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Logistics work in the Air Defence Campaign in December, 1972

In late December, 1972, the Air Defence – Air Force along with Northern armed forces and people launched the Air Defence Campaign intended to defeat the U.S. strategic airborne raid, which was mostly carried out by B-52 strategic bombers, on Hanoi, Hai Phong and their adjacent provinces, recording a landslide victory - “Hanoi – Dien Bien Phu in the air”. The victory of the campaign resulted from the combination of factors, including great contribution of logistics assurance.

In spite of having experience of logistics assurance during the fight against the U.S. destructive war, this was the first time the Air Defence and Air Force Service had ensured logistics for the largest ever air defence operation. Various units of the force involved in the campaign, and they were deployed in an extensive area1; therefore, the logistics work met with many difficulties and challenges.

With deep grasp of the situation, and fighting conditions and tasks of the Air Defence – Air Force components, and thorough preparation in all aspects, the Service had actively conducted in advance the logistics preparation for the campaign concretized by its early and synchronous implementation at all levels, serving the large-scale, continuous and long-term operation. The preparation focused on adjustment and supplement of the Plan of logistics assurance, consolidation of forces, re-arrangement of the Northern network of warehouses, stations and workshops, especially those set in Hanoi, Hai Phong, making the logistics posture conformable with the campaign’s operational plan. Simultaneously, the logistics materials and equipment as well as their reserves distributed to components and areas were urgently added in tandem with establishment of petrol and ammunition reserving facilities in a focalized and deep manner, being ready to meet combat requirements set by the forces.

Grounded on the plan of logistics assurance which had been prepared in advance in May, 1972, then was adjusted and supplemented in July and September, 1972, the Service placed great emphasis on the evacuation of logistics facilities and units, especially depots, stations, workshops, hospitals, etc., from critical areas. That helped minimize damage to people, weapons, equipment, and facilities once the enemy’s Air Force struck. At the same time, the Service directed its Logistics Department to switch from the mode of sequential assurance characterized by the rule of receiving from superior, allocating to subordinate into regional one. The Service’s logistics was closely attached to superior logistics, and combined capacity of people’s and local logistics was brought into play, ensuring their on-site distribution to units deployed within each operational area. The Service combined the implementation of independent logistics assurance measures in each front of the campaign, each operational area with the mobile ones which were used when necessary. Grounded on efforts of the Logistics and components within the Service, just in a short time, all the Air Defence – Air Force units were provided with sufficient reserving amount of petrol and oil, ammunitions, foodstuff, medicine, dressings, and stretchers as required in the operational plan. Before the campaign, the allocated reserve materials ensured to maintain normal activities of regiments in 7 to 10 days, and of divisions in 3 to 5 days. Anti-aircraft artillery shells were reserved with 2 to 3 basic units depending on each area, each level, ensuring for 2 to 3 defence courses conducted in the period of 5 to 7 days. In addition, regiments were also equipped 1.8 to 2.1 basic units of missiles.

As the enemy fiercely attacked, in spite of the preparation in advance, many difficulties and challenges still emerged in logistics assurance, especially the assurance of aircraft fuel and missiles during the operational course. These were the two biggest challenges, as well as two outstanding successes in the logistics assurance of the Service in this campaign. The Service’s flexible application and combination of logistics assurance modes and implementation of principle clarified by maximum mobilization of all resources, giving priority to logistics assurance of key tasks and battles were one of the main reasons leading to the victory of the campaign.

During the work of petrol and oil assurance, in tandem with adding more to the reserves of the airfields (each of them met consuming demand of 30 to 40 fighting days), the Service actively cooperated with strategic depots of the Logistics General Department and national petroleum depots to organize 3 clusters of logistics warehouse to the north and south of the River Duong and to the south of Red River, being prepared to provide directly for the airfields in any fronts, and in any circumstances. In the assurance of missiles, thanks to the anticipation of difficulties in transportation, the Service had maximum mobilized forces and means of transportation to involve in and properly handle the transportation supporting elements/factors, such as: loading and unloading, habours and yards, maneuvering route, etc; resulting in improving its transportation capacity. On the other hand, the Service cooperated with the Logistics General Department to allocate ammunitions straight to air defence divisions deployed in fronts as demanded in operational plan; meanwhile, the remaining ones were directly distributed from the Service’s warehouse to divisions, regiments, even down to combating battalions in tandem with receiving and carrying wounded soldiers to the back line. The flexible adjustment of assurance measures, close cooperation between the Service’s logistics and strategic logistics, and active assurance improvement of the Service’s logistics had contributed to opportunely providing equipments, ammunitions for combats, effectively handling the contradiction between huge amount of materials and limited transportation capacity, short period of time as well as requirement of mobilizing weapons and technical equipments in order to change the posture of the campaign2.

