Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord

The Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord was a 23-day battle between elements of the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division and two reinforced divisions of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) that took place from 1 to 23 July 1970. It was the last major confrontation between United States ground forces and the PAVN during the Vietnam War. Three Medals of Honor and six Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded to participants for actions during the operations.

Background

President Nixon began the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam early in 1969. As the only full-strength division remaining in Vietnam in early 1970, the 101st Airborne Division was ordered to conduct the planned offensive Operation Texas Star near the A Shau Valley.

On 12 March 1970, the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne under the command of Colonel Ben Harrison, began rebuilding abandoned Fire Support Base Ripcord which relied, as with most remote bases at the time, on a helicopter lifeline to get supplies in and the personnel out. The firebase was to be used for a planned offensive by the 101st to destroy PAVN supply bases in the mountains overlooking the valley. Located on the eastern edge of the valley, and taking place at the same time as the Cambodian Incursion, the operation was considered covert.

Battle

As the 101st Airborne Division planned the attack on enemy supply bases, the PAVN was observing their activities. From 12 March until 30 June, the PAVN was sporadically attacking the firebase. On 29 April, President Nixon launched the Cambodian Incursion which was officially concluded on 30 June when the last U.S. troops left Cambodia. Immediately after this, the United States made one final attempt to block the Ho Chi Minh Trail. After weeks of reconnaissance by the PAVN, on the morning of 1 July 1 the PAVN launched a mortar attack on the firebase. During the 23-day siege, 75 US servicemen were killed, including Lt. Col. Andre Lucas, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor; and First Lt. Bob Kalsu, the only contemporaneously active pro athlete to be killed during the war.[2]

Losses of U.S. forces were so great that officers began asking for volunteers from other units to go to Ripcord and reinforce the firebase. Finally, the U.S. command realized that the position was not defensible, and the decision was made to withdraw. Fighting from four hilltops, surrounded, and outnumbered nearly ten to one, U.S. forces caused heavy losses on eight enemy battalions, before an aerial withdrawal under heavy mortar, anti-aircraft, and small arms fire. After the 101st Airborne withdrew from the firebase, B-52 bombers were sent in to carpet bomb the area.[3] Harrison claimed that the PAVN losses at Ripcord, just as their losses of their major offensives of the Ia Drang in 1965 and Tet in 1968, crippled their offensive capability for two full years, resulting in the delaying of their Easter Offensive from 1971 to 1972.[4]

References

  1. ^ Kelley, Michael P. (2002). Where We Were In Vietnam. Hellgate Press. p. 5–442. ISBN 1555716253.
  2. ^ Lander, Erik (29 January 2002). "Bob Kalsu". Find A Grave, Inc. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  3. ^ "Bombers Hit N. Viet Camps Near Ripcord". Washington Post. 25 July 1970. pp. A12. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
  4. ^ Harrison, Benjamin (2004). Hell on a Hilltop. iUniverse Press. p. 181. ISBN 9780595327300.

See also

Books

  • "Ripcord: Screaming Eagles Under Siege, Vietnam 1970" by Keith W. Nolan, Presidio Press, 2000, ISBN 0-89141-642-0
  • "Hell On A Hill Top: America's Last Major Battle In Vietnam" by Major General Benjamin L. Harrison, iUniverse Press (available from Ripcord Association)
  • "The Price of Exit", by Tom Marshall, Ballantine Books, 1998. ISBN 0-8041-1715-2
  • "The Sentinel and the Shooter", by Douglas W. Bonnot, 2010. ISBN 978-1-59594-418-4

Articles

Video

  • "Siege at Firebase Ripcord", War Stories with Oliver North, Fox News Productions, product # FOX25004600

External links

501st Infantry Regiment (United States)

The 501st Airborne Infantry Regiment (501st AIR), previously the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (501st PIR) and later 501st Infantry Regiment (501st IR), is an airborne forces regiment of the United States Army, with a long history, having served in World War II and the Vietnam War, both as part of the 101st Airborne Division, as well as the War in Afghanistan. It is the first airborne unit by designation in the United States Armed Forces. Its 1st Battalion is assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, located at Fort Richardson, Alaska. Its 2nd Battalion is assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

A Sầu Valley

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Bob Kalsu

James Robert Kalsu (April 13, 1945 – July 21, 1970) was an All-American tackle at the University of Oklahoma and an eighth-round selection in the 1968 NFL/AFL draft by the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League. He later joined the U.S. Army as an officer and was killed in the Vietnam War. He was the last NFL player to be killed serving as a soldier in a war until 2004, when Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan. Earlier, Al Blozis formerly of the New York Football Giants was killed in action in World War II.

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Until the early 20th century, field artillery were also known as foot artillery, for while the guns were pulled by beasts of burden (often horses), the gun crews would usually march on foot, thus providing fire support mainly to the infantry. This was in contrast to horse artillery, whose emphasis on speed while supporting cavalry units necessitated lighter guns and crews riding on horseback.

Whereas horse artillery has been superseded by self-propelled artillery, field artillery has survived to this day both in name and mission, albeit with motor vehicles towing the guns, carrying the crews and transporting the ammunition. Modern artillery has also advanced to rapidly deployable wheeled and tracked vehicles and precision delivered munitions capable of striking targets at ranges between 15 and 300 kilometers.

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List of United States servicemembers and civilians missing in action during the Vietnam War (1970–71)

This article is a list of US MIAs of the Vietnam War in the period from 1969–1971. In 1973, the United States listed 2,646 Americans as unaccounted for from the entire Vietnam War. By August 2017, 1604 Americans remained unaccounted for, of which 1026 were classified as further pursuit, 488 as no further pursuit and 90 as deferred.

List of allied military operations of the Vietnam War (1970)

This article is a list of known military operations of the Vietnam War in 1970, conducted by the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam, the Khmer Republic, the United States and their allies.

List of allied military operations of the Vietnam War (T–Z and others)

This article is a list of known military operations of the Vietnam War, a war fought by America to try to stop communism in Southeast Asia, conducted by the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam, the United States and their assorted allies. This is not a complete list.

Operation Texas Star

Operation Texas Star was a military operation of the Vietnam War that took place in Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên Provinces from 1 April to 5 September 1970.

Outline of the Vietnam War

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Vietnam War:

Vietnam War – Cold War-era proxy war that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War (1946–54) and was fought between North Vietnam—supported by the Soviet Union, China and other communist allies—and the government of South Vietnam—supported by the United States, Philippines and other anti-communist allies. The Viet Cong (also known as the National Liberation Front, or NLF), a South Vietnamese communist common front aided by the North, fought a guerrilla war against anti-communist forces in the region. The People's Army of Vietnam, also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units to battle.

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