In implementing the strategic resolution of the Politburo, the General Command decided to use a powerful regular force (a reinforced army group) to open the Central Highlands Campaign with the aim of liberating Dak Lak province and the entire Central Highlands as well as of breaking off the enemy forces stationed in the region and creating a strategic position for our forces.

Buon Me Thuot town was chosen as the principal target of the campaign and determined as the key battlefield for the whole campaign.

The Central Highlands Campaign, in 1975. (Archived photo)

Commando Regiment 198 was tasked to be a core force, in coordination with local commando units of the Central Highlands provinces of Dak Lak, Gia Lai and Kon Tum, to penetrate through the enemy defensive line, attack and hold important targets on the main direction of Buon Ma Thuot. The unit was also assigned to creating diversion, holding back and cutting off enemy forces in Pleiku and Kon Tum.

Under the combat plan, the unit staged diversion and created the initiative from March 4-9, 1975, then made a surprise attack on Cu Hanh airport, Pty Crong store system and circled the Duc Lap district-level base. During the night of March 8 and early morning of March 9, the commando battalion of Division 10 knifed deeply into the Duc Lap B mound, strongly assaulted the enemy fortification. After two hours fighting resolutely, the commando battalion completely occupied the enemy defensive point, creating a good opportunity for friendly regular units to use direct-fire striking on the Duc Lap district-level base. On March 10, friendly infantry units attacked and seized the Duc Lap district-level base, and took control of the road section of Duc Lap-Road 14B-Loc Ninh, which directly threatened Buon Ma Thuot from the Southwest.

From March 4 to 9, friendly units launched diversionary operations, positioned forces and split off enemy forces. To create favorable conditions for the key battle to open the campaign, the Commando Battalion of Division 10 penetrated deep into the Duc Lap B mound and opened fire at all enemy targets on March 8 night. After two hours fighting, friendly forces completely occupied the mound, allowing friendly units to use the height to launch direct-fire striking on the Duc Lap district-level base. Friendly infantry troops under the cover of firepower attacked the enemy base and conquered it on March 10. So friendly forces managed to set a commanding position at 14 Road, took control of the Duc Lap-14B Road-Loc Ninh road section, and posed a direct threat to Buon Ma Thuot town from Southwest.

Earlier, DKB Artillery Battalion 3 of Commando Regiment 198 had moved artillery close to the fences of Cu Hanh airport and the unit started bombarding on the airport from March 4, destroying enemy aircraft, weapons, land vehicles and stores, paralyzing the airport.

On the main advance direction, on March 9 night, battalions 4, 5 and 27 of Commando Regiment 198 launched surprise assaults on a series of enemy targets, including the airport of Buon Ma Thuot town, Mai Hac De ammunition store, Hoa Binh airport, the rear of enemy Regiment 44 and Regiment 53’s base. The commando battalions occupied important positions, broke the enemy’s counterattacks and created a springboard for friendly forces to attack Buon Ma Thuot town.

On the direction of Pleiku and Kon Tum, battalions 1, 2 and 3 of Commando Regiment 198 in coordination with infantry units attacked the enemy bases of Dac Soong, Cu Hanh airport, tank formation and stores, denying enemy forces in Pleiku from providing reinforcements to enemy units in Buon Ma Thuot.

During the Central Highlands Campaign, commando units contributed significantly to the victory. The valuable lessons have been drawn from the campaign are: Before the campaign, the commando force had grasped the strategic plan of the Party Central Committee, comprehended its tasks, made good preparations and built a firm combat posture in the enemy’s rear. What is more, as it had foreseen the property, domain and requirement of the campaign, the commando force had proactively prepared sufficient force for the campaign: reinforcing three more battalions, and equipping units with more firepower weapons and personal weapons and equipment suitable for specific battles. 

The use of the commando force to launch surprise attacks on key enemy targets has been a unique tactic in the Central Highlands Campaign. Since our combat plan was kept secret till the beginning of the campaign, commando units were used as a key force of the campaign, penetrating deep into the enemy’s rear and important targets, enabling friendly forces to strike and liberate Buon Ma Thuot town in a short time and with a minimum loss. Another exceptional feature of the campaign is that the Central Highlands Campaign Command equipped commando units with heavy firepower weapons, including DKZ, DKB, and air defense and field artillery, to launch medium-scale offensives on enemy bases and airports.

Finally, the commando force was used to carry out diversionary operations in Pleiku and Kon Tum, and at the same time to prevent enemy forces in the two localities from supporting the enemy in Buon Ma Thuot.  

Written by Nguyen Van Quy

Translated by Thu Nguyen