Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1972

U.S. forces respond to North Vietnamese offensive

Clear weather for the first time in three days allows U.S. planes and Navy warships to begin the sustained air strikes and naval bombardments ordered by President Nixon in response to the massive North Vietnamese offensive launched on March 30.

The Nguyen Hue Offensive (later known as the “Easter Offensive”) was a massive invasion by North Vietnamese forces designed to strike the blow that would win the war for the communists. 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 were Quang Tri in the north, Kontum in the Central Highlands, and An Loc farther to the south.

President Richard Nixon had ordered the Air Force and Navy to provide all available air support to help the South Vietnamese stabilize the situation. In response, U.S. planes flew 225 missions by April 9, hitting North Vietnamese troop concentrations and missile emplacements above and below the Demilitarized Zone. Two U.S. planes were shot down over North Vietnam by missiles, a new element in North Vietnamese air defenses.

Ultimately, the South Vietnamese forces prevailed against the invaders, but only after six months of desperate fighting that raged across South Vietnam. U.S. airpower proved to be the difference between victory and defeat for the South Vietnamese. With the communist invasion blunted, President Nixon declared that the South Vietnamese victory proved the viability of his “Vietnamization” program, instituted in 1969 to increase the combat capability of the South Vietnamese armed forces.

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