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The art of laying disposition and provocation – a distinctive feature in Operation Ba Gia

Operation Ba Gia (1965), though a small scale campaign convened in the first phase of our resistance war against the U.S, with the art of laying disposition and enticement, won a glorious victory, contributing to defeating the U.S. strategy of “Special Warfare”.

Implementing the guideline of the Party Central Committee, after making appreciation of the situation, the force balance between the enemy and us, the High Command of Military Region 5 decided to launch Operation Ba Gia, coordinate with other directions to intensify the Spring – Summer Offensive (1965) in a bid to annihilate an important part of the enemy force and pin down their paramilitary, widen our liberated area, support the political struggle of localities, safeguard the corridor connecting the mountainous area with the delta area of the Centre. After nearly a month of operation (28th June to 20th July 1965), under the leadership and flexible and creative order of the Operation’s High Command, the Military Region 5’s people and troops fought bravely, persistently, overcame all hardships to successfully accomplish all tasks. In the operation, we killed and seriously destroyed 6 enemy’s battalions; annihilated and pinned down their 5 security companies, 12 civilian protective platoons; pinned down over 2,200 enemy troops, etc. For the first time in the Military Region 5 theatre of battle, we launched a small scale operation with high efficiency, representing such a great development of the regular force in the art of operation in general, and the art of annihilation in particular. The distinctive feature of the Operation is the successful application of the art of disposition creation and enticement to lure the enemy into our prepared kill zone. This is manifested in the following aspects:

First, creating an inter-connected and flexible offensive posture. Accurately studying and evaluating the terrain, enemy’s rule of operation in Quang Ngai, the operational capability of people and troops of Military Region 5, the Operation’s High Command decided to lay out a multi-direction offensive formation, forming a blocking, seperating, and isolating posture which is most favourable for the key decisive battle. To support and make it easy for the 1st Regiment (the main regiment of Military Region 5) to attack the enemy on the main direction (North of Tra Khuc River), we dispatched 2nd Battalion of the 51st Region and the 3rd Marine Battalion on the way from Son Tinh to Ba Gia; on the secondary direction (South direction), we deployed 83rd Battalion of local troop of Quang Ngai Province to coordinate with the armed forces, militia and guerrilla of Nghia Hanh and Tu Nghia Districts to conduct besiege and seperation, coordinate with the 45th Battalion to destroy the 39th Ranger Battalion and pin down the 37th Ranger Battalion (the enemy’s reserve) in the south of Quang Ngai Town, not to allow them manoeuvre, support and reinforce for their main direction when come under our attack. On the coordinated direction (Northeastern direction), we deployed the 48th Battalion of local force to occupy the East of Road 1, preventing the enemy from manoeuvring from Binh Son to Ba Gia, Phuoc Loc area.

Ba Gia Victory Monument in Quang Ngai province today

In order to conduct the attack and ambush tactic successfully, we had to choose the right target for our provocative assault. Accordingly, we dispatched 2nd Company (90th Battalion) to attack the enemy manouevring and camping in Dien Nien. The 90th Battalion secretly positioned in Minh Thanh (south of Son Tinh route to Ba Gia) in preparation for ambushing the enemy’s 1st Battalion (51st Regiment) reinforcing from Ba Gia post. The main force of the Operation is the 1st Regiment including 40th Battalion, 60th Battalion and 45th Battalion stationed in the Southeast of Khi Mount, Nhan Mount, Vinh Loc and South of Chop Non Mount is tasked with fighting the decisive battle in Phuoc Loc area, the 47 Height and Ma To Mount. To ensure safety for this force, the Regiment deployed a fire team near Ba Gia Post ready to raid and provide suppressive fire to prevent the enemy’s air landing. In addition, one portion of Son Tinh local forces stantioned in Giua Mount was tasked with intercepting the enemy manoeuvring into the flank of our main force in Khi Mount and Nhan Mount to protect the Regiment’s Headquarters. Most of the local forces and the militia and guerrilla of Son Ha District operating in the area between Ba Gia Post and Thanh Ha were to engage the enemy’s reinforcement by land and by air. With this disposition, we were able to hold and separate the enemy on the directions of the operation and destroy the enemy’s reinforcement on the main directions. Our regular forces were coordinated with local forces to create an inter-connected and solid operational posture to ensure the victory for the operation.

