Duc Hue Battlefront
The Duc Hue Battlefront began on March 27, 1974 when a NVA battalion-size attacked Duc Hue and ended on May 10 when the counter-attacking ARVN units marched back to their base camp.
This article comprises two parts. The first part is constituted by a collection of cablegrams circulating among the American officials, namely the American General Consul in Bien Hoa, the American Embassy in Saigon and the Secretary of State in Washington D.C. pertaining to the Duc Hue Battlefront as it unfolded.
The second part is the narration of the ARVN counter-attack at the Duc Hue Battlefront as told by Colonel William Legro, DAO Senior Intelligence Officer.
01 April 1974
R 010620Z APR 74
SUBJ: MILITARY ACTION AT DUC HUE AND ELSEWHERE IN MR 3
1. A RANGER COMPANY AT DUC HUE WELL SUPPORTED BY AIR STOOD OFF A DETERMINED BATTALION-SIZE ATTACK BY THE 5TH NVA DIV MAR 27 AND 28, AFTERWARD COUNTING AT LEAST 96 COMMUNIST KIA AGAINST ONLY 29 FRIENDLY KIA, 27 WOUNDED AND 6 MIA. FRIENDLY LOSSES WERE AUGMENTED BY AN ADDITIONAL 16 DEPENDENTS KIA AND TWO WOUNDED IN THE DEPENDENTS LIVING AREA NEAR THE RANGER BASE. THERE ARE INDICATIONS THAT WITH THIS ACTION THE COMMUNISTS HAVE OPENED UP A NEW AREA OF LONG TERM OPERATIONS BASED IN THE PARROTS BEAK AREA OF CAMBODIA.
2. DEPUTY III CORPS COMMANDER MGEN HIEU DISCUSSED THE DUC HUE ENGAGEMENT AND THE HIGH LEVEL OF MILITARY ACTION ELSEWHERE IN MR 3 WHEN WE MET AT NOON TODAY. THIS REPORT IS ALSO BASED ON INFORMATION OBTAINED BY OUR RLO/DAO FROM THE 25TH DIV G-2 MAR 29.
3. THE ACTION AT DUC HUE BEGAN AT 0330 MAR 27 WHEN THE NVA
ATTACKED THE RANGER BASE CAMP ABOUT FIVE MILES FROM THE CAMBODIAN BORDER AFTER A STRONG ARTILLERY AND MORTAR BARRAGE. SAPPERS PENETRATED THE BASE PERIMETER WHEN THE GROUND ACTION BEGAN AND HELD ON FOR SEVERAL HOURS BEFORE THE RANGERS REESTABLISHED CONTROL. ONLY ONE OF THREE RANGER COMPANIES WAS IN THE CAMP AT THE TIME. THE OTHER TWO RETURNED FROM LONG RANGE PATROLS AFTER THE COMMUNISTS BROKE OFF MAR 28. CAPTURED DOCUMENTS IDENTIFY THE ATTACKING FORCE
AS A BATTALION OF THE E-6 REGIMENT, 5TH NVA DIV. ACCORDING TO MGEN HIEU, ANOTHER BATTALION FROM THE 5TH DIV (NOT YET IDENTIFIED) DEPLOYED INITIALLY ALONG THE SINGLE ACCESS ROAD FROM THE NORTH, PRESUMABLY TO AMBUSH ARVN RELIEF UNITS. THIS BATTALION AS WELL AS SOME AMPHIBIOUS TANKS SPOTTED NEABY ON THE CAMBODIAN BORDER WITHDREW WHEN NVA FORCES FAILED TO TAKE THE RANGER BASE.
4. THE COMMANDER OF THE ARVN 46TH REGIMENT (25THDIV) WAS
UNFORTUNATELY LOST WHEN A 107MM ROCKET SCORED A DIRECT HIT ON HIS BUNKER IN BIVOUAC NORTH OF THE RANGER BASE CAMP ALONG THE ACCESS ROAD AT 0400 HOURS MAR 29. ELEMENTS OF THE 25TH UNDER HIS COMMAND HAD GONE TO THE DUC HUE AREA TO REINFORCE BUT HAD NOT BEEN INVOLVED IN THE ACTION THROUGH MAR 28.
5. AIR ACTION INCLUDING PARTICULARLY A-1'S AND AC-119'S APPARENTLY PLAYED AN IMPORTANT ROLE NOT ONLY AGAINST ENEMY PERSONNEL BUT ALSO IN ELIMINATING SEVERAL 75MM RECOILLESS RIFLE POSITIONS. AN INTERESTING FEATURE OF THE AIR ACTION WAS THE EVASION OF FOUR SA-7 ROUNDS BY AN AC-119. SEEING THE ROUNDS FIRED WHILE HE WAS AT 9,500 FEET, THE PILOT TURNED SHARPLY AND SIMULTANEOUSLY DROPPED HIGH INTENSITY FLARES WHICH DREW TWO OF THE SA-7 ROUNDS. THE OTHER TWO BY-PASSED THE AC-119 AND EXPLODED AT 10,000 FEET.
6. OTHER REPORTING HAS RECORDED THE LOSS OF A POL STORAGE TANK FROM AN NVA ATTACK ON CU CHI BASE CAMP MAR 27 AND HEAVY ABF (200 ROUNDS) ON TRUNG LAP OUTPOST NORTHEAST OF TRANG BANG THE NIGHT OF MAR 28. MGEN HIEU THOUGHT THIS SHARPLY INCREASED NVA ACTIVITY IN NORTHERN HAU NGHIA WAS DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE DUC HUE ATTACK, INTENDED TO DIVERT GVN FORCES FROM RELIEF OF THE DUC HUE GARRISON. HE DID NOT, HOWEVER, SEE ANY RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THIS ACTIVITY IN HAU NGHIA AND THE SHARP INCREASE OF INCIDENTS IN PHUOC TUY PROVINCE (13 ON MAR 28 ALONE). HE ALSO BELIEVES THAT THE DUC HUE ATTACK NOW EXPLAINS THE ESTABLISHMENT OF AN NVA 5TH DIV FORWARD CP AT CU PHI IN THE PARROTS BEAK OF CAMBODIA AND HE EXPECTS FURTHER ACTION FROM THE 5TH EITHER IN THE DUC HUE AREA OR IN TAY NINH. (RECENT OB DATA SHOWS THE 174 AND 275 REGIMENTS OF THE 5TH NVA DIV STILL TO BE IN TAY NINH.) THE EVIDENT PRESENCE OF NVA ANTI-AIRCRAFT CAPABILITY IN THE ACTION AT DUC HUE INDICATES THE CAREFUL PREPARATION OF AN ATTACK WHICH WAS EXPECTED TO DRAW VNAF REACTION. MGEN HIEU SAID MR 3 IS NOW ALSO ALERT TO THE POSSIBILITY THAT THE NVA 9TH DIV MAY PUSH OUTWARD FROM ITS POSITIONS IN NORTHWEST BINH DUONG PROVINCE SOUTHWARD ALONG THE SAIGON RIVER CORRIDOR TO PUT PRESSURE IN THIS AREA ON GVN FORCES. ACCORDING TO G-2 OF THE 25TH DIV, DOCUMENTS CAPTURED IN THE DUC HUE ACTION SHOW THE E-6 REGIMENT NOW TO HAVE A MISSION (A) TO SECURE THE AREA WEST OF THE VAM CO DONG RIVER IN DUC HUE DISTRICT OF HAU NGHIA AND ADJACENT HIEU THIEN DISTRICT OF TAY NINH, AND (B) TO ESCORT RESUPPLY UNITS FROM THE CAMBODIAN BORDER (PRESUMABLY PARROTS BEAK AREA) TO NVA/VC BASE AREAS TO HO BO AND BOI LOI WOODS.
