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Operation Swift
Part of the Vietnam War
Date September 4–15, 1967
Location Que Son Valley, South Vietnam
Result US victory
United States United States
South Vietnam South Vietnam
Vietnam North Vietnam
FNL Flag.svg Viet Cong
Commanders and leaders
Lt. Col. Peter Hilgartner Unknown
United States 1st Battalion 5th Marines
3rd Battalion 5th Marines
South Vietnam 37th Ranger Battalion
Vietnam 2nd Division:elements
FNL Flag.svg 1st Regiment
U.S. estimate: 2,500
Casualties and losses
127 killed
362 wounded
U.S. estimate: ~600 killed

Operation Swift was a military operation by units of the 1st Marine Division in the Quế Sơn Valley, to rescue two Marine companies which had been previously ambushed by the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN). Launched on September 4, 1967 the ensuing battles 127 Americans and an estimated 600 PAVN were killed.


The Quế Sơn Valley is located along the border of Quảng Nam and Quảng Tín Provinces. During the Vietnam War it lay in the southern part of South Vietnam's I Corps. Populous and rice-rich, the valley was viewed as one of the keys to controlling South Vietnam's five northern provinces by the communists and by early 1967 at least two regiments of the PAVN 2nd Division had been infiltrated into the area. The Que Son Valley was also recognized as strategically important by the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV). The 5th Marine Regiment was assigned to the valley in 1967 to support the outnumbered Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) forces there.

In the spring and summer of 1967 the Marines launched Operations Union and Union II with the goal of sweeping the PAVN from the southern rim of the Que Son Valley. Several bitter and costly battles forced the PAVN 2nd Division to cede control of area to the 5th Marines. Two Battalions of the 5th Marines continued to operate in the valley throughout rest of the summer but did not patrol aggressively and were not molested by the communist forces, who were regrouping. During the lull the PAVN 2nd Division rebuilt its strength to a force of three regular regiments and was reinforced by the Vietcong 1st Regiment, a full-time main force unit.

In early August Major General Don Robertson, commanding the 1st Marine Division, turned his attention to the Que Son Valley following several major operations around Da Nang. In an attempt to draw the PAVN into another destructive confrontation Robertson launched Operation Cochise on August 11. However the PAVN largely managed to avoid contact with the three Marine battalions tasked with the operation which ended on August 28 with only modest results.


Sweep operations were then initiated to shield the local populace from intimidation during upcoming elections. Operation Swift, intended to be the fourth and the last of the 1967 operations in the Que Son Valley, began unofficially on the morning of September 4 when Delta Company, 1st Battalion 5th Marines (1/5) was attacked before dawn by a superior NVA force while setup in a night-time defensive perimeter next to the village of Dong Son.[1]

The 1st Battalion Commander, Lt.Colonel Peter Hilgartner sent 1/5 Marines's Bravo Company to Delta’s relief, which was all he had at the time. With Bravo and Delta companies heavily engaged, Mike and Kilo companies from the adjacent 3rd Battalion 5th Marines were sent to relieve them. Ambushed and aggressively attacked, these two companies were also pinned down in separate enclaves by the early afternoon. During the fighting Corporal Larry Benjamin Nunez earned the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as a Squad Leader. Sergeant Lawrence Peters earned a posthumous Medal of Honor for leading his men in repulsing repeated attempts to overrun his position. Navy Chaplain Lieutenant Vincent Capodanno was also awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor for his efforts in pulling wounded men to safety in face of overwhelming enemy fire. Sergeant Thomas C. Panian was also awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism for organizing the defense of India Company, 3/5 Marines; and holding off subsequent attacks over 8 hours of combat.[1]:113–4

Marine artillery fire and Marine jet fighter-bombers prevented the Marine infantry companies from being overrun. A Marine A-6 silenced an anti-aircraft gun emplacement, allowing more air support against PAVN positions, and a fresh Marine company launched a dawn counterattack on 5 September forcing the PAVN to break contact. With all engaged companies now relieved Colonel Stanley Davis, commanding the 5th Marines, ordered 1/5 and 3/5 to pursue the withdrawing PAVN, this officially began Operation Swift. A search of the battlefield found 130 PAVN bodied while Marine losses were 54 killed and 104 wounded.[1]:114

In the early afternoon of September 6 two battalions of the Vietcong 1st Regiment attacked Bravo Company, the lead company of the 1st Battalion. Bravo 1/5 was isolated and nearly overrun but held when Marine artillery rained tear gas around their position. Sergeant Rodney M. Davis, Platoon Guide of 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, purposely absorbed the force of a PAVN grenade to protect the lives of other Marines during that fight. Sergeant Davis was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for this action. The PAVN withdrew at 02:00 leaving 61 dead while Marine losses were 35 killed and 92 wounded.[1]:114–5

