PANO - As our side gained more advantages in the war against the US invaders, the Politburo had a meeting in December 1967 and issued a resolution, which was later passed by the 14th Meeting of the Party Central Committee of the 3rd tenure. The resolution heightened the determination: “Turning the revolutionary struggle of our Southern people into a new stage, a stage of attacking enemies and rising up to achieve decisive victories” in the 1968 Lunar New Year Festival. The resolution also defined the Southeast of the South and Saigon as the main battlefield, and Road 9-Tri Thien and Hue-Da Nang as the secondary battlefield.

Implementing the resolution, in late 1967, the Politburo decided to launch a large-scale joint force operation attacking the enemy’s firm defensive line in Road 9-Khe Sanh, in order to attract more enemy regular forces, particularly mobile US troops, to the Road 9 area to besiege, confine and decimate enemy troops there, creating favorable for our military force and people in major cities, especially Saigon, Hue and Da Nang to conduct the General Offensive and Uprising during the 1968 Lunar New Year Festival.

Road 9-Khe Sanh Campaign. Photo: Archived photo

The campaign led by Tran Quy Hai as the commander and Le Quang Dao as the political commissar. Our participating force included four infantry division 304, 320, 325 and 324; two regiments 27 and 270; two local battalions; five artillery regiments 45, 84, 164, 204 and 675; three anti-air artillery 128, 282 and 241; one commando battalion and five commando companies; one PT76 tank battalion; one communication battalion; one Dragon’s breath company; one reconnaissance battalion; one chemical battalion; one engineering regiment and two engineering battalions; and local force (amid the operation, Division 325 and a majority of Division 324 were sent to another battlefield and Division 308 and Regiment 246 were substituted).

The enemy force stationed in the area had some 45,000 troops, including 28,000 US troops of three reinforced regiments of US Marine Division 3 and Airborne Cavalry Division 1 from April 1968, nine artillery battalions,  three armored battalions and one company, one Lao anti-revolutionary battalion. The enemy units were deployed in three directions: the East, center and West, stretching from Cua Viet to the border between Vietnam and Laos, of which Khe Sanh was considered the center of gravity.

The campaign was divided into 4 phases. In the first phase from January 20th to February 7th, out forces assaulted and took over the district hub of Huong Hoa; defeated the entrenched fortifications of Huoi San, Lang Vay and occupied the section of Road 9 from Ca Tu to the Vietnam-Laos border. In the second phase from February 10th to March 31st, our forces besieged and attacked the entrenched fortification of Ta Con for 50 days, annihilating many enemy troops; encircled Con Tien; and conducted several battles in the East of Road 1. In the third phase (from April 1st to May 7th), our forces ambushed and attacked enemy reinforcements; conducted counterattacks against enemy forces in Lang Khoai, Cu Boc, heights 698 and 622; cut off enemy communications along Road 9; defeated many enemy counteroffensives across the battlefield; defeated the enemy operations of “Ngua Bay” (Flying Horse) and “Lam Son 207”, freeing Khe Sanh. In the fourth phase (from May 8th to July 15th), our forces assaulted the enemies on Height 553, Lang Khoai (Khoai Hamlet), Lang Gia (Gia Hamlet), consolidated the besiege of Ta Con base, and drove the enemy forces from Khe Sanh, concluding the campaign.

The results of the campaign were reported that 11,900 enemy troops, including many US troops were put out of action; 197 aircraft were shot down; 80 cargo vessels were sank or damaged; 78 vehicles (8 tanks), 46 cannons and mortars were destroyed. Moreover, our forces controlled Road 9 and Huong Hoa district with some 10,000 people, cleared the corridor of the North-South strategic transportation route.

The campaign marked a big development of our military in terms of joint force operations on a large scale, and flexibility in using tactics in operations.

Regarding the military arts, our military force concentrated a large number of troops to fight enemies in two directions for the first time in a campaign in the South Battlefield. In the main direction, the command used two infantry divisions, one local company, two artillery  regiments, one anti-air artillery regiment, one tank battalion and several units of engineering, reconnaissance and signal to attack the district hubs of Huong Hoa and Huoi San; besieged the entrenched fortification of Lang Vay; decimated enemy reinforcements; and contained the enemy in Ta Con station. In the secondary direction, the Campaign Command used two infantry divisions, one infantry regiment, three artillery regiments; one A12 propelled artillery, two anti-air artillery regiments, one battalion and two companies of commando, one tank battalion, one battalion and two companies of local force, and units of reconnaissance and signal to assault enemies protecting Road 75, encircled enemy bases of Con Tien, Doc Mieu and so on. The remaining force was directly led by the Campaign Command to support the attacking directions, wiped out enemy entrenched fortifications in the area and decimated enemy reinforcements.

At the same time, our forces used flexible operations, especially containing the enemies in bases and annihilating enemy reinforcements. Our forces also moved from infantry operations to joint force operations and focused on fighting moving enemies in combination with encircling and wiping enemies in bases. Our forces launched attacks on enemies in trenches only when they found it necessary and were sure to win the battle. Noticeably, the Campaign Command focused forces on continuously attacking enemy defensive lines by conducting joint force operations to break down single locations from outside to inside. In the Lang Vay battle, our forces used powerful combined forces for the first time, particularly artillery and tank. In the battle, our tanks launched secret and surprise attacks on enemies. What is more, our forces contained enemies in the entrenched fortification of Ta Con, creating great pressure on the base and forcing the enemy to send reinforcements, an opportunity for our forces to annihilate them.

Next, under the leadership of the Campaign Command, our forces in different directions  closely coordinated with each other in concentrating forces on destroying the enemy defensive system, intensifying the blockage of enemy bases, forcing them to send reinforcements to the locations that our forces had chosen to conduct operations. Further, our forces made full use of natural terrains to decimate enemies and their vehicles.

After 177 days and nights attacking, besieging and fighting enemy reinforcements, our forces gained great victory. More importantly, our forces drew a major part of US mobile troops to the Road 9-Khe Sanh area and contained them there, creating favorable conditions for our army and people in the South to succeed in the General Offensive and Uprising in the 1968 Lunar New Year Festival. Finally, our forces disabled a large number of enemy troops, including US troops, and forced them to withdraw from the area.

Written by Duong Dinh Lap

Translated by Thu Nguyen