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Operation Grouser I

The Sequel to Hickory II (September 1, 1967)

One Long Day

In writing this narrative, it is my hope that others who participated in Grouser I will offer their recollections so that a more complete and accurate narrative can be written of our operations as "AmGrunts" in Vietnam. The Forum Section for AmGrunts has a topic for Operation Hickory II where you can also post your recollections or corrections concerning Operation Grouser I.[Ed. Note: This is just a quick summary of Operation Grouser I obtained from the Battalion's Command Chronology and 3rd MarDiv message traffic. Note that specific grid coordinates and sequence/timing of certain events differ depending upon which source material is used.]

Throughout the text are numbers in brackets: [1]. These refer to the numbers added to the left margin of the attached Command Chronology pages that link the chronology events to the corresponding numbers overlaid on the map of the area in which our part of Hickory II was conducted. The links to the map and the selected pages from the Command Chronology appear at the end of this narrative.

Although just a battalion-sized operation dreamt up by the leadership of 1st AmTrac Bn, Operation Grouser I was both successful and unique. Although in large part a repeat of the 1st Amtracs portion of the OpPlan from Operation Hickory II, there was an unusual twist. The "A" Co. AmGrunts, led again by then-Captain Leo Jamieson, were accompanied by an official infantry company, "F" Co. 2/3 from BLT 2/3 (led by Captain Reginald G. Pomsford III) who were placed under operational control (OPCON) of 1st AmTracs for the express purpose of conducting Operation Grouser I.

Operating as a mechanized infantry battalion, the two infantry companies operated as a team, with "B" Co.'s AmTracs providing the mobility for both. A Section of 3rd Platoon, 1st Armored Amphib. Co. HOW-6's tagged along just as in Hickory II. The total number of tractors was a little less than in Hickory II. There were 19 LVTP-5's, the 2 LVTH-6's and 2 LVTE-1's. Another twist was that the same ARVN battalion (2nd Bn, 2nd ARVN Reg.) involved in Hickory II would serve as a blocking force rather than as part of the search and destroy team. They were also supported by 6 LVTP-5's from "H&S" Co. Including the "H&S" Co. tractors, a total of 29 LVTs from 1st AmTracs participated in the operation.

The notion of a mechanized infantry battalion employing AmTracs was elaborated on in the After-Action Report for Operation Grouser I:

On dismounting, Companies "A" and "F" employed tank and infantry tactics. When they made contact, the LVT 30 caliber machinegun and the LVTH-6 organic weapons (a turret-mounted 105mm howitzer and a 50 caliber machinegun) were used to establish fire superiority for maneuvering elements. Wounded Marines were covered from enemy fire by moving the one LVT operating as a litter tractor between the enemy positions and the point where the Marine fell, thereby providing a shield. Other LVTs and the LVTH-6s then suppressed enemy fire allowing protected recovery and subsequent delivery to the helicopter MED-Evac site. The endurance and momentum of both infantry companies was increased by spread loading each sub-unit's supplies on their respective LVT. This provided a mobile resupply directly behind the advancing forces.

The most recent intelligence had indicated at least 3 NVA companies were in the area of operations:

The K-400 Company (160 men) equipped with 60MM and 82MM mortars, light machineguns and sufficient individual weapons and an unknown infantry Company of the 266 NVA Bn (Unk Div) (120 men) similarly equipped. The enemy's mission was to gain control of the Nhi Ha forest area as a base to interdict the Cua Viet River and prevent movement of Navy craft that resupply Dong Ha from the (NSA) LST/LCU ramp at Cua Viet and to hamper National elections North of the river.

The mission was simply to eliminate all VC/NVA forces South of the DMZ within the assigned Zone of Action. The zone was roughly coterminous with our northern TAOR: From the South China Sea coast on the east, to Jones Creek on the West and the Cua Viet River on the South.

The companies completed crossing the Cua Viet river on AmTracs at 6:45 a.m. on September 1st, progressing about 4,000 meters up the coast before being taken under artillery fire (100 MM) an hour later (7:45 a.m.) from the DMZ to the northwest. Significant enemy contact was not encountered until both letter companies advanced south below the DMZ in the vicinity of An My (YD 255747). At this point Co. "A" took heavy 82 MM mortar fire from the vicinity of YD 258737. Sniper and automatic weapons fire was also received. This fire was countered by 105 MM howitzer fire from 3rd Plat.1st Armored Amphibian Co. from Cua Viet, 60 MM mortar fire from "A" Co., and direct fire from the section of LVTH-6 in the field. Strong resistance was not encountered again until Co. "A" and Co. "F", abreast, attacked the built up area in the vicinity of YD 256743 when 82 MM mortar fire and small arms fire was again received. Mortar positions at YD 259738 were located by an AO (Cat Killer 44). Five fixed wing airstrikes were run on the mortar position and points of contact with enemy forces. Both companies then advanced by fire and cleared the area. Twenty NVA KIA (Conf.) and 2 NVA KIA (Prob.) were credited to air and ground action. Contacts throughout the remainder of the operation consisted of intermittent sniper fire. An additional 21 NVA KIA (Conf.) were credited to the ARVN blocking force.

On advancing north along the route of advance no contact was made which deterred movement. Enemy artillery was not adjusted but employed direct observation by line of sight down the beach. More elaborate bunkers were encountered than found during Operation Hickory II. The new bunkers found were constructed with heavier log overhead coverage. Some had concrete and were oriented toward the North and northeast. All heavily used trails had spider holes and fighting holes in ambush positions on the approaches to built up areas. Anti-tank mines were found in the open and had not been laid. Those detonated by tracked vehicles were not laid in any systematic pattern.

At 9:30 a.m. on August 31, 1967, C.O. 1st AmTrac Bn issued Operation Order 5-67 to all organic and attached unit.

