Khe Sanh 1967-1968: Marines Battle For Vietnam’s Vital Hilltop Base (osprey Campaign 150) by Other


5157fac048b4421.jpg Author Other
Isbn 9781841768632
File size 16 MB
Year 1967
Pages 96
Language English
File format PDF
Category history


 

Khe Sanh 1967– 68 Marines battle for Vietnam’s vital hilltop base Campaign • 150 Khe Sanh 1967– 68 Marines battle for Vietnam’s vital hilltop base Gordon L Rottman • Illustrated by H Gerrard & P Dennis Series editor Lee Johnson • Consultant editor David G Chandler First published in 2005 by Osprey Publishing Midland House, West Way, Botley, Oxford OX2 0PH, UK 443 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016, USA Email: [email protected] © 2005 Osprey Publishing Ltd All rights reserved. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, electrical, chemical, mechanical, optical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Inquiries should be addressed to the Publishers. A CIP catalog record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 1 84176 863 4 Editor: Katherine Venn Design: the Black Spot Index by Alison Worthington Maps by The Map Studio 3D bird’s-eye views by The Black Spot Battlescene artwork by Peter Dennis and Howard Gerrard Originated by PPS Grasmere, Leeds, UK Printed in China through World Print Ltd. 05 06 07 08 09 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 For a catalog of all books published by Osprey please contact: NORTH AMERICA Osprey Direct, 2427 Bond Street, University Park, IL 60466, USA E-mail: [email protected] ALL OTHER REGIONS Osprey Direct UK, P.O. Box 140 Wellingborough, Northants, NN8 2FA, UK E-mail: [email protected] www.ospreypublishing.com A u t h o r ’s n o t e The author wishes to thank the following individuals for their contributions: Steve Sherman, Radix Press; Pho Hoanh (Col, Ret), 37th ARVN Ranger Battalion; Bruce B.G. Clarke (Col, Ret), Advisor, Huong Hoa District; Bruce M. Geiger, Army Composite Automatic Weapons Platoon; Dick Carey, President USMC Vietnam Tankers Assn; Robert Crabb, 2d Battalion, 26th Marines; Martin Windrow for information on Dien Bien Phu. Artists’ note Readers may care to note that the original paintings from which the color plates in this book were prepared are available for private sale. All reproduction copyright whatsoever is retained by the Publishers. All inquiries should be addressed to: Peter Dennis Fieldhead The Park Mansfield Notts NG18 2AT UK Howard Gerrard 11 Oaks Road Tenterden Kent TN30 6RD UK The Publishers regret that they can enter into no correspondence upon this matter. Metric measurements are primarily used in this book, following US Army practice since the early 1960s. Abbreviations US Marine and US Army Officer Ranks AbnDiv ARVN ASP BV33 C4 CAP CavDiv (AM) CCN CIDG CO COC CTZ DZ FOB HQ III MAF KIA KSCB LZ MACV MarDiv MAW NVA PAVN QL9 RLT SOG US USSF VC WIA (-) (+) Airborne Division Army of the Republic of Vietnam (pronounced “Are-vin”) Ammunition Supply Point (“ammunition dump”) 33d Royal Laotian Battalion plastic explosive Combined Action Program Cavalry Division (Airmobile) Command and Control North (MACV-SOG) Civilian Irregular Defense Group Commanding Officer Combat Operations Center Corps Tactical Zone drop zone (parachute) Forward Operations Base Headquarters III Marine Amphibious Force killed in action Khe Sanh Combat Base landing zone (helicopter) Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Marine Division Marine Aircraft Wing North Vietnamese Army People’s Army of Vietnam (NVA) National Route 9 (Quoc Lo 9) Regimental Landing Team Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG) United States United States Special Forces Viet Cong wounded in action reduced (elements detached from parent unit) reinforced (additional elements attached) 2dLt 1stLt Capt Maj LtCol Col BGen MajGen LtGen Gen 2nd Lieutenant 1st Lieutenant Captain Major Lieutenant Colonel Colonel Brigadier General (“one-star”) Major General (“two-star”) Lieutenant General (“three-star”) General (“four-star”) Battalions organic to US Marine and US Army regiments are designated with the battalion and regimental number, for example, 1/26 Marines or 1/7 Cavalry (if assigned to 1st Cavalry Division). Companies and batteries are designated, for example, B/1/13 – Battery B, 1st Battalion, 13th Marines. KEY TO MILITARY SYMBOLS XXXXX XXXX XXX XX X ARMY GROUP ARMY CORPS DIVISION BRIGADE 111 11 1 REGIMENT BATTALION COMPANY INFANTRY CAVALRY ARTILLERY ARMOR MOTORIZED AIRBORNE SPECIAL FORCES CONTENTS ORIGINS OF THE CAMPAIGN 7 CHRONOLOGY 23 PRELUDE 25 The Hill Battles, April–May 1967 OPPOSING PLANS 32 The North Vietnamese plan • The American plan OPPOSING COMMANDERS 39 American commanders • North Vietnamese commanders OPPOSING FORCES 42 Free World Forces • North Vietnamese Army • Orders of battle THE SIEGE 54 Isolation of Khe Sanh and opening moves • Fall of Khe Sanh village The battle begins • Fall of Lang Vei • The battle continues – Life in the V-ring Air support • Beginning of the end • Operation Pegasus • Closing Khe Sanh AFTERMATH 91 THE BATTLEFIELD TODAY 93 BIBLIOGRAPHY 94 INDEX 95 VIETNAM STRATEGIC SITUATION, 1968 C H I N A NORTH VIETNAM Re d Ri r ve Dien Bien Phu Hanoi Me GULF OF TONKIN ko ng HAINAN I. L A Vientiane O S DMZ Khe Sanh Hue TH A ILA N D SOUTH CHINA SEA CTZ I CA M B ODI A VI ET NA M CTZ II Phnom Penh CTZ III GULF S kon H N Saigon e g lta CTZ IV gD e SIAM M OF T OU Me ko n CTZ Corps Tactical Zone DMZ Demiliartized Zone 0 0 100 miles 200 km ORIGINS OF THE CAMPAIGN he campaign on the Khe Sanh plateau spanned a period of over a year and was essentially a series of interconnected battles. None of the battles was strategically decisive, but they attracted a great deal of attention as the media focused on this small, remote plateau and drew endless comparisons with the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu 12 years earlier. The press repeatedly predicted the defeat of the Marines throughout the 77-day siege of Khe Sanh Combat Base (KSCB), but the Marines took a somewhat different view – to them it was “the socalled siege.” Khe Sanh was a small village in the extreme northwest of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). It was located in Quang Tri, the northernmost province of South Vietnam whose northern border ran along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating South Vietnam from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). This area was remote, sparsely populated, and a focal point of the war effort in 1968. North Vietnamese Army (NVA) forces were infiltrating the south in ever greater numbers, escalating the war and raising the stakes. A string of US Marine Corps and Vietnamese combat bases had been established south of the DMZ to protect the population centers and the lines of communication along the coast. The Marine forces were part of III Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF), which was responsible for over 81,000 troops in January 1968. Also in the northern portion of South Vietnam was the Army of the Republic of Vietnam’s (ARVN) I Corps Tactical Zone (I CTZ). Most of the ARVN forces were concentrated on the populous coastal plain, with some deployed in the hills that stretched inland. Only a small base at Khe Sanh secured the westernmost sector, some 30 kilometers (19 miles) of rugged country stretching from the Marine combat bases at the “Rockpile” and Ca Lu to the Laotian border. Khe Sanh had only one line of communication, National Route 9 (QL9 – Quoc Lo 9) running east–west between Quang Tri Province and Laos. This “National Route” consisted in reality of a one-lane dirt road that crossed scores of streams along its route and as a result was all too easily cut by the enemy. The hills and forests that characterized northwest Quang Tri Province concealed enemy movements and the many bridges were vulnerable in the extreme and easy to destroy, with few alternative routes available through the deep gorges. To exacerbate the situation, the weather conditions predominantly favored the enemy. The North Vietnamese were taking advantage of the porous nature of the US/ARVN defenses in this remote area to infiltrate large numbers of troops and supplies into South Vietnam through Laos via the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The “Trail” was actually a network of roads and pathways running from North Vietnam south through Laos and Cambodia into the Republic of Vietnam. The heavily wooded and hilly terrain, sparse T 7 population, weak Free World forces, and natural infiltration routes put the NVA in a very strong position in this region. The battle for Khe Sanh is often depicted as purely a Marine Corps operation, but the reality was very different. US Army forces, including the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), were assigned to the defense of the KSCB alongside Marine units and were also heavily committed to relief and support operations in the area. US Army Special Forces and ARVN units were also involved and US Air Force, Marine Corps, US Navy and Vietnamese Air Force aircraft were heavily committed in the close air support, bombing, reconnaissance, resupply, and medical evacuation (medevac) roles. What about Dien Bien Phu? 8 Throughout the Khe Sanh campaign the media maintained insistent and dogmatic comparisons of Khe Sanh with the disastrous French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, with almost constant predictions that the Marine base would fall at any moment. Almost 40 percent of the stories filed in February and March 1968 dealt with Khe Sanh. While there are undoubted similarities between the two battles, a rational assessment, even without the advantages of hindsight, should have demonstrated that both tactically and strategically the two situations