OPERATION CRIMP – VIETNAM 8th JANUARY 1966
On 8th January 1966, day 1 of Operation Crimp, 1RAR located and attacked the tunnels of Cu Chi in the Ho Bo woods, South Vietnam. It is estimated the tunnels stretched over 17 kilometres in an underground network on four levels and housed the southern HQ of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and the HQ of the Viet Cong (VC).
The battles of Long Tan and Coral/Balmoral were very effective defensive actions by Australian troops against large, attacking forces made up of NVA units and VC. Their successes deserve the annual recognition accorded to them.
However, when appraising the successes of Long Tan and Coral/Balmoral it should be born in mind they were defensive actions – “…to seize and to hold ground by day and by night regardless of season, weather or terrain.”
Whereas, Operation Crimp was a very successful offensive action – “To seek out, to close with and to kill or capture the enemy…” The complex was searched; cleared of the enemy where found; and, thousands of pages of documents of intelligence value were seized. Numerous weapons and ammunition of various calibres from rifles to heavy machine guns were captured over a period of seven days.
1RAR was inserted by helicopter and we took the VC by surprise so we weren’t met by massed infantry. However, the enemy that was there did their best to see that we didn’t land safely.
From the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s After- Action Report; “The notorious HO BO WOODS Region in Binh Duong Province, just west of the fabled Iron Triangle, was believed to hold the politico-military headquarters of the Vietcong Military Region 4. The objective of Operation Crimp was to find and destroy or capture all personnel, equipment and intelligence material of this headquarters.”
“Although the number of VC killed has been surpassed on other operations, the amount of weapons and material captured has surpassed other operations, in the combined effects of VC killed or captured, weapons and material captured, installations destroyed and intelligence data gathered make Crimp one of the Brigades most successful. The mission was accomplished in an outstanding manner.”
Yet, we hear very little of those achievements on such as Vietnam Veterans’ Day let alone on any other occasion celebrating military success.
Note: 1RAR was one of three Infantry battalions under command of the US 173rd Airborne Brigade based at Bien Hoa South Vietnam.
11 Platoon, D Company
1RAR – 1965-66
It’s a pity that a lot more information was not written on all the Action that we carried out from Above (Helicopters firing at our troops on the ground thinking we were the Enemy) plus the Viet Cong retaliating unseen from hidden areas.
The biggest disappointment was being given the orders to move back to Bien Hoa only after a week, as we all knew that there was much more to find in the way of Weapon’s and Documents.
I remember 1 day that i was tasked to assist with the collection of Documents with the Int Section, the Sappers had just bought out a very large double sided Map that we hung in a tree covered from the Chinese Border to the most Southern party of Vietnam on one side and the area covering from the DMZ to the bottom of the country on the other, along with Coloured markers on Villages and areas that were VC and NVA Bns and Companies.
The wind happened to blow these maps apart and inside were extra maps covering major Airports and Unit positions along with Personal who occupied Office space. The BIen Hoa map had the 173d Brigade totally mapped out which included Machine Gun positions, Mortar and Heavy Gun positions of all Brigade Bns. However the Area that 1RAR was located in was a line around what could have been our perimeter with the Word “Auc Dai Lai” in the middle, but No info on Gun positions or Company, Bn Hq’s.
I was absolutely amazed that they had nothing known about us. (Mainly because we never employed an Locals)
After a parachute jump in Canberra in 1980/82 I had a conversation with Colonel Tony Hammet who was on a committee charged with selecting battle honours for the RAR regimental colours and he told me the Ho Bo woods was a very close contender. Sadly Tony was killed later in a plane crash, I think.