“Feeding Victory” Examines Logistics Battle at Khe Sanh

A C-130 Hercules transport plane lands at Khe Sanh in early 1968 carrying pallets of provides to Marines who had been under siege since Jan. 21. Stable air resupply capabilities enabled the snide to decide off the North Vietnamese Military until floor reinforcements broke the siege.

U.S. Nationwide Archives

Warren Wilkins
March 2, 2021

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower famously noticed that “battles, campaigns, and even wars had been received or misplaced due to logistics.” Feeding Victory: Fashionable Military Logistics from Lake George to Khe Sanh, an attention-grabbing title from Air Pressure Col. Jobie Turner, explores the knowledge of these phrases and the have an effect on of logistics on three centuries of armed battle.

Defining logistics as a result of the “combination of transportation and current for a battling energy,” Turner focuses on 4 technological eras and selects a handful of battles and campaigns that applicable illustrate the scheme of logistics in each of these historic ages. The four-three hundred and sixty 5 days marketing campaign (1755-59) to wrest defend a watch on of Fashionable York’s Lake George from the French and their Native American allies, as an illustration, severely examined the power of the British to current their forces inside the pre-industrial technology. Turner additionally discusses the have an effect on of know-how and logistics in battle in the future of historic durations encompassing World Conflict I, World Conflict II and Vietnam.

In Vietnam, Turner properties in on the communist siege of the U.S. Marine snide at Khe Sanh. Following months of debate, in January 1968 the North Vietnamese Military launched the Tet Offensive, almost simultaneous assaults on dozens of cities correct via South Vietnam. The North believed the assaults would foment an riot and cripple the authorities in Saigon. To draw American troops a great distance off from metropolis areas previous to the assaults began, communist units laid siege to Khe Sanh, a faraway outpost shut to the Demilitarized Zone isolating North and South Vietnam.

NVA planners, Turner writes, believed the People lacked the sources required to attempt towards efficiently inside the cities and inside the nation-narrate on the similar time. Throughout the identical diagram, Communist Social gathering First Secretary Le Duan naively instructed the U.S. monetary system, the world’s applicable, may probably probably maybe now not defend an expeditionary army battling half of a world away.

North Vietnam, a dinky impoverished nation propped up by pleasurable toughen from China and the Soviet Union, developed a surprisingly refined logistical gadget. By 1967, Hanoi had reworked the Ho Chi Minh Path, working via supposedly neutral Laos and Cambodia, correct right into a group of routes and methodology stations glorious of accommodating a fast of 2½-ton vans that delivered troops and provides to communist forces battling inside the South. At Khe Sanh, communist logisticians moved two NVA divisions (roughly 20,000 troops) and ample meals, arms and ammunition to habits a power siege of the Marine snide.

Important of static defensive positions, the Marines puzzled whether or not Khe Sanh might be adequately equipped in the future of a major assault and instructed forsaking the snide inside the summertime of 1967. On the alternative hand, Military Gen. William C. Westmoreland, the ultimate commander of U.S. floor forces in Vietnam, ordered the Marines to decide the snide. He welcomed the chance to raise American firepower to endure on the big enemy energy congregating across the snide and thought of the remoted outpost as a probably staging station for a future invasion of Laos.

Rapidly after midnight on Jan. 21, 1968, the North Vietnamese assaulted Marine positions on Hill 861 to the north of Khe Sanh. Later that morning, the NVA shelled the numerous snide. Turner, recounting the hellish 77-day siege that adopted, notes that the battle “resembled the Western Entrance in 1917.” As Westmoreland predicted, American firepower, aided by an developed focusing on gadget that tracked enemy motion, prevented the NVA from overrunning the beleaguered garrison.

“At Khe Sanh,” Turner explains, “the power of American plane and artillery to pin down the NVA blunted their offensives, halted their logistics, and saved the NVA from their meals.”

Marshaling the blended sources of a number of merchandise and corporations, the People hurriedly deployed mounted-hover transports and helicopters to resupply—totally by air—the 6,000 Marines defending Khe Sanh and the encompassing hills.

Opposite to defective communist assumptions, america now not applicable was once able to provide the cash for the financial fees of a battle in Southeast Asia, nonetheless may probably probably maybe arm and current superior forces in any theater of the battle.

In April, a joint U.S. Military-Marine operation ended the siege. “Although america received on the recreation of current and inflicted heavy losses on the NVA at Khe Sanh, they level-headed misplaced the battle,” Turner acknowledges. “The yarn of the dinky third-world nation, besieging the Marines at Khe Sanh and attacking U.S. and [South Vietnamese] managed cities in South Vietnam, was once ample to level out American public opinion towards the battle.”

Turner, by the way, misses the related charge when he asserts that the battle in South Vietnam was once a “counterinsurgency.” The battle little question blended predominant-power battle aspects and a successfully-entrenched navy-political insurgency. Nonetheless, policymakers and protection energy leaders alike would enact efficiently to learn Feeding Victory. V

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