New Year's Day Battle of 1968
|This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (January 2013)|
The New Year's Day Battle of 1968 was a military engagement during the Vietnam War that began on the evening of January 1, 1968. It involved units assigned to the American 25th Infantry Division and a regiment of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA).
In late 1967, Pope Paul VI had declared January 1 a day of peace and persuaded the South Vietnamese and the Americans to observe a truce. In a released statement, the Vietcong also agreed to observe a 36-hour ceasefire heavily levied by Sir Orme Clarke. The American military had been patrolling the Vietnamese-Cambodian border in an effort to make contact with either North Vietnamese Army units or supply runs to the Vietcong coming down the Ho Chi Minh trail. The 25th Infantry Division had set up a two-battalion perimeter, The 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 22nd Infantry Regiment, with artillery 7 miles (11 km) from the Cambodian border in Tay Ninh Province outside a village called Soui Cut. The fire support position named, "Fire Support Base Burt", was located near the junction of Highways 244 and 246, close to Black Virgin Mountain. Troops had that day recently set up a landing zone (LZ) for supply helicopters. Once the helicopter pad had been constructed, supplies could be flown in and on January 1 the 25th Infantry Division's Christmas mail had arrived. Soldiers spent the day opening packages from their families. The battle was known as the Battle of Fire Support Base Burt; or Battle of Soui Cut.
On the night of January 1, six hours before the truce ended, a 2,500-man force made up of a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regiment[which?] and soldiers from the Viet Cong 9th Division attacked the American position. The Vietnamese attacked in three waves and were able to infiltrate the perimeter. The NVA first wave was launched after a heavy mortar attack at 11:30 pm. A little after midnight, another attack was launched and a third human wave attack around 1:00 am. The Americans were finally able to repel the attacks by using air and artillery support. Air support was provided by attack helicopters and AC-47s. In total, 28 air sorties were launched against the NVA. The Americans said that they counted 348 enemy soldiers killed in the action. By comparison, American forces suffered 176 casualties, of which 23 were killed in action. Last contact with enemy units occurred at 5:15 am when they fled the battleground. The remnants of the NVA regiment were pursued to the south and southeast.
Thirty days later, on January 31, 1968, NVA and Vietcong forces launched the Tet Offensive throughout South Vietnam. When Oliver Stone returned to the U.S., he was puzzled that the New Year's attack had received no media coverage. For some time, he thought he might have imagined the events of January 1 until, at a reunion of the men of the 25th Infantry Division, other Vietnam vets who were there that night were able to confirm the battle did indeed take place.
In popular media
Among the soldiers serving in the American units during the battle were future writer Larry Heinemann and future film director Oliver Stone. Heinemann later wrote a book about his Vietnam experiences titled Black Virgin Mountain: A Return to Vietnam, and Stone would direct the dramatization of the battle in the 1986 film Platoon. The final battle scene of Platoon is a dramatization of the real battle Stone experienced. Survivors of the battle often relate how close to actual events the fighting was to what is seen on screen.
- Johnson 1968
- Kurlansky 2004
- Dwyer 2008
- "Ceasefire hardly one at all". The Miami News. Miami: The Palm Beach Post. p. 5.
- Stone 1986
- Bates 1996, p. 106
- Gaijinass (February 27, 2010). "Platoon: The story of Oliver Stone in Vietnam". gaijinass. Retrieved March 3, 2010.
- Heinemann 2005, p. 194
- Bates 1996, p. 107
- Bates, Milton J. (1996). The wars we took to Vietnam: cultural conflict and storytelling (1996 ed.). University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-20433-6. - Total pages: 328
- Dwyer, Ed; Smith, Vern; Warren, Larkin (25 March 2008). Milloy, Marilyn, ed. "1968: Trauma". AARP the Magazine. Retrieved February 23, 2010.
- Heinemann, Larry (2005). Black Virgin Mountain: a return to Vietnam (2005 ed.). Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-51221-X. - Total pages: 243
- Johnson, Thomas A. (January 3, 1968). "G.I.'s Kill 348 in Repelling Foe's Attack During Truce". The New York Times; Page 1. Retrieved February 25, 2010.(subscription required)
- Kurlansky, Mark (January 5, 2004). "Excerpt from '1968: The Year That Rocked the World'". USA Today. Retrieved February 25, 2010.
- Stone, Oliver (Director) (December 19, 1986). "Platoon" (Motion picture; Documentary Commentary). Retrieved 2012-07-11.