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The 77 Day Siege At Khe Sanh This Is A Study Of The Tactical And Political Importance Of The 77 Day Battle At Khe Sanh During The Vietnam Conflict.

2046 words - 8 pages

The Siege at Khe Sanh was a culmination of political and tactical ingredients. Bothsides wanted this small plateau in the Northwest corner of the Quang Tri province. Itwas the Northwestern most outpost south of the I Corps Tactical Zone. AmericanMarines, Army Artillery/Special Forces, Air Force Bombers and Fighters, and NavalFighters all played serious roles in the eventual victory at Khe Sanh in April of 1968.South Vietnamese regular and irregular forces also played vital roles in the defense ofKhe Sanh. The real question is why did the American Forces led by General WilliamWestmoreland, find it necessary to hold that plateau in an almost wholly uninhabitedarea? Why were the North Vietnamese, led by General Vo Ngyen Giap so determined tooccupy this piece of land? Why were they (NVA) unsuccessful, and why were wevictorious in the end? Within the limitations of ink and paper, I will probe and exposeanswers to these questions, and attempt to paint a picture that is informative and realisticinto the seventy-seven day siege, that was won by a combined effort, and the disciplineand toughness of the men who fought and died there.The Battle of Khe Sanh was not a "surprise" to either side. Both sides had set theirsights on the plateau for sometime before the siege of 1968. Gen.Westmorelanddescribed Khe Sanh's possibilities in 1964, "Khe Sanh could serve as a patrol baseblocking enemy infiltration from LAOS, a base for SOP (Special Operations) operationsto harass the enemy in LAOS, an airstrip for reconnaissance to survey the Ho Chi MinhTrail: a Western anchor for the defenses south of the DMZ; and an eventual jumping-offpoint for ground operations to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail."(1) In April of 1967,Westmoreland requested President Johnson's permission to enter LAOS and was denied.There is no doubt that Khe Sanh was his ideal "thrust Point" to enter LAOS. Evenhaving been denied permission, he continued to build up the airbase at Khe Sanh so thatit could serve in the aforementioned capacity. The North Vietnamese suspected this, andtherefore knew that they had to take this land.Although Westmoreland never gave up on the hopes of an invasion into LAOS, theairbase had become a defensive strongpoint rather that a staging point in a matter ofmonths. This came due to the implementation of "the strong point obstacle system" ADMZ barrier system devised by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. Khe Sanh hadbecome the westernmost obstacle in this series of obstacles in the I-Corps Tactical Zone.General Westmoreland knew that Khe Sanh was not only a defensive perimeter, and ascreen for NVA and Communist infiltration; but also served as a place where the enemycould be fixed with Close Air Support, Indirect and Direct Fire, and Direct Fire frommachine guns. He could do this because the plateau was virtually uninhabited whicheased restrictions of fires for the area surrounding the Khe Sanh Airbase. He describesthis in his own works as, "Our defense of the area wound tie down...

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