CHAPTER XIV

Phase III-Termination

Phase II of JUNCTION CITY came to a close on 15 April. The original intention was that the operation would then cease; how-ever, the first two phases had proved so successful that Phase III was initiated. Control of this last phase was to be the sole respon-sibility of the 25th Infantry Division, which would commit a brigade to it.

Phase III continued the objectives of JUNCTION CITY I and II, using the mobile brigade concept to conduct offensive operations in War Zone C. The 3d Brigade, 4th Division, had already relieved the 196th Brigade of these operations near the end of Phase II. Therefore when the final phase opened, the 3d of the 4th continued to secure the towns of Tay Ninh and Suoi Da and Route 26 south from Tay Ninh, and to operate throughout the lower western half of War Zone C. One battalion of the brigade conducted search and destroy operations north of Route 247, thereby affording a degree of protection for the completion of the Special Forces camp at Prek Klok. The brigade was deployed until 20 April, when it ended its participation in JUNCTION CITY.

On the 21st the 1st Brigade, 9th Division, with a tank company and the South Vietnamese 36th Ranger Battalion attached, came under the operational control of the 25th Division and assumed the mission of the 3d Brigade, 4th Division. For the next twenty days the brigade forces conducted operations throughout the area, but the organized enemy units became almost impossible to find. Most of the contacts made were with relatively small Viet Cong groups; however, many bunkers and military structures were located and destroyed. Casualties sustained by friendly forces were primarily caused by mines and booby traps. It soon became evident that the enemy had dispersed to a new area.

At midnight on 14 May 1967, Operation JUNCTION CITY, the largest military offensive operation of the Vietnamese conflict to that time, was brought to a close.

The statistical results of JUNCTION CITY are impressive. All the regiments of the 9th Viet Cong Division had been trounced. The final totals carried 2,728 enemy killed and 34 prisoners taken.

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There were 139 Chieu Hoi ralliers and 65 detainees. Among items of equipment captured were 100 crew-served weapons, 491 indi-vidual weapons, and thousands of rounds of ammunition, grenades, and mines. More than 5,000 bunkers and military structures were destroyed. Over 810 tons of rice and nearly 40 tons of other food-stuffs such as salt and dried fish were uncovered. Nearly one-half million pages of assorted documents were taken. American personnel losses were 282 killed and 1,576 wounded, while U.S. materiel losses included the destruction of 3 tanks, 21 armored personnel carriers, 12 trucks, 4 helicopters, 5 howitzers, and 2 quad-.50 machine guns and carriers.

In addition to these losses, the enemy suffered other serious setbacks. He had to take time to regroup, refit, reorganize, and receive replacements. Disruption of the headquarters of the Central Office of South Vietnam caused its forces to withdraw to Cambodia and affected its control over Viet Cong activity. Coupled with the loss of large quantities of important documents and the destruction of many important installations and communication networks, this disruption led to a reversal in planning and control during this period and for some time to come. But probably one of the most far-reaching effects of all upon the enemy was the realization that his bases, even in the outer reaches of War Zone C, were no longer havens.

From a psychological standpoint, the enemy in War Zone C was a more difficult target than that normally encountered in the III Corps area. The reason was that the target was composed primarily of hard-core North Vietnamese and Viet Cong; as a result, the usual Chieu Hoi propaganda appeals based on family hardship and separation were not so effective as they were with guerrilla-type units. Early in the operation, quick reaction was recognized as the key to the successful psychological exploitation of hard-core targets.

Commenting on this aspect of the operation, General Weyand had this to say in his Commander's Evaluation of JUNCTION CITY:

During JUNCTION CITY we dropped 9,768,000 leaflets and made 102 hours of aerial loudspeaker appeals. The major engagements of 20, 21 and 31 March were followed up with a wide variety of "quick-reaction" leaflets. They showed photographs of VC dead and contained surrender appeals to the survivors. A specially designed memorandum addressed to the CG of the 9th VC Div was reproduced and distributed as a leaflet to further exploit our success of 20 March. A newsletter exploiting VC casualties and explaining the role of our forces was distributed throughout the III CTZ.

