"Victory at Pleime" ?

Tourists visiting Pleime will be undoubtedly guided by local people to the monument site "Historical Vestige - Victory at Pleime". James Michener, an American Vietnam veteran, took the following photo in September 2007.

Historical vestige is fine. But victory at Pleime? Whose victory? It could definitely not be North Vietnamese Communist troops' (Viet Cong) victory. 32nd Regiment NVA had to abandon the ambush formation after it failed to stop and destroy the rescue Armored Task Force and had to retreat to Chu Pong massif. 33rd Regiment NVA after attacking Pleime camp in order to lure in relief force had to withdraw together with 32nd Regiment NVA to the rear base in Chu Pong massif. 66th Regiment NVA which had belatedly reached the battlefield was attacked in surprise by US 1st Air Cavalry Brigade which landed at the footsteps of Chu Pong massif. All three 32nd, 33rd, and 66th Regiments NVA were deadly mauled by B-52 bombs which carpeted five times daily all over Chu Pong massif from November 15 to 17. And finally, the two 334th and 635th Battalions belonging to 32nd Regiment NVA were cornered and slaughtered by ARVN Airborne Brigade on their retreat paths in the Ia Drang valley toward Cambodia.

Furthermore, The Pleime camp Commander reported Viet Cong's casualties during the siege were 400 KIA. The US 1st Air Cavalry Brigade Commander reported Viet Cong's casualties during its All The Way Operation in the pursuit of the enemy from Pleime camp to Chu Pong massif were about 800. Viet Cong's casualties at LZ X-Ray and LZ Albany were estimated at 2,500. B-52 bombardments accounted for about 2,000. ARVN Airborne Brigade killed about 300 at two ambush sites. The total casualties on the Viet Cong's side in the Pleime battle amounted to 6,000 combatants. The ratio of casualties between the allied forces' side and Viet Cong's side was 1/10.

It is hardly justifiable to claim victory at Pleime when the objectives were not conquered, the losses were heavy and the remains of the attacking troops had to withdraw across the Cambodian border.

Nguyen Van Tin
26 April 2009

Documents

- Primary

- Books, Articles

* Pleiku, the Dawn of Helicopter Warfare in Vietnam, J.D. Coleman, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1988.

* We Were Soldiers Once… and Young, General Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway, Random House, New York, 1992.

* "First Strike at River Drang", Military History, Oct 1984, pp 44-52, Per. Interview with H.W.O Kinnard, 1st Cavalry Division Commanding General, Cochran, Alexander S.

* The Siege of Pleime, Project CHECO Report, 24 February 1966, HQ PACAF, Tactical Evaluation Center.

* Silver Bayonet, Project CHECO Report, 26 February 1966, HQ PACAF, Tactical Evaluation Center.

- Viet Cong

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