bore little comparison. It is clear that, as with the French at Dien Bien Phu, the US held a fortified position centered on an airfield in a remote valley, surrounded by mountainous terrain deep inside hostile territory. The Free World troops, like the French, were cut off from overland communications and relied solely on aerial resupply, making heavy demands of available air assets. Effective close air support was critical in both instances, with the enemy deployed on hills overlooking the strongholds and freely able to fire artillery into them – artillery duels were almost constant in both cases. On both occasions the defending forces lost exposed outlying positions: Strongpoint “Gabrielle” in the case of Dien Bien Phu, and Khe Sanh village and Lang Vei Special Forces Camp outside Khe Sanh Combat Base. The weather also played a major part in both operations. While the similarities were real and too obvious for the media to resist drawing comparisons, at the level of military operations, they were largely superficial. The French base at Dien Bien Phu had been much more remote from its supporting base, some 200 kilometers distant. Khe Sanh was only 45km from its support base, barely a 20-minute helicopter flight. At Dien Bien Phu the French position had been dominated by enemy-controlled hills completely surrounding the base, with much of the Viet Minh artillery within 3–5km. At Khe Sanh the Marines occupied the key hills dominating the base to a distance of as much as 7km, forcing the NVA to deploy their artillery between 9 and 13km away, although mortars were able to move in Khe Sanh Combat Base viewed from the east looking the length of the runway. The outer perimeter at the photograph’s bottom is the 37th ARVN Ranger Battalion’s line. Behind it and curving back to the left is the Marines’ Gray Sector. The Blue Sector parallels the right edge. The dark area off the right end of the road running toward the bottom of the photograph from the parking area and adjacent to the runway is ASP No. 1 (ammo dump). The FOB-3 compound is in the upper left. Many feared that Khe Sanh would be a repeat of Dien Bien Phu. Here victorious Viet Minh raise their flag over the French former command post in Strongpoint Claudine, May 8, 1954. closer. Despite possessing artillery that was lighter and of shorter range than that at Khe Sanh, the Viet Minh had more than 200 pieces of artillery, including mortars, at Dien Bien Phu; this was many more than the NVA had at its disposal around Khe Sanh. The Marines at the Combat Base had some 30 tubes at their disposal and were additionally supported by four batteries of 175mm guns further east. The French at Dien Bien Phu had no external artillery support, and of their 48 artillery pieces half were short-ranged heavy mortars, and some were lost in the first days. With the exception of the four hill positions to the north, Khe Sanh was concentrated in a 400–600 by 2,300 meter area, while the French positions at Dien Bien Phu sprawled across a 2,600 by 3,000 meter area with three large outlying strongpoints. Khe Sanh’s smaller size allowed it to be defended by a much smaller force. Dien Bien Phu was densely packed with troops and proved difficult to defend. Just 6,680 troops defended Khe Sanh, six battalions counting Forward Operations Base 3 (FOB-3) and the tiny Ranger battalion, of which three were defending the hill outposts. Dien Bien Phu held 16,500 troops, 19 infantry battalions (including later parachute-delivered reinforcements), making supply extremely difficult. The French needed 150 tons of aerial resupply per day requiring 80 transport aircraft sorties. On average they delivered 117–123 tons, of which 100 were usable. They had only 75 combat aircraft and 100 transports and reconnaissance aircraft available, and the French C-47s had a payload of only 4 tons, while US C-130Es and C-123Ks carried 13 and 5 tons respectively. When the French fought at Dien Bien Phu there were 54 helicopters in all of French Indochina; the US had over 3,300 in 1967–68. A total of 9,109 Marine helicopter sorties transported 14,562 passengers and 4,661 tons of cargo to Khe Sanh, while Air Force transports delivered over 14,000 tons of cargo. The French conducted around 10,400 aircraft sorties of all types to support the 167-day siege; the US sometimes exceeded 2,500 sorties a day across South Vietnam. The French required 34,000 tons of engineering materials to completely fortify Dien Bien Phu, but the garrison received only 4,000 tons. The French were hard-pressed to maintain three days’ ammunition and 9 rations, but while there were occasional shortages Major Weapons: Khe Sanh and Dien Bien Phu at Khe Sanh, a 30-day supply was maintained. The US/French Khe Sanh Dien Bien Phu US dropped almost as much tonnage of bombs heavy mortars 7 x 4.2in 28 x 120mm (114,810 tons) at Khe Sanh in three months as B105mm