Saturday, December 3, 2022


Battle of Binh Gia - Battle


During the early hours of December 28, 1964, elements of the Viet Cong 271st Regiment and the 445th Company, signalled their main attack on Binh Gia by penetrating the villages’ eastern perimeter. There, they clashed with members of the South Vietnamese Popular Force militiamen, which numbered about 65 personnel. The South Vietnamese militia fighters proved no match for the Viet Cong and their overwhelming firepower, so they quickly retreated into underground bunkers, and called for help. Once the village was captured, Colonel Ta Minh Kham, the Viet Cong regimental commander, established his command post in the main village church and waited for fresh reinforcements, which came in the form of heavy mortars, machine guns and recoilless rifles. To counter South Vietnamese helicopter assaults, Colonel Kham’s troops set up a network of defensive fortifications around the village, with trenches and bunkers protected by land mines and barbed wire. The local Catholic priest, who was also the village chief, sent a bicycle messenger out to the Ba Ria district headquarter to ask for a relief force. In response, the Ba Ria district chief sent out elements of two Vietnamese Rangers battalions to retake Binh Gia. On December 29, two companies of the ARVN 33rd Ranger Battalion and a company from the 30th Ranger Battalion were airlifted into area located west of Bình Gia, by helicopters from the U.S. 118th Aviation Company to face an enemy force of unknown size.

However, as soon as the soldiers from the 30th and 33rd Ranger Battalions arrived at the landing zone, they were quickly overwhelmed by the Viet Cong in a deadly ambush. The entire 30th Ranger Battalion was then committed to join the attack, but they too did not initially succeed in penetrating the strong Viet Cong defensive lines. Several more companies of the Rangers then arrived for an attack from multiple directions. Two companies of the 33rd Ranger Battalion advanced from the northeast. One of them came to the outskirts of the village but was unable to break through the enemy defenses. The other one, trying to outflank the enemy, had been lured into a kill zone in open terrain at the coffee plantation and were quickly obliterated in an ambush by the three VC battalions using heavy weapons. The two companies suffered a 70 percent casualty rate, and survivors were forced to retreat to the nearby Catholic church. The 30th Rangers had more success by assaulting from the western direction and succeeded in fighting their way into the village, aided by local residents. It however also suffered heavy losses, with the battalion commander and his American adviser severely wounded. The local civilians in Bình Gia retrieved weapons and ammunition from the dead Rangers, and hid the wounded government soldiers from the Viet Cong. The 38th Ranger Battalion, on the other hand, landed on the battlefield unopposed by the Viet Cong, and they immediately advanced on Bình Gia from the south. Soldiers from the 38th Rangers spent the whole day fighting but they could not break through their enemies’ defences to link up with the survivors hiding in the church, and fell back after calling in mortar fire to decimate Viet Cong fighters moving to encircle them.

In the morning of December 30, the 4th South Vietnamese Marine Battalion moved out to Bien Hoa Air Base, waiting to be airlifted into the battlefield. The 1/4th Marine Battalion was the first unit to arrive on the outskirts of Bình Gia, but the 1st Company commander decided to secure the landing zone, to wait for the rest of the battalion to arrive instead of moving on to their objective. After the rest of the 4th Marine Battalion had arrived, they marched towards the Catholic Church to relieve the besieged Rangers. About one and a half hours later, the 4th Marine Battalion linked up with the 30th, 33rd and 38th Ranger Battalions, as the Viet Cong began withdrawing to the northeast. That afternoon the 4th Marine Battalion recaptured the village, but the Viet Cong was nowhere to be seen, as all their units had withdrawn from the village during the previous night, linking with other Viet Cong elements in the forest to attack the government relief forces. On the evening of December 30, the Viet Cong returned Bình Gia and attacked from the south-eastern perimeter of the village. The local villagers, who discovered the approaching Viet Cong, immediately sounded the alarm to alert the ARVN soldiers defending the village. The South Vietnamese were able to repel the Viet Cong, with support from U.S. Army helicopter gunships flown out from Vung Tau airbase.

While pursuing the Viet Cong, a helicopter gunship from the U.S. 68th Assault Helicopter Company was shot down and crashed in the Quang Giao rubber plantation, about four kilometres away from Bình Gia, killing four of its crewmen. On December 31, the U.S. Marines Advisory Group sent a team of four personnel, led by Captain Donald G. Cook, to Bình Gia to observe conditions on the battlefield. At the same time, the 4th Marine Battalion was ordered to locate the crashed helicopter and recover the bodies of the dead American crewmen. Acting against the advice of his American advisor, Major Nguyen Van Nho, commander of the 4th Marine Battalion, sent his 2/4th Marine Battalion company out to the Quang Giao rubber plantation. Unknown to the 4th Marine Battalion, the Viet Cong 271st Regiment had assembled in the plantation. About one hour after they had departed from the village of Bình Gia, the commander of the 2/4th Marine Battalion reported via radio that his troops had found the helicopter wreckage, and the bodies of four American crewmen. Shortly afterwards, the Viet Cong opened fire and the 2/4th Marine Battalion was forced to pull back. In an attempt to save the 2nd Company, the entire 4th Marine Battalion was sent out to confront the Viet Cong. As the lead element of the 4th Marine Battalion closed in on the Quang Giao rubber plantation, they were hit by accurate Viet Cong artillery fire, which was soon followed by repeated human wave attacks. Having absorbed heavy casualties from the Viet Cong’s ambush, the 2/4th Marine Battalion had to fight their way out of the plantation with their bayonets fixed. During the entire ordeal, the company did not receive artillery support because the plantation was beyond the range of 105mm artillery guns based in Phuoc Tuy and Baria. They however escaped with the crucial support of the U.S. aircraft and helicopters whose rocket attacks forced the enemy to pull back and halted their attempt at pursuit.

In the morning of December 31, the 4th Marines Battalion returned to the crash site with the entire force and the American graves were located and their corpses were dug up. At about 3 pm, a single U.S. helicopter arrived on the battlefield to evacuate the casualties, but they only picked up the bodies of the four American crewmen, while South Vietnamese casualties were forced to wait for another helicopter to arrive. At 4 pm, Major Nguyen Van Nho ordered the 4th Marine Battalion to carry their casualties back to the village, instead of continuing to wait for the helicopters. As the 4th Marine Battalion began their return march, three Viet Cong battalions, with artillery support, suddenly attacked them from three directions. The battalion's commanding and executive officers were immediately killed and air support was not available. Two ARVN Marine companies managed to fight their way out of the ambush and back to Bình Gia, however the third was overrun and almost completely wiped out. The fourth company desperately held out at a hilltop against Viet Cong artillery barrages and large infantry charges, before slipping out through the enemy positions at dawn. The 4th Marines Battalion of 426 men lost a total of 117 soldiers killed, 71 wounded and 13 missing. Amongst the casualties were 35 officers of the 4th Marine Battalion killed in action, and the four American advisers attached to the unit were also wounded. Backed by U.S. Air Force bombers, on January 1 three battalions of ARVN Airborne reinforcements arrived, they were too late as most of the Viet Cong had already withdrawn from the battlefield.

Read more about this topic:  Battle Of Binh Gia

No comments:

Post a Comment