|1969 Tet Offensive|
|Part of Vietnam War|
Most attacks centered on military targets near Saigon and Da Nang and were quickly beaten off. Some speculate that the attacks were mounted to test the will of the new U.S. President Richard Nixon who retaliated by secretly bombing PAVN/VC sanctuaries in Cambodia the following month.
Numerous bases were attacked, these attacks were all beaten back but did inflict casualties and reinforced the fact that PAVN/VC forces were able to mount attacks at will.
Long Binh/Bien Hoa
Intelligence had indicators of the pending attacks. On 19 February, a defector surrendered to Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) forces and revealed a large VC force would attack key installations in the Saigon area to include Long Binh Post. Unfortunately, the reporting was delayed and did not reach Long Binh until the morning of 22 February 1969, the day the defector warned the attacks were set to begin.
After sundown on the 22nd, elements of the VC 274th Regiment, 5th Division made their final preparations while occupying three hills along Highway 15 approximately three kilometers south of the base. That evening, several ambush squads from the 720th Military Police Battalion, 18th MP Brigade kept watch along potential avenues of approach to Long Binh Post. One of the MP ambush squads held a position within a kilometer of the VC stronghold. At 02:00 on 23 February, the 274th VC Regiment initiated their attack with an estimated 78 rounds of rocket and mortar fire from their positions. The rounds landed on post with some igniting the POL fuel site east of the highway.
The VC made several attempts to advance on the base, but were halted. Full-scale sweeping operations to secure the perimeter began just after noon that day. M113 armored personnel carriers and M551 Sheridan armored reconnaissance vehicles supported the forces on the ground while AH-1 Cobra gunships and OH-6 helicopters provided air support. These units made occasional contact, often with PAVN or VC who fought stubbornly from trenches and spider holes.
Since early February 1969, the 1st Marine Division had noted an upsurge in PAVN/VC activity around Da Nang. On 7 February Company D, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines found a PAVN/VC base area near the Nam O bridge northwest of the Red Beach Base Area, leaving the base untouched, they returned at night setting up a series of ambushes that killed 18 PAVN and captured 2. On 8 February patrols from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines found 7 122mm rockets 14km southwest of Da Nang and another 13 140mm rockets 2km further south. On 18 February a Company F, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines called in artillery fire on a group of PAVN/VC 5km south of Marble Mountain resulting in 21 secondary explosions believed to be from detonating rockets. Also in mid-February Company D, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines engaged an entrenched PAVN platoon 22km southwest of Da Nang killing 30 and the ARVN 2nd Battalion, 51st Regiment operating 4km west of the Marines killed 49 PAVN moving north of Go Noi Island.:97
After midnight on 23 February Company K, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines and Company D, 1st Military Police Battalion detected VC approaching the Song Cau Do river bridges and attacked them killing 47 and capturing 11. A 70-strong VC force attacked the 2/1 Marines command post 6km south of Marble Mountain losing 17 dead.:99
To the west of Da Nang, shortly after midnight on the 23rd Company M, 3/7 Marines ambushed a PAVN force killing 10 and later that night a larger force was spotted and artillery fire was called in. On searching the site at dawn it was found that 2 PAVN 81mm mortar teams had been destroyed in the barrage.:99
Before dawn on 23 February, the first day of Tết, the PAVN/VC fired 25 122mm rockets at Da Nang's deep water port hitting an ARVN ammunition dump and a fuel tank farm at Da Nang Air Base and cause minor damage to an A-6A and 6 helicopters at the Air Base.:97 Later that day rockets hit the An Hoa Combat Base destroying 15,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and igniting 40,000 gallons of aviation fuel and 50 rockets were fired at Naval Support Activity Da Nang with more than half going into the sea and the remainder causing minor damage.:98
At dawn PAVN sappers attacked the 1st Marine Division headquarters on Hill 327 and the 2/7 Marines command post to the northwest. These attacks were repulsed for Marines losses of 18 killed and more than 75 PAVN killed.:100
After dawn on 23 February a VC unit was detected near the Hòa Vang District and the Marine security force killed 6 and captured 2 and forced the rest of the unit to retreat into a cemetery where they were attacked by the ARVN 21st Ranger Battalion the next day losing a further 57 killed.:99
Meanwhile to the west 3/7 Marines continued to engage PAVN forces, forcing them into 3 pockets along the Song Tuy Loan river. Two of the pockets were destroyed by the next morning resulting in the capture of the acting commander of the 141st Regiment. The last pocket along the An Tan ridgeline proved more difficult and Company L, 3/7 Marines suffered numerous casualties forcing it to withdraw. On the morning of 26 February following Napalm and Snake Eye air strikes, Company L, reinforced by Company M assaulted the PAVN position making slow progress against determined PAVN resistance. The attack continued into 27 February when the Marines overran the PAVN resulting in a total of more than 200 killed.:99-100
PAVN/VC retreating to the south from Da Nang were intercepted by elements of the 1st Marine Regiment and ARVN 1st Battalion, 51st Regiment 11km south of Da Nang losing 139 dead in 3 days of fighting.:99
The PAVN/VC attacks on Da Nang were a failure resulting in more than 500 dead.:101
- Pike, Thomas F. (2016). Operations & Intelligence, III Corps Reporting: Tet 1969. pp. 104–7. ISBN 9781534799035.
- Smith, Charles (1988). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: High Mobility and Standdown, 1969. History and Museums Division, Headquarters U. S. Marines. ISBN 978-1494287627. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
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