The Siege of Plei Me (Vietnamese: bao vây diệt địch ở Pleime) was a battle during the Vietnam War, which led up to the Battle of Ia Drang. The repulsion of the North Vietnamese assault immediately set the stage for the offensive in Ia Drang.
Brigadier General Chu Huy Man of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) was tasked with drawing the U.S. Air Cavalry into battle, to learn about its fighting capabilities, and then circulate the information among the PAVN and Viet Cong (VC). To this end, Lt Col Hoang Phuong was tasked with debriefing PAVN commanders after battles. This was a dangerous mission but Chu Huy Man, an intelligence expert trained in Moscow, felt confident.
The camp at Plei Me, 40 km south of Pleiku city in the central highlands of Vietnam, was constructed in October 1963 by the United States Army Special Forces. In 1965 the camp was manned by around 350 Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) soldiers - local Montagnard mercenaries, many of whom had family just outside the base. The base served as a critical hub for U.S. Special Forces movement across the country.
General Man ordered the 33rd PAVN regiment to seize the camp at Plei Me at 1930 hours on 19 October 1965, while the 32nd regiment would move into position to ambush reinforcements, repeating tactics successfully used against the French.
The 33rd launched the attack by bombarding the camp, followed by repeated infantry assaults, initially overrunning a 20-man outpost. The remaining defenders, backed by U.S. attack helicopters, repelled the PAVN, and the siege situation developed. At first light the next morning, 250 Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) Rangers advised by Major Charles Beckwith arrived by helicopter at the camp. Subsequently, the base was resupplied with airdrops from CV-2 (Caribou) of the 92d Aviation Company, the CV-7 (Buffalo) of the U.S. Army Aviation Test Board, and a number of night drops of munitions, medical supplies, and rations by C-123s from the 310th Air Commando Squadron from Nha Trang USAF base. Some of the air drops landed outside the camp, while two defenders were killed when a pallet of supplies fell on them.
Reinforcements from the ARVN were also sent by road from Pleiku to raise the siege, while Task Force INGRAM was airlifted into Pleiku to secure the city. The ARVN armored column proceeded down Provincial Road 6C to Plei Me, and was ambushed at two places at 1730 hours on 23 October 1965, but the attack was beaten back with accurate U.S. artillery support. Beckwith personally lead the counterattack, brandishing a cutlass and riding atop an ARVN Armored Troop Carrier. By the time relief column arrived at the Plei Me camp on 25 October 1965, the North Vietnamese attackers were already reeling and the U.S. and ARVN forces prepared for the final blow. The U.S. 1st Air Cavalry Division arrived on the 26th, sending the North Vietnamese into a hasty retreat, thus ending the siege. Chu had drawn out the Air Cavalry, but at a heavy price.
During the battle, A-1A Skyraider pilot Captain Melvin C Elliott was shot down while strafing the area around the camp. After evading the PAVN for 36 hours, Elliott was rescued by helicopter.
U.S. President Lyndon Johnson called Beckwith during the siege to congratulate him.