Operation Overview: Enemy tactics during Operation UNION II featured small unit actions carried out by the Viet Cong, designed to draw Marine forces into killing grounds defended by large NVA forces, the same strategy they used during UNION I. Individual guerilla snipers or small units of VC harassed and harried the Marines, knowing that the Marines would always assault forward toward the enemy locations. The NVA would try to use the element of surprise, and would hit the Marines hard trying to inflict as much death and destruction as possible; and then they would do their best to evade the heavy firepower that the Marines would inevitably bring to bear.
The main killing ground of Operation UNION II was in the vicinity of a village called Vinh Huy (2). There were three villages in this area named Vinh Huy, which comprised a “district” of villages using the typical organization of population centers of South Vietnam . Vinh Huy (2) became infamous to the Marines of 1/5 as the main battlefield of Operation UNION II.
On 26 May 1967 , the battalion received orders to commence the Search and Destroy operation called Operation UNION II. Two 1/5 companies established blocking positions across an expanse of rice paddy lands and small hamlets stretching approximately 800 meters on the northeastern edge of the Que Son Valley. Then, for the next several days, additional companies of Marines conducted sweeps and patrols that were designed to drive enemy units toward the blocking positions.
The intention of Operation UNION II was to put enemy units between the “anvil” of blocking positions, and the “hammer” of the maneuvering elements, and to crush them with fire and steel. For the most part, this strategy worked, but the enemy commanders had their own strategies in play at the same time. Large concentrations of NVA soldiers had prepared defensive positions in the Vinh Huy hamlets in positions that were likely to do the most damage to the attacking Marines.
On 27 May 1967 , Foxtrot 2/5 was placed under the Operational Control (OPCON) of the 1 st Battalion, 5 th Marines, and was assigned as one of the maneuvering forces. Company F, 2 nd Battalion, 5 th Marines, was under the command of Captain James A. Graham, USMC. On the morning of 2 June, the Marines of Fox 2/5, led by Captain Graham, engaged one of these enemy positions and a major battle erupted. Before that day ended, Captain Graham would be killed in action trying to protect his men as he attacked the enemy. Captain Graham was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his courage under fire.
On that date, 2 June 1967 , Company A lost 5 KIA’s including their company commander, and 10 WIA’s. Company D lost 17 KIA’s and 22 WIA’s, and one Marine later died of wounds inflicted during that terrible fight. Company F lost 32 KIA’s including their company commander, and 39 WIA’s. Enemy casualties were estimated to be in the hundreds; Delta reported a total of 40 enemy KIA’s confirmed, Foxtrot reported a total of 170 enemy bodies, and Alpha reported an additional 30 confirmed enemy KIA’s.
Operation UNION II was officially terminated on 5 June 1967 . In eleven days of intensive patrolling and fighting, the Marines of 1/5 accounted for approximately seven hundred enemy KIA’s. They also captured many tons of enemy supplies and ammunition, and denied the Vinh Huy village complex to the enemy. A total of 55 Marines assigned to 1 st Battalion, 5 th Marines lost their lives during Operation UNION II and over seventy Marines were wounded seriously enough to require medical evacuation.
The success of Operations UNION I and UNION II were evident in the significant reduction of enemy activity in the Que Son Valley during the remaining summer months of 1967. In stark contrast to the months of May and June of 1967, 1/5 KIA casualties during July totaled eleven, while seven 1/5 Marines were killed during the long, hot month of August 1967. During those same two months the Marines of 1/5 accounted for nearly 300 enemy soldiers killed. Enemy activity in the Que Son Valley TAOR was at a very low level, but the VC and NVA were still out there.
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