Archives par mot-clé : South Vietnam

Ha Mai Viet : Steel and Blood – South Vietnamese Armor and the War for Southeast Asia [2] – two book reviews

Ha Mai Viet, Steel and Blood: South Vietnamese Armor and the War for Southeast Asia, Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2008, 459 p.

Book Review by LtCol Raymond A. Stewart, USMC (Ret).

 

Colonel Ha Mai Viet provides his meticulously researched, impressively written and well-presented book about South Vietnam tanks in “Steel and Blood.” The author details the combat history of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) Armor (AF) from “Ferocious Battles, 1963-68” through “Vietnamization, 1969-74” to the final days of the Republic in 1975—“The Capture of South Vietnam.” His is a riveting account of tank battle after tank battle, pitting the ARVNAF’s M41 and M48 tanks against the NVA enemy’s T54, T59, T34 and PT76 tanks.

Somewhat of a surprise to a Marine Corps Vietnam tanker—and possible Army armor as well—and for certain to those who declared that Vietnam was not “tank country” are the numbers and types of armored vehicles employed by both sides and the importance the VC/NVA enemy and ARVN alike placed on the use of armored vehicles in general and tanks specifically. Just one example: By 1975, the NVA had an estimated 600 T54s in or on the border of South Vietnam supplied by large, well-concealed fuel lines with sophisticated pumping and fueling stations that ran through Laos and Cambodia hundreds of kilometers from Haiphong in the north.

In battle after battle, from the Plain of Reeds through the three-front General Offensive and battles for the Central High­lands to the final assault on Saigon itself, Col Ha Mai Viet provides the reader with the often heart-wrenchingly candid and unwashed details of bloody victories and even more horrific defeats. He does not embellish the value of the ARVNAF in its successful fights nor does he minimize the faults of senior leaderships’ failed decisions contributing to catastrophic defeats. The author keeps to the rapid movement of armor and the battles in which tanks participate by extracting related details and placing them in “Notes.” There are 80 pages of notes, which add an impressive dimension of understanding of ARVNAF leadership, or lack of it.

In the second half of the book, the “Mil­itary History” segment, Col Ha Mai Viet’s attention to detail and in-depth research provide the reader the historical background of the ARVN in general terms and, more specifically, trace the establishment, growth and deployment of the armored forces (ARVNAF).

While certainly not the “grabber” that one finds in page after page of Part I, Part II is of significant value in understanding the development, structure, employment, logistics and administration of ARVNAF in terms of equipment. The author provides interesting information on the back­ground and training of the armored personnel and quite candid comments on the ARVNAF leadership.

To follow the battles, I found the paucity of maps—there are just two small-detail maps—made the reading (and enjoyment) of the book somewhat difficult. Also, com­mand structure, order of battle, and table of organization and equipment diagrams would have greatly helped in better understanding of the material.

Col. Ha Mai Viet states unequivocally that South Vietnam could have defeated the VC/NVA on the battlefield had the Uni­ted States made good on its agreement to support the South after the withdrawal of American ground forces.

This thoroughly researched book, a 10-year effort, relies on both personal knowledge and interviews of hundreds of former ARVN as well as VC/NVA soldiers and officers of all ranks and military occupational specialties. To obtain a more balanced view—and with an armored slant—of the war that took more than 58,000 American lives, this book is a highly recommended read.

Source : Leatherneck, magazine of the Marines, Marine Corps Association.

Présentation de l’ouvrage sur U.S. Naval Institute.

* * *

Book Review by Jay Veith.

Of the several thousand tomes published about the Vietnam War, only a few English-language viewpoints written by our Vietnamese allies grace the bookshelves. The South Vietnamese perspective, constrained by cultural and linguistic barriers, is unfortunately marginalized in the war’s literature for Americans. Due to these barriers, U.S. historians, even if interested in South Vietnamese motivations and actions, are left with little except military adviser reports, obscure embassy cables, or shallow news articles. Thus reduced to bit players, the South Vietnamese have become caricatures; either cowardly incompetents or corrupt warlords, with an occasional brave soul or hard-fighting unit briefly mentioned. A more balanced and deeper picture of America’s wartime partner has long been needed.

