320th Division (Vietnam)

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320th Division
Active 1951-present
Allegiance  Vietnam
Branch Vietnam People's Army
Type Infantry
Size Division
Nickname(s) 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
Cambodian-Vietnamese War

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] They were sent to disrupt the region between Hanoi and Haiphong, behind the Tassigny defensive line[6]. French forces from Cochinchina and Annam were sent northwards to interdict this[6]. The French further claimed that they were put out of action for at least two months, which was wrong[7].

Vietnam War[edit]

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

On 1 November 1967, with US forces launching Operation Kentucky, the 320th Division was arrayed against them, and throughout the period when US Marine forces were active in the DMZ region.

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.[8] On 24 January 1968 elements of the 320th ambushed a Marine convoy between Dong Ha and Camp Carroll and then ambushed the relief force from the 2nd Battalion 9th Marines.[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]

This unit had participated in action against ARVN/US forces during Operation Napoleon/Saline. On 29 April 1968 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 battle at Dai Do. Four NVA Battalions including the 48th and 56th from the 320th had established themselves at Dai Do and engaged in a three-day battle with US forces.[11] In May this unit had furthermore participated in attacks against Đông Hà Combat Base.

On 12 August 1968, a deserter from the 64th Regiment revealed that the 320th had once again crossed the DMZ and engaged US forces during Operation Lancaster II.

In 1971, the 320th, together with the 304th and 308th Divisions formed part of the VPA B-70 Corps based in southern Laos.[12]

As part of the 3rd Corps, the 320th Division had participated in the Cambodian–Vietnamese War, being among the units whom liberated Cambodia and stopped the Cambodian genocide.

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. ^ a b Davidson, Phillip B. (1991). Vietnam at War: The History, 1946-1975. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195067927. 
  7. ^ Davidson, Phillip B. (1991). Vietnam at War: The History, 1946-1975. Oxford University Press. pp. 170–172. ISBN 9780195067927. 
  8. ^ Shulimson, p. 64.
  9. ^ Shulimson, p. 119-20.
  10. ^ Shulimson, p. 242.
  11. ^ Shulimson, p. 294.
  12. ^ 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.