Operation Scotland II

Operation Scotland II was a U.S. Marine Corps security operation that took place in northwest Quảng Trị Province from 15 April 1968 to 28 February 1969.

Background

At 08:00 on 15 April, following the relief of Khe Sanh Combat Base in Operation Pegasus the 3rd Marine Division resumed responsibility for Khe Sanh Combat Base from the 1st Cavalry Division and Operation Scotland II began with the Marines seeking out the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) forces on the Khe Sanh plateau and across the operational area which comprised the western third of Quảng Trị Province.[1]:289

Operation

April 1968

3rd Marine Division commander MG Rathvon M. Tompkins sent the division deputy commander BG Jacob E. Glick to Khe Sanh base to take control of the forces there comprising the 1st Marine Regiment which was relieving the 26th Marine Regiment, the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines and the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, this force was designated Task Force Glick. The Task Force and Regimental command posts and 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines were located at the base, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines occupied Hills 558, 861, 861 South and 950, the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines provided security along Route 9 and the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines was deployed to secure Hill 689 (16°38′35″N 106°41′20″E / 16.643°N 106.689°E).[1]:313[2]

Kasa
Map showing location of U.S. positions around Khe Sanh

On 16 April 1968, Company A 1st Battalion, 9th Marines began a patrol southwest of Hill 689, when it was ambushed by PAVN soldiers in bunkers concealed in the thick vegetation. Two more companies from 1/9 Marines were dispatched to save them, but they became ensnarled in this confusing battle and were unable to disengage until the early morning of 17 April. Casualties amounted to 38 Marines and 3 Navy Corpsmen killed, 3 missing and 32 wounded. The battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel John Cahill was relieved of duty.[1]:313–6

On 19 April the PAVN ambushed a convoy of the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines killing 3 Marines. Following this ambush 1st Marine Regiment commander Col. Stanley S. Hughes restricted traffic on Route 9 and formed a Provisional Mechanized Company combining an anti-tank company, 2 infantry platoons and elements of the 3rd Tank Battalion to improve road security.[1]:316

At the end of April BG Carl W. Hoffman replaced BG Glick and the force was briefly designated Task Force Hoffman but subsequently Task Force Hotel based on the radio callsign.[1]:316

May 1968

On 14 May the PAVN ambushed a supply convoy 1 km north of Route 9, the 2/3 Marines was sent to relieve the convoy and pursued the PAVN into a bunker complex killing 74 PAVN for the loss of 7 Marines.[1]:317 On 17 May Company H, 2/1 Marines pursued several PAVN into a bunker complex killing 52 PAVN for the loss of 6 Marines. From 17–19 May, the 3/4 Marines patrolling the ridgeline between Hills 552 (16°38′13″N 106°42′29″E / 16.637°N 106.708°E) and 689 killed 84 PAVN and captured 5.[1]:318[2]:5-232

At 04:00 on 19 May, a PAVN platoon attacked Company H 2/3 Marines position on Route 9 southeast of Khe Sanh killing 3 Marines for the loss of 8 dead. Simultaneously Company I 3/4 Marines on Hill 552 was hit by PAVN mortar fire, at dawn the Marines attacked the PAVN position killing 42 and capturing 4.[1]:318 At 07:10 a platoon from Company F 2/1 Marines supported by 2 tanks on a road sweep operation from Khe Sanh base towards Route 9 was ambushed, the Marines attempted to assault the PAVN positions but were repulsed. The remainder of Company F was sent to reinforce the platoon but the Marines attack was again repulsed, Company G was then sent to reinforce Company F and napalm strikes were called in close to the Marine lines forcing the PAVN to retreat. Marine losses were 8 dead while PAVN losses were 113 killed and 3 captured.[1]:318 Given the increased PAVN activity around the base, in late May III Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF) ordered 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines to reinforce the units in the area.[1]:319

