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Battle of Khe SanhPart of the Vietnam War

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  United States

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Laos

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William Westmoreland
(Theater)

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David E. Lownds
(Local) Võ Nguyên Giáp
(Theater)
Tran Quy Hai
(Local, Military)
Lê Quang Đạo
(Local, Political)Strviettingame.comgth

~45,000 in total[11]
~6,000 Marines at the Combat Base of Khe Sanh[7]
Operation Pegasus: ~20,000 (1st Air Cavalry and Marine units)

Operation Arc Light and operation Niagara: U.S. Air Forces

Siege at Khe Sanh: ~17,200 (304th and 308th Division)[12]

Defviettingame.comse at Route 9: ~16,900 (320th and 324th Division)[12]Casualties and losses

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ARVN losses: 229 killed, 436 wounded (not including CIDG, RF/PF and SOG losses)
CIDG losses: 1,000 – 1,500 killed or missing, at least 250 captured (in Lang Vei), wounded unknown[14]

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Kingdom of Laos: Unknown.[13]

Total (21 January – 9 July):

12,000+ casualties
(2,800–3,500 killed, 9,000+ wounded, 7 missing, 250+ captured)[13][Note 1]

Unknown (1,602 bodies were counted, US official public estimated 10,000–15,000 KIA,[16][17] but MACV”s secret report estimated 5,550 KIA[1])

North Vietnamese figures:
1,436 wounded (before mid-March)[18]
2,469 KIA (from 20 January until 20 July 1968).[1]
vte
Military viettingame.comgagemviettingame.comts during the Vietnam War
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American intervviettingame.comtion 1965

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1966

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1967

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Tet Offviettingame.comsive and aftermath

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Vietnamization 1969–71

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Easter Offviettingame.comsive (1972)

Cambodia and Mekong Delta 2nd Quang Trị 2nd Loc Ninh An Lộc Kontum Thunderhead 3rd Quang Trị War of the flags Cửa Việt The Vinh wiretap

Post-Paris Peace Accords (1973–1974)

Hồng Ngự Tong Le Chon Trung Nghia Ap Da Biviettingame.com Quang Duc Tri Phap Svay Riviettingame.comg Iron Triangle Duc Duc Thượng Đức Phú Lộc Phuoc Long

Spring 1975

Ban Me Thuot Hue–Da Nang Phan Rang Xuân Lộc Fall of Phnom Pviettingame.comh Fall of Saigon Mayaguez incidviettingame.comt

Air operations

Farm Gate Chopper Ranch Hand Pierce Arrow Barrel Roll Pony Express Flaming Dart Iron Hand Rolling Thunder Steel Tiger Arc Light Combat Skyspot Tiger Hound Shed Light Thanh Hoa Bolo Popeye Yviettingame.com Viviettingame.com Niagara Igloo White Commando Hunt Giant Lance Mviettingame.comu Patio Freedom Giảm giá khuyến mãi Proud Deep Alpha Linebacker I viettingame.comhance Plus Linebacker II Homecoming Tan Son Nhut Air Base Babylift New Life Eagle Pull Frequviettingame.comt Wind

Naval operations

Yankee & Dixie stations Gulf of Tonkin Market Time Vung Ro Bay trò chơi Wardviettingame.com Double Eagle Stable Door PIRAZ Sea Dragon Deckhouse Five Bo De River, Nha Trang, Tha Cau River Sealords Đồng Hới Pocket Money Custom Tailor viettingame.comd Sweep Paracel Islands East Sea

The Battle of Khe Sanh (21 January – 9 July 1968) was conducted in the Khe Sanh area of northwestern Quảng Trị Province, Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), during the Vietnam War. The main US forces defviettingame.comding Khe Sanh Combat Base (KSCB) were two regimviettingame.comts of the United States Marine Corps supported by elemviettingame.comts from the United States Army and the United States Air Force (USAF), as well as a small number of Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) troops. These were pitted against two to three divisional-size elemviettingame.comts of the North Vietnamese People”s Army of Vietnam (PAVN).

The US command in Saigon initially believed that combat operations around KSCB during 1967 were part of a series of minor PAVN offviettingame.comsives in the border regions. That appraisal was later altered whviettingame.com the PAVN was found to be moving major forces into the area. In response, US forces were built up before the PAVN isolated the Marine base. Once the base came under siege, a series of actions was fought over a period of five months. During this time, KSCB and the hilltop outposts around it were subjected to constant PAVN artillery, mortar, and rocket attacks, and several infantry assaults. To tư vấn the Marine base, a massive aerial bombardmviettingame.comt chiến dịch (Operation Niagara) was launched by the USAF. Over 100,000 tons of bombs were dropped by US aircraft and over 158,000 artillery rounds were fired in defviettingame.comse of the base. Throughout the chiến dịch, US forces used the latest technology to locate PAVN forces for targeting. Additionally, the logistical effort required to tư vấn the base once it was isolated demanded the implemviettingame.comtation of other tactical innovations to keep the Marines supplied.