Former armor Colonel Ha Mai Viet has offered precisely that, a penetrating insight into the battlefield contributions of the South Vietnamese tank officers who fought alongside their American friends. His book details the contributions of a small but influential element of the ARVN, its armor/cavalry forces. Unknown to most, by war’s end the armor branch had grown considerably from its French roots. In 1975, Brigadier General Tran Quang Khoi’s 3rd Armored Cavalry Brigade, the III Corps organic tank unit, was undoubtedly the most powerful brigade-size element in the ARVN. Reflecting a rare combined arms outlook, Khoi built a formidable combat out-fit from previously independent armor, artillery, engineer, and ranger units. His merged brigade was still defending outside of Saigon when the final surrender came.

Viet spent ten years traveling the globe, tracking down and interviewing many of his former comrades-in-arms. He portrays the heroic deeds of his fellow soldiers while unflinchingly condemning South Vietnamese leadership errors. Covering two main topics, Combat and Military History, Viet outlines twenty-three separate battles from the ARVN side. The bulk of the Combat section covers the Tet Offensive, Lam Son 719, the Easter Offensive, and the bloody retreat in 1975 from the Central Highlands. He also provides rich details on unknown battles such as the terrible clash at Dambe in Cambodia in 1971. The Military History part provides unique facts on the formation and growth of the ARVN armor/cavalry branch from 1954 to 1975, including unit commanders, weapons, and organizational structure.

Brilliantly translated, no future work on Vietnam battles will be complete without reviewing this publication. Colonel Viet has provided a tremendous amount of fresh information, almost all of it oral history. That is the strength and weakness of the book. Like all interviews, the ones in this book only provide the participant’s side. For example, the account by Colonel Nguyen Van Dong concerning the Central Highlands retreat, while new and highly informative, perpetuates the myth that Brigadier General Pham Duy Tat, the II Corps Ranger Commander, was responsible for the convoy on Route 7B. Tat, when presented with Dong’s remarks, categorically denied the accusations, a point of view absent from Viet’s book. This is not to cast fault, as Viet was only interested in the stories of his armor colleagues. Yet without access to That’s perspective, the unsuspecting historian would perpetuate the story. Unfortunately, as General Cao Van Vien once told the reviewer, the war remains much like the movie « Rashomon »: the truth is subjective to the individual. Colonel Viet nevertheless deserves enormous credit for his industrious research and fine account. His is a major and much needed addition to the history of the Vietnam War.

Copyright © 2009 Society for Military History
Project MUSE® – View Citation
Réf. :

  • Jay Veith. « Steel and Blood: South Vietnamese Armor and the War for Southeast Asia (review). » The Journal of Military History 73.3 (2009): 1020-1021. Project MUSE. Web. 27 Dec. 2011. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
  •  Veith, J.(2009). Steel and Blood: South Vietnamese Armor and the War for Southeast Asia (review). The Journal of Military History 73(3), 1020-1021. Society for Military History.

Book Review by Kathryn C. Statler: Triumph Imagined

Moyar, Mark, Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2006, xxiii+416 p.

Book Review by Kathryn C. Statler:

Triumph Imagined

In The Man in the High Castle, novelist Philip K. Dick presents an alternate outcome to World War II by envisioning a world in which the Axis powers won the war. Dick’s classic came to mind after reading Mark Moyar’s Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965, as both books offer lessons on history, truth, and interpretation. In the first of a two-volume project, Moyar attempts a new look at the evolution of American intervention in Vietnam from South Vietnamese Premier Ngo Dinh Diem’s 1954 assumption of power to Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 decision to send combat troops to South Vietnam. Opening with a brief sketch of Vietnamese history, Moyar then traces the development of South and North Vietnam as Saigon (with U.S. support) and Hanoi (backed by the USSR and China) attempted to outmaneuver one another politically and militarily. As his narrative unfolds, Moyar challenges scholars of the Vietnam War to question earlier assumptions and knowledge about North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh’s nationalist credentials, Diem’s ineptitude, the accuracy of prominent American journalists, the Buddhist protest movement, Johnson’s escalation of the conflict, and the domino theory’s viability. Moyar concludes that Saigon and Washington could have won the war if Diem had stayed in power or if the Johnson administration had provided a stronger military response. Although encouraging us to « think otherwise » through its well-written, researched, and forcefully argued interpretations, Triumph Forsaken is, in many respects, a counterfactual explanation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam and fails to revise the historical record.