howitzers 18 24 155mm howitzers 6 4 29s rained on Japan during 1945. Helicopter recoilless rifles 93 x 106mm 8–12 x 75mm support was essential as this was the only way the tanks 6 x 90mm 10 x 76mm quad .50-cal MGs 2 4 hill outposts could be supplied, replacements twin 40mm guns 2 – delivered, and casualties evacuated. French Artillery expenditure (rounds) US/French 158,900 93,000 aircraft losses included 48 shot down, 14 NVA/Viet Minh 11,114 103,000 destroyed on the ground, and 167 damaged. The US losses amounted to four transports shot down and 23 Marine fixed-wing aircraft and 123 helicopters damaged, mostly superficially. Fewer than three dozen helicopters were lost and very few attack aircraft were damaged. It proved impossible to evacuate most of the wounded from Dien Bien Phu. The US evacuated 2,000 seriously wounded from Khe Sanh and fewer than 300 lightly wounded were returned to duty. The media’s “Dien Bien Phu Syndrome” regarding Khe Sanh often dwelled on the NVA tying down 6,680 Marines. Granted, Khe Sanh required extensive air support, but this did not markedly degrade the air support necessary to defeat the Tet Offensive occurring at the same time. The media’s standpoint also failed to acknowledge that four, and later five, NVA divisions were being tied down by 6,680 Marines, troops that could have been used elsewhere to support the Tet Offensive. The NVA siege required massive logistical resources and sucked in a great deal of manpower, including transport and rear-area service troops. The amount of ammunition they expended on Khe Sanh could have been used against the many Free World combat bases along the DMZ and against populated areas. Another factor that must be considered is that the defenders of Dien Bien Phu knew within three weeks of the beginning of the siege that they were in dire straits. The defenders of Khe Sanh, the grunt Marines, 1 2 3 Cloud-shrouded hills provide the backdrop to KSCB. This is the north perimeter trench showing fighting bunkers along the trench line. The gray-green woven plastic and tan burlap sandbag parapets against the dark red soil highlight the trench outlines. The airfield is beyond the buildings and tents in the background. 10 QUANG TRI PROVINCE AND DMZ 0 10 miles 0 NORTH VIETN AM 20 km 17th Parallel N ai Gio Linh Con Thien QL1 DEMILITARIZED ZONE H B en a Cu Vie t SOUTH CHINA SEA Dong Ha Cam Lo QL9 Rockpile Camp Carroll QUANG TRI PROVINCE an Qu ri Ca Lu Khe Sanh Combat Base Quang Tri City g T Khe Sanh QL9 Lang Vei SO UT H V I E TNAM Co Roc LAOS THUA THIEN PROVINCE QL1 Hue never had a doubt they would hold and were chomping at the bit to get at the enemy with offensive operations. The French lost at least 4,000 dead or missing with over 10,000 surrendering, many of whom were wounded (figures are not always consistent or reliable because losses in the final days were not recorded). US losses at Khe Sanh were a fraction of this and are discussed in the Aftermath chapter of this book. Of the 49,500 Viet Minh troops at Dien Bien Phu, an estimated 7,900 were killed and 15,000 wounded. Te r r a i n a n d w e a t h e r Quang Tri (“Great Administration”) was South Vietnam’s most northerly province and bordered North Vietnam, its border defined by the Song (river) Ben Hai – ostensibly a demilitarized zone. With Laos lying just to the west, the area was known as the tri-border region. Stretching inland from the South China Sea coast is an approximately 30km-wide coastal plain where most of the province’s population resided and where most US and ARVN forces were deployed. Running south out of Laos is the rugged Annamite Cordillera (mountain range) which cuts through the western portion of the province, stretching some 40–50km from the Laotian border. Two narrow rivers flow east out of the Annamites, the Song Cam Lo in the north running roughly parallel with and south of the DMZ, and the Song Quang Tri further south, a tributary of which, Song Rao Quan, flows past Khe Sanh. They meet on the coastal plain just east of Dong Ha, merging into the Song Cua Viet. 11 Hill 881S from the southwest. M/3/26 Marines (-) defended the west (left) hilltop and I/3/26 the east. 881S took the worst pounding of any of the hill outposts, but never a direct infantry assault. The two predominant peaks in the background are 950, with the radio relay site, and 1015. 861 and 861A is the faint light spot below the saddle separating the two peaks. 