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Operation Dewey Canyon: Search and Destroy in the Age of Abrams
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The United States Marine Corps praises Operation Dewey Canyon, which occurred from 22 January-18 March 1969, as one of their most successful operations during the Vietnam War. This paper examines the planning of Operation Dewey Canyon and provides a narrative of the action with emphasis on the use of supporting arms. I use Operation Dewey Canyon as a case study to comment on historiographical debates about strategy during the Vietnam War. Some historians, most notably Lewis Sorley, have argued “a better war” after the Tet Offensive. Sorley argues that General Creighton Abrams shifted American strategy from search-and-destroy operations to pacification-centric operations with limited use of firepower. This study of Operation Dewey Canyon lends support to the arguments of Gregory Daddis and Andrew Birtle who maintain that this shift never occurred. I also argue that Operation Dewey Canyon was not as tactically innovative or successful as claimed by the Marine Corps and historians such as Allan R. Millett. In order to conduct this study, I examine After-Action reports at the battalion and regimental level, interviews with officers, the artillery report for Dewey Canyon, and command chronologies. These sources suggest a continuity of tactics and use of firepower (artillery and Close Air Support) between the strategies of General William C. Westmoreland and Abrams, reinforcing Daddis and Birtle’s assertion that the shift in strategy never occurred.
Phillips, Ross Eldridge (2019). Operation Dewey Canyon: Search and Destroy in the Age of Abrams. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from