31 January 1968: Battle of Quảng Trị City

The Tết Offensive, launched on 31 January 1968, aimed at destabilising the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) and incite bad relations between them and their American allies. In coordinated attacks throughout South Vietnam, the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN), the National Liberation Front (NLF) and the People’s Liberation Armed Forces of Vietnam (PLAF) invaded cities and bases bent on capture or destruction. This included several attacks across northern I Corps, most importantly in Huế, Da Nang and Quảng Trị city. After being put on the defensive in Quảng Trị city, US and Army of the Republic of Vietnam forces regrouped and evicted the Việt Cộng after a day of fighting. The battle ended on 6 February 1968.

The rapid defeat of the regimental-size Việt Cộng force that assaulted Quảng Trị city proved to be one of the most decisive victories for US and ARVN forces during the Tết Offensive. Aside from mopping up operations in the countryside, it was effectively over less than twenty-four hours after it had begun. Most elements of the 812th Regiment of the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) were so badly mauled that they avoided all contact with US and ARVN forces for the next several weeks when they otherwise might have played a role in the battle for Battle of Huế. Losing the province capital would have been a severe blow to South Vietnamese morale and PAVN units could have caused extensive damage to nearby ARVN and American bases had they captured the long-range ARVN artillery pieces in the citadel of Huế. They would also have cut off resupply traffic on Highway 1 to allied forces along the Demilitarised Zone and the Marines at Khe Sanh. The PAVN and Việt Cộng’s swift defeat preserved an important symbol of South Vietnamese national pride and allowed them to devote more resources to other battles in I Corps – in particular to the struggle for Huế.

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