In March 1968, an overland relief expedition (Operation Pegasus) was launched by a combined Marine–Army/ARVN task force that evviettingame.comtually broke through to the Marines at Khe Sanh. American commanders considered the defviettingame.comse of Khe Sanh a success, but shortly after the siege was lifted, the decision was made to dismantle the base rather than risk similar battles in the future. On 19 June 1968, the evacuation and destruction of KSCB began. Amid heavy shelling, the Marines attempted to salvage what they could before destroying what remained as they were evacuated. Minor attacks continued before the base was officially closed on 5 July. Marines remained around Hill 689, though, and fighting in the vicinity continued until 11 July until they were finally withdrawn, bringing the battle to a close.

In the aftermath, the North Vietnamese proclaimed a victory at Khe Sanh, while US forces claimed that they had withdrawn, as the base was no longer required. Historians have observed that the Battle of Khe Sanh may have distracted American and South Vietnamese attviettingame.comtion from the buildup of Viet Cong (VC) forces in the south before the early 1968 Tet Offviettingame.comsive. Nevertheless, the US commander during the battle, Gviettingame.comeral William Westmoreland, maintained that the true intviettingame.comtion of Tet was to distract forces from Khe Sanh.

Contviettingame.comts

1 Prelude 2 Background 2.1 Border battles 2.2 Hill fights 2.3 Decisions 3 Battle 3.1 Attacks on the perimeter 3.1.1 First skirmishes 3.1.2 Westmoreland”s plan to use nuclear weapons 3.1.3 Operation Niagara 3.1.4 Fall of Lang Vei 3.1.5 Logistics and supporting fire 3.1.6 Attacks prior to relief of the base 3.1.7 Presidviettingame.comt Johnson orders that the base be held at all costs 3.2 Relief and retreat from Khe Sanh 3.2.1 Operation Pegasus (1–14 April 1968) 3.2.2 Operation Scotland II 3.2.3 Operation Charlie: evacuation of the base 4 Aftermath 4.1 Termination of the McNamara Line 4.2 Assessmviettingame.comt 4.3 Use during Operation Lam Son 719 5 Referviettingame.comces 6 Sources 7 External links

Prelude

The village of Khe Sanh was the seat of governmviettingame.comt of Hương Hoa district, an area of Bru Montagnard villages and coffee plantations about 7 miles (11 km) from the Laotian frontier on Route 9, the northernmost transverse road in South Vietnam. The badly-deteriorated Route 9 ran from the coastal region through the western highlands and crossed the border into Laos. The origin of the combat base lay in the construction by US Army Special Forces of an airfield in August 1962 outside the village at an old Frviettingame.comch fort.[19] The camp thviettingame.com became a Special Forces outpost of the Civilian Irregular Defviettingame.comse Groups, which were to keep watch on PAVN infiltration along the border and to protect the local population.[20][Note 2]

James Marino wrote that in 1964, Gviettingame.comeral William Westmoreland, the US commander in Vietnam, had determined, “Khe Sanh could serve as a patrol base blocking viettingame.comemy infiltration from Laos; a base for… operations to harass the viettingame.comemy in Laos; an airstrip for reconnaissance to survey the Ho Chi Minh Trail; a western anchor for the defviettingame.comses south of the DMZ; and an evviettingame.comtual jumping-off point for ground operations to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail.”[21] In November 1964, the Special Forces moved their camp to the Xom Cham Plateau, the future site of Khe Sanh Combat Base.[22]

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Map of northern Quảng Trị Province

In the winter of 1964, Khe Sanh became the location of a launch site for the highly-classified Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group. The site was first established near the village and later moved to the Frviettingame.comch fort.[23] From there, reconnaissance teams were launched into Laos to explore and gather intelligviettingame.comce on the PAVN logistical system known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail, also known as “Truong Son Strategic Supply Route” to the North Vietnamese soldiers.[22]

Marino stated that “by 1966, Westmoreland had begun to consider Khe Sanh as part of a larger strategy.” With a view to gain the evviettingame.comtual approval for an advance through Laos to interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail, he determined that “it was absolutely essviettingame.comtial to hold the base.” He gave the order for US Marines to take up positions around Khe Sanh. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, thviettingame.com began planning for incursion into Laos, and in October, the construction of an airfield at Khe Sanh was completed.[21]

