UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Military





Vietnam: The End, 1975

Vietnam: The End, 1975

 

CSC 1985

 

SUBJECT AREA History

 

 

                                 ABSTRACT

 

Author: Bibby, Thomas M., Major USAF

 

Title:  Vietnam: The End, 1975

 

Date:   1 April 1985

 

    The purpose of this paper was to examine the reasons for the sudden and

 

total collapse of the Republic of Vietnam Armed forces (RVNAF) in the early

 

months of 1975, and determine if the final outcome was inevitable or if Ameri-

 

can will could have prevailed and insured South Vietnam's survival as a free

 

and independent nation.  Also, through a discussion of "lessons learned", the

 

paper addresses the significant impact our experiences in Vietnam will have

 

upon future US actions in foreign affairs.

 

    The paper begins with a brief introduction of the events surrounding the

 

final collapse and their interpretation by both the North and South Vietnamese.

 

Virtually everyone concerned considered the crucial turning point in the war

 

was the signing of the Paris Agreements of 1973:  the United States viewed the

 

agreements as "peace with honor"; the North Vietnamese and Provisional Revolu-

 

tionary Government (PRG) viewed them as the surrender and defeat of the Ameri-

 

can "imperialists" and their "lackey puppet regime"; and the South Vietnamese

 

viewed them as "abandonment" by a strong ally they thought would always be

 

there.

 

    The first chapter begins with an examination of the Paris Agreements and

 

describes what each of the parties concerned expected to achieve from the

 

agreements.  Chapter two continues to examine the events which occurred after

 

the signing of the agreements and discusses the numerous violations of the

 

agreements, and their overall impact upon the final collapse of South Vietnam.

 

    In chapter three, the policy of Vietnamization is discussed in order to

 

evaluate the overall capability of the RVNAF to effectively provide for

 

South Vietnam's defense in 1975.  In doing so, both the American and South

 

Vietnamese assessments of the policy and its effectiveness are presented.

 

    Chapter four examines the collapse of the RVNAF from the viewpoint of

 

failed leadership and destroyed morale.  Although there were many reasons

 

for South Vietnam's collapse, the major ones centered around low morale, un-

 

controlled corruption, incompetent leadership, and lack of US military aid

 

and air support in the period following the Paris Agreements of 1973.

 

    Finally, the paper identifies some lessons of the events surrounding

 

our experiences in South Vietnam, and how they will affect future US actions

 

in foreign affairs.  They include:  the requirement to distinguish between

 

problems which lend themselves to political solutions and those which re-

 

quire military solutions; the requirement for the US to have domestic sup-

 

port for its foreign policy to succeed; and the requirement to understand the

 

needs of the people we are trying to help.  Above all, our political and

 

military leaders must do a better job in articulating our nation's foreign

 

policy to the US public and Congress to gain their support, and must care-

 

fully analyze the public's willingness to support that policy over an ex-

 

tended period of time, even under adverse conditions.  However, despite US

 

foreign policy failure in South Vietnam, the Vietnam War was for the South

 

Vietnamese to win and not the Americans.  The government of South Vietnam

 

needed to quickly implement significant political reforms to rally the sup-

 

port of its own people and soldiers, but simply ran out of time in 1975.

 

 

                 VIETNAM:  THE END, 1975

 

 

                    TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

INTRODUCTION                                            1

 

CHAPTER 1:  PARIS AGREEMENTS OF 1973

 

1.  North Vietnamese and PRG Expectations              13

2.  South Vietnamese Expectations                      19

3.  American Expectations                              24

 

CHAPTER 2:  BREAKDOWN OF THE AGREEMENTS

 

1.  The Postwar War:  1973-1975                        31

2.  Violations                                         56

 

CHAPTER 3:  VIETNAMIZATION

 

1.  American Assessment                                67

2.  South Vietnamese Assessment                        72

 

CHAPTER 4:  COLLAPSE OF THE REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM

            ARMED FORCES (RVNAF)

 

1.  RVNAF Leadership                                   74

2.  RVNAF Morale                                       81

 

CONCLUSION                                             86

 

CHRONOLOGY OF SIGNIFICANT EVENTS                       96

 

CAST OF PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS                           99

 

ENDNOTES                                              103

 

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY                                112

 

                      INTRODUCTION

 

 

    The Vietnam War is probably the most analyzed war and,

 

simultaneously, the least understood war involving the

 

United States since 1945.  Of all U.S. allies, South Vietnam

 

enjoyed more support from the United States than any other

 

individual country throughout the free world.  With over

 

$160 billion in aid and the sacrifice of more than 50,000

 

American lives, it is difficult to believe that South Vietnam

 

could have had a stronger ally than in the United States.1

 

    Why then did South Vietnam fall?  Even more disconcert-

 

ing, why did it collapse so quickly?  Unfortunately, there

 

are not any easy answers to why the final outcome of this

 

divisive and costly war for both the United States and the

 

Republic of South Vietnam  came to such a devastating

 

conclusion.

 

    In this paper, I shall examine the events leading to

 

the final collapse on April 30, 1975.  I shall also try to

 

determine if, as the Vietnamese would say, the "fates" were

 

against South Vietnam and the outcome was inevitable; or if

 

American will could have prevailed and insured South Viet-

 

nam's survival as a free and independent nation.

 

    In my research, I read numerous accounts of the war on

 

the events from 1972 to 1975 by North Vietnamese, South

 

Vietnamese and American sources.  Each tended to present

 

his own opinions with ideological biases; but, on the

 

whole, a common thread of truth emerged.  The Paris

 

Agreements of 1973 (more formally called the Agreement

 

on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam) were

 

viewed by all concerned as the crucial turning point in

 

the war:  The United States viewed the agreements as

 

"peace with honor"; the North Vietnamese and Provisional

 

Revolutionary Government (PRG) viewed them as the surren-

 

der and defeat of the American "imperialists" and their

 

"lackey puppet regime"; and the South Vietnamese saw them

 

as "abandonment" by a strong ally they thought would

 

always be there.  It is highly questionable that if the

 

Paris Agreements were not signed that South Vietnam would

 

have survived in 1975; however, the conditions agreed to

 

in Paris by the four signatory parties were not in the

 

best interest of the government of South Vietnam (GVN).

 

    In his book, Our Great Spring Victory, the North

 

Vietnamese Army (NVA) chief of staff, General Van Tien

 

Dung, presented a biased but extremely detailed account

 

of the final collapse of South Vietnam.  During its 21st

 

plenum in October 1973, the Communist Party Central

 

Committee decided that "revolutionary violence" was still

 

the pathway to achieving North Vietnam's goals, despite

                                 

the terms of the Paris Agreements.2  The following March,

 

the Central Military Party Committee concluded, "the

 

Vietnamese revolution may have to pass through many transi-

 

tional stages, and can only gain victory through revolu-

 

tionary violence--carrying out popular uprisings, relying

 

on our political and military forces, or in the event that

 

large-scale war returns, carrying out revolutionary warfare

 

to gain complete victory."3

 

    According to Dung's account, following the March confer-

 

ence, the military command carefully monitored the battle-

 

fields in the South; over the summer it reported to the

 

party that "the fighting ability of our mobile main-force

 

units was superior to that of the enemy's mobile main-force

 

units."  The balance of forces had changed in Hanoi's favor.

