastwards. Converging on the suspected location of the communist headquarters, a thorough search of the area yielded little, and it was believed that the Viet Cong had withdrawn earlier in response to the initial Australian advance.
Amid strong resistance, the Australians were made to fight their way through the maze of bunkers, punji stakes and booby traps but they were eventually able to force a Viet Cong regional force company to withdraw as they continued their advance. The area was heavily seeded with trip wires connected to shells and grenades dangling from branches, one of which blew McFarlane and several of his men off their feet. The defenders subsequently withdrew, with 7th Cu Chi Battalion forced north and 3rd Quyet Thang Battalion to the east. Suspecting they were being drawn into a trap—as one of the American battalions of the brigade had been previously during Operation Hump—the Australians moved into a tightly defended perimeter before dark and waited for the communists to counter-attack. As night fell, movement was detected along a trench on the C Company perimeter when a squad of Viet Cong attempted to infiltrate the Australian position. Initially believing the movement to be another Australian patrol that had just departed on a clearing patrol, the machine-gunner on sentry duty finally opened fire at the last safe moment, killing one of the infiltrators at point-blank range and wounding a number of others before they withdrew.
Minor actions continued into the night, with small groups of Viet Cong able to pop up undetected and then disappear at will from within the Australian defensive position. The searching units were unable to locate Viet Cong in large numbers but experienced a significant number of sudden engagements and ambushes throughout the day, and it became clear that the communists were using tunnels for movement and concealment. Preece suspected that the area was honeycombed with tunnels and that the communist headquarters that he had been tasked to destroy was in fact located beneath the feet of the battalion. The Australians were the only battalion in the US 173rd Brigade to strike significant resistance, and by the end of the first day 1 RAR had suffered a total of three killed and 15 wounded, while the artillery Forward Observer from 105 Field Battery had also been killed. The battalion spent a sleepless night and in the early hours of the morning there were a number of short exchanges of fire as small groups of Viet Cong returned to the area. Not wanting to fire the machine-guns for fear of giving their positions away or hitting friendly troops, the Australians resorted to using grenades forward of the perimeter. Meanwhile, in the US 3rd Infantry Brigade area of operations contact had been light, with only six Viet Cong killed.
The process of breaking into and exploring the communist tunnels began on 9 January, with the objective now switching to the location, clearance and destruction of the tunnel complexes. Whereas standard US Army practice was to seal, blow up or otherwise attempt to render tunnel systems unusable with smoke, tear gas and explosives before quickly moving on, the Australians spent the next few days laboriously searching and mapping the complexes they found using military engineers. Led by MacGregor, the Australian sappers from 3 Field Troop systematically tackled the tunnels, using telephone line and compasses to plot the subterranean passages. Small-scale contacts between the communists and the Australians continued and MacGregor was later awarded the Military Cross for his leadership.
Originally constructed in 1945 by the Viet Minh during the fighting with the French in the First Indochina War, the tunnels at Cu Chi had taken decades to build but later had lain dormant after the war until 1960, when they were reactivated. Since then they had endured constant bombing, all the while being expanded. By 1965 they formed an underground maze of passages, fighting tunnels, meeting rooms and food caches, stretching from Saigon to the Cambodian border. Given their headquarters function, the tunnels were equipped with an array of communications and medical facilities and were defended by interlocking arcs of fire and connecting fire tunnels. Dug into hard clay which had largely protected them from American bombing, some trenches were reported as being more 1.8 metres (5.9 ft) deep, and some tunnels as long as 460 metres (500 yd), while numerous side tunnels led from the main tunnels. In places the system was between one, two and even three levels deep. The network was so extensive that they were rumoured to be able to hold 5,000 men, many of whom lived underground for up to six months at a time. On seeing the tunnels one American soldier described them at the time as "the New York subway".
