From Lam Son 719
to the Paris Peace Accords,
On February 8, 1971, an ARVN armored column left Khe Sanh and moved across the Laotian border on Route 9. Its goal was Tchepone, a village twenty-five miles distant that was surrounded by huge enemy supply depots. As the tanks and armored personnel carriers rumbled along the narrow, twisting, single-track road, other ARVN troops were airlifted to a string of fire-support bases that paralleled the axis of advance. The armored task force and airborne elements would converge and together planned to seize Tchepone and destroy the supply caches surrounding it, depriving the NVA divisions operating in South Vietnam of logistical support. With 17,000 troops committed to this operation, it was the largest and most ambitious ARVN offensive of the war.
The American military had long wanted to attack into Laos to sever the line of communication between North Vietnam and its forces fighting in the south. After the Cambodian incursion closed the port of Sihanoukville—a major blow to North Vietnam—the Ho Chi Minh