Vietnamese Marine Corps Easter Offensive 1972

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Thread: Vietnamese Marine Corps Easter Offensive 1972

  1. #1
    USMCWayne's Avatar
    USMCWayne is offline In the bush..........Nam baby!
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    Arrow Vietnamese Marine Corps Easter Offensive 1972

    By the Spring of 1972, nearly all American combat troops had left Vietnam. U.S. Navy ships still patrolled the coast and U.S. aircraft still flew overhead, but the only Americans who remained in ground combat were Marine forward observers, a dwindling number of advisors to South Vietnamese combat units, and a few Air Cavalry units.

    Because of President Nixon’s Vietnamization program, it was unlikely that any American ground units were likely to be reintroduced. This gave the North Vietnamese free reign to step up military activity and deal with the South in their own way.

    By the Spring of 1972, the NVA buildup was complete. Nearly 30,000 soldiers and 200 tanks, part of a multi-pronged attack on the South, were poised at the DMZ.

    Facing them was the Third ARVN Division and two brigades of South Vietnamese Marines. The ARVN units were newly formed, with untested leaders, uncertain staff officers, and men whose fighting spirit was flagging. The VNMC brigades, in sharp contrast, were battle hardened, and constituted part of South Vietnam’s elite national reserve, along with Vietnamese Ranger and Airborne Divisions.

    On March 30, 1972 the NVA launched their 1972 Easter Offensive, and the Third Vietnamese Marine Corps Battalion was ordered to Dong Ha to plug the critical artery over the Cua Viet River. If the South Vietnamese were going to have any chance, the 700 men of the Third Battalion would have to stop the NVA at Dong Ha.


    Leading the Third Battalion was Major Le Ba Bihn, whose personal combat record was remarkable by anyone’s standards. He’d been wounded 12 times, decorated with seven Crosses of Gallantry, and had been awarded the National Order, Knight’s Cross. Bihn wasn’t sweating out a one year tour. He was in it until the end. For him and the other Vietnamese Marines, the only honorable way out was feet first.


    His U.S. Marine Advisor, co-van (trusted friend), was Naval Academy graduate Captain John Ripley. In 1967, Ripley led a rifle company through almost a year of intensive combat along the DMZ. He later commanded a company of Great Britain Royal Marines, during an exchange tour of duty, had completed special training at the U.S. Army Ranger and Airborne Schools, and had trained with Navy Seal underwater demolition teams. Ripley also served with a Marine Corps Force Recon Company.


    Three-Finger Jack was Major Bihn’s senior bodyguard. He attained his nickname and title after facing down Binh’s at the time senior bodyguard, months earlier. The senior bodyguard was heaping a stream of abuse on Jack, saying he was undeserving, had no courage, and his loyalty was not pure. Jack approached the senior bodyguard, and pulled his fighting knife. Without changing expression or looking away, Jack wrapped the forefinger of his left hand around the blade. As he smiled arrogantly and triumphantly Jack, with one quick motion, severed his finger, sending it flying. Keeping his eyes fixed on his antagonist Jack held his mutilated hand in the other man’s face and said, “Today, I cut off my finger for Thieu-ta Binh. Someday, I die for him.” Two days later, they found the corpse of the senior bodyguard. His throat had been slit, and his own knife had been plunged into his chest. Jack became senior bodyguard.



    Nha, Ripley’s radio man, was never far away. For months, he and Ripley had shared the same fighting hole, the same rice bowl, and the same poncho. Not knowing each others languages very well, they relied on facial expressions and body language. Nha could almost read Ripley’s mind, and was his anh nho, his little brother. Nha served as Ripley’s sole link with the outside world. Nha and his radio were the only way Ripley could stay in contact with those who could save them, with artillery, naval gunfire, air strikes, or reinforcements. The bind between the two was extremely close.


    My long-term (and getting longer by the day) plan was/is to recount the entire story of how Captain John Riley and Army Major James Smock, Advisor to the Vietnamese 20th Tank Battalion, destroyed the Bridge at Dong Ha, a feat that won them both a Navy Cross.

    Ripley’s bridge destroying mission was considered “one of the most extraordinary acts of individual heroism of the Vietnam War, or of any war”. Ripley’s heroic action at Dong Ha was selected as the single act to memorialize the actions of all Naval Academy graduates during the entire Vietnam War.

    Major Smock won’t be a hard figure to bash as, when he showed up with the tanks of the 20th Tank Battalion, all he was wearing was his utilities and jungle boots. No helmet, weapon, body armor, or web gear.