In the southern area of operations, the US 3rd Infantry Brigade was making slow progress, with the Viet Cong using hit-and-run and ambush tactics to inflict casualties on the Americans, before withdrawing into the sanctuary of their underground tunnels. On 9 January, the Americans located and destroyed a cache of medical supplies, a small hospital and a large amount of rice, as well as capturing 30 Viet Cong during a series of skirmishes. To the north, while 1 RAR searched the tunnel complex the American battalions of the US 173rd Airborne Brigade continued to sweep their area of operations, with a number of friendly fire incidents complicating their task. Both the US 1/503rd and US 2/503rd Battalions searched eastward toward the Saigon River and, although they continued to find supply caches and abandoned positions, they were involved in only minor skirmishes with the Viet Cong. Concealed in well-camouflaged ambush positions however, the communists inflicted a number of casualties on the Americans. Only one Viet Cong was killed during the fighting, bringing the total for the operation to just 22. Despite the large number of US troops involved they had experienced only limited contact to that point, and criticism of the operation consequently began to mount in the American media.
The Australians continued to explore the tunnels, finding a large quantity of documents and equipment, and by 10 January they had recovered 59 weapons, 20,000 rounds of ammunition, 100 fragmentation grenades, one 57 mm recoilless rifle, explosives, clothing and medical supplies. At least 11 Viet Cong had also been killed in the fighting. Contact also continued, and overnight the Australians killed another five Viet Cong outside their perimeter, while numerous actions occurred during the day as the US 173rd Brigade maintained its sweep. On 10 January at 09:00 the American cavalry from Troop E, US 17th Cavalry Regiment and the Australians from the Prince of Wales Light Horse commenced a combined search operation and fought communist snipers and small groups throughout most of the day. At 14:00 a number of Viet Cong dug-in in trenches were encountered, and following a series of air-strikes and artillery barrages, the cavalry and the Australian M113s swept the area during which several Australians were slightly injured by a misdirected US Navy air-strike. Sixteen Viet Cong bodies were subsequently recovered, and another 60 were believed to have been killed but had been removed from the battlefield.
Williamson subsequently ordered the US 1/503rd Battalion—under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Tyler—to change the direction of its advance. During the morning the battalion had conducted platoon-sized patrols south, south-west and west, locating a well-constructed defensive position, including bunkers and trenches connected by tunnels. With no contact as yet made with the Viet Cong, the battalion prepared to move to a new AO in the north by 13:30. During this move the battalion, and armour from Troop D, US 16th Cavalry Regiment, engaged a dug-in Viet Cong Main Force company less than 2,000 metres (2,200 yd) west of the Australians. Following air-strikes and heavy artillery bombardment the communists withdrew, leaving 29 dead during a sharp engagement. The US 2/503rd Battalion had also sent out a number of squad-sized patrols during the day, but no recent signs of Viet Cong activity were found, and only minor sniper fire encountered. However, like the Australians, the American paratroopers also uncovered a large number of tunnels and other fortifications.
Meanwhile, the US 3rd Brigade continued to make slow progress and, despite reaching the banks of the Saigon River by 10 January, only a few brief glimpses of the Viet Cong had been made. A small base camp was discovered and destroyed however, while another battalion captured more than 10 tons of rice and 15 bales of cotton. The following day the Americans found and destroyed more bunkers and a number of houses and sampans, as well as quantities of supplies and food. They also uncovered a tunnel complex and a quantity of maps, charts and documents, although still little resistance was met. During these actions the Americans lost more men to booby traps than enemy fire. Advancing on a 1,500 metres (1,600 yd) front, troops from the 1st Battalion, US 28th Infantry Regiment—commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Haldane—took a number of casualties from snipers, although the source of the fire was not immediately obvious. The Viet Cong attempted to avoid a set piece battle, opting instead to disperse into small groups to fight from their spider-holes and tunnels and only choosing to engage the Americans at close range with small arms, which included old Russian K-44 rifles. Despite suffering a number of casualties the Americans continued to advance, calling in artillery fire. Such tactics proved largely ineffectively though and the Commanding Officer of US 2/28th Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel George Eyster, was himself shot and killed by a sniper during the fighting. Regardless, after receiving word of the discovery of the tunnels by US 173rd Airborne Brigade to their north, the brigade began another sweep.
