Eastertide Offensive



Late in 1970, with Vietnamization in full swing, the North Vietnamese began planning an all-out assault on South Vietnam. Le Duan visited Moscow in the spring of 1971 to acquire heavy weapons supplies. North Vietnam wanted to break the military stalemate in South Vietnam and, with a major victory, possibly help defeat Richard Nixon's reelection bid in 1972, leaving the White House open to a more moderate, even anti-Vietnam Democratic president. During 1971, the Soviet Union provided heavy supplies—trucks, surface-to-air (SAM) missiles, tanks, and artillery—to prepare the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Vietcong for the assault.

The offensive began on March 30, 1972. Three North Vietnamese divisions, fortified by T-54 Soviet tanks, attacked across the Demilitarized Zone and along Highway 9 out of Laos, with Hue as their objective. Three more North Vietnamese divisions attacked Binh Long Province, captured Loc Ninh, and surrounded An Loc. Other North Vietnamese troops attacked Kontum in the Central Highlands. Ultimately, two North Vietnamese divisions took control of several districts in Binh Dinh along the coast of the South China Sea. Quang Tri Province was lost by the end of April 1972. But at that point the tide turned. ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) troops held their positions 25 miles north of Hue and the NVA was unable to take Kontum and An Loc. President Nixon had already begun bombing North Vietnam again, but on May 8, 1972, he mined Haiphong Harbor and several other North Vietnamese ports. Fighting continued throughout the summer, with the ARVN launching a counteroffensive which recaptured Quang Tri Province. The Eastertide Offensive had failed. North Vietnam suffered more than 100,000 killed. But they still controlled more territory in South Vietnam than before and felt they were in a stronger bargaining position at the Paris negotiations.


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