He has published over 20 books including: How to Survive Anything, Anywhere. Tolson was not happy with the assignment, since he believed that the best course of action, after Tet, was to use his division in an attack into the A Shau Valley. [121] Casualties from the bombardment were 10 killed and 51 wounded. The Americans had forewarning of PAVN armor in the area from Laotian refugees from camp BV-33. Since late in 1967, Khe Sanh had depended on airlift for its survival. History is who we are and why we are the way we are.. Enemy artillery rounds slammed into the runway. Once the aircraft touched down, it became the target of any number of PAVN artillery or mortar crews. Shortly after midnight on February 7, a large NVA force, reinforced with tanks, attacked the camp. Both sides suffered major casualties with both claiming victory of their own. The 26th Marines were activated in 1944 and fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II and were activated again on 1 March 1966, and fought in the Battle of Khe Sanh during the Vietnam War . Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of the start of the war's most famous siege, a 77-day struggle for a rain-swept plateau in central Vietnam that riveted the U.S. in 1968, and opened a year of . It reveals that the nuclear option was discounted because of terrain considerations that were unique to South Vietnam, which would have reduced the effectiveness of tactical nuclear weapons. Due to the nature of these activities, and the threat that they posed to KSCB, Westmoreland ordered Operation Niagara I, an intense intelligence collection effort on PAVN activities in the vicinity of the Khe Sanh Valley. Besieged, Khe Sanh could only be resupplied by air. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, then began planning for incursion into Laos, and in October, the construction of an airfield at Khe Sanh was completed. Mobile combat operations continued against the North Vietnamese. [22] The camp then became a Special Forces outpost of the Civilian Irregular Defense Groups, which were to keep watch on PAVN infiltration along the border and to protect the local population. That afternoon, as a rescue force was dispatched to the village, Army Lt. Col. Joseph Seymoe and other soldiers died when their helicopter was attacked. Additionally, Shore argued that the "weather was another critical factor because the poor visibility and low overcasts attendant to the monsoon season made such operations hazardous. [61] To cover a defilade near the Rao Quan River, four companies from 2/26 were immediately sent out to occupy Hill 558, with another manning Hill 861A. By the end of May, Marine forces were again drawn down from two battalions to one, the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines. [44], On 14 August, Colonel David E. Lownds took over as commander of the 26th Marine Regiment. They asked what had changed in six months so that American commanders were willing to abandon Khe Sanh in July. [79] On an average day, 350 tactical fighter-bombers, 60 B-52s, and 30 light observation or reconnaissance aircraft operated in the skies near the base. A 77 day battle, Khe Sanh had been the biggest single battle of the Vietnam War to that point. Upon closer analysis, the official figure does not accurately portray even what it purports to represent. In response, US forces were built up before the PAVN isolated the Marine base. On April 6, a front-page story in The New York Times declared that the siege of Khe Sanh had been lifted. The Marine defense of Khe Sanh, Operation Scotland, officially ended on March 31. "[168][Note 7], Marine General Rathvon M. Tompkins, the commander of the 3rd Marine Division, pointed out that had the PAVN actually intended to take Khe Sanh, PAVN troops could have cut the base's sole source of water, a stream 500 m outside the perimeter of the base. Soon after, another shell hit a cache of tear gas, which saturated the entire area. The village, 3km south of the base, was defended by 160 local Bru troops, plus 15 American advisers. The NVAs main command post was located in Laos, at Sar Lit. Due to severe losses, however, the NVA abandoned its plan for a massive ground attack. [70] Regardless, the SOG reconnaissance teams kept patrolling, providing the only human intelligence available in the battle area. The Marines knew that their withdrawal from Khe Sanh would present a propaganda victory for Hanoi. Overnight, they were moved to a temporary position a short distance from the perimeter and from there, some of the Laotians were eventually evacuated, although the majority turned around and walked back down Route 9 toward Laos. [112][113][114] In addition, over 100,000 tons of