Wednesday, May 30, 1972

Bloody Fighting In S. Viet

SAIGON (AP) --Fighting blazed across the northern and southeastern sectors of Kontum City Sunday. U.S. warplanes retaliated with new air blows deep inside North Vietnam, and pilots reported wrecking the big Son Tay Army Barracks near the former American prisoner of war camp.

U.S. bombers ranged to the west and north of Hanoi to hit major targets. The Son Tay Barracks are 20 miles west of Hanoi. A second military compound was attacked 25 miles northeast of Hanoi.

U.S. Air Force pilots who attacked the Son Tay Barracks and an adjoining supply depot Saturday said they left the area in flames and "large fires, heavy smoke, and major damage to the facility."

The raids were among 240 strikes carried out across North Vietnam Saturday, but not disclosed by the U.S. command until Sunday.

It was at Son Tay that U.S. commandos, lifted in by helicopter, made a daring raid on Nov. 22, 1970, in an effort to free American prisoners of war. They found that the American captives, shot down during missions over the north, had been moved to another camp.

In another major air strike over the north, Navy pilots flying off the carrier Coral Sea attacked the Phu Lang Military Compound 25 miles northeast of Hanoi. Pilots reported they destroyed or damaged 35 to 50 railroad box and gondola cars, triggered six big secondary explosions and one large fuel fire and cut two sets of rails.

Coral Sea pilots also said they dropped the northern span and damaged the southern end of the Thi Long Railroad Bridge, 18 miles south of Thanh Hoa, or about 100 miles south of Hanoi.

The U.S. command said a Navy A4 Skyhawk was downed from unknown causes during Saturday's raids, about 10 miles south of Vinh. The pilot was listed as missing.

Inside Kontum, heavy fighting was continuing for the fourth successive day in the southeastern sector of the city between a battalion-sized North Vietnamese force of up to 300 troops and South Vietnamese defenders.

At the same time, the North Vietnamese clung to three strategically-placed positions on the northern rim of the city. Reports said that the outer northern defenses of the city had been pulled back up to a mile in a consolidation of government forces.

But American and South Vietnamese military sources claimed, however, that the North Vietnamese had failed in an apparent attempt to split Kontum in half by having the northern column link with the force that is entrenched south of the city's airstrip.

Before dawn Sunday, North Vietnamese forces advanced through the compound of a South Vietnamese armored cavalry unit on the northern edge of the city and drove south to within 500 yards of the airstrip, which lies in the center of the town on the eastern side. The other two strategic positions held by the North Vietnamese on the northern rim of the city are on Highway 14 and in the old 22nd Div. headquarters.

South Vietnamese A37 attack planes bombed a flat, open strip of land north of the western end of the runway. This indicated that Communist forces were still in the area, despite claims by South Vietnamese and American sources that they had been cleared out.

South Vietnamese bombers and rocket-firing U.S. helicopters raked Communist positions in the residential area south of the airstrip, around Highway 14 and on the eastern edges of the town.

North Vietnamese gunners continued to rain shells into the city. Some fell two or three blocks from the center of town.

The city was being resupplied with ammunition and other materials by air drops made by four-engine U.S. C130 transports and CH47 Chinook helicopters. The airfield remained closed.

Meanwhile, delayed field reports disclosed that South Vietnamese forces suffered a major defeat last Friday on the southern front at An Loc, 60 miles north of Saigon.

North Vietnamese troops firing from ambush and using mines destroyed 23 of 47 South Vietnamese armored personnel carriers trying to evacuate wounded soldiers from bloody fighting along Highway 13 south of An Loc. The field reports said 42 South Vietnamese soldiers were killed and 159 wounded in the ambush.

The Saigon command said Sunday that a relief column trying to break through to the besieged provincial capital of An Loc and Clear Highway 13 had made no significant progress.

Viet Cong troops, meanwhile, maintained heavy pressure in the resort province of Phuoc Tuy, 45 miles southeast of Saigon. Two district capitals were heavily assaulted, and one of them was hit with 500 mortar shells.






"Bloody Fighting In S. Viet", by (AP), published in the Pacific Stars and Stripes Tuesday, May 30, 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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