VietnamGear.com

Vietnam War Dictionary

Easter Offensive

With the vast majority of U.S. troops withdrawn and believing the RVNAF to be weak, the North Vietnamese launched a large scale offensive in March 1972 with the aim of inflicting a decisive blow against South Vietnam. In contrast to the 1968 Tet Offensive, which included widespread guerrilla participation, the Ngyuen Hue campaign was a three pronged assault by regular NVA divisions equipped with Soviet tanks and long range artillery.1

The three principle fronts of the offensive were:
  1. NVA divisions struck across the DMZ into Quang Tri province on 30th March 1972 with the aim of capturing Hue. After a month of fierce fighting, South Vietnamese forces were driven out of Quang Tri City. However, backed by U.S. air power, the ARVN successfully defended Hue before recapturing Quang Tri City on 15th September 1972.
  2. On 7th April 1972, North Vietnamese forces drove into Binh Long province from Cambodia and began an assault on An Loc (65 miles northwest of Saigon). After withstanding heavy artillery bombardment, an ARVN counteroffensive, combined with American bombing, pushed the NVA out of the city by June 18th.
  3. NVA divisions pushed into the Central Highlands from northern Cambodia on April 12th aiming to capture Kontum City. After coming close to splitting South Vietnam in two, the North Vietnamese attack was finally repulsed on June 9th due to a combination of ARVN counterattacks and U.S. air power.

In addition to the air strikes in support of ARVN forces battling the NVA in South Vietnam, the U.S. Air Force also conducted Operation Linebacker, the sustained bombing of North Vietnam's military installations, storage facilities and transportation network. Beginning on 10th May 1972, Linebacker successfully destroyed the Communist's ability to sustain their Easter Offensive by severing supply routes into North Vietnam and by preventing NVA reinforcements from entering the South.

North Vietnam failed to achieve anything like the decisive blow it was aiming to inflict through its Easter Offensive and suffered an estimated 100,000 NVA casualties. However, it did gain control of more territory in South Vietnam. Nonetheless, the North Vietnamese made a major concession at the Paris peace talks in October 1972, offering for the first time to accept a cease fire without insisting on the removal of South Vietnam President Nguyen Van Thieu or the creation of a coalition government.

Note:
1. The North Vietnamese named their 1972 offensive after Nguyen Hue, a national hero who had defeated invading Chinese forces in 1789.


See Creighton Abrams, Thomas Norris, Vo Nguyen Giap