Third Battalion, Fifth Marines
This is a partial list of operations participated in by 3/5 in RVN. The information here was gleaned from the book Semper Fi - Vietnam, by Edward Murphy, and supplemented with some of the official histories put out by the History and Museums division of the USMC. Any errors of omission or commission are mine alone. The language used is pretty standard Military Speak, meaning dry as dust, so be forewarned. (Note: it would make for very interesting reading if you participated in any of these ops, or any other, and submitted a story from your viewpoint. It could be linked to this page and op as well as the main link to the main page).
1. 3/5 was part of Special Landing Force 3/5 in July of 1966. From one of our members: Mike Company, along with the rest of 3/5, first landed in Vietnam somewhere around the 16th of June, '66. Cabral (Ed. note: on the Mike Wall, first name listed) was killed when a grenade somehow exploded on his person during or shortly after the assault somewhere around Quang Nai. It was operation Deckhouse I. After a couple of weeks of pure VC activity we returned to our ships and departed for the Phillipines. I'm pretty sure Mike Company was the Vertical Assault group (helos) from the USS Princeton. LPH 5. Other companies were on the USS Pickaway(APA 222) and the USS Alamo(LSD ?) After some monster liberty in Subic Bay we sailed back to Vietnam and engaged in Operation Deckhouse II. Very close to the DMZ. The battalion was sent to see if there were enemy types coming through the DMZ. A few days of puttering around near the coast, then off to the coastal mountains for Operation Hastings. We found a whole potful of NVA! The rest, as they say, is history. Mid July, '66. Grizzly gunfights until they sent us back to our ships toward the end of July, sailed us down to Chu Lai, disolved our BLT status (Battalion Landing Team), and we were given a TAOR a few miles from the Chu Lai airstrip. From Hans Haupt: The Company also participated in Operation Colorado (in the Chu Lai area) following Hastings. I do not recall the exact dates, but it was in the 1966-67 time frame.
2. For Mike Company, Operation Desoto started February 3, 1967 in Quang Ngai Province, in support of 7th Marines around Hai Mon.
3. The first of many incursions into the Que Sons for 3/5 occurred during Operation Union, April 21 to May 16. Mike Company was in late on the first day, to help a beleaguered Fox 2/1 acting as bait on this Operation. On April 25, 5th Marines took over the operation. Denny Dinota, who was there, has this to say about that action. "...we were the stand-by company who went to rescue Fox 2/1 which, while attempting to rescue one of it's platoons which got wiped out. Fox Company (About 75 men) were found by Mike Company on line half way across a rice paddy, most of them KIA."
4. Operation Union II. Mike and Lima Companies landed at LZ Eagle, 5 clicks east of Nui Loc Son, again in the Que Sons, on May 26. In an all day fight the two companies overran entrenched NVA. On May 30, the companies fought the NVA at Vinh Huy village, a click east of Eagle, and overran them. (Editor note: 5th Marines earned a Presidential Unit Citation for Operations Union and Union II, reproduced herein under the Citation section of this Site.) Link to more Union I and II discussion on Debbe Reynold's site: http://www/usmcwife.hypermart.net/unionIandII.htm
5. Operation Cochise. Again in the Que Sons, this was an operation to throw the 3rd NVA Regiment and the 1st VC Regiment out of the Que Son Valley. 3/5 was part of the operation from August 11 to August 18.
6. Operation Swift. September 4, 1967, a hard day for Mike Company. Along with Kilo Company they advanced across open rice paddies towards entrenched NVA positions. 1st Platoon of Mike ran into an L-shaped ambush. 2nd Platoon was sent in to rescue and was immediately attacked by a full company of NVA. While 1st Platoon was able to retreat back to the main Company position, the 2nd couldn't disengage. In this fight Sgt. Lawrence Peters won his Medal of Honor, awarded posthumously, in leading his men in repulsing repeated attempts to overrun his position. Navy Chaplain Lt. Vincent Capadonno was with 2nd Platoon and also was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor for his efforts in pulling wounded men to safety in face of overwhelming enemy fire. Relief came in the evening when an A-6 silenced an AA gun emplacement, allowing more air support. The NVA withdrew during the night. 1st Lieutenant Murray, the company CO was awarded a Navy Cross for his actions during this day.
