In the spring of 1968 the North Vietnamese Army's 2nd Division was enroute to South Vietnam, moving down the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos. By early May, the division's advance regiments - the 1st and 2nd Regiments - had entered South Vietnam using the French-built Route 14 which passed by the old French fort at Ngok Tavak. The NVA commanders decided that Ngok Tavak and the main camp at Kham Duc had to go.
Beginning at about 0300 on 10 May 1968, Ngok Tavak came under heavy attack by a North Vietnamese Army infantry battalion, an element of the 2nd NVA Regiment. In a pitched battle, the small force of defenders staved off immediate defeat, but by noon on 10 May it was clear that Ngok Tavak would have to be abandoned. Surrounded on three sides by the 2nd NVA Regiment, it was clear the withdrawal would have to be by foot moving to the north - the attacking force had made a helicopter evacuation impossible. After destroying equipment and supplies which could not be carried out, the survivors began the move to the main camp at Kham Duc, proceeding along a lane flanked by near-continuous air strikes. They were picked up by helicopter midway to Kham Duc, arriving at the camp at about 2100 (9 PM) on 10 May. The defending force at Ngok Tavak had incurred numerous losses in both known dead and missing soldiers and Marines.
Kham Duc itself had been under attack by other elements of the NVA 2nd Division since the early morning hours of 10 May and the situation there was deteriorating rapidly. The camp was under constant attack through 11 May. Although additional Allied troops were airlifted in, the 1st NVA Regiment also entered the battle and by the morning of 12 May there was serious doubt if the camp could be held in against an enemy force of some ten to fifteen thousand men. By noon, the US 23rd Infantry Division commander had decided to withdraw entirely from Kham Duc. The evacuation was disorderly and, at times, verged on complete panic.
The first large aircraft used in the evacuation was a C-130 HERCULES transport (tail number 60-0297) assigned to the 773rd Tactical Airlift Squadron but being flown by a crew on temporary duty from the 774th TAS based at Mactan Airbase, Philippines. The C-130E landed in the midst of the continuing battle and immediately began taking aboard passengers, primarily civilians from the village of Kham Duc. The pilot began his take-off after loading between 150 and 200 passengers, but his aircraft was heavily hit by antiaircraft fire, exploded in flight, crashed in heavy jungle, and burned. There was no hope of survivors.
The evacuation continued and by nightfall of 12 May the vast majority of Allied troops and Vietnamese civilians had been evacuated from the camp. Kham Duc, the last border outpost in northeastern South Vietnam, had fallen to the enemy.
Two years and two months later, on 4 Sep 1970, the Americal Division recaptured Kham Duc. While the remains of a number of "missing in action" personnel were recovered, the wreckage of the C-130 could not be located and the remains of its crew have not been recovered.
At least 39 Americans and an unknown number of South Vietnamese military and civilians died as a result of the fighting at Ngok Tavak and Kham Duc. Of the 39 Americans, seven have come home ... the remaining 32 men are still in Quang Tin Province:
1st Lt Horace H. Fleming, HMM-265
From D Btry, 2/13th Marines:
From Det A-105, 5th SF Grp:
With 19 exceptions, the Americans who died at Ngok Tavak and Kham Duc have not come home.
Those marked "*" were brought out when Ngok Tavak was abandoned; those marked "**" were found during recovery efforts in 1970; and those marked "***" were repatriated and identified in 2005.
PFC Richard E. Sands, A/1/46th Inf
CPT Warren R. Orr, Det C-2, 5th SF Grp (aboard C-130)
From 774th Tac Airlift Sqd
From 2nd Bn, 1st Infantry:
Although very little has been written about it, the events of May 12, 1968 are among the most heroic of the Vietnam War, in fact of any war. On that day, a handful of American US Air Force C-130 and US Army and Marine helicopter crewmembers literally laid their lives on the line to evacute the defenders of the Civilian Irregular Defense Corps camp at Kham Duc, an outpost just inside the South Vietnamese border with Laos.
|You can visit VirtualWall memorials using the|
The 100 most recent Virtual Wall names |
with the newest additions at the top of the list.
The alphabetical pages of names. Click the last name initial:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
The Faces of Freedom photo index of memorials.
The sequential index of memorials.
Memorials listed by state and city
Memorials listed by panel number.
Memorials listed by assigned unit.
Last updated on 14 Apr 2003