The US 3rd Brigade subsequently also uncovered a significant tunnel complex, after Sergeant Stewart Green from US 1/28th Battalion accidentally sat down on a nail and uncovered a trap door on 11 January. Volunteering to enter the tunnel, Green then located an underground dispensary occupied by more than 30 Viet Cong who subsequently escaped. Later a smoke machine was used to pump smoke into the tunnel system, and this was successful in locating numerous tunnel entrances and bunkers as the smoke rose above the jungle canopy. They were the first American troops to enter the tunnels, and they proceeded to attack them with CS gas, and later explosives. However, such tactics met with limited success with the tear gas flushing out large numbers of women and children, but few Viet Cong. Led by Green, a squad of Americans equipped with flashlights, pistols and a field telephone penetrated over 1.6 kilometres (1 mi) of the tunnel system before becoming involved in a fire-fight with the Viet Cong. Wearing gas-masks the Americans threw gas grenades and fought their way back to the tunnel entrance, but one soldier became lost in the darkness and Green re-entered the tunnel to find him. The Viet Cong subsequently withdrew.
Yet even as the Americans were attempting to clear the tunnels, heavy hand-to-hand fighting broke out above ground and Haldane was later awarded the Silver Star for his actions when he rushed a bunker while under fire armed only with a pistol, in order to give first aid to a number of wounded soldiers. His courage inspired his men to complete the assault, and ultimately helped ensure the successful evacuation of the casualties and the capture of their objective. That evening the battalions of US 3rd Infantry Brigade had completed searching their assigned area of operation, and the following morning they were withdrawn from the operation. The brigade's involvement in Crimp had been limited, losing six killed and 45 wounded, while 22 Viet Cong had been killed. It was subsequently redeployed on Operation Buckskin.
As they had done previously, the communists continued to attempt to infiltrate the 1 RAR perimeter during the night, and a minor clash with an Australian standing patrol occurred at dawn. Over the next two days, operations to exploit the tunnels continued, with the US 173rd Brigade and the Australians involved in a number of contacts, as well as suffering from sporadic sniper and mortar fire. Significant quantities of documents, equipment and rice were captured however, and large numbers of civilians detained for questioning. On 12 January, 1 RAR continued its patrolling program and one patrol subsequently located 15 tons of rice and destroyed it after killing six Viet Cong during a 20-minute battle. The task was complicated by the presence of a large number of civilians, and many were found hiding in shelters and tunnels. They had to be coaxed out of hiding by the Australians and transported to a refugee camp which had been established nearby. Another patrol from 11 Platoon later uncovered a tunnel system just 50 metres (55 yd) from their position, and found it to be occupied by a large Viet Cong force after a dog and its handler were sent into the tunnel to investigate. Eight Viet Cong were subsequently killed after the tunnel was destroyed by Australian engineers.
The same day, however, the Australian efforts to clear the tunnels had suffered a setback after an engineer became stuck in a trap door between one underground gallery and another, more than 2 metres (6.6 ft) below the surface. Despite the efforts of his comrades, he could not be recovered and died from asphyxiation after being overcome by a combination of tear gas, carbon monoxide, and lack of oxygen when he dislodged his respirator during the struggle to free himself. After days of living in close proximity to the enemy, the constant strain of sniper fire and the pressure of searching the tunnels was also beginning to take its toll, and a number of Australians were killed and wounded in otherwise avoidable friendly fire incidents on the evenings of 10 and 12 January. During the early afternoon of 12 January the Australians encountered a large group of armed Viet Cong during a tunnel clearance and called on them to surrender. However, they failed to emerge and the tunnel was subsequently demolished, probably killing eight Viet Cong who were believed to have been entombed as it collapsed.