The book begins with Moyar’s designation of « orthodox » and « revisionist » camps. Early scholarship in the 1960s and 1970s (the orthodox school) criticized American actions in Vietnam and insisted that the war could not be won. Revisionists typically viewed the war effort as noble and winnable if the United States had either (1) made better use of its conventional military power or (2) adapted to guerilla warfare. Identifying himself as a revisionist, Moyar dismisses the vast majority of scholarship produced in the past two decades as continued orthodoxy, claiming that it is concentrated in a « relatively small number of areas, » concerned « primarily with American policymaking in Washington and Saigon, » and dominated by one school of thought that sees America’s involvement in the war as « wrongheaded and unjust » (p. xi). These statements are easily called into question by a perfunctory survey of the interdisciplinary, multi-archival, and international literature that has emerged. Equally perplexing is Moyar’s contention that his interpretation of « the facts » differentiates his volume « from all of the existing literature in its breadth of coverage both inside and outside the two Vietnams and in its use of a more comprehensive collection of source materials » (p. xiii). This is quite a claim-and one that fails to hold up under scrutiny. [1]To the extent that Moyar forces us to rethink orthodoxies, his work is commendable; but in the end, his revisionism is unpersuasive in large part because he simply does not marshal the evidence to support his version of events. In selectively quoting and caricaturing the arguments of others, he repeatedly fails to grapple with the avalanche of scholarship that contradicts his own. [2]

Before delving into some of the book’s key flaws, its strengths deserve mention. Moyar’s descriptions and analysis of military encounters and technologies are first rate. Moreover, his chapters on peaceful coexistence and insurgency are expansive in their coverage of the evolution of South and North Vietnamese thinking, particularly Diem’s attempts to govern and guarantee stability from the national down to the local level. Moyar also gives a clear analysis of the various crises of succession in South Vietnam following Diem’s assassination. Finally, Moyar offers much greater detail about American military leaders, who emerge as the heroes of the book, in contrast to the « brainy civilians, » who, in Moyar’s opinion, had no conception of Vietnamese political, military, and cultural realities (pp. 349, 416). [3] Moyar also reminds us that the Americans and their South Vietnamese allies often fought effectively and ethically.

Unfortunately, the weaknesses of the book far outweigh its strengths. Moyar has a tendency to leave out pesky details that might derail his interpretations, committing a number of factual errors in the process. For example, he incorrectly claims Truong Chinh was a supporter of Soviet policy when in fact he had a pro-Chinese orientation, he fails to offer any evidence at all to explain how the French and Vietnamese forces were on « the verge of crushing » the Viet Minh in early 1954 (pp. 28, 297, 322), and he mistakenly concludes that congressional leaders gave united action-proposed multilateral intervention to lift the Viet Minh siege at Dien Bien Phu-their « consent » and were « willing » to send ground forces if other nations contributed large numbers of troops. Rather, Congress insisted on allied participation and immediate French independence for Indochina-neither of which was likely to materialize-before agreeing to united action. Nor did united action come down to « whether Britain would go along, » which was secondary to congressional obstructionism. Finally, the British declined united action not because the « potential danger to Malaya and other British interests was not sufficiently large to justify a possible war, » but because they wanted to give negotiations at the upcoming Geneva Conference a chance to succeed (p. 29). [4]

Readers will be forgiven for asking « what Geneva Conference? » as Moyar skims over one of the most important points in the decision-making process on Vietnam. According to Moyar, the Geneva agreements suffered from a « congenital defect » in that they lacked « the endorsement of the new South Vietnamese government and the U.S. government, » both of which were « certain » to be leading actors in the future (pp. 30-31). However, it was far from certain in July 1954 that Washington and Saigon would emerge as the decision makers. It became clear that the Geneva agreements would fail only after Diem began to consolidate his control; U.S. officials made the conscious decision to replace France in South Vietnam in the military, political, economic, and cultural realms; and London, Paris, Moscow, and Beijing made other concerns a priority over implementing the accords. Moyar’s painfully one-sided depiction of the French villainy in resisting Diem’s attempts to wipe out his enemies during this period results from his heavy reliance on anti-French American and South Vietnamese sources. Like the Americans, the French were divided on Diem’s prospects for success and were not engaged in round-the-clock « plotting » and « calumny » against him (pp. 41-53).

