Testifying before a joint Congressional Appropriations Committee, Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird says the increase in U.S. military activity in Vietnam could add up to $5 billion to the 1973 fiscal budget, doubling the annual cost of the war. This increased American activity was in response to the North Vietnamese Nguyen Hue Offensive, also called the Easter Offensive, which had been launched on March 31.
This offensive was a massive invasion by North Vietnamese forces designed to strike the blow that would win them the war. The attacking force included 14 infantry divisions and 26 separate regiments, with more than 120,000 troops and approximately 1,200 tanks and other armored vehicles. The main North Vietnamese objectives were Quang Tri in the north, Kontum in the Central Highlands, and An Loc farther to the south.
In response, President Richard Nixon had ordered massive support for the South Vietnamese defenders and their U.S. advisers. The number of U.S. Air Force fighter-bombers in Southeast Asia was tripled, and B-52s were quadrupled. Nixon ordered additional ships to join the 7th Fleet, sending the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk from the Philippines to join the carriers already off the coast of Vietnam in providing air support.
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