March 10th – This Date in the Vietnam War

On March 10, several significant events took place during the Vietnam War. In 1968, the Battle of Lima Site 85, also known as the Battle of Phou Pha Thi, was fought on Phou Pha Thi mountain in Laos. The battle was part of a campaign waged by the Vietnam People’s Army and Pathet Lao against airmen of the United States Air Force, Royal Laos Army, Royal Thai Border Patrol Police, and the CIA-led Hmong Clandestine Army. It resulted in the largest single ground combat loss of United States Air Force members (12) during the Vietnam War.

In 1970, the U.S. Army accused Captain Ernest Medina and four other soldiers of committing crimes at My Lai in March 1968. The My Lai massacre became the most publicized war atrocity committed by U.S. troops in Vietnam, with allegations that a platoon had slaughtered between 200 and 500 unarmed villagers. The soldiers took out their anger on the villagers after being frustrated by unanswered losses due to snipers and mines. The killing was stopped only when Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson landed his helicopter between the Americans and the fleeing South Vietnamese, confronting the soldiers and blocking them from further action against the villagers. Eventually, the incident came to light, and an Army board of inquiry investigated the massacre, with only 14 people charged with crimes. Calley was found guilty of murdering 22 civilians and sentenced to life imprisonment, but his sentence was later reduced to 10 years.

In 1975, the North Vietnamese surrounded and attacked the city of Ban Me Thuot, part of their Campaign 275 initiative, just two years after a cease-fire was established by the Paris Peace Accords. The South Vietnamese 23rd Division was vastly outnumbered and quickly succumbed to the communists. As the communists took the city, South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu decided to withdraw his forces to protect more critical populous areas, abandoning Pleiku and Kontum. The South Vietnamese forces soon collapsed as a cogent fighting force, and the North Vietnamese continued their attack all the way to Saigon, with South Vietnam surrendering unconditionally on April 30.

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