Two days later Mike Company was involved in an assault and then on the defense of Hill 43, supporting first India, then Kilo Companies. On September 10, a Hotel Company 2/5 Platoon was ambushed in Vinh Huy. Mike Company joined with the remaining platoons of Hotel in some hard action in rescuing the threatened Platoon and overrunning the village, with help of 250lb bombs from air strikes. Link to more Swift discussion on Debbe Reynold's site: http://www/usmcwife.hypermart.net/swift.htm
7. Operation Houston. Along with 2/3, the entire battalion conducted a sweep adjacent to Highway 1, starting on February 26, 1968, in the area between Hai Van Pass and Phu Bai.
8. In May the 7th Marines began a series of sweeps of Happy Valley under Operation Mameluke Thrust. In mid July the 5th Marines took over the Operation and shifted focus to areas east of An Hoa. 2nd and 3rd Battalions conducted numerous ops in this area through the close of the Mameluke Thrust op on 23 October.
9. Operation Maui Peak from 6 to 19 October was for the relief of the Thoung Duc Special Forces Camp. 3/5 conducted sweeps on the high ground overlooking the camp.
10. Operation Meade River was the largest Marine air mobile op of the war. Six infantry battalions participated, including 3/5. Starting 10 November through 9 December the battalions encircled and searched a 30 click cordon in Dodge City. Just about all the civilians in the area were evacuated.
11. Operation Taylor Common started 7 December 1968 and continued through until March 8, 1969 and was conducted southwest of AnHoa in area identified as Base Area 112, a major staging area for the NVA. The intent of the operation was to build and secure a supply line from Da Nang to An Hoa. 3/5's participation started on 11 December when the battalion landed on Hill 575, and established FireBase Lance. Operations in the surrounding areas continued until February 14, 1969, when all units left except for Mike and Lima Companies 3/5. Pressure on the two remaining companies increased throughout February and by the end of the month they endured nightly mortar barrages and ground assaults. FSB Tomahawk was attacked just after midnight on March 1. Quoting from Semper Fi, Vietnam, page 231 "Four Marines in a listening post first heard the enemy moving toward their position. Private First Class Daniel D. Bruce, a mortar man from the Headquarters and Service Company, 3/5, caught the explosive device in mid-air, then shouted a warning to his buddies as he leaped from the bunker. Intent only on protecting his fellow Marines, Bruce held the device to his body as he ran into the jungle. Before he could dispose of the charge, it exploded. Bruce absorbed the full and deadly blast, but his buddies survived to fight off their attackers. Bruce would receive a posthumous Medal of Honor for his valor." On 3 March, Mike Company ran into a well entrenched enemy force. Two of the three Marines who died in the first few seconds bodies could not be recovered because of withering fire. A series of bitter fights occurred through March 6 in an effort to recover the bodies. Force Recon eventually recovered them. On March 8, the operation ended after forcing the NVA out of Base Area 112 and capturing huge quantities of arms and supplies. Murphy, on page 232, ends his essay on this op this way: "....as soon as they departed the AO, the enemy began returning. Such was the war in South Vietnam."
12. Operation Pipestone Canyon started on May 26 and ran through November 7, 1969 in Goi Noi Island and Dodge City. This was a multi battalion effort and included ARVNs and ROKs (Republic of Korea Marines). 3/5's part of this op involved driving into east Goi Noi alongside BLT 1/26, then establishing a blocking position west of the railroad berm on 30 May. The results of this op was to "transform Goi Noi Island from a heavily vegetated tract into a barren wasteland, free of tree lines and other cover long used by the enemy to conceal his movements across the island." (Murphy, page 247).
13. Operation Durham Peak ran from July 18 to August 13, 1969. This operation took place in Antenna Valley and the Que Son Mountains. Enemy forces fleeing the carnage in Goi Noi and Dodge City because of Pipestone Canyon were filtering into this area. 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 5th Marines, along with 2/1, participated. The Army's Americal Division established blocking positions south of the AO. According to Murphy most of the heavy contact was sustained by a platoon of Hotel Company 2/1, ambushed on July 26th.
E. 1970 No major named operations involving 5th Marines occurred in 1970, a year of mostly company and platoon sized operations, CAP and CUPP programs and patrols and night ambushes. Catawba Falls was supposed to be a major multi battalion op in September 1970 but ended being a feint, used to cover the movement of 5th Marines to replace the departing 7th Marines on LZ Baldy and FSB Ross, east of the Que Sons and south of Hoi An.