May 1

This Day in History

Vietnam War

May 1, 1972:

North Vietnamese troops capture Quang Tri

North Vietnamese troops capture Quang Tri City, the first provincial capital taken during their ongoing offensive. The fall of the city effectively gave the communists control of the entire province of Quang Tri. As the North Vietnamese prepared to continue their attack to the south, 80 percent of Hue's population--already swollen by 300,000 refugees--fled to Da Nang to get out of the way. Farther south along the coast, three districts oof Binh Dinh Province also fell, leaving about one-third of the 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 designed 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, were Kontum in the Central Highlands, and An Loc farther to the south.

Initially, the South Vietnamese defenders were almost overwhelmed, particularly in the northernmost provinces, where they abandoned their positions in Quang Tri. At Kontum and An Loc, the South Vietnamese were more successful in defending against the attacks, but only after weeks of bitter fighting. Although the defenders suffered heavy casualties, they managed to hold their own with the aid of U.S. advisers and American airpower. Fighting continued all over South Vietnam into the summer months, but eventually the South Vietnamese forces prevailed against the invaders, retaking Quang Tri in September. With the communist invasion blunted, President Nixon declared that the South Vietnamese victory proved the viability of his Vietnamization program, which he had instituted in 1969 to increase the combat capability of the South Vietnamese armed forces so U.S. troops could be withdrawn.

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