The Soviet Defense Ministry newspaper, Krasnaya Zuezda, reports that Russian military experts have come under fire during U.S. raids against North Vietnamese missile sites while the Soviets were training North Vietnamese soldiers in the use of Soviet-made anti-aircraft missiles.
This was extremely significant because it was the first public acknowledgment that Soviets had trained North Vietnamese missile crews and were observing them in action. U.S. officials had long maintained that the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China were providing military aid–including training advisers, weapons, and equipment–that permitted the North Vietnamese to continue the war. Until this pooint, both the Soviets and Chinese had denied they had personnel in North Vietnam.
The North Vietnamese fired over 10,000 SA-2 SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) at U.S. aircraft from 1965 to 1972, and each of those missiles was supplied by the Soviet Union. This was also true for the T-54 medium tanks, 130-mm field guns, and other sophisticated weapons and equipment the North Vietnamese used to launch their 1972 and 1975 offensives. The only time that this steady source of weapons and equipment from the Soviets was significantly impeded was during 1972, when President Richard Nixon ordered the stepping up of air raids against Hanoi and the mining of Haiphong harbor, through which most of the weapons and heavy equipment normally came.