November, 1965: Battle of Ia Drang Valley Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In November, 1965, North Vietnamese forces gathered in the Ia Drang Valley in Pleiku province in the central highlands of South Vietnam with the intention of dividing the country in two. On November 14, 1965, Harold G. Moore’s First Battalion, Seventh Cavalry, landed by helicopter at landing zone X-Ray, where the North Vietnamese were assembled, and was assaulted by portions of three North Vietnamese army regiments. Moore’s troops fought against overwhelming odds for more than forty hours while U.S. air and artillery strikes closed to within fifty yards of U.S. positions. Gradually reinforced, Moore’s men successfully fought off the final North Vietnamese attacks and were withdrawn on November 16, having lost 79 killed and 121 wounded. On November 17, Robert McDade’s battalion was ambushed while marching to landing zone Albany, suffering 155 killed and 124 wounded. North Vietnamese combat deaths from both battles were estimated at 3,561.

In November, 1965, North Vietnamese forces gathered in the Ia Drang Valley in Pleiku province in the central highlands of South Vietnam with the intention of dividing the country in two. On November 14, 1965, Harold G. Moore’s First Battalion, Seventh Cavalry, landed by helicopter at landing zone X-Ray, where the North Vietnamese were assembled, and was assaulted by portions of three North Vietnamese army regiments. Moore’s troops fought against overwhelming odds for more than forty hours while U.S. air and artillery strikes closed to within fifty yards of U.S. positions. Gradually reinforced, Moore’s men successfully fought off the final North Vietnamese attacks and were withdrawn on November 16, having lost 79 killed and 121 wounded. On November 17, Robert McDade’s battalion was ambushed while marching to landing zone Albany, suffering 155 killed and 124 wounded. North Vietnamese combat deaths from both battles were estimated at 3,561.

U.S. soldiers carrying a dead comrade from the battle in Ia Drang Valley, where members of the Air Cavalry Division suffered the heaviest U.S. losses of the war up to that time. (AP/Wide World Photos)

The campaign decisively altered the Vietnam War. It convinced U.S. leaders to send more combat troops to Vietnam and to pursue a war of attrition and conclusively proved the combat potential of the helicopter. For the North Vietnamese, the campaign provided confidence they could defeat superior U.S. firepower by fighting at close quarters.

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