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Ban Me Thout was the capital of Darlac Province. It was attacked on Tet Eve (30 January 1968) by the 33rd NVA Regiment and the Viet Cong 301E LF Battalion (sappers). In the initial attack the objectives were the the 23rd ARVN Division Headquarters, the US MACV Headquarters, both Ban Me Thout Airfield and Ban Me Thout East Airfield, and other targets including the Ban Me Thout city bank. During the attacks the NVA kidnapped the civilian head of the US Agency for Internatioal Development (USAID) Mike Benge, and two civilian missionaries from the leprosareum located here, Betty Olsen and Henry Blood. The NVA susequently murdered Betty Olsen on the trail to North Vietnam. Henry Blood survived his captivity in an NVA prison camp.
Ban Me Thout
Initially the only forces in place to defend the area were some Ruff/Puffs and 5th Special Forces Group Detachment B-23. The ARVN moved the 8th Cavalry Squadron and the 45th Infantry Regiment into the city later in the day. On 1 February 1968 the ARVN 23rd Ranger Battalion was committed to the battle but they were quickly decimated by the fierce NVA attacks. On 2 February the 1st Battalion 503rd Infantry (Airborne) of the 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate) was sent into the battle. Despite 4 major attacks by the NVA who outnumbered the defenders, the enemy forces were pushed out of the area completely by 6 February 1968.
Like Pleiku, Ban Me Thout was abandoned without much of a fight by the ARVN at the beginning of the NVA's 1975 general offensive. The ARVN had stationed 1,200 men in Ban Me Thout and on 10 March 1975 it was attacked by approximately 25,000 NVA in three divisions. The ARVN were overwhelmed in a matter of days (it's actually surprising it took the NVA that long to take the city) and on 14 March 1975 Republic of Vietnam President Thieu ordered Pleiku and Kontum Provinces abandoned. With the loss of the Central Highlands, the Republic of Vietnam was doomed. He who controls the highlands controls Vietnam.
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