Tanks inside the Wire

Destroyed_PT76_tank_at_Ben_HetThe Newton Citizen (Georgia) has posted an article chronicling the story of Paul Longgrear, a US Army officer who commanded a special forces unit in Vietnam that engaged a unit of North Vietnamese PT-76 tanks.


Lang Vei soon received a warning from the NSA to stop patrolling trails. The NSA had overheard NVA orders to set up ambushes and reposition men and equipment. The “beast” was stirring.

“The NVA overran the village of Khe Sanh near the Marine base in late January,” Longgrear recalled. “Apparently they thought the Marines would bail out the village, but our mobile strike force hit the NVA from their rear. We killed a bunch of bad guys, but it caused the NVA to change tactics. Instead of using tanks against the Khe Sanh Marine base, they used two tank battalions against Lang Vei, that’s 16 PT-76 tanks.”

Feb. 6, 2330 hours: Sgt. Nickolas Fragos reports, “tanks inside the wire.”

“That’s when all your training kicks in,” Longgrear said. “We left the TOC to man 81mm mortars. It was pitch dark outside, so we lit up the night with illumination rounds so the Montagnards could see the NVA infantry. A tank without infantry support is a rolling coffin.”

Full story here.


  1. Joe Starns says:

    Just for the sake of accuracy, the PT-76 in the picture was knocked out on 3 March, 1969, by an M48A3 of ‘B’ Co, 1st Bn, 69th Armor.

    It was knocked out at Ben Het, the only documented instance of US-PAVN tank on tank action in the Viet Nam war. More details can be found here:



    • Joe, you are completely right. I was not trying to imply that the photo was from the same action as the one described in the article. I was just trying to find a graphic that matched the story to a certain degree. I hate posting text without some sort of image.


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