This period was from February 23-June 8, 1969.
On February 23. 1969. the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese launched
mortar and rocket attacks on Saigon, Da Nang, Hue. Bien Hoa Air
Base, and other key targets throughout South Vietnam. In this offen-
sive. Communist forces relied heavily on the use of stand-off fire-
power in hit-and-run attacks, since, in the previous year’s offensives.
Allied ground operations and air interdiction efforts had countered the
Communists‘ logistical capacity to wage conventional battles. By
March 30 the Allies had blunted the hit-and-run attacks. and the
enemy withdrew into Cambodian and Laotian sanctuaries to restock
their munitions and weapons inventories.
Later in the spring. on May 12. the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese
launched a second phase. consisting of more than 200 attacks in South
Vietnam, the heaviest assault since the 1968 Tet Offensive. An
intense battle in the A Shau Valley required USAF close air support
and tactical airlift of supplies and reinforcements until May 20, when
the U.S. Anny captured Ap Bia Mountain, thus enabling Allied
aircraft to land in the A Shau Valley without receiving mortar fire.
Another significant battle occurred at Ben Het Defense Camp, located
about 260 miles northeast of Saigon, where the Cambodian/Laotian
borders join the boundary of South Vietnam. Here, the USAF em-
ployed AC-47 and AC-I19 gunships at night and tactical air and
B-52 strikes during the day in support of the defenders. Fighter
aircraft laid down suppressive fire to permit C-7s to drop supplies to
the besieged forces. By the end of June the Allies had forced the
Throughout this campaign, the USAF joined the Vietnamese Air
Force and the other U.S. services in close air support of Allied forces
throughout South Vietnam and in a continuing interdiction campaign.
COMMANDO HUNT I, along South Vietnam's borders with Laos and
Cambodia. In Laos Air Force pilots joined Navy aviators to hit
targets along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, where North Vietnam. no longer
having to protect its lines of communication and storage areas north
of the demilitarized zone, had shifted more antiaircraft defenses. The
USAF consequently relied heavily on high-flying B-52s and such fast
tactical aircraft as F-4s and F-105: for most missions over the trail.
AC-130 gunships, though flying less than 4 percent of the missions in
Laos, nevertheless accounted in the spring of 1969 for 44 percent of
the trucks claimed damaged or destroyed.
In northeastern Laos AC-47 gunships provided close air support to
Royal Laotian and irregular forces battling North Vietnamese and
Pathet Lao troops. On March 2. 1969. the Royal Laotian forces
abandoned Na Khang under cover of USAF aircraft. Then on the 12th
the USAF deployed AC-47s to Udorn, a Royal Thai Air Force Base
40 miles south of Vientiane, Laos, to defend forward Royal Laotian
air bases. The USAF and the Royal Laotian Air Force on March 23
began a new Laotian counteroffensive with air attacks on targets in
the Xiangkhoang area of the Plain of Jars, 100 miles northeast of
Vientiane. Two weeks later, on April 7, Laotian troops entered
Xiangkhoang virtually unopposed. With Laotian positions tempo-
rarily safe. the USAF AC-47s returned to South Vietnam on June 9.
American involvement in Southeast Asia expanded on March 18.
1969, when the United States began B-52 night attacks on Communist
sanctuaries in Cambodia. About the same time, however, the U.S.
began to reequip South Vietnam's forces in preparation for eventual
withdrawal of all American forces. On April 19 the U.S. transferred
to the VNAF its first jet aircraft. Shortly afterwards, on June 8,
President Richard M. Nixon announced that during July and August
1969 the United States would withdraw 25.000 of its 540,000 troops
in South Vietnam, even though no progress had been made in the
Paris peace talks.