January 21, 1968 - The Battle of Khe Sanh begins (right). On January 21, 1968, an intense barrage of artillery hit the US Marine base at Khe Sanh in northwest South Vietnam. This presaged a siege and battle that would last for seventy-seven days and would see 6,000 Marines hold off 20,000 North Vietnamese. Anticipating that American forces would be drawn north to the fighting at Khe Sanh, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong units broke the traditional Tet (Lunar New Year) cease-fire on January 30, 1968, by launching major attacks against most cities in South Vietnam. For the next two months, US and ARVN forces successfully beat back the North Vietnamese assault, with particularly heavy combat in the cities of Hue and Saigon. Once the fighting had ended, the Viet Cong had been permanently crippled and ceased to be an effective fighting force. On April 1, US forces began Operation Pegasus to relieve the Marines at Khe Sanh. After opening the road to Khe Sanh (Route 9) with a mix of air mobile and ground forces, US troops linked up with the besieged Marines on April 8.
Photograph Courtesy of the USMC Historical Branch