Small Wars Journal

Vietnam ’67: At Quang Nam, a Raid and a Reckoning

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 3:42pm

Vietnam ’67: At Quang Nam, a Raid and a Reckoning by Marsh Carter, New York Times

… At the outset of 1967, it seemed to me that the war was entering a dangerous new phase. We had begun encountering hardened North Vietnamese Army soldiers who had come down the Ho Chi Minh Trail starting in mid-1965, after President Lyndon B. Johnson said he had no plans to physically invade North Vietnam. So now our challenge was multiplied: We faced local Vietcong guerrillas, who posed a substantial threat to Vietnamese civilians, while remaining ready to engage in conventional infantry combat with North Vietnamese regular units. Ho Chi Minh’s objective had always been to reunify his country, and he needed his regular army in South Vietnam to counter the aggressive tactics of the United States and South Vietnamese forces.

The escalation of the war became clear in mid-January, when my company was assigned a mission outside our normal operating area — a raid on an enemy village and safe area that was to host a meeting of more than 100 Vietcong leaders. A few days before, an enemy courier had been killed in an ambush; his documents revealed that the meeting was set for noon on Jan. 14 in the village of Ban Lanh in Quang Nam Province. Rapid intelligence exploitation and the ability to insert units into the enemy’s base area were two of the tenets of counterguerrilla operations. In order to kill or capture the maximum number of guerrillas, this one would do both…

At this point in the war, we still felt confident that we could defeat the guerrillas and the North Vietnamese Army units. But it was also apparent that not enough was being done by the government of South Vietnam to remove the causes of the insurgency or the conditions that had driven so many Vietnamese to want to live under Communism. When, later, I had a few moments to think strategically, the nagging thought arose: Yes, we can win on the battlefield, but is that enough to win the war? …

Read on.