Battle of Dak To

From Academic Kids

The Battle of Dak To was the last of a series of battles in and around the town of Dak To, Vietnam, taking place between November 3rd and 22nd, 1967. Several "regular" units of the North Vietnamese army with artillery support moved into the area on the Laosian border, and planned an assault similar to one they have successfully carried out years earlier against the French. Like the Battle of Khe Sanh taking place at about the same time, US firepower was so overwhelming that Dak To was a disaster for the NVA, with one NVA general referring to it as "a pointless waste of men and resources".

The first battle in the area had taken place as part of the Viet Minh's final attempts to eject French colonial forces from Vietnam. Assembling a large force they attacked the various outposts north of Kontum City on February 2nd, 1954, quickly overwhelming them. By the 7th it was clear the defense was lost, and the French withdrew from Kontum Province. The battle was known locally as Dak To, named for the nearby village (To = hot, Dak = water, after nearby hotsprings).

During the early stages of the US involvement in Vietnam a number of Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) bases were set up across the country in order to provide support and training to citizens, who bore the brunt of the fighting. One of these bases was built near the site of the original Dak To battle. Throughout the middle of 1967 the base came under spoiling attacks, and it appeared that an increasing amount of attention was being put on the area.

This was part of the overall late-1967 battle plan hashed out by the NVA leadership, primarily General Vo Nguyen Giap. Although in retrospect it is clear all of these actions were part of the general Tet Offensive, it appeared to US forces to be a number of separate actions until the battle had wound down months later.

In early October intelligence reported that the NVA was withdrawing regiments from Plieku to join those in Kontum Province in the central highlands, thereby dramatically increasing the strength of the local forces to that of a full division, the NVA 1st Division. In addition to four full regiments, the division also included a full artillery regiment as well. In response the US 4th Division, in command of the defence of the entirety of Kontum Province, started moving in forces of their own. On the 29th the 173d Airborne Brigade was added to the forces, bringing their total to 3 US batallions and 5 ARVN battalions.

On the 2nd of November Sgt. Vu Hong defected from the NVA and was able to provide the US forces with detailed information on the disposition of the NVA forces and their targets, both Dak To and the new CIDG base at Ben Het, some 18km to the west. Gen. James H. Johnson immediately moved his C Company to Ben Het, following the next day with the rest of the 4th Battalion. The other two US batalions then deployed around Dak To. The stage was set for a major pitched battle.

On the 3rd Johnson decided to press the battle, and sent three of his four companies south west to confront the NVA 32nd Regiment on a nearby hill. Several days of searching were fruitless, until on the morning of the 6th when a number of foxholes were discovered. Looking to move his base closer to the center of action, the 4th Battalion then set up a new fire base on Hill 823 the next morning.

One of the bloodiest battles of the war takes place in the Central Highlandsnear Dak To. About 4,500 troops of the US 4th Division and 173rd Airborne Brigade face off 6,000 North Vietnamese troops of the 174th regiment. The North Vietnamese are forced to withdraw, with 1,455 dead troops. US casualities numbered 285 killed and 985 wounded.


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