bombs were dropped until mid-April by aircraft of the USAF, US Navy and Marines onto the area surrounding Khe Sanh. "[162] Those who agree with Westmoreland reason that no other explanation exists for Hanoi to commit so many forces to the area instead of deploying them for the Tet Offensive. Only nine US battalions were available from Hue/Phu Bai northward. At about 0640 hours the NVA 7th Battalion, 66th Regiment, 304th Division, attacked the Huong Hoa District headquarters in Khe Sanh village. newsletter for the best of the past, delivered every Monday and Thursday. You could lose it and you really haven't lost a damn thing. The PAVN, however, were not through with the ARVN troops. North Vietnamese Army gained control of the Khe Sanh region after the American withdrawal. The Battle of Khe Sanh began 50 years ago this week when roughly 20,000 North Vietnamese troops surrounded an isolated combat base . The 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment (2/1 Marines) and the 2/3 Marines would launch a ground assault from Ca Lu Combat Base (16km east of Khe Sanh) and head west on Route 9 while the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Brigades of the 1st Cavalry Division, would air-assault key terrain features along Route 9 to establish fire support bases and cover the Marine advance. One of the first enemy shells set off an explosion in the main ammunition dump. Operation Pegasus forces, however, were highly mobile and did not attack en masse down Route 9 far enough west of Khe Sanh for the NVA, by then dispersed, to implement their plan. The September bombardments ranged from 100 to 150 rounds per day, with a maximum on 25 September of 1,190 rounds. At 0330 hours, soldiers of the NVA 6th Battalion, 2nd Regiment, 325C Division, attacked the Marines on Hill 861. If firepower determined the outcome of the fight, it was airlift that allowed the defenders to hold their positions. [74], During January, the recently installed electronic sensors of Operation Muscle Shoals (later renamed "Igloo White"), which were undergoing test and evaluation in southeastern Laos, were alerted by a flurry of PAVN activity along the Ho Chi Minh Trail opposite the northwestern corner of South Vietnam. Scotland was a 26th Marine Regiment operation, so only the deaths of Marines assigned to the regiment, and attached supporting units, were counted. The dead men have been described as wearing Marine uniforms; that they were a regimental commander and his staff on a reconnaissance; and that they were all identified, by name, by American intelligence. The Khe Sanh battlefield was considerably more extensive from the North Vietnamese perspective than from that of the U.S. Marine Corps, both geographically and chronologically. Military History Institute of Vietnam, p. 222. A secret memorandum reported by US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, sent to US President Lyndon B. Johnson on 19 February 1968, was declassified in 2005. How many American soldiers died in the Battle of Ia Drang? The relief of Khe Sanh, called Operation Pegasus, began . Lownds also rejected a proposal to launch a helicopter extraction of the survivors. The base was officially closed on July 5. Since the Marines on board were not yet officially attached to the 26th Marine Regiment, their deaths were not included in the official Khe Sanh count, nor were the several other deaths associated with aircraft crashes. [137] Opposition from the North Vietnamese was light and the primary problem that hampered the advance was continual heavy morning cloud cover that slowed the pace of helicopter operations. The official, public estimate of 10,000 to 15,000 North Vietnamese KIA stands in contrast to another estimate made by the American military. Let me caution everyone not to be confused. A historian, General Dave Palmer, accepted that rationale: "General Giap never had any intention of capturing Khe Sanh [it] was a feint, a diversionary effort. The Marines fought long, hard and well at Khe Sanh, but they sacrificed in much greater numbers than has been acknowledged by official sources. Senior Marine Corps General Victor Krulak agreed, noting on May 13 that the Marines had defeated the North Vietnamese and won the battle of Khe Sanh. Over time, these KIA figures have been accepted by historians. On Easter Sunday, April 14, the 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines (3/26), assaulted Hill 881 North in order to clear the enemy firing positions. To support the Marine base, a massive aerial bombardment campaign (Operation Niagara) was launched by the USAF. The Marines pursued three enemy scouts, who led them into an ambush. [33] The PAVN fought for several days, took