Operation Marauder – January 1966

Operation Marauder, a collaborative effort between the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR), unfolded in the challenging terrain of the Plain of Reeds within the Mekong Delta. Spanning from January 1 to January 8, 1966, this military endeavour showcased the coordinated deployment and strategic prowess of the participating forces.

The operation kicked off on January 1, 1966, as 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 1 RAR, and C Battery, 3rd Battalion, 319th Artillery Regiment, which included 161 Battery, Royal New Zealand Artillery, were airlifted into Ba Tri airfield from Hậu Nghĩa Province. The initial phase saw the establishment of a formidable presence on the ground, setting the stage for subsequent engagements.

On January 2, 2/503rd encountered a well-entrenched Viet Cong force upon landing at Landing Zone Wine. A fierce battle ensued, with the 2/503rd receiving support from artillery fire and air assistance. Despite the challenges, the unit successfully overran the VC position, discovering 111 deceased insurgents. The subsequent days of the operation witnessed sporadic contact with the Viet Cong, highlighting the resilience and adaptability of the allied forces.

Tragically, on January 3, 1966, two rounds fired by 161 Battery accidentally landed on C Company, 2/503rd, resulting in the loss of three paratroopers and the injury of seven others. Investigations later revealed that the tragic incident was caused by damp powder affecting the trajectory of the artillery rounds.

Simultaneously, the Australian contingent from 1 RAR engaged in extensive patrolling activities from January 2 to January 6. While making small, sporadic contact with the enemy, resulting in the elimination of two Viet Cong members, the Australians also discovered an ammunition cache and several substantial rice caches. On January 5, a patrol from 1 RAR engaged a VC platoon near Hoa Khanh, forcing the enemy to break contact and retreat.

One of the notable achievements of the operation occurred on January 6 when the 2/503rd located the abandoned headquarters of the 506th Battalion. This discovery proved instrumental as the allied forces recovered arms, ammunition, maps, and personnel rosters, providing valuable intelligence for future operations.

Operation Marauder, with its blend of airborne deployment, ground engagement, and strategic discoveries, underscored the effectiveness of joint military efforts in countering insurgent forces. The operation’s success in neutralizing a significant Viet Cong position and obtaining valuable intelligence showcased the determination and proficiency of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, 1 RAR, and their allies in the Plain of Reeds during this critical period of the Vietnam War.



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One comment

  • Clive Williams December 17, 2023   Reply →

    I had not been aware of the tragic incident involving 161 Battery mentioned above, but 3 Platoon 1 RAR had a similar experience with 161 on another operation. We heard voices coming from a track junction about 100 metres ahead of our position and called for battery fire. Three 105mm rounds landed near the junction and one 25 metres behind us. I immediately called off any more fire. We had not known where the guns were located but it turned out they were in a direct line to us and the target – meaning we were notionally within the beaten zone of the guns. It is obviously much safer if the guns are firing from left or right across your front. I never did find out the reason for the dropshort. If it was due to damp powder, I could empathise with the kiwis because early in our deployment 1 RAR was issued with faulty 9mm rounds that were well past their use-by date. Perhaps a case of both armies clearing out old stocks?

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