New York Times information

For date 651211

Primary service involved, US Marine Corps
Quang Tin Province, I Corps, South Vietnam
Location, Quang Tin
Description: The following is an edited version of an article titled "Marines Battle Huge Enemy Unit in Quant Tin area" by Charles Mohr, Special to the New York Times. Saigon, Dec. 11 - Several thousand United States Marines drove into the heart of a Vietcong stronghold tonight in one of the largest American military actions of the Vietnamese war. The marines battled throughout the day with a large and well-equipped unit of guerrillas that had inflicted heavy casualties earlier this week on two battalions of South Vietnamese troops. A day after they were lifted into the battle by helicopters, the marines reported having killed a "confirmed" total of at least 90 guerrillas. But in the heat of battle no serious attempt could be made to count the enemy bodies, and t the total was believed to be considerably higher. The battlefield is near the outpost of Vietan, close to the border between Quang Tin and Quang Nam Provinces, about 250 miles northeast of Saigon. Fighting began on Wednesday when two South Vietnamese Government battalions tried to move into a strongly defended Vietcong area. They were badly cut up. More Government battalions were committed, and then beginning Thursday, the United States Marines. Thus many thousands of men on both sides are deployed on the battlefield. Maj. Gen. Lewis W. Walt, commander of the Third Marine Amphibious Force, said that the Vietcong troops of the First Guerrilla Regiment appeared to be receiving reinforcements. Because of security restrictions affecting war information, early accounts of the battle were not clear. On the basis of those accounts, it appeared that a Government ranger battalion had run into a Vietcong stronghold and had been badly mauled and that a similar fate had met other Government units until the marines were called in as a rescue force. It is becoming clear, however, that the battle was not, accidental and that the marines were not unexpectedly employed as a reaction force. Actually, under a carefully planned operation labeled Harvest Moon, the South Vietnamese troops were sent but to look for the enemy and the large Marine force was held ready to fight when the enemy could be fixed in position. In describing the action, General Walt said, "American troops have gone for the first time into the heart of Vietcong territory in this area." One Marine company, about 200 men, suffered moderate casualties when it led the way into a helicopter landing zone and met heavy fire from automatic weapons. Over all casualties for the Marine force were described as light. So heavy was the fire in the landing zone hit by the first company that other troops were diverted to an alternate landing place. A field award of the Silver Star for gallantry was made to a Marine colonel, Michael R. Yunck, who flew an armed helicopter over the battlefield to search for concealed enemy .50-caliber machine guns. Colonel Yunck, was wounded in the left leg by .50-caliber bullets, and the leg was amputated. According to General Walt, the marines uncovered a vast Vietcong tunnel system during the battle. In one tunnel, he said, there were chambers 20 feet underground with a series of sleeping rooms that could held up to 75 people.
Comments: MG Walt, Lewis W.; CG III MAF; ; COL Yunck, Michael R.; ; WIA;

The source for this information was hrvnmoon.avn supplied by Les Hines 02/02/2000

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