Operation Kentucky

1 November 1967-28 February 1969

Location: Gio Linh, Con Thien, Cam Lo, Dong Ha, Mai Loc, Phu Tho, Cam Vu, Ha Loi Trung, Vinh Dai, Xuan Khanh, A-2, A-3, C- 2, C-3, Khe Chua Valley, Leatherneck Square, DMZ, Quang Tri Province. Type: search and destroy. Controlling headquarters: 9th Marines (1 Nov 67-15 Jul 68); 1st Marines (15 Jul-26 Aug 68); 1st Bde, 5th Inf Div (M)(26 Aug-1 Nov 68); 3d Marines (1 Nov-9 Dec 68); TF BRAVO (9 Dec 68-18 Feb 69); 3d Marines (18-28 Feb 69). Task organization: 1/1 Marines, 2/1 Marines, 2/3 Marines, 3/3 Marines, 1/4 Marines, 3/4 Marines, 1/9 Marines, 2/9 Marines, 3/9 Marines, 2/26 Marines, BLT 1/3 Marines, 1-11 Inf, 1-61 Inf (M), 1-77 Arm. Intelligence: 324B and 325C PAVN Divs. Execution: On 1 Nov the 3d Mar Div split the KINGFISHER TAOR in two with the 9th Marines taking responsibility for the KENTUCKY AO embracing the region known as Leatherneck Square. Contact was light during November expect on the 7th when A/1/9 engaged an unknown size enemy force while on a sweep from Con Thien, killing 17 NVA while suffering 14 WIA. In December, BLT 1/3 Marines provided security for the engineers clearing the trace around A-3. On 15 Dec, 1/1 engaged an estimated enemy battalion in a three-hour contact. Results were 46 enemy killed, 3 US KIA and 32 US WIA. On 7 Jan 68, L/3/4 made heavy contact near Con Thien, killing 29 NVA and losing 6 KIA and 36 WIA. On 18 Jan, 3/4 had a day long contact with a reinforced enemy company in the same general area. Results were 162 enemy killed, 11 US KIA and 36 US WIA. On 2 Feb, the Cam Lo District Headquarters was attacked as part of the enemy's general offensive. Reaction forces converged on Cam Lo and drove off the attackers. Results were 96 enemy killed, 22 captured, 3 US KIA and 18 US WIA. On 7 Feb, K/3/3 made contact with an enemy battalion in and around Phu Tho village. Other companies from the battalion were piled on and broke the enemy's resistance, killing 139 by bodycount. On 3 Mar, L/3/3 made contact with a battalion-size force and with the aid of FOs and artillery accounted for 115 NVA killed. Contact was insignificant force rest of the month and most of April but on 29 Apr, TF ROBBIE with D/1/9 Marines engaged a dug-in enemy force at Cam Vu. The engagement lasted all afternoon and into the night. 26 NVA were killed, 11 US KIA and 22 WIA. This action was the initial contact of what was to become known as the Battle of Dong Ha. From 25-30 May, 3/3, 1/4 and elements of 1/9 were engaged by a large NVA force that was well entrenched just south of the trace. A cordon operation encircled the enemy positions and pounded them with artillery before the infantry swept through. Results were 157 enemy killed, 26 captured, 41 US KIA and 99 US WIA. Contacts in June and July were few and light. By mid-July, the 1st Marines assumed responsibility for the KENTUCKY AO with 2/26 and TF MIKE as the 9th Marines displaced to Vandegrift Combat Base. During the first twenty days of Aug contact was light but during 25-27 Aug, 3/9 and 1/3 with Army elements form the 1st Bde, 5th Inf Div (M) killed 53 NVA in the eastern portion of Leatherneck Square. On 26 Aug, the 1st Bde, 5th Inf Div (M) assumed control of the KENTUCKY AO from the 1st Marines which returned to Da Nang. That day 1-11 Inf engaged an enemy force in a bunker complex 1 km north of Con Thien in a 7-hour contact. Results were 65 enemy killed, 19 captured, 2 US KIA and 24 US WIA. On 11 Sep, D/1- 11 Inf conducted a search and cordon operation in the vicinity of the market place northeast of Con Thien, making heavy contact with an unknown size enemy force resulting in 35 NVA killed. From 20-23 Sep, 1-61 Inf (M) and 1-77 Arm swept the Khe Chua Valley northwest of Cam Lo, killing 15 NVA soldiers. Action was light during the first half of October but on the 14th, 1-61 Inf (M) engaged an enemy platoon in fortified position, killing 26 while losing 3 KIA and 17 WIA. On 23 Oct, TF 1-61 on conjunction with the 2d ARVN Rgt attacked into the DMZ north of Ha Loi Trung and made contact with an NVA battalion in well fortified bunkers. The battle lasted until 25, Oct, accounting for 231 enemy killed. Friendly losses were 4 KIA and 24 WIA. After the departure of the 1st Bde, 5th Inf Div (M) at the beginning of November, responsibility of the KENTUCKY AO passed under control of the 3d Marines with 2/3 and 3/3, but contact during the month was insignificant. On 9 Dec, control of KENTUCKY passed to TF BRAVO (2/3 Marines, 1st Amtrac Bn, 3d Tank Bn) and the 3d Marines departed for Operation TAYLOR COMMON on 13-14 Dec. Three cordon and search operations were conducted during December, vicinity of Vinh Dai (29 Nov-3 Dec), Cam Lo (16-19 Dec) and Xuan Khanh (27-30 Dec), but contact was light during the period. On 18 Jan 69, 3/4 Marines commenced cordon and search operations with the 2nd ARVN Rgt in the Leatherneck Square area but contact was sporadic. On 18 Feb, the 3d Marines returned from Operation TAYLOR COMMON and resumed responsibility for the KENTUCKY AO but no major enemy contacts developed and the operation was terminated on 28 Feb. Results: 3,921 enemy killed, 117 detained, 521 US KIA, 3,078 US WIA, 1 US MIA.

During Operation Kentucky Marine Recon Team 4 from A Co. 3rd Recon Battalion was surrounded 4Km SW of Gio Linh. Grid coordinates YD 190700. A rescue attempt was begun on 25 Aug. Over the next two days 16 Marines were lost in the attempt. Besides two aircrew, and one recon Marine, all were 1/1 Marines from Alpha, Charlie, and 7 from Delta Company.

1st Lt Daniel Anderson rifle fire

PFC Carlos Carbajal mortor fragments

PFC Robert Clark BT fragments

PFC Edward Gray rifle fire & white phosphorus burns

PFC Bruce Nelson rifle fire

LCpl Carmelo Vasquez grenade fragments

LCpl James Schibi rifle fire