Meanwhile, the same day Haldane ordered US 1/28th Battalion to closely explore the tunnels in their area of operations, uncovering a number chambers and trapdoors defended by grenades and booby traps. A Company subsequently located another tunnel system after an American was killed by a Viet Cong soldier who suddenly appeared out of a large anthill. Later, as the 1/503rd continued to search its area with platoon-size patrols during the afternoon of 13 January, a clash between Company C and a Viet Cong platoon developed into a heavy contact. An air-strike was successfully called in by the Americans however, and a search of the area recovered 10 dead Viet Cong, while blood trails and human remains indicated that perhaps another 20 were also killed.
Ultimately, more than 17 kilometres (11 mi) of tunnels had been uncovered and searched by the Australians. A large quantity of documents had been recovered, including more than 100,000 pages detailing operational structure as well as the names of agents operating in Saigon. Ninety weapons were also captured, as well as thousands of rounds of ammunition and enough equipment, food and other supplies to fill eight 2½-tonne trucks. Although the US battalions had played a large part in the operation and had also uncovered numerous tunnel systems and been involved in heavy contact, by the fortunes of war 1 RAR had been allocated the area of operations that was ultimately found to contain the Viet Cong headquarters. The Australians had even partially searched the tunnel leading to the headquarters that was their objective, but did not learn how close they had come to succeeding until decades after the war had ended. During the course of these activities the searchers had suffered a number of additional fatalities from Viet Cong snipers.
Fully exploring and destroying the tunnels was well beyond the allied resources available, and the decision was eventually made to call a halt to operations. Six days after it began, Operation Crimp ended, with 1 RAR returning to Bien Hoa on 14 January. By the time the operation was concluded only a fraction of the known tunnel network had been destroyed and it was not until after the war that it was learnt that the system at Cu Chi actually included more than 200 kilometres (120 mi) of tunnels. Although further American ground operations as well a number of heavy B52 bombing raids resulted in further damage to the tunnel complexes, the Ho Bo Woods were never occupied on a permanent basis and the Viet Cong were successful in restoring their transit and supply functions.  As such, despite significant disruption, the military and political apparatus in Cu Chi remained largely intact, allowing the communists freedom of action for later operations against Saigon.
During the fighting the Australians had faced stiff resistance and had suffered eight killed and 29 wounded, while claiming 27 Viet Cong killed and a further 30 probably killed. The Americans had also been involved in heavy fighting and their casualties included 14 killed and 76 wounded. Total communist casualties included 128 confirmed killed, and another 190 probably killed, as well as 92 captured and another 509 suspects detained. In addition many more Viet Cong were thought likely to have perished in the tunnels as they were collapsed by charges laid by the Australian engineers. The Americans later claimed that the headquarters of the communist 4th Military Region had also been destroyed. Due to the quantity of information recovered from the thousands of captured documents alone, the battle was later described as the first allied strategic intelligence victory of the war. So significant was the find that both Westmoreland and General Joseph McChristian, the head of Intelligence at MACV, visited 1 RAR during Operation Crimp.[Note 3] Allied operations against the communist tunnels had been largely ad hoc, and the Australians began to develop the earliest techniques for exploring and destroying them. Later, at least partially as a result of the success of the Australians in clearing some of the shorter tunnels, American units adopted similar tactics and created a number of tunnel-clearance teams, known popularly as Tunnel Rats.[Note 4]
Despite the losses suffered by the communists, the combined American and Australian force had only succeeded in partially clearing the area and the tunnel network it concealed, and consequently the Ho Bo Woods would remain a key communist transit and supply base throughout the war. Indeed, the bulk of the communist force had successfully withdrawn intact, leaving only rear guard elements in defence, prompting the communists to also declare the operation a victory, claiming almost 2,000 American troops killed or wounded, 100 vehicles destroyed, and 50 aircraft shot down. Yet, such claims were based on estimates of casualties caused by command-detonated mines, punji sticks and other booby traps, and proved to be wildly inaccurate. In fact Operation Crimp had rattled the communists, and they subsequently ordered their units in the south to prevent the Americans from concentrating their forces in the future. Regardless, it also highlighted the inherent weakness of the search-and-clear operations that would later become standard operating procedure for the US Army in Vietnam. The Ho Bo Woods were again targeted by the Americans in January 1967, during a much larger operation known as Operation Cedar Falls. However, despite heavy casualties again being inflicted on the Viet Cong, the tunnels continued to remain a problem for the Americans and they were later used as a communist staging area for the attack on Saigon during the 1968 Tet offensive. Finally in 1970, American B-52 bombers carried out a number of heavy air-strikes on the area, dropping thousands of delayed-fuse bombs that buried deep into the ground before exploding, ending the tunnels' utility. Operation Crimp was 1 RAR's third and last foray into the communist heartland and following the fighting they had more than two weeks rest in Bien Hoa—their longest break from operations during the battalion's tour. Further operations followed in the months afterwards, including the Battle of Suoi Bong Trang on the night of 23–24 February 1966.
