Do Xa Campaign

Do Xa used to be an impenetrable Viet Cong's sanctuary due to its complex configuration. This enclave is a deep valley nestled against the Annamite Mountains right at peak Ngoc Linh, which raises so high (8,524ft) that the sun's rays hardly reach the grounds of this valley. Because it is at the junction of three Provinces (Kontum, Quang Tin, and Quang Ngai), the Viet Cong used it as an infiltration gate of troops leaving the Ho Chi Minh Trail along Laos to enter the Center areas of South Vietnam. It was also used as ammunition and food caches, as well as resting areas and field hospitals. Since ARVN troops were unable to penetrate this area, it was designated as a free firing and bombardment area. Consequently, when airplanes returned to the base after air raid missions, the pilots freely discharged their unused ordnance onto this area.

On Monday, April 27, 1964, General Do Cao Tri, 2nd Corps Commanding General, launched the Do Xa Campaign (Operation Quyet Thang 202), aiming directly at the valley of Khe Nuoc Lah, the impenetrable sanctuary of NVA General Nguyen Don. He entrusted the planning and design of this operation to Colonel Nguyen Van Hieu, his Chief of Staff, with the assistance of Colonel Lu Lan, as Field Deputy Commander.

The Forward Command Post was established at Quang Ngai airport. The central core of the forces that took part in this campaign was divided into two groups. Group A was composed of three Rangers Battalions under the command of Major Son Thuong. Group B was composed of units of the 50th Regiment, belonging to the 25th Division, under the command of Major Phan Trong Chinh. These two Groups were reinforced with the 5th Airborne Battalion (Captain Ngo Quang Truong, who lead the Airborne Battalion received a battlefield promotion to Major in this campaign). Prior to that period, while serving at the 1st Corps as Deputy Chief of operations, Major Hieu had cooperated closely with the American Marine Corps in Danang through his relation with Major Wagner, USMC, an advisor for the ARVN 1st Corps. This close relationship had eased the way for the US Marine Corps Command at Danang to acquiesce Colonel Hieu's request for transportation assistance: the US Marine Corps Command went out its way (its operational areas were within the 1st Corps) and dispatched one H-34 helicopter squadron, the HMM-364 USMC squadron, which was reinforced with five UH-1B US Army gunships and two UH-34s from the VNAF to ferry troops into Do Xa's enclave. Also, the US Army 52nd Aviation Battalion lent troops transport, and the VNAF also provided two Skyraiders to cover troops' insertion.

The operation covered a 60-kilometer square area of the jungle.

Two days into the operation, on 4/29, a Ranger unit had destroyed many VC bases and seized an .30 cal. heavy machine gun, a 24x29 light machine gun, 11 AR-15 rifles, six submachine guns, and 144 individual weapons. They also took and destroyed 60 kilos of TNT, 1,000 heavy detonators plus a high number of grenades, mines, ammunition, documents, and military equipment and five tons of rice.

General Lu Lan still recalled that in a battlefield inspection's flight, the C&C helicopter with General Tri, Colonel Lu Lan, Major Minh (later VNAF Commander) and an American Colonel Advisor on board, upon entering the valley was shot at by Viet Cong's anti-aircraft machine guns placed on high mountains. The pilot dexterously plunged the helicopter down and flew it along trees' tops, out-maneuvering enemy gunners who were unable to readjust their aims. Nonetheless, the flanks and bottom of the helicopter were hit with several bullets.

Do Xa Operation destroyed a communication network of the Viet Cong command composed of five stations, one of which was used to communicate with North Viet Nam, and the other four to link with provincial Viet Cong units.

The Do Xa Campaign lasted one month and ended on May 27, 1964. The ARVN forces lost 23 killed, 87 wounded, and 3 rifles, 4 helicopters, and 2 fixed-wing Skyraiders. The enemy lost 62 killed, 17 captured, two 52 caliber machine guns, one 30 caliber machine gun, 69 individual weapons, and a large number of mines and grenades, engineer equipment, explosives, medicine, and documents. Also, 185 structures, 17 tons of food, and 292 acres of crops were destroyed by the ARVN forces.

The Do Xa Campaign was the result of the combination of two factors: the aggressiveness of General Do Cao Tri, a fearless tactician, and the organization skills of Colonel Nguyen Van Hieu, an accomplished strategist. These two exceptional military leaders dared to drive troops of a divisional size, composed of one Infantry Regiment, three Rangers Battalions, and one Airborne Battalion right into the heart of a well-fortified enemy enclave, a feat no other Generals were able to accomplish. As a matter of fact, before General Nguyen Khanh and General Do Cao Tri swapped the 2nd Corps and the 1st Corps with each other, General Khanh had tried to attack Do Xa with the assistance of his 2nd Corps Chief of Staff, Lieutenant Colonel Ngo Dzu. But they had failed miserably because the troops they sent in were repelled by the enemy after the loss of an entire battalion.

Do Xa Campaign Booties
Below are some photos taken by Edward P. "Angry Ed" Moore, 1stLt USMCR, courtesy of Franklin A. Gulledge, Jr, Major USMC (Ret).
Photo 1: From left, Capt. Jim Warner and 1stLt Bruce Gosnell examine some of the weapons and ammunition captured in the Do Xa raid.
Photo 2: Weapons and other items recovered from the vicinity of Do Xa.
Photo 3: The machine gun on the right is the one described by "Dragon Six" as, "A 50 cal. with two shoulder braces and a big ring sight like those on WWII ships."
The following two photos as well as the photo of Colonel Hieu with Colonel Lu Lan, II Corps Deputy Commander are courtesies of Mr. Cau.
Photo 4: General Nguyen Khanh and General Do Cao Tri were present at the Do Xa booties exhibition.
Photo 5: Documents and material consficated at Do Xa.

Nguyen Van Tin
22 February 2000.

Updated on 11.16.2003