Various Diversionary Moves in Support of Arc Lite Strike in Pleime Counteroffensive

- Herding diversionary move – Its intention was to roundup the enemy troops toward a common location.

Colonel Hieu knew the 1st Air Cav Brigade won’t be able to find and destroy the scattered three NVA regimental troops in the vast area that stretched from Pleime to Chupong with its newly developed air assault tactics.

- Enticement diversionary move – Its intention was to entice B3 Field Front to switch to an attack posture in order to have them gather its three regimental troops in assembling areas for re-equipment, training and rehearsal purposes to stage for the imminent second attack of the Pleime camp.

The order to execute the switch in operational direction from west to east was issued on 11/8 with a vague suggestion (Kinnard, page 67):

By this time Field Force Vietnam had asked the division to consider moving this operations east of Pleime if it appeared that was no further contact imminent in the west”

The purpose of the enticement move was made known to General Knowles on 11/10 (Kinnard , page 73):

The movement and shift in emphasis from west to east was to further stimulate a forthcoming decision from the NVA division headquarters.

Its intention became clearer to General Knowles on Nov 11 (Kinnard, page 76):

With American units seemingly withdrawing to the east of Pleime, the decision was to attempt to regain its early advantage with an attack. The target once again was the Pleime CIDG Camp. The division headquarters set the date for attack at 16 November, and issued orders to its three regiments.

The ideal target for B-52 airstrikes was the assembly area where troop concentration would be the most dense.

The window margin would be narrow: 11/13-14 or 11/12-14, (it turned out Colonel Hieu only had the 11/13-14 one) depending on the allotment time given for rehearsals.

And when order was issued for gathering troops in assembly areas, the window margin would be in terms of 24 hours and less.

Thus the necessity to create the

- Diversionary move of distraction – Its intention was to refocus B3 Field Front from the direction toward Pleime camp on to LZ X-Ray and had it retain its troops at assembly areas longer to allow the B-52 to still find them there at their arrival due for Nov 15, after a long eight hour voyage from Guam to Central Highlands.

The number of Air Cav troops inserted at LZ X-Ray should be small so as not to make B3 Field Front to rushing in all of its three regimental troops.

General Knowles reveals that the purpose for the insertion of the Air Cavalry troops at LZ X-Ray on November 14 was to “grab the tiger by its tail” and to hit its head with B-52 airstrikes from November 15 to 16. He also explains the reason for pulling out of LZ X-Ray on November 17 and moving to LZ Albany was “to grab the tiger by its tail from another direction” and continued to hit its head with B-52 bombs from November 17 to 20.

The coordination of all these various diversionary moves with the purpose of attaining the objective set out by the operational concept – the use of B-52 airstrikes to annihilate the three NVA regiments - was made only possible with a solid intelligence of the enemy situation by the minutes, hours and days. That’s why it would be quasi impossible to duplicate this uniqueness operational concept. It’s only possible if conditions are exactly the same as Colonel Hieu’s.

Nguyen Van Tin
9 January 2012


- Primary

- Books, Articles

* Pleiku, the Dawn of Helicopter Warfare in Vietnam, J.D. Coleman, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1988.

* We Were Soldiers Once… and Young, General Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway, Random House, New York, 1992.

* "First Strike at River Drang", Military History, Oct 1984, pp 44-52, Per. Interview with H.W.O Kinnard, 1st Cavalry Division Commanding General, Cochran, Alexander S.

* The Siege of Pleime, Project CHECO Report, 24 February 1966, HQ PACAF, Tactical Evaluation Center.

* Silver Bayonet, Project CHECO Report, 26 February 1966, HQ PACAF, Tactical Evaluation Center.

- Viet Cong