Battle of Hoa Da – Song Mao

Battle of Hoa Da–Song Mao
Part of Vietnam War
Date 23 August – 25 November 1968
Location Bình Thuận Province, South Vietnam
Result Việt Cộng victory
United States Việt Cộng
Commanders and leaders
Unknown Nam Nga
Pham Van Hop
More than 1,400 men from the 44th Infantry Regiment. More than 100 men from 200C Battalion.
Casualties and losses
Việt Cộng claimed 300+ were killed and 24 captured at Hoa Da[1]
More than 1,000 casualties at Song Mao.[2]
4 killed
1 missing
Unknown number of wounded.[3]

The Battle of Hoa Da–Song Mao was a series of actions fought in August and November 1968 during the Vietnam War, between the Việt Cộng's 200C Battalion and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam 44th Infantry Regiment, part of the 23rd Infantry Division. Following the Tet Offensive of 1968 the Viet Cong were placed in a difficult position in Bình Thuận Province, when elements of the ARVN 23rd Infantry Division were deployed to prevent the Việt Cộng from operating between the Central Highlands and the coastal areas. To deal with the regular soldiers of the ARVN 44th Infantry Regiment, the Việt Cộng High Command sent the 200C Battalion into Military Zone 6 to attack South Vietnamese bases. Over a period of three months starting from 23 August 1968, the Việt Cộng managed to inflict extensive damage on South Vietnamese installations at Hoa Da and Song Mao.


Following the Tet Offensive which occurred during the first half of 1968 the Việt Cộng units in Bình Thuận Province experienced difficulties mounting military operations in the region, due to the large-scale mop-up operations which the South Vietnamese and the U.S. military had launched, to cripple Việt Cộng infrastructure in that part of the country. To make matters worse elements of the ARVN's 44th Infantry Regiment, part of the 23rd Infantry Division, had set up various installations near Việt Cộng bases, in an attempt to stop Communist movements. The presence of regular South Vietnamese forces in the areas of Hoa Da-Song Mao seemed to have serve their intended purpose, as local Việt Cộng units had to cope with starvation as a consequence of the strong ARVN presence.[4]

In order to deal with the ARVN 44th Infantry Regiment and their U.S. advisers, the Việt Cộng's High Command ordered the commander of Military Zone 6 to hit the regular South Vietnamese forces at the rear. To help local Việt Cộng units with their efforts, the 200C Battalion was deployed to Military Zone 6 to reinforce the local units. According to the official history of the Vietnam People's Army, the 200C Battalion was a special forces unit manned by personnel drawn mainly from northern Vietnam and were trained in Quảng Ninh Province, North Vietnam. After they completed their training, 500 members of the 200C Battalion made their way to South Vietnam through the Hồ Chí Minh Trail. From Route 9 in southern Laos, members of the 200C Battalion were sent to different units, and then they made their way to the La Nga river in Bình Thuận Province.[5]

Once the 200C Battalion had settled down in Bình Thuận, they began setting up their base in Lê Hồng Phong forest. To gather information on the strength of their opponents, the 200C Battalion regularly conducted reconnaissance missions around the bases of the South Vietnamese army. The 200C Battalion's first target was the South Vietnamese base at Hoa Da, where approximately 400 South Vietnamese soldiers were stationed to prevent the Việt Cộng from operating between the Central Highlands and the coastal area, as part of an effort initiated by the ARVN 23rd Infantry Division. During the closing days of August 1968, the 200C Battalion decided to wipe out Hoa Da once and for all which was protected by three layer of fences, minefields and blockhouses.[6]


Prior to their attack, the 200C Battalion had sent infiltrators into the Hoa Da base to map out the exact details of the base, so the battalion commander could draw up the combat plan. On the night of 23 August 1968, around 100 sappers from the 200C Battalion were taking up their positions around the Hoa Da fortification. At midnight as South Vietnamese soldiers were asleep Việt Cộng sappers began defusing landmines and cutting their way through the barbed wire fences, and started firing their small arms and rocket propelled grenades at designated targets around the fortification. The South Vietnamese soldiers, caught by the element of surprise, were either killed or captured by the Việt Cộng raiders. In their first major operation, the 200C Battalion achieved their objective and almost destroyed the Hoa Da fortification.[7]

Following the surprise defeat of their forces at Hoa Da, the ARVN 44th Infantry Regiment were planning for a large-scale operation to stage a retaliatory strike at the Việt Cộng. Unlike the small base at Hoa Da, the ARVN base at Song Mao was manned by more than a thousand soldiers, supported by a team of U.S military advisers and a large array of weaponry. To follow up on their victory at Hoa Da, the Viet Cong High Command in Military Zone 6 ordered the 200C Battalion to stage an attack at Song Mao. The 200C Battalion began preparing for their raid on the ARVN base at Song Mao by using the same tactics they employed at Hoa Da. First, they sent out infiltrators to map out the details of the base at Song Mao, and than spent four nights cutting through barbed wire fences, as well as neutralizing landmines and bells. Once the 200C Battalion had gathered all the information they needed, they began taking up their positions around Song Mao during the night of 24 November 1968. More than 100 sappers of the 200C Battalion were divided into three groups, each were tasked with destroying a specific target.[8]

On 25 November 1968 at 00:30 the Việt Cộng fired a B41 to signal the commencement of their attack. The first group of sappers targeted the command and communications centre. Within the first twenty minutes, the Việt Cộng had either captured or destroyed nearly all the communications equipment in the base. The second group destroyed or damaged four pieces of artillery and other small arms, and they quickly retreated from the base. The third group struck at the key logistical sites, military vehicles and the engineering company. Within thirty minutes the third group of Việt Cộng sappers had set ablaze the ammunition store and destroyed several vehicles. Having achieved their objectives, the 200C Battalion quickly retreated from the Song Mao base.[9]


For the 200C Battalion, the amount of damages inflicted upon regular South Vietnamese forces at Hoa Da and Song Mao were considered a significant victory, given the unit itself had only been in existence for a few months.[10] At Hoa Da, the Việt Cộng claimed to have killed more than 300 South Vietnamese soldiers, while 24 others were captured.[11] Similarly, the Việt Cộng claimed South Vietnamese forces at Song Mao suffered more than a thousand casualties, as well as losing vast amounts of weaponry and ammunition. Overall, the 200C Battalion claimed to have lost 4 sappers killed in action and 1 missing at Hoa Da, while at Song Mao they suffered only minor injuries with no fatalities. Due to the success of the 200C Battalion in their raids at Hoa Da and Song Mao, the operational model used by the unit became a standard for other Việt Cộng and North Vietnamese special forces units during the war.[12]


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