7. COMMENT: WITH INDICATIONS OF AN INCREASED SCALE OF NVA/VC
INITIATED ACTIONS IN THE NEAR TERM, WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF
INCREASED NVA/VC PRESSURE IN HAU NGHIA/TAY NINH AREA, THE SAIGON RIVER CORRIDOR, AND PHUOC TUY PROVINCE TO THE EAST, AND WITH SIGNS OF GREATER SAPPER SABOTAGE EFFORTS BY THE COMMUNISTS IN THE NEAR FUTURE, THE PROSPECT IS FOR AN INTERESTING APRIL IN MR 3.
02 April 1974
P 020145Z APR 74
SUBJ: SITUATION AT DUC HUE
REF: BIEN HOA 137
1. NVA/VC CONTINUE ARTILLERY AND MORTAR SHELLING AT DUC HUE RANGER BASE CAMP BUT HAVE NOT RENEWED GROUND ATTACK FOLLOWING UNSUCCESSFUL ASSAULT MAR 27 - 28. SITUATION APPEARS STABILIZED FOR THE MOMENT. CAMP TOOK 119 ABF ROUNDS ON MAR 30, THREE ON MAR 31, AND 41 ON APRIL 1. HELICOPTER LANDING ZONE AT BASE CAMP WAS MOVED MAR 31 BECAUSE NVA/VC HAD ZEROED IN ON REGULAR PAD AND WERE DIRECTING FIRE AT CHOPPERS UPON EACH LANDING. ABF'S ON BASE CAMP HAVE BEEN FROM 105 ARTILLERY, 107 ROCKETS, AND 82MM MORTARS. EARLIER REPORTS OF 130MM ARTILLERY FIRED ON DUC HUE PROVED TO BE INCORRECT AND MR 3 HQ IS NOW CARRYING THESE AS 105'S.
2. MR 3 HQ PLACES BADLY MAULED 7TH BATTALION OF E-6 REGIMENT
(WHICH UNSUCCESSFULLY ATTACKED DUC HUE) ON EITHER SIDE OF
CAMBODIAN/VIETNAM BORDER ABOUT 10 KM NORTH OF THE BASE CAMP.
OTHER ENEMY UNITS IN AREA INCLUDE SMALL K-9 AND K-4 INDEPENDENT BNS FEW KMS SOUTH OF DUC HUE, THE C-1 LOCAL FORCE CO LOCATED WITH 7TH BN E-6, AND THE E-6 REGT HQ AS WELL AS 5TH NVA DIV HQ NEARBY IN CAMBODIA. CONTINUING ABF'S AND ANTI-AIRCRAFT FIRE PLUS PRESENCE OF E-6 REGT HQ AND A DIV FORWARD CP INDICATE PROBABLE PRESENCE IN AREA OF OTHER NVA/VC UNITS.
3. FRIENDLY FORCES INCLUDE 83RD RANGER BATTALION IN THE BASE
CAMP, A BATTALION OF THE 46TH REGIMENT AND THE 49TH RECON COMPANY (BOTH FROM 25TH DIV), THREE BATTERIES OF ARTILLERY FROM THE 25TH DIV (TWO OF 105 AND ONE OF 155), AND TWO RF BATTALIONS IN THE GENERAL AREA. FRIENDLY AIR MISSIONS HAVE INCLUDED EIGHT SORTIES OF A-1'S AND 10 SORTIES OF F-5'S ON MAR 30 (NONE REPORTED SINCE) AND SCORES OF CONTINUING COMBAT AND ESCORT MISSIONS BY UH-1H HELO GUNSHIPS. (AC-119 GUNSHIP MISSIONS ARE BEING FLOWN REGULARLY BUT THE AIRCRAFT ARE BASED AT TAN SON NHUT UNDER THE 5TH AIR DIVISION AND MR 3 HAS NO RECORD OF ITS MISSIONS.) SINCE ACTION BEGAN AT DUC HUE VNAF HAS LOST TWO A-1'S AND ONE L-19 AND HAS REPORTED DAMAGE TO FIVE HELOS. ANTI-AIRCRAFT FIRE, INCLUDING SA-7'S, HAVE BEEN HEAVIEST ENCOUNTERED SINCE CEASE-FIRE OUTSIDE OF COMMUNIST CONTROLLED AREAS. 3RD AIR DIVISION COMMANDER, GEN TINH, REPORTS THAT NVA/VC ARE USING MODIFIED SA-7 WHICH NO LONGER EMITS TELLTALE WHITE SMOKE PUFF UPON BEING FIRED MAKING WEAPON MUCH MORE MENACING THAN BEFORE.
4. MR 3 HAS NO CLEAR IMPRESSION AS TO WHAT NEXT MOVES OF
COMMUNISTS MAY BE AT DUC HUE. IN BROADER FRAME OF REFERENCE,
CONGEN FORESEES THAT WITH DUC HUE ACTION NVA/VC HAVE OPENED UP A NEW BASE AREA NEAR THE PARROTS BEAK FROM WHICH TO BRING LONG TERM PRESSURE ON THE GVN. OPTIONS OPEN TO COMMUNISTS ARE (A) TO TRY TO CREATE A NEW LEOPARD SPOT ON THE WESTERN BORDER WHICH OVER A LONG PERIOD THEY WOULD TRY TO LINK TO NORTHERN TAY NINH BY ERODING GVN CONTROL IN INTERVENING WESTERN TAY NINH BORDER AREA, OR (B) TRY TO OCCUPY DUC HUE DISTRICT WEST OF VAM CO DONG RIVER WHICH AS WE HAVE PREVIOUSLY NOTED IS GOOD AGRICULTURAL LAND SPARSELY POPULATED AND LIGHTLY DEFENDED BY GVN, OR (C) TRY TO CUT OFF TAY NINH PROVINCE WITH DRIVES BY NVA 5TH DIV FROM PARROTS BEAK AND NVA 5TH AND/OR 9TH DIV FROM HO BO/XAI LOI WOODS AREA ACROSS NARROW NECK SEPARATING THOSE TWO NVA BASE AREAS. IN ANY CIRCUMSTANCE, PRESSURE FROM THE NVA 5TH IN THE PARROTS BEAK AREA FORCES THE ARVN 25TH DIV TO FACE SOUTWARD AS WELL AS NORTH WARD IN ITS A/O (HAU NGHIA/TAY NINH) AND STRETCHES GVN FORCES IN MR 3 THINNER THAN BEFORE.
