Battle of the Paracel Islands

Discussion in 'Military History' started by ohan_qwe, Jun 7, 2014.

  1. ohan_qwe
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    ohan_qwe New Member

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    #1 ohan_qwe, Jun 7, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2014
  2. delft
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    delft Senior Member

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    The South Vietnamese regime had then little more than a year to live so it might be that morale in its navy was already low.
     
  3. ohan_qwe
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    ohan_qwe New Member

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    That is understandeble in infantery battles but I don't think that low moral makes you aim a naval gun worse or want to get your ship sunk. Can it be incompetent crew and officers from the corrupt goverment that dont have any skills.

    Do you know the class and armaments of the chinese corvettes?
     
  4. delft
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    delft Senior Member

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    That makes sense. The regime will not have spent enough on training of the crew and maintenance of the vessels. I think of the corvette that came limping to the meeting because it only had one working engine.
    One class mentioned is the Kronstadt class with 85 mm gun: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kronshtadt-class_submarine_chaser.
    Ships #271 & #274 belonged to that class. They are called guided missile armed gun boats ( see http://vnafmamn.com/paracel.html ) but I don't see any guided missiles.
    The same source mentions T48 gunboats ( and a guided missile cruiser ! :) ). I thought these were minesweepers but google didn't help me to find them.
     
    #4 delft, Jun 7, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2014
  5. Jeff Head
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    Jeff Head Super Moderator
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    As I understand it, mainly from, "Counterpart, A South Vietnamese Naval Officer's War", published by USNI Press in 1998, here's how the battle went down:

    On January 16, 1974, several South Vietnamese officers and an American observer traveled on the frigate Ly Thwang Kiet (HQ-16) to the Parcels to investigate intelligence that they had received of Chinese landings there.

    They found two Chinese trawlers near Drummond Island supporting PLA forces that had occupied the island. PLA soldiers were also seen on Duncan Island, with a landing craft on the beach and two guided missile gunboats in the area. They reported all of this to Saigon who then dispatched several more vessels to confront the Chinese. Upon arriving, the South Vietnamese Navy contacted the Chinese insisting that they withdraw. But the Chinese told them that it was they who would have to withdraw.

    That night the two forces watched each other but there was no engagement.

    The next day, January 17, 20-30 South Vietnamese personnel waded ashore on Robert Island. They were unopposed and so they removed the Chinese flag their. During the day, more reinforcements arrived for each side. The South Vietnamese frigate Tran Khanh Du (HQ-4) joined the HQ-16. Two Chinese corvettes (#274 and #271) arrived reinforced Chinese corvettes #389 and #396..

    The third day, January 18, the frigate South Vietnamese frigate, Tran Binh Trong (HQ-5) arrived. The commander of the entire South Vietnamese fleet, Colonel Ha Van Ngac, was aboard. In addition, the South Vietnamese corvette Nhat Tao (HQ-10) also arrived.

    At this point, there were three South Vietnamese Frigates and one corvette in place as the primary combatants. They faced four Chinese corvettes, which were of two different class vessels. The South Vietnamese had an oversized Platoon of soldiers, while the Chinese had a Marine battalion in place.

    Early on January 19, 1974, South Vietnamese soldiers from the Frigate HQ-5 landed on Duncan Island and came under heavy fire from Chinese troops who were already there. Three Vietnamese soldiers were immediately killed and more injured. The Vietnamese troops were completely outnumbered, so they withdrew, the landing having failed. The three Vietnamese frigates and the corvette then advanced on the island with their weaponry, and were confronted by the four Chinese corvettes.

    Around 10 am the Vietnamese the frigate HQ-16 and corvette HQ-10 opened fire on the Chinese warships. Vietnamese frigates HQ-4 and HQ-5 promptly joined in. The battle at sea lasted about 40 minutes, with the vessels on both sides sustaining damage. The key to the outcome was that the smaller Chinese vessels came in close and maneuvered to positions where the Vietnamese heavier main guns could not travers to bring them into fire. By so doing, they were able to damage all four Vietnamese ships, especially the corvette, Nhat Tao, HQ-10, whose propulsion was knocked out. The crew of HQ-10 abandoned ship, but her captain, Lt. Commander Nguy Van Tha, remained on board and went down with his ship. On top of this, the frigate HQ-16, was severely damaged by friendly fire from the frigate, HQ-5. This forced HQ-16 to retreat to the west.

