Thursday, May 18, 1972
Say More Mines Dropped In N. Viet
In South Vietnam Communist troops shelled Kontum Airfield Tuesday night, blowing up two government transport planes, and field reports said they also invaded a big ammunition dump at Cam Ranh Bay on the central coast and destroyed several hundred tons of shells.
(AP reported enemy troops blew up the main ammunition dump in Pleiku early Wednesday, rocking the entire central highlands capital with a series of artillery explosions that were still going off five hours after the attack.
(A correspondent reported from Pleiku that the explosions and heat were so intense that South Vietnamese officials were unable to get near the dump to assess the damage.
(There was no immediate report on casualties.
(The ammunition dump is located two miles east of downtown Pleiku.)
The Communists also renewed their pressure on the My Chanh defense line north of the old imperial capital of Hue with 130mm artillery barrages, and skirmished with the government troops who reoccupied Firebase Bastogne west of that city Monday.
They also dumped another 2,600 high-explosive shells on besieged An Loc, 60 miles north of Saigon, and skirmished with troops trying to reopen Highway 13 to the city.
The renewed mining of Haiphong and "several other harbors" in North Vietnam was first reported by Radio Hanoi as it broadcast a Foreign Office protest of the flights on Monday.
The U. S. command said it had "no information" on any fresh mining of North Vietnamese waters and issued its standard "no comment" on Hanoi broadcasts.
But a correspondent returning from a visit to the U.S. aircraft carrier Constellation in the Tonkin Gulf said enlisted men on the ship told newsmen Tuesday they had loaded mines aboard some of the warplanes that flew off the carrier Monday.
He was with the first group of newsmen allowed aboard the fleet since President Nixon announced his "blockade" of North Vietnamese ports a week ago. He said officers there refused to discuss any aspect of the mining and seaborne interdiction operations.
The fresh mining attacks seemed the best indication yet that North Vietnam was having some success in clearing the underwater explosives from its ports, despite Pentagon claims to the contrary.
But it was thought possible here that the new attacks might be called part of a step-up in the blockade program by Washington officials.
The Pentagon denied repeatedly last week that any minesweeping operations were underway, despite dispatches from a French correspondent in North Vietnam who said they commenced almost immediately after the first U.S. planes swept in last Tuesday morning.
The U.S. command reported meantime that American planes had stepped up the level of their strikes into North Vietnam last week from an average of 200 per day the week before, and only 75 per day two weeks ago. The level of strikes is now approaching that of President Johnson's "Rolling Thunder" air war in 1967-68.
U.S. planes struck, among other targets, the headquarters for North Vietnam's air defense system at Bach Mai Airfield, south of Hanoi, two other air bases, half a dozen major bridges and the main fuel line supporting its offensive in northern South Vietnam, the command said.
At Bach Mai, "several buildings" were reported destroyed, but there was no word on overall damage to the headquarters complex, which is believed to be well-bunkered and probably impervious to ordinary bombing, as are many other installations.
Most of the bridges listed Tuesday had previously been reported hit by U.S. Air Force sources, but several strikes on railroad depots, warehouse facilities and fuel storage areas around Nam Dinh, Thanh How, Vinh, and Dong Hoi, had not been listed before. Those cities stretch down the North Vietnam coast from 60 miles below Hanoi to 38 miles above the DMZ.
In addition, the command said Air Force planes knocked out all the pumping stations along a four-inch pipeline the North Vietnamese built into South Vietnam that was capable of delivering 435,000 gallons of fuel per day.
Inside South Vietnam, the shelling of Kontum Airfield followed two days of tank-led assaults on the city's inner defense line, one to three miles northwest. There was no count on the number of rockets that hit the field, but two transport planes there blew up.
"Say More Mines Dropped in N. Viet", by (UPI), published in the Pacific Stars and Stripes Thursday, May 18, 1972 and reprinted from European and Pacific Stars and Stripes, a Department of Defense publication copyright, 2002 European and Pacific Stars and Stripes.
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