Although South Vietnamese paratroopers hoist their flag over Quang Tri Citadel, they prove unable to hold the Citadel for long or to secure Quang Tri City. Fighting outside the city remained intense. Farther to the south, South Vietnamese troops under heavy shelling were forced to abandon Fire Base Bastogne, which protected the southwest approach to Hue.
North Vietnamese troops had captured Quang Tri City on May 1 as part of their Nguyen Hue Offensive (later called the “Easter Offensive”), a massive invasion by North Vietnamese forces that had been launched on March 31. 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, in addition to Quang Tri in the north, were Kontum in the Central Highlands, and An Loc farther to the south.
Initially, the South Vietnamese defenders were almost overwhelmed, particularly in the northernmost provinces, where they abandoned their positions in Quang Tri. At Kontum and An Loc, the South Vietnamese were more successful in defending against the attacks, but only after weeks of bitter fighting. Although the defenders suffered heavy casualties, they managed to hold their own with the aid of U.S. advisors and American airpower. Fighting continued all over South Vietnam into the summer months.
The heavy fighting would continue in the area of Quang Tri and Hue until September, when the South Vietnamese forces finally succeeded in recapturing Quang Tri. With the communist invasion blunted, President Nixon declared that the South Vietnamese victory proved the viability of his “Vietnamization” program, which he had instituted in 1969 to increase the combat capability of the South Vietnamese armed forces so U.S. troops could be withdrawn.
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