The Battle of Ia Drang – fought between November 14th – 18th, 1965 – was the first major battle between the United States Army and the People’s Army of Vietnam, also referred to as the North Vietnamese Army.
It was part of the Pleiku Campaign conducted early in the Vietnam War. Both sides claimed victory, and some have said that Ia Drang was the battle that convinced Ho Chi Minh that he could, in the end, defeat the Americans. Three Medals of Honor were awarded from actions during this engagement.
On the morning of November 14th, the 1st Cavalry landed at Landing Zone X-Ray at the base of the Chu Pong mountain and by noon they were already under attack from the North Vietnamese. The fighting continued all day and into the night with the enemy relentlessly making assault after assault.
The North Vietnamese forces had succeeded in engaging the U.S. forces in very tight quarters. The cavalry regiment returned fire, but the enemy were dug into prepared fighting positions and many of the American leaders had died or were wounded during the initial stages of the attack.
Temperatures reached 100 degrees, and by the afternoon there was a firestorm battle for survival. Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Hal Moore and his men continued on, receiving support from artillery units and air strikes, helping the American troops hold themselves against the enemy.
During a 14-hour period, Major Bruce Crandall and Captain Ed Freeman, repeatedly landed their helicopter under intense enemy fire at Landing Zone X-Ray. They resupplied ammunition, water, and supplies, while evacuating the wounded. They saved some 70 soldiers when the Medevac units refused to fly into the intense landing zone. Both later were awarded the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest award for heroism in combat.
Before the Battle of la Drang was over, 305 Americans had been killed along with an estimated 2,000 North Vietnamese troops. American officials declared the Battle of the la Drang Valley a victory.
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