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Sunday, July 24, 2022, 10:35 (GMT+7)
The art of fortification striking for reinforcement annihilation in Dong Xoai Campaign

In Dong Xoai Offensive Campaign of 1965, our military and people fought bravely and dealt a heavy blow to the enemy, which contributed to a change in the face of the theatre of war and defeat of the enemy’s “Special-War Strategy.” Victory of the Campaign marks a development and a flexible, creative application of the art of “fortification striking for reinforcement annihilation” in the war of resistance against American imperialists’ invasion.

To turn around the “Special-War Strategy,” in March 1965, the enemy executed force buildup to occupy some important terrain features in Binh Long, Phuoc Long, and Binh Duong with the aim of creating a new position and strength and continuing to implement their “rural pacification program,” striving for seizing initiative in the theatre of war. Apart from building Binh Long, Phuoc Long, and Northern Binh Duong into strong defence zones, the enemy also built Dong Xoai military subsector (also known as Don Luan, Phuong Long province) into a strong military base, which served as the starting point of offensives against our defence zones along Viet Nam – Cambodia border. Accordingly, they stationed some strong regular units and many modern weapons and equipment.

Given consecutive victories of our military and people in the South, the Party Central Committee advocated establishing and developing strong regular units to meet requirements of the war, launch strategic attacks, wipe out the enemy regular force, and support people to take up political struggle and break the enemy’s pacification programme. In the Summer of 1965, the Central Bureau of Southern Region and Southern Military Commission decided to mount Dong Xoai Offensive Campaign to annihilate an important part of enemy strength, support people to step up guerrilla warfare, destroy strategic hamlets, expand liberated areas, link Southern bases with Southern Central Highlands, and provide the foundation for opening up a strategic transportation route from the North to the Southeast region. Under the leadership of the Central Bureau of Southern Region and Southern Military Commission, directly the Campaign Party Committee and Command, our military and people eliminated a major part of the enemy strength through three waves of attack, which contributed to development of guerrilla movement, expansion of rural areas, and defeat of the enemy’s “Special-War Strategy”. Victory of the Campaign marks a development in our soldiers’ command and control of operations and force concentration, in which the flexible, creative application of the art of fortification striking for reinforcement annihilation is one of the most prominent features.

1. Concentration of a superior force. In combat in general, operational combat in particular, “fortification striking for reinforcement” is a combination of operational methods, types of tactics, and combat tricks aimed to lure the enemy troops to our chosen battlefields by means of appropriate operational methods. This type of operation has high requirements, is employed when our forces are unable to attack and annihilate a large number of enemy troops in their fortifications, and aims to wipe out enemy troops out of the trenches. This type of operation is also used when we have a superior force but wish to avoid breaking through enemy defensive lines to reduce causalities; use the few to defeat the many; and strike where the enemy is weakest while protecting and developing our forces. If force concentration can successfully lure the enemy reinforcements, there will be windows of opportunity for wiping out the reinforcements. This operational method used to be popular at the early stage of the war of resistance against American imperialists for national salvation, but it was mainly at tactical level and many battles were fought successfully. In Dong Xoai Offensive Campaign, the art of “fortification striking for reinforcement annihilation” was developed from tactical level to operational level by the Southern region regular force to meet operational demands and practical conditions on the theatre of war. The development and flexible, creative application of this combat art enabled the Southern region regular force and other forces to achieve victories when they attacked strong military subsectors and annihilated a large number of the enemy reinforcements.

Thanks to thorough grasp of the motto: “fighting is sure to result in victory” and the art of “fortification striking for reinforcement annihilation,” the Campaign Command concentrated the majority of its force on attacks at the enemy’s strong military subsectors during the initial phase of the Campaign. Accordingly, the Campaign Command assigned the 271st Regiment to collaborate with the 6th Military Region regular force and combat support units to attack Phuong Long town while the 272nd Regiment was entrusted with attacking Phuoc Binh military subsector. Given the resolution to win the first battle, within a short period of time, we destroyed Phuoc Binh military subsector completely and seized part of Phuoc Long town. This forced the enemy to use helicopters to drop off their troops in North Phuoc Long and South Phuoc Binh, which offered a unique opportunity for the 272nd Regiment to wipe out their reinforcements. To make the enemy underestimate our combat strength – a precondition for luring them to our posture – the Campaign Command directed forces to fight bravely, but deftly withdrew from Phuoc Binh military subsector while imposing high pressure on Phuoc Long town. These moves forced the enemy to send its reinforcements from Phuoc Binh to Phuoc Long by both ground and air means, thus offering an opportunity for the 273rd Regiment to destroy part of enemy’s 48th Regiment. At the second phase of the Campaign, we still used this combat method for the key battle. To destroy Dong Xoai military subsector and force the enemy to send in its reinforcements, the Campaign Command used one reinforced regiment, one Southern artillery battalion, and combat support units to attack this military subsector. Given the force concentration and application of attack on fortified positions, the Dong Xoai military base was quickly defeated, forcing the enemy to use helicopters to drop off their reinforcements on Thuan Loi plantation, thus offering an opportunity for the 271st Regiment to destroy the enemy’s 1st Battalion, 7th Brigade Tactical Group on Thuan Loi plantation and other enemy forces at Thuan Loi airfield.