5. AT A MINIMUM, COMMUNIST PRESSURE IN WESTERN HAU NGHIA WILL BE ACCOMPANIED BY PRESSURE IN NORTHERN HAU NGHIA ABOVE TRANG BANG AND CU CHI WHICH WE ARE ALREADY SEEING. PRESSURE IN WESTERN MR 3 WILL IN TURN PROBABLY BE ACCOMPANIED BY AN INCREASED SCALE OF ATTACKS IN EASTERN AREAS (PHUOC TUY, LONG KHANH, AND BINH TUY), WHICH ALSO WE ARE ALREADY SEEING, AIMED AT TRYING TO TIE DOWN THE ARVN 18TH DIV AND OTHER GVN FORCES OTHERWISE AVAILABLE FOR REINFORCEMENT IN THE WESTERN AREAS.
6. WHILE A CONSIDERABLY HIGHER LEVEL OF COMMUNIST MILITARY
ACTIVITY CAN THUS BE EXPECTED IN THE NEAR FUTURE, PRESUMABLY AN NVA/VC PARTING SHOT IN THE REMAINING WEEKS OF THE DRY SEASON, WE DO NOT YET SEE DEFINITE SIGNS OF A REGION-WIDE MAJOR
OFFENSIVE. IN THE FACE OF STEPPED-UP NVA/VC ACTION, THE MR 3
COMMANDER, LTGEN THUAN REMAINS CONFIDENT. HE IS CONCENTRATING DEFENSIVE FORCES IN WESTERN AND NORTHERN HAU NGHIA TO COPE WITH ANY DETERMINED NVA PUSH IN THAT AREA AND IS CONSIDERING OTHER MEASURES WHOSE OBJECTIVE WOULD BE TO FORCE THE NVA 9TH DIV TO PULL BACK FROM HO BO WOODS AND OTHER SAIGON RIVER CORRIDOR FORWARD POSITIONS INTO WHICH IT HAS RECENTLY MOVED. THUAN RECENTLY COMENTED PRIVATELY THAT HE RELISHES THIS "CHESS GAME" HE IS NOW PLAYING WITH HIS FORMER ADVERSARY, CHIEF OF THE PRG DEL TO THE TPJMC WHEN THUAN HEADED THE GVN DEL, WHO HE SAYS IS NOW COMMANDING NVA FORCES IN SOUTH VIETNAM.
03 April 1974
O R 031130Z APR 74
FM AMEMBASSY SAIGON
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3288
SUBJECT: VIET-NAM CEASE-FIRE WEEKLY ASSESSMENT, MARCH 27 - APRIL 2, 1974
THE COUNTRY'S MOST INTENSE MILITARY ACTIVITY DURING THE WEEK, HOWEVER, CENTERED IN MR 3, WHERE BATTALION-SIZED ATTACKS AND THE COORDINATED MOVEMENTS OF COMMUNIST REGIMENTS FORCED GVN TROOPS ON FULL ALERT REGION-WIDE AS THE REPORTING PERIOD ENDED. OVERALL ACTIVITY IN MR 3 WAS THE HIGHEST SINCE THE JOINT COMMUNIQUE IN JUNE 1973 WITH TOTAL INCIDENTS JUMPING TO AN UNPRECEDENTED 377 AGAINST A PREVIOUS MR 3 HIGH OF 244. THE MAIN COMMUNIST ATTACKS DURING THE WEEK WERE IN HAU NGHIA AND INCLUDED AN UNSUCCESSFUL COMMUNIST ATTEMPT TO OVERRUN A GVN RANGER CAMP IN DUC HUE DISTRICT BORDERING THE PARROT'S BEAK. THE ATTACK INCLUDED HEAVY SA-7 MISSILE SUPPORT FIRE. TWO VNAF A-1 SKYRAIDERS WERE DOWNED BY THE SA-7S AND ONE L-19 OBSERVATION PLANE FORCED DOWN BY ANTI-AIRCRAFT FIRE.
PART VI -- MR 3.
1. WITH THIS MESSAGE, WE ARE INSTITUTING A SERIES OF DAILY
SITREPS WHICH WE PROPOSE TO SEND SO LONG AS SUBSTANTIALLY INCREASED SCALE OF NVA/VC ACTIVITY CONTINUES IN MR 3.
3. TO DEAL WITH THE CURRENT SITUATION, MR 3 HQS HAS DRAWN FROM THE 3RD ARMORED BRIGADE TO CREATE TWO MOBILE STRIKE FORCES, THE 315TH AND 318TH TO MEET THE NEW THREAT IN WESTERN MR 3. THE STRIKE FORCES ARE COMPOSED OF THE 15TH AND 18TH CAVALRY, RESPECTIVELY, AND ELEMENTS OF THE 36TH RANGER GROUP. THE 315TH IS BASED IN THE PHU HOA AREA (NORTHEAST OF CU CHI) AND THE 318TH IS BASED ALONG LTL 19 FROM TRANG BANG TOWARDS KHIEM HANH.
4. MR 3 HQS NOW HAS REASON TO SUSPECT THAT THE 15TH AND 24TH
INDEPENDENT NVA REGIMENTS OF VC MR-2 ARE INVOLVED IN THE DUC HUE ACTION AS WELL AS THE E-6 REGT, 5TH NVA. THERE IS, HOWEVER, NO
CONFIRMATION AS YET. THE 9TH BN, E-6 REGT, NOW LOCATED IN THE
VICINITY OF THE CAMBODIAN BORDER AT ABOUT XT 3212, WAS INITIALLY
DEPLOYED TO AMBUSH ARVN 46TH REGT ENROUTE TO REINFORCE DUC
HUE BASE. IT WAS DETECTED AND DRIVEN OUT OF ITS AMBUSH POSITION
BACK TOWARD CAMBODIA.
5. ARTILLERY AT DUC HUE IS BELIEVED TO BE MAINLY FROM D-22 BN/
5TH NVA (ONLY KNOWN 5TH DIV UNIT WITH 120MM MORTARS) AND ELEMENTS OF THE 42ND HOWITZER REGT/69TH NVA ARTY GROUP. SINCE ANTIAIRCRAFT MISSILES (SA-7) ARE NOT PART OF NVA INF DIVISION
EQUIPMENT, ELEMENTS OF THE 75TH ARTY GROUP (AKA 69TH) ARE BELIEVED TO BE ATTACHED TO NVA 5TH FOR AA SUPPORT FOR THE DUC HUE ACTION.
6. AN AGENT REPORTS HAVING SEEN LIGHTS ON 20 VEHICLES MOVING
FROM CHI PHU (XT 1120) TOWARDS PARROT'S BEAK ON NIGHT OF MARCH 30 BELIEVED TO BE ARTY, ROCKET, AND AMMO RESUPPLY TRUCKS.
POSSIBILITY EXISTS THAT THESE WERE TANKS.
7. ANOTHER AGENT REPORTED THAT ON THE NIGHT OF MARCH 29/30 4
TANKS (NFI) DEPARTED CHI PHU, CAMBODIA (XT 1120) MOVING EASTWARD.
