In Vietnam, a joint U.S. and South Vietnamese force of 30,000 men, led by the 1st Air Cavalry Division, launched Operation Pegasus to lift the siege of Khesahn. While an armored column rumbled along Route 9, a slender but strategic highway (photo 1), fleets of helicopters lifted men and artillery (photos 2 and 3) into the hills above the remote plateau where 6,000 U.S. Marines had been cut off since January. The relief force found the earth churned into a moonscape (photo 4) by 110,000 tons of U.S. bombs. But they saw little of the two North Vietnamese divisions that had been besieging Khesanh. Either the U.S. bombing--the most intensive in the history of warfare--hand blasted them out or they had never intended to pay the price in lives that an all-out assault would have meant.
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The air cavalrymen (Photo 5) paused to collect weapons and ammo jettisoned by the North Vietnamese. Then they advanced to the still-intact barbed-wire perimeter of Khesanh where a defending Marine (Photo 6) greeted them. Thus the 11-week siege ended without ever becoming a full-scale battle. Two hundred Marines were killed at Khesanh and another 71 U.S. troops died in the relief operation. Now the besieged set out to search for the besiegers. The North Vietnamese were believed to have crossed the nearby border into Laos, then slipped back into the dense jungle of South Vietnam's Ashau Valley. From there, Hué or Danang--either a tempting target--is just a short march away. Meanwhile, farther south, 100,000 troops from five allied nations began Operation Complete Victory--the largest attempt so far to sweep clear the area around Saigon.
Source: Life, Vol.64, No. 16, April 19, 1968.
Photos and some text have been edited here for display purposes.
Magazine article provided by Jack Stevenson, June 11, 2003.
Source: Courtesy of Jack Stevenson, June 2003