Mar. 17, 1963 - Another major South Vietnamese Government offensive was described today as a costly failure by U.S. military observers. They said South Vietnamese troops apparently left escape routes open for the Viet Cong to avoid close-in fighting. Despite the reported failure of a 5,000-man assault in the Plain of Reeds south of Saigon, a second sizable operation was launched today against Viet Cong strongholds elsewhere in the Mekong Delta. Several battalions of Government troops, supported by naval assault boats, moved against Red positions in Kien Hoa Province, 45 miles south of Saigon. Sources said there were no reports of contact and the Viet Cong appeared to have withdrawn or holed up in carefully prepared hideouts. U.S. advisers have repeatedly urged the Vietnamese to abandon large-scale offensives and mount small attacks but have made little progress. Many American military officials in Vietnam believe these major operations result from the Government’s desire not to risk suffering heavy casualties in close-in fighting and possibly “lose face,” as they did in the Ap Bac disaster in early January.
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