23rd Division (South Vietnam)

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23rd Division
ARVN 23rd Division Insignia.svg
23rd Division Insignia
Active1959 - 1975
CountrySouth Vietnam South Vietnam
BranchFlag of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam.svg Army of the Republic of Vietnam
Part ofII Corps
Garrison/HQPleiku
EngagementsVietnam War
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Lý Tòng Bá

The 23rd Division of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN)—the army of the nation state of South Vietnam that existed from 1955 to 1975—was part of the II Corps that oversaw the Central Highlands.

History[edit]

From 25 August 1966 to 1 December 1967 the Division's 44th Regiment participated in Operation Byrd with the US 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment in Bình Thuận Province, over the course of the operation the regiment lost 41 killed while total Viet Cong (VC) losses were 913 killed.[1]:208-12

From 6 April to 11 October 1967 the Division participated in Operation Francis Marion with the US 4th Infantry Division and 173rd Airborne Brigade against People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) base areas in Pleiku, Darlac and the Kon Tum Provinces. Total PAVN losses were 1600 killed.[2]:287-309

On 20 August 1968 during the Phase III Offensive a battalion from the PAVN 24th Regiment assaulted a Division firebase on Highway 14 22km north of Pleiku. The defenders repelled the assault killing 87 PAVN for the loss of 9 ARVN dead.[1]:658

On 24 August 1968 the Division's 2nd Battalion, 45th Regiment was flown into Duc Lap Camp to support the Civilian Irregular Defense Group fighting the PAVN 66th Regiment in the Battle of Duc Lap. The 2nd Battalion together with 3 MIKE Force companies succeeded in repelling the PAVN assault killing over 700 PAVN.[1]:658-62

Battle of Kontum[edit]

On 28 April 1972 during the Battle of Kontum the Division's headquarters was moved 160km from Ban Me Thuot to Kontum to take control of all ARVN forces defending the city.[3]:92 The 53rd Regiment was tasked with the defense of Kontum while the 2nd and 6th Ranger Groups were deployed north of the city on Route 14 to delay the PAVN advance.[3]:93 In early May the 45th and 46th Regiments arrived at Kontum replacing the 2nd and 6th Ranger Groups north of the city thus improving operational control of the defenses.[3]:94 By mid-May the 44th Regiment was located on Route 41 4km northwest of Kontum, the 45th Regiment defended the north of the city and the 53rd Regiment on the northeast defended Kontum Airfield.[3]:95

The PAVN attacked Kontum on the morning of 14 May without the heavy artillery preparation that had been used in their previous attacks. The PAVN 48th Regiment and 203rd Tank Regiment attacked the city from the northwest, the 28th Regiment came from the north and the 64th and 141st Regiments attacked from the south.[4]:K-15 The ARVN artillery began targeting the T-54 tanks moving down Route 14. This targeting separated the supporting PAVN infantry from their tanks and allowed the ARVN tank killers to do their work. Two T-54s were destroyed by teams with M72 LAWs. The sky was overcast and tactical air support was not able to operate, however, Hawk's Claw helicopters had arrived on the scene from Camp Holloway, their helicopters and Jeeps had BGM-71 TOW missiles, which were powerful enough to penetrate a T-54. They found the PAVN tanks before they could find cover in the jungle and destroyed two more tanks. By 09:00 hours, the attack had been stopped.[4]:K-15 The PAVN continued their rocket and artillery fire throughout the day. Then at 20:00 on the 14th, the PAVN launched a second attack, putting heavy pressure on the north, west and south. There were two B-52 strikes scheduled and they were directed against PAVN forces pressuring the 44th Regiment. The PAVN forces pulled back having suffered hundreds of casualties in the strike.[3]:98 On 15 May the PAVN attack continued, but the 44th held its positions assisted by tactical air support.

On the night of 16 May the PAVN pushed the 53rd Regiment from its positions and the perimeter was partially penetrated. A new B-52 strike was requested for the base of the penetration while ARVN artillery continued heavy fire to hold PAVN forces in place as the 53rd Regiment withdrew from the impact zone. The strike was delivered on schedule with devastating results as PAVN forces had massed to break the perimeter defense. The attack had been stopped and numerous tanks destroyed.[4]:K-18 The strike was decisive and the three weakened PAVN divisions regrouped in the jungle surrounding Kontum.

