Tompkins , commander of the 3rd Marine Division, described the Special Forces soldiers as "hopped up This, however, did not prevent the Marine tanks within the perimeter from training their guns on the SOG camp. Lownds estimated that the logistical requirements of KSCB were 60 tons per day in mid-January and rose to tons per day when all five battalions were in place.
For most of the battle, low-lying clouds and fog enclosed the area from early morning until around noon, and poor visibility severely hampered aerial resupply. Making matters worse for the defenders, any aircraft that braved the weather and attempted to land was subject to PAVN antiaircraft fire on its way in for a landing.
Once the aircraft touched down, it became the target of any number of PAVN artillery or mortar crews. The aircrew then had to contend with antiaircraft fire on the way out. The pallet slid to a halt on the airstrip while the aircraft never had to actually land. The resupply of the numerous, isolated hill outposts was fraught with the same difficulties and dangers.
The fire of PAVN antiaircraft units took its toll of helicopters that made the attempt. The Marines found a solution to the problem in the "Super Gaggle" concept. A group of 12 A-4 Skyhawk fighter-bombers provided flak suppression for massed flights of 12—16 helicopters, which would resupply the hills simultaneously. The adoption of this concept at the end of February was the turning point in the resupply effort. After its adoption, Marine helicopters flew in tons of supplies during February.
When the weather later cleared in March, the amount was increased to 40 tons per day. As more infantry units had been assigned to defend KSCB, artillery reinforcement kept pace.
By early January, the defenders could count on fire support from 46 artillery pieces of various calibers, five tanks armed with mm guns, and 92 single or Ontos -mounted mm recoilless rifles. Throughout the battle, Marine artillerymen fired , mixed rounds. At on 8 February under cover of fog and a mortar barrage, the PAVN penetrated the perimeter, overrunning most of the position and pushing the remaining 30 defenders into the southwestern portion of the defenses.
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. During one 8-hour period, the base was rocked by 1, rounds, most of which came from mm used for the first time on the battlefield and mm artillery pieces located in Laos. Nevertheless, the same day that the trenches were detected, 25 February, 3rd Platoon from Bravo Company 1st Battalion, 26th Marines was ambushed on a short patrol outside the base's perimeter to test the PAVN strength.
The Marines pursued three enemy scouts, who led them into an ambush.
The platoon withdrew following a three-hour battle that left six Marines dead, 24 missing, and one taken prisoner. In late February, ground sensors detected the 66th Regiment, th Division preparing to mount an attack on the positions of the 37th ARVN Ranger Battalion on the eastern perimeter. At , 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.
Two further attacks later in the morning were halted before the PAVN finally withdrew. Five more attacks against their sector were launched during March. At the same time, the th Division withdrew to the southwest. That did not mean, however, that battle was over. On 22 March, over 1, North Vietnamese rounds fell on the base, and once again, the ammunition dump was detonated.
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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. Following a rolling barrage fired by nine artillery batteries, the Marine attack advanced through two PAVN trenchlines, but the Marines failed to locate the remains of the men of the ambushed patrol. The Marines claimed PAVN killed, while their own casualties amounted to 10 dead, wounded, and two missing. Cumulative friendly casualties for Operation Scotland, which began on 1 November , were: killed in action, 1, wounded, and 25 missing and presumed dead.
As far as PAVN casualties were concerned, 1, bodies were counted, seven prisoners were taken, and two soldiers defected to allied forces during the operation. In the US, the media following the battle drew comparisons with the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, which proved disastrous for the French. He subsequently ordered the US military to hold Khe Sanh at all costs. As a result, "B 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 Tolson , commander, First Cavalry Division, to prepare a contingency plan.
Route 9, the only practical overland route from the east, was impassable due to its poor state of repair and the presence of PAVN troops. 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.
Westmoreland, however, was already planning ahead. Khe Sanh would be relieved and then used as the jump-off point for a "hot pursuit" of enemy forces into Laos.
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The advance would be supported by pieces of artillery. 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. Cushman was appalled by the "implication of a rescue or breaking of the siege by outside forces. Regardless, on 1 April, Operation Pegasus began. As the relief force made progress, the Marines at Khe Sanh moved out from their positions and began patrolling at greater distances from the base.