The nearby 3rd Battalion was also heavily engaged a few hours later. India Company, dispatched to attack a hill held by the enemy, was isolated and nearly overrun by the Vietcong 1st Regiment's previously uncommitted 3rd Battalion. Kilo Company fought through the Vietcong and relieved India but the two companies were then found to have too many casualties to move. Two determined night assaults by the Vietcong were repulsed, and Mike Company eventually fought through against weakening opposition as the Vietcong withdrew. Vietcong losses were 88 dead while Marine losses were 34 killed and 109 wounded.[1]:115

On the morning of 7 September after a search of Vietcong bodies reveled a map of the Vietcong tactical locations the Marines swept the area uncovering a large supply cache.[1]:117

On 10 September Company H 2/5 Marines discovered an unoccupied bunker system, when another Marine platoon moved through the same village several hours later they were hot by intense fire from the bunkder now occupied by a PAVN force. Company H 2/5 Marines and Company M 3/5 Marines moved to support the pinned down platoon and with air and artillery support overran the PAVN position. the bodies of 40 PAVN were discovered, Marine losses were 9 dead. Several of the dead Marines were found with their jammed M-16s broken open for cleaning.[1]:118

Also on 10 September the ARVN 37th Ranger Battalion encountered a PAVN force north of the Swift operational area. The Rangers lost 13 killed and 9 missing while the PAVN lost 70 killed.[1]:118

In the early morning of 12 September two PAVN Companies attacked Company I 3/5 Marines' night defensive position, the attack was repulsed with 35 PAVN killed and 4 captured.[1]:118

On the evening of 13 September the PAVN attacked the 37th Rangers again and additional ARVN units and 1/5 and 3/5 Marines were airlifted to support them. By dawn the PAVN disengaged leaving 49 dead while the Rangers has lost 15 killed.[1]:119


The operation concluded on 15 September, by which time the PAVN 2nd Division and Vietcong 1st Regiment had largely given up contesting the southern half of the Que Son Valley. As Operation Swift concluded large U.S. Army units arrived in southern I Corps, allowing the 1st Marine Division to base a substantial force in the Que Son Valley on a permanent basis. The area remained quiet from then until the Marines turned all of southern I Corps over to the U.S. Army at the beginning of 1968. U.S. intelligence agencies later determined that the two enemy regiments that had been most active during Operation Swift were subsequently unfit for combat.[1]:119


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Telfer, Gary (1984). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: Fighting the North Vietnamese 1967. History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. p. 111. ISBN 978-1494285449. 

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Swift — Please support Wikipedia.
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181 news items

Daily Press

Daily Press
Sat, 05 Sep 2015 15:12:03 -0700

This was near the start of Operation Swift, a bloody campaign that pitted outnumbered U.S. Marines against North Vietnamese army regulars in nearly two weeks of harrowing combat. Murray, then a young Marine lieutenant, commanded one of two ...

Stars and Stripes (blog)

Stars and Stripes (blog)
Mon, 14 Dec 2015 14:12:59 -0800

South Vietnam, September, 1967: Two U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, 1st Marine Division open fire during Operation Swift. The Marines were searching for the 2nd North Vietnamese Army Division in the Ky Son Valley, south of Da Nang.

Paterson Times

Paterson Times
Mon, 04 Jan 2016 10:22:30 -0800

The director considered the operation – dubbed “Operation Swift Justice” – which came on the heel of several shootings that shook the city before the close of the year a success thanking many agencies which assisted with resources and manpower.

United States Army (press release)

United States Army (press release)
Tue, 25 Aug 2015 05:00:00 -0700

Operation Swift Response 15 is a multinational training exercise, part of U.S. European Command's joint exercise program designed to enhance interoperability with NATO nations. The operation provides participants with the opportunity to integrate ...


Thu, 31 Dec 2015 13:22:30 -0800

Police Director Jerry Speziale says it's been a mostly positive year in crime prevention in the city of Paterson, but he acknowledged that the end of the year has seen an uptick in violence, including three fatal shootings in two incidents over the ...

DVIDS (press release)

DVIDS (press release)
Wed, 26 Aug 2015 14:28:01 -0700

XVIII Airborne Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend shakes hands with Romania's Minister of National Defense Mircea Dusa following an airborne operation at Smardan Training Area, Romania. XVIII Airborne Corps led a Combined Joint Task ...

Fayetteville Observer

Fayetteville Observer
Thu, 27 Aug 2015 14:48:45 -0700

Paratroopers from Italy, Spain, and the U.S. jump from aircraft to seize an airfield on Smardan Training Area, Romania. XVIII Airborne Corps led a Combined Joint Task Force during a joint forcible entry training exercise as part of Operation Swift ...

DVIDS (press release)

DVIDS (press release)
Mon, 24 Aug 2015 07:03:45 -0700

Capt. Lucretia Glaspie, a jumpmaster and a company commander with Delta Troop, 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division holds an Italian rucksack as Capt. Francesco Vastante, an officer with the training ...

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