During the next two weeks, the ARVN and PAVN forces tested each other.[4]:K-19 The Division responded to artillery attacks with their own artillery or by calling in Hawk's Claw helicopter fire. B-52 sorties were again used, however the PAVN knew not to mass troops as they had while trying to break the perimeter defense. At 03:45 on 20 May, the 53rd Regiment was attacked by the first of three all-out assaults from the north. On the third attack the 53rd was pushed from their positions. Throughout that day the 53rd tried to regain their position but the PAVN was now dug in. The Division's new senior adviser and Col. Ba decided to pull up nine M41 tanks and to direct all that fire to the PAVN position along with helicopter gunships.[4]:K-19 The front was restored. Three additional assaults were made in the early morning hours. Each was pushed back after fierce hand-to-hand combat.[4]:K-20

In the early hours of 25 May, PAVN mortar and artillery fire increased enough to indicate preparation for a major attack. In the southern quadrant, the artillery fire kept the ARVN 23rd Division in their bunkers. Under the artillery cover, the PAVN sappers, some dressed in ARVN uniforms, moved into the buildings south of Kontum Airfield.[4]:K-22 In the early morning of 26 May, the PAVN attacked the Division from the north with tank/infantry teams. At first light, Hawk's Claw was able to destroy nine tanks, two machine guns, and one truck. This effectively stopped the momentum of the attack.[4]:K-22 Later in the day Col. Ba threw a battalion of the 44th Regiment into the fight. This limited the PAVN penetration of the ARVN lines. After dark, attacks on the 45th and 53rd Regiments increased with the 45th facing the heaviest action. Tactical air support was diverted to supporting the regiment including two B-52 strikes scheduled for 02:30 on 27 May and this blunted the attack.[4]:K-22 That same morning the 44th Regiment woke to discover PAVN tank and infantry within their perimeter. The area hadn't been properly secured and T-54 tanks were within 50 yards (46 m) of the bunkers.[4]:K-23 The defenders were able to use M-72 LAW fire to slow the tanks. By dawn, Hawk's Claw helicopters arrived from Pleiku. The dense smoke obscured the action but the Hawk's Claw crews were still able to destroy two T-54 tanks.[4]:K-23 With helicopters to neutralize the tanks, the ARVN infantry was able to stop the advance of the PAVN. The battle see-sawed back and forth on 28 May. The PAVN occupied bunkers and buildings in sections of the city and were too well fortified to be destroyed by air or artillery attacks.[4]:K-24 However, their ability to launch a sustained attack seemed to be gone. With US and RVNAF air superiority, PAVN troops could not receive adequate food and supplies from their bases in the jungle.[3]:103 The Division counterattacked on 30 May and by midday on 31 May had ejected the PAVN from the city.[3]:103-4

On 6 June, the PAVN's B3 Front Command mobilized their last reserve unit, the 66th Regiment to cover the withdrawal of all remaining within the city. From 29 May to 8 June the Division went bunker to bunker cleaning out the remaining PAVN forces. On 9 June the city of Kontum was declared fully secure by the Division commander, Ly Tong Ba, who had been promoted to Brigadier General.

In mid-June the Division launch a helicopter raid against the PAVN-occupied Tân Cảnh Base Camp and several other raids with limited results. Ground operations were conducted along Route 14 however ARVN control extended barely 10km past Vo Dinh. To the south Route 14 to Pleiku was cleared of PAVN by the end of June.[3]:105

From 8 June to August 1973 the 44th Regiment fought the Battle of Trung Nghia until replaced by the 42nd Regiment, 22nd Division. On 1 September 1973, when the 42nd Regiment began their final assault on Trung Nghia, the 53rd Regiment occupied Plei Djo Drap, vacated by the withdrawing PAVN 66th Regiment.[5]:47-54

From 30 October to 10 December 1973 the Division together with Ranger forces fought the Battle of Quang Duc, successfully defeating PAVN efforts to expand their logistical network from Cambodia.[5]:58-60

Organisation[edit]

The Division comprised the following:

  • Division HQ
  • 44th Regiment
  • 45th Regiment
  • 53rd Regiment
  • 230th, 231st, 232nd and 233rd Artillery Battalions
  • 8th Armored Cavalry Squadron
  • US Advisory Team 33

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Villard, Erik (2017). United States Army in Vietnam Combat Operations Staying the Course October 1967 to September 1968. Center of Military History United States Army. ISBN 9780160942808. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ MacGarrigle, George (1998). Combat Operations: Taking the Offensive, October 1966 to October 1967. United States Army Center of Military History. ISBN 9780160495403. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Ngo, Quang Truong (1980). The Easter Offensive of 1972 (PDF). U.S. Army Center of Military History. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Command History 1972, Annex K. Kontum, 1973. MACV" (PDF). Retrieved 7 January 2015. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ a b Le Gro, William (1985). Vietnam from ceasefire to capitulation (PDF). US Army Center of Military History. ISBN 9781410225429. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  • Tucker, Spencer C. (2000). Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 526–533. ISBN 1-57607-040-9.