casualties, and fell back. [128] They also reported 1,436 wounded before mid-March, of which 484 men returned to their units, while 396 were sent up the Ho Chi Minh Trail to hospitals in the north. The fact that the North Vietnamese committed only about half of their available forces to the offensive (6070,000), most of whom were Viet Cong, is cited in favor of Westmoreland's argument. [80] Westmoreland had already ordered the nascent Igloo White operation to assist in the Marine defense. [59], During the rainy night of 2 January 1968, six men dressed in black uniforms were seen outside the defensive wire of the main base by members of a listening post. In the aftermath, the North Vietnamese proclaimed a victory at Khe Sanh, while US forces claimed that they had withdrawn, as the base was no longer required. . They too were left out of the official Khe Sanh casualty count. The NVA used Hill 881 North to launch 122mm rockets at the Marines during the siege. The plane, piloted by Lt. Col. Frederick J. Hampton, crashed in a huge fireball a few miles east of Khe Sanh, killing all aboard. Army deaths at FOB-3, however, were not included in the official statistics either. Battle of Khe Sanh : American Casualties We have 535 casualty profiles listed in our archive. With a view to gain the eventual approval for an advance through Laos to interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail, he determined that "it was absolutely essential to hold the base." But Pisor also pointed out that 205 is a completely false number. One had to meet certain criteria before being officially considered KIA at Khe Sanh. Westmoreland was replaced two months after the end of the battle, and his successor explained the retreat in different ways. The Marine defense of Khe Sanh, Operation Scotland, officially ended on March 31. Time magazine, in an April 12, 1968, article titled Victory at Khe Sanh, reported General William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, after flying into Khe Sanh by helicopter, declaring: We took 220 killed at Khe Sanh and about 800 wounded and evacuated. In 1966, the regular Special Forces troops had moved off the plateau and built a smaller camp down Route 9 at Lang Vei, about half the distance to the Laotian border. At the same time, the 304th Division withdrew to the southwest. The fire of PAVN antiaircraft units took its toll of helicopters that made the attempt. The distinctions between Operations Scotland, Pegasus and Scotland II, while important from the command perspective, were not necessarily apparent to individual Marines. The official figure of 205 KIA only represents Marine deaths in the Operation Scotland TAORthat is, Marines killed in proximity to the Khe Sanh Combat Base during the period from November 1, 1967, to March 31, 1968. [152] The Marines occupied Hill 950 overlooking the Khe Sanh plateau from 1966 until September 1969 when control was handed to the Army who used the position as a SOG operations and support base until it was overrun by the PAVN in June 1971. Two Marines died. [58] These tactics were reminiscent of those employed against the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, particularly in relation to entrenching tactics and artillery placement, and the realization assisted US planners in their targeting decisions. [47][Note 3] Westmoreland regarded the choice as quite simple. The NVA surrounded Khe Sanh in an attempt to force the Marines to break out of their fighting positions, which would make it easier to engage and destroy them. Free shipping for many products! The Marines claimed 115 PAVN killed, while their own casualties amounted to 10 dead, 100 wounded, and two missing. [135] The Marines had constantly argued that technically, Khe Sanh had never been under siege, since it had never truly been isolated from resupply or reinforcement. But only by checking my service record while writing this article did it become evident that I had participated in all three operations. [173][174], After the ARVN defeat in Laos, the newly-reopened KSCB came under attack by PAVN sappers and artillery and the base was abandoned once again on 6 April 1971.