Sunday, May 7, 1972

Highlands Fighting Flares Over Vital Highway Link

SAIGON (AP) --Heavy fighting erupted Friday for control of vital Highway 14 in the central highlands.

Spokesmen for the South Vietnamese 2nd Military Region at Pleiku said 75 North Vietnamese troops were killed in fighting along the highway, three miles southwest of the Chu Pao Mountain pass and on the mountain itself. Many of the Communists were reported slain by bombs and rockets from Allied warplanes.

Initial reports said "one South Vietnamese soldier was killed and 17 were wounded.

By dusk, field reports said the fighting had tapered off to only light contact. Thousands of refugees who tried to leave Kontum were turned back because of the fighting.

The fighting at the Chu Pao Mountain, which dominates Highway 14 at a point seven miles south of Kontum, broke out less than a day after the spokesman said the roadway had been cleared and one convoy had moved through form Pleiku.

South Vietnamese paratroopers swept down the highway from Kontum Thursday with little opposition behind an [sic] aramada of U.S. bombers using specially-designed weapons to root North Vietnamese troops from caves in the mountains overlooking the pass. South Vietnamese infantry reinforcements seized the high ground, with no resistance, but were attacked by North Vietnamese forces Friday afternoon.

The highway is the only overland supply route to Kontum, which is threatened by two North Vietnamese divisions.

On another front, Highway 13 remained closed to the besieged provincial capital of An Loc, 60 miles north of Saigon, and the U.S. command announced that a fourth C-130 transport was shot down by Communist fire while making an aerial resupply drop about a mile northeast of An Loc. All six crewmen aboard are listed as missing.

North Vietnamese troops continued to shell An Loc itself, again pouring a thousand artillery and rocket rounds into the town.

The U.S. command said Air Force gunships attacked a giant North Vietnamese rear supply base and truck convoy 12 miles northwest of An Loc and about five miles from the Cambodia border Friday morning.

American pilots reported they damaged four trucks and left six others burning, and triggered more than 50 large secondary explosions in the supply depot, indicating hits on ammunition or fuel stores.

The U.S. command also announced that an Air Force f4 fighter-bomber was shot down just to the south of Quang Tri city shortly after noon Friday.

The two crewmen, Capt. Peter Mulzer and Capt. Robert W. Comstock, bailed out into rugged terrain controlled by Communist troops, but they were rescued by two Air Force Jolly Green Giant helicopters that braved heavy Communist ground fire. Both men were reported in good condition.

"Highlands Fighting Flares Over Vital Highway Link", by Saigon (AP), published in the Pacific Stars and Stripes on Sunday, May 7, 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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