    In order to “finish” my series, I figure it’ll take at least 14 episodes, 75 pictures, a steel and girder bridge (before and after), sections of the destroyed town of Dong Ha, a good-sized river, at least one more Vietnam Marine (Bihn’s RTO), a couple refugees, and a small NVA unit. Vietnamese and NVA tanks are probably out of the question.

    Four days after Ripley had cut the highway structure, a vehicle with five journalists and two cameramen jumped out, converging on Ripley with microphones, and started peppering him with questions.

    Ripley strongly advised the journalists to leave now but, instead, they remained, pressing closer.

    The silence was shattered by a series of sharp cracks, and the ground erupting in geysers as NVA mortar rounds started hitting.

    Less than 50 yards away, Major Smock was crumpled in a heap, seriously wounded and Nha was dead.


    Three-Finger Jack died after the breakout at Dong Ha. After taking up defensive positions at the Ai Tu combat base, Major Bihn and Ripley had led reinforcements into no-man’s land, directing fire support from Brigade, while two rifle companies were withdrawing under heavy NVA pressure.

    A white flare, signaling a final NVA assault, revealed Bihn’s command group. As an NVA platoon advanced on their position, Jack and two other Vietnamese Marines rushed to meet the enemy head-on, while others pulled Bihn and Ripley to safety inside the tactical wire.

    No one could see the hand-to-hand combat between the Marines and the NVA, but they could hear it. The next morning, they recovered the bodies of the three Marines, with three dozen enemy soldiers heaped around them. Jack held his carbine in one hand, his fighting knife in the other.

    The NVA’s failure to cross the bridge at Dong Ha led to a bloody stalemate. It would take three years for North Vietnam to regroup and prepare for their final invasion and conquest of South Vietnam.

    Major Bihn and his Marines fought the communists right up until and past April 30, 1975. Bihn was captured, and sentenced to a “re-education camp” Bihn labored in the camp for a time period six times longer than America’s involvement in WW II. He labored through the terms of five American Presidents. From 1975 until his release and subsequent movement to the U.S. in 1998, Bihn labored, ever defiant, never broken.

    During the 49 year anniversary celebration of the creation of the VNMC, Bihn was presented a Silver Star by James Ripley, from President Bush, for his actions at Dong Ha. Today, Bihn is a U.S citizen living with his family in Texas.



    Besides maintaining his close ties to members of the Vietnamese Marine Corps and his fellow Covans, Ripley served as the Director of Marine Corps History and Museums, and as Director of the Marine Corps Historical Center. In 2002, Col. Ripley became the first Marine officer to receive the “Distinguished Graduate Award,” the highest and most prestigious award given by the Naval Academy. Ripley has lectured widely on combat leadership, performance in adversity and the value of humanities, classics and liberal arts.
    Wayne
    Malta, MT

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  3. #2
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    Hot damn, that's some impressive work, Wayne!!! Those figures are amazing! I LOVE Nam' figures-- and these are fantastic!

    Excellent work!
    Don't miss my new TOY BLOGS!===> http://toy-history.blogspot.com/----and-----http://toynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/

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    dude those are unbelievable. Love it. my vote for KBOTM when it rolls around.
    I'm a Clown and I just farted

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  6. #4
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    Awesome wayne just plain awesome.

    Tung
    Sometime life hands you a bowl of lemons it's your choice to make lemonade or suck on it.

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    Superb job Wayne
    Everything was just fine and dandy until the flying monkeys attacked.

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    A great story punctuated by great bashes, Wayne These guys are superheroes.

    Now, where did you get those French-turned berets from?

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    awesome. most definately KBOTM! where are "co-van's" tiger stripes from?

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    Holy Moly, Wayne!!!!!

  11. #9
    USMCWayne's Avatar
    USMCWayne is offline In the bush..........Nam baby!
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    The berets are from One-Sixth Unique (purchased from Toy Soldier Brigade). It's pretty easy to give them a right, French, tilt. A bit of Fabri-tac holds them in place.

    Ripley's, Bihn's and Jack's tiger stripes are from Cotswold. Occasionally they, and other Cots products, go on sale. I'm pretty sure I got all three sets for the normal price of a single set.

    While the heriocs and commitment of many of the Vietnamese to protect their country from the Communist invasion is known, the sacrifice of the Vietnamese Marine Corps was really above and beyond as, when the Third Battalion was pulled out of the line a few weeks after the Dong Ha action, only 52 survivors remained out of the 700 man battalion. The two rifle companies that had defended the south bank of the Cua Viet River had perished to a man.
    Wayne
    Malta, MT

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    Wow Wayne, I dunno if this would be a compilation or a redux of your original work, but it's even better than the first series (I didn't think that was possible). The figures, uni and gear, and photos are outstanding. A fine tribute. These Vietnamese Marines' stand is every bit as epic as that of the Spartans at Thermopylae.

