Operation Utah Mesa

Operation Utah Mesa was a United States Marine Corps, United States Army and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) operation in northwest Quảng Trị Province, South Vietnam from 12 June to 6 July 1969.


In late May, intelligence gained during Operation Cameron Falls and from sensor and reconnaissance reports indicated that the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) 24th Regiment of the 304th Division had infiltrated Quảng Trị Province near the Khe Sanh plateau. Task Force Hotel which was responsible for this area of Quảng Trị Province ordered the formation of Joint Task Force Guadalcanal, comprising 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, and Task Force Mustang, comprising Companies B and C, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment (Mechanized) and Company B 1st Battalion, 77th Armored Regiment of the 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized) operating with the ARVN 2nd Regiment to sweep the area.[1]


The operation began on 12 June with the 1/9 Marines landed by helicopter at Landing Zone Bison (16°41′42″N 106°49′03″E / 16.695°N 106.8175°E) and Hill 950, while the ARVN 3rd Battalion, 2nd Regiment was landed at Firebase Quantico (16°39′40″N 106°45′22″E / 16.661°N 106.756°E); both battalions were to sweep west towards Khe Sanh.[2][2]:5-430 On 13 June the ARVN 2nd Battalion, 2nd Regiment was landed at Landing Zone Cokawa, north of Hill 950. On 15 June Company D 1/9 Marines was landed at Landing Zone Horn (16°38′20″N 106°46′37″E / 16.639°N 106.777°E) to secure the advance of Task Force Mustang west along Route 9 towards Khe Sanh.[1][2]:5-250

At 03:35 on 18 June over 100 soldiers from the PAVN 24th Regiment attacked Company B 1/61st Infantry's night defensive position east of Lang Vei penetrating the perimeter. When they withdrew at dawn the PAVN left behind 41 dead while U.S. losses were 11 dead. Later that day a platoon (second) from Company C 1/9 Marines patrolling 3km southeast of Khe Sanh was ambushed by entrenched PAVN, the ambushed platoon was recovered by the rest of Company C and they overran the PAVN position. During recovery two first platoon members were wounded. Two members of second platoon survived the ambush.<ref=pfc K.Phillips></ref>[1]

On 20 June the PAVN launched 3 separate attacks against a Company B, 1/61st Infantry and Company D, 1/9 Marines position. The attacks were repulsed with air and artillery support resulting in 27 PAVN killed.[1]

On 22 June 1/9 Marines was replaced by 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines.[1]

At 01:30 on 24 June 2 PAVN platoons attacked Company K, 3/9 Marines' night ambush position south of Route 9, the Marines retreated to the main Company position which then came under attack in an attack which last until dawn. On the night of 26 June Company K, 3/9th Marines' night defensive position was attacked again by an estimated 2 companies of PAVN, this attack was repulsed within 3 hours. PAVN losses in both attacks were 41 dead. On the night of 27 June 2 PAVN companies attack Company I, 3/9 Marines position east of Lang Vei losing 22 killed.[1]:71-2

On 2 July 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines reopened Firebase Spark (16°29′17″N 106°45′22″E / 16.488°N 106.756°E), 14km south of Khe Sanh.[2]:5-469 The PAVN soon began shelling the base and 2/9 Marines patrolled the surrounding area forcing the PAVN to withdraw.[1]:72


On 6 July the 2/9 Marines and 3/9 Marines returned to Vandegrift Combat Base in preparation for the 9th Marine Regiment's redeployment from South Vietnam ending Operation Utah Mesa. PAVN losses were claimed to have been 309 killed.[1]:72


 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 Smith, Charles (1988). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: High Mobility and Standdown 1969. History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. p. 71. ISBN 978-1494287627.
  2. ^ a b c d Kelley, Michael (2002). Where we were in Vietnam. Hellgate Press. p. 5–59. ISBN 978-1555716257.
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.

George W. Smith (USMC)

George William Smith (July 8, 1925 - September 30, 2014) was a highly decorated officer in the United States Marine Corps with the rank of Major General. He began his 34 years long career as Enlisted Reservist during World War II, later was integrated to the regular Marine Corps and distinguished himself as Commanding officer, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines during Vietnam War. His last assignment was Commanding general, 3rd Marine Division on Okinawa, Japan.Both of his sons followed his footsteps and entered the Marine Corps Service. The older son, George W. Smith Jr., currently serves as Lieutenant general and Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense and younger Andrew H. Smith currently serves as Colonel and Chief of Staff, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

List of allied military operations of the Vietnam War (1969)

This article is a list of known military operations of the Vietnam War in 1969, conducted by the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam, the United States and their allies.

List of allied military operations of the Vietnam War (T–Z and others)

This article is a list of known military operations of the Vietnam War, a war fought by America to try to stop communism in Southeast Asia, conducted by the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam, the United States and their assorted allies. This is not a complete list.

Operation Keystone Eagle

Operation Keystone Eagle was the withdrawal of the initial units of the 3rd Marine Division from South Vietnam and their redeployment to Okinawa, taking place from 29 June to 30 August 1969.

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