Rice denial was an established goal of III MAF. Any and all ideas were explored and some of the more promising were actually carried out. Those who flew over the III MAF area of operations are well aware of the little green splotches of well groomed rice paddies seedlings to be planted for the next harvest season. Some bright young folks in the Fifth Marines had a new idea in the fall of 1969. Prior to this flame throwers, entrenching tools, diesel oil and explosives had been tried, but it was a labor intensive effort. Because these bright green splotches were hard to see from the ground, the Fifth Marines decided that they should enlist a helicopter to spot the seedlings. Colonel Beck activated a task team, and assigned the concept the name "Butterfly Operations."
Colonel Jim Bruce, CO, MAG-16, was approached and enthusiastically embraced the idea and assigned the mission the the Purple Foxes of HMM-364. LtCol. Dunbaugh, the Squadron's Commanding Officer who had worked for Col. Beck at HQMC, devised a package of two CH-46s and two AH-1G gunships. As usual, the "grunts" came up with an organizational structure big enough to provide a reaction platoon (reinforced) in the event one of the helicopters was shot down.
The Fifth Marines got clearance from the Vietnamese District Chief (political clearance) who identified which beds were friendly and which were enemy. The infantry team laid parallel lengths of detonation cord 18" apart in the seed bed, and blew the bed. Over 700 rice seedling beds were destroyed. However, this did take some time. It actually gave the troops involved a change of duty and some pride in knowing that maybe some VC/NVA would go hungry for awhile.
LtCol. Dunbaugh thought that dumping or jettisoning jet fuel from the CH-46 would do the same thing as spraying diesel fuel attempted by the ground troops. A much larger rice paddy was identified and the Purple Foxes swooped in and dumped a few gallons of JP over a couple paddies while in a slow forward hover. A couple days later the paddies were BROWN. Too bad, no rice from those paddies.
Again, the Purple Foxes answered the call for innovation.
Charles R. "Chuck" Dunbaugh, LtCol. USMC (Ret)
LtCol. Dunbaugh was also known as "Father Fox"
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