July 17

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Jul 17, 1972:

South Vietnamese paratroopers fight for Citadel

South Vietnamese paratroopers fight their way to within 200 yards of the Citadel in Quang Tri City, which was described by reporters who accompanied the troops as a city of rubble and ash. Citizens emerging from neighborhoods retaken by the paratroopers joined the refugees, who had been streaming south toward Hue on Route 1 to get out of the way of continued fighting in Quang Tri.

North Vietnamese troops had captured Quang Tri City on May 1 as part of their Nguyen Hue Offensive (later called the "Easter Offensive"), a massive invasion by North Vietnamese forces that had been launched on March 31. 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 American advisors and airpower. Fighting continued all over South Vietnam into the summer months.

After months of heavy fighting, the South Vietnamese forces finally retook Quang Tri province entirely in September. With the communist invasion blunted, President Nixon declared that the South Vietnamese victory proved the viability of "Vietnamization," a program that 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had instituted in 1969 to increase the combat capability of the South Vietnamese armed forces so U.S. troops could be withdrawn.

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