The U.S. Army Special Forces built a number of camps to defend South Vietnam from Communist infiltration during the war in Vietnam. These would be manned by a typical Special Forces A-Team and manned by paramilitary Montagnard tribesmen, called camp strikers, in the Civilian Irregular Defense Program (CIDG).
Special Forces camp A-109 at Thuong Duc was a typical SF camp. It was located southwest (about 40 KM) of Da Nang close to the Laotian border. It was strategically located between the heavily populated coastal plain and the more rural areas west. It was also located within a key river valley where the Song Vu Gia and Song Con rivers converged and afforded the Americans and Vietnamese the ability to monitor and interdict enemy activity from the west and protect Da Nang.
From an SF veteran website: It consisted of an American compound surrounded by an outer band occupied by the CIDG troops. The outer area also contained the Vietnamese ‘District government’ headquarters. To the south (and slightly west) was a CIDG outpost. The outpost and camp A-109 straddled ‘fingers’ — ridges that extended down from the high plateau to the river valley. As such the camp had a commanding view of the river and the river valley.
The 5th Special Forces Group maintained an A-Team at Thuong Duc from 1965 until 1970. Because of the proximity to Da Nang and its strategic importance, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), made the capture of the camp a priority. It was along a major infiltration route by the NVA. and always under attack. The I Corps Mike Force was frequently sent to Thuong Duc to help defend the camp.
The NVA placed anti-aircraft guns on the mountains surrounding the camp and would attempt to shoot down any aircraft attempting to use the airstrip. This made resupply for the camp a tricky situation when the enemy was attacking, which was often.
In September of 1968, the NVA was making another major push for Da Nang. First, they had to take Camp 109 at Thuong Duc. They slowly infiltrated in the mountains on three sides of the camp, building up their forces in an attempt to overrun the camp.
On September 28, at 0200 the NVA 21st Regiment attacked and overran Outposts Alpha and Bravo, about 600 meters southwest of the main camp area. Later that day, CIDG strikers led by Special Forces troops took back the two outposts in hard fighting.
The NVA kept up the pressure by taking several surrounding villages in the area and either killing or driving out the local inhabitants. Meanwhile, the Special Forces troops with their organic mortars along with artillery support and air strikes from the Air Force were taking a huge toll on the enemy.
The A-Team in Thuong Duc had in their possession a captured enemy radio set (Chicom) and were able to monitor the enemy’s transmissions. The NVA was in desperate need of replacements and medical supplies as they were taking severe casualties. Because of these monitored transmissions, CIDG and SF personnel from Camp 109 attacked and routed an enemy resupply column when they entered a killing field of the open area northwest of the camp several days later. They caused an additional 100 casualties of the enemy.
While the NVA kept up pressure against Thuong Duc with several rocket and artillery attacks as well as many probes against the surrounding area villages, but it was clear that they had lost the element of surprise and as well as the initiative.
Then the Seventh Marines was tasked with relieving the surrounded Thuong Duc camp area; 2d and 3d Battalions, 5th Marines were attached to the regiment. Facing elements of 21st Regiment of the 2d NVA Division and the newly established 141st Regiment, the Marines and supporting South Vietnamese units began to help clear the area.
Together, the SF troops, CIDG and the Marines with support from attack aircraft, AC-47 gunships, artillery from 3d Bn, 11th Marines and the Army’s 4th Bn, 8th Field Artillery, the Marines slowly pushed the NVA back to the Laotian border.
Casualties for the Special Forces Camp from the A-109 After Action Report included: 21 CIDG strikers Killed in action (KIA) 8 RF/PF, Killed in action (KIA). 9 Special Forces, 32 CIDG, 6 RF/PF (South Vietnamese), Wounded in Action, (WIA).
NVA dead in direct camp assaults were counted as 68, however many more were killed in artillery and air strikes outside of the camp.
Thuong Duc (Camp A-109) would be attacked again by the NVA again during the time period from late April to early June 1970. In spite of this, the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, (MACV) insisted on shutting down the CIDG program and converting the camps over to Vietnamese Ranger BNs. By November 1st, after the 5th Special Forces Group delayed the termination order as long as they could, closed Camp A-109.
The last bastion in I Corps was gone. The South Vietnamese were incapable of running the programs correctly and the Montagnard strikers quit in large numbers, not trusting the South Vietnamese government who treated them like second-class citizens.
The conventional MACV advisors lacked the experience and communications to adequately defend the camps and eventually, the NVA swept thru the areas with ease.
Photos: US Army Special Forces
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