    It's been noted before, but recommended reading on this action are the books The Bridge At Dong Ha by John Grider Miller (ISBN 155750587X) and The EASTER OFFENSIVE - The Last American Advisors Vietnam, 1972 by Col.G.H. Turley USMCR (Ret) (ISBN 089141231X).
    You are
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    When it counts---The Masao
    - Ryan Bonaminio lived his life this way -

  13. #11
    basx is offline prolific kitbasher, OSW Librarian
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    Wyane:
    I love the kitbashes and the history. Great stuff!

    xavier

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    Those are very excellent figures Wayne! I had a Vietnamese neighbor who served in that outfit you've depicted who shall remain anonymous! Great job on the figures!
    "Flying is more than a sport and more than a job; flying is pure passion and desire, which fill a lifetime". Galland

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    Ripley at the Bridge

    This piece of Marine Corps history was widely discussed and studied while I was at Marine Corps Officer's Basic School (TBS) in Quantico in the early 80's. The accomplishments of then Capt Ripley and the VNMC battalion are the things of legends.

    The book, The Bridge at Dong Ha is a great read about individual courage and commitment to duty.

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    Whoa!!


  17. #15
    USMCWayne's Avatar
    USMCWayne is offline In the bush..........Nam baby!
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    Early 80's? Well son, let me tell you a bit about the "Old" Corps

    Which reminds me...

    Back in 1775, in Tun's Tavern, recruiting started for the new Marine Corps. The very first Marine enlistee came in, signed the papers and took an oath. He was then told to go outside and wait for the other enlistee's to go through the process. They would assemble later on the front yard.

    After a few minutes the second enlistee came out and had a seat on the steps, beside the first. The first man looked at the second and began, "Son, let me tell you about the Old Corps."

    The reason I'm so interested in the era above is, in 1972, I was a 20-year old Lance Corporal, sitting off the coast of Vietnam, with BLT 1/9

    The letters and copies of Stars and Stripes I sent home (which my Mother saved) have been a great source for helping me recall the time, but the above cited books are exceptional reads.

    The War That Would Not End by Charles D. Melson is a excellent resource for what was happening in the Corps and Vietnam at the time, and America's Last Vietnam Battle, Halting Hanoi's 1972 Easter Offensive by Dale Andradé covers the offensive from a country-wide perspective (The NVA committed 14 Divisions and 26 independent regiments, virtually its entire army, throughout South Vietnam).
    Wayne
    Malta, MT

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    The old Corps....

    Wayne,

    Have ya' ever seen the drawing the starts with,

    "If your duece gear don't look like this then don't talk to me about the "Old Corps""

    It is a picture of a guy in medievel armor with a sword

    What's the other old saying,

    "I've got more time in the chow line than you've got in the Corps"

    Thanks for all your great posts, Marine.

    Javier
    Capt USMC

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    Wayne, you're about as "Hard Corps" as they come. Your passion for telling these stories, like your previous Easy 506th and Tarawa stories, comes thru loud n' clear. It is good to remember brave men who truly gave everything they had, even if their cause was lost. It is especially fitting to honor the Vietnamese Marines, who lost not only a war, but their country. AS difficult as the Vietnam War was for America, it was far more devastating for the Vietnamese. I think perhaps we unconciously minimize that, in considering the war.
    I am sure your story will do honor to the brave men, Viet and American, who sacrificed so much to stop the NVA from destroying South Vietnam in 1972.
    I look forward to your work.
    "It's better to be hated for who you are, than loved for who you're not." -Van Zant.

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    Nice figures!

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    wayne, you did an awesome job! thank you for your hard work and research, the history really makes the figures/pics come to life. this was such a tragic time in america's history, but i cannot begin to imagine how it must have felt as a vietnamese who was in the slow process of losing their country to communism. as said above, i'm looking forward to more of your work.
    eeeeeeeee.

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    Viewing previous posts from you Wayne,I always expect a treat,this was no exception.

  23. #21
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    THAT is impressive !
    No plan survives contact intact. Murphy's laws of Combat
    Even the mighty oak was once just a nut that held it's ground.

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    This is one of the best "true stories" done in 1/6th I've ever seen. I'd like to personally thank Wayne for his work and his research. I'm looking forward to seeing more of this series.

  25. #23
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    Wow!!!

    What a great story.

    Thanks for posting.
    Maintiens le Droits

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