Being inherited from experience in air defence operations against the U.S. destructive war in the North since 1965, along with anticipation of B-52 bombers’ destruction levels as well as resolute evacuation of people, logistics facilities and units from critical areas, the Service had directed the cooperation between military medical facilities and local civil medical ones, establishing regional medical treatment services/levels for the wounded. Accordingly, the first service consisted of battlefield military medical unit and medical organs of agencies, enterprises, cooperatives and was assigned to conduct the first emergency aid. The second one, which was the cooperation between units’ military medical teams and commune’s medical stations, undertook the mission of supporting emergency aid. The third one – the cooperation between military medical units and district-level hospitals and dispensaries – was assigned to give emergency aid, treatment and bandage to unserious wounds; and to organize mobilizing surgical teams in order to deal with any situations when necessary. The fourth one included military medical hospitals in cooperation with provincial and city hospitals, dealing with complex and specialized wounds and providing directions and technical support to the subordinate services. Thanks to the close cooperation between 15 military medical emergency teams and 105 civil ones in Hanoi as well as between 15 other military ones and 53 other civil ones in Hai Phong, during 12 days and nights of the campaign, the units’ work of giving emergency aid to wounded soldiers was highly effective, reducing number of casualties.

What is more, the Service directed Logistics branch to closely cooperate with its Engineering Corps and local armed forces to conduct urgent rescue and repair at the airports, such as Noi Bai, Kep, Yen Bai; construct field-based airport in the mountainous region of Cam Thuy district, Thanh Hoa province, ensuring timely sorties of our Air Force to fight against B-52 aircraft. And right from this airport, in the night of 28th December, 1972, pilot Vu Xuan Thieu took off and shot down a U.S B-52 aircraft.

During the Air Defence Campaign in December, 1972, the logistics organization and assurance of the Service had achieved a great development as evidenced by successfully solving many issues relating to logistics preparation, organization and assurance. That contributed to bringing into play the role of key force of the Service in the cooperation with our armed forces and people to defeat the US strategic airborne raid, recording the historic victory “Hanoi – Dien Bien Phu in the air”.

In order to inherit and develop lessons withdrawn from the logistics assurance of the Air Defence Campaign in December, 1972  in new conditions of the people’s war to defend the Fatherland, especially in air-to-air combat assurance under the condition of using high-tech weapons, it is necessary for the Service’s Logistics branch to firmly grasp the situation, promote the implementation of  measures for building logistics potential and posture as well as logistics assurance projects, ensuring that it will opportunely and effectively deal with any situations both in peacetime and wartime. In the immediate future, the Service will continue to thoroughly understand and implement the resolutions, directives, action programs and plans, especially Resolution 623-NQ/QUTW of the Central Military Commission. Simultaneously, it also places great stress on offering counsels to the Ministry of National Defence on planning and construction of logistics bases, depots and centers in each region so that they are suitable with general situation of strategic logistics and defensive-zone logistics, opportunely serving the training, combat readiness training and combating practice of the Service’s components. The building and improvement of the Logistics organization and workforce will be also enhanced in tandem with the building of strong contingent of logistics cadres and employees so that they are able to meet the Service’s requirements and tasks in new situation.

45 years have passed, but lessons from the 1972 Air Defence Campaign remain invaluable for the work of logistics assurance. The Service’s Logistics branch will continue to study and develop suitable employment of them in new conditions, contributing to building the “revolutionary, regular, elite, modern” Service, meeting the requirements and demands of firmly managing and defending airspace of the Fatherland in any circumstances.

Maj. Gen. Nguyen Huu Chi, Deputy Commander of the Air Defence – Air Force Service
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1 – The Service’s components involved in the campaign: 3 Air Defence divisions (361; 367; 375), 23 missile battalions, 13 anti-aircraft artillery regiments, 4 Air Force regiments, 4 radar regiments and 3 regiments, 2 battalions of Air Defence Force deployed in military regions of Viet Bac, Huu Ngan, Ta Ngan; The campaign was conducted in 11 provinces and cities.

2 – During 12 days and nights, the Division 361 consumed alone 2.500 tons of ammunition that was equal to 12 percent of total amount of ammunition consumed by the whole Air Defence – Air Force Service in 2 anti-destructive wars.

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