Thursday, May 25, 1972
Six Red Bridges, Power Plant Hit
Bulletin Compiled From AP And UPI
SAIGON (UPI) --American warplanes attacked North Vietnam's Red River Valley, destroying six bridges on the northwest rail line linking Hanoi with China, and blowing up Hanoi's transformer station providing power for military installations in the Communist capital, the U.S. command announced Tuesday.
The command also announced that a total of more than 1,000 strikes were carried out by American bombers all across North Vietnam during the past three days, and that other positions were heavily shelled by 7th Fleet cruisers and destroyers.
The guided missile cruiser Providence was hit by Communist shore batteries Monday in the Gulf of Tonkin and sustained light shrapnel damage to a night observation post, the command reported. It said the officer manning the post was slightly injured.
The intensified raids, raised from an average of 250 a day to between 300 and 350 a day during the past week, are part of a campaign ordered by President Nixon to destroy rear bases and installations supporting North Vietnam's 55-day offensive in South Vietnam and to cut supply lines to the South.
The bridges, in an area generally 110 miles northwest of Hanoi and about 50 miles south of the Chinese border, were knocked out Monday by a relatively small force of Air Force F4 Phantoms using laser guns to direct their bombs to within five feet of accuracy, military sources said.
Guns mounted on the supersonic jets fire a laser beam across the target and the bomb homes in on the beam.
The Phantoms also struck the Hanoi transformer station eight miles northwest of the North Vietnamese capital last Saturday. F4 pilots said they left the site in flames and their bombs set off five large secondary explosions.
"It should have a significant effect on the over-all power produced for the entire Hanoi area," said one officer.
While the railroad bridges and the power plant were the most spectacular targets listed by the command, a communiqué assessing bomb damage for the past three days said substantial damage was caused to military targets across North Vietnam.
It reported more than 40 Communist supply trucks, 13 field guns, one surface-to-air missile site, two fuel storage areas, 36 pieces of railroad rolling stock, 10 warehouses and nine military barracks destroyed or damaged.
More than a half-dozen other highway and railroad bridges were reported knocked out in wide areas ranging from near Thanh Hoa, 80 miles south of Hanoi, to the southern panhandle of North Vietnam.
The command said Communist antiaircraft fire continued to be heavy but that surface-to-air missile firings remained relatively light. One American plane was shot down during the reporting period. The command had announced the loss earlier.
Command spokesmen said the number of SAMs fired at U.S. planes raiding the North were averaging about 165 a week up until the week ending May 13, then suddenly dropped to about 66 last week.
Spokesmen said they were not sure of the reason, but they believed it was a combination of North Vietnam trying to conserve SAMs and considerable damage caused to SAM sites by U.S. bombers. They said North Vietnam had used up more than 1,100 SAMs fired at U.S. aircraft since March 30.
Meanwhile, major fighting erupted on three fronts in South Vietnam.
A third consecutive day of fighting south of the My Chanh River defense line above Hue ended with pockets of Communist resistance still clinging to toeholds on the southern shore, field reports said.
In the central highlands, the North Vietnamese staged several attacks around Fire Base 41, 12 miles north of the headquarters city of Pleiku. They knocked out two government tanks, an armored personnel carrier, shot down an A1 Skyraider fighter-bomber, and left at least 13 government troops dead and 40 wounded.
At besieged An Loc province capital 60 miles north of Saigon, waves of Communist infantry backed by tanks and a 1,700-round artillery barrage, struck at paratroopers a mile south of the city and managed to stall a relief element two miles south for the sixth consecutive day.
The fighting north of Hue marked the third day in a row the Communists have renewed their attacks after the government had claimed to have hurled them back across the My Chanh defense line, established after the fall of Quang Tri.
Spokesmen in Saigon, while claiming to have inflicted "major" casualties on the Communist in fighting that erupted about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday in an area five miles from the coast, acknowledged that they were uncertain whether all North Vietnamese troops and tanks had been driven back north of the river.
South of Hue, U.S. infantrymen of the 196th Brigade assigned to protect the 2,000-man radio relay detachment at Phu Bai, came under mortar attack Tuesday for the second time in a week, but suffered no casualties, field reports said. Attacks on U.S. units have been relatively light in the current offensive.
In the highlands, Vietnamese spokesmen reported several skirmishes around the embattled provincial capital of Kontum, with 77 Communists killed and no reported government casualties, but said the major action came around Fire Base 41.
Although the base itself did not come under attack, guerrillas hit elements of an armored column trying to reopen Highway 14 to Kontum, 13 miles further north, at several points nearby.
They blew up a tank and personnel carrier a mile to the north; destroyed another tank with a recoilless rifle round three miles northeast; shot down a Skyraider in the same area; and hit an engineer group trying to repair a bridge a half-mile to the south.
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"Six Red Bridges, Power Plant Hit", by (AP and UPI), published in the Pacific Stars and Stripes Thursday, May 25, 1972 and reprinted from European and Pacific Stars and Stripes, a Department of Defense publication copyright, 2002 European and Pacific Stars and Stripes.