[175][176]. [157], Commencing in 1966, the US had attempted to establish a barrier system across the DMZ to prevent infiltration by North Vietnamese troops. U.S. Marines and their allies killed thousands of NVA, but to solve the riddle of Khe Sanh, you have to recount the numbers. It was later renamed "Dye Marker" by MACV in September 1967, just as the PAVN began the first phase of their offensive by launching attacks against Marine-held positions across the DMZ. By the middle of January 1968, some 6,000 Marines and Army troops occupied the Khe Sanh Combat Base and its surrounding positions. The PAVN claim that during the entire battle they "eliminated" 17,000 enemy troops, including 13,000 Americans and destroyed 480 aircraft. NVA casualties were more than 200. On 19 June 1968, the evacuation and destruction of KSCB began. [20] These figures do not include casualties among Special Forces troops at Lang Vei, aircrews killed or missing in the area, or Marine replacements killed or wounded while entering or exiting the base aboard aircraft. Of the 500 CIDG troops at Lang Vei, 200 had been killed or were missing and 75 more were wounded. Few areas of the world have been as hotly contested as the India-Pakistan border. Khe Sanh was one of the most remote outposts in Vietnam, but by January 1968, even President Lyndon Johnson had taken a personal interest in the base. Less likely to be mentioned is the final high-casualty engagement between units of the U.S. infantry and the North Vietnamese Army. The strike wounded two more Strike Force soldiers and damaged two bunkers. [140] Operation Scotland II would continue until 28 February 1969 resulting in 435 Marines and 3304 PAVN killed. SOG Reconnaissance teams also reported finding tank tracks in the area surrounding Co Roc mountain. If that failed, and it did, they hoped to attack American reinforcements along Route 9 between Khe Sanh and Laos. A Look at the Damage from the Secret War in Laos, How Operation Homecoming Was Sprung into Action to Repatriate American POWs, The Viet Cong Were Shooting Down Americans From a Cave Until This GI Stopped Them, https://www.historynet.com/recounting-the-casualties-at-the-deadly-battle-of-khe-sanh/, Jerrie Mock: Record-Breaking American Female Pilot, When 21 Sikh Soldiers Fought the Odds Against 10,000 Pashtun Warriors, Few Red Tails Remain: Tuskegee Airman Dies at 96. Name State Date War Branch; 1: Steven Glenn Abbott . Declassified documents show that in response, Westmoreland considered using nuclear weapons. [83] Westmoreland later wrote, "Washington so feared that some word of it might reach the press that I was told to desist, ironically answering what those consequences could be: a political disaster. The Tet Offensive was about to begin. Strategically, however, the withdrawal meant little. The North Vietnamese lost as many as 15,000 casualties during the siege of Khe Sanh. [75] On 22 January, the first sensor drops took place, and by the end of the month, 316 acoustic and seismic sensors had been dropped in 44 strings. 239240. [118], On the night of the fall of Lang Vei, three companies of the PAVN 101D Regiment moved into jump-off positions to attack Alpha-1, an outpost west of the Combat Base held by 66 men of Company A, 1st Platoon, 1/9 Marines. [170][140], One argument that was then leveled by Westmoreland and has since often quoted by historians of the battle is that only two Marine regiments were tied down at Khe Sanh, compared with the several PAVN divisions. [107] The greatest impediments to the delivery of supplies to the base were the closure of Route 9 and the winter monsoon weather. [109], The resupply of the numerous, isolated hill outposts was fraught with the same difficulties and dangers. For additional reading, see: Valley of Decision: The Siege of Khe Sanh, by John Prados and Ray W. Stubbe; and the official Marine Corps history, The Battle for Khe Sanh, by Moyers S. Shore II. [117][20] The PAVN acknowledged 2,500 men killed in action. The microwave/tropo site was located in an underground bunker next to the airstrip. [93], The situation changed radically during the early morning hours of 7 February. They were not included in the official Khe Sanh counts. Then, on the morning of 6 February, the PAVN fired mortars into the Lang Vei compound, wounding eight Camp Strike Force soldiers. This base was to serve as the western anchor of Marine Corps forces, which had tactical responsibility for the five northernmost provinces of South Vietnam known as I Corps. After a ten-day battle, the attackers were pushed back into Cambodia. [146] Useful equipment was withdrawn or destroyed, and personnel were evacuated. First had been Operation Full Cry, the original three-division invasion plan. At dawn on 21 January, it was attacked by a roughly 300-strong PAVN battalion. As a result, "B-52 Arc Light strikes originating in Guam, Okinawa, and Thailand bombed the jungles surrounding Khe Sanh into stubble fields" and Khe Sanh became the major news headline coming out of Vietnam in late March 1968. However, the PAVN committed three regiments to the fighting from the Khe Sanh sector. [163] Other theories argued that the forces around Khe Sanh were simply a localized defensive measure in the DMZ area or that they were serving as a