Khe Sanh, Siege of
In the prelude to the Khe Sanh siege, increasing numbers of Hanoi's troops were detected in the vicinity of the combat base, which had been a military post or Special Forces camp since July 1962. That Special Forces camp was first hit by mortar bombardment in January 1966; in May 1967, after the facility moved to nearby Lang Vei, it received a ground attack. U.S. Marines began operating in the area, establishing and improving the Khe Sanh combat base and gradually reinforcing it as the suspected North Vietnamese presence grew to an estimated 25,000–40,000 men. By January 1968, the combat base was manned by 6,806 American troops (including 5,905 Marines) under Col. David E. Lownds. There were also about 360 Americans and indigenous soldiers at Lang Vei Special Forces camp and another 175 troops in and around Khe Sanh village.
The events of the seventy‐eight day siege began with an attack on an outlying position (Hill 861) on 20/21 January 1968, coupled with a bombardment of the main base that destroyed much of the Marines' reserve ammunition. The force at Khe Sanh village withstood an attack the next night but was then withdrawn. There were several pitched battles for outposts but no more than probes at the combat base. These included the battles at Hill 861A (5 February), Lang Vei (7 February), and Hill 64 (8 February). All the posts except Lang Vei were successfully defended. On 21 February, there was a probe against South Vietnamese Ranger positions in the main base. The base and its outposts were heavily supported throughout the siege by U.S. airpower and artillery fire in an exceptional effort that General Westmoreland called Operation Niagara. It remains unclear whether the lack of a big North Vietnamese attack was intentional or resulted from losses inflicted by this firepower. Khe Sanh was relieved by an overland attack, Operation Pegasus, involving some 30,000 troops, that made contact with the isolated base on 7 April 1968. After a period of mobile action, the United States withdrew from Khe Sanh on 6 July.
Official U.S. figures for casualties, which exclude several sources of losses, amount to 205 killed and 816 wounded who were evacuated; a more detailed assessment indicates about 730 battle deaths, 2,598 wounded, and 7 missing. Losses during the period of mobile operations in the surrounding zone include another 326 killed, 1,888 wounded, and 3 missing. North Vietnamese losses have been estimated by Americans at between 10,000 and 15,000 in dead alone.
[See also Vietnam War: Military and Diplomatic Course.]
Robert Pisor , The End of the Line: The Siege of Khe Sanh, 1982.
Eric Hammel , Khe Sanh: Siege in the Clouds, an Oral History, 1989.
John Prados and and Ray W. Stubbe , Valley of Decision: The Siege of Khe Sanh, 1991.
"Khe Sanh, Siege of." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 16, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/khe-sanh-siege
"Khe Sanh, Siege of." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved February 16, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/khe-sanh-siege
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.