 

In addition, resupply efforts were expanded and the Ho Chi

 

Minh Trail was substantially improved by labor battalions

 

working day and night.  Arms, munitions and troops were now

 

trucked on a 26-foot wide, all-weather road running from

 

Quang Tri to eastern Nam Bo in the Mekong Delta region of

 

South Vietnam.  General Dung wrote that their supply system

 

resembled "strong ropes inching gradually, day by day,

 

around the neck, arms, and legs of a demon, awaiting the

 

order to jerk tight and bring the creature's life to an

 

end."4

 

    The North Vietnamese did assess the possibility of

 

renewed American intervention; they decided after a meeting

 

of the Central Military Party Committee in October 1974,

 

that the possibility seemed remote after the Watergate

 

scandal, Nixon's resignation, the economic difficulties

 

following the 1973 Arab oil embargo, and the sequence of

 

Congressional votes against additional U.S. aid to Saigon.

 

With the cutback of almost $2 billion annually in U.S. aid,

 

South Vietnam was now forced to fight "a poor man's war,"

 

which put them at a distinct disadvantage in overcoming the

 

overwhelming initiative enjoyed by both the North Vietnamese

 

regular troops and the Vietcong guerrillas.  Le Duan, the

 

North Vietnamese Communist Party's First Secretary, stated:

 

"Now that the United States has pulled out of the South, it

 

will be hard for them to jump back in; no matter how they

 

may intervene, they cannot rescue the Saigon administration

 

from its disastrous collapse."5  The October 1974 conference

 

unanimously agreed on five points which favored implementing

 

their Spring 1975 offensive and would insure success:

 

        First, the Saigon troops were growing weaker

    militarily, politically, and economically every

    day.  Our forces were stronger than the enemy in

    the South.

 

        Second, the United States was meeting diffi-

    culties at home and abroad, and its ability to give

    political or military aid to its proteges was

    declining every day.  Not only had the United States

    had to decrease its aid to Saigon, it also faced

    increasing opposition to any effort to "jump back"

    into the South.  And even if troops did intervene,

    they would not be able to rescue the collapsing

    Saigon quisling administration.

 

        Third, we had set up strategic positions

    linking North and South, had increased our forces

    and our stockpiles of materiel, and had completed

    the system of strategic and tactical roads.

 

        Fourth, movements calling for peace, improve-

    ment of popular welfare, democracy, and national

    independence, and demanding that Thieu be toppled,

    gained momentum in the towns.

 

        Fifth, our people's just struggle had the

    sympathy and the strong support of the world's

    people.6

 

    With the fall of Song Be, the provincial capital of

 

Phuoc Long province, in January 1975, the North Vietnamese

 

Politburo met again and decided on a strategic plan which

 

called for large surprise attacks to be launched later in

 

the year, and "create conditions to carry out a general

 

offensive and uprising in 1976."  The North Vietnamese

 

leaders planned to conquer all of South Vietnam by 1976;

 

however, they also stated that "if the opportune moment

 

presents itself at the beginning or the end of 1975, we

                                             

will immediately liberate the South in 1975."7

 

    In his book, The Final Collapse, General Cao Van Vien,

 

Chairman of the South Vietnamese Joint General Staff,

 

states his personal belief that it was the cutback in U.S.

 

military aid and absence of U.S. intervention with air

 

power (especially B-52s), in response to North Vietnamese

 

and PRG treaty violations, that made defeat inevitable.

 

After the 1973 Paris Agreements, the Republic of Vietnam

 

armed forces (RVNAF) suddenly found it difficult to

 

operate at the greatly reduced level of U.S. appropriations;

 

they were now in a decidedly underdog position.  Since their

 

superior firepower and mobility were gone, they found it

 

impossible to maintain tactical balance against an enemy

 

who held the initiative.  The most the RVNAF could hope to

 

achieve was a delaying action pending restoration of

                                          

American military aid to its former level.8   American

 

military aid to the government of South Vietnam was cut

 

from over $2.5 billion in fiscal year 1973 to $700 million

                    

in fiscal year 1975.9

 

    General Vien explained how the cutback in aid led to

 

President Thieu's decision to abandon the Central Highlands

 

in March 1975.  This strategic error on Thieu's part resulted

 

in disastrous consequences and significantly hastened the

 

collapse of the RVNAF.  General Vien had this to say about

 

the impact the cutback in U.S. aid had upon the decision to

 

abandon the Central Highlands:

 

        The big slash in appropriated funds made its

    tragic impact felt not only on the battlefield,

    but also in the minds of South Vietnamese strate-

    gists as well.  The ability to hold territory,

    they felt, was a direct function of aid level.

    With the reduction now in force, perhaps it was

    no longer possible to maintain `territorial

    integrity.'  It might be best, they reasoned, to

    tailor our defense effort to the aid appropriated.

    Simplistic as it might sound, the idea reflected

    the realities of the situation.  Whatever the

    motives behind it, President Thieu's decision

    early in 1975 to redeploy forces was centainly

    not taken lightly or without firm grounds.  But

    it was also this fateful decision that set in

    motion a series of setbacks whose cumulative

    effect led to the final collapse.10

 

    However, it was the way in which the retreat was con-

 

ducted that hastened the collapse of South Vietnam.

 

Strategic withdrawals of the magnitude involved in 1975

 

require thorough planning with emphasis on its impact upon

 

the civilian population.  General Vien's remarks describe

 

his feelings about the effect the execution of the retreat

 

had upon the final outcome of the war:

 

        In the context of the Vietnam War whose political

    and military aspects were intimately entwined, such a

    retreat was predisposed to doom if no consideration

    were given to the Vietnamese civilians who depended

    on the troops for protection and for whom the war was

    being fought.  Our armed forces were not operating on

    foreign soil; their role and mission differed from

    those of an expeditionary force.  Removing them from

    an area without taking steps to evacuate the popula-

    tion amounted to sheer dereliction.  The redeployment

    fiasco in Military Regions (MRs) II and I demonstrated

    the tragic fact that the population could not be

    separated from the troops and that troop movements

    could be halted by a rushing mass of refugees.  These

    are the facts of the case.  They explain the rapid

    moral and physical disintegration of an army that had

    fought well until undercut by events beyond its

    control.11

 

    In addition to aid cutbacks and poorly executed retreats

 

from the Central Highlands, the suddenness of the actual

 

collapse under the North Vietnamese offensive of 1975 was

 

due to a number of additional factors.  One was the adverse

 

balance of forces that existed by 1975.  In an attempt to

 

keep the balance of forces at the January 1973 level, the

 

terms of the Paris Agreements restricted the resupply of all

 

forces inside South Vietnam (both Communist and non-Communist)

 

to a one-for-one replacement schedule.  In other words, only

 

similar equipment could be replaced and only after it

 

became unusable.

