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The art of enticement in Operation Binh Gia (1964)

55 years ago, in the Southeastern battlefield, the South Liberation Army gained several land-sliding victories – successfully carried out Operation Binh Gia – “…a small-scale operation of strategic importance, ushered in a new phase of the war”. The victory of the operation left us many valuable lessons, particularly the art of enticement.

Entering 1964, the high movement of “demolishing strategic hamlets” of Southern people had liberated a vast rural area, establishing widespread guerrilla warfare and a favourable ground for our main forces to station and manoeuvre. This also allowed us to strengthen the people’s war and gradually defeat the US strategy of “Special Warfare”.

However, during 10 years of the resistance war against the U.S, we haven’t conducted any large attack into the enemy to gain a decisive victory in the Southern battlefield. After thoroughly evaluating the situation, and to meet the new requirements, a strategic task is set forth for us, namely defeating the “Special Warfare” strategy. On 11 October 1964, the Central Military Commission and the General Command ordered the battlefields to launch operations throughout the regions and allowed the Southern battlefield open fire first.

 Implementing the unified combat plan of the General Staff and basing on objective and scientific analysis of the enemy and our force in the whole region and in each particular area, the Central Military Commission decided to launch an operation named Operation Binh Gia in the provinces of Ba Ria, Long Khanh (now Ba Ria – Vung Tau, and Dong Nai) and two southern districts of Binh Thuan province. After more than one month (from 2 December 1964 to 3 January 1965) people and troops of Southeastern provinces fought resilently and bravely despite difficulties to successfully accomplish the goals of the Operation. Especially, they annihilated a significant number of enemy troops in the area, betokening the defeat of the “Special Warfare”, while showing a new development of the Party’s direction over military art in the war as launching decisive attack throughout the region, contributing the changing the war outcome. The victory of Operation Binh Gia left us many valuable lessons, especially the art of enticement which is manifested in the following aspects:

First, choosing the right target for luring the enemy out of their installations. Grasping and carefully evaluating the situation in all aspects, especially the enemy’s combat schemes and rule of operation, the Operation Command decided to choose Binh Gia Hamlet – a strategic hamlet of Duc Thanh sub-area – as a decoy to lure the enemy’s reinforcement. Choosing a hamlet as a decoy is a creativity of the Operation Command because attacking into the strategic hamlet is to attack into the “national policy” of the enemy and the “backbone” of the “Special Warfare” Strategy. As a link in the enemy’s defensive system, Binh Gia holds a position of special importance in both military and politics. If the hamlet is defeated, Duc Thanh sub-area and Route 22 will be in danger and Ba Ria will be separated from Long Khanh and Route 1, hence the whole defensive area will collapse. In addition, Binh Gia is also the family quarter of the enemy marines and rangers, a typical hamlet and a symbol of invincibility. Therefore, when Binh Gia is under attack, the enemy will definitely send reinforcement to rescue. This has been proved in reality when our troops launched attack into Binh Gia, almost immediately the enemy’s reinforcement turned up. For us, Binh Gia serves as an easy target. Moreover, when attacking Binh Gia we were able to concentrate an overwhelming force for each battle, especially the key and decisive ones of the operation.

As shown in practice, with sound analysis and right choice of decoy target, when we opened fire into Binh Gia hamlet and surrounded Duc Thanh sub-area on the late hours of 2 December 1964, immediately in the early morning of the next day, the enemy deployed their helicopters to send Battalion 38 to the Southwest of Duc Thanh as reinforcement. Particularly, when we occupied Binh Gia and settled in the hamlet, the enemy not only deployed their Tank and 3rd Amor Battalion from Ba Ria to rescue by land route but also increased airborne reinforcement. This shows that the art of enticement of the Operation Command was highly effective in bringing us the initiative and allowing us to concentrate our force to annihilate the enemy out of their installations as exactly what we had planned before.

Second, luring the enemy into our kill zone, driving them into passivity and hasty response. Mentioning military tactics, Senior Lieutenant General Hoang Minh Thao said that “the best scheme is dissimulation; the best stratagem is enticement…” In the second phase of Operation Binh Gia, we were very successful in carrying our intention of enticement to lure the enemy into our kill zone and suddenly launch attacks with manoeuvres.

This was shown in the fact that we deployed 2 companies assaulting and occupying Binh Gia and established defensive lines in the west of the hamlet to lure the enemy. Not to lose Binh Gia by any means, the enemy sent the 18th Ranger Battalion to the southwest of Duc Thanh sub-area to recapture the hamlet. However, on their way to the hamlet, they were intercepted and forced to withdraw to La Van hamlet for reorganization. Facing the situation, the enemy sent their 33rd Ranger Battalion from Bien Hoa as reinforcement to rescue Binh Gia. They were unaware that with the determination to annihilate enemy’s air-landing troops, the Operation Command had coordinated with local forces to organize an ambush with anti-aircraft and infantry guns. When their helicopters were about to land, they were engaged by our air-defence fire. One of the helicopters was shot down, the enemy was forced to change their landing zone to southeast of Binh Gia where our 1st Regiment was awaiting with another ambush. Grasping the opportunity, and creatively applying different tactics and manoeuvres, 1st Regiment on the one hand, deployed one part of their force to engage the helicopters and another to approach and surround the enemy landing troops. Being intercepted suddenly and isolated, the enemy had to respond hastily. In just a short time, under the fierce attack of 1st Regiment, the enemy’s 33rd Battalion was almost completely destroyed.

The art of enticement was further applied in the operation when its Command ordered the 1st Regiment to move to Quang Giao (East of Binh Gia) to hold another ambush to engage the enemy from Binh Gia. To lure the enemy’s 4th Marine Battalion (searching for the U.S advisor’s body) advance to our ambush, 1st Regiment deployed part of their troops (6th Company, 2nd Battalion) intercepting the enemy with small attacks while gradually retreating to lure the enemy deep into Suan Son rubber plantation where our ambush had been established. When the entire enemy’s 4th Battalion had fallen into our kill zone, all of a sudden 1st Regiment opened fire simultaneously, surrounded, split and annihilating the enemy part by part, killing more than 600 enemy troops and completely destroying the “East Sea Cetacean” Battalion – the enemy marine’s pride.

All in all, by choosing the right decoy target, organizing the air-defence posture, forcing the enemy to land onto our kill zone, taking the initiative in the game, the Operation Command has successfully applied the art of enticement to defeat the modern tactics of “helicopter-lift” and “amour-lift”. The initial but valuable lessons drawn from Operation Binh Gia– the grand operation of our Military in the resistance war against the U.S for national salvation, served as important premise which was applied in the subsequent operations not only in the “Special Warfare” period but all the later phases of the war.

Senior Dao Duy Hoa, MA., and Colonel Tran Van Thanh, MA., Political Academy

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