Vientiane, Laos – Communist Laos is planning to open a museum to commemorate 1971’s Battle of Ban Dong, one of the pivotal clashes in the Indochina War, media reports said Wednesday.
The Lao-Viet Commemorative War Museum, which cost 5 billion kip (625,000 dollars) to build, was due to open to the public next year in Dong village in Savannakhet province in southern Laos near the site of the battle, also called the Lamson 719 battle.
The fighting pitted communist Lao and Vietnamese troops against the South Vietnamese army and its US allies. The confrontation lasted from February 8 to March 20, 1971, and ended in a resounding victory for the communist forces. It was seen as a turning point in the Indochina War, which eventually ended with a communist victory in 1975.
“The Lamson 719 battle in Xepon district was one of many places in Laos that witnessed heavy conflict during the struggle against foreign aggressors,” said Bounauer Phomkhe, deputy director of the Savannakhet provincial Labour and Social Welfare Department.
Bouauer told the Vientiane Times that the museum would display photos of the battle along with military equipment used by the Lao and Vietnamese forces.
“Both our countries’ soldiers fought bravely and sacrificed their lives to protect their lands from US aggressors,” he said.
background notes on the “Battle of Ban Dong”
Before Operation Lam Son 719 began, intelligence indicates that North Vietnam had permanently placed logistical units in the Ban Dong area, especially along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The logistical units were supported by one regular division, with another one ready for rapid deployment. In order to capture Tchepone the district of Ban Dong had to be brought under South Vietnamese control.
The initial objective of Lam Son 719 was to capture Ban Dong and the surrounding areas, establish firebases and then find and destroy the enemy. Once the first phase of the operation is completed, the 1st ARVN Infantry Division and its supporting units would move on Tchephone. Again, they would set up strong points, sweep the occupied areas and then find and destroy the enemy.
In order to achieve their initial objectives, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam had a diversionery plan drawn up, the aim was to fool the North Vietnamese High Command in regards to South Vietnamese operations. During early February the 147th Marine Brigade, under the command of Colonel Hoang Tich Thong, was airlifted from Da Nang to Dong Ha. The arrival of a South Vietnamese brigade close to the DMZ created an impression that an assault was about to be launched against North Vietnam, when the 147th Marines Brigade cross the Dong Ha river landing crafts in an amphibious exercise. The North Vietnamese Army reacted by attaking the South Vietnamese Marines violently.
A few days later the 147th Marine Brigade was moved to Khe Sanh as the main ARVN force were preparing for the main operation.
On February 8 President Nguyen Van Thieu gave the order to attack, with the 1st Airborne Brigade and the 1st Armour Brigade launching an attack on Ban Dong. Originally, the South Vietnamese Army planned to capture Ban Dong on February 9 but due to early miscalculations, Ban Dong was captured on February 12. With the help of combat engineers, Fire Support Bases A Luoi, 30 and 31 was immediately set up.
Initially the ARVN encountered little resistance, but reconnaissance activities noticed increasing activities of North Vietnamese troops in the area.
On March 18, after heavy casualties were inflicted on the South Vietnamese on Hill 723, the joint North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao forces launched a counterattack supported by armour. After some hard fighting, FSB 30 and 31 were overrun. Pressure from the North Vietnamese anti-aircraft fire prevented South Vietnamese troops from being resupplied, as a result, ARVN morale collapsed.
Taking advantage of the ARVN’s critical situation, the combined Communist forces launched deep thrust into South Vietnamese defensive formations. After nearly three days of fighting, the South Vietnamese took more casualties as the 1st Paratroop Brigade was virtually wiped out by the North Vietnamese Army.