The Siege Of Dak Seang (Apr 1970)

The region to the west of Dak To in the Central Highlands was particularly vulnerable to enemy attack, as it was close to the point where the borders of South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos met. Enemy artillery in Laos and Cambodia could reach some of the Special Forces camps such as Ben Het and Dak Seang, which often had to be resupplied by air when enemy activity cut the roads leading to the camps. The small camp at Dak Seang, 35 miles northwest of Kontum, was situated in a valley which was wide enough for airdrops in any direction. The camp was often resupplied by US transport aircraft operating from the airfield at Pleiku, 60 miles to the south. On 1 April 1970 a strong NVA force besieged the camp and an airdrop of ammunition and supplies was made by three C-7s during the afternoon. The NVA had positioned anti-aircraft guns along the likely air corridors that transport aircraft might use during their airdrops. Light ground fire was encountered on these first missions and one aircraft received two hits that did little damage. Enemy pressure on the camp continued throughout the night and on the following morning two more Caribous set off from Pleiku to make another drop. Ground fire proved to be heavier on the second day and one of the aircraft was hit and crashed. Despite the obvious danger a further 11 airdrops were made by C-7 crews later on the 2nd with three aircraft being damaged by ground fire. The airdrops continued despite intense ground fire that eventually claimed three C-7s and damaged many more. However, by 13 April the situation at Dak Seang had improved enough for the air resupply mission to be largely taken over by US Army helicopters although C-7s made a small number of night airdrops towards the end of April. On 7 May C-123s resumed daylight airdrops at Dak Seang and on 11 May C-7s resumed landing at the camp’s airstrip. Between 1 April and 1 May the C-7s of the 483rd TAW had flown 127 sorties to Dak Seang dropping 240 tons of supplies, 90 per cent of which was recovered by the defenders from within the perimeter of the 200 feet-square camp itself. The successful resupply of Dak Seang illustrated the resourcefulness and bravery of the airlift crews and planners but also highlighted the vulnerability of slow-flying transport aircraft to ground fire in this type of situation.