Given concentration of a superior force to seize a strong military subsector, stand firm, then withdraw from this position, we were successful in applying the art of “luring the enemy reinforcements” to our chosen areas of annihilation.

2. Flexible application of operational methods. In the art of “striking fortification for reinforcement annihilation,” striking at the enemy aims to create windows of opportunity and chain reactions in order to force the enemy to send in reinforcements. Destruction of the enemy reinforcements is conducted after successfully luring the enemy to send in reinforcements and is key objective of a battle or a military operation to eliminate the enemy troops outside their trenches. Consequently, the attacking position, target, and time to force the enemy to send in reinforcements as what we have planned are important matters and require suitable operational methods. Only by successfully “striking at the enemy’s fortifications” can we achieve the goal of “destroying their reinforcements” and the aim of the operation.  To be successful at wiping out the enemy reinforcements, apart from firmly grasping the enemy’s plots, intentions, response and correctly predicting his reaction, commanders at all levels must apply operational methods flexibly to each battle, campaign, and operational area. Reality of the Dong Xoai Campaign of 1965 proves that to successfully “strike at the enemy” and lure the enemy troops out of their bases, beside preparing operational plans, forces, and posture carefully, the Campaign Command directed its units and forces to apply types of tactics flexibly. In Dong Xoai Campaign, apart from mounting an attack on the fortified positions to annihilate enemy troops in the base, we also made a raid on the enemy forces airdropped on Thuan Loi plantation and airfield. During the second phase of the Campaign, we destroyed one battalion of the 52nd Regiment and 15 military vehicles on Road No. 15 by making a raid at night. During the third phase, on realising that the enemy had changed its tactics, thus giving us little chance to engage the reinforcements, the 272nd Regiment made a raid on the enemy’s field training site in the evening of July 15th, 1965 and eliminated the 7th Brigade Tactical Group Command and the Armoured Battalion. The Regiment also dealt a heavy blow to a battalion and some other forces when they were sent in to break our siege. The 273rd Regiment applied the tactics of attacking fortified positions to eliminate a large number of enemy troops at Bu Dop entrenched fortification in the evening of July 20th, 1965. Apart from flexibly applying types of tactics such as attack on fortified positions, raiding, ambush, and maneuver warfare to each battle, the Campaign Command directed units to apply combat tricks creatively, including siege, depth attack, separation, attack against the enemy’s flanks and rear, annihilation of pockets of resistance and the reinforcements by air and land. Striking at the enemy in order to destroy their reinforcements is one of the most typical features of operational art employed by the Southern regular force, ensuring suitability for each target and battle. This operational method destroyed large part of enemy strength both inside and outside trenches and enabled the Campaign to progress and win decisive victories.

Although Dong Xoai Campaign is a small-scale one, it is of significant importance because victory of the Campaign directly contributed to defeat of the enemy’s “Special War Strategy.” Additionally, the Campaign marked a development in the Southern regular force’s ability to organise, command, and concentrate forces as well as its flexible, creative application of operational methods and combat tricks to each battle. More importantly, the art of “fortification striking for reinforcement annihilation” was developed from tactical level to operational level by our military and people. It demonstrated a deft combination of “fortification striking” and “reinforcement annihilation”, combination of attacking the enemy inside and outside fortified positions, in which “striking at the fortification” served to lure the reinforcements and destroy the enemy troops in fortified trenches. There are many invaluable lessons from Dong Xoai Offensive Campaign that need to be studied, applied, and developed in the war to safeguard the Fatherland.

Senior Colonel, Associate Professor, Doctor HOANG XUAN NHIEN and Senior Colonel, Master NGUYEN VAN MANH

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