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THIS SLIDE AND PRESENTATION WAS PREPARED BY DAVE SABBEN WHO RETAINS COPYRIGHT © ON CREATIVE CONTENT THE 12 DECISIVE BATTLES OF THE THREE INDO-CHINA WARS presented by DAVE SABBEN MG 02 - Operation Starlite
THIS SLIDE AND PRESENTATION WAS PREPARED BY DAVE SABBEN WHO RETAINS COPYRIGHT © ON CREATIVE CONTENT BACKGROUND The Geneva Accords of 1954 demanded that free elections take place in the South. By 1959, this had not happened. The Diem regime remained unstable and demonstrably corrupt. In 1959, North Vietnam renewed infiltration and subversion of the South, thus starting the Second Indo-China War. USA offered political & financial aid, not military, other than advisers and intelligence-sharing. At first, South Viet Nam (SVN) contained the invasion, but by the mid 60s it was obvious that they would not be able to survive without outside help. The US offered to assist with the defence and security of key installations – major air & sea ports - to free up ARVN troops for offensive operations. The largest and busiest air and sea base was Da Nang. The US committed two Battalions of Marines to defend the Da Nang facilities. Start of US involvement in the 2 nd Indo-China War. 2 ARVN : A rmy of the R epublic of V iet N am
THIS SLIDE AND PRESENTATION WAS PREPARED BY DAVE SABBEN WHO RETAINS COPYRIGHT © ON CREATIVE CONTENT 3 DAY 1 The US Marines were sent to Viet Nam initially to bolster the defences of the Da Nang air base and sea port, thus freeing up ARVN (Army of the Republic of Viet Nam) units to mount more mobile and aggressive operations. SCOPE This presentation deals with the escalation of US commitment to SVN from the first few troops sent in to defend key facilities in March 1965 to the first large-scale offensive by US-only units in August The August operation was named OPERATION STARLITE but, since it was the build-up as well as the operation which became decisive, this presentation will deal with both. The operation was originally called “Satellite”, but a power blackout led to a clerical error and a clerk working by candlelight typed "Starlite" instead. Vietnamese historians mostly mistake the name of the operation, calling it Anh sang sao which is a translation of Star Light 8 MARCH :03hrs – Eleven Landing Craft, each with 34 armed Marines, dropped their ramps on Red Beach II a few miles from Da Nang city. The Marines “stormed” ashore… …to be met by a crowd of Vietnamese girls handing out garlands of flowers. The heavy weapons arrived shortly later. Thus started a tradition of even the most secret of operational orders being leaked to civilians and the enemy well in advance of the date of the execution of those orders …at Red Beach II Marines land…
THIS SLIDE AND PRESENTATION WAS PREPARED BY DAVE SABBEN WHO RETAINS COPYRIGHT © ON CREATIVE CONTENT Da Nang Airbase 4 STILL DAY 1 15 minutes later, they loaded onto trucks and tracked vehicles and drove to the airbase. There, they secured the airfield and flew in 3500 more Marines from Okinawa. “The US Marine Forces will not, repeat will not, engage in day to day actions against the Viet Cong.” General Westmoreland was already in Saigon, in command of all MACV forces (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam) (incl 23,000 advisers). He too expected a “Low Profile” Marine deployment. 1 APRIL 1965 However, seeing the benefit of Marines guarding vital bases, he persuaded President Johnston to increase the Marine force to 33,000 to extend protection to the Top Secret Army Security Agency at Phu Bai, just south of Hue.
