320th Division (Vietnam)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
320th Division
Active 1951-present
Allegiance  Vietnam
Branch Vietnam People's Army
Type Infantry
Size Division
Nickname Đồng Bằng (Delta)
Engagements First Indochina War
Battle of the Day River
Operation Bretagne
Operation Mouette
Operation Castor
Vietnam War
Operation Kentucky
Operation Lancaster
Battle of Khe Sanh
Easter Offensive
Battle of Kontum

The 320th Division or Đồng Bằng Division (Vietnamese: Sư đoàn Đồng Bằng, Delta Division) is a formation and one of the six original "Steel and Iron Divisions" of the Vietnam People's Army. It was established in January 1951.[1]:149

First Indochina War[edit]

The 320th Division was the target of Operation Mouette, launched on 15 October 1953, with the aim "to fix and destroy a major element of the Chu Luc before Giáp could deploy it."[2] The route for the Viet-Minh between Thanh Hoa and the Delta contained a crossroads at Lai Cac which was targeted by the operation. Seven Mobile Groups (Groupes Mobiles) were deployed with river and amphibious units; tank units (largely the M24 Chaffee); half-tracks and paratroopers at designated landing sites, after counter-intelligence mislead the Viet-Minh into defending the wrong locations.[2] GM 2 and GM 3 took Lai Cac and established a camp. The night of 18 October saw heavy counterattacks, which the French resisted. The 13th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade held out all night against one enemy battalion. This initial action was followed by two weeks of probing by GM 4 and paratrooper units. These columns fought major engagements in the surrounding countryside against the 320th, particularly on 2 November. The French withdrew overnight on 6-7 November.[3] The French claimed over 1,000 enemy killed and 2,500 wounded, while 182 were captured, along with "500 infantry weapons, plus 100 bazookas and recoilless guns and 3,000 mines."[3] Windrow notes that this would amount to one third of the 320th Division.

Regiment 48 of the 320th was stationed at Điện Biên Phủ when the French launched Operation Castor, however after some small skirmishes the Viet Minh abandoned the valley rather than engaging the French paratroops.[4]

In late December 1953 General Giáp ordered the 320th Division to infiltrate into the Red River Delta and assist Viet Minh local regiments to increase the pressure on the French in this region while he concentrated his forces for the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.[5]

Vietnam War[edit]

On 23 August 1965, the VPA General Staff ordered the division to split into 320A Division and 320B Division[citation needed]. Later in 1967, 320A (later renamed 320) moved to fight in the front in South Vietnam while 320B (later renamed 390) remained in Hanoi and became a training division[citation needed].

On 1 November 1967, the Marines launched Operation Kentucky as part of the continuing operations to secure the DMZ around Con Thien. The operation concluded on 28 February 1969, the 320th and 324th Division lost a total of 3839 killed and 117 captured while the Marines lost 520 killed and 2698 wounded.[6]

The 320th played a supporting role in the Battle of Khe Sanh, largely tasked with keeping Route 9 from Ca Lu to the Khe Sanh Combat Base closed.[7] On 24 January 1968 elements of the 320th ambushed a Marine "Rough Rider" convoy between Dong Ha and Camp Carroll and then ambushed the relief force from the 2nd Battalion 9th Marines killing 9 Marines.[8] The subsequent Marine clearing operation, including the "Battle of Mike's Hill", lasted until 29 January and resulted in 21 Marines killed and 130 NVA killed and 6 taken prisoner.[9]

In early March 1968 following an action at Mai Xa Thi, prisoners revealed that the 320th was moving into the Cua Viet region to replace the 803rd Regiment which was moving further south into Thua Thien Province.[10]