 

    However, since the signing of the Paris Agreements,

 

North Vietnam had greatly strengthened the quantity and

 

quality of its offensive capabilities in the South through

 

the dramatic improvement of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  Conse-

 

quently, through its improved logistics network, the North

 

was able to rapidly concentrate its forces, and attack

                                                  

South Vietnamese points of weakness almost at will.12

 

    Another factor for the South Vietnamese vulnerability

 

was the lack of a mobile reserve and strategic mobility due

 

to shortages of fuel, transport and spares.  Their soldiers

 

had been conditioned by the U.S. to rely on massive air and

 

artillery support in combat and had "forgotten how to walk"

 

when military resources became increasingly scarce after

                                                  

the Paris Agreements and American support decreased.13   The

 

South Vietnamese Army had too big a logistical "tail," with

 

too little actual fighters to put "teeth" into its combat

 

powder.  General Tran Van Don, the last South Vietnamese

 

Minister of Defense, stated that out of 1.1 million men

                                                            

under arms on paper, only 100,000 could be called "fighters.14

 

The rest belonged to logistical units.  This inability to

 

field effective mobile reserve divisions proved deadly to

 

the RVNAF in 1975, for they were essential in order to

 

counter the massive conventional assault by the North

 

Vietnamese Army (NVA) that year.

 

    The need to maintain huge numbers of non-combat per-

 

sonnel to support combat troops is a function of modern

 

conventional warfare and was not unique to South Vietnam.

 

Similar ratios hold true for all modern nations, but they

 

are most apparent in Western forces, particularly those of

 

the United States.  On the other hand, the North Vietnamese

 

forces were less technologically-oriented, and their army

 

was more manpower-oriented.  Consequently, a greater per-

 

centage of their soldiers were actually involved in combat.

 

In fact, of the 160,000 NVA regular troops inside South

 

Vietnam, there were only 71,000 administrative and logisti-

 

cal troops supporting them.  However, the gross figures of

 

1.1 million South Vietnamese versus 160,000 NVA troops in

 

South Vietnam tell little about relative combat power.  A

 

comparison of fighting forces portrays a more accurate

 

picture of the real balance of forces.  At the end of

 

January 1973, the NVA combat strength in South Vietnam

 

consisted of 15 infantry divisions and 27 separate infantry

 

and sapper regiments, whereas the RVNAF consisted of only

 

13 divisions and 7 Ranger groups.  Also, the South Vietnamese

 

forces were tied to a static defensive role, while the NVA

 

forces were able to devote their forces in the South almost

 

entirely to offensive operations, since they enjoyed a

 

relatively secure rear area in North Vietnam.15

 

    Next among the fatal weaknesses of the RVNAF was the

 

lack of effective military leadership at the top.  Many

 

senior officers received their appointments for reasons of

 

political loyalty rather than military competence.  On the

 

civilian side, corruption and inflation adversely affected

 

both the national will and military morale.  It was this

 

failure of leadership that was responsible for the tragic

 

and disastrous quick retreats from the Central Highlands,

 

resulting in one of the most devastating routs in the

 

course of military history.16

 

    Although there were numerous factors involved in the

 

collapse of South Vietnam, the role the U.S. played in the

 

final outcome had a significant impact.  Before the Paris

 

Agreements, the South Vietnamese perceived Washington as a

 

strong ally who would support them indefinitely.  After the

 

Paris Agreements, however, the American role took the form

 

of gradual abandonment of South Vietnam when the U.S. with-

 

drew its combat troops, stopped air support, and cutback

 

military and economic aid.17  It was this feeling of aban-

 

donment--no longer being regarded by the United States as

 

worth saving--that had a devastating impact upon the people

 

and leaders of South Vietnam in those tragic last months of

 

1975.

 

    The ability of the North Vietnamese to wage a revolu-

 

tionary war, which purported to offer the chance for a change

 

in the political order as it existed, was extremely effec-

 

tive in mobilizing the population in the South to support

 

its war effort.  By contrast, the South Vietnamese govern-

 

ment's inability to offer its people a similar change

 

through the ideals of democracy and economic growth insured

 

a lack of support for the Thieu government, especially

 

during the crisis days of early 1975.  The people and

 

soldiers simply had no reason to fight for a government

 

which failed to meet their needs.  It matters little that

 

the North's government was just as corrupt and more

 

repressive, as evidenced by the conditions existing in

 

Vietnam today; it matters only that the North Vietnamese

 

and PRG were more effective in offering the people a defi-

 

nite change in the political order as it existed in South

 

Vietnam in 1975.

 

    Because Thieu could not effectively eliminate corrup-

 

tion within his regime, the enticing, ideological arguments

 

offered by the North Vietnamese were able to drive a divi-

 

sive wedge between the people of South Vietnam and their

 

government.  In summary, I intend to show that the collapse

 

of the RVNAF had not occurred suddenly in 1975, nor was the

 

collapse due to any one single factor.  Instead, the reasons

 

were many:  low morale, uncontrolled corruption, incompetent

 

leadership, and the cutoff of U.S. military aid and air

 

support.  However, unless the government of South Vietnam

 

could solve its own political problems, it was condemned

 

to, not only losing the support of its own people, but the

 

support of the American public and Congress as well.  The

 

Vietnam War was for the South Vietnamese to win.  However,

 

the U.S. could only provide aid to buy time for the govern-

 

ment of South Vietnam to make significant reforms and rally

 

the support of its own people to win the war against North

 

Vietnam.

 

                       CHAPTER 1

 

               PARIS AGREEMENTS OF 1973

 

 

          NORTH VIETNAMESE AND PRG EXPECTATIONS

 

 

    In March of 1972, the North Vietnamese, along with the

 

Vietcong, launched a powerful conventional offensive.  The

 

Communist leaders hoped it would knock the U.S. out of the

 

war altogether, or at least might force the Nixon Administra-

 

tion to make further concessions in the long-stalled peace

 

talks.  North Vietnam's Lieutenant General Tran Van Tra,

 

deputy commander of the Communist forces in the South,

 

stated a year after the 1972 "Easter" offensive that "The

 

aim of the 1972 offensive was to force the U.S. to sign a

 

peace agreement."1

 

    However, the offensive was a total disaster for the

 

North Vietnamese and the Communist leaders were far from

 

pleased with the results.  Despite their investment of

 

120,000 North Vietnamese regular troops and thousands of

 

Vietcong guerrillas equipped with Soviet artillery, rockets,

 

and tanks, they failed to smash the South Vietnamese Army.2

 

Instead of driving the United States out of the war, the

 

U.S. increased its actions and proceeded to step up the

 

bombing of North Vietnam.  In the end, U.S. air interdic-

 

tion in the North and airlift and close air support in the

 

South, especially during the battles of An Loc and Kontum,

 

gave the South Vietnamese forces a distinct advantage over

                                       

the Communist forces in 1972.3

 

    Although the Communist forces made substantial gains

 

in the rich and populous Mekong Delta, they failed to beat

 

the U.S. and South Vietnamese forces as they had beaten the

 

French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.  Without this type of

 

psychological knockout, they were in no position to dictate

           

peace terms.4   However, despite the staggering cost in human

 

life of nearly 50,000 dead, and at least as many wounded,

 

the 1972 offensive cracked the optimistic illusion of

 

Vietnamization.  To succeed on the battlefield, the South

 

Vietnamese had to resort to the enormous reliance on U.S.