Moyar provides valuable analysis of Diem’s rise to power and the strengths of his 1954-1963 government, although he is not the first to do so, as his book suggests. A general trend in the scholarship during the past decade has rehabilitated Diem’s image to some degree. [5] Still, Diem’s many weaknesses are almost completely absent in the book. Moyar chooses instead to blame the Buddhists and David Halberstam’s and Neil Sheehan’s press coverage for rising American and South Vietnamese hostility to Diem. However, not all Buddhists were « fanatical » and « covert communists, » and many American officials shared the journalists’ concerns about Diem (pp. 217, 228, 317). Every American ambassador from Donald Heath to Frederick Nolting left South Vietnam far more pessimistic than when they arrived. And, although not apparent in Moyar’s account, a number of military officials also held deeply negative views of the Diem regime and its successors. [6] In the end, Moyar’s claim that if Diem had lived « it is highly doubtful that the war would have reached a point where the United States needed to introduce several hundred thousand of its own troops to avert defeat » and that it was « quite possible » that South Vietnam « could have survived under Diem without the help of any U.S. ground forces » is impossible to prove and unsupported by the evidence (p. 286).

Strangely, while casting a critical eye at official American statements and documents, Moyar gives far less scrutiny to the rhetoric of non-American actors and to American military leaders. For example, in his use of translated Vietnamese sources, both communist and non-Communist, Moyar accepts at face value claims of Ho Chi Minh’s deference to the international Communist movement, the North Vietnamese dismissal of the 1956 elections, and the strength of the South Vietnamese armed forces (pp. 4, 9, 58, 181-84). [7] Moreover, in pressing his point that an invasion of the North was the best option for the United States in 1964, Moyar argues that Johnson’s rejection of the military’s proposals for « hard action » in Laos and Vietnam and his choice of gradual escalation convinced Hanoi that the United States would not put up a fight for South Vietnam (pp. 348-49). If hard action had been pursued, according to Moyar, the North Vietnamese would have retreated into the mountains and China would have abstained from the fighting, but there is little evidence to indicate that Hanoi and Beijing would have followed this script. Even worse, Moyar engages in speculative pop psychology when he explains Johnson’s unwillingness to embrace hard action through a college incident in which Johnson « did not stand and trade punches, but instead hopped onto his bed, lay on his back, and kicked frantically with his long legs to keep the would-be adversary away » (pp. 288, 331).

Finally, Moyar’s claim that American leaders and their allies believed that if South Vietnam had fallen in the 1960s, a « high probability » existed that many dominoes would have been knocked over in Southeast Asia must be addressed. In his scenario, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaya, Singapore, and Indonesia would have toppled, with potential fallout in the Philippines, Taiwan, Burma, and Japan. Moyar also asserts that much of the international community, including SEATO and NATO members, publicly and privately supported the United States in Vietnam. There is little, however, aside from a few selected quotations from worried American officials and international leaders trying to acquire more American aid, to substantiate these arguments (pp. 138-42, 377-91). If other leaders were so concerned with the domino effect, then perhaps they would have done more than offer token troops, rhetoric, and humanitarian aid. SEATO never took an official stand asking members to assist South Vietnam, NATO countries sought ways to disengage the United States from Vietnam, and, in the end, only the Philippines, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea sent troops to Vietnam, and of those, the Philippines, Thailand, and South Korea leveraged their aid for important U.S. economic and military concessions as well as a complete U.S. subsidy of their forces in Vietnam.

Moyar excels at creating an alternate history to American intervention in Vietnam, an exercise that undoubtedly has its uses in stimulating thinking and challenging traditional viewpoints. The problem, of course, is that we will never know the course of events if Diem had lived, or if the United States had invaded North Vietnam, or if South Vietnam had fallen in the 1960s instead of 1975. Ultimately, Moyar offers no compelling evidence that triumph was forsaken, but, by imagining that it was, his book makes for an interesting read.

 


 

[1] I refer readers to Edwin Moïse’s excellent bibliography on the Vietnam Wars, available from http://www.clemson.edu/caah/history/FacultyPages/EdMoise/bibliography.html.

[2] See, for example, Fredrik Logevall, Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam (Berkeley, CA, 1999), xiii and David Anderson, « One Vietnam War Should Be Enough, » Diplomatic History 30, no. 1 (January 2006): 2-8 for the full context of their quoted comments in Triumph Forsaken (p. xii).

[3] See, for example, Moyar’s one-sided criticism of Ambassadors Elbridge Durbrow and Henry Cabot Lodge (pp. 68, 99, 115, 236-74).

