The Siege of Kham Duc (May 1968)

Kham Duc Special Forces camp (designated A-105) was situated in the Annamite Mountains 55 miles west of Chu Lai. It was extremely remote and by the spring of 1968 was the last remaining border camp in Military Region 1 still in American hands. The camp was on a narrow plain surrounded by dense forest and high mountains. Its only contact with the main operating bases was by air. The camp had been occupied by US Special Forces since September 1963 and had an airstrip that could take C-123s and C-130s. Five miles to the south was a small forward operating base at Ngoc Tavak defended by just over 100 men. In the early hours of 10 May 1968 the Ngok Tavak outpost was attacked by an NVA infantry battalion using mortars and rockets. Fierce fighting continued as daylight dawned and two Marine Corps CH-46s were lost attempting to extract the survivors. Simultaneous with the attack on Ngoc Tavak, the North Vietnamese started a mortar attack on Kham Duc. Reinforcements were brought in by helicopter throughout the 11th despite enemy fire and low-lying fog. The enemy assault intensified in the early hours of the 12th and the perimeter defences were soon overrun. A massive enemy assault on the main compound started around noon but this was thwarted by accurate and devastating air strikes. However, it became obvious that the situation was hopeless and the decision was taken to evacuate the camp by helicopter and transport aircraft. USAF C-130s and C-123s ran the gauntlet of anti-aircraft and small arms fire in the air, and mortar and rocket fire on the ground as they helped to extract the survivors. The last of the defenders were evacuated from the camp at 4:33pm on the 12th. That night US aircraft bombed and strafed the camp’s new occupants. Despite the loss of the camp, the evacuation of Kham Duc stands out as one the most heroic episodes in the history of the war in Vietnam.