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Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord

The Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord was a 23-day battle between elements of the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division and two reinforced divisions of the North Vietnamese Army from July 1, 1970 until July 23, 1970. It was the last major confrontation between United States ground forces and North Vietnam of the Vietnam War. Three Medals of Honor and six Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded to participants for actions during the operations.

Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord
Part of the Vietnam War
Fire Support Base Ripcord (Vietnam) 001.jpg
Fire Support Base Ripcord in 1970
Date July 1–23, 1970
Location 16°26′45.5″N 107°11′28″E / 16.445972°N 107.19111°E / 16.445972; 107.19111 (FSB Ripcord)Coordinates: 16°26′45.5″N 107°11′28″E / 16.445972°N 107.19111°E / 16.445972; 107.19111 (FSB Ripcord)
A Shau Valley, Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam - UTM Grid YD 343-194[1]
Result North Vietnamese victory
 North Vietnam  United States
Commanders and leaders
Võ Nguyên Giáp
Chu Phuong Doi
Andre Lucas 
Ben Harrison
1 division 4 battalions
Casualties and losses
422 killed (U.S. estimate)
6 captured
75 killed
463 wounded
8 aircraft destroyed
36 aircraft damaged



President Nixon secretly began the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam early in 1969. As the only full-strength division remaining in Vietnam in early 1970, the 101st Airborne Division was ordered to conduct the planned offensive Operation Texas Star near the A Shau Valley.

On March 12, 1970, the 3rd Brigade, 101st under the command of Major General Ben Harrison, began rebuilding abandoned Fire Support Base Ripcord which relied, as with most remote bases at the time, on a helicopter lifeline to get supplies in and the personnel out. The firebase was to be used for a planned offensive by the 101st to destroy NVA supply bases in the mountains overlooking the valley. Located on the eastern edge of the valley, and taking place at the same time as the Cambodian Incursion, the operation was considered covert.


As the 101st Airborne Division planned the attack on enemy supply bases, the North Vietnamese army (NVA) was secretly observing their activities. From March 12 until June 30, the NVA was sporadically attacking the firebase. On April 29, President Nixon launched the Cambodian Incursion which was officially concluded on June 30 when the last U.S. troops left Cambodia. Immediately after this, the United States made one final attempt to block the Ho Chi Minh Trail. After weeks of reconnaissance by the North Vietnamese, on the morning of July 1, 1970 the NVA launched a mortar attack on the firebase. During the 23-day siege, 75 US servicemen were killed, including Colonel Andre Lucas, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor; and First Lt. Bob Kalsu, the only contemporaneously active pro athlete to be killed during the war.[2]

Losses of US forces were so great that officers began asking for volunteers from other units to go to Ripcord and reinforce the firebase. Finally , command realized that the position was not defensible, and the decision was made to withdraw. Fighting from four hilltops, surrounded, and outnumbered nearly ten to one, U.S. forces caused heavy losses on eight enemy battalions, before an aerial withdrawal under heavy mortar, anti-aircraft, and small arms fire. After the U.S. Army withdrew from the firebase, USAF B-52 heavy bombers were sent in to carpet bomb the area.[3] Major General (ret) Ben Harrison, then the commander of the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne at FSB Ripcord, is of the opinion that perhaps the NVA losses at Ripcord, just as their losses of their major offensives of the Ia Drang in 1965 and Tet in 1968, crippled the offensive capability of NVA for two full years, resulting in the delaying of their Easter Offensive from 1971 to 1972.[4]

Units involvedEdit

United StatesEdit


North VietnamEdit

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Kelley, Michael P. (2002). Where We Were In Vietnam. Hellgate Press. pp. 5–442. ISBN 1-55571-625-3. 
  2. ^ Lander, Erik (29 January 2002). "Bob Kalsu". Find A Grave, Inc. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  3. ^ "Bombers Hit N. Viet Camps Near Ripcord". Washington Post. 1970-07-25. pp. A12. Retrieved 2007-04-04. 
  4. ^ Harrison, Benjamin (2004). Hell on a Hilltop. iUniverse Press. p. 181. 
  5. ^ 265th RRC (ABN) unofficial Unit History published as The Sentinel and the Shooter, Wingspan Press, 2010.


  • "Ripcord: Screaming Eagles Under Siege, Vietnam 1970" by Keith W. Nolan, Presidio Press, 2000, ISBN 0-89141-642-0
  • "Hell On A Hill Top: America's Last Major Battle In Vietnam" by Major General Benjamin L. Harrison, iUniverse Press (available from Ripcord Association)
  • "The Price of Exit", by Tom Marshall, Ballantine Books, 1998. ISBN 0-8041-1715-2
  • "The Sentinel and the Shooter", by Douglas W. Bonnot, 2010. ISBN 978-1-59594-418-4



  • "Siege at Firebase Ripcord", War Stories with Oliver North, Fox News Productions, product # FOX25004600

External linksEdit