[4] See Joint Resolution Draft, 2 April 1954, Dwight D. Eisenhower Library (EL), Dulles Papers, Subject series, box 8; Draft of the Congressional Resolution, 17 May 1954, Dulles Papers, Dulles-Herter Correspondence, 1953-1961, microfilm, reel 5; William Knowland oral history, EL, OH-233 (2 of 3), 1967; top-secret report, 23 April 1954, Archives Nationales, Paris, 74AP/38; 7 April 1954, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, Asie 1944-55, Indochine, vol. 290; top-secret memo of Dulles-Eisenhower conversation, 19 May 1954, Dulles-Herter, reel 5.

[5] For a sampling of this literature, see Philip Catton, Diem’s Final Failure: Prelude to America’s War in Vietnam (Lawrence, KS, 2003); Edward Miller, « Grand Designs: Vision, Power and Nation Building in America’s Alliance with Ngo Dinh Diem, 1954-1960 (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 2004); and Kathryn Statler, Replacing France: The Origins of American Intervention in Vietnam (Lexington, KY, 2007), chaps. 4, 5, 8.

[6] See Robert Topmiller, The Lotus Unleashed: The Buddhist Peace Movement in South Vietnam, 1964-1966 (Lexington, KY, 2002) for a counterargument to Moyar’s claims about the Buddhist movement. See Robert Buzzanco, Masters of War: Military Dissent and Politics in the Vietnam Era (New York, 1996) for American military concerns about South Vietnam’s prospects for success.

[7] For works that address Ho Chi Minh’s nationalist credentials and Hanoi’s belief that the 1956 elections would be held, see Robert Scigliano, South Vietnam: Nation under Stress (Boston, 1964); Carl Thayer, War by Other Means: National Liberation and Revolution in Vietnam (Sydney, 1989); Robert Brigham, Guerrilla Diplomacy: The NLF’s Foreign Relations and the Vietnam War (Ithaca, NY, 1999); and William Duiker, Sacred War: Nationalism and Revolution in a Divided Vietnam (Boston, 1995).

Review of Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965 by Mark Moyar, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2006. Pages: xxiii+416. $32.00.

Reviewed by Kathryn C. Statler, in Political ReviewNet – Diplomatic History, Volume 32, Issue 01, pp. 153-157.
Online date : 10/04/2008

Pour en savoir plus :

Autres avis de lecture sur le site officiel de Mark Moyar.

Voir le débat suscité par cet ouvrage sur l’historiographie américaine de la guerre, en 2007 – en ligne sur pdf : H-Diplo

Two Hamlets in Nam Bo: Memoirs of Life in Vietnam by David Lan Pham

David Lan Pham, Two Hamlets in Nam Bo: Memoirs of Life in Vietnam Through Japanese Occupation, the French and American Wars, and Communist Rule, 1940-1986, Jefferson (NC) – London, McFarland & Co., 2000, 299 p.

The author was born in 1940 and spent his childhood in two small villages, the paternal and the maternal, in southern Vietnam: Binh Chuan and Tuy An (An Phu). The villages were deeply affected by the powerful political events of the next fifty years. In this memoir (first sentence: « I was born as the Japanese Troops were invading northern Vietnam »), the author writes of what he saw, heard and knew, providing an invaluable social history of the country. Readers will learn about a people who have endured separation, dictatorship, carnage, persistent suffering and poverty, all the while yearning for independence and prosperity. Included are many stories-some funny, some heartbreaking-that reveal how the Vietnamese people lived, as well as their thoughts on war, on the French, Japanese and Americans, on the Nationalist and Communist governments, and on escape. The result is a heartfelt « social painting » of the nation. [editor’s presentation]

David Lan Pham was born in Thudaumot, South Vietnam, and left the country clandestinely with his son and two brothers in 1986. He worked for the refugee program in Alabama and created the bilingual Bulletin/Tin Viet and Dac San Que Huong. He lives in Toledo, Ohio.

Aperçu sur Google Books (2008 edition)

Black April: The Fall of South Vietnam, 1973-75

Avis de parution ; CR de lecture par HistoryBuff ///

[nldr] Nous avons rencontré George J. Veith lors du SouthVietnam Symposium à l’Université de Cornell en juin dernier. Ce chercheur indépendant a noué de solides amitiés avec des personnalités vietnamiennes exilées afin de mieux saisir les réalités peu connues de la guerre. Nous avons évoqué ensemble le destin de Nguyen Tu, journaliste du Chinh Luan, décédé en juillet 2010. L’ouvrage de Veith nous plonge dans les deux dernières années de la guerre du Viêt Nam. Cette histoire militaire a le mérite de prendre en considération le destin des vaincus lors de cette étape cruciale qui mit fin à l’existence de la République du Viêt Nam le 30 avril 1975. Nous présentons ci-après le CR de lecture le plus complet paru sur Amazon.

