316th Division (Vietnam)

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316th Division
Victory in Battle of Dien Bien Phu.jpg
Victorious Việt Minh soldiers at Điện Biên Phủ
Active 1951–present
Allegiance  Vietnam
Branch Vietnam People's Army
Role Infantry
Size Division
Nickname(s) Bông Lau (Silvergrass), Bien Hoa, Highland
Engagements First Indochina War
* Battle of Mạo Khê
* Operation Lorraine
* Battle of Điện Biên Phủ
Vietnam War
* Battle of Ban Me Thuot
* Fall of Saigon
Sino-Vietnamese War
Decorations Order of Ho Chi Minh (1985)
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Colonel Lê Quang Ba

The 316th Division or Bông Lau Division (Vietnamese: Sư đoàn Bông Lau, literally: Silvergrass Division) was a division of the Vietnam People's Army. One of the 6 original "Steel and Iron Divisions", it was created in 1951 and consisted of some 10,000 to 15,000 men.[1]

First Indochina War[edit]

The 316th Division was formed in February/March 1951 from various ethnic minorities in the high region bordering Laos and first saw action in April 1951 at the Battle of Mạo Khê.[2]:150[3]

In October 1952 the 316th took part in the attack on Nghia Lo as part of a Viet Minh offensive against French positions on the Red River and in the high region near Laos.[3][4] In April 1953 the 316th moved towards Xam Neua which was abandoned as indefensible by the French, by 23 April the 316th and 308th had surrounded a French air-land base on the Plain of Jars.[5]

From September–November 1953 Regiment 176 from the 316th engaged French GCMA teams in the Song River valley and that were blocking Route Provinciale 41.[6] On 15 November the remainder of the 316th was ordered to move into the T'ai Highlands.[7] The 316th harassed the T'ai Federation forces as they retreated from Lai Châu to Điện Biên Phủ, capturing Lai Chau on 12 December and by 17 December they were deployed east of Điện Biên Phủ.[8]

In January 1954, a Battalion from Regiment 176 accompanied the 308th Division on a probe towards Luang Prabang, capturing Muong Khoua on 1 February. Hampered by French airpower, the airdrop of the 1st Colonial Parachute Battalion on Muong Sai and the deployment of Groupe Mobile 7 to Luang Prabang, the Viet Minh force withdrew towards Điện Biên Phủ on 20/21 February.[9]

During the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ, the 316th's first action was on 15 March 1954 probing the French strongpoints at Dominique 5 after the capture of Strongpoint Beatrice by the 312th Division.[10] Further south Battalion 888 of Regiment 176 was tasked with isolating Strongpoint Isabelle from the central French position in the valley.[11] On 27 March the 98th and 174th Regiments were assigned the task of capturing the Eliane 1 and 4 strongpoints.[12] The attack on Eliane commenced at 5pm on 30 March and the 320th succeeded in capturing Eliane 1 within 3 hours, but were unable to secure Eliane 2 in a fierce battle. Eliane 1 was recaptured by a French counterattack on 31 March but had to be abandoned again that day and was recaptured by the French on 10 April.[13] On 31 March Regiment 98 was relieved by Regiment 102 of the 308th Division.[14] On the night of 31 March Regiment 102 again attempted to take Eliane 2 but was beaten back and then replaced by Regiment 98 on 3 April.[15] On 11 April Regiments 98 and 174 attempted to recapture Eliane 1 but were forced back.[16] Following the failure of these attacks the Viet Minh resorted to choking off the French strongpoints by digging trenches and saps and, in the case of Eliane 2 a mine gallery under the hill.[17] For the final assault on the French positions on the night of 6/7 May, Regiment 174 was tasked with taking Eliane 4 while Regiment 98 would make another attempt to take Eliane 2.[18] At 6:45pm Regiment 98 began their attack and were held back by French artillery fire from Strongpoint Isabelle until Viet Minh counter-battery fire took effect. At approximately 9:30pm the Viet Minh exploded a mine under Eliane 2 and after some hesitation Regiment 98 renewed its attack at 11pm and by 5am on 7 May had finally succeeded in capturing Eliane 2.[19] The 174th Regiment's attack on Eliane 4 commenced at 9:30pm and lasted throughout the night and the French were finally overrun at 9:30am on 7 May.[20] Total estimated losses among the 316th Division at the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ are 1250 killed.[21]

Vietnam War[edit]

The 316th participated in many operations in Laos throughout the 1960s[1]

The 316th was the first to infiltrate South Vietnam after the Paris Peace Accords of 1973.

For the 1975 Spring Offensive, the 316th under the command of Senior Colonel Dam Van Nguy formed part of the VPA 3rd Corps with the 70th, 320th and 968th Divisions.[22][23]:140 On 10 March 1975 the 316th participated in Campaign 275 to take Ban Me Thuot.[24][25] Following the Vietnamese Politburo decision to capitalise on the opportunity presented by the collapsing ARVN, in early April the 316th was ordered to move out of the Central Highlands along Route 14 to Saigon[26] By mid-April the 3rd Corps was situated northwest of Saigon near Tây Ninh where it was engaging the ARVN 25th Division on Routes 1 and 20.[27]

Post Vietnam War[edit]

In the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979, the 316th formed part of the 2nd Military Region and was engaged in the defense of Lai Châu Province and Hoàng Liên Sơn Province.[28]

The 316th received the Order of Ho Chi Minh in 1985.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Conboy, Kenneth (2012). The NVA and Viet Cong. Osprey Publishing. p. 64. ISBN 9781780967660. 
  2. ^ Windrow, Martin (2004). The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam. Orion Publishing Group. ISBN 0-297-84671-X. 
  3. ^ a b Davidson, Philip B. (1991). Vietnam at War: The History, 1946-1975. Oxford University Press. p. 838. ISBN 9780195067927. 
  4. ^ Windrow, p. 120.
  5. ^ Windrow, p. 126.
  6. ^ Windrow, p. 251.
  7. ^ Windrow, p. 256.
  8. ^ Windrow, p. 260.
  9. ^ Windrow, p. 288.
  10. ^ Windrow, p. 403.
  11. ^ Windrow, p. 474.
  12. ^ Windrow, p. 454.
  13. ^ Windrow, p. 465-70.
  14. ^ Windrow, p. 473.
  15. ^ Windrow, p. 479-80.
  16. ^ Windrow, p. 505.
  17. ^ Windrow, p. 510.
  18. ^ Windrow, p. 601.
  19. ^ Windrow, p. 601-4.
  20. ^ Windrow, p. 605-8.
  21. ^ Fall, Bernard (1985). Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu. Da Capo Group. p. 487. ISBN 0-306-80231-7. 
  22. ^ Veith, George J. (2012). Black April: The Fall of South Vietnam, 1973-75. Encounter Books. p. 587. ISBN 9781594035722. 
  23. ^ Dougan, Clark; Fulgham, David (1985). The Vietnam Experience: The Fall of the South. Boston Publishing Company. ISBN 0-939526-16-6. 
  24. ^ Kenneth Conboy, The NVA and Viet Cong, p. 17 
  25. ^ Dougan, p. 49.
  26. ^ Dougan, p. 94.
  27. ^ Dougan, p. 130.
  28. ^ O'dowd, Edward C. (2007). Chinese Military Strategy in the Third Indo-China War. Routledge. p. 62. ISBN 9780415414272. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Vu, Lap (1986). Su Doan 316 Tap Hai. Hanoi: People's Army Publishing House.