Battle of Kham Duc

Battle of Kham Duc
Part of the Vietnam War

The evacuation of Kham Duc.
DateMay 10-May 12, 1968
LocationCoordinates:
Kham Duc, South Vietnam UTM Grid ZC 0059-0810[1]
ResultNorth Vietnamese Victory
Combatants
North Vietnam
Viet Cong
United States
South Vietnam
Australia
Commanders
UnknownWilliam C. Westmoreland
John White
Strength
5,000-10,0001,760+
Casualties
???270+ killed or missing
9 aircraft loss


The Battle of Kham Duc was the struggle for the United States Army Special Forces camp located in Quang Tin province, South Vietnam. It began on May 10 and ended on May 12, 1968.

The Kham Duc special forces camp was occupied by the 1st Special Forces detachment consisting of U.S and South Vietnamese special forces, as well as Montagnard irregulars. From September 1963 the camp was used as an intelligance gathering post, often impeding Communist infiltration into the Central Highlands.

In May of 1968, following the Tet Offensive, the North Vietnamese decided to take out the camp once and for all.

Background

During the early months of 1968 the Communist forces had launched a nation-wide offensive attacking most cities in South Vietnam. At the same time, large divisions from the North Vietnamese Army also laid siege to the United States Marines base at Khe Sanh. When the fighting at Khe Sanh and other locations were over, the focus was shifted to the Kham Duc CIDG camp. From early May, movement of the North Vietnamese 2nd Division and the Viet Cong 271st Regiment was detected by allied forces. Alarmed by the Communist build-up around Kham Duc, A Company, 1/46th Infantry was flown in followed a day later by the 2/1 Infantry of the U.S. 196th Light Infantry Brigade from Chu Lai to reinforce the camp.

Battle

Ngok Tavak

On May 10, 1968, the outpost of Ngok Tavak at was attacked by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong guerillas. Although it was not the main target, it stood on the way of the Communist forces. The attack on the Ngok Tavak outpost coincided with initial artillery bombardments on Kham Duc. Australian Captain John White led a small company consists of Chinese Nung soldiers and U.S. Marines out to engage the Communists.

The fighting at Ngok Tavak confirmed Captain White's suspicion that a CIDG platoon was infiltrated by Communists. At 03:00 a group of soldiers approaching the Ngok Tavak position claiming to be friendly was challenged by machinegunners, shortly afterwards two North Vietnamese companies surged forward and attacked the machinegun positions, and set mortar positions ablaze with flamethrowers. The fighting lasted for ten hours, when the Australian-led company had exhausted their ammunistion supply. Without any sign of reinforcements, they abandoned the position and made an escape towards Kham Duc. They made it halfway to Kham Duc when helicopters were called in to carry them the rest of the way.

Kham Duc

When Ngok Tavak's survivors arrived at Kham Duc the fighting was still in its early stages, but mortar attacks proved to be deadly as several outposts came under direct hit. General William C. Westmoreland realised that the camp could not be reinforced any further and decided to evacuate all the personnel to avoid news of the camp being overrun.

On the morning of May 11 a C-130 transport aircraft of the 21st Tactical Airlift Squadron landed at the airfield. Vietnamese civilians rushed on to the aircraft overwhelming the loadmaster as the C-130 came under enemy fire, and minor damage was suffered as a result. Despite having a flat tire, the C-130 crew attempted to take off but failed. So while the crews stopped to work on the their damaged C-130, a C-123 arrived to fly out the civilians. During the afternoon U.S fighter-bombers beat back a massed assault on the main compound with napalm and cluster bombs.

On May 12 the VPA 2nd Division and Viet Cong 271st Regiment tightened their noose around Kham Duc, hitting three outposts and subsequently overruning those positions by 09:30. The USAF's 834th Air Division was deployed to evacuate Kham Duc. While evacuations were underway, B-52s were called in to pound North Vietnamese positions around the camp.

Under heavy mortar bombardment the officers of the Americal Division requested immediate extraction. Members of A Company, 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry, 198th Light Infantry Brigade were airlifted out by a CH-47 Chinook when their helicopter was hit by anti-aircraft fire, forcing the CH-47 to land under intense fire. One soldier was killed by ground fire and left on the crashed Chinook. The evacuation of Kham Duc was complicated as Mountagnard fighters and their families boarded helicoptes designated to fly out U.S. soldiers. Members of A Company, 1/46th Infantry, were forced to remove Mountagnard fighters to board their helicopters. The decision was made to evacuate all the Mountagnards on C-130 transports instead. One C-130, filled with indigenous personnel was shot down and all aboard perished.

In the afternoon, as one aircraft after another took off from Kham Duc airfield with their passengers, Army and Marines helicopters landed on the airfield to evacuate what was left of their personnel, although most of the camp's defenders were airlifted out, those left behind had to attempt to exfiltrate through enemy lines. When the last special forces team was flown out, another C-130 landed on the airstrip carrying three men- Major John Gallagher, Sergeants Mort Freedman and James Lundie- they ran into the camp. Lt. Col. Jay Van Clee, pilot of that C-130, took off after it was reported that the evacuation was complete. After receiving reports that the three men were left behind, Lt. Col. Alfred Jeanotte landed his C-123, but no one ran to his aircraft.

A second C-123, piloted by Lt. Col. Joe M. Jackson, landed on the airfield under North Vietnamese fire and was able to extract the men, who were hiding in a ditch.

Aftermath

At 16:33 on May 12, the Kham Duc special forces camp was abandoned and was subsequently overrun by the North Vietnamese and their Viet Cong allies. It was the second CIDG camp to be taken by Communist forces in 1968 after the Battle of Lang Vei, and was the last special forces camp in northwestern South Vietnam to be destroyed.

The evacuation of Kham Duc proved to be disorderly, sometimes near the point of panic, and despite coming under heavy enemy fire, the pilots of the United States Air Force managed to fly out with most of the special forces personnel and civilians. Lt. Col. Joe M. Jackson was awarded the Medal of Honor for his efforts.

References

1. ^ Kelley, Michael P. (2002). Where We Were In Vietnam. Hellgate Press, p. 5-273. ISBN 1-55571-625-3. 

External links

Total dead: ~314,000
Total wounded: ~1,490,000
North Vietnam and NLF
dead and missing: ~1,100,000 [1] [2] [3] [4]
wounded: ~600,000+ [5]
People's Republic of China
dead: 1,446
wounded: 4,200

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geographic coordinate system enables every location on the earth to be specified by the three coordinates of a spherical coordinate system aligned with the spin axis of the Earth.
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South Vietnam is the commonly used name for the former Vietnamese state that existed from 1954 to 1976 in the portion of Vietnam that lies south of the 17th parallel. North Vietnam was situated to the north of the 17th parallel.
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Total dead: ~314,000
Total wounded: ~1,490,000
North Vietnam and NLF
dead and missing: ~1,100,000 [1] [2] [3] [4]
wounded: ~600,000+ [5]
People's Republic of China
dead: 1,446
wounded: 4,200

..... Click the link for more information.
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