12 The Annamites rise over 5,000ft north of Khe Sanh and 2,200ft to the west. Nestled in the mountains some 60km inland is the Khe Sanh plateau, a small triangular plateau measuring around 5–6km each side. The Laotian border is some 18km to the west and the DMZ around 30km to the north. While the distances are not great, the plateau lies in an extremely remote position, accessed along a single neglected road, National Route 9 (QL9), winding through the hills and crossing dozens of streams and rivers. The road distance between Khe Sanh and Dong Ha was 63km and was dotted with 36 bridges, many bypassed because of their dilapidated condition. From Ca Lu, 18km east-northeast of Khe Sanh, QL9 was a dirt road all the way to Laos and easily cut by enemy forces concealed in the dense terrain. At a point 2km southwest of Khe Sanh, QL9 turned into a single-lane track running southwest into Laos through Khe Sanh village. A dirt road branched off at this point to run northwest to KSCB. The major Marine base in Quang Tri was at Dong Ha, 45km to the east-northeast where QL9 connected to the north–south QL1 running south to Quang Tri City. The Marine combat bases closest to KSCB were the “Rockpile” 20km northeast and Camp “J.J. Carroll” 25km eastnortheast. Over a dozen other Marine and ARVN combat bases were scattered between Carroll and the coast, protecting the coastal plain from NVA thrusts across the DMZ. QL9, running east from Laos, and the valley of the Khe Ta Hong stream, running from the northwest from the junction of the DMZ/Laotian border, both converged on the Khe Sanh plateau and were accessible from the Ho Chi Minh Trail network in Laos. Just inside Laos and parallel with Khe Sanh along QL9 was Co Roc Mountain 13km to the southwest. This large 850m ridge served as an NVA artillery position. The Khe Sanh plateau is about 1,500ft above sea level and is generally flat, though there are low, gently rolling hills on the southern and western sides. Its northeast side is defined by the approximately 300m-deep Rao Qung gorge a few hundred meters north and east of the Khe Sanh airfield, with the narrow river itself flowing northwest to southeast. The A vertical view of 881S. North is to the upper right corner. Much of the barrier wire pattern can be discerned as well as the helicopter LZ between the two peaks. Bomb craters from earlier fighting are apparent. plateau is covered by scattered trees, brush, bamboo, 3–10ft-high elephant grass, and cultivated plots of coffee plants. On the plateau’s higher elevations double-canopy rainforest dominates, with trees up to 90ft high and the second-canopy trees growing up to 60ft. Thin underbrush makes movement easy while providing cover from aerial observation. In some lower areas the ground had once been cleared, but the jungle reclaimed it; 20–40ft trees, bamboo, and underbrush cover this area, restricting movement. The hills are moderately sloped and dome-shaped, their sides cut by finger-like ridges and gorges making cross-country movement difficult. Local tracks wind throughout the area, but the dense vegetation and broken ground provide cover and concealment from air and ground observation and fire. A ragged line of hills stretching west to east north of Khe Sanh was critical to both sides. Hill 8814 South (881S) was 7km west-northwest of KSCB. Hill 881 North (881N), a key NVA position, lay 2km north of 881S. Hills 861 and 861A were 4km to the northwest, with the two peaks separated by a 400m saddle. Hill 558 lay 4km north-northwest of KSCB, and about 1.5km east-northeast of 861A, while Hill 950 was 4.5km due north of KSCB. Just over a kilometer to the east is Hill 1015 (Dong Tri, “Tiger Tooth Mountain”), the highest peak in the immediate area. Caves pockmarked some of the limestone hills while the soil was a rich deep volcanic red. Some 3.5km south of KSCB was Khe Sanh village, which was the location of the Huong Hoa District (equivalent to a US county) Headquarters prior to the siege. Lang Vei Special Forces Camp was 9km southwest of KSCB, in an exposed position astride QL9. In September 1967 the camp was re-opened 1km further west, just over 2km from the Laotian border. Over 10,000 Vietnamese lived in the district in four villages with 12,000 Montagnards5 in a half-dozen villages. It is often argued that in warfare the weather is neutral, but it can, nevertheless, severely hamper operations dependent on good weather. Equally, poor weather conditions can be a powerful ally to a force 13 operating with limited resources and relying on undetected movement. At Khe Sanh the Marines depended heavily on favorable weather to enable them to observe and detect enemy troops and artillery, which in turn allowed these to be targeted by US ground-attack missions. The availability of air support was essential to allow air strikes, aerial surveillance, and the delivery of supplies on which the base was totally dependent. The siege of Khe Sanh took place between mid January and the beginning of April 1968, within the period of the northeast monsoon. For most of Southeast Asia, November to March brought dry winds from China, a period of little rain and clear skies. The northern area of South Vietnam was an exception to this general rule, as the dry winds from China collected moisture as they passed over the South China Sea. This in turn resulted in