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Pleiku is a town in central Vietnam, located in that nation's central highland region. It is the capital of the Gia Lai Province; Many years ago, it was inhabited primarily by the Bahnar and Jarai ethnic groups, sometimes known as the Montagnards or Degar. But now, it is inhabited primarily by Kinh ethnic group. The town is the centre of the urban district of Pleiku which covers an area of 261 km². As of 2003 the district had a population of 186,763. The town sits at the junction of several national roads—National Road 14 to Kon Tum in the north and Buon Ma Thuot in the south and National Road 19 to Stœng Trêng in Cambodia in the west (via Ratanakiri Province) and to Binh Dinh Province in the east.
The city is home to the Hoàng Anh Gia Lai club.
Pleiku is served by Pleiku Airport in the near outskirts of the city.
Pleiku was strategically important during the Vietnam War because it was the primary terminus of the military supply logistics corridor extending westwards along Highway 19 from the coastal population center and port facilities of Qui Nhơn. Additionally, its central location on the plateau, between Kontum in the north, Buôn Ma Thuột to the south, and the North Vietnamese Army's base areas inside Cambodia to the west made Pleiku the main center of defense of the entire highland region of the Republic of Vietnam.
This was strategically obvious to both sides; the U.S. established an armed presence very early in the conflict at Camp Holloway, and the Việt Cộng attack on this base in early 1965 was one of the key escalating events that brought U.S. troops into the conflict.
Main article: Ho Chi Minh Campaign
After the fall of Buôn Ma Thuột to a major North Vietnamese assault in early 1975, and the resulting insecurity of Highway 19 leading from Qui Nhơn, President Thiệu ordered the hasty evacuation of Pleiku. The military operation to attempt the withdrawal of ARVN forces down poorly-maintained tertiary road LTL-7B through Cheo Reo to Tuy Hòa led to a horrific catastrophe in which over a hundred thousand evacuees from Pleiku and Kontum were killed or left stranded without support.
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