On 24 May, Company G 2/3 Marines engaged a PAVN company in bunkers on a ridge overlooking Route 9, 4 km southeast of the base known as "Foxtrot Ridge" (16°37′11″N 106°45′24″E / 16.6196°N 106.7568°E).[2]:5-188 Air and artillery strikes were called in on the bunkers but the Marine attack was repulsed so further gunship and artillery strikes were called in which allowed the Marines to capture the position by 20:15 for the loss of 15 Marines killed, while the PAVN had lost 58 dead. Company G was reinforced by Companies E and F and dug into positions 700m apart along the ridgeline. At 02:45 on 28 May Company F detected PAVN movement outside their perimeter and artillery strikes were called in. Three PAVN armed with Satchel charges then attacked a listening post killing themselves and 3 Marines, this action started a battalion sized attack on Company F's positions. The PAVN forced the 1st Platoon from its position and overran the Company's 60 mm mortar position. At 03:30 Company F was hit by PAVN 130 mm artillery fire from across the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). At 04:15 an AC-47 Spooky gunship and a flareship arrived over the battle and were engaged by PAVN antiaircraft fire. The PAVN made repeated attacks to try to overrun the Marine positions supported by continuous RPG-2 fire.[1]:319 At 07:00 a napalm strike against PAVN reinforcements killed over 30 PAVN and started a wildfire that forced Company F from its fighting positions. Company F regained its positions as the fire died down and the PAVN began to disengage. At 11:50 Company E arrived to reinforce Company F and overran a PAVN RPG position. The Marines lost 13 dead while the PAVN lost 230 killed.[1]:320

In response to the renewed PAVN artillery fire, on 30 May, 4 M107s and 4 M110s were deployed to Khe Sanh base from Camp Carroll and these engaged in a 48-hour artillery barrage named Operation Drumfire II against suspected PAVN artillery positions in the Co Roc mountain range (16°33′40″N 106°37′55″E / 16.561°N 106.632°E), with little noticeable effect.[1]:320[2]:5-112

At 04:00 on 31 May the PAVN supported by artillery fire attacked Company E 2/3 Marines on Foxtrot Ridge but were beaten back. At 08:50 Company B 1/1 Marines was ambushed as it moved to support Company E, they were then reinforced by Company G 2/3 Marines and Company E 2/1 Marines who overran the PAVN positions. The Marines lost 32 dead while the PAVN lost 136 killed.[1]:320

June 1968

From 2 to 19 June Task Force Hotel conducted Operation Robin in the "Vietnam Salient" 15km south of Route 9 resulting in 65 Marines killed and 635 PAVN killed and 48 captured.[1]:320-4

From 19 June Task Force Hotel conducted Operation Charlie, the evacuation and destruction of the Khe Sanh Combat Base. Useful equipment was withdrawn or destroyed. At 03:25 on 1 July, the PAVN attacked a position held by 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines 3 km southeast of the base. The battle continued until late afternoon when the PAVN disengaged leaving over 200 dead, while the defending Marines lost two men. The PAVN kept up artillery and mortar fire on Marine positions around the base. At 20:00 on 5 July Khe Sanh Combat Base was officially closed and on 6 July Operation Charlie concluded. The 1/1 Marines remained around Hill 689 to recover the remains of 7 Marines killed in the earlier fighting and another 11 Marines and 89 PAVN soldiers were killed, before the 1/1 Marines recovered the dead and withdrew from the area on 11 July.[1]:324-6

The abandonment of Khe Sanh base was part of a change in U.S. strategy following the replacement of General William Westmoreland as COMUSMACV by General Creighton Abrams and the increased availability of helicopters saw the Marines move away from being tied to defending large bases along the DMZ and refocussing on mobile operations to engage PAVN units and their logistics network.[1]:324-6

August-October 1968

2.4 Marines offload from HMM-262 CH-46s near Lang Vei
2/4 Marines offload from HMM-262 CH-46s near Lang Vei

August-September 1968 saw little activity in the Scotland II area as the PAVN concentrated their activity further east in the Lancaster II and Kentucky area of operations and poor weather limited activities. PAVN units observed in the area were engaged by fire on numerous occasions but with unclear results. On 17 September PAVN units were observed near the site of the abandoned Khe Sanh base and air and artillery strikes were ordered in with negligible results.[1]:406-8

On 5 October Task Force Hotel commander BG Frank E. Garretson (who had assumed the command in August) commenced a new operation west of Khe Sanh, landing the 3/4 Marines and 2/4 Marines north and south of the abandoned Lang Vei camp and then sweeping east along Route 9. The operation uncovered various PAVN supply caches and graves but saw only minor skirmishes with the PAVN. 2/4 Marines arrived at Vandegrift Combat Base on 16 October and left the operation, while the 3/4 Marines, joined by 3/9 Marines on 24 October, continued to sweep the hills north of Route 9 until the end of October with limited results.[1]:409-10

In late October 2/9 Marines was landed in the Vietnam Salient and after sweeping it they moved north to patrol the Đa Krông valley, in mid-November it was joined by the 3/9 Marines and the two battalions conducted a systematic sweep of the valley and then moving further east and south of Vandegrift.[1]:453-5

