Positioning the Anvil- Operations Fitchburg and Niagra Falls

The U.S. 25th Division would form the anvil for CEDAR FALLS using one organic and one attached brigade positioned along the Saigon River on the southwest leg of the Iron Triangle to conduct search and destroy operations and to prevent enemy forces from escaping. Other elements of the 25th were not directly involved in the operation. The U.S. 1st Infantry Division, employing two organic brigades and one attached brigade, had a threefold mission. Before D-day the division would position elements along the Thi Tinh River, conduct search and destroy operations, and assume screening and blocking positions to keep the enemy from escaping to the east. Commencing D-day (8 January), one brigade would seal, search, clear, and destroy the village of Ben Suc. The third task would be to swing the hammer element of this hammer and anvil operation; that is, to attack west and south with one brigade through the triangle and with another through the Thanh Dien forest. One organic brigade of the division would not be employed in CEDAR FALLS.

On 5 January (D-3), the two U.S. divisions began the deception deployment of the elements which were to participate in CEDAR FALLS.

25th Infantry Division

For Operation CEDAR FALLS, the 25th Division employed its 2d Brigade and the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. Elements of the South Vietnamese 7th Regiment, 5th Infantry Division, were also placed under the control of the division.

The area of operations of the 25th extended on a line generally parallel to the Saigon River from the southern portion of the Boi Loi woods southeast to a north south line four kilometers east of Phu Hoa Dong. This area was some twenty five kilometers long and was designated Blocking Position YANKEE. The division's area of operation encompassed former Viet Cong havens in both the Boi Loi and Ho Bo woods and in the Filhol Plantation. The 25th Divi-

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sion was also responsible for traffic control on the Saigon River. At night, ambushes were to be emplaced along the river; by day, patrols would secure the river, thereby releasing the majority of forces for search and destroy operations.

The 196th Light Infantry Brigade, commanded by Brigadier General Richard T. Knowles, was deployed from Tay Ninh to the Ho Bo woods. Under the guise of a continuation of Operation FITCHBURG-an action initiated earlier in the Tay Ninh area-the 196th was to locate and destroy key enemy installations and fortifications, deny the use of the area as a logistical base and headquarters, and establish blocking positions to prevent enemy escape across the Saigon River. The operational area of the 196th comprised the northern portion of the 25th Division zone of responsibility and was fifteen kilometers long, extending parallel to the Saigon River from the Boi Loi woods on the north to the Rach (stream) Son, immediately northwest of the Filhol Plantation. The task organization included two infantry battalions, two mechanized

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infantry battalions, two cavalry troops, the 175th Engineer Company, and a battalion (+) of artillery.

At 0540 on D minus 3 (5 January 1967) the 196th Brigade began the move to its CEDAR FALLS operational area, using both ground and airlift. Only relatively light enemy contact was made by the 196th during this final phase of FITCHBURG. As planned, the movement placed the brigade forces in initial positions from which the northern portion of the 25th Division's area of operation could be controlled. Half of the anvil was now in place.

As the 196th maneuvered into position, the 2d Brigade, 25th Division, commanded by Colonel Marvin D. "Red" Fuller, was preparing to be committed. The brigade task organization included two infantry battalions, one tank battalion, two artillery battalions (one each in direct and general support), and an engineer company. Other brigade units included one troop of cavalry (attached on D-day) and a military intelligence detachment.

The 2d Brigade area of responsibility was parallel to and west of the Saigon River from a north-south line four kilometers east of Phu Hoa Dong to the northern perimeter of the Filhol Plantation. The brigade's mission was to block along the Saigon River "early on D plus 1" (9 January) and prevent enemy escape from the Iron Triangle area. Other tasks included maintaining control over the river, preventing its use by enemy forces, and destroying enemy forces and installations in the area of operation, to include the elimination of the hostile infrastructure in the village of Phu Hoa Dong. This last requirement was to be accomplished in conjunction with a South Vietnamese battalion as a "Buddy" operation and was designed to expand government control over the village. Phu Hoa Dong, a complex of hamlets including Ben Co, Phu Loi, and Phu Thuan, located to the west of the Filhol Plantation, was a known enemy communications and liaison point. It was from Phu Hoa Dong that commercial products and taxes could be procured by the Viet Cong 2d Battalion, 165th Regiment, a unit which occupied areas to the east of the town.

Movement by the 2d Brigade into the blocking positions to complete the anvil would begin at 0400 on D-day.

1st Infantry Division

The 1st Infantry Division was to be employed both to block on the east and to conduct extensive search and destroy, tunnel and base camp destruction, and jungle clearing operations throughout the area. In addition, 1st Division forces would constitute the hammer of the operation. Like the 25th, the 1st Division initiated

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preparatory action for CEDAR FALLS on 5 January, D minus 3, in a cover operation dubbed NIAGARA FALLS. Major forces included the division's 2d and 3d Brigades plus the 173d Airborne Brigade and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (minus one squadron) placed under operational control of the division. For this operation the 173d was code named Task Force DEANE, for its commander, Briga dier General John R. Deane, Jr.

NIAGARA FALLS was a three day operation assigned to Task Force DEANE; it began at 0730 on 5 January. Similar to Operation FITCHBURG conducted by the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, NIAGARA FALLS was a deception designed to place combat elements in position before striking the main blow. The area of operation included the terrain between the Thi Tinh River and Highway 13, bounded on the north by the Cau Dinh jungle and extending south approximately four kilometers. This terrain lies immediately east of the southern point of the Iron Triangle. It was believed that the 2d and 3d Battalions of the 165th Viet Cong Main Force Regiment, the

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Phu Loi Battalion, and a Viet Cong company (the 63d) might be operating in the area.

NIAGARA FALLS terminated at 1500 on 7 January without major incident. As with the 25th Division units, a deceptive move had resulted in tactical units being positioned, in this case, in Blocking Position ZULU. Enemy escape routes to the east were now closed. Elements of Task Force DEANE would form part of the hammer forces swinging west through the triangle on D plus 1.

Among the accomplishments of NIAGARA FALLS, perhaps the most noteworthy was that of the 1st Engineers. Working with a task force of fifty bulldozers, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph M. Kiernan, Jr.'s troops cleared 365 acres of dense jungle containing many Viet Cong installations and serving as an access route to the Iron Triangle.

The 2d Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division was to seal and search the village of Ben Suc, prepare to evacuate the inhabitants and their possessions, and eliminate the village as a center of Viet Cong operations. The tactical command post along with one infantry battalion left Di An early on 7 January for a road march to the airfield at Bien Hoa. From there the units were airlifted to Dau Tieng. Also on the 7th, the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, the unit designated to make the actual assault on Ben Suc, was air transported from Phuoc Vinh to Dau Tieng and came under the operational control of the 2d Brigade. As D-day approached, elements of the 2d Brigade waited in readiness, and the tension mounted.

The third major element of the 1st Division, the 3d Brigade, was slated for search and destroy operations around and through the Thanh Dien forest as a part of the hammer. The operations order was issued to participating battalions of the brigade on 5 January, and the subsequent days were used for planning and preparation. On 8 January the brigade's direct support battalion moved from Lai Khe to Artillery Base I, two kilometers from Ben Cat at the northeast corner of the Iron Triangle. The 3d Brigade was almost ready for its H-hour on D plus 1- 0800, 9 January 1967.

The "Blue Spaders" of the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, were set for their raid on Ben Suc; the anvil was ready for emplacement and the hammer was poised. CEDAR FALLS time had arrived.

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