Khe Sanh Vietnam War Chronology
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July - First Special Forces A-detachment arrives at Khe Sanh
September - SF Detachment A-131 sent to Khe Sanh
September - Vietnamese engineers build first airstrip at Khe Sanh
March - 70 ARVN paratroopers jump into the French Fort area.
April - Two O-1B observation planes come under heavy fire in the
valley between Hills 861 and 881.
March - O-1B "Bird dog" shot down. Pilot, Captain Richard Whitesides
becomes first American KIA at Khe Sanh. Observer,
Captain Floyd Thompson is captured and becomes the
longest held POW of the Vietnam War.
April - Marine Corps sends the Signal Engineering Unit (SESU) to Khe
Sanh. Includes Marines from 1st Radio Company, Company G
of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines and a section of 81mm
mortars. This is the first Marine ground unit to conduct
independent operations in South Vietnam.
October - Strikers from Khe Sanh make contact with confirmed NVA
troops just inside Laos. Provides proof that Hanoi is
sending troops into the South.
Special Forces builds camp next to airstrip. This camp becomes
the site of Khe Sanh Combat Base.
April 17 - Marine Corps conducts Operation VIRGINIA looking for NVA
May 1 troop concentrations between Hill 558 and Khe Sanh Combat Base.
No significant contact was made.
June - SOG and reconnaissance patrols report increased activity.
August Sightings of large NVA troop concentrations indicate possible
attack in the Khe Sanh area.
September - Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 10 arrives at Khe Sanh to
rebuild airstrip. Special Forces moves to Lang Vei and 1st
Battalion, 3rd Marines moves to Khe Sanh.
February - 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines replaced by single company,
Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines.
March 15 - Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines replaces E/2/9 as
resident defense company.
April 20 - Combat assets at KSCB pass to operational control of Col.
Lanigan's 3rd Marines which commences Operation PRAIRIE IV.
April 24 - B/1/9 patrol engages large enemy force north of Hill 861 and
prematurely triggers attack on Khe Sanh. "Hill Fights" begin.
April 25 - 2/3 and 3/3 airlifted to KSCB to counter enemy drive.
April 28 - After heavy prep fires, Lt. Col. DeLong's 2/3 assaults and seizes
first objective, Hill 861.
May 2 - Lt. Col. Wilder's 3/3 seizes Hill 881S after 4 days of heavy fighting.
May 3 - 2/3 repulses strong enemy counterattack south of Hill 881N.
May 5 - 2/3 secures final objective, Hill 881N.
May 11 - "Hill Fights" terminate 940 NVA and 155 Marine KIA. 3rd Marines
May 13 shuttled to Dong Ha as 26th Marines (FWD) and 1/26 move into
May 13 - Col. Padley, CO 26th Marines (FWD), relieves Col. Lanigan as Senior
officer present at Khe Sanh. Elements of 1/26 occupy combat base,
Hills 881S, 861, and 950. Operation CROCKETT commences.
June 13 - Due to increasing enemy contacts, LtCol Hoch's 3/26 airlifted
July 16 - Operation CROCKETT terminates with 204 NVA and 52
July 17 - Operation ARDMORE begins.
August 12 - Col Lownds relieves Col Padley as CO, 26th Marines.
August 13 - Due to lack of significant contact around Khe Sanh, Company K & L,
3/26, transfered to 9th Marines and Operation KINGFISHER.
August 17 - Khe Sanh airfield closed to normal traffic for repair of runway.
Sept 3 - Remainder of 3/26 withdrawn to eastern Quang Tri Province.
Oct 27 - Air strip reopened to C-123 traffic.
Oct 31 - Operation ARDMORE terminated with 113 NVA and 10 Marines KIA.
Nov 1 - Operation SCOTLAND I begins
Nov 28 - MajGen Tompkins assumes command of 3rd Marine Division.
Dec 13 - LtCol Alderman's 3/26 returns to Khe Sanh because of increased
enemy activity in the Khe Sanh TAOR.
Dec 21 - 3/26 conducts 5 day sweep west of base and uncovers evidence
of enemy buildup around KSCB.
