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[Image 1: Department of Defense
Photo (USMO A800720 LtGen Ngo Quang Truong, MR l commander, stands at his
forward-located in Hue. Between 12-17 March Gen Truong argued against transfer
of the airborne division from MR !. but to no avail.]

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full infantry' division, the equivalent of another division of Rangers, and tens of thousands more militia and support troops, along with most of their arms and equipment. It also cost Nguyen Van Thieu the confidence of his military- commanders, his soldiers, and his people."16

The North Vietnamese Army moved quickly to capitalize on this opportunity. A few ARVN units, notably the 22d Division in Binh Dinh Province and the 3d Airborne Brigade in Khanh Hoa, resisted the aggressors, but otherwise the Communist drive to the coast met with little resistance. South Vietnam had been effectively cut in two. With II Corps' demise, the Communists shifted their attention to Military Region l where they hoped to continue their successes. Defeat in Military Region l

In early 1975, military activity in MR l was relatively light because seasonal rains had precluded major combat operations. Fighting began in January and focused on the high ground south and southwest of Hue-hills over which both armies had fought fiercely since late August 1974. The South Vietnamese finally regained most of this key terrain by mid-January and in the process inflicted heavy casualties on elements of one North Vietnamese Army division and its supporting independent regiments.

In late January, collected intelligence revealed to the South Vietnamese that major offensive preparations were underway as North Vietnamese armor units rolled out vehicles in ever increasing numbers for what appeared to be major maintenance repairs and overhaul. Additionally, South Vietnamese intelligence sources detected new armor parks, artillery positions, and maintenance areas. While these preparations were underway, sporadic fighting continued throughout the region.

After losing the high ground overlooking Highway l, south of Hue, to South Vietnamese counterattacks in the first weeks of 1975, the North Vietnamese Army moved more units into the area. Activity during February entailed a series of sharp, but inconclusive engagements southwest of Da Nang. In Quang Ngai Province, the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong units continued the pattern of low-level attacks which had characterized military operations in the province starting in mid-1974. Spoiling actions by the 2d ARVN Division and Ranger forces succeeded in holding in place elements of the ')2d NVA Brigade, which had attempted at one point to move southward into Binh Dinh Province. Then came March and the disaster in the Central Highlands, which allowed the Communists to turn their full attention to the northern pan of South Vietnam, Military Region l.17

On 8 March, major fighting erupted when Communist forces attacked and occupied some 15 hamlets in southern Quang Tri and northern Thua Thien Provinces. Well over 100,000 of the inhabitants chose to become refugees by fleeing south to Hue.* At the same time in southern Military Region l, the 2d NVA Division and 5 2d Brigade attacked and overran the district capitals at Hau Due and Tien Phuoc and threatened the Quang Tin provincial capital of Tarn Ky.

On 12 March, with mounting pressure in Military Region l and increasing apprehension over the defense of Saigon, President Thieu ordered the MR l commander, Lieutenant General Ngo Quang Truong, to release the Airborne Division for deployment from the Da Nang area to Saigon. At the same time, he ordered Lieutenant General Truong to give top priority within MR l to the defense of Da Nang. Truong strongly op-

*Vicinamcsc Marine Lieutenant Colonel Tran Ngoc Toan recently recalled the South Vietnamese response to this attack: "These ham-lets were retaken by the VNMC and a detached ARVN tank unit on 10 March 1975. Tons of weapons and equipment were captured and 100 NVA soldiers were taken prisoner." Tran Ngoc Toan Comments.

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