 

An accurate account on the heroic efforts of the South Vietnamese in the last days

Black April is a book about the fall of South Vietnam in 1975. The book has 18 chapters, each titled by a quote, and an introduction. The book tells the story of South Vietnam in the last two years (1973-1975) of the Vietnam War, starting with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords and ending with the final collapse of South Vietnam on April 30, 1975.

The story is told from a military viewpoint. Those with other interests (e.g., political, social) may be easily turned off with detailed military maneuvers, troop movements, strategies, etc. However, the author skillfully intertwines war scenes with anecdotes of the human spirit, poignant and touching.

For those who are interested in military history, or just history in general, this book is a must-read. The chapters are full of detailed and vivid descriptions with maps and accounts of what happened during the last few months of the war. The author presents the material from a fairly objective position, using sources from all sides, including communist sources, in printed materials, memoirs, articles, etc. In addition to superb narrative, the author also provides valuable insights and analysis on what, how, and why things happened the way they did.

The collapse of South Vietnam started with the Paris Peace Accords in 1973 when Nixon pressed South Vietnam President Thieu into signing the agreement by promising harsh reaction to violations of the Peace Accords by the Communists (Chapter 1). Nixon’s promise to Thieu was kept secret from Congress. However, it is doubtful that things would have been different had Congress known about it.

As expected, the Communists didn’t sign the Peace Accords in good faith. It was merely a trick to allow the Americans to complete the face-saving withdrawal from Vietnam. Le Duan, the North Vietnam leader at the time and a die-hard Marxist, wanted to conquer South Vietnam. He persuaded the Politburo to push forward « revolutionary violence » in a military conquest of the South (Chapter 2).

South Vietnam desperately needed military aid from the U.S. to prepare for the defense. But Congress voted to reduce the aid amount. While South Vietnam prepared for the renewed war, North Vietnam poured supplies down the Ho Chi Minh trail and sent fresh troops to the South (Chapter 3). « [O]ne hundred thousand fresh troops advanced southward in 1973, and another eighty thousand were headed to the battlefields during the first half of 1974. » (p. 69)

The war resumed in South Vietnam when Gerald Ford became U.S. President (Chapter 4). « Ford faced a recalcitrant Congress and a stagnant economy, » (p. 81) and couldn’t do much.

The beginning of the end started with the collapse of Phuoc Long in January 1975 (Chapter 5). « Heavy rains swept Saigon, unusual for January. » Colonel Le Gro’s Vietnamese driver, eyeing the pouring rain, said to him, « Even the gods weep for Phuoc Long. » (p. 110)

Chapters 6 through 16 chronicles the collapse of Corp I and Corp II, from Ban Me Thuot (Chapters 6-7), Thieu’s error in his order of withdrawal (Chapter 8), the retreat from the highlands (Chapter 9), to the chaos and disintegration (Chapter 10), Hue and Corp I collapse (Chapters 11-12), the battle for the coastal cities (Chapter 13), the Communist advance toward Saigon (Chapter 14), the battle for Phan Rang and its capture by the Communists (Chapter 15-16).

The battle of Xuan Loc is the most heroic battle of the war (Chapter 17). Against all odds and clearly outnumbered, under the magnificent command of Brigadier General Le Minh Dao, the men of the 18th Infantry Division, the 82nd ranger battalion, the 1st Airborne Brigade, the Air Force, the 3rd Armored, and the popular and regional forces fought with remarkable courage and skill.

