Chapter III
The V.C. Intention at Pleime

The Plan

At the Western Highlands Field Front Headquarters, VC General Chu Huy Man wearing a second hat as Commanding General of Military Region IV, and his principal assistants Colonel Quan, Assistant to the Commanding General, and Senior Colonel Ha Vi Tung, Chief of staff(1) studied the plan they had formulated.

The "point" this time would be the CIDG Camp of Pleime, 40 km South West of Pleiku. With a strength of 4 Companies of GIDG troops - most of them Highlanders - and two Vietnamese and US Special Forces A Teams, the Camp in fact did not differ from others which, unlike Pleime, had sustained many VC attacks. But in regard to the surrounding environment, the location of the Camp of Pleime is, on the contrary, a particular one.

It does not only serve as a check-point to impede to a certain extent the VC infiltration from their base in the Chu-Pong massif (40 km West of Pleime) and their sanctuary in Cambodian territory, but also act as an outpost to ensure an early warning for Pleiku City and the District town of Phu Nhon (20 km East).

Any pressure exerted by the VC upon the Camp thus compels II Corps Command at Pleiku to necessarily conduct relief operations. But therein lay the risks and the difficulties, because the only ground avenue of approach(2) to Pleime is Provincial route #5 which no longer deserves its name and has become as hazardous as a trail in the jungle for friendly displacement. It's perhaps enough to assume that since the terrain is disadvantageous for the rescuers then assuredly it favors the attackers and explains why the VC have selected Pleime and are convinced that it would be a success. Because their hope is also founded on the capabilities of the forces which have been allotted to Field Front:

- The 32d, 33d and 66th Regiments infiltrated from North Vietnam;

- The H-15 Main Force Battalion (local unit);

- One battalion of 120 mm and 82 mm Mortars;

- One battalion of 14.5 mm Anti-Aircraft Machine guns.

Among these, the 32d is the more experienced, having been in South Vietnam since January. Already to its credit were numerous battalion and regimental attacks and ambushes which it had conducted in Kontum and in Pleiku provinces, such as Plei Kleng (March 65), Le Thanh (June 65) and Duc Co (August 65). Its experience in the Lure and Ambush tactic would be used accordingly. The 33d Regiment which had arrived in the South only recently still lacked in experience but would be ready since it just went through indoctrination in North Vietnam and firmly believed in the VC propaganda.

The plan consisted of three phases:

1) The 33d Regiment would surround Pleime and harass the defenders, exerting enough pressure to force II Corps to send a reaction force.

2) The 32d Regiment would ambush the relief column and destroy it.

3) Both Regiments would combine force to overrun and destroy the Camp itself.

As early as 19 September - one month before the attack - a thorough preparation down to the lowest level was carried out. Numerous exercises and rehearsals were conducted by each unit on maps and rehearsals were conducted by each unit on maps and sand tables. Meanwhile, transportation companies assisted by forced local laborers were rushing to prestock rice and ammunition.

The Attack

The two regiments left their bases at the foot of the Chu-Pong massif for their respective assembly areas on 15 October, as proved by the following lines in the diary of a VC officer from the 32d NVA Regiment:

"We depart for the Autumn Campaign on 15 October, the very day of the anniversary of comrade Chổi(3). All of us paid one minute of silence in honor of his memory before departure. On 20 October my unit would conduct an ambush and another friendly unit would encircle the post of Pleime. The estimate by Field Front is very accurate: the enemy must send a relief force to Pleime, that's why my unit would set an ambush on top of the "Doc Lap" (?) hill on the road from Pleiku to Pleime; the enemy relief force consisted of three tank companies and the 41st (?) Ranger battalion".

At approximately 2300 hours on 19 October, the 33d NVA Regiment opened fire on Pleime. With one battalion in reserve, the regiment poured small arms, mortar and recoilless rifle fire into the camp and conducted a series of assaults which were opposed by stiff resistance. But throughout the night the enemy did not succeed in making any penetration into the Camp defensive positions.

(1) During the Indo-China war, Ha Vi Tung was commander of the 803rd Regiment which together with the 108th Regiment constituted the main forces of the Viet Minh in the Central Highlands. To their credit were the occupation of Kontum and the defeat of French Task Force #100 on Highway 19.
(2) The road liking Pleime to the District town of Phu Nhon as shown on maps has been out of use for a long time, since the surface has collapsed.
(3) Chổi was the VC terrorist agent captured by the Vietnamese National Police when he intended to sabotage the bridge on Công Lý St in Saigon during the visit of the US Secretary of Defense McNamara in 1964. He was executed on 15 September 1964 at Saigon Market place.

Major General Vinh Loc
Colonel Hieu, ghostwriter
(Why Pleime - April 1966)