8 February-25 March 1971: Operation Lam Sơn 719

On 8 February 1970, Operation Lam Sơn 719 (Chiến dịch Lam Sơn 719, also known as the Lam Sơn 719  Campaign) was an offensive campaign conducted in the southeastern portion of Laos by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) with support from the US military. By law, US forces were prohibited from entering Laos and therefore restricted to providing aerial and logistical support. Ultimately, the objective of the campaign was the disruption of the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) supply route along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which was known to traverse the southeastern Laos border with Vietnam.

In addition, ARVN and US forces hoped to complete other minor objectives through the campaign. It was presumed that if the campaign succeeded, it would bolster the morale and confidence of ARVN troops, much needed after the impotency of the Cambodian Campaign in 1970. Completing the campaign successfully would also serve as proof that ARVN could shoulder the burden of war despite the continuing withdrawal of American ground forces under the Nixonian policy of Vietnamisation.

However, by the 25 March, the campaign ended in failure, with ARVN forces retreating via American helicopter support. Due to poor preparation, poor military training and poor ARVN leadership, Operation Lam Sơn 719 collapsed when faced by the determined and skillful resistance of PAVN and National Liberation Front (NLF) defences. The PAVN and NLF defences can be partially viewed and understood through artist Nguyễn Ðức Thọ’s paintings of them.

The overall effect destroyed US confidence in ARVN’s capabilities to conduct military operations in order to win the war against North Vietnam. It was reported that ARVN forces suffered heavy casualties, losing up to 8,000 men.

Battlefield Diaries: Vietnam War – 1 of 6 – Operation Lam Son 719 published by Clark’s History Reels.

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