Friday, October 30, 2020, 16:48 (GMT+7)

Monday, September 05, 2016, 08:12 (GMT+7)
The art of establishing our disposition, destroying the enemy’s in Route 9 - Southern Laos Operation

To realize the “Vietnamization” Strategy, weaken combat strength of the opponent, improve operational capability of Saigon troops, and facilitate the continued withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam, in the beginning months of 1971, US - Saigon troops conducted a number of large-scale operations, in which the “Operation Lam Son 719” attacking Route 9 - Southern Laos was the largest one. Its aim was to destroy our strategic transportation line and  logistical facilities, block the support from the North, prevent us from launching major offensives in the dry season of 1971 and 1972 and force us to disperse and revert to the framework of guerilla warfare. Grasping the enemy’s plots and tricks, the Politburo and the Central Military Commission decided to launch the Route 9 - Southern Laos Operation to defeat the enemy’s Operation Lam Son 719 and protect our strategic logistical line. To realize that resolve, the Operation Command quickly conducted all preparations (studying the theatre, organizing forces, establishing disposition) and flexibly applied the method of large-scale combined arms operations, creating synergy and completely defeating the enemy’s strategic operation which it tried with utmost effort and hope. That victory was made by various factors, in which the art of establishing our disposition, destroying the enemy’s was among the most important ones, with outstanding characteristics manifested in the following points:

1. Closely combining the operational dispostion and that of the strategy, creating the combined strength to defeat the enemy’s strategic operation. Right after identifying indications of the enemy’s operation, our Operation Command directed its on-spot forces (559th Regiment, Front B5) to quickly evaluate the terrain to proactively establish the disposition to attack the enemy both on land and in the air, particularly in blocking positions, air defence battlefield, and the communication, logistic and technical network at all levels. Earlier, to directly support the Operation, the General Staff had made an operational plan, mobilized forces (establishing the 70th Corps - the first regular one of our Army), and directed equipment preparation and other preparations in the area of Route 9 - Southern Laos. Also, it had directed units stationed in the west of Route 9 and the 968th Regiment in collaboration with Lao People’s Liberation Army and the 48th Regiment (320th Division) to attack Western Boloven Plateau, destroying the enemy’s rendezvous from the East and West flanks and force them to disperse. This is a close, scientific, appropriate combination between the Operation’s strong, interconnected disposition and the in-depth one of the strategy. Therefore, even when the enemy launched its large-scale strikes using modern weapons and equipment, particularly air strikes on the theatre of our Operation, they were all defeated. Only in the first 2 days of the Operation, dozens of enemy’s helicopters were shot down. They were even more surprised when our regular forces and tanks suddenly appeared and raided the 543 Height, annihilating their 3rd Battalion, Artillery Battalion and 3rd Brigade Headquarters, arresting all the Brigade commanders alive. It was the close combination between the disposition of the strategy and that of the Operation that brought about enormous strength to defeat the enemy.

2. Attaching great importance to establishing blocking disposition, in association with carrying out extensive attacks, pushing the enemy into a passive situation. The Operation Command advocated establishing a solid blocking disposition in directions to force the enemy to deploy in disadvantage, and facilitate our counter-attacks. Accordingly, with the solid blocking disposition in Western East Village (Route 9) and on the North and South flanks of this route, our troops blocked the enemy’s operation, forced them to retreat into the East Village and temporarily halt at heights along Route 9. This is an important measure to gain the initiative in our counter-attack operation. The outstanding feature in establishing the disposition is that we closely combined the blocking disposition (including the main directions) with extensive counter-attacks, and confined the enemy to the East Village’s hollow, creating the  opportunity to win decisive fights of the Operation.  In fact, although the enemy retreated into the East Village and directions, they were isolated and mainly supported by helicopters. It was a favourable condition for our on-spot forces to shoot down hundreds of the enemy’s helicopters. Moreover, it created an opportunity for regular units to deploy their forces and military hardware to annihilate a large number of the enemy troops at the 500 and 543 Heights, finishing the first key battle of the Operation. It could be said that with the combination between the strong blocking disposition and extensive counter-attacks, we forced the enemy to change from proactive offensive to passive situation in all three directions, creating favorable conditions for our forces to destroy each part of the enemy troops.

3. Focusing on destroying the enemy’s pincer movement, step by step defeating the enemy, advancing towards a comprehensive victory. During the operation Lam Son 719, the enemy troops were organized into three arms. The main arm operated along Route 9, advancing through Lao Bao by mechanized and armoured vehicles. The two others were helilifted, taking several heights in the North and the South, establishing fortifications to protect the two flanks of the main arm, creating a pincer movement to occupy Sepon and cut our strategic transportation line. To respond to the enemy’s operation, instead of spreading forces out to directly cope with these three forces, we isolated the enemy in each direction, destroyed the pincer movement and broke each force, preventing them from supporting each other. To do that, right at the end of January 1971, the Commando force and the armed forces of the Front B5 attacked the front, the flanks, and the rear of the enemy’s forces in the North in places such as Xuan Khanh, Vinh Quang Thuong. Next, units of the 70th Corps actively laid siege, destroyed the enemy’s outer defensive position, isolated and completely annihilated the enemy troops at North heights. After completely defeating the North force, taking advantages of the blocking disposition and defensive positions, we strengthened forces and stepped up operations to attack the enemy in South Route 9. Noticeably in the second key battle taking place at the 723 Height, we inflicted heavy losses on the 1st Division of Saigon troops and defeated the South arm. Being blocked and attacked in the front, flanks and rear, especially after the North and South forces were all destroyed, the enemy troops in the East Village began to panic. In that situation, our Operation Command determined to annihilate the enemy’s main force in the East Village and organized a disposition along Route 9 to catch the retreating enemy troops. As we anticipated, facing the risk of being annihilated, the enemy troops in the East Village fled from the battlefield,  plunging onto a jungle trail; our forces hunted down and destroy a large number of the enemy troops, victoriously accomplishing the Operation. It could be seen that by understanding the situation of the enemy and ours and the theatre of operations, we established an advantageous disposition to gradually destroyed the enemy’s pincer movement and forced them to fight in our favorable disposition. When the two flank forces were defeated one after another, the enemy main arm, still strong though, itself disintegrated.

The Route 9 -  Southern Laos Victory made significant contributions to defeat the U.S. Vietnamization Strategy, raising our status in negotiations at the Paris Conference, marking a new development in Vietnam’s art of campaign in general and the art of establishing our disposition, destroying the enemy’s in a counter-attack operation in particular. Those features should be studied, applied, and developed in the new situation.

Snr Colonel, Dr. Duong Dinh Lap

Colonel Nguyen Van Su


Your Comment (0)

Artillery Corps in the Dien Bien Phu Campaign - lessons for today
After 56 days of fighting, the VPA’s fledgling Artillery Corps accomplished successfully its mission to suppress and destroy the enemy’s artillery sites, controlled the airfields, destroy its headquarters and installations, disrupt logistic lines of communication, and effectively support the infantry to surround and destroy every fortification and the whole fortified complex of Dien Bien Phu, making important contribution to a world-shaking victory