THIS SLIDE AND PRESENTATION WAS PREPARED BY DAVE SABBEN WHO RETAINS COPYRIGHT © ON CREATIVE CONTENT Marines land at Chu Lai 5 BY MID-APRIL With the experience of frequent probes and minor attacks on their defended perimeters, the Marines obtained approval for more aggressive action. Priority 1 would still be base defence, but “protective recce” ops were approved around bases and with co- operation with ARVN forces “if necessary”. 22 APRIL 1965 In their first firefight, the Marines killed 1 VC. The US shooting war had started. 24 APRIL 1965 President Johnson declares Viet Nam “a designated combat zone for US forces”. More bases would be built - more protective forces would be required. Chu Lai CHU LAI to the south of Da Nang was next. The Marines landed and a new air base was set up - a new base to defend – and to patrol from…
THIS SLIDE AND PRESENTATION WAS PREPARED BY DAVE SABBEN WHO RETAINS COPYRIGHT © ON CREATIVE CONTENT 6 END APRIL 1965 All Intelligence indicated that VC and NVA forces were building up. There were more frequent and heavier attacks. Gen Wallace Green, Commandant of the Marine Corps, visited VN and approved more perimeter patrols and operations: “…you don’t defend a place by sitting on your ditty box…”. EARLY MAY 1965 Westmoreland asked for and got more marines to defend and patrol from more bases. 7 May – Marines land at Chu Lai. Marines could now do clearing missions, to break up suspected enemy concentrations - pre-emptive escalation men of 173 rd Airborne Brigade arrived at Bien Hoa to protect another huge air base north of Saigon. ANZAC units headed by 1 RAR join the Brigade. Marble Mountains, Da Nang 173 rd Airborne Arrives
THIS SLIDE AND PRESENTATION WAS PREPARED BY DAVE SABBEN WHO RETAINS COPYRIGHT © ON CREATIVE CONTENT 7 JUNE 1965 VC and NVA attacks on ARVN units inflicted defeat after defeat. The ARVN was losing a battalion a week. SVN was close to collapse. Johnson had no choice: send more troops. 10 –13 JUNE 1965 A major battle at Dong Xoai about 85Km north of Saigon was a major victory for the VC and was only saved from disaster by US air and man power. On 18 JUNE 1965, Air Marshall KY became Premier of the Republic of Viet Nam - the 10 th government in 20 months. 01 JULY 1965 More Marines landed at Quy Nhon - another deep sea port. Aggressive patrols – the concept of pure defence was not viable. Johnson gave Westmoreland a green light to use military resources as he saw fit. Dong Xoai Quy Nhon – deep sea port
THIS SLIDE AND PRESENTATION WAS PREPARED BY DAVE SABBEN WHO RETAINS COPYRIGHT © ON CREATIVE CONTENT 8 01 JULY 1965 VC sappers penetrate ARVN airfield defence and destroy two C-130 transports and a F-102 fighter bomber. Delay in response was caused by chain of command – HQs in Saigon, Okinawa, Hawaii and Washington, each one wanting a say. Responsibility was then delegated forward. The real significance of this was: (a)press reporting of vulnerability, (b) Accusations of ARVN complicity, (c)Forward responsibility. Outcome: Marines given a freer hand. Kennedy had advocated “special forces” operations to protect and assist villagers by reform and aid. Marines were doing this but these ops were slow to return results and not the Marine’s style or culture. When Intelligence predicted imminent VC and NVA attacks, the Marines were ordered to fight.
THIS SLIDE AND PRESENTATION WAS PREPARED BY DAVE SABBEN WHO RETAINS COPYRIGHT © ON CREATIVE CONTENT 9 03 AUGUST 1965 Operation BLASTOUT I: Marines approached the village of Cam Ne. By operational reports the village was hostile. Under fire, they advanced, finding booby traps, snipers, overt civilian hostility and non-cooperation. With 3 dead and 27 wounded, they took and searched the village, exposing a huge network of spider holes and tunnels. The Marines were ordered to burn the village. A TV crew on hand filmed the actions. 05 AUGUST 1965 The “news” report was repeated on TVs around the world. US Marines were shown burning peasant dwellings for no apparent reason. The commentary told of light opposition and compliant civilians thus showing the scenes out of context. Once set up, this became the template for blatant media bias and error.
THIS SLIDE AND PRESENTATION WAS PREPARED BY DAVE SABBEN WHO RETAINS COPYRIGHT © ON CREATIVE CONTENT 10 On 28 July (but announced in August) levels of US troops in Viet Nam were raised to 125,000. (ANZAC: 1200) Offensive operations were approved. 15 AUGUST 1965 A VC deserter revealed plans for a 1500 man VC/NVA assault on the US airbase at CHU LAI, some 80 Kms south of Da Nang. The VC base for the attack was to be VAN TUONG 12 miles South of CHU LAI. The Marines were authorized to attack: Operation STARLITE was the first US offensive operation of the war. THE FIRST CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR (CMH) In mid-July, the first Viet Nam CMH was given to Lt Frank REASONER for an action at DUONG SON on 12 July. Like the Victoria Cross, the CMH is usually given against a political imperative.
THIS SLIDE AND PRESENTATION WAS PREPARED BY DAVE SABBEN WHO RETAINS COPYRIGHT © ON CREATIVE CONTENT 11 Both sides claimed success – setting another trend for the duration of the War. 18 AUGUST 1965 OPERATION STARLITE The Operation was very difficult from the beginning. It was a combined land, sea and air operation. The VC were in dispersed company positions over a wide area. They were in good defence positions. On attack they withdrew. They were willing to let targets pass if they were too strong. They were willing to initiate a fight then withdraw., drawing their targets into prepared ambushes. These were the same tactics the Viet Minh had used successfully against French.