 

air support and advisors.  Thus, the 1972 offensive laid

 

the groundwork for an eventual political deal and an ulti-

 

mately successful future offensive in l975.5

 

    After the failure of the "Easter" offensive to defeat

 

the U.S. and South Vietnam, the North Vietnamese decided on

 

a compromise to break the deadlock in the peace negotiations;

 

they would also use the 1972 Presidential Election to put

 

pressure on U.S. negotiators--a period during which they

 

felt that the pressure would be strongest for the U.S. to

 

conclude negotiations at any price.  In order to achieve a

 

settlement, the North Vietnamese now considered offering a

 

major concession:  dropping their demand that South Viet-

 

nam's President Thieu must be removed before the fighting

 

could stop (a demand that they had been making since the

                                 

beginning of peace talks in 1969).6   By making this con-

 

cession, the North Vietnamese leaders would succeed in getting

 

the U.S. to leave South Vietnam and allow them to continue

 

their struggle at a more favorable future date.

 

    However, in typical Communist fashion, North Vietnam

 

and the PRG, through the Giai Phong (Liberation) Press

 

Agency, again pressed for his removal after Thieu refused

 

to sign the accords agreed to in October 1972 by Henry

                                                           

Kissinger and North Vietnamese Foreign Minister Le Duc Tho.7

 

The October draft of the accords called for an in-place

 

cease-fire.  Under this "leopard spot" arrangement, the

 

South Vietnamese and the Vietcong would hold the areas they

 

controlled at the time of the cease-fire, pending a final

 

settlement.8  It would also allow the North Vietnamese to

 

leave an estimated 160,000 regular NVA troops in the South--

 

a key issue in North Vietnam's future bid for power and

                        

control of South Vietnam.9

 

    However, President Thieu of South Vietnam refused to

 

sign this agreement which allowed North Vietnamese troops

 

to remain in the South.  He also gave Kissinger a list of

                                                           

96 proposals to be made before he would sign the agreement.10

 

When Kissinger proposed these additional changes to Le Duc

 

Tho, the North Vietnamese interpreted them as a "breach of

 

faith" and demanded that the October draft be signed in its

 

original form without changes.  A deadlock ensued and talks

 

between Kissinger and Le Duc Tho stalled in December 1972.

 

    On December 14, 1972, President Nixon sent North Vietnam

 

an ultimatum to begin talking "seriously" within seventy-two

 

hours or face the consequences.  When the North Vietnamese

 

failed to respond positively to U.S. demands, President

 

Nixon gave the order on December 18, 1972 to begin the

 

Linebacker Two operation.  From December 18 - 30, 1972, the

 

U.S. flew nearly 3,000 B-52 bombers and fighter sorties

 

over the Hanoi and Hai Phong areas, dropping approximately

 

forty thousand tons of bombs in the most concentrated air

                                          

offensive of the war against North Vietnam.11   Four days

 

before the bombing ended, the North Vietnamese notified the

 

U.S. that they were willing to negotiate again, as soon as

 

the bombing was halted.  The bombing ended on December 30,

 

1972 and on January 8, 1973, Kissinger and Le Duc Tho

 

resumed their talks and negotiated an agreement.  The peace

 

agreement was formally signed in Paris by representatives

 

from the United States, the PRG, North Vietnam, and South

 

Vietnam on January 27, 1973.

 

    In the end, the North Vietnamese achieved their goal

 

because the agreement signed in Paris differed very little

 

from the one proposed in October 1972.  Hanoi looked upon

 

the Paris Agreements as a "big victory" because it

 

succeeded in removing the U.S. troops, thereby enabling

 

them to continue the war in the South against only the

 

South Vietnamese troops, at a time of their own choosing,

 

to "reunite" all of Vietnam.  General Dung described the

 

views of the North Vietnamese leaders when he aptly stated:

 

        The agreement represented a big victory for

    our people and a big defeat for the U.S. imperi-

    alists and their lackeys, the result of eighteen

    years of determined and persistent struggle by

    our army and people under the correct leadership

    of our party.  The Paris Agreement marked an

    important step forward in our people's revolu-

    tionary struggle, and opened up a new period in

    the South Vietnamese revolution:  the period for

    completing the people's democratic revolution,

    and for reuniting the country.  That would be

    the final phase of the people's democratic

    revolution in general, and of revolutionary war

    in the South in particular.12

 

    From General Dung's remarks, two conclusions are readily

 

apparent:  the North Vietnamese expectations of the Paris

 

Agreements were that they would bring an end to the destruc-

 

tion of their country by U.S. aircraft and they would set

 

the stage for the eventual reunification of the two Vietnams.

 

In addition, the promise of the U.S. to pay war reparations

 

in return for their compliance with the terms of the agree-

 

ments meant a substantial boost to the North's economy,

 

which had been devastated by the war in the past year.

 

    However, the U.S. refused to pay war reparations to

 

North Vietnam because of its blatant treaty violations

                                              

following the signing of the Paris Agreements.13  The

 

agreements also gave legal recognition to the Provisional

 

Revolutionary Government (PRG) by calling for the creation

 

of a National Council of Reconciliation and Concord (NCRC),

 

composed of both Communist and non-Communist members.  How-

 

ever, because President Thieu viewed the NCRC as too much

                                                       

like a coalition government, the NCRC was never formed.14

 

Like Hanoi, the PRG regarded the peace agreement as only a

 

temporary truce which allowed them to retain a foothold in

 

the South and use the time to build up their military

 

strength, while they prepared to liberate the South.  As

 

events in South Vietnam after January 1973 later proved,

 

Saigon also viewed the agreements as only a breather before

 

the war resumed.

 

              SOUTH VIETNAMESE EXPECTATIONS

 

 

    While the North Vietnamese and PRG saw the Paris

 

Agreements as a victory, the South Vietnamese were signi-

 

ficantly less optimistic.  However, they did hopefully

 

expect that they would allow South Vietnam to survive as

 

an independent nation.  In order to achieve this goal, the

 

Thieu government wanted to retain an American presence in

 

South Vietnam as long as possible.  Of course, with the

 

terms of the agreements calling for the withdrawal of all

 

U.S. combat troops within 60 days after the signing, and

 

the U.S. Congress' increasing lack of interest in supporting

 

the war in Indochina, it became evident that eventually the

 

government of South Vietnam would have to sustain itself

 

alone.

