Operation Starlite:

Operation Starlite was named by the Marine General Lewis Walt. This was an American marine victory. However, no American forces were available to occupy the peninsula afterwards and within a few weeks the Vietcong reoccupied it. Then, the marines were ordered to recapture it and drive them out. This back and forth pattern continued for a couple years, but the U.S. could never gain any more power.

Operation Starlite was the typical action seen throughout the war with American and Vietcong infantries. This was one reason why General Westmoreland called for more and more troops as the war went on. The U.S. couldn’t produce a large enough supply of soldiers to fulfill General Westmoreland’s needs. Therefore, General Westmoreland needed to come up with another plan to run down the Vietcong army. He created two combat techniques.

One technique was the “search and destroy” method. In this method, the army would make permanent base camps throughout the South. Some soldiers, named the Security Forces, would be left to defend the base at all times. Then the other soldiers would move into the jungles around the base camps and would build temporary bases guarded by artillery. The soldiers would search through the jungles for Viet Cong they could kill or “destroy.” Most of the Vietcong occupied villages, so it was impossible for the U.S. army to take out the Viet Cong without killing the citizens. As a result, the U.S. relocated the citizens and declared the villages, “free fire zones.” The U.S. soldiers would destroy the village, forcing the Vietcong back into the jungle. But destroying the village insured that the Vietcong had no place to come back to. After one of these incidents, an American officer said,” We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”

This technique was not too effective because the Viet Cong were trained for jungle warfare, whereas, the Americans were not. The Viet Cong were able to carry larger and more effective weapons. The Americans carried lighter weapons that were not as effective. Most South Vietnamese troops weren’t any taller than five feet and weighed less than 100 pounds. Because of their small sizes, they preferred to carry the lighter weapons. Also, the American stopped at temporary base camps to eat. The Viet Cong carried food tubes with enough rice to last each of them a week.

The other technique General Westmoreland created was the free-fire zones. These free-fire zones, as stated above, were used in addition to the “search and destroy” attempts. The army would destroy the villages in the surrounding areas especially when they knew there were Viet Cong members in the village. They would relocate the Vietnamese citizens that had been living in those villages. The free-fire zones were created to push the Viet Cong out of the villages and keep them from having bases to hide in. This technique wasn’t that helpful either because it pushed the Viet Cong into the jungle. The U.S. troops had a hard time fighting in the jungle and their forces were inferior to the Viet Cong troops. These techniques created a see-saw pattern for the war in Vietnam.

external image VPASta2.jpgPlans for Operation Starlite.

Lawson, Don. The United States in the Vietnam War. New York: Crowell, 1981. Print.

Lehrack, Otto J. The First Battle: Operation Starlite and the Beginning of the Blood Debt in Vietnam. 2006 Presidio Press Mass Market Edition. Havertown, PA: Presidio Press Mass, 2004. x-xii. Print.