At the strategic level the ARVN and the South Vietnamese government had both rallied after appearing on the verge of collapse and the communist threat against Saigon had subsided, yet additional troop increases were required if Westmoreland was to adopt a more offensive strategy, with US troop levels planned to rise from 210,000 in January 1966 to 327,000 by December 1966. The Australian government increased its own commitment to the ground war in March 1966, announcing the deployment of a two battalion brigade—the 1st Australian Task Force—with armour, aviation, engineer and artillery support; in total 4,500 men. Additional Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) force elements would also be deployed and with all three services total Australian strength in Vietnam was planned to increase to 6,300 personnel. 1 RAR was subsequently replaced by 1 ATF which was allocated its own area of operations in Phuoc Tuy Province, thereby allowing the Australians to pursue operations more independently using their own counter-insurgency tactics and techniques. The task force arrived between April and June 1966, constructing a base at Nui Dat, while logistic arrangements were provided by the 1st Australian Logistics Support Group which was subsequently established at the port of Vung Tau.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team (173rd ABCT) ("Sky Soldiers") is an airborne infantry brigade combat team of the United States Army based in Vicenza, Italy. It is the United States European Command's conventional airborne strategic response force for Europe.
Activated in 1915, as the 173rd Infantry Brigade, the unit saw service in World War II but is best known for its actions during the Vietnam War. The brigade was the first major United States Army ground formation deployed in Vietnam, serving there from 1965 to 1971 and losing almost 1,800 soldiers. Noted for its roles in Operation Hump and Operation Junction City, the 173d is best known for the Battle of Dak To, where it suffered heavy casualties in close combat with North Vietnamese forces. Brigade members received over 7,700 decorations, including more than 6,000 Purple Hearts. The brigade returned to the United States in 1972, where the 1st and 2d Battalion, 503d Infantry, were absorbed into the 3d Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile), and the 3d Battalion, 319th Field Artillery was reassigned to Division Artillery in the 101st. The remaining units of the 173d were inactivated.
Since its reactivation in 2000, the brigade served five tours in the Middle East in support of the War on Terror. The 173d participated in the initial invasion of Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and had four tours in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2005–06, 2007–08, 2009–10, and 2012–13. The brigade returned most recently from a deployment stretching from late 2013 to late 2014.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team has received 21 campaign streamers and several unit awards, including the Presidential Unit Citation for its actions during the Battle of Dak To during the Vietnam War.1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR) is a regular motorised infantry battalion of the Australian Army. 1 RAR was first formed as the 65th Australian Infantry Battalion in 1945 and since then has been deployed on active service during the Korean War, the Malayan Emergency, the Vietnam War and more recently in Somalia, East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, the battalion has deployed on peacekeeping operations to a number of countries including Japan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands. In 2006, 1 RAR was one of the Australian Army's most heavily deployed units sending detachments to Iraq as part of SECDET, Tonga, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste. The battalion is currently based at Townsville, Queensland, where it forms part of the 3rd Brigade.1st Infantry Division (United States)
The 1st Infantry Division is a combined arms division of the United States Army, and is the oldest continuously serving in the Regular Army. It has seen continuous service since its organization in 1917 during World War I. It was officially nicknamed "The Big Red One" (abbreviated "BRO") after its shoulder patch and is also nicknamed "The Fighting First". However, the division has also received troop monikers of "The Big Dead One" and "The Bloody First" as puns on the respective officially sanctioned nicknames. It is currently based at Fort Riley, Kansas.Battle of Gang Toi
The Battle of Gang Toi (8 November 1965) was fought during the Vietnam War between Australian troops and the Viet Cong. The battle was one of the first engagements between the two forces during the war and occurred when A Company, 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR) struck a Viet Cong bunker system defended by Company 238 in the Gang Toi Hills, in northern Bien Hoa Province. It occurred during a major joint US-Australian operation codenamed Operation Hump, involving the US 173rd Airborne Brigade, to which 1 RAR was attached. During the latter part of the operation an Australian rifle company clashed with an entrenched company-sized Viet Cong force in well-prepared defensive positions. Meanwhile, an American paratroop battalion was also heavily engaged in fighting on the other side of the Song Dong Nai.