8. MR 3 HQS NOW BELIEVES THAT THE NVA 5TH DIV IS ENGAGED IN A
MAJOR EFFORT TO TAKE DUC HUE AND TRANG BANG DISTRICTS OF HAU
NGHIA LINKING WITH THE NVA 9TH DIV AND OTHER NVA UNITS IN THE
HAU NGHIA/TAY NINH/BINH DUONG TRI-BORDER AREA TO ISOLATE TAY NINH PROVINCE. THIS MOVE WOULD CUT ROUTE 1 LEADING TO TAY NINH,
RE-ESTABLISH THE SHORT SUPPLY ROUTE FROM CAMBODIA TO HO BO/BOI
LOI WOODS AREA INTERDICTED BY THE GVN SINCE 1970, AND OPEN THE
POSSIBILITY OF TAKING TAY NINH CITY, THUS REALIZING A PRG GOAL OF
CONTROLLING A MAJOR POPULATION CENTER IN THE SOUTH.
06 April 1974
P 080415Z APR 74
SUBJ: SPECIAL DAILY SITREP - APRIL 5, 1974
2. MR 3 HQ IS NOW PREOCCUPIED WITH SIGNS THAT THE NVA/VC MAY
HAVE GREATER STRENGTH THAN PREVIOUSLY DETECTED CONCENTRATED AT HO BO WOODS AND IN THE PARROTS BEAK AREA OF CAMBODIA:
A. G-2 NOW BELIEVES THAT THE 272ND (MINUS) AND 95-C REGIMENTS
OF THE 9TH NVA DIV MAY BE IN HO BO TOGETHER WITH THE 271ST AND THE 9TH DIV FORWARD CP. THIS WOULD SUPPORT THE VIEW THAT THE COMMUNIST INTENTION IS TO MAKE A DETERMINED EFFORT TO CUT ROUTE 1 IN THE TRANG BANG AREA.
B. IN A MEETING IN THE CAMBODIAN BORDER AREA APRIL 5, A CAMBODIAN OFFICER TOLD A SENIOR OFFICER OF MR 3 HQ THAT ON APRIL 4 (A) 22 T-54 TANKS AND M-113 APC'S HAD BEEN OBSERVED HEADING EASTWARD ON ROUTE 1 EAST OF CHI PHU IN THE PARROTS BEAK OF CAMBODIA AND (B) 4 UNITS OF 600 MEN EACH HAD BEEN SEEN ON CAMBODIAN ROUTE 92 (THE NORTH-SOUTH ROAD JUST INSIDE CAMBODIA OPPOSITE DUC HUE RANGER BASE CAMP).
C. G-2 OF MR 3 IS NOW CARRYING ALL OF THE 5TH DIV IN THE
PARROTS BEAK AREA (MINUS ONLY THE 275TH REGIMENT WHICH IS NE OF
SUOI DA TOWN EAST OF BLACK VIRGIN MOUNTAIN IN TAY NINH). G-2
BELIEVES THAT THE NEXT MOVE OF THE 5TH WILL BE AGAINST DUC HUE
RANGER BASE WITH THE OBJECTIVE ALSO OF OCCUPYING DUC HUE DISTRICT WEST OF THE VAM CO DONG RIVER.
D. MR 3 HQ HAS DECIDED THAT AFTER "RESCUING" THE RF BATTALION
SURROUNDED BY THE 33RD NVA REGIMENT IN DUC THANH DISTRICT OF PHUOC TUY PROVINCE, THAT AREA (WHICH IS ASTRIDE AN NVA/VC COMMUNICATIONS TRAIL BETWEEN VC MAY TAO BASE AREA TO THE EAST AND THE HAT DICH BASE AREA IN SE BIEN HOA PROVINCE) WILL BE TEMPORARILY EVACUATED THUS CONCEDING TEMPORARY USE OF THE TRAIL TO THE VC. THIS IS CONSIDERED NECESSARY SO THAT THE 18TH REINFORCING DIV UNIT CAN BE EMPLOYED FOR HIGHER PRIORITY PURPOSES ELSEWHERE SPECIFICALLY, TO OPERATE IN THE PHU GIAO AREA OF BINH DUONG PROVINCE AND TO CONSTITUTE A RESERVE FORCE IN LONG KHANH.
6. THE DUC HUE RANGER CAMP WAS HIT BY 3 ABF'S AND SUFFERED MINOR CASUALTIES (2 WIA). ENEMY PRESSURE CONTINUED NORTHEAST OF TRANG BANG WITH DIFFERENT ELEMENTS OF THE 319TH RF BATTALION ALSO WITHSTANDING ABF'S. A SERIOUS TERRORIST INCIDENT OCCURRED AT 2300 HOURS APRIL 5 AT GIA BINH VILLAGE, 5 KMS NORTHWEST OF TRANG BANG (XT 450223). VC TOSSED A GRENADE INTO A CONGREGATION ATTENDING A BUDDHIST CEREMONY RESULTING IN 8 KIA AND 19 WIA INCLUDING 6 AND 18 CIVILIANS, RESPECTIVELY.
10 April 1974
R 100225Z APR 74
SUBJ: MR 3 SPECIAL DAILY SITREP - APRIL 10, 1974
1. […] ENEMY PRESSURE CONTINUED IN DUC HUE AND TRANG BANG DISTRICTS OF HAU NGHIA AND AT TONLE CHAM RANGER BASE IN BINH LONG.
3. IN THE DAY'S LARGEST CONTACT 4 KMS NW OF DUC HUE, IN WHICH
BOTH THE 36TH AND 64TH RANGER BNS WERE ENGAGED BY AN UNKNOWN SIZE ENEMY FORCE, THE FRIENDLY UNITS LOST 1 KIA, 32 WIA AND 24 MIA AGAINST UNKNOWN COMMUNIST LOSSES. ANOTHER CONTACT 5 KMS NE OF TRANG BANG RESULTED IN CASUALTIES TO THE 327TH RF BN OF 3 KIA AND 4 WIA. COMMUNIST GUNNERS FIRED THREE MAJOR ABF'S (203 ROUNDS) AGAINST TONLE CHAM RANGER BASE WITH ONLY 2 FRIENDLY WIA. TWO SAPPERS WERE KILLED AS THEY ATTEMPTED TO CUT THROUGH PERIMETER DEFENSES AT TONLE CHAM.
5. ACCORDING TO A RALLIER, THE ENTIRE 5TH NVA DIV IS LOCATED IN
THE PARROT'S BEAK/DUC HUE AREA WITH THE 174TH REGIMENT NEAR
BA THU (XT 270035). RALLIER ALSO STATES THE 275TH REGT FORWARD
CP AND THE D-1, D-2 AND D-3 BNS ARE LOCATED IN DUC HUE BETWEEN THE RANGER BASE AND THE VAM CO DONG RIVER AT XT 370085. MR 3 G-2 NOW BELIEVES ARTILLERY USED AGAINST DUC HUE IS THE 75TH BN, 42ND REGT, 75TH ARTY GROUP (AKA 69TH ARTY DIV) AND IS LOCATED AT XT 220110 AT THE JUNCTION OF THE ANGEL'S WING AND PARROT'S BEAK IN CAMBODIA. THE REMAINDER OF THE 42ND REGT IS BELIEVED TO BE AT XT 5563 IN BINH DUONG WEST OF MINH THANH. G-2 ALSO HAS REASON TO BELIEVE THE NVA 24TH ARTY REGT HAS MOVED FROM KATUM TO AN AREA MIDWAY BETWEEN FRENCH FORT AND BLACK VIRGIN MOUNTAIN ON TL 4 IN TAY NINH. THE 165TH REGT, 7TH NVA DIV REPORTEDLY MOVED INTO THE 141ST REGT'S AO NEAR THE BINH DUONG/PHUOC LONG BORDER AND CONSTITUTES A MENACE TO THE PHU GIAO AREA.
