Battle of Cửa Việt

Battle of Cửa Việt was a battle in the Vietnam War, occurring between 25–31 January 1973 at the Cửa Việt naval base and its vicinity, in northeast Quảng Trị Province. The battle involved a combined task force of South Vietnamese Marine and armored units that tried to gain a foothold at the Cua Viet Port just as the ceasefire was about to take effect on January 28 in accordance with the Paris Peace Accords. The South Vietnamese forces were finally forced to retreat by a North Vietnamese counterattack with considerable losses on both sides.[3]

Battle of Cửa Việt
Part of the Vietnam War
DateJanuary 25–31, 1973
Cửa Việt Port 16°54′N 107°11′E / 16.900°N 107.183°E / 16.900; 107.183
Quảng Trị Province, Vietnam
Result North Vietnamese victory
Vietnam North Vietnam South Vietnam South Vietnam
 United States (until 28 January)
Commanders and leaders
Lê Trọng Tấn
Cao Van Khanh
South Vietnam Ngô Quang Trưởng
South Vietnam Nguyen Thanh Tri
Casualties and losses
South Vietnamese claim: 1,000 casualties[1] South Vietnam 26 armored vehicles destroyed (27 January)
40 killed, 20 armored vehicles destroyed (between 28–31 January)
United States 3 killed
North Vietnamese claim: 2,330 killed and wounded, 200 captured, 113 tanks and APCs destroyed[2]


In late October 1972 as part of the counteroffensive to the Easter Offensive launched by the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) began attacks north of Quảng Trị to try to regain positions along the south bank of the Cam Lộ/Cửa Việt River. The attacks were met with stiff PAVN resistance and were stopped at the Thạch Hãn River. A further attack from the coast by the Vietnamese Marines in November made limited gains. By the end of 1972 the Marines and ARVN occupied positions 5 km south of the river.[4]: 129–31  As the ongoing peace negotiations would soon lead to a ceasefire, the South Vietnamese Joint General Staff sought the most advantageous battlefield positions possible and so ordered a further effort to regain the south bank of the Cam Lộ/Cửa Việt River.[4]: 134 

Opposing forcesEdit

Since March 1972, the Cửa Việt base had been controlled by PAVN, particularly the 5th Regiment of the People's Navy of Vietnam.

On 15 January 1973 planning began for a final assault on Cửa Việt . A special combined unit called Task Force Tango was organized, consisting of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Battalions and elements of the 1st Armored Brigade. The task force was put under the command of Colonel Nguyen Thanh Tri, Deputy Commander of the Republic of Vietnam Marine Division.[4]: 134 [5]


The operation began at 06:55 on 26 January with Task Force Tango advancing in two columns.[4]: 134  Besides ARVN firepower, U.S. and naval gunfire of the United States Seventh Fleet was used to soften the target and hinder PAVN reinforcements. The PAVN put up fierce resistance to the attack, destroying 26 M-48s and M-113s with AT-3 missiles and shooting down two Republic of Vietnam Air Force planes with SA-7 missiles.[4]: 135 

On 27 January an F-4 Phantom II of VF-143 was shot down while attacking PAVN forces north of Cửa Việt. Both crewmen ejected, the radar intercept officer (RIO) was captured and released on 27 March during Operation Homecoming, while the pilot Commander Harley Hall was killed. His remains were identified on 6 September 1994.[6] An OV-10 Bronco #68-3806, call sign Nail 89 of the 23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron acting as forward air controller for the attempted rescue of the F-4 crew was hit by an SA-7 missile, both crewmen ejected and radio contact was established with one of them who said he was about to be captured. Neither crewman was returned during Operation Homecoming and both are listed as presumptive finding of death.[7][8]

At 01:45 on 28 January the Marines made a final assault and by 07:00 had broken through the PAVN lines to recapture the base. At 07:45 the USS Turner Joy, one of the two destroyers involved in the Gulf of Tonkin Incident in August 1964, fired the last U.S. naval gunfire support in the Vietnam War and pulled off the gun line. At 08:00 in accordance with the Paris Peace Accords the ceasefire came into effect and the U.S. stopped all support for Task Force Tango.[4]: 135  On the evening of 29 January, the PAVN launched a counterattack against Task Force Tango, and by the next day had succeeded in cutting off its lines of communication and began bombarding the encircled Marines.[4]: 136  A Republic of Vietnam Navy LCM was destroyed as it tried to resupply the Marines. The Marines attempted to break out on the early morning of 31 January and the PAVN recaptured the base.[4]: 136 [5]


South Vietnamese losses were recorded as 40 casualties and 20 armored vehicles destroyed in the battle between 28–31 January.[4]: 136 


  This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.

  1. ^ Cao Van Vien (2016). The Final Collapse (illustrated ed.). Pickle Partners Publishing. pp. 129–131. ISBN 9781786258694.
  2. ^ Phạm Phán, "Bẻ gãy cuộc hành quân 'Tango Xi-ty'" Archived 2014-11-29 at the Wayback Machine (in Vietnamese), People's Army newspaper, retrieved on November 23, 2014
  3. ^ Oral History Interview of Enemy Proselyting Department Colonel Luu Dinh Mien, 13 June 2007, Hanoi", Vietnam Interviews Project, retrieved on December 8, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Melson, Charles (1991). U.S. Marines In Vietnam: The War That Would Not End, 1971–1973. History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. ISBN 978-1482384055.  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ a b Lâm, Quang Thi (2001). The Twenty-five Year Century: A South Vietnamese General Remembers the Indochina War to the Fall of Saigon. University of North Texas Press. p. 293. ISBN 1574411438.
  6. ^ "U.S. Accounted-For from the Vietnam War" (PDF). Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  7. ^ "Service Member Capt Mark Allan Peterson". Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Retrieved 16 July 2021.
  8. ^ "Service Member Capt George William Morris Jr". Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Retrieved 16 July 2021.