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Viet Cong Steps Up Attacks

Mar. 3, 1964 - Communist gunfire ripped into two South Vietnamese airborne battalions stalking Viet Cong guerrillas near the Cambodian frontier today and dropped 100 men — 15 dead and 85 wounded. Among the dead in an hourlong battle was a U.S. Army Captain who was advising forward troop elements.

Seventy miles to the east, another American officer was killed in a Red attack on a Vietnamese ranger unit to which he was assigned.

Killing of the two Americans — neither immediately identified — increased to 114 the toll of American combat deaths since the U.S. stepped up its aid in the anti-Communist war in December 1961. American deaths from all causes rose to 192.

Among the wounded in the frontier action was Brig. Gen. Ca Van Vien, commander of South Vietnam’s airborne forces. Vien is the first Vietnamese general to be hit in several years. His injury was reportedly not serious.

Vietnamese officials claimed that more than 100 guerrillas were killed by fire of the parachute troopers and strafing planes, but confirmation was lacking. American advisers at the scene said a ground check failed to support the claim.

The Government objective was a wide canal straddling the border, where the Red Viet Cong were believed to have based elements of two guerrilla battalions assigned to protect smuggling operations on the Communist supply lines.

In Washington D.C., William P. Bundy testified that the situation in South Vietnam had grown worse since he and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara visited Saigon in September. Bundy appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which approved his nomination as Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs.

Bundy attributed the deterioration in South Vietnam to Communist exploitation of two changes in the South Vietnam Government.

He also spoke of weaknesses in the strategic hamlet defense program.

Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who briefed the committee on the Vietnam struggle, told reporters afterward: “It’s a mean, frustrating, difficult struggle, but we think it can be won.” Secretary Rusk rejected suggestions that the U.S. might consider proposals for neutralizing South Vietnam.


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