Week of January 17

Week of January 17

Week of January 17

Throughout the war, one of the most intractable problems for United States troops in Vietnam was the ability of Viet Cong insurgents to hide among the civilian population. Especially in isolated areas such as rural river valleys and peninsulas, U.S. leaders decided that the only humane way of clearing out armed insurgents was to search hundreds of villages and screen thousands of innocent villagers one at a time, searching for weapons caches, bunkers, tunnel complexes, and the Viet Cong units themselves.

One such Viet Cong stronghold was the Batangan Peninsula, located on the central Vietnamese coast in Quang Ngai Province. Home to approximately 12,000 people scattered across the region, the remote Batangan was also a critical Viet Cong staging area. Beginning on January 13, 1969, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) was determined to eliminate the insurgent population on the peninsula with a combined amphibious assault by the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet and a brigade-size U.S. Marine Corp force, assisted by U.S. Army and South Vietnamese Army personnel. The operation was codenamed BOLD MARINER. It was the largest amphibious operation of the Vietnam War.

While sweeping the peninsula, American forces sporadically encountered Viet Cong resistance, and in these cases the Marines would ideally call in artillery strikes—usually from the Army and the Navy—on enemy defensive positions. The artillery was pre-sited, so that coordinates could be radioed back to the batteries and a firing solution could be quickly implemented. But in order to site the artillery, forward observers had to be flown by helicopter over the battlefield, and over possible enemy troop concentrations.

On the third day of BOLD MARINER, January 15, 1969, three young men from U.S. Army artillery units were conducting an artillery reconnaissance mission over the peninsula in an OH-6A Cayuse scout helicopter. The pilot was First Lieutenant Dean Arthur Taylor, Jr, a 22-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia. The two observers on board were 21-year-old First Lieutenant Jan Paul Christensen, from Austin, Minnesota, and Captain Bruce Gregory Bowles, who was 27 and from Boise, Idaho. The flight ended up being their last.

Taylor and Bowles were both assigned to Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery Regiment, 198th Infantry Brigade, of the newly formed 23d Infantry (Americal) Division. In late 1967, MACV had reactivated the Americal for the first time since 1956 and assigned them to reinforce and support the Marines in the southern portion of I Corps. First Lieutenant Christensen, the youngest man aboard the aircraft, was attached to Battery D, 3rd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. He and Bowles had graduated from the same Officer Candidate School and Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1967 and 1965, respectively.

On the morning of January 15, visibility was poor and the ceiling was low, as a misty rain floated through light fog and overcast skies. As Taylor flew the Cayuse over a clearing, sudden bursts of AK-47 rifle fire pelted the helicopter. With the engine compromised, he was forced to make an emergency landing. With composure and skill, he managed to land the crippled OH-6 safely. An investigation later found that all three men had survived the landing. But as soon as they hit the ground, the helicopter was attacked by the same men who had fired on it in the air. Deane Taylor, Bruce Bowles, and Jan Christensen were all killed and their helicopter was burned. They are each remembered on Panel 34W, Lines 4–11, of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

As for the Marines sweeping the Batangan Peninsula on the ground, working in concert with U.S. Army and South Vietnamese troops, they screened some 12,000 civilians and removed them from their villages for resettlement further south. MACV decided on resettlement in order to, in theory, prevent the Viet Cong from using the area as a base of operations in the near future. The operation forces further identified and destroyed nearly eight miles of enemy tunnels. Operation BOLD MARINER ended on February 9, 1969.1


1Charles R. Smith, High Mobility and Standdown, 1969, United States Marines in Vietnam (Washington, D.C.: Marine Corps History and Museums Division, 1988) 292, 300–303 (for “some 12,000” see p. 301); Spencer C. Tucker, ed., The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History (2nd edition; Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011), 119–21 (for “nearly 8 miles” see p. 120 [expressed in yards]); Edward J. Marolda, By Sea, Air, and Land: History of the U.S. Navy and the War Southeast Asia (Washington, D.C.: Naval Historical Center, 1994); “Wall of Faces,” Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, (accessed 1/15/19); “Vietnam Helicopter Crew Members Killed in Action,” Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association (accessed 1/15/19). Note: Army name for the operation was RUSSELL BEACH.


