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Air Power and Its Role in the Battles of Khe Sanh and Dien Bien Phu

Air Power and Its Role in the Battles of Khe Sanh and Dien Bien Phu published on

Authored by Air Command and Staff College

The battles of Dienbienphu and Khe Sanh have many similarities. Both were fought in Vietnam on similar terrain. Both were at the end of long supply lines in isolated jungle areas. Both involved a protracted siege of the defending forces whose success or failure was dependent on their ability to resupply by air and provide close air support against the attacking enemy formations. Yet one force, the French were defeated by a seemingly lightly armed guerrilla force, while the American Marines, opposed by the regular army forces of the North Vietnamese Army, were successful. Furthermore, the level of casualties on both sides were astonishing. At Dienbienphu, the French suffered over 12,350 total casualties as well as having 6,500 taken prisoner at the end of the battle, many of which were never heard from again. The Americans on the other hand suffered comparatively light casualties. 354 battle deaths and 2024 wounded were suffered during the fourteen months of combat operations beginning in April 1967 and ending in June 1968. The primary reason for the American success and the French failure during these two battles was their ability to conduct aerial resupply of the garrison and the hilltop outposts at Khe Sanh and the French inability to provide the necessary materials for their garrison. In addition to aerial resupply, was the American’s ability to provide close air support for their positions during the siege as well as fly interdiction missions along the NVA supply lines to slow down or reduce the amount of supplies and troops available for their assaults.

Publication Date:
Oct 15 2014
1502835487 / 9781502835482
Page Count:
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
8.5″ x 11″
Black and White
Related Categories:
History / Military / Vietnam War


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