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On the establishment of the counter-offensive posture against the Operation Junction City 1967

In 1967, under the leadership of the Central Office for South Vietnam and the Regional Command, our military and people defeated the enemy’s Operation Junction City. The victory proved the sound, creative guidelines on the people’s war and the development of Vietnam’s military art, particularly the building of the counter-attack posture.

The Operation Junction City was conducted by the US expeditionary force and the Army of Saigon in South Vietnam, aimed at smashing our headquarters, breaking down the Liberation Army’s backbone, establishing a parameter to control the Vietnam-Cambodia border, destroying our logistics depots, separating and encroaching on our bases as an outer shield for the Army of Saigon to pacify and defend Saigon - Gia Dinh. The U.S. Military and the Army of Saigon focused their powerful force and equipment on attacking Northern Tay Ninh in order to gain a victory and the initiative on the battlefield in a short time.

With the resolve to defeat the enemy’s Operation Junction City, the Central Office for South Vietnam and the Regional Command brought into play the people’s war posture, while directing our military and people in the base of Duong Minh Chau (Northern Tay Ninh) to build an inter-connected, flexible, and extensive counter-attack posture and maximise the strength of units of the Liberation Army and the on-the-spot force within the base. Our goal was to contain the power of the enemy’s weapons and equipment, forced them to fight on our own way, and take the initiative on the battlefield to gradually completely defeat their Operation. The most notable feature of our Counter-Offensive Campaign against the Operation Junction City by the U.S. Military and the Army of Saigon is described as follows.

First, build an inter-connected, extensive counter-attack posture. As Duong Minh Chau was a large mountainous area (about 1,500 km2), with a small population of about 800, it was extremely difficult for us to deal with a large-scale operation by the U.S. force. Against that backdrop, the Central Office for South Vietnam and the Regional Command carefully evaluated the terrain and the balance of power between us and the enemy to quickly design a counter-offensive posture and form the element of surprise as a feature of Vietnamese military art and a determinant to the victory over the Operation Junction City by the U.S. force and the Army of Saigon. In order to establish an inter-connected, extensive posture, the Regional Command quickly organised military, civil and Party offices into guerrilla, self-defence, and local units. Grounded on the characteristics of the task and area, the Central Office for South Vietnam and the Regional Command divided the Base into 13 districts and organised forces according to the stationed positions of offices and units of the Central Office for South Vietnam, the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, and the Regional Command. Staff members within civil and Party offices and troops within security and transport units, depots, technical stations, and hospitals were organised into guerrilla squads and platoons as well as local mobile companies and battalions. Those units and the people would fight the enemy on the spot to defend the base, while cooperating with main units in conducting a war of attrition and isolating the enemy.

By doing so, we succeeded in establishing an inter-connected and extensive posture capable of providing massive support for the main force. When the enemy commenced their Operation on February 22nd, 1967, the armed forces of Ta Dat district and the guerilla force of Ca Tum district set up an ambush to shoot down the enemy’s helicopters and parachutists and attack enemy troops on land. Districts’ armed forces and the guerrilla force within offices actively fought the enemy anytime, anywhere, while making use of the enemy’s unexploded bombs to manufacture anti-tank mines and employing windmills packed with explosives to destroy the enemy’s helicopters, thereby compelling the enemy to disperse their force to defend their base, stationed areas, and roads for manoeuvre. In the first phase of the Operation, the enemy used only 8 out of 26 battalions for combat. Close combat coordination between guerrilla and self-defence units of central offices and the people within the Base helped destroy part of enemy troops and reduce their attacking speed, while facilitating our mobile force’s preparation to carry out key battles.