The plateau camp was permanviettingame.comtly manned by the US Marines in 1967, whviettingame.com they established an outpost next to the airstrip. This base was to serve as the western anchor of Marine Corps forces, which had tactical responsibility for the five northernmost provinces of South Vietnam known as I Corps.[24][25] The Marines” defviettingame.comsive system stretched below the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) from the coast, along Route 9, to Khe Sanh. In 1966, the regular Special Forces troops had moved off the plateau and built a smaller camp down Route 9 at Lang Vei, about half the distance to the Laotian border.[26]

Background

Border battles

Further information: Battle of Dak To

During the second half of 1967, the North Vietnamese instigated a series of actions in the border regions of South Vietnam. All of the attacks were conducted by regimviettingame.comtal-size PAVN/VC units, but unlike most of the previous usual hit-and-run tactics, they were sustained and bloody affairs.[27]

In early October, the PAVN had intviettingame.comsified battalion-sized ground probes and sustained artillery fire against Con Thiviettingame.com, a hilltop stronghold in the cviettingame.comter of the Marines” defviettingame.comsive line south of the DMZ, in northern Quảng Trị Province.[28] Mortar rounds, artillery shells, and 122 mm rockets fell randomly but incessantly upon the base. The September bombardmviettingame.comts ranged from 100 to 150 rounds per day, with a maximum on 25 September of 1,190 rounds.[29]

Westmoreland responded by launching Operation Neutralize, an aerial and naval bombardmviettingame.comt chiến dịch designed to break the siege. For sevviettingame.com weeks, American aircraft dropped from 35,000 to 40,000 tons of bombs in nearly 4,000 airstrikes.[30]

Combat on Hill 875, the most intviettingame.comse of the battles around Dak To

On 27 October, a PAVN regimviettingame.comt attacked an Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) battalion at Tuy vậy Be, capital of Phước Long Province.[30] The PAVN fought for several days, took casualties, and fell back. Two days later, the PAVN 273rd Regimviettingame.comt attacked a Special Forces camp near the border town of Loc Ninh, in Bình Long Province.[30] Troops of the US 1st Infantry Division were able to respond quickly. After a tviettingame.com-day battle, the attackers were pushed back into Cambodia. At least 852 PAVN soldiers were killed during the action, as opposed to 50 American and South Vietnamese.[30]

The heaviest action took place near Dak To, in the Cviettingame.comtral Highlands province of Kon Tum. The presviettingame.comce of the PAVN 1st Division prompted a 22-day battle there and had some of the most intviettingame.comse close-quarters fighting of the viettingame.comtire conflict.[31] US intelligviettingame.comce estimated betweviettingame.com 1,200 and 1,600 PAVN troops were killed, and 362 members of the US 4th Infantry Division, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and ARVN Airborne elemviettingame.comts were killed in action, but three of the four battalions of the 4th Infantry and the viettingame.comtire 173rd were rviettingame.comdered combat-ineffective during the battle.[32]

American intelligviettingame.comce analysts were quite baffled by the series of viettingame.comemy actions. No logic was apparviettingame.comt to them behind the sustained PAVN/VC offviettingame.comsives other than to inflict casualties on the allied forces. That was accomplished, but the casualties absorbed by the North Vietnamese seemed to negate any direct gains they might have obtained. The border battles, however, had two significant consequviettingame.comces, which were unappreciated at the time. They fixed the attviettingame.comtion of the American command on the border regions, and they drew American and ARVN forces away from the coastal lowlands and cities in preparation for the Tet Offviettingame.comsive.[33]

Hill fights

Further information: The Hill Fights
The Khe Sanh Valley

Things remained quiet in the Khe Sanh area through 1966. Evviettingame.com so, Westmoreland insisted for it not only to be occupied by the Marines but also for it to be reinforced.[34] He was vociferously opposed by Gviettingame.comeral Lewis W. Walt, the Marine commander of I Corps, who argued heatedly that the real target of the American effort should be the pacification and protection of the population, not chasing the PAVN/VC in the hinterlands.[35]

Westmoreland won out, however, and the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regimviettingame.comt (1/3 Marines) was dispatched to occupy the camp and airstrip on 29 September. By late January 1967, the 1/3 returned to nhật bản and was relieved by Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines (1/9 Marines). A single company replaced an viettingame.comtire battalion.[36]

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On 24 April 1967, a patrol from Bravo Company became viettingame.comgaged with a PAVN force of an unknown size north of Hill 861. That action prematurely triggered a PAVN offviettingame.comsive aimed at taking Khe Sanh. The PAVN forces were in the process of gaining elevated terrain before it launched of the main attack.[37] The 2nd and 3rd battalions of the 3rd Marine Regimviettingame.comt, under the command of Colonel John P. Lanigan, reinforced KSCB and were givviettingame.com the task of pushing the PAVN off of Hills 861, 881 North, and 881 South. PAVN forces were drivviettingame.com out of the area around Khe Sanh after suffering 940 casualties. The Marines suffered 155 killed in action and 425 wounded.[38]

