PANO - The Central Highlands played an important strategic role so the enemy had turned the region into a large strategic military base with the aim of wiping out the resistance of the Indo-China nations, preventing our forces from transporting humans and logistics from the North to the South and from the mountainous areas to the plain areas of Zone 5. The enemy forces deployed in the Central Highlands comprised Infantry Division 23, seven commando battalions, 36 battalions of the security force, 230 cannons, and 150 aircraft of the enemy’s Military Zone 2. In general, the enemy deployed strong units in the North of the Central Highlands but the South served as their rear so only some units were stationed there.

For our side, the Politburo issued a resolution to liberate the South in 1975. In January 1975, the Standing Committee of the Central Military Commission had a meeting to roll out the Politburo’s resolution and decided to launch the Central Highland Campaign, coded “A275”, aiming at wiping out the stationed enemy units, liberating the Southern Central Highland provinces of Dac Lac, Phu Bon and Quang Duc, breaking off the enemy’s defensive system, and creating a new strategic position for our side in the South Battlefield.

The attack to occupy Mai Hac De base in Buon Ma Thuot town in the Central Highland Campaign, March 1975. A filed photo from the Vietnam National Museum of History 

The Campaign Command was led by Lieutenant General Hoang Minh Thao as the commander and Senior Colonel Dang Vu Hiep as the political commissar. The participating units included five infantry divisions 10, 320, 316, 3 and 968; four independent artillery regiments 25, 95b, 95 and 271; Regiment 198 and two battalions 14 and 27 of the commando force; two artillery regiments 40 and 675; three anti-air artillery regiments 232, 234 and 593; Tank and Armored Regiment 273; two engineering regiments 7 and 575; Signal Regiment 29 and local units of Dac Lac, Gia Lai, Kon Tum and Quang Duc.

In early March 1975, the Campaign Command used Division 968 to conduct a diversion in the Northern Central Highlands. Being deceived, the enemy moved part of Division 23 from Buon Ma Thuot to Kon Tum and Plei-cu. Under the Campaign Command’s combat plan, our forces fired off, debuting the Central Highland Campaign on March 4th. From March 4th to 9th, our forces cut off the enemy’s transportation routes on Roads 19 and 21, engulfing the Central Highlands from the Center’s coastal area, at the same time controlled Road 14 to block the Northern Central Highlands from the Southern Central Highlands. Next our forces attacked and occupied Thuan Man on March 8th, Duc Lap on March 9th and completely surrounded Buon Ma Thuot. During the two days of March 10th and 11th, our forces assaulted Buon Ma Thuot, the first key battle of the campaign. From March 14th to 18th, our forces smashed a large-scale counteroffensive of enemy Division 23 in Nong Trai-Chu Cuc, the second key battle of the campaign. Suffering heavy losses and facing our forces’ strong operations, on March 15th, enemy forces fled from Kon Tum and Plei-cu, following Road 7, with the aim of gathering forces in the coastal plain areas of Military Zone 5.

Taking opportunity, our forces launched raids and annihilated most of fleeing enemies on Road 7 in Cheo Reo from March 17th to 19th and Cung Son on March 24th, wining the third key victory. After that, our forces maneuvered toward the coastal plains and coordinated with local military forces and people to liberate the provinces of Phu Yen and Khanh Hoa, ending the campaign on April 3rd, 1975.

The results were reported as follows: our forces smashed enemy Army Group 2 of enemy Military Zone 2; put out of action 28,000 enemy troops; captured and destroyed 154 aircraft and 1,096 military vehicles; liberated five provinces of Kon Tum, Gia Lai, Dac Lac, Phu Bon and Quang Duc, and areas of the coastal areas of Southern Center.

The Central Highland Campaign opened the General Offensive and Uprising in 1975 Spring. The resounding victory had great political and military significance. The campaign saw new developments in the military arts.

First, our Campaign Command properly chose the attacking directions and targets. In the campaign, the command decided to attack the Southern Central Highlands instead of attacking the North, that completely surprised the enemy. Additionally, our forces chose Buon Ma Thuot as the main target, the key position in the enemy’s defensive system in the Central Highland. In fact, with the terrain of Buon Ma Thuot, our forces could deploy a large force and conducted a large-scale joint force operation on the city. The loss of Buon Ma Thuot made a big hole in the enemy’s defensive system in the Central Highlands, horrified the enemy units stationed in Plei-cu and Kon Tum, made them flee from the Northern Central Highlands, and created opportunity for our forces to raid the fleeing enemies and attack the Central coastal areas.

Second, our forces successfully conducted the diversionary tactic, driving the enemy surprised and horrified while our forces took the initiative in the campaign. With the success in conducting a diversion, only one unit contained a large number of enemy troops in the Northern Central Highlands while our major regular force launched large operations in the South Central Highlands.

Third, the Campaign Command concentrated the force to gain an advantage of force over the enemy in the main attacking direction and the main target. In fact, our force overrode the enemy in numbers in the battles in the Southern Central Highlands. In the battle of Buon Ma Thuot, the number of our troops was five times larger than the enemy so our forces could encircle, cut and separate the enemy force, creating good opportunity to annihilate each enemy group. As a results, enemy units could not sustain and the enemy defensive line was quickly destroyed.

Fourth, the remarkable success of our forces in the campaign was organizing various operations in a flexible and creative manner, including cutting off the enemy’s transportation routes, attacking the enemy’s headquarters in urban hubs, bases, attacking the enemy’s counteroffensives and raiding fleeing enemies. Regarding military tactics, our forces used a number of tactics in each battle and the entire campaign in accordance with the situation. Particularly, the Campaign Command decided to use one unit to carry out a diversion in Northern Central Highlands to draw the enemy’s force to the North and concentrate our force on attacking the enemy in the South of the Central Highlands. During operations, our forces also conducted a number of tactics, including laying sieges to enemy units and bases, separating and wiping out single enemy entrenched fortifications, combining between the use of task force units to thrust into the enemy’s position and the joint force operations in order to attack the enemy from inside and outside at the same time, drawing enemy troops out of entrenched fortifications to annihilate them (in the battle against enemy Division 23), and preparing force to raid the fleeing enemies on Road 7.

The victory indeed created a fundamental change in the force scale and strategic posture in favor of our side while leading the enemy to a strategic meltdown in the entire South. After the campaign, the enemy completely lost the initiative in the battlefield. All of the factors opened a good opportunity for our side to continue large-scale offensives across the South and finally conduct the General Offensive and Uprising in the 1975 Spring successfully.

Written by Duong Dinh Lap

Translated by Thu Nguyen