After 35 years since the Ia Drang Battle took place, Merle Pribbenow
- a former CIA analyst who worked at the Saigon CIA station from 1970
to 1975, and is now in the process of translating PAVN official
documents into English - was able to compile a dozen books - published from 1988 to 1995 - written by
North Vietnamese authors about the Ia Drang Battle:
1. LG Hoang, Phuong, “Several Lessons on Campaign Planning and Command Implementation During the Plei Me Campaign” The Plei Me Victory: Looking Back after 30 Years. Military History Institute and 3rd Corps (Hanoi: People's Army Publishing House, 1995)
2. Nguyen Huy Toan and Pham Quang Dinh, The 304th Division, vol II (Hanoi, People's Army Publishing House, 1990)
3. Mai Hong Linh, "A Number of Issues Relating to Party and Political Activities During the Plei Me Campaign-1965," The Plei Me Victory.
4. Military History Institute and 3rd Corps, The Plei Me Offensive Campaign-1965 (Hanoi: People’s Army Publishing House).
5. Pham Vinh Phuc, "Special Characteristics of U.S. Helicopter Assault Landing Tactics During the Plei Me Campaign”.
6. B3 Front "1 January 1966 Report on Five Battles Against US Forces,14-18 November 1965".
7. CG Nguyen Huu An and Nguyen Tu Duong, New Battlefields: A Memoir (Hanoi: People's Army Publishing House, 1995).
8. MG Tran Ngoc Son, "A Few Thoughts on the Lessons of the Plei Me Campaign".
9. Do Trung Mich, "66th Regiment Develops the Traditions and Lessons of the Plei Me Victory”.
10. [author not given] "Remembrances of the First Fight Against the Americans in the Central Highlands”.
11. History of the People's Army [no other publishing information given].
12. Military History Institute of Vietnam, The Saigon-Gia Dinh Offensive Theater (1968) , Hanoi, 1988.
Pribbenow points out that “although heavily colored by communist
hagiography and propaganda", these accounts, when added to information
provided by American sources, nevertheless allow to reconstruct quite
accurately what had really happened at Ia Drang Battle. He presents his
findings in The Fog of War: The Vietnamese View of the Ia Drang Battle. Following are the salient ones that the Viet Cong accounts do not seem to deny.
1. The Ia Drang Battle was not planned by either the Viet Cong or the American sides.
According to PAVN, the Ia Drang Battle grew out of the B3
(Central Highlands) Front's plan to lure US and South Vietnamese forces
into battle on terms favorable to the communists
2. The NVA 66th Regiment was not included in the initial plan -
which was designed some time in July 1965 - of the Pleime attack, while
this unit got the order in mid August to joint the 320th and 33rd
Regiments in the Central Highlands, through a long march that would
take 2 months to achieve.
The NVA 320th and 33d Regiments were to launch the campaign, but
one of the NVA's finest units, the 304th Division would reinforce the
B3 Front. In August 1965 the 304th received orders to move south to the
Central Highlands. The 304th's lead element, the 66th Regiment, was
scheduled to arrive in time for the campaign's final phase.
3. The 66th Regiment forward group arrived in Central Highlands on
November 1, when the Pleime battle was over, after a forced march.
On the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the 66th Regiment had dropped its heavy
equipment, lightened its packs and proceeded by forced march to the
battlefield The 66th crossed into South Vietnam on 1 November and
headed for assembly areas.
4. The 66th Regiment only reached Chu Prong area on November 10.
On 10 November, the 66th Regiment arrived at the Chu Pong Massif
on the southwestern side of the Ia Drang Valley near the Cambodian
5. The 66th Regiment did not lure the American troops into Ia Drang. It was detected by the American troops.
NVA histories reveal that contrary to claims that the NVA lured
US troops into a trap, the NVA were completely surprised by US troops'
14 November landing at LZ X-Ray. When the first US helicopters arrived,
66th Regiment and 9th Battalion commanders were surveying the terrain
several kilometers away on the banks of the Ia Drang River. The 66th
Regiment Political Officer Ngoc Chau and the 9th Battalion's deputy
political officer were also away from their offices.
6. The 66th Regiment troops were surprised that only the American troops showed up in Ia Drang Valley.
Taking a group of 7th Battalion officers with him, Cuu went
forward to assess the situation. He arrived in the 9th Battalion area
in the early afternoon and found it in a state of confusion, with many
wounded moving to the rear and no one sure what was going on. The
wounded deputy battalion political officer could tell him only that the
enemy troops were all US forces (no South Vietnamese) and that they
were aggressive and well armed.
7. The NVA troops failed to accomplish their mission in all three
accounts: at the ambush site, at the siege site and at the rear site.
All three regiment commanders were cited for poor leadership.
The 66th Regiment commander received a severe reprimand for
failing to command his unit during the LZ X-Ray battle. The 33d
Regiment Commander was criticized for failing to maintain contact with
his troops during the siege at Plei Me, for not personally commanding
the attack on LZ Columbus and for delegating all decision-making
responsibility to subordinates. The 320th Regiment commander was cited
for failing to personally conduct reconnaissance of the terrain before
ambushing the South Vietnamese relief column and for clumsily handling
his unit throughout the campaign.
And finally, 8. The NVA troops were finished off by an ARVN Airborne
Brigade on their retreat attempt across the Cambodian border.
On 20 November, South Vietnamese airborne
forces, supported by US artillery, encountered the 320th Regiment's
635th and 334th Battalions along the Cambodian border. The 635th.s
commander, whose unit had suffered heavy losses during the South
Vietnamese relief column ambush in October, refused to engage the enemy
and retreated without authorization, leaving the sister battalion alone
on the battlefield. The two units lost hundreds of men and weapons, and
it was several days before the 320th Regiment managed to reestablish
contact with the 635th Battalion. A PAVN analysis admits the regiment
did not accomplish its assigned mission.