Operation Ba Gia occurred in a narrow terrain deep in the enemy’s areas of operation which was surrounded by a system of installations. In order to create a secret disposition so that our formation would not be seperated and we could minimize our casualties, the operation’s command actively established our solid revolutionary network with the assistance of local people. Therefore, when we attacked the the 1st Battalion of the 51st Regiment, the enemy had to send their 39th Ranger Battalion to rescue and fell into our trap. We quickly changed from ambush to charge to pursue and anhiliate the enemy.

Second, flexibly applying the art of enticement to lure the enemy and kill their reinforcement. Our main goal was to destroy the enemy outside their installation. Therefore, in order to be successful, we had to plan for both provocative assault and reinforcement ambush. The distinctive feature in Operation Ba Gia was that we chose one enemy’s company camping outside as the target for our provocative assault. Without being firmly fortified, when came under our attack, this company risked being completely destroyed. Therefore, the enemy had no choice but to send in reinforcement. This was very creative and flexible which was different from Operation Border (1950) when we chose Dong Khe, a fortified installation, as the target for our provocative assault.

Ba Gia Post was important in protecting the West of Quang Ngai Town, hence if this post was attacked, the enemy’s main force in Quang Ngai Town would certainly come to rescue. On the other hand, a large number of American troops were camped in Chu Lai base near Quang Ngai, hence they had to rescue to hold the area. When they came to rescue, the enemy had to manoeuvre outside their installation and was exposed to our ambush which was such a good chance for us. Right on the launching day of the operation, the enemy had some changes. To ensure victory, the operation’s command decided to deploy a platoon of local force to attack the enemy’s 2 security platoons in Phuoc Loc to lure the enemy from Tron Mount. When we attacked the 1st Battalion of the 51st Regiment, Ba Gia Post was threatened, the enemy had to send reinforcement to rescue, making it easy for us to ambush.

Carefully appreciating the situation, the operation’s command found out the enemy’s weaknesses. We soon adjusted our operational plan to take the enemy by surprise and made them respond hastily. When we attacked their civilian protective platoon, they had to deploy troops in Trong Mount to rescue. When we attacked Tron Mount, the enemy had to deploy troops in Ba Gia Mount to rescue, enabling us to carry out our provocative assault into Ba Gia. In all three times the enemy came to rescue, we deployed suitable force to ambush. In the first time, we dispatched an infantry company to attack and lured one enemy’s company. In the second time, we deployed one battalion and lured one enemy’s battalion. In the third time, when the enemy’s 1st Battalion was destroyed and Ba Gia post was pinned down, the enemy’s 1st Corps hastily formed a combat group directly headed by Nguyen Chanh Thi – Commander of the Corps – to rescue. Not to accept repeated defeats, this time, the enemy reinforced a large number of troops. The operation’s command appreciated that this is a golden opportunity to stage our decisive battle. To be successful, the Operation’s Command ordered local forces to contain the enemy in Ba Gia and their 37th Ranger Battalion to make it easy for the regular force to ambush the enemy’s reinforcement. The three regular battalions, namely 40th, 60th and 45th, intercepted the enemy’s 39th Ranger Battalion in Southwest of Chop Non Mount (secondary direction) and destroyed the enemy’ main force, including 2nd Battalion (51st Regiment), 3rd Marine Battalion (primary direction) in Phuoc Loc, 47 Mount and Ma To Mount.

Under the sound and flexible order and command of the Operation’s Command, with only one regular regiment coordinating with local forces, Operation Ba Gia ended victoriously, representing a new development of the art of disposition, provocation, enticement and ambush. It not only laid a foundation for other battles and operations in the war but also left us valuable lessons which should be further studied and applied in the cause of Fatherland protection today.

Colonel, Master PHAM HONG THAI, Vietnam Military Institute

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