The New Year's Day Battle of 1968 was a military engagement during the Vietnam War that began on the evening of January 1, 1968. It involved units attached to the American 25th Infantry Division and a regiment of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA).
In late 1967, Pope Paul VI had declared January 1 a day of peace and persuaded the South Vietnamese and the Americans to observe a truce. In a released statement, the Vietcong also agreed to observe a 36-hour ceasefire. The American military had been patrolling the Vietnamese-Cambodian border in an effort to make contact with either North Vietnamese Army units or supply runs to the Viet Cong coming down the Ho Chi Minh trail. The 25th Infantry Division had set up a two-company perimeter, with artillery 7 miles (11 km) from the Cambodian border in the Tay Ninh Province. The position was located near the junction of Highways 244 and 246, close to Black Virgin Mountain. Troops had that day recently set up a landing zone (LZ) for supply helicopters. Once the helicopter pad had been constructed, supplies could be flown in and on January 1 the 25th Infantry Division's Christmas mail had arrived. Soldiers spent the day opening packages from their families.
On the night of January 1, six hours before the truce ended, a 2,500-man force made up of a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regiment[which?] and soldiers from the Viet Cong 9th Division attacked the American position. The Vietnamese attacked in three waves and were able to infiltrate the perimeter. The NVA first wave was launched after a heavy mortar attack at 11:30 pm. A little after midnight, another attack was launched and a third human wave attack around 1:00 am. The Americans were finally able to repel the attacks by using air and artillery support. Air support was provided by attack helicopters and AC-47s. In total, 28 air sorties were launched against the NVA. The Americans counted 348 enemy soldiers killed in the action. By comparison, American forces suffered 176 casualties, of which 23 were killed in action. Last contact with enemy units occurred at 5:15 am when they fled the battleground. The remnants of the NVA regiment were pursued to the south and southeast.
Thirty days later, on January 31, 1968, NVA and Vietcong forces launched the Tet Offensive throughout South Vietnam. When Oliver Stone returned to the U.S., he was puzzled that the New Year's attack had received no media coverage. For some time, he thought he might have imagined the events of January 1 until, at a reunion of the men of the 25th Infantry Division, other Vietnam vets who were there that night were able to confirm the battle did indeed take place.
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Among the soldiers serving in the American units during the battle were future writer Larry Heinemann and future film director Oliver Stone. Heinemann later wrote a book about his Vietnam experiences titled Black Virgin Mountain: A Return to Vietnam, and Stone would direct the dramatization of the battle in the 1986 film Platoon. The final battle scene of Platoon is a dramatization of the real battle Stone experienced. Survivors of the battle often relate how close to actual events the fighting was to what is seen on screen.