The victory in the first battle of the air defense troops also left invaluable lessons, of which the most remarkable one is the art of employing combined arms in air defense operations.

To prepare for the war of destruction against North Vietnam then, from February 1964, U.S. air force used recce aircraft and paratroops to intrude the territory of North Vietnam from the sea so as to sabotage coastal economic and military facilities. At the beginning of April 1964, with the plan to air-raid 94 targets in the North, the U.S. “invented” the Gulf of Tonkin incident to legalize its war of destruction.


The 88mm guns of Air Defense Battalion 217 of Air Defense Regiment 240 of the Air Defense - Air Force Service contribute to the victory of the air defense troops' first battle on August 5, 1954. (A file photo)

Closely following the developments and learning the plot as well as activities in preparation for the war of destruction of the U.S. troops, in June 1964, the Politburo issued a resolution on enhancing combat capabilities and staying ready to foil the plot of the U.S. invaders. Party committees and governments of localities were to enhance their civil air defense alert and strengthen air defense capabilities with the air defense and naval troops playing the core role in safeguarding important areas and facilities. In mid-1964, all preparations were made and the whole people and military of North Vietnam were ready to enter a war to fight back the enemy.

Understanding the enemy’s plots and tricks clearly and identifying the areas and targets they would attack were very important in the art of air defense warfare. At the end of July 1964, as the enemy enhanced its use of recce aircraft and paratroops to raid Hang Bridge in Thanh Hoa province, Dong Hoi water plant in Quang Binh province, Hon Me Island in Thanh Hoa province, and Hon Ngu in Nghe An province, the General Staff of the Vietnam People’s Army directed the Air Defense - Air Force Service and the Naval Service to heighten combat readiness, especially in coastal areas expected to be attacked by the enemy such as Gianh River port in Quang Binh province, Cua Hoi and Vinh - Ben Thuy in Nghe An province, Lach Truong in Thanh Hoa province and Bai Chay in Quang Ninh province.

As directed, the Air Defense - Air Force Service assigned Air Defense Regiment 280 to safeguarding Vinh city in Nghe An province, Air Defense Battalion 217 of Air Defense Regiment 240 to defending Hon Gai - Cam Pha Industrial Park in Quang Ninh province, anti-aircraft squads to guarding radar stations, military bases and warehouses, ready to coordinate with the air defense forces of the Navy, armed forces and the militia in those localities to fight the enemy. The air defense forces in areas identified as likely to be attacked heightened their combat readiness status.

Carefully prepared, the air defense forces in all areas made good and effective use of combined-arms operations in fighting enemy aircraft. The opening battle took place at Cua Hoi - Vinh at 12:30 on August 5, 1964. Air Defense Regiment 280 coordinated closely with the ships of Detachments 5 and 7 of the Navy, the air defense force on Hon Ngu Island and the local militia and self-defense forces and units in neighboring areas to resolutely and courageously fight against the enemy.

At Gianh River port, ships of the two naval detachments cooperated with air defense batteries on both banks of the Gianh River and the self-defense force of the Gianh River fishing ground, armed police (now border guard) stations and the militia forces of some communes in the two districts of Quang Trach and Bo Trach of Quang Binh province to intercept the enemy aircraft and prevent their bombardment.

Ships of Naval Detachment 2 then coordinated with the militia forces of Hau Loc and Hoang Hoa districts, the self-defense troops of Lach Truong fishing ground in Thanh Hoa province, Armed Police Station 74 and Radar Station 19 to bravely fight in Lach Truong battlefield. Meanwhile, Air Defense Battalion 217 cooperated with the anti-aircraft artillery force of the Patrol and Prevention Zone 1, naval troops, the self-defense force of factories and mines to continuously fight against the enemy aircraft intruding Bai Chay. Thanks to the close and flexible coordination among forces, the battle, lasting from 12:30 to 17:00 on August 5, 1964, ended with victory for the Vietnamese troops. Eight U.S. aircraft were gunned down while some other were heavily damaged with pilots captured alive. The “Operation Pierce Arrow” went bankrupt, stunning the U.S. authorities.

The victory of the first battle demonstrated the development of the art of air defense warfare, with the highlight being studying and grasping the enemy’s plots and tricks, the accurate identification of areas and facilities that the enemy would raid and the close and effective coordination among combat arms. The lessons learnt from the victory of the first battle of the air defense troops were then developed by the Vietnamese military and people to new heights in the war of destruction of the U.S. invaders against the North.

Translated by Huu Duong