THIS SLIDE AND PRESENTATION WAS PREPARED BY DAVE SABBEN WHO RETAINS COPYRIGHT © ON CREATIVE CONTENT 12 The trend to claim success was set: The VC claimed 919 US casualties against 250 of their own; The US claimed 45 US KIA (& 120 WIA) for 614 VC KIA by body-count (& 9 POW). (Body-count consistently underestimated. VN’s post-war casualty details showed VC/NVA losses were over 1.5 million – total Allied body-counts were less than 600,000.) Lessons learned on Starlite were applied to subsequent Operations: Battlefield Control, Combined Arms, Use of machines in difficult terrain, The value of reconnaissance, Importance of minor tactics & field craft, Co ordination of resources during multiple simultaneous actions, Use of Naval gunfire for ground support, The value of caution in pursuit.
THIS SLIDE AND PRESENTATION WAS PREPARED BY DAVE SABBEN WHO RETAINS COPYRIGHT © ON CREATIVE CONTENT WHAT MAKES THE OCCUPATION OF DA NANG AND THE PERIOD TO OPERATION STARLITE DECISIVE? This presentation has demonstrated the slow but inevitable progress from the simple commitment of troops to base defence into full operational deployment. It has also shown that the nature of the war and the negativity surrounding it were there from the start : The vulnerability of military operations in an environment without front lines; The limitations of a “limited” war; The inability to trust the SVN government; The inability to trust the ARVN; The inaccuracy and bias of the Media; The capacity of the VC/NVA to lie about victory or defeat. This period changed the conduct of the war but not its nature. Johnson, Westmoreland, Theiu, Ky 13
THIS SLIDE AND PRESENTATION WAS PREPARED BY DAVE SABBEN WHO RETAINS COPYRIGHT © ON CREATIVE CONTENT THE 12 DECISIVE BATTLES OF THE THREE INDO-CHINA WARS presented by DAVE SABBEN MG 02 - Operation Starlite Questions?
THIS SLIDE AND PRESENTATION WAS PREPARED BY DAVE SABBEN WHO RETAINS COPYRIGHT © ON CREATIVE CONTENT THE FINE PRINT This Powerpoint show is copyright to Dave Sabben but is freely available for any non-profit use. It may be downloaded free from Dave’s website: It was prepared for presentation to those who join his Decisive Battlefields and Long Tan Trek Tours of Viet Nam (see green panel for the “commercial”) as introductions for the various battles. Because the shows are live presentations, much more is in the narrative than is included in the text on the slides. The shows are intended to be introductions and overviews – not detailed expositions or analyses. Views and conclusions are the author’s and are not offered as the only possible or even as fully comprehensive views. Where possible, permissions have been obtained to use maps or photos but some have been used without specific permission. Copyright holders who want their material either not used or credited, please contact Dave Sabben at Anyone wishing to make an anonymous donation towards the cost and time of putting this show together is invited to make a donation of any amount to (Australian) Westpac bank account BSB# , Account# (branch = 360 Collins St, Melbourne), or (Australian) CBA bank account BSB# , Account# (branch = Hampton, Victoria), either account in the name of David Sabben. If passing this slide show to others, please don’t remove this slide. THE “COMMERCIAL” As at 2011, Dave Sabben leads one tour per year (second half of October) to visit some of the areas of Australian/ANZAC operations of The highlight of these tours is to walk the Long Tan battlefield with Dave (a platoon Commander in that battle). The walk takes about 4 hours – about the time of the battle – so the group goes to all the key locations of the battle and hears about what happened pretty much in “real time”. For further enquiry into these tours, please visit: and select VN%20Long%20Tan%20Trek%20Tours.html orVN%20Long%20Tan%20Trek%20Tours.html VN%20Decisive%20Battlefields%20Tours.html An optional extension to the Long Tan Trek Tour takes in the main US battles of northern South Viet Nam including Da Nang, Hue, the DMZ (including Khe Sanh) and the A Shau Valley (Hamburger Hill), then visits both Hanoi (‘Hanoi Hilton’, War Museum) and the Dien Bien Phu valley (both Viet Minh and French positions). As well as the once –a-year-in-October tours, Dave can arrange a similar tour at any time of year for a group of 20 or more. Dates, durations, standards of accommodation, inclusions etc will be all your call. Please contact Dave (with numbers and preferences) at Note that these are “battlefield-oriented” tours – they do NOT go to the popular tourist sites. “Tourist” tours can be added before or after. If passing this slide show to others, please don’t remove this slide. PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE THIS SLIDE
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