 

    When Henry Kissinger arrived in Saigon on October 18,

 

1972 to present the draft peace plan to the South Vietnamese,

 

President Thieu was extremely offended that he was the last

 

man consulted.  Thieu also felt that he had no real voice

 

in the outcome since the whole matter appeared to have been

 

decided between Kissinger and Le Duc Tho during their pre-

 

vious secret negotiations.15  South Vietnamese General Tran

 

Van Don mentioned in his book, Our Endless War, that Thieu

 

would not agree to a peace agreement with the North that did

 

not meet the four basic conditions of:  "no coalition govern-

 

ment, withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops from the South,

 

respect of neutrality of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), and

 

settlement of political differences to be left to the two

 

Vietnams without foreign meddling."16

 

    Thieu objected to two primary issues in the October

 

draft:  it failed to call for the withdrawal of an esti-

 

mated 160,000 North Vietnamese troops from the South, and

 

the formation of a National Council of National Reconcilia-

 

tion and Concord which he felt was actually a cover for a

 

coalition government.  The withdrawal of North Vietnamese

 

troops was considered essential before signing the agree-

 

ments; this can be seen in the following testimony by Bui

 

Diem, Saigon's Ambassador to Washington from 1967 to 1972:

 

        I still remember the words of President Thieu

    when I saw him a few weeks before the signing of

    the Paris Agreements and received his instructions

    for one of my frequent trips to the U.S. as his

    special emissary to watch over the peace nogotia-

    tions:  "Go to Washington and Paris and try to do

    your best.  To raise again at this hour the problem

    of the North Vietnamese troops on our territory is

    perhaps too late, but as long as we still have a

    chance to improve the Agreements, we have to try.

    If we cannot now obtain the basic requirements for

    our survival, things will be very difficult for us

    in the long run.  And the withdrawal of the North

    Vietnamese troops is one of the basic requirements.17

 

    It was becoming all too clear to President Thieu and the

 

South Vietnamese leadership that U.S. interest in their

 

country was beginning to wane.  South Vietnam's political

 

problems were minor in comparison to the larger and more

 

complex political intrigue among the superpowers.  During

 

this period in 1972, the U.S. was pursuing detente with the

 

Soviet union and rapprochement with the People's Republic

 

of China.  Thieu expressed his concerns to Kissinger in a

 

meeting between the two on October 22, 1972; he alluded

 

to the effect the new U.S. world strategy would have upon

 

South Vietnam:

 

        What does it matter to the United States to

    lose a small country like South Vietnam?  We're

    scarcely more than a dot on the map of the world

    to you.  If you want to give up the struggle, we

    will fight on alone until our resources are gone,

    and then we will die.  The United States' world

    policy dictates that you dance lightly with Moscow

    and Peking, that you make different choices to

    follow your new strategies.  But for us, the

    choice is between life and death.  For us to put

    our signature to an accord which is tantamount to

    surrender would be accepting a death sentence,

    because life without liberty is death.  No, it's

    worse than death!18

 

    Kissinger responded that the U.S. would launch opera-

 

tions north of the DMZ should Hanoi violate the accords.

 

However, Kissinger's response did little to persuade Thieu

                                                 

that the accords were in Saigon's best interests.19

 

Obviously, Thieu did not stay on until the bitter end and

 

die in the struggle; however, his words reflect much of the

 

hopelessness and desperation expressed by most of South

 

Vietnam's leadership at the time concerning the unfavorable

 

terms in the Paris Agreements.

 

    Since the agreements signed in January 1973 did not

 

significantly differ much from those proposed to Thieu in

 

October 1972, why then did South Vietnam sign the Paris

 

Agreements of 1973?  The answer lies in President Nixon's

 

threat to cutoff U.S. support and his secret assurance that

 

the U.S. would "respond with full force should the settle-

 

ment be violated by North Vietnam."20  Several South Viet-

 

namese leaders have noted that it was the increased pressure

 

put on Thieu by the Nixon Administration to sign the agree-

 

ments and "close ranks" with the U.S. that persuaded Thieu

 

to accept the Paris Agreements.  On January 16, 1973,

 

President Nixon sent General Alexander Haig to Saigon to

 

convince Thieu to sign the agreements and tell him that the

 

United States would not hesitate to sign its own peace

 

treaty with Hanoi if the situation demanded it.21  Bui Diem

 

depicts the pressure to sign the agreements in the following

 

excerpt:

 

        The final decision by Saigon to sign the

    Agreements came after a rather painful exchange

    of messages between Presidents Nixon and Thieu--

    almost every day during the week prior to signing--

    with some of the messages from President Nixon

    couched in the toughest language that diplomatic

    practice has ever seen:  'I am firmly convinced

    that the alternative to signing the present agree-

    ment is a total cutoff of funds to assist your

    country....'  'If you refuse to join us, the

    responsibility for the consequences rests on the

    government of South Vietnam....'  'If you cannot

    give me a positive answer by 1200 Washington time,

    January 21, 1973, I shall authorize Dr. Kissinger

    to initial the agreement even without the concur-

    rence of your government.22

 

    After resisting the pressure to sign the agreements

 

since October 1972, President Thieu finally concurred,

 

realizing that to continue to fight without American

 

support would result in disaster as long as the North

 

Vietnamese were still being backed by the Soviet Union

 

and China.  In addition, President Nixon's guarantee of

 

continued assistance and use of full force should North

 

Vietnam violate the agreements, coupled with the memory

 

of the Christmas bombings of North Vietnam, lessened his

 

resistance to signing the Paris Agreements of 1973.  How-

 

ever, by doing so, the government of South Vietnam had

 

accepted the presence of North Vietnamese troops in the

 

South and gave defacto legal recognition to the Provi-

 

sional Revolutionary Government (PRG) in South Vietnam,

 

through the creation of a National Council of National

 

Reconciliation and Concord (NCRC) to settle "the internal

 

matters of South Vietnam."  The theoretical purpose of

 

the NCRC was to insure a peaceful, political solution

 

for these internal matters; however, the North Vietnamese

 

troops ultimately threatened to impose a military solution.

 

                   AMERICAN EXPECTATIONS

 

 

    What the United States expected, and what it finally

 

achieved, in signing the Paris Agreements of 1973 is an

 

extremely debatable issue.  The Nixon Administration

 

approached the peace talks with a firm commitment to

 

achieve "peace with honor."  However, given the fact that

 

thee cease-fire ended almost immediately after it went into

 

effect, the "undignified" departure of the U.S. from Saigon,

 

and the abandonment of a former ally by the U.S. public and

 

Congress, the period after the signing the peace treaty

 

could hardly be called peaceful or our actions honorable.

