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Viet Cong Perpetrate Massacre of Government Sympathizers

Apr. 15, 1964 - Military leaders assessed today the grim results of a three-day battle in South Vietnam’s deep south set off by a deliberate Communist massacre of government sympathizers at Kien Long, a district capital.

U.S. advisers said nearly 300 government soldiers had been killed or wounded — the heaviest toll of a single engagement in the war. They said civilian casualties may exceed 200. The bodies of 50 or 60 guerrillas were counted in fire-charred paddy fields.

“A stunning Communist political victory” was the judgment of one American observer in that war-torn region.

A U.S. helicopter crewman with the government’s supporting forces was killed. He was hit by ground fire Sunday. A dozen other Americans were wounded.

These contributed to a rising rate of American battle casualties — 32 killed, 292 wounded, and two missing in the first 3½ months of 1964.

The government mounted its drive after the Communists moved out of a base Sunday in the forest of U Minh, along the Gulf of Siam, and overran Kien Long, which is on a section of the Ca Mau peninsula — long their stamping ground.

The raiders publicly disemboweled the district chief. They murdered his young son. They broke the arms and legs of the chief’s wife and then killed her with a shot to the head. They murdered other government sympathizers then headed back into the countryside.

In the ensuing battle, two Communist Viet Cong battalions opposed a government paratroop battalion, a ranger battalion, two infantry battalions, and a special forces unit.

After heavy fighting, American advisers were reporting Monday that Communist units apparently were trapped within a triangle of government forces. Heavy forest fires broke out in the Communists’ base area.

The Communists fought their way out, cutting through a Vietnamese infantry battalion and inflicting heavy losses.

Then, to the amazement of American and Vietnamese officers, they stayed in the area, attacking various government units. They took their wounded and some of their dead with them when they finally withdrew.

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