Vietnam was America’s longest war. One of the most bitterly fought battles during that war was the famous Siege of Khe Sanh.
Toward the end of 1966, numerous large scale North Vietnamese units began consolidating around the demilitarized zone separating North from South Vietnam. The commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, Gen. William C. Westmoreland, ordered Marine units northward – into a string of fire support bases just south of the DMZ. One of those bases was Khe Sanh.
All during 1967, Marines continued moving in to reinforce the tiny outpost.
By January 1968 more than 6,000 Allied troops were on hand – dug in, ready to fight. But U.S. intelligence reports indicated that some 15,000-20,000 NVA soldiers had them surrounded, virtually cut off from the outside world. The siege had begun.
At about 5:30 a.m. on Jan. 21, 1968, Communist gunners began hitting the camp with hundreds of rounds of rockets, mortars, and artillery fire.
One of the incoming rounds scored a direct hit on the camp’s main ordnance dump – destroying nearly 1,500 tons of ordnance in a few minutes. The Marines immediately requested an emergency resupply of ammo. But the only way in was by airdrop.
Members of the 109th Quartermaster Company (Aerial Delivery) began around-the-clock operations. Quartermaster riggers loaded C-123s and delivered over 130 tons of supplies during the next 36 hours – even flying and unloading at night by the light of Marine artillery flares.
The operation became even more perilous as NVA antiaircraft guns opened fire. Between January and April 1968, when the siege was finally broken, QM riggers delivered nearly 12,500 tons of supplies, without which the Marines could never have survived.
There were many Quartermaster heroes during that tense period, as the country looked on.
One such hero was Spc. Charles Baney, a 20-year-old parachute rigger, whose C-130 crashed, killing him and all others on board during a low altitude supply drop at Khe Sahn.
Baney’s loyalty to those trapped on the ground below places him in the finest tradition of a QM Soldier supporting victory.
─ Information provided by Dr. Steve Anders, Fort Lee Quartermaster historian. Focus on the Fort is a bi-weekly feature that highlights some of Fort Lee’s history. The information is compiled from the Quartermaster Museum Web site.