Operation Masher (24th January – 6 March 1966)
- Later renamed ‘Operation White Wing’ by Johnson himself because he wanted it to sound more benign, Operation Masher was the largest search and destroy mission carried out in the Vietnam War until that time. It took place in the province of Bin Dinh, which was considered a traditional communist and Vietcong stronghold. The primary metric for judging the success of the operation would be the body count of PAVN/NLF soldiers. But the disproportionate number of bodies to weapons caused the media to question how many of the dead were genuinely army combatants. Operation Masher demonstrated that a consequence of large troop movement, and artillery and air bombardment was refugees. The Americans claimed that the people were fleeing communism, but 120,000 people – 1/5th of Le Drang’s population – were rendered homeless. Westmoreland believed he was depriving the enemy of the population it needed to survive but it was a policy bound to cause greater economic disruption to the South and greater resentment towards the US.
- Westmoreland counted Operation Masher a success – but two months later, Operation Crazy Horse – the same regiment was back in Bin Dinh and in October Operation Thayer began an effort to ‘fully pacify’ the same area.