rain as the winds crossed the highlands of South Vietnam. Rather than the dry season experienced in the rest of the region, this part of Vietnam essentially had a year-round wet season. The weather on the Khe Sanh plateau and surrounding area was characterized by low clouds, fog, overcast skies, and sporadic light rains. Annual rainfall was 80in, most of it falling during the northeast monsoon. The heavy rain was accompanied by a weather phenomenon known as the crachin, in which dense 3,000–5,000ft-thick cloud formations reach as low as 500ft, reducing visibility to less than half a mile. Lasting from three to five days with light rain, these periods all but precluded close air support and aerial resupply. The cloud and fog at Khe Sanh was heavier than usual during the siege. Cloud cover extended to below 2,000ft on more than half the mornings, with visibility less than 2 miles. By early afternoon the cloud would normally lift to around 3,000ft. What the US had not appreciated was that the base itself affected the weather. Fog formed at night as the ground cooled, with the highhumidity air condensing and clouds settling on the hills and plateau. Warmer air in the Rao Qung gorge rose as the higher ground cooled and added to the fog as it condensed. At sunrise, rather than the fog burning off as was typical, the airfield’s aluminum matting and surrounding bare ground warmed rapidly, drawing the now nightcooled air up from lower ground to condense and create dense morning fog over the base. The fog sometimes lifted or burned off in the late morning or early afternoon, but by late afternoon or early evening would begin forming once more as the runway cooled, again leading the moist monsoon air to condense. KSCB was itself a “fog factory.” Seldom was there any more than six hours of clear sky, and even then visibility was less than 5 miles. Although not actually cold, the base could be damp and chilly, with drizzle sometimes lasting for days. Afternoons were, by contrast, often hot and humid. Khe Sanh Combat Base 14 ARVN engineers had built a dirt airstrip north of Khe Sanh village in September 1962, making it the most northwestern airfield in South Vietnam (designated VA1-44). A radio relay site (Lemon Tree) had been established on Hill 950 in late 1964, protected by a rifle platoon – the first Marine combat unit deployed to Vietnam. In September 1966, Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 10 Seabees improved the 1,500ft runway, extending it to 3,300ft and adding steel planking to allow cargo aircraft KHE SANH COMBAT BASE 516 881N Dong Tri 950 1015 558 861A 861 881S 700 758 DZ Rock quarry KSCB FO 564 (aka 64) B3 689 552 QL9 471 Old French Fort 527 QL9 N Khe Sanh District HQ Village Rice paddy Forest with scattered bamboo QL9 New Lang Vei SF Camp Other areas are brush and elephant grass Elevations in meters Old Lang Vei SF Camp 0 0 1 mile 1 km to use it. A Marine battalion occupied the airfield in October 1966, and in December 1966 the Special Forces camp (established there in July 1962 on the south central part of the strip) was relocated to Lang Vei, 9km to the southwest. Six different A-teams6 occupied the camp on six-month rotating tours until A-101 became the permanent resident team in December 1966. From February 1967, only a single Marine company (E/2/9) garrisoned the Khe Sanh airfield until the April–May 15 Hill 861A, the lower near portion, and 861 were defended by E/2/26 and K/3/26 with two platoons A/1/26, respectively. The clear light spot between the two main positions is a helicopter LZ. The NVA attacks of January 21 and February 6 came up the wooded slope to the right. A thousand troops of 2/26 Marines (-) were dug-in around Hill 558 blocking the Rao Qung gorge (upper right) and a dirt road (cutting diagonally through the perimeter) approaching KSCB from the northwest. The actual Hill 558 is in the upper left. The irregular light areas are cleared swatches around the perimeter. 16 1967 Hill Battles. At that time KSCB bore only a passing resemblance to the fortified complex it became during the siege. As action increased in the area, the Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Unit 301 improved the airfield, on which the matting had buckled during the monsoon rains. They established a rock quarry one mile to the southwest, and closed the airfield on August 17, 1967. They pulled up the pierced steel planking, extended the runway to 3,895ft, laid an asphalt-bonded, crushed-rock foundation, installed 3,000 new panels of AM2 matting, and re-opened the airfield on October 27. Resupply during this period was carried out by airdrop, helicopter, and C-7A Caribous landing on short runway sections. KSCB presented a worn, battered, cluttered appearance. Constant shelling, ongoing construction projects and repairs, haphazardly stacked materials and supplies, damaged vehicles, aircraft