1st Battalion in Vietnam
The 1st Battalion 16th Infantry arrived at Vung Tau, Viet Nam on 10 October 1965 with the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division on the USNS Mann. The 1st Rangers were initially stationed at Bien Hoa Air Base. Operation BUSHMASTER I was the first major operation that the battalion was involved in. Its mission was to clear a zone along Highway 13 between Lai Khe and Ben Cat in Phouc Vinh province. The unit also conducted numerous air assaults during BUSHMASTER and earned a reputation for flexibility, mobility, and aggressiveness. This was followed closely by BUSH MASTER II and the battalion’s mission changed to “search and destroy.” Operations centered around the Michelin Rubber Plantation, an area with which the battalion would become intimately familiar over the next four years.
In the first two months of operations, the battalion had killed or captured over 1,600 NVA or VC soldiers. In January 1967, the 1st Battalion participated in Operation CEDAR FALLS. This operation was a joint effort by the 1st and 25th Infantry Divisions, the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the 11th ACR to imposed severe casualties on VC units in Military Region 4, the “Iron Triangle.” This was followed by Operations TUCSON in February, BILLINGS in June, and SHENANDOAH in October.
The year 1968 was also an eventful one for the 1st Battalion. It accounted for over 300 enemy KIA or captured and thousands of weapons and several tons of equipment and food destroyed or captured. Additionally in October 1968, the battalion was reorganized as mechanized infantry and at that time adopted its current nickname, “Iron Rangers.”
In 1969, the “Iron Rangers” were involved the Vietnamization process, yet combat in and around areas like the Iron Triangle, Michelin Rubber Plantation, the Catcher’s Mitt, Ben Cat and Lai Khe, and participation in Operations BEAR TRAP, FRIENDSHIP, KENTUCKY COUGAR, IRON DANGER, and TOAN THANG IV accounted for an additional 426 enemy soldiers killed or captured. Ambush patrols and the sealing off of villages characterized operations during the year. The last four months in Viet Nam saw the battalion working closely with its ARVN counterparts as it concurrently prepared to redeploy to Fort Riley. Combat activity did not abate, however, as the “Iron Rangers” conducted 690 ambush patrols in January, and 803 in February. March 3, 1970 saw the cessation of combat activities in the Republic of Viet Nam for the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry. The battalion stood down and headed for its new assignment in Germany.