Pace Quickens As GIs
Drive Near Tam Ky
SAIGON, Sept. 6 (AP) Action quickened along the northern front of South Vietnam today. A major new U.S. ground operation swept south of Tam Ky, the provincial capital where South Vietnamese defenders crushed a 2,500-man Viet Cong attack in predawn darkness. The newly designated American Division, formerly called Task Force Oregon, was making the drive a few miles south of Tam Ky and reported killing 26 enemy soldiers yesterday. It is called Operation Cook.
North of Tam Ky, U.S. Marines were hunting North Vietnamese regulars who were chewed up in a blazing battle Monday.
In 1st Corps Area
Tam Ky is in the five-province 1st Corps area, where Communist troops are expected to try an offensive soon. The various operations in the 1st Corps are designed to keep the enemy so busy he cannot attack.
The battle at Tam Ky cost the enemy 219 dead, including three company commanders, and 16 captured, officials reported. Losses of the defenders were given as 40 soldiers wounded, including a U.S. sergeant. Enemy fire also wounded 70 civilians.
Associated Press correspondent John Lengel reported from Tam Ky that the main objective of the guerrilla attack was the prison with 800 inmates, 500 of them Viet Cong. In three previous attacks on prisons in the 1st Corps area, guerrillas freed about 2,000 Viet Cong.
But at Tam Ky the attack was expected, and the South Vietnamese were ready when the Viet Cong struck behind a fierce mortar barrage at about 2 a. m.
Some of the guerrillas reached the prison but were pinned down by machine-gun fire against its walls. Others seized a part of a combat police compound nearby before being driven out.
Gunship Aids U.S.
An attack on a bridge leading south out of the city of 12,000 was repulsed with the aid of a U.S. Air Force gunship.The gunship caught 51 guerrillas in the open west of the bridge and mowed them down. Throughout several hours of fighting, the gunship loosed flares over the city.
Much of the credit for repulsing the Viet Cong attack went to 12 South Vietnamese armored personnel carriers, which seemed to be everywhere, their machine guns blazing.
"As soon as we got there and laid down a base of fire they (the enemy) left," said Lt. William Shea, Denver, Colo., an adviser with the personnel carriers.
Farther north, U.S. Air Force B52 bombers made two strikes last night in the Demilitarized Zone that forms the border separating South and North Vietnam.
A U.S. Command spokesmen said the targets were troop concentrations, supply caches, weapons positions and bivouac areas.
The buffer strip has been hit repeatedly by B52s and other planes in recent weeks in an effort to knock out or cripple an enemy buildup aimed at U.S. Marine positions south of the 'zone.
Elsewhere over South Vietnam, U.S. planes flew 536 tactical sorties yesterday, and pilots reported setting off numerous secondary explosions and starting fires.
In Saigon, it
was learned that the U.S. Command now is downgrading the estimate of enemy
strength in South
Vietnam. For weeks, a command summary has listed this estimate at about 297,000.
High-ranking U.S. officers believe this figure includes 57,000 men and women who are political cadres or administrators not assigned to combat.
75% Combat Soldiers
It also was learned that 75 per cent of the 45,000 to 50,000 new U.S. troops to be sent to Vietnam by early next spring will be combat soldiers.
Washington figures in July suggested that only 34.4 per cent of the 531,000 military men playing a role in the Vietnamese war were in combat.
Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara said on a return from a visit to South Vietnam July 11 he hoped to get more combat power out of the forces already here.
For the past two
years, the United States had to build up big bases in South Vietnam to help
fight the war. These
bases are now reported to be able to support the new combat troops with only a small increase in the logistics strength.
In the counting of votes for the South Vietnamese Senate in last Sunday's general elections, Roman Catholic candidates surged ahead indicating they will have strong representation in the 60-man upper house.
Earlier returns had tickets leading that support Premier Nguycn Cao Ky. Now they no longer are among the top six. Six lists of 10 candidates each will be elected to form the senate.
 [Personal note] Of the 219 dead, 3rd Troop of the 4th Armored Personnel Carrier Regiment was credited with 150.