The National Liberation Front claimed on Saturday (15 April) to have taken the provincial capital of An Loc, after a week's siege.
The National Liberation Front claimed on Saturday (15 April) to have taken the provincial capital of An Loc, after a week's siege. South Vietnamese and U.S. spokesmen in Saigon rejected the claim, but if true, it would represent a major victory for the communists. An Loc, the capital of Binh Long province, lies only 56 miles (90 kms) north of Saigon and would be the first provincial capital to fall in the 17-day-old North Vietnamese offensive against South Vietnam.
On other fronts, fighting south of the city of Hue and in Quang Tri province near Dong Ha remains heavy. South Vietnamese troops have been trying to stop communist infiltration in Quang Tri. On Friday (14 April) a South Vietnamese force encountered the North Vietnamese near Dong Ha and a fierce firefight ensured, as shown in this film from the National Broadcasting Company.
South of Hue, Firebase Bastogne has been under heavy attack for several days and no supplies have gotten through to relieve the troops there for a week. South Vietnamese troops have established another firebase nearby. From that base, Firebase Birmingham, the South Vietnamese forces are firing on North Vietnamese positions in an attempt to relieve Bastogne.
SYNOPSIS: South Vietnamese troops in Quang Tri province ran into a force of North Vietnamese on Friday and a fierce firefight ensued. The South Vietnamese have been trying to stop communist infiltration in the province around the city of Dong Ha.
In this engagement the two sides were sometimes as close as ten yards. The communists appeared to have crawled very close to the South Vietnamese troops and tanks before opening fire.
North Vietnamese attacks such as this have been common in the last few days and they have been linked with heavy shelling of bridges and roads in the area. These latest attacks on South Vietnamese armour follow two tank battles last week in which the North Vietnamese were reported to have suffered heavy losses.
The firefight appeared to die out as quickly as it started, as the South Vietnamese began to count their dead and wounded. No further contact with the North Vietnamese was made by this unit on Friday. In another area, however, the National Liberation Front has claimed to have taken the provincial capital of An Loc north of Saigon. South Vietnamese and U.S. spokesmen in Saigon rejected the claim, but if true, it would represent a major victory for the communists.
Firebase Bastogne, south of Hue, is another base that has been under heavy North Vietnamese attack. The South Vietnamese have established another base nearby in order to try and relieve the besieged forces.
The troops at Firebase Bastogne have been without supplies for six days and still these reinforcements, being brought up to the new Firebase Birmingham, cannot get through. Scenes such as this are common throughout many parts of South Vietnam, as the North Vietnamese offensive continues on several disparate fronts. President Nixon's security advisor, Major General Alexander Haig, is due in Saigon on Sunday to study the new crisis.
Early on Sunday, it was reported that giant B-52 bombers and other U.S. fighter-bombers had struck at North Vietnam's major port of Haiphong -- only miles east of Hanoi -- the first time in nearly four years. A U.S. spokesman added that previous strikes had been against military targets in the vicinity of Vinh and Bai Thuong. Vinh is a major port about halfway between Hanoi and the demilitarized zone. Bai Thuong is a supply centre about seventy-five miles southwest of Hanoi. The bombing of Haiphong was the first time the port had been hit since President Johnson's bombing halt in November of 1968.
U.S. air support has been a major factor in helping the South Vietnamese to repulse the communist offensive south of the demilitarized zone. The aircraft are especially effective against North Vietnamese positions around besieged areas such as An Loc and Firebase Bastogne. But heavy monsoon rains, due in a few weeks time, will largely curta such air support operations.