At 5 a.m. on September 1, the units departed the Battalion CP to cross the Cua Viet River and head north along the coast. At 6:45 a.m. near the original (destroyed) Giem Ha Trung just to the west of the treeline (vic YD 295749), Co. "A" spotted 10 NVA in the open and took them under fire. [1] Fifteen minutes later, Co. "A" received one incoming artillery round from a couple of kilometers to the west within the DMZ and called for TOT (Time-on-Target fire). As it continued north, Co. "A" reported that the NVA were moving North into the DMZ and that the column had received an additional 12 rounds of incoming arty at 7:10 a.m., but no casualties. [2] "F" Co. then turned west heading toward An My (YD 257747) while "A" Co. headed closer to the DMZ (to Phase Line Blue) before they would turn west and proceed abreast of "F" Co.

"A" Co. dismounted and deployed along Phase Line Blue and immediately spotted 3 NVA running towards the DMZ. They opened up on the NVA with rifles and 30 caliber Machine gun fire with negative results. Shortly thereafter, at 8:10 a.m., the Bn Forward CP was established at YD 288755, which included the Bn C.O and S-3 Officer (then-Capt. P.M. Johnson). Security for the the Forward CP was provided by one platoon from "H&S" Co. and and one 81 MM mortar squad attached to "F" Co.

A few minutes later, the two companies received 25 more rounds of incoming artillery, this time from the northwest. Aerial Observer (Article 21) detected a muzzle flash and adjusted return artillery fire from the Gio Linh Composite Artillery Battery on suspected enemy arty site, reporting that one NVA artillery piece was knocked out. It was a costly barrage, with "A" Co. suffering its sole KIA (Cpl. S. L. Keyes) and two WIA, while "F" Co. suffered 3 WIA. (all 5 WIA were Med-Evac'd). [3]

About an hour later, having crossed the desert and moved southwest from An My, "A" Co. (vic YD 256743), while moving through heavy vegetation, started taking mortar and small arms fire from several hundred meters to the east, placing the enemy position just to the west of that same set of dunes where the first major contact occurred in Hickory II. "A" Co. moved into assault. [4]

Five fixed wing Airstrikes were made on the enemy position while "A" Co. assaulted on the ground, with AO (Cat Killer 23) controlling the airstrikes. "A" Co. suffered another 3 WIA (non-Med-Evac). Upon completion of the airstrikes, "A" Co. completed the attack on the enemy position. The results were 20 NVA KIA and the capture of 3 AT mines at (YD 267733) near the northwestern foot of Hill 31. [5]

At 10:02 a.m., "A" Co. again was receiving small arms fire and began prep firing on the village of Nhi Thuong at (YD 257725) with 60 MM mortars and called in naval gunfire on the enemy positions. [6] Within the hour, the Battalion Forward CP was contacted by "G" Co., 2d Battalion, 2d ARVN Regiment (Nickle Wind Up Golf) indicating that, while serving as our blocking force, 45 NVA had been engaged as they cross Jones Creek to the West vic (YD 251735) to evade the earlier airstrikes. An additional 21 NVA KIA (conf.) resulted from the engagement. The ARVNs had done much better this time around. Of course, having the support of 6 H&S Co. LVTP-5's may have provided the necessary backbone. [7]

While crossing a rice paddy vic (YD 257725) at 11:20 a.m. both companies began receiving incoming artillery rounds from the DMZ. About 30 rounds were fired. Naval gun fire was delivered on suspected artillery site vic (YD 244784). Results unknown. [7]

"A" Co was continued receiving heavy artillery and started taking casualties from the barrage as they continued their sweep South vic (YD 268732 - Hill 31). Two new AO's (Safety Zone 22-E and Oak Gate 61) adjusted return fire missions on grids (YD 2378) and (YD 2582). [8]

At 1:45 p.m. "A" Co. and "F" Co. move into attack on the outskirts of the village of Nhi Trung vic (YD 285703) While maneuvering for position, "F" Co. came under automatic weapons fire, suffering 2 WIA (Med-Evac'd). Both companies continued sweeping southeast through the various villages along Jones Creek until they swept between the two Nhi Ha villages around 4:45 p.m. [9]

At this point, "B" Co. started taking incoming artillery and "F" Co. observed and took under fire two NVA as they advanced under small arms fire from 300 meters at vic (YD 285701). The two enemy were observed as they fell and crawled into a hole. Demolitions were used on the entrance to the hole resulting in two NVA KIA (Prob.). [10]

At 5:10 p.m. the Battalion Forward Command Post received 3 rounds of 100MM artillery while moving to a new location. [11]

From 5:55 p.m. to 7:10 p.m. both companies continued their search and destroy operation, sweeping south to the Limit of Advance (the Cua Viet River) against harassing sniper fire. At 8:00 p.m., the search and destroy operation was complete and all units returned to the Cua Viet Port Facility.

The 6 LVTP-5's from H&S Co. remained in direct support of the 2nd ARVN Regiment.

It had been one very long day. We had suffered 1 KIA and 20 WIA. However, the enemy suffered worse: 20 KIA (Conf.), 2 KIA (Prob.), plus another 21 KIA (Conf.) thanks to the ARVNs and H&S Co. tractor crews.

Map of Operation

Map Overlay Command Chronology Casualty Lists

Sources: (USMC Historical Division, Archives Section Vietnam CDs)
1st Amtracs Command Chronology, September 1967 BVNCD-009,
3rd MarDiv Command Chronology September 1967- VNCD-029
3rd MarDiv Unit Journal September 1967- VNCD-029

Summarized from source materials by Hugh Connelly,
1st. Amphibian Tractor Battalion, "A" Company.

A PDF copy of this document is
available in the Library Section.

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