wreckage, piles of expended artillery cartridges, ammunition boxes, and tubes and packaging littered the base. Anything that could be used for construction materials – wooden ammunition boxes, pallets, fuel drums – were quickly put to use. Hundreds of radio antennae were scattered across the base, many of them dummies even erected over latrines in an attempt to provide a multitude of potential targets to frustrate the enemy. Miles of field telephone wire snaked through the trenches of the base. When the base was first established a single coil of concertina wire protected the perimeter, and brush and elephant grass left poor fields of observation and fire. The barrier was upgraded and by the time of the siege it presented a formidable obstacle. Beyond hand-grenade range of the trench line was a double row of concertina razor wire7 with a third stacked on top making the barrier 6ft high. Beyond this fougasse flame weapons8 were buried at intervals, along with command-detonated M18A1 Claymore antipersonnel mines. Next was a double-apron barrier, a multi-strand barbed-wire fence with anchor wires in a “V” pattern on both sides. Across the anchor wires were placed horizontal strands creating sloping barriers – the aprons. In some sectors another double- or single-apron fence might be erected even further out. Between the barriers was strung “tanglefoot” – barbed wire set horizontally in crisscross patterns 1ft above the ground, designed to slow attackers. There were wide, clear strips between the barriers and tanglefoot. These areas were often planted with M16A1 (“bouncing betty”) and M14 (“toe-popper” or “shoe polish can”) antipersonnel mines as well as some M15 and M19 antitank mines. Apparently abandoned, partly used barbed-wire spools and barbed-wire pickets were left among the barriers for NVA sappers to recover. These were booby-trapped with grenades. Tripwire-activated flares were also emplaced in the barriers. These burned for about a minute, illuminating an area of 300 square meters. There were protected zigzag routes through the barriers, allowing patrols to pass through. Recovering supply pallets that had missed their target or enemy dead from within the barriers was a dangerous assignment. The barriers were difficult to maintain, with breaches caused by artillery and mortars having to be repaired, additional barriers added in some sectors, and grass burned off. The protective barriers around the various hilltop positions were not as extensive as those at KSCB; they would often consist of just one or two belts of single or double concertina wire, and it was almost impossible to clear all the vegetation. Mines and booby traps gave additional protection to these positions. Trenches within the base varied, but were 4–6ft deep, 1–2ft wide at the bottom, and 2–3ft wide at the top. The soil was sufficiently stable that few of the trench sections required strengthening with sandbags. The spoil from the trench was heaped to either side and the parapet raised with between one and three layers of sandbags, usually laid with their long edge perpendicular to the trench. Rain and the coming and going of personnel soon smoothed out the parapets, blending them into the surrounding ground. The trenches were not zigzagged or dug to any geometric pattern; rather they could more accurately be described as “winding.” At 30–50ft intervals shelters were erected to provide instant access to cover from enemy barrages. These shelters were constructed by building a three-sandbag-high, three-sandbag-thick wall on the trench front. A speed pallet or runway matting panels 9 were laid over the trench, sloping towards the rear, and two or three layers of sandbags stacked on top. Sometimes a firing port was provided. 17 L/3/26 DROP ZONE 33 30 C N L/3/26 27 18 31 32 23 28 19 24 RED SECTOR 11 16 29 26 20 25 21 ROCK QUARRY 22 FOB-3 15 12 14 13 9 34 B/1/26 TA CON VILLAGE 10 GRAY SECTOR LEGEND 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 18 40mm/.50-cal position ASP No. 1 C/1/13 Marines (105mm) 1/26 Marines COC USAF Forward Operating Location Reconnaissance units Airfield control tower Base Exchange and Post Office 26th Marines COC Garbage dump Additional helicopter parking 301st Seabees Logistics Support Unit Charlie Med Graves registration Aircraft parking area Water point Helicopter revetments Air freight Motor pool ASP No. 2 Ponderosa (old Khe Sanh SF camp) 3d Engineer elements A/1/13 Marines (105mm) Mortar/1/13 Marines (4.2in) FOB-3 command bunker Tank and Ontos laager 1st Prov Battery (155mm) 1/13 Marines CP H&S Co, 3/26 Marines 3/16 Marines COC FOB-3 helicopter LZ 40mm/.50-cal position 3d Plat, Co O, CAP TO QL9 KHE SANH COMBAT BASE, EARLY FEBRUARY 1968 KSCB’s key facilities, defense sectors, perimeter defense and tenant units are indicated on the view of the base during the early phase of the siege. Unit locations remained static