May 13

This Day in History

Vietnam War

May 13, 1972:

Heavy fighting continues at Quang Tri and Kontum

Seventeen U.S. helicopters land 1,000 South Vietnamese marines and their six U.S. advisors behind North Vietnamese lines southeast of Quang Tri City in the first South Vietnamese counterattack since the beginning of the communist Nguyen Hue Offensive. The marines reportedly killed more than 300 North Vietnamese before returning to South Vietnamese-controlled territory the next day. Farther to the south, North Vietnamese tanks and troops continued their attacks in the Kontum area.

On May 1, North Vietnamese troops had captured Quang Tri City, the first provincial capital taken during their ongoing offensive. The fall of the city effectively gave the North Vietnamese control of the entire province of Quang Tri. Farther south along the coast, three districts of Binh Dinh Province also fell, leaving about one-third of that province under communist control.

These attacks were part of the North Vietnamese Nguyen Hue Offensive (later called the "Easter Offensive"), a massive invasion by North Vietnamese forces on March 30 to strike the blow that would win them the war. The attacking force included 14 infantry divisions and 26 separate regiments, with more than 120,000 troops and approximately 1,200 tanks and other armored vehicles. The main North Vietnamese objectives, in addition to Quang Tri in the north and Kontum in the Central Highlands, included An Loc farther to the south.

The situation at Quang Tri would not be rectified until President Nguyen Van Thieu relieved the I Corps commander and replaced him with Maj. Gen. Ngo Quang Truong, whom Gen. Bruce Palmer, Jr., later described as "probably the best field commander in South Vietnam." Truong effectively stopped the ongoing rout of South Vietnamese forces, established a stubborn defense, and eventually launched a successful counterattack against the North Vietnamese, retaking Quang Tri in September.

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