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This day in history – Seige of Plei Me

October 19, 2010

A lot of people are talking about the Victory of Yorktown (end of the American Revolution for college students, oh and we won) today so I thought it appropriate to mention another war that holds much less popularity in America’s collective heart.

On Oct 19th, 1965: (from

North Vietnamese troops launch a major assault on U.S. and South Vietnamese Special Forces Camp at Plei Me in the Central Highlands, 215 miles north of Saigon.

During a week of savage fighting, defenders of the besieged outpost, manned by 12 U.S. Green Berets, 400 Montagnard tribesmen, and a handful of South Vietnamese guerrilla specialists, repelled repeated Viet Cong attacks. The tide of the battle turned finally with the arrival of several hundred South Vietnamese reinforcements and numerous Allied air strikes. With the camp secured, General William Westmoreland, senior U.S. military commander in Saigon, decided to seize the advantage and send in the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) to “find, fix, and defeat the enemy forces” that had threatened Plei Me. This decision would result in November in the battle of the Ia Drang Valley, the war’s bloodiest battle to date.

These folks were completely cut off, and were only capable of being resupplied by air.  For those unaware, the Green Berets are not a traditional fighting unit (though they can kick ass), their main purpose is to train indigenous populations in unconventional warfare, hence the low number of Green Berets (little bit larger than an A-Team) and large number of Montagnard.

Facing this small group of 400+ soldiers, was an NVA Regiment numbering close to 1500 men.  Despite what Hollywood would have us believe, the North Vietnamese Army was not a rag-tag group of guys in black pajamas, but a well trained, fully equipped fighting force with outstanding field officers.  The assault to defend ratio in this engagement was a little over 3:1, which is the traditional tactical requirement for a successful assault.

I know its taboo to talk about American soldiers winning a battle in Vietnam, but I like to acknowledge the grit and determination it takes to hold out against a superior force far from any support or hope of relief.

For people who like the moving picture, there are 2 movies that depict the events in the above quote.  The first is The Siege of Firebase Gloria, starring R. Lee Ermey.  This film is about the actual siege.

The second is We Were Soldiers, starring Mel Gibson.  This one is about the 1st Air Cav and their operations in the Ia Drang Valley.

I recommend both.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 19, 2010 11:25 pm

    Great post Fleece! It is a must that we remember our history. I saw the movie We Were Soldiers…very powerful stuff.

    • October 20, 2010 6:43 am

      Thanks. I wasn’t trying to belittle the Battle of Yorktown (I am a Virginian), just thought it would be interesting to talk about something most people probably never even heard of.

      On The Siege of Firebase Gloria, it is roughly based off Plei Me. The big differences are:

      • A firebase is an artillery base, Plei Me was a special forces outpost
      • In the movie, there are a lot more than 12 American soldiers, including a complete medical detachment with female nurses
      • Hollywood can’t help itself – many of the soldiers are drug addled and their former commanding officer is a psycho – while that stuff might have been going on during the war (was not as prevalent as Hollywood would want us to believe), definitely didn’t go on at a Special Forces camp, nor was the anti-war sentiment that big in 1965

      That being said, it is still a decent movie. And I would still recommend it.

  2. JustFacts permalink
    October 20, 2010 5:10 pm

    God Bless all of our military.

    Unfortunately the current Commander-in-Chief will never use those words. He can’t even bring himself to quote the Declaration of Independence correctly and use the words “endowed by our creator.”

    You may think what you want of his predecessor, but George W. Bush appreciated our military, and always ended every speech with “and God Bless the United States of America.”

    Class shows, unlike the self-absorbed elitests that are in office now.

    • October 20, 2010 6:22 pm

      Yeah, don’t know what his problem is. It is most definitely intentional, as white house staffers stated the first time he did it, “our creator” was on the teleprompter. So he is either completely ignorant of the internet and the new media, or he doesn’t care. If he doesn’t care, I can’t imagine what he thinks he gains by pissing off a huge majority of Americans.

      Oh well, I ain’t gonna complain if he wants to keep shooting himself in the foot, One Term Barry roles of the tongue pretty nicely.

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