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Campaign 150: Khe Sanh 1967–68

by Gordon L Rottmann, illustrated by H Gerrad & P Dennis

Osprey Publishing Ltd, ISBN 1-84176-863-4, 96 pages

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Khe Sanh was an important base because it had been set up in a position to allow interdiction of North Vietnamese infiltration and supply along the Ho Chi Minh trail. North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong activity was high in the area, and they eventually tried to make another Dien Bien Phu of the base.

The parallels are striking at first glance, but by no means exact. US air support was far stronger than the French support could be for Dien Bien Phu, the base itself was more strongly held by USMC, Cavalry, Special Forces and South Vietnamese units, and the artillery duel was in favour of the US forces. The North Vietnamese attacks ended in total failure and the base’s eventual abandonment was due not to the attacks but to a decision to move to a better site with shorter supply lines.

Here is the complete history of the “siege”, beginning with the setting up of the base and its use for patrol operations and describing the ever-stronger NVA positions set up around it. Here we learn that the USMC positions were not only in Khe Sanh itself but on hills around it, denying these to the enemy. The NVA did succeed in overrunning the outlying Special Forces base at Lang Vei, as well as Khe Sanh village, but never made a successful direct attack on the base. Although the North Vietnamese claimed 112,000 US and allied troops killed the true figure was nearer 3,000 for killed and wounded, and the figure for known communist dead is over 1,600 with an estimated total of 10,000 or more, both figures excluding wounded. Hardly the signs of a successful siege!

This is a very good account of the operations at Khe Sanh with interesting photographs and plates, and the maps and birds’-eye-views make it easy to understand what was going on at various times.

Highly recommended.

John PrigentMore details from Osprey Publishing

Read an extract at Osprey Publishing

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