Operation Piranha

Intelligence and Planning

Having eliminated the threat posed to the Chu Lai base by the 1st VC Regiment, intelligence sources indicated that its remnants had withdrawn to the Batangan Peninsula. Walt considered the time oppurtune to complete the destruction of the enemy Regiment.

Col. Peatross once again was to be the commander of the landing force, two Marine Battalions, LtCol. Kelley's 1st Battalion, 7th Marines and Muir's 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines would be embarked on ships, Muir's Marines to remain at sea as a floating reserve. LtCol. Bodley's 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines would conduct a heliborne assault of the objective area. Participating Vietnamese battalions, the 2nd Battalion, 4th ARVN Regiment, and the 3rd Vietnamese Marine Battalion would be moved by helicopter south of Bodley's position.

The Battle

By 0500 on the morning of 7 September , all amphibious forces were in position with the exception of the reserve Battalion of Marines which arrived later in the day. From 0555 to 0615 Marine Air strafed the landing beach, and a single A-4 laid a smoke screen. Eight F-4s and four A-4s dropped "Daisy Cutter" bombs to prep the helicopter landing zones. The first waves of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines landed at 0635 with the entire Battalion ashore within 20 minutes.

The 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines was heli-lifted to their objective four miles to the west of LtCol. Kelley's Marines on the beach, the Marines encountered no opposition and completed the helilift in less than three hours. After inserting the Marines the helicopters moved the Vietnamese troops to their landing zones. Two of the Marine helicopteers were hit by ground fire, as the Vietnamese troops moved out the firing stopped.

During the three day operation, only the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines found a significant number of the enemy. On 8 September, a VC field hospital was discovered in a large Cave. The Marines captured four prisoners but then came under fire from other VC in the cave. Eventually explosives were placed in the cave and after the detonation the Marines counted 66 bodies inside. They also found medical supplies, some small arms, and ammunition.

The Aftermath

During Piranha, allied forces killed 178 VC, captured or detained 360 enemy or suspects. Allied losses were two Marines and five South Vietnamese killed, 14 Marines and 33 Vietnamese wounded. Considering the magnitude of the allied effort the operation hardly could be called a success. Local villagers told the Marines that units of the target 1st VC Regiment had been in the area but left less than 24 hours before Operation Piranha started.

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