 

Ultimately, it seems that the U.S. was looking for a grace-

 

ful way out of the war which would leave the government of

                                             

South Vietnam a reasonable chance of survival.23

 

    The accounts given by President Nixon and Secretary of

 

State Henry Kissinger reveal that they negotiated with the

 

North Vietnamese in good faith; they genuinely felt that

 

the agreements would achieve the desired peace and allow

 

the United States to concentrate on more global concerns,

 

such as detente with the Soviet Union and normalization of

 

relations with the People's Republic of China.  The follow-

 

ing remarks by Henry Kissinger reflect the general hope

 

within the United States in 1973 about the possible achieve-

 

ments that the Paris Agreements could foster:

 

        I believed then, and I believe now, that the

    agreement could have worked.  It reflected a true

    equilibrium of forces on the ground.  If the

    equilibrium were maintained, the agreement could

    have been maintained.  We believed that Saigon

    was strong enough to deal with guerrilla war and

    low-level violations.  The implicit threat of our

    retaliation would be likely to deter massive vio-

    lations.  We hoped that with the program of assist-

    ance for all of Indochina, including North Vietnam,

    promised by two Presidents of both parties, we

    might possibly even turn Hanoi's attention (and

    manpower) to tasks of construction if the new

    realities took hold for a sufficient period of

    time.  Hanoi was indeed instructing its cadres in

    the South to prepare for a long period of political

    competition.  We would use our new relationships

    with Moscow and Peking to foster restraint.24

 

    Although the Nixon Administration believed that the

 

1973 settlement would work, there is further evidence in

 

President Nixon's memoirs to show that the United States

 

had become "war-weary" and that an agreement on the war

 

had to be reached during the final series of negotiations

 

in January 1973.  On January 6, 1973, before he left for

 

Paris, Kissinger met with President Nixon at Camp David

 

to discuss the negotiating strategy.  There were basically

 

two options from which to choose.  Under Option One, the

 

U.S. would agree to an immediate settlement on the best

 

terms it could negotiate.  Under Option Two, the U.S.

 

would break with South Vietnamese President Thieu and

 

continue the bombing until the North Vietnamese agreed to

 

return the POWs in exchange for a complete withdrawal by

 

the U.S.  Evidence that the U.S. was ready to settle with

 

the North Vietnamese immediately can be drawn from the

 

following remarks President Nixon made in his diary after

 

his meeting with Kissinger:

 

        Adding it all up I put it to Henry quite

    directly that even if we could go back to the

    October 8 agreement, that we should take it,

    having in mind the fact that there will be a

    lot of details that will have to be ironed out

    so that we can claim some improvement over the

    agreement.  I told him that a poor settlement

    on Option One was better for us than Option

    Two at its best would be.

 

        He has finally come around to that point of

    view, although he believes that both from the

    standpoint of South Vietnam and perhaps our own

    standpoint in the long term, we might be better

    off with Option Two.  I think he overlooks the

    fact that as far as our situation here is con-

    cerned, the war-weariness has reached the point

    that Option Two is just too much for us to carry

    on.

 

        The war continues to take too much of our

    attention from other international issues, such

    as the Mideast, and it also has a detrimental

    effect on our international relations, not only

    with the Soviets and the Chinese but even with

    our allies.25

 

    Although the agreement reached in Paris was not the

 

best one possible, it did achieve two important objectives

 

for the United States:  the safe withdrawal of U.S. troops

 

and the return of all American POWs.  The agreement,

 

however, was not a peace agreement, for it allowed only

 

for a cease-fire.  American power in theory would ensure

 

the peace through the firm assurance given to President

 

Thieu by President Nixon that the United States would

 

respond with full force if the North Vietnamese violated

 

the terms of the agreement.  Nixon discusses this in his

 

diary when he alludes to the notion that the agreement

 

signed in Paris was not intended to be a peace agreement.

 

The President wrote:

 

        Another plus item is that the South Viet-

    namese seem to be coming more into line.  Our

    intelligence indicates that Thieu is telling

    visitors that it is not a peace agreement that

    he is going to get, but a commitment from the

    United States to continue to protect South

    Vietnam in the even such an agreement is broken.

    This, of course, is exactly the line I gave him

    in my letter which Haig delivered to him.26

 

    The letter referred to by President Nixon was the one

 

delivered by Alexander Haig on January 16, 1973 which gave

 

President Thieu an ultimatum:  either sign the Paris agree-

 

ments or the U.S. would negotiate a treaty with North Viet-

 

nam without South Vietnam's participation.  This letter had

 

the desired effect and Thieu was encouraged to sign.

 

    If, as the United States believed, the South Vietnamese

 

were capable of dealing with the Vietcong and regular NVA

 

troops located in the South at the time of the signing,

 

why then did the Paris Agreements fail?  Was the reason for

 

failure, as some writers such as Frank Snepp claim, due to

 

the fact that the United States was only negotiating to allow

 

for a "decent interval" to transpire before the final collapse

 

and allow the U.S. to gracefully bow out of Southeast Asia?

 

In the end, this is what basically occurred.  However, it is

 

doubtful that the final tragic outcome in South Vietnam was

 

ever consciously considered by the men involved in the

 

negotiations at the time.

 

    A key point to consider in answering these complicated

 

questions is that the equilibrium of forces present in

 

January 1973 did not remain stationary in the following

 

years leading to April 30, 1975.  In the period 1973 to 1975,

 

when Soviet military aid to North Vietnam quadrupled, Ameri-

 

can military aid to South Vietnam was cut from over $2.5

 

billion in fiscal year 1973 to $700 million is fiscal year

 

1975.27  This tremendous cutback in aid to South Vietnam

 

after the signing of the Paris Agreements, while infiltra-

 

tion of troops and supplies by North Vietnam into the South

 

increased, seriously affected the equilibrium of forces that

 

had been achieved in 1973; it definitely shifted the balance

 

of power to the North Vietnamese by 1975.  Led by Senator

 

J. William Fulbright, the U.S. Congress passed, in June

 

1973, a bill to cutoff funds for combat activities in South

 

east Asia.  It set August 15, 1973 as the date for termina-

 

tion of U.S. bombing in Cambodia, and required Congressional

 

approval for funding of U.S. military action in any part of

 

Indochina.  This action by Congress had such an impact on

 

President Nixon at the time that he wrote to House Speaker

 

Carl Albert and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield

 

to voice his grave concern about the serious consequences

 

that would result:

 

        The abandonment of a friend will have a pro-

    found impact in other countries, such as Thailand,

    which have relied on the constancy and determina-

    tion of the United States, and I want the Congress

    to be fully aware of the consequences of its

    action....

 

        ... I can only hope that the North Vietnamese

    will not draw the erroneous conclusion from this

    Congressional action that they are free to launch

    a military offensive in other areas of Indochina.

    North Vietnam would be making a very dangerous

    error if it mistook the cessation of bombing in

    Cambodia for an invitation to fresh aggression or

    further violations of the Paris agreements.  The

    American people would respond to such aggression

    with appropriate action.28

 

    In his memoirs, President Nixon later confessed that

 

Congress had removed the possibility of military action and

 

he only had words with which to threaten North Vietnam.

 

Unfortunately, the North Vietnamese knew this.  The Nixon

 

Administration was well aware of North Vietnam's intentions,

 

but the President's power to act in order to carry out the

 

promises made to South Vietnam was seriously hampered by an

 

increasingly hostile Congress and the final unraveling of

 

Presidential authority by the events surrounding Watergate.

 

Henry Kissinger eloquently expresses his thoughts on the

 

goal the United States attempted to achieve in Paris and a

 

reason for failure:

 

        We had no illusions about Hanoi's long-term

    goals.  Nor did we go through the agony of four

    years of war and searing negotiations simply to

    achieve a "decent interval" for our withdrawal.

    We were determined to do our utmost to enable

    Saigon to grow in security and prosperity so

    that it could prevail in any political struggle.

