7 September – On this day
In Vietnam, Operation Piranha was a US Marine Corps operation that took place on the Batangan Peninsula south-east of Chu Lai, lasting from 7 to 10 September 1965.
Following the conclusion of Operation Starlite, on 24 August, Marine intelligence concluded that the 1st VC Regiment had withdrawn into the Batangan Peninsula. Reconnaissance photos of the Peninsula showed field fortifications under construction.
The plan of operations for ‘Piranha’ was for a Battalion Landing Team to land across White Beach north of the Peninsula and push south, while another Battalion, would be helicoptered in to set up blocking positions 4 km inland. Another Battalion, would remain available as a floating reserve. Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) forces would be helicoptered into the south to clear and search the An Ky Peninsula.
On 7 September 1965, the amphibious landing went in unopposed, while the landing of the ARVN force received some minor ground fire. The next day, a company of Marines discovered a VC (Vietcong) field hospital in a large cave near the centre of the Peninsula. The Marines captured four prisoners, but then came under fire from other VC in the cave. The Marines returned the fire and attempted to convince the VC to surrender. Marine engineers then placed explosives in the cave. After the detonation, the Marines counted 66 VC dead inside. The operation concluded on the 10th, with 178 VC killed and 360 enemy and suspected enemy captured. Allied losses were two Marines and five South Vietnamese killed.
The operation failed to wipe out the 1st VC Regiment, villagers told the Marines that Vietcong units had been in the area but had left, some less than 24 hours before Operation Piranha had commenced. Intelligence reports later indicated that the 1st VC Regiment began leaving the peninsula on 4 September, coinciding with the increased movement of the amphibious ships at Chu Lai Base Area.