November-December 1968

Marine from 1.4 Marines distributes ammunition during an attack on Firebase Russell
Marine from 1/4 Marines distributes ammunition during an attack on Firebase Russell, 12 December 1968

By early November Task Force Hotel controlled the following forces in the Scotland II operational area: 1/4 Marines defended and patrolled from Firebases Cates (16°40′24″N 106°48′22″E / 16.6734°N 106.806°E) and Shepherd (16°38′37″N 106°48′47″E / 16.6435°N 106.813°E) and Hills 691 (16°40′23″N 106°48′22″E / 16.673°N 106.806°E) and 950;[2]:5-95[2]:5-464[2]:5-234 3/4 Marines defended Firebase Gurkha (16°42′34″N 106°42′45″E / 16.7094°N 106.7126°E) and patrolled the Khe Xa Bai and Song Rao Quan Valleys;[2]:5-206 and 2/4 Marines was deployed to Hill 1308 to construct Firebase Argonne approximately 10 km northwest of Khe Sanh and 2 km east of the Laotian border. On 11 November following the completion of the construction of Firebase Argonne, 1/4 Marines rotated with 2/4 Marines who then closed Firebase Shepherd.[1]:450

On 21 November 3/4 Marines deployed by helicopter to reopen Landing Zone Mack and establish Landing Zone Sierra and Firebase Winchester (16°48′14″N 106°47′15″E / 16.804°N 106.7876°E).[1]:451[2]:5-551

On 23 November Operation Lancaster II was terminated and the Lancaster area of operations was absorbed into the Scotland II and Kentucky operational areas.[1]:448

On 24 November Company E, 2/4 Marines was landed at Firebase Winchester and then moved 1km east to establish Firebase Russell.[1]:451

On 28 November 1/9 Marines and 3/9 Marines launched Operation Dawson River to sweep the PAVN Base Area 101 and the Ba Long Valley uncovering numerous supply caches and graves but meeting limited resistance. The operation concluded on 25 December.[1]:454-5

On 3 December 1/4 Marines established Firebase Neville on Hill 1103, approximately 15 km north of Khe Sanh and just south of the DMZ and Battery G, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines deployed there. On 14 December Firebases Alpine, Argonne and Gurkha were closed.[1]:451

On 7 December 2/4 Marines was landed on ridgelines east of LZ Mack and 3km north of Dong Ha Mountain. On 8 December as a patrol from Company E approached Hill 208 (16°51′14″N 106°54′58″E / 16.854°N 106.916°E) it was engaged by PAVN fire.[2]:5-227 The Marines were reinforced and assaulted into the PAVN position where they were caught in a crossfire and at dusk they were forced to retreat leaving 3 dead Marines behind. The rest of the battalion was moved to surround the PAVN while it was bombarded throughout the night, but the PAVN escaped the cordon and the Marines only found the bodies of their own dead the next morning. On 11 December Company F was searching for PAVN mortar positions on Mutter's Ridge along the southern DMZ when they became pinned down by entrenched PAVN; one of the company's platoon commanders was Lt. Robert Mueller. He earned a Bronze Star for rescuing a fallen Marine under enemy fire as well as a Purple Heart after he was wounded in the leg by enemy fire.[3]

The Marines withdrew to evacuate their casualties and following air and artillery strikes resumed their assault on the PAVN positions. Company H moved in to attack the PAVN position from the north and also became heavily engaged but their fire eventually forced the PAVN to withdraw. Marine losses were 13 dead. On 12 December the Marines scoured the area but were denied permission to pursue the PAVN into the DMZ. Over the next 2 weeks 2/4 Marine searched the ridgeline but without engaging any more PAVN and on 26 December they were redeployed to the Cửa Việt Base.[1]:452-3

January-February 1969

1.4 Marines move to board a CH-46 at Vandegrift Combat Base during Operation Scotland II
1/4 Marines move to board a CH-46 at Vandegrift Combat Base

On 31 December 1968, the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion was landed west of the former Khe Sanh base to commence Operation Dawson River West. On 2 January 1969 the 9th Marines and the 2nd ARVN Regiment were also deployed on the Khe Sanh plateau supported by the newly established Fire Support Bases Geiger (16°40′26″N 106°38′10″E / 16.674°N 106.636°E) and Smith (16°37′12″N 106°40′37″E / 16.62°N 106.677°E);[2]:5-195[2]:5-469 the three-week operation found no significant PAVN forces or supplies in the Khe Sanh area.[4]:18-9