reserve in case of an offensive American end run in the mode of the American invasion at Inchon during the Korean War. The Armys 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), with more than 400 helicopters under its control, conducted airmobile operations deeper into enemy-controlled areas. At 21:30, the attack came on, but it was stifled by the small arms of the Rangers, who were supported by thousands of artillery rounds and air strikes. [67], At the same time as the artillery bombardment at KSCB, an attack was launched against Khe Sanh village, seat of Hng Ha District. Unlike the Marines killed in the same place in January, since Operation Scotland had ended, the four Lima Company Marines who died in this attack on Hill 881 North were excluded from the official statistics. The aircrew then had to contend with antiaircraft fire on the way out. Setting out from Ca Lu, 10 miles east of Khe Sanh, Pegasus opened the highway, linked up with the Marines at Khe Sanh, and engaged NVA in the surrounding area. That was superseded by the smaller contingency plans. Battle of Khe Sanh The attack finally came on January 21, 1968, when PAVN forces began a massive artillery bombardment of Khe Sanh, hitting the base's main store of ammunition and destroying. An additional 413 Marines were killed during Scotland II as of the end of June 1968. Siege at Khe Sanh: ~17,200 (304th and 308th Division), Defense at Route 9: ~16,900 (320th and 324th Division), This page was last edited on 1 March 2023, at 15:52. The official statistics yield a KIA ratio of between 50:1 and 75:1 of North Vietnamese to U.S. military deaths. The Marines at KSCB credited 40% of intelligence available to their fire-support coordination center to the sensors. As journalist Robert Pisor pointed out in his 1982 book, The End of the Line: The Siege of Khe Sanh, no other battle of the entire war produced a better body count or kill ratio than that claimed by the Americans at Khe Sanh. WALKI NA WZGRZU: PIERWSZA BITWA KHE SANH Edwarda F. Murphy'ego - twarda okadka w bardzo dobrym stanie | Books & Magazines, Books | eBay! Hernandez was killed. "[159] In assessing North Vietnamese intentions, Peter Brush cites the claim of Vietnamese theater commander, V Nguyn Gip, "that Khe Sanh itself was not of importance, but only a diversion to draw U.S. forces away from the populated areas of South Vietnam. This caused problems for the Marine command, which possessed its own aviation squadrons that operated under their own close air support doctrine. Of the 4953 Navy and Air Force casualties, both officer and enlisted, 4, 736 or 96% were white. However, North Vietnamese sources claim that the Americans did not win a victory at Khe Sanh but were forced to retreat to avoid destruction. The battalion was assaulted on the night of 23 January by three PAVN battalions supported by seven tanks. Journalist Richard Ehrlich writes that according to the report, "in late January, General Westmoreland had warned that if the situation near the DMZ and at Khe Sanh worsened drastically, nuclear or chemical weapons might have to be used." [25], In the winter of 1964, Khe Sanh became the location of a launch site for the highly-classified Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observations Group. [9], The precise nature of Hanoi's strategic goal at Khe Sanh is regarded as one of the most intriguing unanswered questions of the Vietnam War. Seven miles west of Khe Sanh on Route 9, and about halfway to the Laotian border, sat the U.S. Army Special Forces camp at Lang Vei. A group of 12 A-4 Skyhawk fighter-bombers provided flak suppression for massed flights of 1216 helicopters, which would resupply the hills simultaneously. The Battle of Ban Houei Sane, not the attack three weeks later at Lang Vei, marked the first time that the PAVN had committed an armored unit to battle. [148], Regardless, the PAVN had gained control of a strategically important area, and its lines of communication extended further into South Vietnam. Khe Sanh is a village located near the Laotian border and just south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separated North and South Vietnam. "[106] At the end of January, Tompkins had ordered that no Marine patrols proceed more than 500 meters from the Combat Base. In the 43-day . 