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Rapid-Fire History: Battle of Ia Drang Valley


The Battle of Ia Drang Valley was the first major engagement of the Vietnam War between U.S. forces and North Vietnamese regulars. Fought in the Ia Drang Valley of South Vietnam’s central highlands from November 14-18, 1965, elements of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) quickly learned that they faced a well-trained and well-equipped enemy that was determined to stand and fight. Lieutenant Colonel Harold G. Moore and his 450-man 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry were in the thick of the action, and with the support of artillery units and tactical airstrikes, beat back repeated attacks launched by a numerically superior enemy. The four-day battle was brutal and chaotic, resulting in around 234 Americans killed and another 250 wounded. North Vietnamese losses were more severe, suffering between 600 and 1,200 killed. Both sides declared victory, but Moore, who would later co-write the bestseller, We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young: Ia Drang - The Battle That Changed the War In Vietnam, considered the fight a draw. The Americans and the North Vietnamese each learned valuable lessons from the battle. For U.S. planners, the outcome re-emphasized the need to use helicopters to quickly deploy troops into remote jungle areas and to rack up high enemy body counts by utilizing superior airpower and artillery. Ia Drang taught the North Vietnamese that by fighting the Americans at close quarters, U.S. forces were denied the ability to utilize airstrikes and artillery due to the danger of friendly fire. By adopting this strategy and slipping away into the dense jungle or across the border into Cambodia, the North Vietnamese aimed to overcome American technological and military superiority.


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