Battle of Minh Thanh Road
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The Battle of Minh Thanh Road took place on 9 July 1966 when a Viet Cong force attacked a 1st Infantry Division convoy triggering a prepared US ambush, in which an overwhelming response of armour, artillery and airpower reacted to an ambushed convoy. The Viet Cong, primarily armed with RPG-2, recoil-less rifles and small-arms had engaged and destroyed some vehicles in a convoy but were prevented from overwhelming the convoy through a massive response of US armoured, artillery and aerial support. Much of the attacking ambush had slipped past the aerial and armoured cordon set-up.
The commander of the 1st Infantry Division, General William E. DePuy tasked Col Sidney Berry with luring the Viet Cong to attack an apparently vulnerable US supply convoy and then ambushing and destroying the Viet Cong. Based on signals intelligence that indicated the presence of a Viet Cong Regiment in the area, Col Berry chose the Minh Thanh Road/Route 245, which branched off Highway 13 as the best site for the operation. A convoy of bulldozers and supply vehicles with a light armored cavalry escort would be sent from An Lộc to Minh Thanh, ostensibly to repair the Minh Thanh airfield.
On 7 July two artillery firebases were established, Firebase 1 was established 6 kilometres southwest of An Lộc and west of Highway 13 with a mixed battery of artillery and Firebase 2 was established 8 kilometres south of An Lộc and east of Highway 13 with a battery of 105mm guns. The 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment (2/2nd Infantry) was deployed to Minh Thanh joining the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment (1/18th Infantry). On 8 July the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment (1/28th Infantry) deployed 2.5 kilometres east of Firebase 1 and the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment was deployed at Quần Lợi Base Camp.:319-20
Col. Berry then informed the local Province Chief and his staff of the planned convoy movement. A member of the staff was a suspected Viet Cong informant.:320
At 07:00 on 9 July the convoy, designated Task Force Dragoon, comprising Company B, 1/2nd Infantry and Troops B and C 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment left An Lộc. As the convoy moved onto the Minh Thanh Road air and artillery strikes hit likely ambush sites.:320
At 11:00 the lead units from Troop C detected an L-shaped ambush along the road. At 11:10 the Viet Cong launched their ambush attacking Troop C's 1st Platoon with automatic weapons, mortar and recoilless rifle fire. The tanks and M113s deployed to direct fire against the Viet Cong attack, while air, artillery and gunship strikes soon followed. Two platoons of Troop B were moved forward to support Troop C and engage the main body of the Viet Cong on the north of the road. By 12:30 the Viet Cong were beginning to withdraw and the 2/2nd Infantry and 1/18th Infantry were deployed to the north in an attempt to block their escape.:320-2 Most of the attacking forces had escaped the cordon nevertheless.
At 13:30 aerial reconnaissance saw a large Viet Cong force regrouping northwest of the ambush site and 1/28th Infantry was deployed by helicopter to engage them. A two hour long moving firefight took place before the Viet Cong withdrew and 1/28th Infantry swept the area before setting up a night defensive position north of the Minh Thanh Road.:322
At 16:00 the 1/18th Infantry located a small Viet Cong unit and following an artillery strike overran their position, allegedly killing 12 Viet Cong. Most of the Viet Cong attacking force escaped the cordon despite an overwhelming deployment of US forces attempting to encircle them, as slow-moving infantry sweeps did not catch up to them.
The Battle of Minh Thanh Road was considered a US victory as it showed US forces responding to an effective ambush. Total US casualties were 25 killed and 113 wounded, while initial reports claim Viet Cong losses were 238 killed (body count) and a further 300 were believed to have been killed, but the bodies were removed.:324 Allegedly captured North Vietnamese documents acknowledged that the 272nd Regiment had "suffered heavy losses" due to its "unsatisfactory organization of its withdrawal from the battlefield".:325 A total of 44 weapons were recovered, and 13 crew-served weapons were found.
A combination of massive aerial, artillery and armoured responses held off a lightly-equipped attacking group, demonstrating the considerably asymmetry of the battle. A post-war assessment of the battle from PAVN sources listed 128 killed and 167 wounded.
- Stanton, Shelby L. (2007-12-18). The Rise and Fall of an American Army: U.S. Ground Forces in Vietnam, 1963-1973. Random House Publishing Group. pp. pg103–104. ISBN 9780307417343.
- Willbanks, James H. (2017-11-16). Vietnam War: A Topical Exploration and Primary Source Collection [2 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. pp. 200–201. ISBN 9781440850851.
- Carland, John (2000). Combat Operations: Stemming the Tide, May 1965 to October 1966. Government Printing Office. p. 319. ISBN 9781782663430.