Battle of Landing Zone Center

The Battle of Landing Zone Center (also known as the Battle of Hill 352 or the Battle of Nui Hoac Ridge) took place from 5–25 May 1968 in Quảng Tín Province during the Vietnam War.

Coordinates: 15°33′47″N 108°16′23″E / 15.563°N 108.273°E

Background

During the Tet Offensive of 1968, the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) 2nd Division tried to capture Đà Nẵng but they were defeated in the Battle of Lo Giang. PAVN General Chu Huy Mân Commander of Military Region 5 ordered General Giáp Văn Cương, commander of the 2nd Division, to split the Division into two fighting arms: one regiment would tie down the Americans in the Quế Son Valley, while the rest of the Division would withdraw to their base areas near Laos, to link up with the 70th Transport Regiment and rest and refit. Then, their next target would be Khâm Đức, the last remaining Special Forces camp adjacent to the Ho Chi Minh Trail in I Corps. Mân told his senior officers that they would attack Khâm Đức to force an American retreat from the area.[1].

In the aftermath of the battle for Đà Nẵng, U.S. military commanders in I Corps held different views on the fighting ability of the PAVN 2nd Division. Americal Division commander Major-General Samuel W. Koster claimed losses sustained by the Division had "impaired its future effectiveness", after his units killed more than 1,000 enemy soldiers in the month of January alone. In contrast, 1st Marine Division commander Major-General Donn J. Robertson told his superiors that the 2nd Division may have several uncommitted units they could deploy for future operations.[1]:7

Battle

Landing Zone Center (15°35′06″N 108°14′56″E / 15.585°N 108.249°E) was located on Hill 348, approximately 20km northwest of Tam Kỳ.[2] In early May 1968 it was occupied by 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment and Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Artillery Regiment.[3]

On 5 May as part of the May Offensive, the PAVN 31st Regiment attacked LZ Center with mortars and recoilless rifles. When U.S. helicopters tried to land a patrol to locate those weapons, a heavy machine gun company from the PAVN K31 Anti-Aircraft Battalion opened fire from positions around the firebase, shooting down UH-1D #66-17075 from the 178th Assault Helicopter Company which crashed killing all 10 crew and passengers and shortly afterwards a helicopter gunship of the 71st Assault Helicopter Company was also shot down. Company D 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment was flown in to reinforce LZ Center. On 7 May an A–1E Skyraider was shot down while providing air support near LZ Center.[4]

On 8 May MG Koster ordered the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment and the 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment to sweep the hills around Landing Zone Center.[4]

The PAVN forces were concentrated on the Nui Hoac Ridge, with their main position located on Hill 352 (15°33′47″N 108°16′23″E / 15.563°N 108.273°E) approximately 2.5km south of LZ Center.[2]:5–369 This position held at least 2 anti-aircraft guns, recoilless rifles, mortars and an unknown number of PAVN. In addition the PAVN were entrenched between Hills 434 and 479 to the east of LZ Center.[5]

On 14 May 1968 during an attack on PAVN bunkers on Hill 352 Platoon sergeant Finnis D. McCleery of 1st Platoon, Company A, 1/6th Infantry single-handedly attacked and destroyed several PAVN bunkers despite being wounded twice. For his actions that day, McCleery would be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Aftermath

The battle was a U.S. victory with the US claiming over 365 PAVN were killed, however it diverted U.S. resources away from the Battle of Kham Duc.[4]

References

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army Center of Military History.

  1. ^ a b Davies, Bruce (2008) (2008). The Battle at Ngok Tavak: A Bloody Defeat in South Vietnam, 1968. Allen & Unwin. p. 45. ISBN 9781741750645.
  2. ^ a b Kelley, Michael (2002). Where we were in Vietnam. Hellgate Press. p. 5–98. ISBN 978-1555716257.
  3. ^ "Operational Report Lessons Learned" (PDF). Headquarters Americal Division Artillery. 1 November 1968. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Villard, Erik (2017). United States Army in Vietnam Combat Operations Staying the Course October 1967 to September 1968. Center of Military History United States Army. p. 542. ISBN 9780160942808.
  5. ^ Humphries, James (1999). Through the Valley: Vietnam, 1967–1968. Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 284. ISBN 9781555878214.
23rd Infantry Division (United States)

The 23rd Infantry Division, initially, and more commonly known as, the Americal Division, of the United States Army was activated 27 May 1942 on the island of New Caledonia. In the immediate emergency following Pearl Harbor, the United States had hurriedly sent three individual regiments to defend New Caledonia against a feared Japanese attack. This division was the only division formed outside of United States territory during World War II (a distinction it would repeat when reformed during the Vietnam War). At the suggestion of a subordinate, the division's commander, Major General Alexander Patch, requested that the new unit be known as the Americal Division—the name being a contraction of "American, New Caledonian Division". This was unusual, as most U.S. divisions are known by a number. After World War II the Americal Division was officially re-designated as the 23rd Infantry Division. However, it was rarely referred to as such, even on official orders.

During the Vietnam War the division had a mixed record. It combined solid service in numerous battles and campaigns with the My Lai massacre, which was committed by a platoon of the division's subordinate 11th Infantry Brigade, led by Lieutenant William Calley.

The Division also had another setback on the early morning of 28 March 1971, Vietcong sapper commandos sneaked into FSB Mary Ann, proceeded to throw explosives and tear gas, knife sleeping soldiers and blowing up key infrastructure delaying rescue. This attack caused 116 casualties leaving 33 killed and 83 wounded.The division was inactivated following its withdrawal from Vietnam in November 1971.

Finnis D. McCleery

Finnis Dawson McCleery (December 25, 1927 – July 11, 2002) was a United States Army soldier and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in the Vietnam War.

List of landing zones in the Vietnam War

Landing Zones during the U.S.-involvement in the Vietnam War include:

Landing Zone Albany, Central Highlands; involved in the Battle of Ia Drang

Landing Zone Baldy, Quảng Nam Province

Landing Zone Brace, Central Highlands

Landing Zone Brillo Pad, Central Highlands

Landing Zone Center, Quảng Tín Province; involved in the Battle of Landing Zone Center

Landing Zone Colt (Landing Zone Ordway) Quảng Nam Province

Landing Zone Dot, Tây Ninh Province

Landing Zone East (Landing Zone Mary Lou) Quảng Nam Province

Landing Zone English (Landing Zone Dog) Bình Định Province

Landing Zone Hereford, Bình Định Province

Landing Zone Kate, Quang Duc Province; U.S. Army base

Landing Zone Leslie, Quảng Nam Province

Landing Zone Liz, Quang Ngai Province

Landing Zone Loon, Quảng Trị Province

Landing Zone Mack, Quảng Trị Province

Landing Zone Margo, Quảng Trị Province

Landing Zone Oasis (Landing Zone Tuttle), central South Vietnam

Landing Zone Peanuts, Quảng Trị Province

Landing Zone Professional, Quang Tin Province

Landing Zone Robin, Quảng Trị Province; involved in Operation Robin

Landing Zone Schueller (Landing Zone Road), central South Vietnam

Landing Zone Sierra, Quảng Trị Province

Landing Zone Two Bits, Bình Định Province

Landing Zone Uplift, coastal South Vietnam

Landing Zone Virgin, Central Highlands

Landing Zone X-Ray, Central Highlands

May Offensive

PHASE II of the Tet Offensive of 1968 (also known as the May Offensive, Little Tet, and Mini-Tet) was launched by the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and Viet Cong (VC) against targets throughout South Vietnam, including Saigon from 29 April to 30 May 1968.

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