    Seeing one ship sinking and the other severely damaged and retreating, the remaining two Vietnamese frigates, HQ-4 and HQ-5 also retreated.

    The next day, with the Vietnamese naval forces no longer in the fight, Chinese fighters and attack aircraft from Hainan began bombing the Vietnamese troops who had taken up positions on the other islands. Later, the Chinese themselves began landing on these islands. With no air cover, and with their navy standing off, the South Vietnamese soldiers were forced to surrender. The Vietnamese Navy ships fell back and sailed to Da Nang.

    South Vietnam requested assistance from the U.S. Seventh Fleet during this confrontation, but the request was denied. The US, who was pulling out of South Vietnam, was not interested in starting a new war with China.

    The results were that the Chinese won the battle and occupied the Parcels. Which remain in their position to this day. One Vietnamese corvette was sunk, and the three Vietnamese frigates were damaged. All four of the Chinese corvettes were also damaged. The Chinese had about 20 killed and an equal number injured. The Vietnamese had over 50 killed an 16 wounded.

    What made the difference?

    Three things in my view.

    1) South Vietnam brought to few troops who were defeated in their only opposed landing...and they were not supported in that landing by their Navy. it was only after they retreated that the Navy cme in to try and reduce the defenders...when they were met by the PLABN vessels.

    2) The south Vietnamese vessels did not take advantage of their range and stronger weaponry. Instead, they allowed the smaller Chinese corvettes to close with them and negate the advantage. The result was the loss of the naval engagement.

    3) The Chinese then used their air power from Hainan, and the uncontested seas to reduce the smaller Vietnamese forces that had landed unopposed. At that point, the result was a foregone conclusion.
     
    #5 Jeff Head, Jun 7, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2014
  6. ohan_qwe
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    ohan_qwe New Member

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    Thanks for a very informative post, do you know the reason behind point 2, was it just incompentence or was there any other reason behind this. Did the chinese planes attack the ships or just the infantery.

    Form wiki I read that both HQ-16 and HQ-4 have aft and forward guns. If HQ-4 and HQ-5 joined in shouldn't their guns be in an optimal position.
     
  7. delft
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    delft Senior Member

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    I read in several places that the Chinese used guided weapons armed gunboats. But it seems to me the ships used were too small and too antique to carry such weapons. I even wonder Did PLAN have any guided weapons on any of its vessels in 1974?
     
  8. antiterror13
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    antiterror13 Senior Member

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    As usual Jeff, excellent. Also I'd like to add that the US and China just started the honey moon period (Nixon visited China in 1972, only 2 years earlier), so no way the US would help Vietnam.

    I don't understand why China didn't send the fighters from Hainan in the first day of the battle?
     
  9. Jeff Head
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    Jeff Head Super Moderator
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    I think the Vietnamese vessels came charging in, and the Chinese vessels, in coming out to meet them simply maneuvered in amongst them.

    I do not believe the Vietnamese were in a formation prepared for this type of engagement and for mutual support with their gunfire.

    I am not sure I would call it incompetence...probably more of a situation where they rushed in to do one thing (shell the positions of the Chinese soldiers), and got involved in another (naval gunfire battle) and were not prepared with the proper contingencies.
     
  10. advill
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    advill Junior Member

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    The PLA was definitely very much better in using its joint Army, Navy and perhaps Air Force, to ensure the taking over of the Paracels. Vietnam possibly did not have their own prior Intelligence, or the strategic military advantage. Anyway, the battle is now history, and the Paracels are Chinese territory. No one can take them from China now that it has an enormous military/naval capability, and also economic power to pressure Vietnam.



     
    #10 advill, Jun 7, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2014
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