The Australians were unable to concentrate sufficient combat power to launch an assault on the position and consequently they were forced to withdraw after a fierce engagement during which both sides suffered a number of casualties, reluctantly leaving behind two men who had been shot and could not be recovered due to heavy machine-gun and rifle fire. Although they were most likely dead, a battalion-attack to recover the missing soldiers was planned by the Australians for the next day, but this was cancelled by the American brigade commander due to rising casualties and the need to utilise all available helicopters for casualty evacuation. The bodies of the two missing Australian soldiers were subsequently recovered more than 40 years later, and were finally returned to Australia for burial.Củ Chi tunnels
The tunnels of Củ Chi are an immense network of connecting tunnels located in the Củ Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country. The Củ Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the Viet Cong's base of operations for the Tết Offensive in 1968.
The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, and helped to counter the growing American military effort.L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle
The L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle, also known as the SLR (Self-Loading Rifle), by the Canadian Army designation C1A1 (C1) or in the US as the "inch pattern" FAL., is a British version of the Belgian FN FAL battle rifle (Fusil Automatique Léger, "Light Automatic Rifle") produced by the Belgian armaments manufacturer Fabrique Nationale de Herstal [FN]). The L1A1 is produced under licence and has seen use in the Australian Army, Canadian Army, Indian Army, Jamaica Defence Force, Malaysian Army, New Zealand Army, Rhodesian Army, South African Defence Force and the British Armed Forces.The original FAL was designed in Belgium, while the components of the "inch-pattern" FALs are manufactured to a slightly modified design using British imperial units. Many sub-assemblies are interchangeable between the two types, while components of those sub-assemblies may not be compatible. Notable incompatibilities include the magazines and the butt-stock, which attach in different ways. Most FALs also use SAE threads for barrels and assemblies. The only exceptions are early prototype FALs, and the breech threads only on Israeli and Indian FALs. All others have standard Imperial or "unified" inch-standard threads throughout.
Most Commonwealth pattern FALs are semi-automatic only. A variant named L2A1/C2A1 (C2), meant to serve as a light machine gun in a support role, is also capable of fully automatic fire. Differences from the L1A1/C1 include a heavy barrel, squared front sight (versus the "V" on the semi-automatic models), a handguard that doubles as a foldable bipod, and a larger 30-round magazine although it could also use the normal 20-round magazines. Only Canada and Australia used this variant. However, Australia, the UK and New Zealand used Bren light machine guns converted to fire the 7.62×51mm NATO cartridge for use in the support role. Canadian C1s issued to naval and army personnel were also capable of fully automatic fire.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.Military history of Australia
The military history of Australia spans the nation's 230-year modern history, from the early Australian frontier wars between Aboriginals and Europeans to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 21st century. Although this history is short when compared to that of many other nations, Australia has been involved in numerous conflicts and wars, and war and military service have been significant influences on Australian society and national identity, including the Anzac spirit. The relationship between war and Australian society has also been shaped by the enduring themes of Australian strategic culture and its unique security dilemma.