Only when President Duong Van Minh broadcast the surrender order on April 30, 1975, the South Vietnamese soldiers laid down their weapons (Chapter 18). They followed the order of their supreme commander against their own wish to continue fighting. Even when surrendering, they maintained their honor and discipline. In the most moving scene on the final day, the 81st Airborne Rangers surrendered to their enemy with class. « Shouldering their weapons,lining up four abreast in a column stretching almost half a mile long, the two thousand men of ARVN’s most elite unit began marching along the highway toward Saigon. As promised, Colonel Huan was in the first row. . . Soon a Communist officer and troops met Huan on the highway. Huan told the officer his men were prepared to turn over their weapons, but they would not undress. If ordered to do so, they would refuse, and a firefight would break out. The Communist officer relented, and the soldiers of the 81st stacked their arms and dispersed. It was the final unit in Saigon to lay down its weapons. » (p. 494-495). Several South Vietnamese Generals committed suicide. « [M]ost mid- and upper-level commanders stayed with their men. For example, not one Ranger-group or battalion commander deserted his men. Of the senior officers who escaped at the end, Lieutenant Generals Truong and Thi, for example, were no longer commanding units. » (p. 495)

Black April is an accurate account on the heroic efforts of the men of the South Vietnamese Armed Forces who stood up for a last fight against the aggressive North Vietnamese despite lack of ammunition, supplies, equipment, and replacements. They fought till the end. The very end.

A Vietnamese saying says, « Heroes die, but their heroic spirit never dies. » (Anh hung tu, khi hung bat tu.) The country of South Vietnam died, but the spirit of the Vietnamese people never dies.

Black April is about the military defeat of South Vietnam. But the stories in Black April are not just about the fight against communist invasion. They are about the human spirit. They are about the spirit of the Vietnamese people, the peace loving people, who were not given the chance they deserved to fight for freedom.

Réf. : George J Veith, Black April: The Fall of South Vietnam, 1973-1975, Encounter Books, 2012.

Source : HistoryBuff / Amazon

* * *

Aperçu sur Google Books

 

George J. Veith [Author’ presentation]

People often ask me how I got involved in writing about Vietnam, since I did not serve there. Here is the short answer to that question.

I am a former Armor officer, having served in tank units in Germany and the U.S. I’ve always been interested in military history, and in particular, historical mysteries. My initial foray into Vietnam was investigating the POW/MIA issue, a natural fit on both counts. One can’t understand the POW/MIA issue without learning about the war, which led me to dive deeper into the conflict.

I also always wanted to write, and years ago, I found some documents at the Army’s Carlisle Barracks on the Joint Personnel Recovery Center (JPRC), the military’s top-secret unit to recover American prisoners during the Vietnam War. Realizing that no one had ever written about these guys, I made ten trips to Carlisle going through all their Vietnam materials. Eventually I located about 80% of the JPRC weekly and monthly reports, and I was off! That research led to « Code-Name Bright Light, » my first book.

My second book, « Leave No Man Behind, » is the memoirs of my friend Bill Bell, who led the USG’s POW/MIA field investigation teams after the war. It was published in 2004.

In April 2001, my friend and translator, Merle Pribbenow, and I visited MG Le Minh Dao, the last commander of the ARVN 18th Division. We interviewed him about the battle of Xuan Loc, which took place in April 1975. His unit stood their ground in some very heavy combat, and our article on the battle was published in January 2004 in the « Journal of Military History. » Dao was so pleased with our efforts that he begged me turn the paper into a book on the final two years of the war. He emphatically told me that the RVNAF had fought well, and they were not the corrupt cowards so often portrayed in the American media. Thus began a ten-year journey of research and writing that finally culminated in « Black April. »

I hope you enjoy it, and I look forward to your comments.

Nationalist in the Viet Nam Wars

Nguyen Cong Luan, Nationalist in the Viet Nam Wars. Memoirs of a Victim Turned Soldier, Bloomington & Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 2012, 598 p.

This extraordinary memoir tells the story of one man’s experience of the wars of Viet Nam from the time he was old enough to be aware of war in the 1940s until his departure for America 15 years after the collapse of South Viet Nam in 1975. Nguyen Cong Luan was born and raised in small villages near Ha Noi. He grew up knowing war at the hands of the Japanese, the French, and the Viet Minh. Living with wars of conquest, colonialism, and revolution led him finally to move south and take up the cause of the Republic of Viet Nam, exchanging a life of victimhood for one of a soldier. His stories of village life in the north are every bit as compelling as his stories of combat and the tragedies of war. This honest and impassioned account is filled with the everyday heroism of the common people of his generation.

Nguyen Cong Luan was born in 1937 and grew up in North Viet Nam. Following the 1954 Geneva Agreement, which divided the nation in two, he moved south and enrolled in the Republic of Viet Nam Military Academy, then served in the Army of the Republic of Viet Nam until 1975. Incarcerated for six years seven months in communist prison camps, he immigrated to the United States in 1990. He was an associate editor of The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War.

Aperçu sur Google Book