Battle of Loc Ninh


Battle of Loc Ninh

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Loc Ninh
partof=the Vietnam War
date=4 April - 7 April 1972
place=coord|11|25|8|N|106|16|13|E|type:landmark|name=Loc Ninh|display=inline,title
Loc Ninh, South Vietnam
result=Communist victory
combatant1=
combatant2=
commander1=Mark A. Smith
commander2=Tran Van Tra
strength1=15,000+
strength2=30,000+
casualties1=~5,000
casualties2=~7,000
notes=
The Battle of Loc Ninh was a major battle fought during the North Vietnamese Easter Offensive and lasted from 4 April to 7 April 1972.

Loc Ninh was a small district town in Binh Long Province, approximately 60 miles north of the capital of Saigon. Its location near the Cambodian border made it the scene of bitter fighting during the Vietnam War. In 1967, the Vietcong's 272nd and 273rd Regiments attempted to overrun the Civilian Irregular Defense Group camp there but was repulsed. In 1972, North Vietnamese forces, supported by armor, returned in force and were more determined than ever to take Loc Ninh.

In 1972, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) force defending Loc Ninh include two battalions from the '9th Regiment, the 1st Cavalry Squadron, the 74th Ranger Battalion, and the 1st Regional Popular Force Battalion. These units were supported by artillery from the 48th and 54th Regiments. The main communist force consist of the three regiments from the Vietcong's 5th Division, supported by the People's Army of Vietnam’s 69th Artillery Division and the 203rd Tank Regiment.

Background

The North Vietnamese launched their offensive on 30 March with a conventional battle plan, utilizing multi-division formations. Regular troops of the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong launched deadly attacks throughout the northern regions of South Vietnam causing general panic as one ARVN base after another fell under communist control. By April the North Vietnamese had taken Tay Ninh Province, from there they planned their next move targeting Loc Ninh and An Loc.

Initial contact with the enemy was made on 4 April when two Vietcong soldiers from the 9th Division were captured. That afternoon a company of the South Vietnamese 9th Regiment was destroyed by the Vietcong, a survivor reported that large numbers of enemy troops were moving towards Loc Ninh. As indicated by the captured enemy soldiers, the tanks were to be used against Loc Ninh, while the Vietcong's 9th Division would provide a blocking force to the south.

Battle

At 03:00 on 5 April, the Vietcong's 5th Division launched the first attack on Loc Ninh with mortar and artillery strike. Colonel Vinh, commander of the ARVN 9th Regiment, showed his reluctance to fight the combined North Vietnamese/Vietcong force by ordering the ARVN 1st Cavalry Regiment back from Fire Support Base Alpha. Opposing the decision, Vinh's U.S. advisor, Capt. Mark A. Smith, took command of the 9th Regiment with the support of the regimental staff, agreeing with the decision of Lt.Col Richard S. Schott. LTC Schott, also U.S. advisor at Loc Ninh, had already passed on command of all defending forces to Capt. Smith in the first moments of the battle. Smith immediately ordered the 1st Cavalry Regiment to hold its position, but unfortunately the regiment had surrendered and moved on with the communists. Meanwhile Smith was wounded after the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) received a direct artillery hit, he continuously requested airstrikes by establishing contact with Forward Air Control planes and the AC-130 Spectre gunships.

On 6 April the enemy artillery barrage increased, with rounds also in coming from the ARVN 54th Regiment at Hung Tam. Smith ordered air strikes against the 54th Regiment's positions but the order was subsequently cancelled. Elements of the Vietcong's 174th Regiment attempted to overrun the nearby airfield but were wiped out by cluster bomb units (CBU). During the night the South Vietnamese defenders under Capt. Smith's command managed to hold out as the number of dead and wounded increased. Meanwhile, Vietcong's human-wave attacks were repeatedly cut down by airstrikes.

On the morning of 7 April more airstrikes were ordered against enemy positions around Loc Ninh as everything suddenly turned quiet. At 07:00 the communists launched another ground attack supported by T-54 tanks. During the assault, many T-54s were knocked out by U.S helicopter gunships. An hour later, after observing Colonel Vinh's surrender and desertion, the ARVN executive officer raised a white flag to surrender but was shot dead by Smith. At approximately 08:00 the TOC began burning and main radio contact was abandoned.

At 09:30 an order was made for an airstrike on the camp as the Vietcong launched another massed attack. Smith was wounded again during a B-52 bombing run. He then made the decision to abandon the camp and ordered it destroyed by an airstrike. The advisors went into hiding, one of them radioed that they would take their radios with them. On April 8, Smith and two other U.S. advisors and a french journalist, Yves Michel Dumond were captured by the 272nd Regiment of the Viet Cong 9th Division.

Smith , the french journalist Yves michel Dumond and two other advisors were held in a prisoncamp in Cambodia until they were released at Loc Ninh in the general POW release in February 1973. Yves Michel Dumond was released on July , 14th 1972

Aftermath

During the battle for Loc Ninh both sides had suffered heavy casualties, especially the Vietcong and the supporting North Vietnamese, who were exposed to U.S firepower during the battle.

The small district town of Loc Ninh became an important area as the Vietcong made it the capital of a communist-led Republic of South Vietnam. With Loc Ninh secured, the North Vietnamese used the district as a launch pad for the attack on An Loc, culminating in the defeat of North Vietnamese forces during the battle there. Despite the liberation of most cities by the ARVN following the ill-fated North Vietnamese campaign, Loc Ninh remained the capital of communist forces in the south until 1975.

External links

* [http://members.tripod.com/buckwhite-mh/id10.htm THE BATTLE OF LOC NINH 4 - 7 APRIL 1972]
* [http://www-cgsc.army.mil/carl/resources/csi/willbanks/willbanks.asp Thiet Giap!]
* [http://www.pownetwork.org/bios/s/s198.htm Bio of LtCol. Richard S. Scott, killed at Loc Ninh on April 7th, 1972, containing detailed personal battle report by Capt. M. Smith] - POW Network


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