Battle of Khe Sanh, 1968

Battle of Khe Sanh

BATTLE OF KHE SANH – VIETNAM WAR

21 January – 9 July 1968

Battle of Khe Sanh

SUMMARY

Around 40,000 U.S. Marines and their allies fought an estimated 20,000-30,000 North Vietnamese regulars in the longest and bloodiest battle of the Vietnam War.  The Battle of Khe Sanh was part of the Tet Offense and was the first time the North Vietnamese committed an armored unit to battle.

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BACKGROUND

The U.S. Marines 26th Regiment, under the command of Colonel David E. Lownds, occupied the Khe Sanh Combat Base and several hills in the Khe Sanh Valley.  The North Vietnamese, under the command of Major General Trần Quý Hai, attacked the hill outposts and base with massive artillery and, eventually committed troops to try to push the Americans out of the area.  The Marines were reinforced with air support from the Air Force, Marine Aircraft Wing, Navy, Army helicopters, and Australian Air Forces and ground troops from the 1st Calvary Division and other Marine units.

Khe Sanh Combat Base

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LOCATION

Khe Sanh, Hướng Hoá District, Quảng Trị Province, Vietnam

Khe Sanh Combat Base

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THE UNITED STATES MARINES

Led by

General William Westmoreland

Gen. Westmoreland

Lieutenant General Joseph H. Moore

Gen. Moore

Major General Rathvon M. Tompkins

Gen. Tompkins

Colonel David E. Lownds, 26th Marine Regiment (awarded the Navy Cross)

Col. Lownds

Supported by

General William W. Momyer

Gen. Momyer

7th Air Force

Major General John J. Tolson

Gen. Tolson

1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Army

1st Marine Aircraft Wing

2nd Battalion, 1st Marines

2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines

No. 2 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force

3rd ARVN Airborne Task Force

Task Force 77 Carrier Battle Force, Seventh Fleet, US Navy

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NORTH VIETNAMESE PEOPLE’S ARMY OF VIETNAM

Led by

General Võ Nguyên Giáp

Gen. Giap

Major General Trần Quý Hai

Gen. Hai

Major General Lê Quang Đạo

Gen. Dao

Supported by

270th Infantry Regiment

16th, 45th, 84th, 204th and 675th Artillery Regiments

208th, 214th and 228th Anti-Aircraft Regiments

4 Tank Companies

1 Engineer Regiment

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RESULT

Both the Americans and North Vietnamese claimed victory.

Khe Sanh

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CONSEQUENCE

Evacuating a casualty at Khe Sanh

Casualty numbers are difficult as both sides report different numbers.  It is estimated that the North Vietnamese suffered between 5,500-15,000 killed in action and unknown wounded.  The U.S. had different casualty reports so it is estimated that between 2,800-3,500 were killed in action, over 9,000 wounded, 7 missing in action, and 250 captured.  The U.S. eventually abandoned the base at Khe Sanh on July 5, 1968.  U.S. forces briefly reopened the combat base for 3 months in 1971.  Actual footage of the Battle of Khe Sanh can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vDgBNFpQEs and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sL7N-aCtlLo

Artillery Crew fires from Khe Sanh. 14 Feb 1968.

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