    We sought not an interval before collapse, but

    lasting peace with honor.  But for the collapse

    of executive authority as a result of Watergate,

    I believe we would have succeeded.29

 

    So, it was that an agreement negotiated in good faith

 

by the executive branch of our government was undone by

 

the Congress and public that had grown weary of their

 

commitment to a burdensome ally and wanted out of Vietnam

 

completely.  While it is certainly true that the South

 

Vietnamese leadership must bear the ultimate responsibility

 

for the final tragic outcome of the war, the United States

 

must also bear some responsibility for refusing to fulfill

 

its obligations to South Vietnam during the two year period

 

following the signing of the Paris agreements.

 

                       CHAPTER 2

 

               BREAKDOWN OF THE AGREEMENTS

 

 

              THE POSTWAR WAR: 1973 - 1975

 

 

    The signing of the Paris Agreements, or more formally

 

called the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring the

 

Peace in Vietnam, created the false impression that the

 

cease-fire had ended the war.  However, the agreements of

 

January 1973 did not terminate the conflict in Vietnam.  In

 

fact, the "postwar war" began almost the moment peace was

 

proclaimed.

 

    Anticipating success in the January negotiations, the

 

North Vietnamese planned to launch general attacks through-

 

out most of South Vietnam immediately before the expected

 

date of the cease-fire.  These attacks had one primary

 

objective:  to gain land and control of the surrounding

 

population, and thus add legitimacy to the Communists' claim

 

that the areas belonged to them when the agreements were

 

signed.  This offensive, known as LANDGRAB 73, occurred in

 

late January and early February 1973.  The operations

 

followed the patterns established in October 1972, when the

 

possibility of a cease-fire existed; except this time, the

 

North Vietnamese and Vietcong waited until much closer to

 

the expected date of the cease-fire to start their campaign.

 

The objectives and techniques were virtually the same as

 

had been used in the past:  the main force units would

 

generally defends the territory under their control and

 

attack to fix ARVN regular forces in their bases, while

 

local NVA and Vietcong units entered the hamlets.1

 

    However, LANDGRAB 73 was a dismal failure for the

 

North Vietnamese and Vietcong.  When the campaign ended on

 

February 9, 1973, ARVN forces had killed over 5,000

 

Communists and only 23 of the more than 400 hamlets

 

attacked were still reported by the South Vietnamese as

 

contestable.2

 

    Colonel William E. Le Gro, a senior staff officer with

 

the U.S. Defense Attache Office in Saigon stated that the

 

North Vietnamese and PRG erred in delaying their precease-

 

fire operations in the expectation that the South Viet-

 

namese armed forces would be deterred in counterattacking

 

by the presence of International Commission of Control and

 

Supervision (ICCS) teams.  The ICCS was created by the

 

Paris Agreements and was supposed to detect and investigate

 

violations, control entry into South Vietnam, and later,

 

help supervise the national elections.

 

    The ARVN, local regional forces (RF) and popular forces

 

(PF) proved much stronger than the Communists anticipated;

 

they were able to deter the Communists' plans to capture

 

populated areas, show the flag and then await the arrival

 

of ICCS teams to declare and guarantee legitimacy to the

 

Communists in the newly won areas.  Colonel Le Gro also

 

commented that the Communists committed an important

 

strategic mistake by dividing their local forces into

 

small units and attacking so many places, thereby reducing

 

the staying power of any local unit.  By dividing into

 

smaller units, the South Vietnamese forces were able to

 

eliminate the Communist forces in piecemeal fashion, one

       

by one.3   Colonel Le Gro notes that the local Communist

 

forces were decimated after this campaign and never quite

 

recovered.  In fact, numerous articles written by both

 

North and South Vietnamese leaders described the fighting

 

before the final collapse as entirely conventional in

 

nature, giving credence to the opinion that the Vietcong

 

were unable to operate as an effective fighting force in

   

1975.4  The conquest of South Vietnam, thus became a

 

completely North Vietnamese Army conventional operation.

 

    LANDGRAB 73 demonstrated that the South Vietnamese

 

forces could hold their own against the North; it gave a

 

clear indication to South Vietnamese leaders that the mili-

 

tary balance of power was as much in their favor at the

 

moment of the cease-fire as it would ever be.  Although the

 

ARVN forces were successful in decimating the enemy local

 

forces in the South, there still remained the considerable

 

threat of approximately 160,000 NVA regular troops still

 

Click here to view image

 

remaining in the South after the signing of the Paris

 

agreements. This is why South Vietnamese President Thieu,

 

despite considerable pressure from the United States to

 

sign the agreements, vehemently opposed two key provisions

 

of the 1973 accords: one which allowed these NVA regular

 

troops to remain the South, and the other one specifying

 

the withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops within 60 days

 

after the signing.

 

    Since Thieu felt that the military balance would never

 

be more in his favor than it was in early February 1973

 

(especially after the failed Communist LANDGRAB 73 campaign),

 

and American forces had not completely withdrawn, he decided

 

to launch a series of military operations to seize areas

 

still occupied by the Communists in the Mekong Delta and

 

along the Cambodian border.5  Although these operations

 

proved to be successful initially in establishing and main-

 

taining control over formerly contested areas, they even-

 

tually taxed the government of South Vietnam's resourcecs in

 

both materiel and manpower.6 The last South Vietnamese

 

Minister of Defense, General Tran Van Don, described the

 

results of this disastrous policy in the following excerpt

 

in his book:

 

        On our side, we did not adopt the correct

     military strategy to deal with the inexorable

     Communist steamroller. We spread our forces too

     thin, trying to maintain a presence in and defend

     each province town, an ambition clearly beyond

     our capability. Although by this time we had an

     armed force of over one million men, such a method

     of defense did not have a chance for success.7

 

    The North Vietnamese leadership also took note of the

 

landgrab operations being conducted by ARVN forces during

 

this period.  Although he stops short in stating that

 

Thieu's pacification operations were a success initially,

 

North Vietnamese General Dung mentioned them in his book,

 

Our Great Spring Victory; his remarks indicate that they

 

were causing the North Vietnamese a considerable degree of

 

difficulty in 1973:

 

        ... With this foundation the enemy threw their

    strength into carrying out their pacification and

    encroachment plans, with the intention of wiping

    out our lower level forces, destroying the scat-

    tered bases which we held in their zone of control,

    imposing an economic blockade on the border zones,

    and encroaching on the zones that had been liber-

    ated before the Paris Agreement was signed.  Their

    scheme was to eliminate the existing situation, in

    which there were two zones of control, two armies,

    and two governments, and turn the South into a

    single zone entirely under their control.  During

    the eleven months from the signing of the Paris

    Agreement until the end of 1973, the enemy used

    60 percent of their main forces and all of their

    regional forces to begin more than 360,000 block-

    ade and encroachment operations and security

    sweeps, and brought together large forces for

    major operations against our liberated zones....