3% were Asian, 7 or . [134], Westmoreland's planned relief effort infuriated the Marines, who had not wanted to hold Khe Sanh in the first place and who had been roundly criticized for not defending it well. The adoption of this concept at the end of February was the turning point in the resupply effort. On the following night, a massive wave of PAVN/VC attacks swept throughout South Vietnam, everywhere except Khe Sanh. Marines stayed in the area, conducting operations to recover the bodies of Marines killed previously. On that day, Tolson ordered his unit to immediately make preparations for Operation Delaware, an air assault into the A Shau Valley. The Pegasus force consisted of the Army 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) plus the 1st Marine Regiment. He gave the order for US Marines to take up positions around Khe Sanh. If a battle tallied a sufficiently favorable body count ratio, American commanders declared victory, as they did after Khe Sanh. According to this history, originally classified as secret, the battle deaths for all major NVA units participating in the entire Highway 9Khe Sanh Front from January 20 until July 20, 1968, totaled 2,469. . [75], Niagara I was completed during the third week of January, and the next phase, Niagara II, was launched on the 21st,[76] the day of the first PAVN artillery barrage. As a result of this intelligence, KSCB was reinforced on 22 January 1968 by the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment. Find many great new & used options and get the best deals for The Hill Fights: The First Battle of Khe Sanh by Murphy, Edward F. (mass_market) at the best online prices at eBay! The most comprehensive and authoritative history site on the Internet. [66] Hours after the bombardment ceased, the base was still in danger. [126], On 30 March, Bravo Company, 26th Marines, launched an attack toward the location of the ambush that had claimed so many of their comrades on 25 February. On April 20, Operation Prairie IV began, with heavy fighting between the Marines and NVA forces. A decision then had to be made by the American high command to commit more of the limited manpower in I Corps to the defense of Khe Sanh or to abandon the base. On the first day of battle, a big Communist rocket scored a direct hit on the main Marine ammunition dump, destroying 1,500 tons of high explosives, 98 percent of available ammunition. They fixed the attention of the American command on the border regions, and they drew American and ARVN forces away from the coastal lowlands and cities in preparation for the Tet Offensive. TBKQS / Trung tm TBKQS - BQP - H Ni: QND, 2004. They attacked 36 of 44 provincial capitals, 64 district capitals, five of the six major cities, and more than two dozen airfields and bases. On July 10, Pfc Robert Hernandez of Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, was manning an M-60 machine gun position when it took a direct hit from NVA mortars. Making the prospect even more enticing was that the base was in an unpopulated area in which American firepower could be fully employed without civilian casualties. The village of Khe Sanh was the seat of government of Hng Hoa district, an area of Bru Montagnard villages and coffee plantations about 7 miles (11km) from the Laotian frontier on Route 9, the northernmost transverse road in South Vietnam. On the morning of 22 January Lownds decided to evacuate the remaining forces in the village with most of the Americans evacuated by helicopter while two advisers led the surviving local forces overland to the combat base. For some unknown reason, the PAVN troops did not press their advantage and eliminate the pocket, instead throwing a steady stream of grenades at the Marines. 216217. [129][130] Nevertheless, according to Tom Johnson, President Johnson was "determined that Khe Sanh [would not] be an 'American Dien Bien Phu'". Battlefield boundaries extended from eastern Laos eastward along both sides of Route 9 in Quang Tri province, Vietnam, to the coast. [145], Author Peter Brush details that an "additional 413 Marines were killed during Scotland II through the end of June 1968". The pallet slid to a halt on the airstrip while the aircraft never had to actually land. [138] At 08:00 on 15 April, Operation Pegasus was officially terminated. Johnson backed the Marine position due to his concern over protecting the Army's air assets from Air Force co-option. A limited attack was made by a PAVN company on 1 July, falling on a company from the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, who were holding a position 3km to the southeast of the base. The official North Vietnamese history claimed that 400 South Vietnamese troops had been killed and 253 captured. Five Marines were killed on January 19 and 20, while on reconnaissance patrols. [128] Also, Marine Lieutenant General Victor Krulak seconded the notion that there was never a serious intention to take the base by arguing that neither the water supply nor the telephone land lines were ever cut by the PAVN.

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battle of khe sanh casualties