 

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January 7
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December 24
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December 17
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December 10
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December 3
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November 26
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November 19
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November 12
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November 5
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October 29
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October 22
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October 15
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October 8
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October 1
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September 24
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September 17
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September 10
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September 3
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August 27
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August 20
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August 13
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August 6
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July 30
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July 23
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July 16
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July 9
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July 2
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June 25
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June 18
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June 11
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June 4
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May 28
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May 21
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May 14
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Week of April 30 Week of
April 30
In April 1975, South Vietnam was on the verge of collapse as the North Vietnamese army closed in around Saigon. With almost all U.S. troops having left Vietnam in 1973, the few remaining American military and civilian personnel executed Operation FREQUENT WIND, the final evacuation of Americans, foreign nationals, and thousands of Vietnamese...
Week of April 23 Week of
April 23
On April 24, 1950, President Harry S. Truman approved the contents of National Security Council Report (NSC) 64. The memorandum was drafted by the State Department and the National Security Council. NSC 64 cited Ho Chi Minh's Communist connections, regional instability, the presence of Chinese troops along the border of Indochina, and an assumed...
Week of April_16 Week of
April 16
On April 17, 1956, three U.S. Army women nurses arrived in Saigon as part of a medical training team assigned to the U.S. Military Assistance and Advisory Group, Vietnam. They were the first U.S. servicewomen to deploy to Vietnam.
Week of April 9 Week of
April 9
At the end of 1964, with direct U.S. participation in combat operations poised to begin, there were about 23,000 U.S. forces in Vietnam. In less than five years, by the first weeks of April 1969, America's commitment in Southeast Asia reached its highest level, with 543,000 U.S. men and women serving in-theater. Two months later, President...
Week of April 2 Week of
April 2
By the end of March 1972, there were fewer than 70,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam (after peaking in 1969 at over 540,000). Following President Richard Nixon's "Vietnamization" plan, which called for gradually withdrawing American forces and handing responsibility for the war over to the South Vietnamese, the defense of South Vietnam was largely in...
Week of March 26 Week of
March 26
On March 26, 1964, Air Force Captain Richard L. Whitesides and Army Special Forces Captain Floyd J. Thompson were conducting a reconnaissance mission aboard a small observation airplane near the Demilitarized Zone. While making a low pass over a forested area, their aircraft was hit by Viet Cong small arms fire and crashed. Whitesides, the...
Week of March 19 Week of
March 19
In late February 1965, a U.S. helicopter pilot spotted a 130-foot North Vietnamese vessel anchored in South Vietnam's Vung Ro Bay. Investigators discovered the ship was carrying arms, ammunition, and other war materiel intended for the Viet Cong. By March 1965, the Vũng Rô Bay incident led to the start of Operation MARKET TIME and the establishment...
Week of March 12 Week of
March 12
As the United States commenced a bombing campaign against North Vietnam, American leaders grew concerned about the possibility of Communist retaliation against U.S. installations, especially the vital air base at Da Nang. To secure the base, General William C. Westmoreland, commander of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, ordered two...
Week of March 5 Week of
March 5
On March 2, 1965, U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps aircraft commenced the bombing of military, industrial, and infrastructure targets in North Vietnam. Called Operation ROLLING THUNDER, it evolved into one of the longest air campaigns in the history of warfare. It lasted—with some brief pauses—until October 1968, though...
Week of February 12 Week of
February 12
On February 12, 1973, a group of American prisoners of war (POWs) lifted off from Hanoi's Gia Lam Airport, in North Vietnam, aboard a U.S. Air Force C-141 Starlifter. These men were the first POWs to be released by North Vietnam and other Communist governments as part of Operation HOMECOMING.