Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord

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Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord
Part of the Vietnam War
Fire Support Base Ripcord (Vietnam) 001.jpg
Fire Support Base Ripcord in 1970
Date1–23 July 1970
(3 weeks and 1 day)
Location
16°26′45.5″N 107°11′28″E / 16.445972°N 107.19111°E / 16.445972; 107.19111 (FSB Ripcord)Coordinates: 16°26′45.5″N 107°11′28″E / 16.445972°N 107.19111°E / 16.445972; 107.19111 (FSB Ripcord)
A Shau Valley, Thừa Thiên-Huế Province, South Vietnam - UTM Grid YD 343-194[1]
Result North Vietnamese victory
Belligerents
 North Vietnam  United States
Commanders and leaders
Chu Phuong Doi Col. Ben Harrison
Lt. Col. Andre Lucas 
Units involved
324B Division 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment
Casualties and losses
422 killed
6 captured
75 killed
8 aircraft destroyed

The Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord was a 23-day battle between elements of the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division and two reinforced divisions of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) that took place from 1 to 23 July 1970. It was the last major confrontation between United States ground forces and the PAVN during the Vietnam War. Three Medals of Honor and six Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded to participants for actions during the operations.

Background[edit]

President Nixon began the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam in 1969. As the only full-strength division remaining in Vietnam in early 1970, the 101st Airborne Division was ordered to conduct the planned offensive Operation Texas Star near the A Shau Valley.

On 12 March 1970, the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne under the command of Colonel Ben Harrison, began rebuilding abandoned Fire Support Base Ripcord which relied, as the most remote bases at the time, on a helicopter lifeline to get supplies and personnel in and out. The firebase was to be used to support Operation Chicago Peak, a planned offensive by the 101st Airborne to destroy PAVN supply bases in the A Shau Valley.

Battle[edit]

M114 155mm howitzer battery at Firebase Ripcord, 7 July 1970
A patrol returns to the Firebase following a search for an enemy machine gun position which had been harassing resupply flights, 7 July 1970

On 1 July, elements of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment received eight 82mm rounds, an unknown number of 60mm mortar rounds and ten 75mm recoilless rounds fired by elements of the PAVN 803rd Regiment, 324B Division. Artillery was fired on the suspected enemy locations killing three PAVN. Nearby on the next day, the night defensive position of the 2/506th was attacked by elements of the 803rd Regiment using Rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), small arms fire and satchel charges. PAVN losses were 15 killed while U.S. losses were 8 killed and 1 missing.[2]

On 10 July at 11:25 B Company was subjected to a 38-round mixed 60 and 82mm mortar barrage, killing two soldiers. On 18 July a CH-47C from the 159th Assault Helicopter Battalion was shot down by PAVN small arms fire. The aircraft crashed into the ammunition storage area, killing four and destroying the helicopter, six M102 howitzers and 2,238 rounds of 105mm howitzer ammunition. On 19 July elements of the PAVN 803rd Regiment again hit the base with mortar fire. On a search operation 20 July, D Company/1/506th, sustained mortar fire killing one. On 21 July at 07:10, D Company received an attack-by-fire consisting of 80 rounds of 82mm mortar. The mortar and small arms fire continued until 16:15. D Company returned fire and with airstrikes and helicopter gunship fire held the PAVN off. D Company moved from the base and linked up with D Company 506th. Eight PAVN were killed while the U.S. lost one killed. Meanwhile, at 06:50, B Company was hit by six 82mm mortar rounds. At 10:04 the base received 10 more rounds and was hit again six and a half hours later, with a loss of four killed in the attacks. On 22 July at 13:00, A Company 2/506th, while on a search-and-clear operation received an enemy attack; airstrikes and artillery supported the company. When the contact broke at 19:30, the U.S. had lost 12 killed while PAVN losses were 61 killed.[2]

Losses of U.S. forces were so great that officers began asking for volunteers from other units to go to Ripcord and reinforce the firebase. Finally, the U.S. command realized that the position was not defensible, and the decision was made to withdraw. On 23 July at 06:30 the PAVN again attacked the remaining elements who were evacuating the base. The 2nd Battalion returned the fire and aerial rocket artillery, gunships and airstrikes reinforced. When contact terminated, U.S. casualties were three killed (including the commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Andre Lucas and the S-3). Ripcord was evacuated and abandoned on 23 July.[2]

After the garrison withdrew from the base, B-52 bombers were sent in to carpet bomb the area.[3]

Aftermath[edit]

During the 23-day siege, 75 U.S. soldiers were killed at Ripcord. First Lieutenant Bob Kalsu was the only contemporaneously active pro athlete to be killed during the war.[4] Andre Lucas was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Ben Harrison claimed that the PAVN losses at Ripcord crippled their offensive capability for two full years, resulting in the delaying of their Easter Offensive from 1971 to 1972.[5]

See also[edit]

Books[edit]

  • "Ripcord: Screaming Eagles Under Siege, Vietnam 1970" by Keith W. Nolan, Presidio Press, 2000, ISBN 0-89141-642-0
  • "The Price of Exit", by Tom Marshall, Ballantine Books, 1998. ISBN 0-8041-1715-2
  • "The Sentinel and the Shooter", by Douglas W. Bonnot, 2010. ISBN 978-1-59594-418-4

Articles[edit]

Video[edit]

  • "Siege at Firebase Ripcord", War Stories with Oliver North, Fox News Productions, product # FOX25004600

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kelley, Michael P. (2002). Where We Were In Vietnam. Hellgate Press. p. 442. ISBN 1555716253.
  2. ^ a b c "Headquarters MACV Command History 1970 Volume III 1970" (PDF). Headquarters United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. 19 April 1971. p. E-23. Retrieved 17 April 2020.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ "Bombers Hit N. Viet Camps Near Ripcord". Washington Post. 25 July 1970. pp. A12. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
  4. ^ Lander, Erik (29 January 2002). "Bob Kalsu". Find A Grave, Inc. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  5. ^ Harrison, Benjamin (2004). Hell on a Hilltop. iUniverse Press. p. 181. ISBN 9780595327300.

External links[edit]