The DMZ: Operation Hickory (3dMarDiv)
May 8, the thirteenth anniversary of the fall of Dien Bien Phu, was marked by particularly heavy mortar,
rocket, and artillery attacks (fired in large part from sanctuary north of the DMZ) against Gio Linh, Con Thien,
Camp Carroll, and Dong Ha.
On 18 May the Marines began Operation HICKORY. Their mission, "To remove enemy forces and installations
from the southern half of the DMZ. Under control of the 9thMarines, this was the first time the Marines
had ventured into the DMZ in force. Their attack was supported by a massive Navy-Marine-Air Force effort,
the landing of SLF Alpha, and a parallel sweep by the 1st ARVN Division,
Two Marine battalions -- the 2dBn 9thMarines and 2dBn 26thMarines -- led off by moving northward from their attack
positions near Con Thien. The 3dBn 4thMarines, which had just
arrived at DONG HA by KC-130s from Okinawa -- was brought in by helicopter to positions northwest of Con Thien close
against the Ben Hai River. The Marine thrusts precipitated heavy fighting that lasted 48 hours and killed
Before daybreak, five battalions of the 1st ARVN Division in Opn Lam Son 54 moved north from
Gio Linh along the axis of Route 1 to just below where Freedom Bridge crosses the Ben Hai, then peeled off the
road to the right and left, and began sweeping southward.
Special Landing Force Alpha -- 1stBn 3dMarines -- made a co-ordinated amphibious assault,
using helicopters and surface craft, into the northeasternmost corner of the DMZ, just below the mouth of the
Ben Hai. The assault followed a tight time schedule to take advantage of the preparatory fires being
delivered by five destroyers and two cruisers. Attacking westward
along the river bank, they killed 61 enemy. The SLF then faced left and swept southward parallel to the
On 20 May SLF Bravo -- 2dBn 3dMarines -- joined HICKORY in Operation BELT TIGHT, moving directly into the DMZ
just south of the Ben Hai. The battalion took some fire in the initial landing zones, but by moving
a few hundred meters south found smoother going.
The operation was over on 28 May. As complicated as it was, it seemed to have completely surprised
the enemy. Half a dozen enemy battalions were caught off guard south of the DMZ. At least
815 of the enemy were dead; 445 killed by the Marines, 370 by the ARVN. The NVA had been served
notice that the southern half of the DMZ would no longer be a sanctuary. Their command and control
arrangements had been disrupted, they had lost much in supplies and ammunition, and their fortifications had been
dismantled. But the Marines were under no illusion that the results of this operation were permanent.
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| 17 MAY 1967 -
25 MAY 1967