10 April 1974
O R 101100Z APR 74
FM AMEMBASSY SAIGON
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3571
1. MILITARY ACTIVITY IN MR 3 CONTINUED AT A HIGH LEVEL THROUGHOUT THE WEEK WITH INDICATIONS THAT THE HIGH POINT OF COMMUNIST PRESSURE IS YET TO COME. THE NVA 9TH DIVISION MOVED MORE OF ITS COMBAT ELEMENTS TOWARD THE BINH DUONG/TAY NINH/HAU NGHIA TRI-BORDER AREA MAINTAINING A MAJOR THREAT IN NORTHERN HAU NGHIA. THE NVA OBJECTIVE IN THIS AREA APPEARS TO BE AT THE MINIMUM ELIMINATION OF GVN OUTPOSTS NORTH OF THE CU CHI/TRANG BANG AREA, AND POSSIBLY TO DRIVE ON TRYING TO CUT HIGHWAY 1 AND ISOLATE TAY NINH PROVINCE. THE 5TH NVA DIV MAINTAINS ITS THREAT TO DUC HUE FROM THE PARROT'S BEAK OF
CAMBODIA, LATE INFORMATION INDICATING THE POSSIBLE PRESENCE THERE OF ARMOR AND OF THE 275TH REGIMENT AS WELL AS THE 174TH AND E-6 REGIMENTS OF THE DIVISION. MR 3 HQS IS ALSO CLOSELY WATCHING HIGHWAY 22 NORTH OF TAY NINH CITY WHERE THERE HAVE BEEN REPORTS OF A POSSIBLE NEW CONCENTRATION OF ENEMY TANK AND INFANTRY FORCES, AS WELL AS DON XOAI IN SOUTHERN PHUOC LONG PROVINCE WHICH APPEARS TO BE MENACED FROM THE WEST BY THE 141 NVA REGIMENT AFTER COMMUNIST FORCES OVERRAN THE GVN OUTPOST AT CHI LINH BRIDGE ON THE PHUOC LONG/BINH LONG BORDER. THE SITUATION APPEARS STABILIZED FOR THE MOMENT IN NORTHERN PHUOC TUY PROVINCE AFTER THE ARVN SUFFERED A SETBACK ON ROUTE 2 NEAR THE LONG KHANH BORDER WHERE GVN DEFENDERS WERE PUSHED OUT OF TWO OUTPOSTS. THE CORPS COMMANDER HAS KEPT HIS
HEAVIEST CONCENTRATION OF FORCES IN NORTHERN HAU NGHIA AND REMAINS CONFIDENT THAT HE CAN THWART ANY COMMUNIST ATTEMPT TO CUT ROUTE 1 AND ISOLATE TAY NINH.
2. IN THE 24 HOURS ENDING 0800 APRIL 9, THERE WERE 49 INCIDENTS
COMPARED WITH 34 AND 66 IN THE PRECEDING TWO 24-HOUR PERIODS.
COMMUNIST GUNNERS HAMMERED AWAY AT DUC HUE RANGER CAMP ON APRIL 8 WITH 50 ROUNDS OF 105MM HOWITZER. […]
22 April 1974
R 222312Z APR 74
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO AMEMBASSY SAIGON
SUBJECT:APRIL 22 EA PRESS SUMMARY INDOCHINA
2. MIL SOURCES SAY COMMUNIST ARTILLERY AND GROUND
ATTACKS STOP 1000-MAN ARVN COLUMN MAKING SECOND ATTEMPT
IN WEEK TO RELIEVE ENCIRCLED DUC HUE RANGER CAMP 35
MILES NW OF SAIGON (REUTER, NYT). FIGHTING IS HEAVY BETWEEN SAIGON AND KHMER BORDER (AP, SUN). COMMUNISTS
SHOOT DOWN THIRD GVN SPOTTER PLANE IN THREE DAYS NEAR
24 April 1974
O R 241010Z APR 74
FM AMEMBASSY SAIGON
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4023
SUBJECT: VIET-NAM CEASE-FIRE WEEKLY ASSESSMENT APRIL 17-23
PART I --SUMMARY
IN MR 3 TOTAL INCIDENTS DROPPED BUT SHARP FIGHTING CONTINUED IN THE CAM MY AREA OF SOUTHERN LONG KHANH PROVINCE AS ELEMENTS OF THE ARVN 18TH DIV SOUGHT TO SURROUND AND INFLICT HEAVY CASUALTIES ON TWO NVA REGIMENTS OPERATING IN THE AREA. ELSEWHERE IN MR 3 HEAVY COMMUNIST PRESSURE CONTINUED ON THE GVN RANGER CAMP AT DUC HUE. IN ACTION RELATED TO THE BESIEGED BASE VNAF LOST ONE L-19 AND ONE A-1 AIRCRAFT TO SA-7 FIRE AND HAD ONE F-5A AND AT LEAST THREE HELICOPTERS DAMAGED BY ANTIAIRCRAFT FIRE.
PART VI --MR 3
1. […] VNAF REPORTED 303 A-1 AND F-5 SORTIES DURING THIS PERIOD, CONCENTRATED MAINLY AGAINST TARGETS AROUND DUC HUE, CAM MY AND SELECTED AREAS ALONG THE MR 3 WESTERN FRONTIER.
3. WHILE THERE WERE NO NVA/VC GROUND ASSAULTS AGAINST THE DUC HUE RANGER CAMP THIS PERIOD, COMMUNIST GUNNERS CONTINUED TO POUND THE CAMP THROUGHOUT THE WEEK FIRING WELL OVER 100 ROUNDS OF 122MM, 102MM AND 85MM ARTILLERY AS WELL AS 82MM MORTAR AND 122MM ROCKETS. WITH ALL SURFACE ROUTES TO THE CAMP CUT OFF, THE RANGERS ARE COMPLETELY DEPENDENT ON AIR SUPPORT FOR RESUPPLY. DURING THE WEEK, VNAF REPORTED ONE A-1 AND ONE L-19 LOST TO SA-7'S AND ONE F-5A AND AT LEAST THREE HELICOPTERS DAMAGED BY COMMUNIST AA IN ACTION OVER DUC HUE. ON APRIL 20 TWO BATTALIONS OF THE ARVN 25TH DIVISION, OPERATING BETWEEN THE RANGER BASE AND DUC HUE DISTRICT TOWN, WERE SUBJECTED TO A BARRAGE OF OVER 300 ROUNDS OF MIXED ARTILLERY RESULTING IN 39 ARVN WIA AND 19 MISSING WITH OVER TWENTY WEAPONS LOST. THE 5TH NVA DIVISION, LOCATED IN THE PARROT'S
BEAK OF CAMBODIA, MAINTAINS ITS THREAT TO THE BESIEGED RANGER
CAMP AND THE DUC HUE AREA WEST OF THE VAM CO DONG RIVER.