Jan 2 - Five NVA officers killed near western edge of main perimeter. Intelligence
reports indicate influx of two NVA divisions, and possibly a third, into
the Khe Sanh TAOR.
Jan 16 -17 LtCol Heath's 2/26 transferred to operational control of 26th Marines and
arrives KSCB; 2/26 occupies Hill 558 north of the base. ASRT-B of
MASS-3 displaces from Chu Lai to Khe Sanh to handle ground
controlled radar bombing missions.
Jan 17 - Team from "Bravo", 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion ambushed near Hill
Jan 19 - While searching the recon ambush site, patrol from I/3/26 comes under fire
from an estimated 25 NVA troops and withdraws under cover of supporting
arms. Two platoons from M/3/26 helilifted to Hill 881S as reinforcements
for I/3/26 which prepares for sweep toward Hill 881N the next day.
Jan 20 - Capt Dabney's I/23/26 attacks and, with the aid of air and artillery, badly
mauls the NVA battalion entrenched on the southern slopes of Hill 881N;
7 Marines and 103 NVA KIA. On strength of testimony of captured NVA
lieutenant that enemy attack is imminent, I/3/26 is withdrawn to Hill 881S
and KSCB is placed on Red Alert. DASC of MASS-3 moves to Khe
Jan 20-21 Estimated NVA battalion attacks K/3/26 on Hill 861. After penetrating
southwestern portion of Marines' perimeter, the enemy is repulsed leaving
47 dead; NVA reserves are hit by heavy air strikes and artillery fire.
Jan 21 - KSCB comes under heavy mortar, artillery, and rocket attack which
destroys main ammunition dump. NVA battalion attacks and partially
overruns Khe Sanh village before CAC and RF companies drive off enemy.
After second attack, Col Lownds withdraws defenders to KSCB.
Jan 22 - US MACV initiates Operation NIAGARA to provide massive air support
for Khe Sanh. LtCol Mitchel's 1/9 arrives at KSCB and takes up
postions which encompass rock quarry southwest of combat base. E/2/26
is relocated from Hill 558 to prominent ridgeline northeast of 861 as
covering force for flank of 2/26; E/2/26 passes to operational control of 3rd
Battalion. New position is called 861 Alpha.
Jan 23-28 Large number of tribesmen and families are evacuated from Khe Sanh area
to avoid hostile fire.
Jan 27 - 37th ARVN Ranger Battalion arrives at KSCB and takes up positions in
eastern sector of combat base.
Jan 30 - Communists launch nation-wide TET Offensive.
Feb 5 - NVA battalion attacks E/2/26 on Hill 861A in concert with heavy shelling
of KSCB. Enemy gains foothold in northern sector of Company E perimeter
but is driven out by savage counterattack; 109 NVA and 7 Marines KIA.
Feb 7 - Special Forces camp at Lang Vei overrun by enemy battalion supported by
PT-76 Soviet-built tanks; first use of NVA tanks in South Vietnam.
Feb 8 - Some 3,000 indigenous personnel, both military and civilian, from Lang Vei
move overland to Khe Sanh. After being searched and processed, several
hundred refugees are air evacuated.
A/1/9 combat outpost 500 meters west of 1/9 perimeter hit and partailly
overrun by reinforced NVA battalion. During three-hour battle, reinforcements
drive NVA from Marine positions and with the aid of supporting arms kill
150 NVA; Col Lownds decides to abandon outpost and units withdraw to
1/9 perimeter. 27 Marines from A/1/9 die in battle.
Feb 10 - Marine C-130 of VMGR-152, hit by enemy fire during approach, crashes after
landing at Khe Sanh and six are killed.
Feb - Apr Paradrops, low-altitude extraction systems, and helicopters are primary means
of resupplying 26th Marines due to bad weather and heavy enemy fire.
Feb 21 - After heavy mortar and artillery barrage, NVA company probes 37th ARVN
Ranger lines but withdraws after distant fire fight. It is estimated that 25-30
NVA were killed.
Feb 23 - KSCB receives record number of incoming rounds for a single day - 1,307.
First appearance of enemy trench system around KSCB.
