Paratroopers drop into VC stronghold
TAY NINH, Vietnam — The U.S. has launched what may become the biggest operation in the war in a blitzkrieg strike at the Viet Cong's suspected national headquarters.
U.S. forces struck shortly after dawn Wednesday to plant a 23,000-man horseshoe of bullets and steel around a jungle area in War Zone C which is believed to shelter the communist supreme command.
The multi-division assault, named Junction City, marked the first time U.S. paratroopers had jumped in combat since the Korean War.
Focus of the huge operation is a 150-square-mile jungle plateau in Tay Ninh Province, 70 miles northwest of Saigon. The plateau is the backyard of the 10,000-man VC 9th Div. According to U.S. intelligence, it shelters COSVN — the Viet Cong's central office for the Republic of Vietnam.
At 7 a.m., Wednesday, 249 Army helicopters lifted five full combat brigades into a "horseshoe" near the Cambodian border.
An armored infantry force pushed north into the horseshoe neck. The northeast corner of the battle area, barely 4 miles from the Cambodian border, was taken by paratroopers from the 173d Airborne Brigade in the first U.S. combat jump since the Korean war.
The 196th Light Inf. Brigade assaulted the northwest corner as the 3d Brigade of the 4th Inf. Div. and two brigades of the, 1st Inf. Div. blocked communist withdrawals to the south. Two mechanized brigades of the 25th Inf. Div. and the 11th Armored Cav. Regt. swept into the horseshoe Thursday.
Viet Cong snipers shot down five helicopters during the first assault and wounded three U.S. crewmen. The helicopters were from the 12th Combat Aviation Group which reportedly borrowed choppers from the delta, and the central area for the operation.
U.S. losses were reported as light in scattered fighting. A 1st Inf. Div. company was shelled by 10 rounds of 82mm mortar fire Wednesday night, but took no casualties. Another 1st Div. company took light casualties after three brief communist attacks.
The operation is directed by Lt. Gen. Jonathan O. Seaman, commanding general, II Field Force Vietnam.
Major units participating in the operation include two brigades of each of the 1st and 25th Inf. Div. and one brigade of the 4th Inf. Div. Other major units included the 173d Airborne Brigade, the 196th Light Inf. Brigade and the11th Armored Cav. Regt. Also participating were numerous support troops including the 3d Tactical Fighter Wing, the 145th Aviation Bn. as well as transport planes and supporting supply elements.