throughout the siege. Note: Gridlines are marked at 250m/273yds C/1/26 17 BLUE SECTOR 11 7 12 8 6 4 9 5 A/1/26 10 B/1/26 2 OR 37TH RGR BTN 3 1 19 20 Fighting bunkers were more robustly constructed; an 8 x 8ft pit was dug and the interior sometimes revetted with sandbags. The walls above ground were typically three sandbags thick. If the fighting bunker was one of those protecting the perimeter, a firing port was built in. To provide additional support, timbers (6 x 6in) were placed in each corner, with a fifth in the center. A speed pallet or runway matting served as the roof, with two or three layers of sandbags stacked on top. This sort of bunker provided basic protection from 82mm mortars. U-shaped barbed-wire picket posts were often used as horizontal roof supports, and layers of packed earth and additional layers of sandbags were added along with plastic sheeting to provide a degree of waterproofing. Used 105mm howitzer and 106mm recoilless rifle cartridges were driven into the earth and into sandbag cover overhead with their rims touching, in order to detonate shells before they penetrated the bunker. Engineers with power tools could construct a bunker like this in three or four days; infantrymen needed a couple of days more. Combat operations centers, fire-control centers, and other key facilities were housed in bunkers with at least twice the normal thickness of overhead cover. They would, nevertheless, often be destroyed if the enemy scored a direct hit with a 120mm mortar, 122mm rocket, 130mm or 152mm gun, particularly if the ordnance was fitted with a delay fuse. Some key bunkers had an additional outer blast wall, three-sandbagthick, built a couple of feet from the bunker wall itself. Slit trenches were sometimes dug inside the bunker as additional protection should the bunker collapse – a common occurrence. Wooden ammunition boxes were filled with earth and stacked as revetments. Black fiberboard ammunition packing tubes and steel 155mm propellant bag tubes were also filled with earth and used as revetments, held in place by barbedwire pickets, while 55-gallon fuel drums, again filled with earth, served as bunker walls. Some tents and wood-frame barracks had been erected previously, the latter roofed with corrugated sheet metal, but these were mostly destroyed and their materials salvaged. Building materials were sometimes in such short supply that guards had to be posted at night to prevent pilfering. Critics complained that the Marines at Khe Sanh failed to entrench with sufficient thoroughness, blaming this deficiency on their normal role as assault troops and a natural aversion to defensive operations. Although this was undoubtedly true to a degree, this judgment was largely based on the observations of reporters who visited the base prior to the siege and during the build-up. The original garrison was a single battalion and the fortifications reflected this. More units poured in during the build-up but it took time to construct their positions, a situation often exacerbated by the slow arrival of materials, with ammunition and rations taking priority. Lumber in particular was in short supply and attempts to cut down local trees proved futile as they were so peppered by fragments from earlier fighting they damaged the chainsaws. C4 plastic explosive was used to fell trees to clear fields of fire and these were used for bunker materials, but there was a limit on how much C4 could be expended in this way. The wood had not been seasoned, and as such rotted quickly and fell prey to termites. The Marines dug feverishly and continued to improve positions during the siege, with deeper trenches and thicker overhead cover.

Author Other Isbn 9781841768632 File size 16 MB Year 1967 Pages 96 Language English File format PDF Category History Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare Khe Sanh was a small village in northwest South Vietnam that sat astride key North Vietnamese infiltration routes. In September 1966 of the Vietnam War (1955-1975), a Marine battalion deployed into the area. Action gradually increased as the NVA attempted to destroy Free World Forces bases, and the siege of Khe Sanh proper began in October 1967. The bitter fight lasted into July 1968 when, with the changing strategic and tactical situation, the base was finally closed. This book details the siege and explains how, although the NVA successfully overran a Special Forces camp nearby, it was unable to drive US forces from Khe Sanh.     Download (16 MB) Tradition, Revolution, And Market Economy In A North Vietnamese Village, 1925-2006 The Vietnam War: From Da Nang To Saigon (the United States At War) Con Thien: The Hill of Angels Inside An Loc : The Battle to Save Saigon, April-May 1972 Us Navy F-4 Phantom Ii Mig Killers 1965-1970 (osprey Combat Aircraft 26) Load more posts

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