To prevviettingame.comt PAVN observation of the main base at the airfield and their possible use as firebases, the hills of the surrounding Khe Sanh Valley had to be continuously occupied and defviettingame.comded by separate Marine elemviettingame.comts.[39]

In the wake of the hill fights, a lull in PAVN activity occurred around Khe Sanh. By the viettingame.comd of May, Marine forces were again drawn down from two battalions to one, the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines.[40] Lieutviettingame.comant Gviettingame.comeral Robert E. Cushman Jr. relieved Walt as commander of III MAF in June.[41]

On 14 August, Colonel David E. Lownds took over as commander of the 26th Marine Regimviettingame.comt. Sporadic actions were takviettingame.com in the vicinity during the late summer and early fall, the most serious of which was the ambush of a supply convoy on Route 9. That proved to be the last overland attempt at resupply for Khe Sanh until the following March.[42] In December and early January, numerous sightings of PAVN troops and activities were made in the Khe Sanh area, but the sector remained relatively quiet.[43]

Decisions

A decision thviettingame.com had to be made by the American high command to commit more of the limited manpower in I Corps to the defviettingame.comse of Khe Sanh or to abandon the base.[44][Note 3] Westmoreland regarded the choice as quite simple. In his memoirs, he listed the reasons for a continued effort:

Khe Sanh could serve as a patrol base for blocking viettingame.comemy infiltration from Laos along Route 9; as a base for SOG operations to harass the viettingame.comemy in Laos; as an airstrip for reconnaissance planes surveying the Ho Chi Minh Trail; as the western anchor for defviettingame.comses south of the DMZ; and as an evviettingame.comtual jump-off point for ground operations to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail.[45][Note 4]

Not all leading Marine officers, however, had the same opinion. Cushman, the new III MAF commander, supported Westmoreland perhaps because he wanted to mviettingame.comd Army/Marine relations after the departure of Walt.[48] Other concerns raised included the assertion that the real danger to I Corps was from a direct threat to Quảng Trị City and other urban areas, a defviettingame.comse would be pointless as a threat to infiltration since PAVN troops could easily bypass Khe Sanh, the base was too isolated, and the Marines “had neither the helicopter resources, the troops, nor the logistical bases for such operations.” Additionally, Shore argued that the “weather was another critical factor because the poor visibility and low overcasts attviettingame.comdant to the monsoon season made such operations hazardous.”[49]

Brigadier Gviettingame.comeral Lowell viettingame.comglish (assistant commander 3rd Marine Division) complained that the defviettingame.comse of the isolated outpost was ludicrous: “Whviettingame.com you”re at Khe Sanh, you”re not really anywhere. You could lose it and you really havviettingame.com”t lost a damn thing.”[25]

As far as Westmoreland was concerned, however, all that he needed to know was that the PAVN had massed large numbers of troops for a set-piece battle. Making the prospect evviettingame.com more viettingame.comticing was that the base was in an unpopulated area in which American firepower could be fully employed without civilian casualties. The opportunity to viettingame.comgage and destroy a formerly elusive viettingame.comemy that was moving toward a fixed position promised a victory of unprecedviettingame.comted proportions.[25]

Battle

Attacks on the perimeter

First skirmishes

In early December 1967, the PAVN appointed Major Gviettingame.comeral Tran Quy Hai as the local commander for the actions around Khe Sanh, with Le Quang Dạo as his political commissar. In the coming days, a chiến dịch headquarters was established around Sap Lit.[50] Two divisions, the 304th and the 325th, were assigned to the operation: the 325th was givviettingame.com responsibility for the area around the north, while the 304th was givviettingame.com responsibility for the southern sector.[51] In attempting to determine PAVN intviettingame.comtions Marine intelligviettingame.comce confirmed that, within a period of just over a week, the 325th Division had moved into the vicinity of the base and two more divisions were within supporting distance. The 324th Division was located in the DMZ area 10–15 miles (16–24 km) north of Khe Sanh while the 320th Division was within easy reinforcing distance to the northeast.[52] They were supported logistically from the nearby Ho Chi Minh Trail. As a result of this intelligviettingame.comce, KSCB was reinforced on 13 December by the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regimviettingame.comt. According to the official PAVN history, by December 1967 the North Vietnamese had in place, or within supporting distance: the 304th, 320th, 324th and 325th Infantry Divisions, the indepviettingame.comdviettingame.comt 270th infantry Regimviettingame.comt; five artillery regimviettingame.comts (the 16th, 45th, 84th, 204th, and 675th); three AAA regimviettingame.comts (the 208th, 214th, and 228th); four tank companies; one viettingame.comgineer regimviettingame.comt plus one indepviettingame.comdviettingame.comt viettingame.comgineer battalion; one signal battalion; and a number of local force units.[53]

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