The PAVN generally avoided contact throughout January as the Marines conducted sweeps across the Scotland II area to try to locate the PAVN and disrupt their logistical preparations. On 10 January a large bunker complex was discovered north of Firebase Neville indicating that the PAVN were preparing for operations in the area and on 1 February elements of the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion and 2/4 Marines swept the southern half of the DMZ north of Neville discovering further caches but without gaining any useful intelligence on PAVN plans.[4]:19-22

In mid-January the 9th Marine Regiment began Operation Dawson River South (later renamed Operation Dewey Canyon) against the Đa Krông and A Sầu valleys.[4]:30

In the early foggy morning of 25 February 1969 200 sappers from the PAVN 246th Regiment attacked Firebase Neville killing 12 Marines from Company H, 2/4 Marines and Battery G, 3/12 Marines and 2 Navy corpsmen for the loss of 36 PAVN dead. On the same morning the PAVN 27 Regiment attacked Firebase Russell 10km east of Firebase Neville killing 29 Marines and Corpsmen for the loss of 25 PAVN. The PAVN remained deployed around Firebase Neville and continued to hit it with mortar fire for several more days despite air and artillery support, until swept from the area by Company G, 2/4 Marines.[4]:22-3

Aftermath

Operation Scotland II concluded on 28 February 1969 with the subordinate units remaining in place.[4]:23 In early April outgoing 3rd Marine Division commander MG Raymond G. Davis stated that "we totally control Quảng Trị Province."[4]:52

See also

References

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

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Shulimson, Jack (1997). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: 1968 The Defining Year. History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. ISBN 0-16-049125-8. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Kelley, Michael (2002). Where we were in Vietnam. Hellgate Press. p. 5–234. ISBN 978-1555716257.
  3. ^ Graff, Garrett (May 15, 2018). "The Untold Story of Robert Mueller's Time in Vietnam". Wired. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Smith, Charles (1988). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: High Mobility and Standdown 1969. History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. ISBN 978-1494287627. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
1968 in the Vietnam War

The year 1968 saw major developments in the Vietnam War. The military operations started with an attack on a US base by the Vietnam People's Army (NVA) and the Viet Cong on January 1, ending a truce declared by the Pope and agreed upon by all sides. At the end of January, the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong launched the Tet Offensive.

Hanoi erred monumentally in its certainty that the offensive would trigger a supportive uprising of the population. NVA and Viet Cong troops throughout the South, from Hue to the Mekong Delta, attacked in force for the first time in the war, but to devastating cost as ARVN and American troops killed close to 37,000 of the ill-supported enemy in less than a month for losses of 3700 and 7600 respectively. These reversals on the battlefield (the Viet Cong would never again fight effectively as a cohesive force) failed to register on the American home front, however, as shocking photos and television imagery, and statements such as Conkrite's, fueled what would ultimately prove to be a propaganda victory for Hanoi.

Peter Arnett quoting an unnamed US major as saying, "It became necessary to destroy the town to save it." Eddie Adams' iconic image of South Vietnamese General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan's execution of a Viet Cong operative was taken in 1968. The year also saw Walter Cronkite's call to honourably exit Vietnam because he thought the war was lost. This negative impression forced the US into the Paris peace talks with North Vietnam.

US troop numbers peaked in 1968 with President Johnson approving an increased maximum number of US troops in Vietnam at 549,500. The year was the most expensive in the Vietnam War with the American spending US$77.4 billion (US$ 557 billion in 2019) on the war. The year also became the deadliest of the Vietnam War for America and its allies with 27,915 South Vietnamese (ARVN) soldiers killed and the Americans suffering 16,592 killed compared to around two hundred thousand of the communist forces killed. The deadliest week of the Vietnam War for the USA was during the Tet Offensive specifically February 11–17, 1968, during which period 543 Americans were killed in action, and 2547 were wounded.

2nd Battalion, 1st Marines

2nd Battalion, 1st Marines (2/1) is an infantry battalion in the United States Marine Corps based out of beautiful Camp Horno on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. Nicknamed "The Professionals," the battalion consists of approximately 1,200 Marines and sailors. Normally they fall under the command of 1st Marine Regiment and the 1st Marine Division.

2nd Battalion, 4th Marines

2nd Battalion, 4th Marines (2/4) is an infantry battalion of the United States Marine Corps. The battalion, nicknamed the Magnificent Bastards, is based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California and is a part of the 4th Marine Regiment and 1st Marine Division.

