Operation Virginia Ridge

Operation Virginia Ridge was a US Marine Corps operation that took place in northwest Quảng Trị Province, lasting from 2 May to 16 July 1969.

Operation Virginia Ridge
Part of Vietnam War
Date2 May – 16 July 1969
Location16°51′N 106°50′E / 16.85°N 106.84°E / 16.85; 106.84
Result US claims operational success
 United States Vietnam
Commanders and leaders
Col. Paul D. Lafond
Col. Wilbur F. Simlik
3rd Marine Regiment 27th Regiment
36th Regiment
33rd Sapper Battalion
Casualties and losses
106 killed 560 killed
17 captured


In early May 1969, U.S. reconnaissance detected that 2 People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) Regiments, the 27th and 36th were infiltrating through the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) into the central section of Quảng Trị Province. The 3rd Marine Regiment under Colonel Paul D. Lafond was given the mission of engaging both Regiments, preventing any threat to Route 9 and protecting the rice harvest.[1]:73


The operation began on 2 May 1969 with the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines landed by helicopter at Landing Zone Sparrow (16°52′05″N 106°55′59″E / 16.868°N 106.933°E / 16.868; 106.933),[2] 8 km northwest of Cam Lộ Combat Base meeting light resistance. The 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines secured Firebase Fuller and Firebase Pete (16°48′04″N 106°51′18″E / 16.801°N 106.855°E / 16.801; 106.855) north of Elliot Combat Base and then swept towards the DMZ.[2]:5–390 The 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines secured Con Thien and the surrounding area. By 6 May 1/3 Marines had swept 3 km west of LZ Sparrow along Mutter's Ridge. On the early morning of 10 May an estimated PAVN Platoon attacked Company D, 1/4 Marines' night defensive position killing 8 Marines and wounding 10 in just 10 minutes.[1]:73

On 16 May Company M encountered a small entrenched PAVN force killing 4 and capturing 1. For the remainder of May the 1/3 and 3/3 Marines swept east towards the A-4 Strongpoint (16°54′24″N 106°59′02″E / 16.9067°N 106.984°E / 16.9067; 106.984) meeting limited resistance.[2]:5–1 On 20 May an estimated force of 20 PAVN attacked Company C's night defensive position losing 15 killed for the loss of 3 Marine dead and 8 wounded. On 22 May Company B ambushed a 30-man PAVN force killing 19 and capturing 2.[1]:74

On 6–7 June several B-52 Arclight strikes were made against Mutter's Ridge, Foxtrot Ridge and Helicopter Valley with 2/3 Marines deployed soon after by helicopter to conduct bomb damage assessment. The Marines found numerous destroyed bunkers but few enemy dead.[1]:74

In mid-June the 3rd Marines received intelligence that a PAVN force was infiltrating from the DMZ near Gio Linh District. On 16 June the 3/3 Marines loaded onto trucks and were driven up Route 1 towards the DMZ at night, as they did so they encountered the PAVN 27th Regiment and 33rd Sapper Battalion moving south along the roadside. The Marines engaged the PAVN force, pushing them into the defenses at the Charlie-1 (16°52′37″N 107°04′37″E / 16.877°N 107.077°E / 16.877; 107.077) position, where 56 PAVN dead were found the following morning.[2]:5–78 3/3 Marines swept south from Gio Linh towards Con Thien killing 20 PAVN in 2 separate engagements before midday on 17 June.[1]:74–5 At 14:00 an estimated PAVN Company attacked the 3/3 Marines' command position but were forced back with the loss of 37 dead and 3 captured. Company L moving to support the command group engaged an entrenched PAVN position killing 8. Aerial observers called in artillery and airstrikes against PAVN forces throughout the day with the final tally being 193 PAVN killed and 9 captured for the loss of 19 Marines killed and 28 wounded.[1]:75

Lafond was relieved as commanding officer, 3rd Marine Regiment by Colonel Wilbur F. Simlik on 28 June 1969.[1]:


Operation Virginia Ridge concluded on 16 July and was followed by Operation Idaho Canyon.[1]:75 U.S. losses were 106 killed while the PAVN lost 560 killed and 17 captured and 141 individual and 34 crew-served weapons captured.[3]


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

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Smith, Charles (1988). U.S. Marines In Vietnam: High Mobility And Standdown, 1969. History and Museums Division, Headquarters US Marine Corps. ISBN 9781494287627.  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ a b c d Kelley, Michael (2002). Where we were in Vietnam. Hellgate Press. pp. 5–479. ISBN 978-1555716257.
  3. ^ "Headquarters MACV Monthly Summary July 1969" (PDF). Headquarters United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. 28 October 1969. p. 33. Retrieved 23 February 2020.  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.