Our military civic action projects supported the overall PSYOP effort. They added credibility to our central propaganda theme: The Viet Cong/ North Vietnamese Army destroy; the Government of Vietnam/United

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States/Free World Military Armed Forces help the people. Civic action projects completed by our units in villages and hamlets along the JUNCTION CITY LOC (line of communication) included seven road bridges . . . five kilometers of roads, five wells, and two floating docks. In addition, we repaired five road bridges, thirty footbridges . . . four hospitals, one market place . . . eleven kilometers of roads, six schools, three wells, one village water pump and one village power gener-ator. A total of 59,690 patients were treated under the MEDCAP (medical Civic Action Program) II Program; and we distributed 295,041 pounds of food and clothing to local GVN officials who gave them to needy families.

Our success In this endeavor is evidenced by the fact that 139 Hoi Chanh (Chieu Hoi returnees) were induced to rally despite the hard-core nature of the target audience. The intensive use of PSYOP and Civic Action techniques, coupled with our relentless tactical pressure against the VC, was responsible for the large number of ralliers.

The mission assigned II Field Force for JUNCTION CITY had been to conduct a major operation into War Zone C to destroy COSVN and Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces and installations. All objectives were accomplished in considerable degree with the exception of the destruction of COSVN forces. In his evaluation of

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the operation, General Hay of the Big Red One set forth some of the reasons for this failure.

Several factors contributed:

The proximity of a privileged sanctuary to the reported locations of COSVN and Headquarters, 9th VC Division.

The extreme difficulty of establishing a seal with sufficient troop density to deny infiltration routes to VC units thoroughly familiar with the dense jungle terrain.

The difficulty of gaining complete surprise, as a result of extensive repositioning of troops and logistical support prior to D-Day, in spite of the efforts devoted to deception measures.

Looking back many months after JUNCTION GTY ended, General Westmoreland, in his Report on the War in Vietnam, summarized the effect of the operation in this fashion:

(In addition to the enemy losses) we constructed three airfields capable of handling C-130's, erected a bridge entering (War Zone C) on its eastern edge, cleared innumerable helicopter landing zones, and fortified two camps in which Special Forces teams with CIDG garrisons remained as we withdrew. Henceforth, we would be able to enter this important but diffi-cult area with relative ease and with much smaller forces . . . .

An inviolate Viet Cong stronghold for many years, War Zone C was now vulnerable to allied forces any time we choose to enter.

General Giap portrayed JUNCTION CITY as a "big victory" rather than the serious defeat it was. The North Vietnamese continued to per-petuate the myth of crippling U.S. losses and defeat. This time, if anything, the reports were more exaggerated than usual. According to official North Vietnamese reports, 13,500 allied soldiers were killed in JUNCTION CITY. . . . The enemy claimed 993 vehicles destroyed (800 of them armored) and the destruction of 119 allied artillery pieces. . . . Exaggeration of this magnitude by the enemy was a commonplace. Whether self-deception or carefully contrived myth, its existence played an important part in future decisions the enemy was to make . . . .

However, General Giap's glowing account of victory was belied by high-level defectors a year later as they revealed the full impact of JUNCTION CITY upon the enemy:

They commented-and captured documents confirmed-that the operation was essentially an enemy "disaster." According to these knowl-edgeable defectors, the loss of major base areas and the resulting dete-rioration of local forces in III Corps forced the enemy high command to make basic revisions in tactics. JUNCTION CITY convinced the enemy command that continuing to base main force units in close proximity to the key population areas would be increasingly foolhardy. From that time on the enemy made increasing use of Cambodian sanctuaries for his bases, hospitals, training centers, and supply depots.

A turning point in the war had been reached.

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