Thursday, May 18, 1972

Adviser Reports B52 Helped Cripple 2 NVA Divisions

by Matt Franjola

(AP) --At least half of the two North Vietnamese divisions in the central highlands have been destroyed, largely by B52 strikes, the senior U.S. adviser in the region claimed Tuesday.

John Paul Vann said North Vietnamese losses in the drive south through the highlands have been "about 9,000 to 10,000 in the last month and we have lost 3,000 to 4,000."

Vann, riding a light observation helicopter over Communist held territory north of Kontum to view the results of Monday night's B52 strikes, said: "We're hitting them pretty heavily with arc lights (B52 strikes) anywhere we can find them."

Other senior U.S. sources supported Vann's claim. One said, "They have only just enough forces left to maintain the thrust on Kontum and they are running a big bluff."

Vann was far more confident that Kontum can be held, a feeling now shared widely by both the South Vietnamese and their American advisers.

From the scarcely concealed pessimism of two weeks ago, to the cautious expression last Saturday of an improved situation, there has been an extraordinary burst of confidence since a tank-led North Vietnamese attack was pushed back Sunday.

B52 have raked a wide area north and northwest of Kontum to within close range of the outer defense perimeter about two miles from the city limits.

All the undulating country up to the Po Ko River, eight miles to the east, is closely pock-marked by reddish-brown craters resulting form the intensive bombs.

A rectangular area several miles long on the far side of the river, which Vann said had been a major assembly area, appeared to have been hit even harder.

Big C130 transport aircraft, which had largely stopped flying into Kontum in daylight hours because of Communist shelling of the airstrip, could be seen landing repeatedly to build a large stockpile of supplies for the full scale assault on the city which the South Vietnamese expect sometime this week.

The city itself appeared little changed from a week ago, with most of the shops closed but small cafes open along the main street.

"Adviser Reports B52 Helped Cripple 2 NVA Divisions", by KONTUM, Vietnam (AP), published in the Pacific Stars and Stripes on Thursday, May 18, 1972 and reprinted from European and Pacific Stars and Stripes, a Department of Defense publication copyright, 2002 European and Pacific Stars and Stripes.
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