Operation LAM SON 719

This operation in Quang Tri Province, I Corps lasted from 30 Jan 1971 6 April 1971.


LAM SON was the birthplace of a famous Vietnamese patriot who defeated an invading Chinese army in 1427. The numerical designation of 719 came by combining the year [1971] and the main highway to be used, Route 9. The operation called for ARVN troops to drive west from Khe Sanh, cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail, seize Tchepone in Laos and after destroying NVA forces and supplies, return to Vietnam. The ARVN would provide and command the ground forces that entered Laos, while U.S. Army and Air Force units would furnish aviation airlift and supporting firepower. The 101st Airborne Division commanded all U.S. Army aviation units in direct support of the operation.

Most of the first part of the operation (Phase 1), which began 0400 hours 29 Jan 1971, was conducted by U.S. ground forces. Their mission was to open Route 9 to the Laotian border. On 8 Feb Phase 2 began and ARVN started their push into Laos. The NVA reacted fiercely, but the ARVN continued its attack supported by U.S. air strikes and troop lifts by US Army helicopters. Once the units crossed into Laos they met enemy armored track vehicles, which were effectively dispatched by American gun-ships.

The last Phase started 16 Mar and was the withdrawal from Laos by all units. Two weeks of hard combat were necessary for the ARVN task force to fight its way back to Vietnam. Losses were heavy in Lam Son 719 both for the Army of Vietnam and the US Army supporting helicopter crews. The ARVN lost almost 50% of their force. U.S. aviation units lost 168 helicopters; another 618 were damaged. 55 U.S. aircrew men were killed, 178 wounded, and 34 were missing in action as a result of the operation.


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