Things heated up for the air cavalrymen on 6 April, when the 3rd Brigade encountered a PAVN blocking force and fought a day-long engagement. On the following day, the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Air Cavalry captured the old French fort near Khe Sanh village after a three-day battle.
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On that day, Tolson ordered his unit to immediately make preparations for Operation Delaware , an air assault into the A Shau Valley. Thirty-three ARVN troops were also killed and were wounded. Lownds and the 26th Marines departed Khe Sanh, leaving the defense of the base to the 1st Marine Regiment. He made his final appearance in the story of Khe Sanh on 23 May, when his regimental sergeant major and he stood before President Johnson and were presented with a Presidential Unit Citation on behalf of the 26th Marines.
Twenty-five USAF personnel who were killed are also not included. Casualties were heavy among the attacking PAVN, who lost over killed, while the defending Marines lost two men. The withdrawal of the last Marines under the cover of darkness was hampered by the shelling of a bridge along Route 9, which had to be repaired before the withdrawal could be completed. Following the closure of the base, a small force of Marines remained around Hill carrying out mopping-up operations. Regardless, the result was that PAVN had gained control of a strategically important area and its lines of communication were extended further into South Vietnam.
They asked what had changed in six months so that American commanders were willing to abandon Khe Sanh in July. The explanations given out by the Saigon command were that "the enemy had changed his tactics and reduced his forces; that PAVN had carved out new infiltration routes; that the Marines now had enough troops and helicopters to carry out mobile operations; that a fixed base was no longer necessary. According to military historian Ronald Spector , to reasonably record the fighting at Khe Sanh as an American victory is impossible. Commencing in , the US had attempted to establish a barrier system across the DMZ to prevent infiltration by North Vietnamese troops.
These attacks hindered the advancement of the McNamara Line, and as the fighting around Khe Sanh intensified, vital equipment including sensors and other hardware had to be diverted from elsewhere to meet the needs of the US garrison at Khe Sanh. Construction on the line was ultimately abandoned and resources were later diverted towards implementing a more mobile strategy.
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. According to Gordon Rottman, even the North Vietnamese official history, Victory in Vietnam , is largely silent on the issue. Westmoreland believed that the latter was the case and this belief was the basis for his desire to stage "Dien Bien Phu in reverse".
The fact that the North Vietnamese only committed about half of their available forces to the offensive 60—70, , the majority of whom were VC, is cited in favor of Westmoreland's argument. 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.
https://sticcochoocon.tk However, North Vietnamese sources claim that the Americans did not win a victory at Khe Sanh, but they were forced to retreat to avoid destruction. The PAVN claimed that Khe Sanh was "a stinging defeat from both the military and political points of view": Westmoreland was replaced two months after the end of the battle and his successor explained the retreat in different ways.
Another interpretation was that the North Vietnamese were planning to work both ends against the middle. This strategy has come to be known as the Option Play. If they could not, they would occupy the attention of as many American and South Vietnamese forces in I Corps as they could to facilitate the Tet Offensive. Their main objectives were to inflict casualties on US troops and to isolate them in the remote border regions. Another theory is that the actions around Khe Sanh and the other border battles were simply a feint, a ruse meant to focus American attention and forces on the border.
General and historian Dave Palmer accepts this rationale: "General Giap never had any intention of capturing Khe Sanh And it had accomplished its purpose magnificently. Marine General Rathvon M. Tompkins, commander of the 3rd Marine Division, has 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 m outside the perimeter of the base.
Week of February 25
Had they simply contaminated the stream, the airlift would not have provided enough water to the Marines. One argument leveled by Westmoreland at the time and often quoted by historians of the battle was that only two Marine regiments were tied down at Khe Sanh compared with several PAVN divisions. Whether the destruction of one battalion could have been the goal of two to four PAVN divisions was debatable.
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Yet, even if Westmoreland believed his statement, his argument never moved on to the next logical level. By the end of January , he had moved half of all US combat troops—nearly 50 maneuver battalions—to I Corps. US logistical, aerial, and artillery support was provided to the operation. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Military engagements during the Vietnam War.