Ben Het Camp
|Ben Het Camp|
|Coordinates||14°41′17″N 107°39′40″E / 14.688°N 107.661°E|
Battle of Ben Het
Battle of Kontum
|Occupants||5th Special Forces Group|
|Ben Het Airfield|
|IATA: none – ICAO: none|
|Elevation AMSL||2,198 ft / 670 m|
Ben Het Camp (also known as Ben Het Special Forces Camp, Ben Het Ranger Camp and FSB Ben Het) is a former U.S. Army and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) base northwest of Kon Tum in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. The camp was notable for being the site of a tank battle between the U.S. Army and the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), one of the few such encounters during the Vietnam War.
The 5th Special Forces Group Detachment A-244 first established a base at Ben Het in the early 1960s to monitor communist infiltration along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The base was located approximately 13 km from the Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia tri-border area, 15 km northwest of Đắk Tô and 53 km northwest of Kon Tum.
On 3 March 1969, Ben Het was attacked by the PAVN 66th Regiment, supported by armored vehicles of the 4th Battalion, 202nd Armored Regiment. One of the attacking PT-76s detonated a land mine, which alerted the camp and lit up the other PT-76s attacking the base. Flares were sent up, exposing adversary tanks, but sighting in on muzzle flashes, one PT-76 scored a direct hit on the turret of an M-48 of the 1st Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, killing two crewmen and wounding two more. Another M-48, using the same technique, destroyed a PT-76 with their second shot. At daybreak, the battlefield revealed the wreckage of two PT-76s and one BTR-50 armored personnel carrier.
On 24 May 1969 the PAVN ambushed the 212th Company of the 1st Mobile Strike Force Battalion near Ben Het. Warrant Officer Class Two Keith Payne of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions that day.
Other units stationed at Ben Het included:
Following the departure of the U.S. forces the base was used by the ARVN 85th Border Rangers.
Since January 1972 it had become clear that the North Vietnamese were building up for offensive operations in the tri-border region. ARVN forces had been deployed forward toward the border in order to slow the PAVN advance and allow the application of airpower to deplete North Vietnamese manpower and logistics. To counter the possible threat from the west, two regiments of the 22nd Division were deployed to Tân Cảnh and Đắk Tô and the 1st Squadron, 19th Armored Cavalry Regiment equipped with M41 tanks was deployed to Ben Het. On 24 April, the 2nd PAVN Division, elements of the 203rd Tank Regiment, and several independent regiments of the B-3 Front attacked Tân Cảnh and Đắk Tô rapidly overrunning both bases with their T-54 tanks.:212–4 On 9 May 1972, elements of the PAVN 203rd Armored Regiment assaulted Ben Het. ARVN Rangers destroyed the first three PT-76 tanks with BGM-71 TOW missiles, thereby breaking up the attack.:215–217 The Rangers spent the rest of the day stabilising the perimeter ultimately destroying 11 tanks and killing over 100 PAVN.
The base has been turned over to farmland and housing.
- Stanton, Shelby (2003). Vietnam Order of Battle. Stackpole Books. p. 246. ISBN 9780811700719.
- Kelley, Michael (2002). Where we were in Vietnam. Hellgate Press. pp. 5–49. ISBN 978-1555716257.
- Dunstan, Simon (1992). Vietnam Tracks-Armor In Battle. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 0-89141-171-2.
- Starry, Donn (1978). Mounted Combat In Vietnam Vietnam Studies. Department of the Army. pp. 150–3. ISBN 978-1780392462.
- "U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Command History 1972, Annex K. Kontum, 1973. MACV" (PDF). p. K-14. Retrieved 28 January 2015.