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South Vietnamese Troops Mauled by Viet Cong in Bloodiest Action Since January

Oct. 20, 1963 - Communist Viet Cong guerrillas (pictured), solidly fortified in positions facing hip-deep fields of mud, stopped a helicopter-borne assault in its tracks yesterday. South Vietnamese troops were dealt the bloodiest mauling they have received in nine months. The South Vietnamese Government toll from the encounter was listed as 40 dead and 80 wounded. Thirteen U.S. servicemen, mostly helicopter crew members, were wounded — two seriously. There was no further contact with the enemy today. The action was considered by U.S. advisers as “the bloodiest” since the battle at Ap Bac in the Mekong River Delta last Jan. 2. It was officially estimated that the Viet Cong suffered about 30 dead, although U.S. advisers on the scene found only four enemy bodies. No enemy prisoners were taken, and Viet Cong guerrillas holding the position slipped away to safety — probably in sampans — last night. “Half the trouble was bad luck,” a high-ranking U.S. spokesman said today. “We were facing a tough unit in excellent positions in the heart of his own territory.” It all happened along a three-mile stretch of rivulet meandering west of a hamlet called Loc Ninh set in groves of palm trees and flooded rice fields. It is a spot in Chuong Thien Province that happens to be out of reach of the nearest Government artillery and inconveniently distant from all possible helicopter bases. “It was a well-trained, well-organized Viet Cong unit,” said an American officer who had been there. “They fought from well-camouflaged holes that they jumped into as soon as they heard us coming. They had plenty of automatic weapons and ammmunition. No troops could have moved very far against them through that mud and under that kind of fire. It was a big area, and our people just could not block all the exit canals. So when night fell, the Viet Cong just melted away.”


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