Operation Cedar Falls Research Paper

Pages: 10 (3023 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Military

¶ … Operation Cedar Falls" that took place during the Vietnam War. Operation Cedar Falls was an operation during the Vietnam War that created no man's land and forced immigrants to leave their rural villages and migrate to the cities. The United States military created it as an operation to remove Vietcong from the area, while removing villagers who might be sympathetic to the Vietcong, as well. It was a very controversial operation that raised questions about how the military evacuated the area and treated civilians on the ground during the attack.

The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War actually took place between 1959 and 1975. United States participation began at first as military advisors to the South Vietnamese Army, who were engaged in a battle with the Communist North Vietnamese Army. There was also a South Vietnamese communist army, known as the Vietcong, fighting against the South Vietnamese, as well. U.S. troops arrived in the area in 1961, and troops were officially deployed in 1965. The war raged on until 1975, when the U.S. pulled out, and the country fell to North Vietnam, becoming Communist. Nearly 60,000 U.S. troops died in the country, with millions of civilian casualties. Extremely unpopular with many Americans, protestors and activists worked hard to get America out of Vietnam for years. The U.S. stopped officially providing additional troops in 1973, after a Congressional act passed that did not support the military sending any additional troops to the country. It was a victory for the protesters, and eventually, the North Vietnamese overran Saigon, and the war ended.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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Leading Up to Cedar Falls

In the province of Binh Duong, north of Saigon near the Cambodian border, the North Vietnamese and Vietcong controlled the area, and the U.S. military could not break through their defenses. One author notes, "The operations of American ground forces achieved a stalemate. In Binh Chanh, as in many other districts, they held the Viet Cong at bay but did not defeat it. If the Americans were to leave Gia Dinh, a South Vietnamese intelligence officer predicted in May 1967, 'the VC will attack Saigon within a week.'

TOPIC: Research Paper on Operation Cedar Falls Assignment

They knew they needed to clear the area out and remove the North Vietnamese and Vietcong troops, and they decided to create an operation to do just that. It would deploy in January 1967. The area targeted was known as the "Iron Triangle," and it had been a Communist stronghold for years, as far back as Ho Chi Minh's Communist army, the Vietminh had operated against the French.

Another writer notes, "For over twenty years, the Iron Triangle had been a headquarters, staging area, and supply point for communist forces. Although sparsely populated, the Iron Triangle as well as the two war zones was strategically important."

Military leaders also believed that many civilians in the area supported the Communists, so they wanted to clear out the civilians, too.

Clearing Out the Civilians

US forces evacuated at least 10,000 civilians from the area before the sweep began. They wanted to eliminate civilian casualties, but they also wanted to clear them from the area because they suspected they were Communist sympathizers, and might join the North Vietnamese or Vietcong forces when the barrage began. Unfortunately, the evacuations did not go smoothly. Another writer states, "Before the Iron Triangle sweep was launched, civilians were warned, briefly, by leaflets and aerial loudspeakers, that anyone remaining in the area would be considered "VC" and shot on sight."

Military officials were under strict orders to only reveal the operation to a select group of people, and in many cases, evacuations actually occurred after the operation began in many areas. Author Hunt continues, "Not surprisingly, the evacuation of Ben Suc was delayed. It took the province chief two days to obtain enough boats to move some twenty-eight hundred people, their personal belongings, and livestock: 247 water buffalo, 225 cattle, and countless chickens and pigs."

It took several days to complete the move, and the evacuation center was unprepared because they only received news of the evacuation just hours before the first refugees arrived. Half of the civilians in the area were never evacuated, some because they did not hear the news, and some simply did not want to leave their homes.

Understandably, the Vietnamese people were not happy with the situation, or being taken from their homes, and relations were strained at the center. Author Hunt states, "Attentive primarily to the enemy's military threat, military planners overlooked the political and public relations problems associated with the forced removal of South Vietnamese civilians from their homes."

The American press found out about the evacuations and called them "brutish," eliciting a negative backlash against the operation.

Eventually, reports on how the evacuation was conducted, and what could have been done better were issued by commanding officers in the U.S. Army.

Operation Cedar Falls

In order to gain control of the province and remove civilians from the area, the military worked with the South Vietnamese troops to create Operation Cedar Falls. The operation included 30,000 American and South Vietnamese troops. It was monumental because it was the first major mission of the war, and it combined the two anti-communist forces for the first time. Another author notes, "Dubbed Operation Cedar Falls, it represented the first corps-sized American mission of the war as well as the first major combined U.S.-ARVN operation involving formal planning."

It was a mission that could show how the two groups could effectively work together, and it was a mission that ultimately could help protect Saigon, since the are was only 30 miles north of the capital city. In addition, it turned out to be the largest ground operation of the entire Vietnam War.

Military Operations

Several different divisions and regiments took part in the operation. Author Stanton continues, "The 1st Infantry Division, 173d Airborne Brigade, and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment would then crash right through the Iron Triangle from its eastern side, splitting it in two, and hammer the enemy against the anvil."

Altogether, 22 battalions took part in the operation. It began in the village of Ben Suc, the village that had so many problems with the evacuation of its residents. The first barrage included sixty helicopters packed with troops along with ten helicopter gunships. Author Stanton illustrates the quick execution of the mission. He writes, "The helicopters, loaded with soldiers of Lt. Col. Alexander M. Haig's 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, roared over the forests at treetop level. Skipping the usual preparatory bombardment to achieve surprise, they landed in the midst of the village and cordoned it off."

Their attack was such a surprise that the Vietcong and North Vietnamese were stunned and offered little resistance, although there were some casualties due to mines and sniper fire.

The U.S. soldiers found a series of tunnels and storage rooms concealed under houses in the village. After removing the villagers, the forces simply bulldozed the entire village, effectively removing the target and the Vietcong stronghold. However, Ben Suc was only the first element of the entire Cedar Falls operation. Author Stanton notes, "The rest of the 1st and 25th infantry divisions sealed off the other legs of the Iron Triangle. Then the armored personnel carriers and tanks of the 11th Armored Cavalry, Regiment plunged west from Ben Cat; the hammer had swung into action."

Throughout the assault, soldiers on the ground continued to find tunnels, storerooms, caches of supplies and bases concealed by the Vietcong. They relied on these bases for their operations throughout the area, and the allied forces destroyed them as they encountered them. They did not encounter fierce resistance, because most of the Vietcong simply escaped into nearby Cambodia. The text author notes, "Dang Xuan Teo, a Vietcong guerrilla interviewed in Vietnam after war, recalled how for days the Americans besieged him and his comrades in a tunnel, where they barely survived on roots and leaves until, one night, they finally managed to escape."

The problem for the U.S. military chasing the Vietcong was that they were extremely limited as to what they could do in the neighboring countries of Laos and Cambodia. The rules of engagement were extremely limited and the Vietcong knew this, so they just slipped over the border to elude the U.S. forces, and then came back as soon as the forces retreated, and that is exactly what they did in the Iron Triangle.

On January 19, soldiers discovered the opening to a very large array of tunnels. An Army battalion found the tunnels, and formed a group of "tunnel rats," armed with .38 caliber pistols with silencers entered the tunnels to flush out Vietcong and inspect them. They found a huge complex that had taken decades to build. Author Stanton states, "Deep inside the tunnels, caverns opened up to reveal rooms for hospitals, mess halls, munitions factories, and living quarters. What they saw had taken twenty years to build."

The soldiers took six days to inspect the base, which was built on four different… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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