01 May 1974
O R 010845Z MAY 74
FM AMEMBASSY SAIGON
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4259
SUBJECT: VIET-NAM CEASE-FIRE WEEKLY ASSESSMENT APRIL 24-30, 1974
PART I --SUMMARY
3. MR-3 CONTINUED AS THE MAIN FOCUS FOR MAJOR MILITARY ACTION
BETWEEN GVN AND COMMUNIST FORCES. IN AN ACTION IN
NORTHERN HAU NGHIA PROVINCE AN ARVN ARMORED TASK FORCE
CAUGHT AND DECIMATED AN NVA BATTALION WITH MINIMAL LOSSES
TO ITSELF. IN THE PARROT'S BEAK AREA OTHER GVN FORCES WERE HEAVILY ENGAGED WITH 5TH NVA DIVISION FORCES PREPARING
TO MOUNT ANOTHER ATTACK AGAINST THE GVN RANGER BASE AT
PART VI -- MR-3 (CONFIDENTIAL)
1. MR 3 HQ REPORTED 206 MILITARY INCIDENTS THIS REPORTING PERIOD
COMPARED WITH 263 IN THE PREVIOUS WEEK AND THE RECORD HIGH OF
377 FOUR WEEKS AGO. IN THE MAJOR CLASH OF THE PERIOD, AN ARVN
ARMORED TASK FORCE DECIMATED A BATTALION OF THE NVA 101ST INDEPENDENT REGIMENT IN NORTHERN HAU NGHIA. AS THE REPORTING PERIOD ENDED ARVN WAS ENGAGED IN OPERATIONS AGAINST THE 5TH NVA DIVISION WHICH HAS BEEN THREATENING THE DUC HUE RANGER BASE IN WESTERN HAU NGHIA.
4. ELSEWHERE IN HAU NGHIA NVA/VC FORCES CONTINUED TO SHELL THE DUC HUE RANGER BASE AND THREE HELICOPTERS OPERATING IN THE AREA WERE DAMAGED BY COMMUNIST AA DURING THE PERIOD BUT NO AIRCRAFT WERE LOST. SAPPER DAMAGE STOPPED TRAFFIC ON THE LONG VAN BRIDGE ON ROUTE TL 10 2 KMS NW OF DUC HOA DISTRICT TOWN AND SAPPERS DAMAGED A BRIDGE BUT DID NOT INTERDICT TRAFFIC ON IT BETWEEN DUC HOA AND BEN LUC TO THE SOUTH.
02 May 1974
R 022211Z MAY 74
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO AMEMBASSY SAIGON
SUBJECT:MAY 2 EA PRESS SUMMARY
1. SAIGON COMMAND DENIES INCURSIONS INTO CAMBODIA BUT MIL SOURCES AND FIELD REPORTS SAY SVN INFANTRY AND ARMOR CROSSED BORDER AT TWO POINTS (WP). TROOPS IN FIELD TELL NEWSMEN THAT STRIKES LAUNCHED TO CUT NVN SUPPLY LINES AND TO SILENCE BIG GUNS. IF TRUE, ACCORDING AP, INCURSIONS WOULD BE C-F
VIOLATIONS. TROOPS SAY ONE RAID TOOK PLACE CLOSE TO HIGHWAY 1 ABOUT 35 MILES NW OF SAIGON, AND ABOUT 400 RANGERS BACKED BY TANKS FOUGHT FIERCE BATTLE AGAINST NVA 5TH DIV. FOR TWO DAYS, KNOCKING OUT TWO TANKS. DEPTH OF PENETRATION NOT KNOWN BUT BELIEVED TO BE ONLY FEW MILES. MIL SOURCES SAY SVN INFANTRY AND ARMOR ALSO CROSSED FRONTIER ABOUT 50 MILES WEST OF SAIGON AND WENT 2-1/2 MILES INTO CAMBODIA TO RAID NVN GUN POSITIONS THAT BOMBARDED GVN OUTPOSTS, THEN WITHDREW (AP NYT, SUN, PHINQ).
MIL SOURCES SAY RAIDS MADE IN "HOT PURSUIT" OF NORTH VIETS (AP, NYT).
2. MIL SOURCES SAY ARVN STARTS DIVISION-SIZE OPERATION ON VN SIDE OF BORDER TO RELIEVE DUC HUE CAMP, UNDER SIEGE FOR MONTH (AP NYT, SUN, PHINQ). SAIGON COMMAND SAYS MORE THAN 300 NVA AND 35 ARVN KIA IN THREE DAYS OF FIGHTING ALONG BORDER. 4000
CIVILIANS REPORTEDLY FLEE VILLAGE NEAR FRONTIER 50 MILES WEST OF SAIGON WHEN BOMBARDED BY HUNDREDS OF NVN SHELLS; SVN OFFICIALS ESTIMATE OVER 300 HOMES DESTROYED OR DAMAGED (AP, NYT).
08 May 1974
O R 081125Z MAY 74
FM AMEMBASSY SAIGON
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4455
SUBJECT: VIET-NAM CEASE-FIRE WEEKLY ASSESSMENT
PART I - SUMMARY
THE AREA AROUND THE PARROT'S BEAK IN MR'S 3 AND 4 CONTINUED AS THE CENTER OF LARGE-SCALE MILITARY ACTIVITY. REGIMENTAL-SIZED BATTLES INVOLVING THE NVA 5TH DIVISION, WHICH HAD BEEN PREPARING NEW ATTACKS ON THE GVN RANGER BASE AT DUC HUE, AND ARVN UNITS FROM MR'S 3 AND 4 RESULTED IN SERIOUS LOSSES TO THE NVA DIVISION AND THE LIFTING OF THE NORTH VIETNAMESE SEIGE OF THE GVN BASE. ELSEWHERE IN MR-3 THE NUMBER OF INCIDENTS DROPPED AND THE INTENSITY OF MILITARY ACTIVITY DECLINED.
PART VII MR-3
1. ARVN'S SUCCESSFUL OPERATIONS AGAINST THE 5TH NVA DIVISION AT DUC HUE IN WESTERN HAU NGHIA DOMINATED MILITARY ACTIVITY IN MR 3 DURING THE REPORTING PERIOD. MR 3 FORCES ACCOUNTED FOR 486 KIA AND 12 CIA AGAINST THE NVA 5TH; MR 4 FORCES ARE SAID TO HAVE INFLICTED ANOTHER 300 TO 350 KIA. MR 3 REPORTED GVN CASUALTIES IN
THIS ACTION OF 32 KIA AND 88 WIA. THE MR 3 COMMANDER ESTIMATES
THAT AT LEAST A THIRD OF THE ENEMY DIVISION WAS DESTROYED AND
THAT IT HAS BEEN ELIMINATED FROM EFFECTIVE ACTION FOR AT LEAST
THREE MONTHS. EXCEPT FOR THE MAJOR ACTION AT DUC HUE AND A
SUCCESSFUL RF OPERATION NEAR HOAI DUC IN NORTHERN BINH TUY
PROVINCE, THE REGION WAS RELATIVELY QUIET AND THERE WAS A NOTABLE DECREASE IN MILITARY ACTIONS. MR 3 HQ IS, HOWEVER, FOCUSSING ITS ATTENTION ON THE THREAT POSED BY THE 7TH NVA DIV IN THE PHU GIAO AREA OF NE BINH DUONG.
