Vietnam War Bombing Runs Over Khe Sanh | 1968 | US Air Force Documentary



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This film is a U.S. Air Force (USAF) documentary that covers Operation Niagara, a close air support campaign during the Vietnam War conducted by the U.S. 7th Air Force in order to protect the U.S. Marines and their South Vietnamese allies garrisoned at Khe Sanh.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND / CONTEXT

The siege:
On January 21, 1968, forces of North Vietnam carried out a massive artillery shelling on the U.S. Marine garrison at Khe Sanh, South Vietnam. For the next 77 days, U.S. Marines and their South Vietnamese allies resisted an intense siege of the garrison, in one of the longest and fiercest battles of the Vietnam War. The besieged Marine base was supported by Operation Niagara. It was a U.S. 7th Air Force close air support campaign. Its purpose was to serve as an aerial umbrella for the defense of the U.S. Marine Corps base on the Khe Sanh Plateau. The North Vietnamese were forced to lift the siege in March 1968.

The American command in Saigon initially believed that hostile operations around the Khe Sanh Marine Base during the summer of 1967 were just part of a series of minor North Vietnamese offensives in the border regions. That appraisal was altered when it was discovered that North Vietnamese Army was moving major forces into the area during the fall and winter.

During the siege over 100,000 tons of bombs were dropped until mid April by aircraft of the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marines onto the surrounding areas of Khe Sanh. The campaign used the latest technological advances in order to locate North Vietnamese forces for targeting. The logistical effort to support the Khe Sanh Marine Base, once it was isolated overland, demanded the implementation of other tactical innovations in order to keep the Marines supplied.

The Vietnam conflict:
The Vietnam War (aka the Second Indochina War) was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was fought between North Vietnam – supported by the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China – and the government of South Vietnam – supported by the United States and other anti-communist countries. The communist Viet Cong, a South Vietnamese political organization and army aided by North Vietnam, fought a guerrilla war against the United States and the South Vietnamese forces. The Vietnam People’s Army (North Vietnamese Army) engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units into battle. The U.S. and South Vietnamese forces relied on air superiority and overwhelming firepower to conduct military operations, involving ground forces, artillery, and air raids. The United States conducted a large-scale strategic air bombing against North Vietnam.

The North Vietnamese government and the Viet Cong were fighting to reunify Vietnam under communist rule. The U.S. government viewed American involvement in the Vietnam conflict as a way to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam with the aim of stopping the spread of communism.

The U.S. Marine Corps served an important role in the Vietnam. Individuals from the USMC operated in the Northern I Corps Regions of South Vietnam. Portions of the Corps were responsible for the less-known Combined Action Program that implemented unconventional techniques for counter-insurgency and worked as military advisers to the Republic of Vietnam Marine Corps. Marines were withdrawn from Vietnam in 1971, and returned briefly in 1975 to evacuate Saigon.

Direct U.S. military involvement ended on 15 August 1973 as a result of the Case-Church Amendment passed by the U.S. Congress. The capture of Saigon by the North Vietnamese Army in April 1975 marked the end of the conflict. North and South Vietnam were reunified.

Vietnam War Bombing Runs Over Khe Sanh | 1968 | US Air Force Documentary
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