On 29 April the 320th attacked An Binh, north of Đông Hà, this drew two Battalions of the ARVN 2nd Regiment into a running battle and the 1st Battalion 9th Marines was sent into support the ARVN resulting in a 7 hour long battle that left 11 Marines, 17 ARVN and over 150 NVA dead.[11] The following day the 3rd Battalion 9th Marines arrived to support the Marine/ARVN force and was ambushed north of Cam Vu, 20 Marines and 41 NVA were killed.[12] Also on 30 April, an NVA unit opened fire on a US Navy Clearwater patrol from entrenched positions near Dai Do, 2.5km northeast of Đông Hà. It was later discovered that four NVA Battalions including the 48th and 56th from the 320th had established themselves at Dai Do.[13] The battle at Dai Do lasted until 3 May and resulted in 81 Marines and over 600 NVA killed.[14] The NVA engaged US and ARVN forces elsewhere around Đông Hà from 4-6 April, on the evening of 6 April the 2nd Brigade 1st Cavalry Division was deployed into Tru Kinh and on 9 April was ambushed by an NVA force resulting in 16 Army dead for the loss of 80 NVA. On 10 April a night attack north of Nhi Ha was broken up by air, artillery and naval support, 159 NVA were killed. After this the 320th had broken into small groups and was moving back towards the DMZ, from 9-17 May the 2nd Brigade reported killing 349 NVA for the loss of 28 killed.[15]

While it seemed that the 320th had abandoned their attempts to take Đông Hà this was just a temporary lull. On 22 May a unit from the 320th ran into a Company from 3rd Battalion 3rd Marines between Con Thien and Gio Linh and was caught in the open by Marine artillery and air support.[16] East of Con Thien the 1st Battalion 4th Marines encountered another NVA unit setting off a two day battle as the NVA tried to escape back through the DMZ resulting in 23 Marines and 225 NVA killed.[17] On 25 May in actions at Dai Do and Nhi Ha 350 NVA were killed.[18] In two actions at Tru Kinh on 26 May over 56 NVA were killed for the loss of 10 Marines, while the ARVN killed 110 NVA north of Thuong Nghia.[18] On 27 April the Marines killed 28 NVA and by 30 May the 320th was attempting to escape through the Marine and ARVN cordon. Total NVA losses in the second Battle of Đông Hà were over 1000 killed.[19]

On 12 August 1968, a deserter from the 64th Regiment revealed that the 320th had once again crossed the DMZ and was moving to positions near Cam Lo. In response to this the 3rd Marines deployed north of the Cam Lo River on 13 August and engaged the 8th Battalion of the 64th Regiment, killing 43.[20] The operation continued until 26 October resulting in over 1500 NVA killed for the loss of less than 200 Marines.[21]

In 1971, the 320th, together with the 304th and 308th Divisions formed part of the VPA B-70 Corps based in southern Laos.[22]

Present Day[edit]

Today it is part of the 3rd Corps (Vietnam People's Army).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Windrow, Martin (2004). The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam. Orion Publishing Group. ISBN 0-297-84671-X. 
  2. ^ a b Windrow, p. 221.
  3. ^ a b Windrow, p. 222.
  4. ^ Windrow, p. 239.
  5. ^ Windrow, p. 280.
  6. ^ Shulimson, Jack (1997). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: 1968 The Defining Year. History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. ISBN 0-16-049125-8. :449
  7. ^ Shulimson, p. 64.
  8. ^ Shulimson, p. 119-20.
  9. ^ Shulimson, p. 121-6.
  10. ^ Shulimson, p. 242.
  11. ^ Shulimson, p. 292.
  12. ^ Shulimson, p. 293.
  13. ^ Shulimson, p. 294.
  14. ^ Shulimson, p. 295-304.
  15. ^ Shulimson, p. 306.
  16. ^ Shulimson, p. 308.
  17. ^ Shulimson, p. 308-9.
  18. ^ a b Shulimson, p. 309.
  19. ^ Shulimson, p. 309-10.
  20. ^ Shulimson, p. 397.
  21. ^ Shulimson, p. 405-6.
  22. ^ Sorley, Lewis (2000). A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam. Harvest Books. p. 248. ISBN 0-15-601309-6.