Battle of Landing Zone Center
During the Tet Offensive of 1968, the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) 2nd Division tried to capture Đà Nẵng but they were defeated in the Battle of Lo Giang. PAVN General Chu Huy Mân Commander of Military Region 5 ordered General Giáp Văn Cương, commander of the 2nd Division, to split the Division into two fighting arms: one regiment would tie down the Americans in the Quế Son Valley, while the rest of the Division would withdraw to their base areas near Laos, to link up with the 70th Transport Regiment and rest and refit. Then, their next target would be Khâm Đức, the last remaining Special Forces camp adjacent to the Ho Chi Minh Trail in I Corps. Mân told his senior officers that they would attack Khâm Đức to force an American retreat from the area..
In the aftermath of the battle for Đà Nẵng, U.S. military commanders in I Corps held different views on the fighting ability of the PAVN 2nd Division. Americal Division commander Major-General Samuel W. Koster claimed losses sustained by the Division had "impaired its future effectiveness", after his units killed more than 1,000 enemy soldiers in the month of January alone. In contrast, 1st Marine Division commander Major-General Donn J. Robertson told his superiors that the 2nd Division may have several uncommitted units they could deploy for future operations.:7
On 5 May as part of the May Offensive, the PAVN 31st Regiment attacked LZ Center with mortars and recoilless rifles. When U.S. helicopters tried to land a patrol to locate those weapons, a heavy machine gun company from the PAVN K31 Anti-Aircraft Battalion opened fire from positions around the firebase, shooting down UH-1D #66-17075 from the 178th Assault Helicopter Company which crashed killing all 10 crew and passengers and shortly afterwards a helicopter gunship of the 71st Assault Helicopter Company was also shot down. Company D 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment was flown in to reinforce LZ Center. On 7 May an A–1E Skyraider was shot down while providing air support near LZ Center.:542
The PAVN forces were concentrated on the Nui Hoac Ridge, with their main position located on Hill 352 (:5–369 This position held at least 2 anti-aircraft guns, recoilless rifles, mortars and an unknown number of PAVN. In addition the PAVN were entrenched between Hills 434 and 479 to the east of LZ Center.) approximately 2.5km south of LZ Center.
On 14 May 1968 during an attack on PAVN bunkers on Hill 352 Platoon sergeant Finnis D. McCleery of 1st Platoon, Company A, 1/6th Infantry single-handedly attacked and destroyed several PAVN bunkers despite being wounded twice. For his actions that day, McCleery would be awarded the Medal of Honor.
- Davies, Bruce (2008) (2008). The Battle at Ngok Tavak: A Bloody Defeat in South Vietnam, 1968. Allen & Unwin. p. 45. ISBN 9781741750645.
- Kelley, Michael (2002). Where we were in Vietnam. Hellgate Press. p. 5–98. ISBN 978-1555716257.
- "Operational Report Lessons Learned" (PDF). Headquarters Americal Division Artillery. 1 November 1968. Retrieved 8 March 2018. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- 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.
- Humphries, James (1999). Through the Valley: Vietnam, 1967–1968. Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 284. ISBN 9781555878214.