Feb 25 - B/1/26 patrol ambushed south of KSCB; 23Marines KIA. Patrol is later
called the "Ghost Patrol".
Feb 29 - Estimated NVA regiment maneuvers to attack 37th ARVN Ranger positions
Mar 1 but fail to reach defensive wire.
Mar 6 - USAF C-123 shot down east of runway; 43 USMC, 4 USAF, and 1 USN
Mar 7 - Large groups of refugees begin to filter into the base and are evacuated.
Mar 8 - ARVN patrols attack enemy trenchline east of runway and kill 26 NVA.
Mar 15 - American intelligence notes withdrawal of major NVA units from KSCB area.
Mar 22-23 - KSCB receives heaviest saturation of enemy rounds for the month - 1,109.
Mar 24 - A/1/9 patrol kills 31 NVA west of 1/9 perimeter.
Mar 25 - 1/9 CavSqd, 1st ACD begins reconnaissance in force operations east of
Khe Sanh in preparation for Operation PEGASUS.
Mar 30 - B/1/26 attacks enemy fortified position south of combat base and kills 115
North Vietnamese; 9 Marines are KIA. Operation SCOTLAND I terminates
with 1,602 confirmed NVA and 205 Marines KIA; estimates place probable
enemy dead between 10,000 and 15,000.
Task Force KILO launches diversionary attack along Gio Linh coastal plain to
divert attention away from Ca Lu where 1st ACD, and 1st Marines are staging
for Operation PEGASUS.
Apr 1 - Operation PEGASUS begins; 2/1 and 2/3 (1st Marines) attack west from Ca Lu
along Route 9. Elements of 3d Bde, 1st ACD conduct helo assaults into LZ
Mike and Cates. Joint engineer task force begins repair of Route 9 from Ca Lu
to Khe Sanh.
Apr 3 - 2d Bde, 1st ACD assaults LZs Tom and Wharton.
Apr 4 - 1/5 CavSqd moves northwest from LZ Wharton and attacks enemy units near
old French fort; 1st Battalion, 9th Marines moves southeast from rock quarry
and assaults Hill 471.
Apr 5 - 1/9 repulses enemy counterattack on Hill 471 and kills 122 North Vietnamese.
1st Bde, 1st ACD departs Ca Lu and assaults LZ Snapper.
Apr 6 - One company of 3d ARVN Airborne Task Force airlifted to KSCB for the
initial link up with defenders. Elements of 2d Bde, 1st ACD relieve 1st Battalion,
9th Marines on Hill 471; 1/9 commences sweep to northwest toward Hill 689.
1st Bde, 1st ACD helilifted north of KSCB. 2/26 and 3/26 push north of combat
base; Company G, 2/26 engages enemy force and kills 48 NVA.
Apr 8 - 2/7 CavSqd links up with 26th Marines and conducts official relief of combat
base. 1/26 attacks to the west. 3d ARVN Airborne Task Force air assaults into
LZ Snake west of Khe Sanh and kills 78 North Vietnamese.
Apr 10 - LtGen Rosson arrives Khe Sanh and directs LtGen Tolson to disengage and
prepare for Operation DELAWARE in A Shau Valley.
Apr 11 - Engineers complete renovation of Route 9 and road is officially opened. Elements
of 1st ACD begin withdrawal to Quang Tri City in preparation for Operation
DELAWARE; 37th ARVN Ranger Battalion airlifted to Da Nang.
Apr 12 - Col Meyers relieves Col Lownds as CO, 26th Marines.
Apr 14 - 3/26 attacks Hill 881N and kills 106 NVA; 6 Marines are KIA.
Apr 15 - Operation PEGASUS terminated; Operation SCOTLAND II begins.
Apr 18 - 26th Marines withdrawn to Dong Ha and Camp Carroll.
May 23 - President Johnson presents the Presidential Unit Citation to 26th Marines and
supporting units during White House ceremony.
Jun 23 - Although forward fire support bases are maintained in Khe Sanh area, the KSCB
is dismantled and abandoned. LZ Stud at Ca Lu is selected as base for air mobile
operations in western DMZ area.
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