With the North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam broadening on to four fronts on Thursday (April 6), South Vietnamese forces battled to contain the Communists on the banks of the Dong Ha River.
With the North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam broadening on to four fronts on Thursday (April 6), South Vietnamese forces battled to contain the Communists on the banks of the Dong Ha River. Some North Vietnamese troops had already crossed the river, their target the provincial capital, Quang Tri, six miles to the south. American advisers with the South Vietnamese were confident that the Communists would be pushed back that day - but a sudden artillery and rocket attack proved them wrong. Two advisers were wounded by mortar shrapnel, along with several South Vietnamese soldiers and newsmen covering the fighting.
SYNOPSIS:In South Vietnam, Government troops continue their battle to contain the Communist invasion at the Dong Ha River. The River, six miles north of the strategic provincial capital, Quang Tri, had been chosen as a do-or-die defence line, and reinforced with several thousand South Vietnamese marines and infantry. But by Thursday, North Vietnamese units had fought their way across to the sough bank and were facing the government forces across 500 yards of rice paddies.
The South Vietnamese had been trying for four days to push the Communists back from the river. They had brought in heavy firepower - the 90-millimetre guns of their American tanks. The North Vietnamese replied with barrages of mortar and artillery fire. On Thursday, the small group of American advisers accompanying the Vietnamese were confident that this would be the day that they broke the Communist lines. To help break the stalemate, an extra battalion of South Vietnamese marines had been brought in, along with other infantry. Jets, flown by American and South Vietnamese pilots, hit the enemy positions with bombs and napalm.
As the American called in the air strikes, the North Vietnamese hit back with surface-to-air missiles. At least one, possibly two, missiles exploded over the South Vietnamese position after missing their targets. The advisers said it was obvious that the Communists had set up one of their Soviet SAM missile sites south of the Demilitarized Zone - in South Vietnamese territory.
As the South Vietnamese bombarded the Communist lines, the balance of the battle suddenly changed. Forward observers first reported a cloud of dust on a road on the other side of the river. The Americans speculated that it was a column of North Vietnamese tanks, heading their way. Then a series of mortar shells exploded close to their position. Two advisers were wounded by shrapnel, along with several South Vietnamese troops and newsmen covering the fighting.
After the blast it was clear that the river bank would not be cleared of Communists that day. The river, running east to the coast, and the village of Dong Ha itself, are considered vital to the defence of the provincial capital, Quang Tri. Twelve other South Vietnamese positions around the town have already fallen to Communist attacks. The North Vietnamese offensive is considered to be not as widespread or powerful as their Tet offensive four years ago. But the Communists are nor fighting a large scale conventional battle - as opposed to guerilla attacks in those days.