As British offshoots, the Australian colonies participated in Britain's small wars of the 19th century, while later as a federated dominion, and then an independent nation, Australia fought in the First World War and Second World War, as well as in the wars in Korea, Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam during the Cold War. In the Post-Vietnam era Australian forces have been involved in numerous international peacekeeping missions, through the United Nations and other agencies, including in the Sinai, Persian Gulf, Rwanda, Somalia, East Timor and the Solomon Islands, as well as many overseas humanitarian relief operations, while more recently they have also fought as part of multi-lateral forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In total, nearly 103,000 Australians died during the course of these conflicts.Military history of Australia during the Vietnam War
Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War began with a small commitment of 30 military advisors in 1962, and increased over the following decade to a peak of 7,672 Australian personnel following the Menzies Government's April 1965 decision to upgrade its military commitment to South Vietnam's security. By the time the last Australian personnel were withdrawn in 1972, the Vietnam War had become Australia's longest war, and was only recently surpassed by Australia's long term commitment of combat forces to the War in Afghanistan. It remains Australia's largest force contribution to a foreign conflict since the Second World War and was also the most controversial in Australian society since the conscription controversy during the First World War. Although initially enjoying broad support due to concerns about the spread of communism in Southeast Asia, a vocal anti-war movement developed in response to Australia's programme of conscription.
The withdrawal of Australia's forces from South Vietnam began in November 1970, under the Gorton Government, when 8 RAR completed its tour of duty and was not replaced. A phased withdrawal followed, and by 11 January 1973 Australian involvement in hostilities in Vietnam had ceased. Nevertheless, Australian troops from the Australian Embassy Platoon remained deployed in the country until 1 July 1973, and Australian forces were deployed briefly in April 1975, during the Fall of Saigon, to evacuate personnel from the Australian embassy. Approximately 60,000 Australians served in the war; 521 were killed and more than 3,000 were wounded.Operation Cocoa Beach
Operation Cocoa Beach was a US Army operation that took place along Highway 13 near Lai Khê, lasting from 3 to 8 March 1966.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.Royal Australian Regiment
The Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) is the parent administrative regiment for regular infantry battalions of the Australian Army and is the senior infantry regiment of the Royal Australian Infantry Corps. It was originally formed in 1948 as a three battalion regiment; however, since then its size has fluctuated as battalions have been raised, amalgamated or disbanded in accordance with the Australian government's strategic requirements. Currently, the regiment consists of seven battalions and has fulfilled various roles including those of light, parachute, motorised and mechanised infantry. Throughout its existence, units of the Royal Australian Regiment have deployed on operations in Japan, Korea, Malaya, Borneo, Vietnam, Somalia, Rwanda, Cambodia, East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan.Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery
The Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery is the artillery regiment of the New Zealand Army. It is effectively a military administrative corps, and can comprise multiple component regiments. This nomenclature stems from its heritage as an offshoot of the British Army's Royal Artillery. In its current form it was founded in 1947 with the amalgamation of the regular and volunteer corps of artillery in New Zealand. In 1958 in recognition of services rendered it was given the title the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery.Sandy MacGregor
Colonel Alexander Hugh "Sandy" MacGregor, (born 16 March 1940) is an Australian author and former army officer. From 1989 until 2015, MacGregor ran workshops and seminars, teaching people in the public, educational and private sectors on how to "use the power of the subconscious mind."Tunnel rat
The tunnel rats were American, Australian, and New Zealand soldiers who performed underground search and destroy missions during the Vietnam War.
Later, similar teams were used by the Soviet Army during the Soviet–Afghan War and by the Israel Defense Forces in campaigns in the Middle East.Uniforms of the Australian Army
The uniforms of the Australian Army have changed significantly over the past century, although the accoutrements worn over this period have remained relatively similar. The forces of the Australian colonies and the early forces of the Commonwealth post-Federation in 1901 closely followed the uniforms of the British Army. Since then it has continued to be influenced by British but also US styles, as well as including some distinctly Australian designs, reflecting local conditions and trends.
Easter Offensive (1972)
Post-Paris Peace Accords (1973–1974)