2. DUC HUE APART, MR 3 HQ REPORTED 161 INCIDENTS THIS REPORTING PERIOD (206 PREVIOUS WEEK). THERE WERE 40 ATTACKS BY FIRE (80), 29 GROUND CONTACTS (49) AND 2 COMBINED ABF AND GROUND INCIDENTS (11). MININGS WERE AT A NORMAL LEVEL OF 46, AND THERE WERE 22 MISCELLANEOUS INCIDENTS INCLUDING 3 ASSASSINATIONS, 2 KIDNAPPINGS AND 2 GROUND FIRINGS AGAINST GVN HELICOPTERS.
COMMUNIST ARTILLERY, INCLUDING MORTAR, WAS AT THE SUBSTANTIALLY REDUCED LEVEL OF 632 ROUNDS. GVN ARTILLERY FIRINGS WERE DOWN TO 19,099 ROUNDS COMPARED WITH 23,690 ROUNDS THE WEEK BEFORE. VNAF AIR STRIKES WERE UP SLIGHTLY TO 369 WITH MUCH OF THIS ACTIVITY DIRECTED AGAINST THE NVA 5TH DIVISION. AN F5A AND PILOT WERE LOST OVER DUC HUE FROM WHAT WAS BELIEVED TO BE A GROUND TO AIR SA-7 MISSILE.
3. IN THE SUCCESSES AGAINST THE 5TH NVA DIVISION IN THE DUC
HUE AREA, ARVN ARMORED AND INFANTRY FORCES, WELL SUPPORTED BY AIR, ENGAGED THE 5TH'S THREE INFANTRY REGIMENTS AND THE ARTILLERY REGIMENT. THE CORPS COMMANDER ESTIMATES THAT MR 3 FORCES DESTROYED AT LEAST 30 PERCENT OF THE NVA 174TH AND 275TH REGIMENTS AND THAT MR 4 FORCES ACCOUNTED FOR ANOTHER 10 TO 20 PERCENT OF THESE TWO REGIMENTS. MR3 FORCES, HE BELIEVES, ALSO DESTROYED 30 TO 40 PERCENT OF THE E-6 REGIMENT AND BADLY HURT ARTILLERY ELEMENTS (FROM THE F-66 REGIMENT WHICH WAS SUPPORTING THE 5TH). THE CORPS COMMANDER BELIEVES THAT THE 5TH HAS BEEN RENDERED INCAPABLE OF EFFECTIVE ACTION FOR AT LEAST THREE MONTHS. DURING THE ACTION, THE ACCESS ROAD TO DUC HUE RANGER BASE FROM THE NORTH WAS REOPENED AND ENGINEERS WILL WORK AT THE BASE FOR A WEEK OR TWO REPAIRING BATTLE DAMAGE. ROCKETS WHICH STRUCK THE RANGER BASE ON MAY 5 WERE THOUGHT TO HAVE COME FROM REMNANTS OF A SAPPER FORCE TO THE SOUTHWEST.
4. MR 3 HQ BELIEVES THAT THE 7TH NVA DIV, WITH ITS WELL REGARDED
141ST AND 165TH REGTS NORTH AND SOUTH OF THE PHU GIAO AREA OF BINH DUONG PROVINCE, NOW POSES THE GREATEST THREAT IN MR 3. THE 141ST, NORTH OF PHU GIAO, HAS SEEN NO ACTION FOR MANY MONTHS AND RECENTLY UNDERTOOK A PERIOD OF SPECIAL TRAINING IN ASSAULT TACTICS. THE 165TH IS IN A MORE FORWARD POSITION SOUTH OF PHU GIAO ALONG THE BINH DUONG/BIEN HOA BORDER. MR 3 HQ BELIEVES THAT THIS REGT MAY BE PLANNING OPERATIONS AROUND LTL 16 AND IN THE TAN UYEN DISTRICT OF NORTHERN BIEN HOA PROVINCE. THE MR 3 STAFF IS ACCORDINGLY PLANNING APPROPRIATE DEFENSE COUNTER MEASURES.
Colonel Legro's Narration of Duc Hue Battlefront
Saigon Government denied there was any incursion into Cambodia and the reporters were allowed to witness that ARVN troops went a few miles deep into Cambodia in two points. In fact, ARVN armored troops penetrated as much as 16 kilometers inside Cambodian territory. Along the above quoted cablegrams, Colonel William Legro used other intelligence sources to depict the ARVN counter-attack at the Duc Hue Battlefront - as following:
As April wore on, the threat of renewed assaults on Duc Hue by the NVA 5th Division remained. The situation was particularly dangerous because the 7th and 9th NVA Divisions were probing aggressively in the eastern part of Military Region 3. Lt. Gen. Pham Quoc Thuan, III Corps Commander, determined that he must reduce the threat to his western flank and the Tay Ninh corridor while he had the opportunity to do so. And if anything was to be done, it would have to be done soon to beat the onset of the southwest monsoon. After the rains started, most of the land around Duc Hue and the Angel's Wing would be under water.
The plan was complicated but workable. General Thuan used 18 of his own maneuver battalions and flew to Can Tho where he coordinated with General Nghi for a supporting attack by 2 IV Corps battalions from the Moc Hoa sector.
The details and timing of the operation were carefully safeguarded, and few, if any, Americans in the U.S. Mission knew anything about it until 27 April when 45 sorties struck targets in Cambodia and known and suspected bases of the 5th NVA Division. These strikes began Phase I, which lasted through the 28th and included infantry sweeps by two RF battalions between the Song Vam Co Dong and the northern shoulder of the Angel's Wing. Meanwhile, the 49th Infantry Regiment, less one battalion, and the 7th Ranger Group, also short one battalion, left assembly areas near Hiep Hoa on the Song Vam Co Dong and advanced westward through the swamplands, past Duc Hue to the Cambodian frontier. To the south, three RF battalions provided security by conducting reconnaissance in northern Long An Province, generally between the Bo Bo Canal and the Song Vam Co Dong.
Another supporting maneuver, which quickly developed into a major operation, was the attack into Svay Rieng Province south of the Elephant's Foot by two battalions from MR 4. The northernmost of the two advanced from the border area north of Moc Hoa and established a blocking position near the local route 1012 that led eastward from an assembly area occupied by the 5th NVA Division. The other battalion crossed midway between the Elephant's Foot and the tip of the Parrot's Beak and established a lodgment on the southeastern edge of the enemy's logistical base and assembly area in Svay Rieng.
