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CHAPTER 6

The Enemy Refuses to Give Battle:

September-November Operations

Operation PIRANHA-Much Ado About CS, Operation STOMP-October-November Operations

Operation PIRANHA

After Operation STARLITE, III MAF entered a new stage of operations aimed at striking at enemy main force units. Having eliminated the threat posed to the Chu Lai base by the 1st VC Regiment, General Walt considered the time opportune to complete the destruction of the enemy regiment. His intelligence sources indicated that its remnants had withdrawn to the Batangan Peninsula, eight miles south of Van Tuong. After consulting with General Thi, General Walt issued a warning order on 26 August to Colonel Peatross for the 7th Marines to plan for a coordinated operation in the area. *

In contrast to STARLITE, the planning and preparations for the new operation were extensive. From 31 August through 2 September, Marine and naval commanders travelled between Da Nang and Chu Lai. They were briefed by the III MAF staff and prepared detailed plans. Captain McKinney and Colonel Peatross once more were to be the respective commanders of the amphibious task force and landing forces. They coordinated their activities with the the South Vietnamese and on 3 September the plans were complete. That date, the 7th Marines published Operation Order 423-65, codenamed PIRANHA.

The concept of operations for PIRANHA was similar to that of STARLITE. Two Marine battalions, Lieutenant Colonel Kelly's 1st Battalion, 7th Marines and Muir's 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, would be embarked on Seventh Fleet shipping, while another battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Bodley's 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, would conduct a heliborne assault of the objective area.** On D-Day, Kelly's battalion would land across WHITE Beach, north of the Batangan Peninsula, and push south, while Bodley's helilifted Marines would set up blocking positions 4,000 meters inland. Muir's battalion would remain at sea as a floating reserve. Participating Vietnamese battalions, the 2d Battalion, 4th ARVN Regiment and 3d Vietnamese Marine Battalion, would be moved by helicopter into the region south of Bodley's position. There the South Vietnamese would conduct a search and clear mission on the An Ky Peninsula which was separated from Batangan by the Sa Ky River.

On 6 September, Captain McKinney's task group, consisting of the attack transport Bayfield, two dock landing ships, Belle Grove and Cabildo, and three tank landing ships, sailed for the amphibious objective area. They arrived early the following morning and were joined by the naval gunfire ships, the cruiser Oklahoma City (CLG 5), and two

 

* Colonel Wyckoff, the 3d Marine Division G-3 at the time, recalled that following STARLITE, he worked closely with Major Charles T. Williamson, the Division G-2, to locate the 1st VC Regiment: 'The Division G-2 staff sought for indicators in two general areas: the eastern edge of the mountains coming down toward Chu Lai and the cave-dotted Batangan Peninsula. In the latter they found a 'V' of older field fortifications pointing inland with its open end toward the sea. Kept under visual and photographic surveillance, a second 'V of new positions, inland of the older ones showed under development. A series of transparent overlays was made up, showing the progression of activity over several days. General Walt concurred in the analysis and a staff team was flown down to Saigon to brief General Westmoreland, using the same set of maps and overlays.' Col Don P. Wyckoff, Comments on draft MS, dtd 160ct76 (Vietnam Comment Pile).

** BLT 3/7 joined III MAF on l September when it landed at Chu Lai. The battalion had been replaced in the SLF by BLT 2/1.

 

 

Page 84 (The Enemy Refuses to Give Battle)