Battle of Khe Sanh

The Battle of Khe Sanh (21 January – 9 July 1968) was conducted in the Khe Sanh area of northwestern Quảng Trị Province, Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), during the Vietnam War. The main US forces defending Khe Sanh Combat Base (KSCB) were two regiments of the United States Marines Corps supported by elements from the United States Army and the United States Air Force (USAF), as well as a small number of Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) troops. These were pitted against two to three divisional-size elements of the North Vietnamese People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN).

The US command in Saigon initially believed that combat operations around KSCB during 1967 were part of a series of minor PAVN offensives in the border regions. That appraisal was later altered when the PAVN was found to be moving major forces into the area. In response, US forces were built up before the PAVN isolated the Marine base. Once the base came under siege, a series of actions was fought over a period of five months. During this time, KSCB and the hilltop outposts around it were subjected to constant PAVN artillery, mortar, and rocket attacks, and several infantry assaults. To support the Marine base, a massive aerial bombardment campaign (Operation Niagara) was launched by the USAF. Over 100,000 tons of bombs were dropped by US aircraft and over 158,000 artillery rounds were fired in defense of the base. Throughout the campaign, US forces used the latest technology to locate PAVN forces for targeting. Additionally, the logistical effort required to support the base once it was isolated demanded the implementation of other tactical innovations to keep the Marines supplied.

In March 1968, an overland relief expedition (Operation Pegasus) was launched by a combined Marine–Army/ARVN task force that eventually broke through to the Marines at Khe Sanh. American commanders considered the defense of Khe Sanh a success, but shortly after the siege was lifted, the decision was made to dismantle the base rather than risk similar battles in the future. On 19 June 1968, the evacuation and destruction of KSCB began. Amid heavy shelling, the Marines attempted to salvage what they could before destroying what remained as they were evacuated. Minor attacks continued before the base was officially closed on 5 July. Marines remained around Hill 689, though, and fighting in the vicinity continued until 11 July until they were finally withdrawn, bringing the battle to a close.

In the aftermath, the North Vietnamese proclaimed a victory at Khe Sanh, while US forces claimed that they had withdrawn, as the base was no longer required. Historians have observed that the Battle of Khe Sanh may have distracted American and South Vietnamese attention from the buildup of Viet Cong (VC) forces in the south before the early 1968 Tet Offensive. Nevertheless, the US commander during the battle, General William Westmoreland, maintained that the true intention of Tet was to distract forces from Khe Sanh.

Carl W. Hoffman

Carl William Hoffman (December 24, 1919 - May 31, 2016) was a highly decorated officer of the United States Marine Corps with the rank of Major General. He is most noted for his service with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines during World War II or later as Commanding general of III Marine Amphibious Force during Operation Frequent Wind.

Jacob E. Glick

Jacob E. Glick was a United States Marine Corps Brigadier General who served in the Vietnam War.

List of United States servicemembers and civilians missing in action during the Vietnam War (1968–69)

This article is a list of U.S. MIAs of the Vietnam War in the period 1968–69. In 1973, the United States listed 2,646 Americans as unaccounted for from the entire Vietnam War. By August 2017, 1,604 Americans remained unaccounted for, of whom 1,026 were classified as further pursuit, 488 as no further pursuit and 90 as deferred.

List of allied military operations of the Vietnam War (1968)

This article is a list of known military operations of the Vietnam War in 1968, conducted by the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam, the United States and their allies.

Robert Mueller

Robert Swan Mueller III (; born August 7, 1944) is an American lawyer and government official who served as the sixth Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 2001 to 2013.

A graduate of Princeton University and New York University, Mueller served as a Marine Corps officer during the Vietnam War, receiving a Bronze Star for heroism and a Purple Heart. He subsequently attended the University of Virginia School of Law. Mueller is a registered Republican in Washington, D.C., and was appointed and reappointed to Senate-confirmed positions by presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.Mueller has served both in government and private practice. He was an assistant United States attorney; a United States attorney; United States assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division; a homicide prosecutor in Washington, D.C.; acting United States deputy attorney general; and director of the FBI. Mueller was also a partner at the D.C. law firm WilmerHale before being appointed as special counsel.

On May 17, 2017, Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as special counsel overseeing an investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and related matters. Mueller submitted his report to Attorney General William Barr on March 22, 2019. On April 18, 2019, the Department of Justice released the special counsel's final report.

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