While Phase I of the ARVN sweep into Svay Rieng was getting started, the NVA on 28 April struck heavily at Long Khot, an ARVN post and district town at the inside curve of the Elephant's Foot. Whether the attack was preplanned or reactive was unknown. Regardless, enemy tanks were reported at first by the defenders. Later, aerial observers correctly determined that the vehicles were captured M-113 armored personnel carriers. The defenders held strongly against the NVA's 275th Regiment and 25th Sapper Battalion of the 5th NVA Division. More than 100 sorties were flown on the 28th against NVA positions, weapons, and vehicles in the Svay Rieng area, many of them in support of Long Khot. On this same day, the ARVN at Long Khot captured nine prisoners from the NVA 275th Regiment and four from its supporting artillery, which had been employing 122-mm. guns and U.S. 105-mm. howitzers, as well as AT-3 antitank missiles and SA-7 antiaircraft missiles. Many enemy weapons were salvaged, and 75 enemy soldiers were counted dead on the battlefield.
Not only were the Long Khot defenders tenacious and prepared for the onslaught, but the VNAF proved its worth in close support as over the two days, the 27th and 28th, it flew 188 tactical and logistical sorties in the Svay Rieng Campaign. In a departure from normal practice, the 3d Air Division supporting III Corps in the Svay Rieng campaign, located a forward command post at Cu Chi alongside the III Corps forward command post in order to improve coordination and responsiveness. Combat pilots returned to their bases with encouraging, morale-building reports about enemy troops throwing down their weapons and running when faced with low-level strafing.
By the night of 28 April, 11 ARVN battalions of infantry, RF, and Rangers were conducting screening, blocking, and reconnaissance-in-force operations as a prelude to Phase II of the Svay Rieng sweep. Meanwhile, the VNAF was assaulting enemy troop locations and bases, and Long Khot was fighting off a violent NVA armor, artillery, and sapper-infantry attack.
In Phase II, originally planned by General Thuan to encompass only three days of armored sweeps into the Cambodian bases of the NVA 5th Division, three columns drove west, generally parallel to each other, crossing the frontier west of Go Dau Ha and penetrating as deeply as 15 kilometers into Svay Rieng before wheeling south and southwest into Hau Nghia Province. Making the main effort and the deepest penetration was Task Force 315 with the 15th Armored Cavalry Squadron, the 64th Ranger Battalion, and a company of medium tanks as its striking force. Supported by a composite battery of 105-mm. and 155-mm. artillery this northernmost column crossed the border through the paddies south of Highway 1 and attacked west, turning south short of the swampy ground east of Chiphu, following local route 1012 toward the blocking position held by a IV Corps battalion near Ph Chek. It was screened on its right flank by a mobile RF battalion that advanced along Highway 1 about 12 kilometers inside the international frontier. Along the center axis, which started about 2,000 meters south of Task Force 315, was Task Force 318, built around the 18th Armored Cavalry Squadron, a Ranger battalion, a tank company, and a howitzer battery. This column drove west for about 10 kilometers before turning inside the sweep south by Task Force 315.
Task Force 310, the only one of the attacking columns without tanks, had a battalion each from the 18th and 25th Infantry Divisions and the 3d Troop, 10th Armored Cavalry. Along with a supporting howitzer battalion it crossed into Svay Rieng just north of the southern tip of the Angel's Wing, along Cambodian Route 1013, and wheeled south inside Task Force 318, generally along the international boundary.
In reserve at Go Dau Ha General Thuan had two companies of medium tanks of the 22d Tank Battalion, a cavalry troop from the 1st Armored Cavalry Squadron, a battalion of infantry from the 18th Division, and a battery of 105-mm. howitzers. Designated Task Force 322, this powerful force was ready to exploit opportunities uncovered by the attacking echelons.
The 3d Armored Brigade controlled operations from Go Dau Ha. Fifty-four UH-1 helicopters mustered for the campaign were effectively used in surprise air assaults into enemy defenses. Secrecy was more rigidly enforced in this campaign than perhaps any operation since the cease-fire, partly because it was important to surprise the 5th NVA Division in garrison, and partly to conceal, for political reasons, an ARVN offensive into Cambodia.
By 29 April, Task Force 315 had penetrated about seven kilometers into Cambodia and, at the cost of only one wounded, had killed nearly 50 enemy and captured one prisoner. To the south, Task Force 318 had experienced similar success, killing nearly 60 and capturing 5 while suffering only 6 wounded. The following morning, the 315th continued the attack, killing 40 more and sustaining light casualties. Meanwhile, the VNAF was pounding the enemy with nearly 200 sorties, accounting for nearly 100 killed, destroying many storage and defensive positions, and knocking out mortar and antiaircraft positions.
As the threat to the 5th NVA Division base in southern Svay Rieng became critical, the NVA was compelled to reduce the pressure at Long Khot and concentrate on attempting to relieve the E-6 and 174th Regiments and logistical installations lying in the path of the ARVN armored thrusts. By the end of April, nearly 300 NVA soldiers had fallen in ground combat, over 100 more had been killed by VNAF air strikes, and 17 prisoners of war were in ARVN hands. On the other hand, the speed, audacity and superior air-ground coordination that characterized the RVNAF attack had kept friendly casualties extremely low: only 21 killed and 64 wounded. In fact, success was so striking that General Thuan elected to extend the operation a few days.
Westward, over in the Elephant's Foot, matters were becoming desperate for the 275th NVA Regiment and its supporting troops. The 7th ARVN Division had moved a forward command post into Moc Hoa and was controlling the operation of two task forces then committed in the Elephant's Foot. One was composed of the 15th Infantry, 9th ARVN Division, and part of the 16th Armored Cavalry Squadron; the other included the 10th Infantry and elements of the 6th Armored Cavalry Squadron. In 12 days of fighting in the border area, these two mobile task forces killed 850 NVA soldiers, captured 31, collected over 100 weapons, and suffered fewer than 300 casualties, including 39 killed.
Making the adjustments required by the situation, particularly the fact that the most lucrative enemy contacts were being made in the southern sweeps of the 318th and 310th Task Forces, General Thuan ordered Task Force 315 withdrawn from its northern axis on 2 May and returned to Go Dau Ha where it reverted to reserve. Meanwhile, Task Force 322 was committed and advanced about four kilometers into the center of the Angel's Wing, and the infantry battalions of the 25th ARVN Division continued their sweep between Duc Hue and Go Dau Ha. By 6 May the land route to Duc Hue Camp was secured and was being improved by ARVN combat engineers, the threat to the vital road junction at Go Dau Ha was substantially reduced, and the ARVN was in complete control of the battlefield. The tank-heavy 322d Task Force turned south and headed for Ba Thu, the long-held NVA base on the border southwest of Duc Hue. On 10 May, the offensive ended, the last ARVN forces began their march homeward. Their sortie had killed nearly 300 NVA soldiers, captured 17, collected 100 weapons, and seriously disrupted the communications and logistics of the 5th NVA Division.
But this was the last major South Vietnamese offensive. The severe constraints on ammunition expenditures, fuel usage, and flying hours permitted no new initiatives. Although the RVNAF could react strongly to local threats within supporting distances of major bases, outlying threats were beyond their capability to cope with. For South Vietnam, a decline had begun to develop early in 1974 and would prove irreversible.
Nguyen Van Tin
24 October 2008