Second, build a flexible, secret, surprising counter-attack posture. Such a unique posture was designed by the Campaign Command to prevent the enemy from seeking and destroying our strength, while laying a foundation for our units to secretly launch large-scale attacks. In addition to the Division 9, the Campaign’s mobile force was supplemented with a number of powerful, experienced units from the Southeastern battlefield. The Campaign Command deployed those units to favourable positions so that they could flexibly manoeuvre, focus their strength on creating the superiority over the enemy when necessary, disperse their force to make the enemy lose the goal and direction, and train the local armed forces simultaneously. Under that plan, the Campaign Command arranged the Division 9’s regiments and the reinforced units on the outer line, next to the enemy’s flanks, and behind the enemy’s attacking directions. Hence, the enemy could hardly detect our mobile force. More specifically, the Campaign Command deployed 3 mobile regiments to fight the enemy in the West of the Road No.22, Cha Do, and Phuoc Sang, while 1 regiment was used in the Road No.13 and Suoi Day.

In the process of posture building, as we managed to keep secrets, our mobile force closely cooperated with guerrilla and self-defence units and locals within the Base in ambushing the enemy’s flanks and their formation’s rear, thereby gradually destroying their weapons, equipment and means of war. Additionally, we selected the objects of attack and made elaborate preparations for battles at battalion, regiment, and even division levels, such as Dong Pan in the 1st phase and Dong Rum - Ap Gu (Trang Ba Vung) in the 2nd phase. Thus, in spite of the enemy’s superiority in materiel and manoeuvrability, they neither gained the initiative on the battlefield nor attacked our mobile force.

Third, closely combine the on-the-spot force’s posture with the mobile force’s posture. More specifically, our force on the spot fought the enemy to defend hamlets and communes, while our main force concentrated their strength on large-scale, medium-scale, and large-scale battles to crush the enemy’s attacking directions. Our people and troops within the Base attacked the enemy in their formation’s front, flanks, and rear, making them unable to distinguish between our main, guerrilla and local units. Failing to search and destroy our main force, the enemy had to encamp or deploy a large number of troops for their sweeps over our Base; however, our main force succeeded in dealing a death blow to the enemy and forced them to disperse or cluster together, thus undermining their fighting morale.

When the enemy attacked the Base of Duong Minh Chau, our force on the spot took advantage of the terrain and flexibly adopted various methods of combat to destroy a large number of the enemy’s weapons, equipment, and means of war. The Division 9 and other units organised reconnaissance missions to grasp the enemy’s situation and select their exposed positions for attack, such as their artillery battlefield and temporary stops. Typical examples included the raid of Ong Hung Spring and the battle of Dong Pan. Being attacked continuously and suffering heavy loss of personnel and materiel, the enemy had to cluster along the Roads No.1, No.4 and No.22, while deploying a lot of troops to defend their logistics corridor. Grasping the information, our guerrilla and self-defence units and people immediately fought the enemy in Bay Bau, Ang Khac, and Ca Tum. The Division 9 staged a series of large-scale battles in Lo Via, Bau Co, and Trang A Lau, destroying many companies of the enemy and hundreds of their military vehicles, forcing them to end the Operation’s 1st phase (March 11th, 1967). When conducting the Operation’s 2nd phase, the enemy shifted their attacking direction towards the East. Knowing their intention, the Campaign Command provided more anti-tank weapons for the on-the-spot force and organised a section of this force into teams to hunt and destroy the enemy’s vehicles and aircraft. On March 20th, 1967, our mobile force closely collaborated with the on-the-spot force in raiding the enemy’s firepower units in the base of Bau Bang and attacking the cluster of U.S. troops in Dong Rum - Ap Gu, winning an impressive victory and forcing the enemy to end the Operation.

In the war for the Homeland defence (if occurred), when building the posture of a counter-attack or offensive campaign, we should focus on building an inter-connected, extensive posture of the on-the-spot force for both attack and withdrawal. We should flexibly deploy our main force to minimise casualties but concentrate our strength on the main directions and targets, especially on the key battles. The art of establishing the posture during the Counter-Offensive Campaign against the Operation Junction City conducted by the U.S. Military and the Army of Saigon remains valuable both theoretically and practically and should continue to be studied, developed, and applied to the wars for the Homeland protection.

Sr. Col. DANG XUAN CU, PhD

Lt. Col. NGUYEN TRUNG HIEN

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