Page 339

Page 339 (1968: The Defining Year)

the Marines as "Happy Valley."* The 1st Reconnaissance Battalion placed
Stingray patrols under the operational control of the two regiments
to support the operation and, as the attack progressed westward, the
artillerymen of Lieutenant Colonel Clayton V. Hendricks' 11th Marines
moved firing batteries forward to keep up with the advance.

By the end of May, Lieutenant Colonel William S. Fagan's 1st Battalion,
7th Marines had swept the hills along both banks of the Song Vu Gia
and its tributary, the Song Con, to a point four kilometers beyond Thuong
Duc, and returned to their starting point at the eastern end of the
valley. Lieutenant Colonel John C. Studt's 3d Battalion, 26th Marines
was deep in the jungle-clad hills south of Happy Valley." Neither unit
made significant contact with the enemy, but both found large supply
caches. While the much-heralded enemy "Mini-Tet" offensive appeared
to have spent itself at least in the Da Nang area of operations, the
1st Division decided to keep both Operations Allen Brook and Mameluke
Thrust going and carry the fight to the enemy in his former strongholds.

Operation Allen Brook Continues

During the last four days of May, the 1st Marine Division rotated fresh units into the Allen Brook area of operations. Lieutenant Colonel Frederick J. McE-wan's 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, veterans of the defense of Khe Sanh, arrived on the 26th, and Lieutenant Colonel John E. Greenwood's 1st Battalion, 27th Marines relieved Lieutenant Colonel Woodham's 3d Battalion, 27th Marines two days later. As May ended, the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines departed Go Noi Island and became the 1st Marine Division reserve.24

Thereafter, III MAF maintained at least two battalions in Operation Allen Brook. At the beginning of June, both the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines and the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines were involved, still under the control of the 27th Marines headquarters. The 1st Marine Division expanded the area of operations to include the 27th Marines forward command post at Liberty Bridge, as well as about 35 square kilometers of rice farming area southwest of Go Noi Island.

The regiment's orders called for an ongoing "search and clear" operation, a euphemism for the tedious process of methodically searching an area for enemy personnel, facilities, supplies, and equipment. When carried out to the degree of thoroughness which provided a measure of success, the procedure was slow and sometimes ponderous. The extreme heat encountered during Operation Allen Brook, combined with terrain that included man-high elephant grass, as well as a hostile, uncooperative local population, and frequent encounters with boobytraps and mines, made the "search and clear" mission far more challenging than its name implied.

On the morning of 1 June, a flight of nine Lockheed C-130 Hercules
aircraft conducted what was accurately known as an "inferno" mission,
dropping more than 31,000 gallons of fuel in 5 5 gallon drums with igniters
attached. While the intent was to burn away a considerable portion of
the island's foliage, the mission was not as successful as desired due
to excessive dispersion of the fuel and a heavy thunderstorm which followed
the drop.25

After this disappointment, the two battalions of Marines began the process of physically searching the area for signs of the enemy. The Marines trudged steadily across the island, from west to east and then back to the west again. Short, sharp contacts resulted when enemy troops fired from well-concealed positions, causing the Marines to return fire and call for supporting arms. Upon overrunning the area from which the enemy had fired, the Marines usually found little or nothing. Occasionally, Marines detonated mines or boobytraps (referred to as "surprise firing devices" in the reporting system), often disguised as soft-drink cans, tea bags, or even "Chieu Hoi" leaflets.26*** At night, with the Marines in defensive positions, the enemy would

* Colonel Meyers recalled that he "received an excellent briefing from Lieutenant Colonel [Charles E.] Mueller [whose battalion, the 2d Battalion, 7th Marines] . . . had operated on the western edge of the valley for three weeks." Meyers described Happy Valley as having a triple canopy, with the first layer consisting of dense Kunai grass, elephant grass, and thick vines, extending up to 20 feet. The second layer contained trees rising up to 60 feet, and the third layer consisted of large teak, mahogany, and ironwood trees which reached heights of 110 feet. Colonel Meyers stated that he knew some jungle techniques, having "done deep jungle patrols with the Gurkhas in Malaya in their campaign in 1959 . . . ." Col Bruce F. Meyers, Comments on draft, dtd 20Feb95 (Vietnam Comment File), hereafter Meyers Comments.

** Colonel Studt described the Happy Valley operation as "a change of pace for 3/26, operating under triple canopy, constantly on the move." He observed that enemy tactics counted "on neutralizing our normally superior supporting arms by knocking down our point elements close in to their positions." Studt stated that, rather than walk blindly into any ambush, "we used dogs extensively . . . consequently in the several months that we spent operating in Happy Valley, we never had a man ambushed, although we lost a few dogs." Col John C. Studt, Comments on draft, dtd 22Nov94 (Vietnam Comment File).

***A leaflet distributed by hand or airdrop as part of psychological operations in support of the "Chieu Hoi" or "Open Arms" Campaign, which urged enemy troops to rally to the government of South Vietnam.

Page 339 (1968: The Defining Year)