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Indochina Monographs

LAM SON 719

by Maj. Gen. Nguyen Duy Hinh

Published by U.S. Army Center Of Military History

Web pages created by bnpham@foxinternet.net


Contents

Glossary


LAM SON 719
by Maj. Gen. Nguyen Duy Hinh


Preface

For several years, the eastern part of the Laotian panhandle was used by North Vietnam as a corridor for the infiltration of personnel and materiels required to sustain its war efforts in South Vietnam and Cambodia. In addition to the Ho chi Minh Trail, the eastern panhandle contained many logistic installations and base areas. After the 18 March 1970 change of government in Cambodia which closed the port of Sihanoukville to the enemy, this trail-base area complex in lower Laos became even more important to North Vietnam in its prosecution of the war in the South. The real hub of this entire complex, where transportation and storage activities were coordinated, was Base Area 604 located west of the Demilitarized Zone and surrounding the district town of Tchepone.

To disrupt the flow of enemy personnel and supplies into South Vietnam, a ground attack was launched across the Laotian border against this enemy hub of activity on 8 February 1971. Operation LAM SON 719 was conducted by I Corps with substantial U.S. support in firepower and helilift but without the participation of U.S. advisers with those ARVN units fighting in Laos. As a test of Vietnamization, this operation was to demonstrate also the progress achieved in combat effectiveness by the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces. Further, LAM SON 719 achieved the objective of forestalling a Communist offensive in the spring of 1971.

This monograph will present a critical analysis of all aspects of LAM SON 719 from the planning stage to the withdrawal from lower Laos. In its preparation, I have drawn primarily from my own experience as an ARVN infantry division commander and from interviews with Vietnamese unit commanders and staff officers who participated in the operation. My work would not have been complete without the valuable contributions of several associates to whom I owe a special debt of gratitude.

General Cao Van Vien, Chairman of the Joint General Staff, RVNAF, has provided me with a unique insight into LAM SON 719 from the highest level of our armed forces. Lieutenant General Dong Van Khuyen, who was Commander of the Central Logistics Command, RVAAF at the time, has contributed his account of combined logistic support for the operation. Lieutenant General Ngo Quang Truong, Commander of IV Corps and later I Corps, under whose command and leadership I had served for several years, has enlightened me with his highly professional and analytical comments on tactical problems concerning the ARVN and especially the 1st Infantry Division. Brigadier General Tran Dinh Tho, Assistant Chief of Staff J-3, JGS, has briefed me in detail concerning his personal involvement in the early planning stage of the operation. Colonel Hoang Ngoc Lung, Assistant Chief of Staff J-2, JGS, has been of great assistance with his intimate knowledge of NVA forces, their activities on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the enemy logistic structure in the area of operation.

Finally, I am particularly indebted to Lieutenant Colonel Chu Xuan Vien and Ms. Pham Thi Bong. Lt. Colonel Vien, the last Army Attaché serving at the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington, D.C., has done a highly professional job of translating and editing that helps impart unity and cohesiveness to the manuscript. Ms. Bong, a former Captain in the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces and also a former member of the Vietnamese Embassy staff, spent long hours typing, editing and in the administrative preparation of my manuscript in final form.

McLean, Virginia                                Nguyen Duy Hinh
31 July 1977                                    Major General, ARVN

Contents

Chapter Page

˜ INTRODUCTION 1

II. THE OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT 9
The Ho Chi Minh frail System 9
Enemy Situation in Northern Military Region 1 19
Enemy Situation in the Laos Panhandle 21
The Area of Operation 25

II˜ THE PLANNING PHASE 32
How It All Started 32
The Basic Operational Plan 35
Division Planning and Preparations 40
U.S. Support 43
Solving Logistic Problems 47
Observations 53

IV. THE OFFENSIVE PHASE 58
Preparing to Cross the Border 58
Securing Ban Dong 65
The Enemy Counteracted 75
The Loss of Fire Support Base 31 81
Tchepone Was the Objective 88

V. THE WITHDRAWAL PHASE 98
The Disengagement 98
The Valiant ARVN 1st Infantry Division 104
"Lock Its Head Grip Its Tail" 108
Black Panther Raids 121

VI. A CRITICAL ANALYSIS 126
The Balance Sheet of LAMSON 719 126
United States Combat Suppport 133
Observations and Evaluation 140
Lessons Learned 156

VI˜ OBSERVATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS 164

Appendix 172
A. TASK ORGANIZATION, ARVN I CORPS, FOR LAM SOM 719 172
B. TASK ORGANIZATION, U.S. XXIV CORPS, FOR LAM SON 719 175

GLOSSARY 178


Tables

Tables Page
1 GVN Released Results for LAM SON 719 128
2 LAM SON 719 Cumulative Casualties 129
3 Major Items of Equipment Lost or Destroyed 130
4 Enemy Casualties, LAM SON 719 131
5 Enemy Equipment Losses 132
6 LAM SON 719: U.S. Army Aviation Support Sorties 134
7 U.S. Army Aircraft Damaged and Destroyed 135
8 U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Support 135
9 Bomb Damage Assessment, U.S. Tactical Air 136
10 B-52 "Arc Light" Operation Summary, LAM SON 719 137
11 BDA Results on 55 Arc Light Targets 138
12 U.S. and ARVN Artillery Support 139


Charts

Charts Page
1 Task Organization, LAM SON 719, Early February 1971 41
2 U.S. Army Aviation Task Organization 46


Maps

Maps Page
1 The Ho Chi Minh Trail 11
2 The Trail System, Lower Laos, 1970 13
3 The Border Area, Military Regions 1 & 2 14
4 The Logistical Area of Tchepone 17
5 Enemy Deployment, Northern MR 1 20
6 Laos and North Vietnam 22
7 Enemy Disposition, Early February 1971 23
8 The Area of Operation 26
9 The Main Trail System and Base Areas 29
10 Operation Plan, Phase I (Dewey Canyon II) 37
11 Operation Plan, Phase II 38
12 U.S. Army Logistics Plan, LAM SON 719 49
13 ARVN Logistics Plan, LAM SON 719 50
14 Integrated Transportation System, LAM SON 719 52
15 The Attack Toward Khe Sanh 59
16 Consolidation of the Assembly Area 62
17 The Advance to Ban Dong 66
18 Enemy Situation, Last Week of February 1971 78
19 Attack of FSB 31 83
20 The Attack Toward Tchepone 94
21 Friendly Operations, Early March 1971 105
22 Enemy Situation, Late March 1971 112
23 Raids Across The Border 123


Note about page numbers: Page numbers are provided the same way as in the original book to facilitate the citing of the document in the same fashion as one might have done from the original book.

Some of the page numbers skip because of the maps and pictures in the original book. However the book in this electronic form is complete.


===> Part 1: Preface & Table Of Content Content - Part 2: Introduction - Part 3: The Operational Environment - Part 4: The Planning Phase - Part 5: The Offensive Phase - Part 6: The Withdrawal Phase - Part 7: A Critical Analysis - Part 8: Observations And Conclusions - Part 9: Appendix & Glossary