 

        ...They pushed into almost all the zones we

    had liberated in our January 1973 campaign, and

    seized a number of the liberated areas scattered

    in their zone of control....8

 

    However, the North Vietnamese were well aware that

 

these pacification operations by the South would even-

 

tually put the ARVN troops in the untenable position of

 

being spread too thin in order to maintain control of the

 

newly seized areas.  General Dung later mentioned that the

 

South Vietnamese government made a mistake in deploying its

 

troops in this manner which eventually played a role in the

 

defeat of the RVNAF.  He commented about this ill-fated

 

strategy:

 

        The enemy's position had weakened, and they

    had made big mistakes in strategy and in evalu-

    ating us, which had led to incorrect troop deploy-

    ment plans and mistaken operating premises, and

    signaled the great defeat which was coming to

    them.9

 

    After their disastrous defeat in the ill-timed LANDGRAB

 

73 operation, the North Vietnamese used the period after

 

signing the Paris Agreements to regroup their forces and

 

also try to repair the damage to their economy caused by

 

the devastating warfare during 1972.  The North Vietnamese

 

were especially concerned about the ability of the United

 

States to send troops back into South Vietnam.  As a result,

 

the question of American reentry into the war was heatedly

 

discussed during politburo meetings.10  Until the American

 

withdrawal was complete, the North Vietnamese chose to

 

avoid any provocative moves that might provoke the U.S.

 

into reentering the war.  The PRG, which had suffered

 

heavy losses in the years prior to the cease-fire, spent

 

the first year after the cease-fire trying to consolidate

 

the territory under its control and undermine the Saigon

 

government through political agitation.  The Communist

 

Party Central Committee put forth the following guidance

 

in 1973:  "Coordinate the political and military struggle

 

with diplomacy... the problems of gaining people, gaining

 

administrative control, and developing the real strength

 

of the revolution are the urgent and basic demands in the

 

new phase...."

 

    The North Vietnamese Army, on the other hand, concen-

 

trated on building up their forces and improving their

 

logistics system in order to prepare for what eventually

 

became their final offensive to conquer South Vietnam.

 

The North Vietnamese Politburo and Central Military

 

Committee then met in October 1973; it decided that if

 

they were to defeat the South on a large scale, "it would

 

no longer be appropriate to use only independent and

 

coordinated divisions."  Instead, they "would need mobile

 

commands and specialized branches combined on a larger

 

scale, to deliver a powerful punch, which could be used

 

at the most opportune moments, could go into action along

 

the principal thrusts, and could take on the primary

 

responsibility for destroying large enemy main-force units."12

 

Evidence that the North Vietnamese used this period follow-

 

ing the signing of the Paris Agreements to prepare for

 

their final offensive on the South is clear from following

 

excerpt from General Dung's account of the events:

 

        From October 1973 onward, these corps were

    established one by one, brought together for

    combat training as combined units, and deployed

    in the best positions for strategic mobility.

    The development of high-level mobile commands

    allowed us to carry out campaigns with large-

    scale combined units, including many corps and

    divisions, which were strong enough to mount

    large assaults, had both high mobility and the

    strength for sustained combat, and could operate

    successfully in strategic campaigns.  Along with

    the reorganization of our forces, an urgent task

    was to replace the equipment of our army with

    better and more modern material.  Massive amounts

    of tanks, armored cars, rockets, long-range

    artillery, and antiaircraft guns, which the

    Americans tried unsuccessfully to destroy in

    their twelve-day B-52 bombing blitz against the

    North in December 1972, were now sent to the

    front one after another.  And for the first time

    self-propelled long-range artillery and some of

    our good tanks got all the way to the rubber

    forests of the Nam Bo plains.  This was a big

    step toward maturity for our army, and at the

    same time was a most positive preparation of our

    forces for the coming offensive.13

 

    For years during the peace negotiations, the North Viet-

 

namese consistently denied the presence of their troops in

 

the South.  Now, after their conquest of South Vietnam was

 

complete, General Dung arrogantly boasts about the massive

 

infiltration of troops and equipment into the South, while

 

all along accusing the United States of intervening in the

 

internal affairs of South Vietnam and not respecting the

 

right of the South Vietnamese people to self-determination.

 

His comments illustrate the fact that the Communists viewed

 

this conflict as a political, ideological war; lies and

 

truth were weapons to be used to their advantage in the

 

struggle.

 

    Realizing that the military balance in the South favored

 

the RVNAF, the North Vietnamese decided to attack only when

 

they were clearly superior to South Vietnamese troops.  By

 

consistently following this plan of attack, North Vietnam's

 

chief strategist, General Vo Nguyen Giap, felt it would

 

eventually tilt the military balance in Hanoi's favor.  To

 

prepare for the final offensive, the North Vietnamese

 

designed and implemented a major engineering program to

 

improve the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  By the beginning of 1975,

 

they built an all-weather highway from Quang Tri province

 

on the central coast of Vietnam down into the Mekong Delta

 

and also constructed an oil pipeline approximately 3,000

 

miles long stretching from Quang Tri to the town of Loc

 

Ninh, 75 miles northwest of Saigon.  They also laid tele-

 

communications lines down to Loc Ninh, making it possible

 

for the North Vietnamese leaders to speak from Hanoi

 

directly to their commanders on the battlefields in the

 

South.  As General Dung stated, they "had transformed the

 

battlefield situation to our advantage and mobilized the

 

might of the entire country to support the front lines."14

 

    The Paris Agreements called for the creation of a Joint

 

Military Commission (JMC) to administer cease-fire proce-

 

dures and foster national reconciliation.  However, this

 

was only window dressing, since the JMC could never achieve

 

Click here to view image

 

national reconciliation when the political, economic, and

 

social issues between Hanoi and Saigon were ideological

 

opposites.  Initially, the commission's members were the

 

four signers of the agreements:  the PRG, North Vietnam,

 

South Vietnam, and the United States.  After 60 days, the

 

four-party commission would be superseded by a new body

 

consisting of just the two members from South Vietnam and

 

the PRG.  The delegates' theoretical responsibilities were

 

numerous.  Primarily, they were to investigate reported

 

violations and issue instructions to prevent recurrence.

 

Their most important responsibility was to "determine the

 

areas controlled by each party and the modalities of

 

stationing" since its enforcement was the most crucial

 

task for maintaining the cease-fire.15

 

    However, this was primarily a political and not a

 

military matter.  General Frederick C. Weyand, the U.S.

 

commander in Vietnam, warned in 1972 that if the negoti-

 

ators in Paris could not agree on which side controlled

 

which territory, military delegates in Saigon could hardly

                    

be expected to do so.16   He then predicted that handing

 

this crucial political question to the truce commission

 

would only jeopardize its ability to achieve the more

                                     

limited aim of stopping the fighting.17  His prediction

 

proved to be correct, for throughout 1973 until the end

 

in 1975, the Two-Party Joint Military Commission continued

 

to meet at Camp Davis in Saigon, while the fighting con-

 

tinued in the South over who would eventually rule South

 

Vietnam--a key problem which the negotiations in Paris

 

failed to solve, but was to eventually be solved by North

 

Vietnamese on the battlefields in South Vietnam.  With the

 

Joint Military Commission unable to decide the question of

 

which side controlled what territory, the future of the

 

government of South Vietnam came to rest more on its success

 

on the battlefield and less at the negotiating table.

 

    By the end of 1973, President Nixon was virtually

 

powerless to act on South Vietnam's behalf, and Congress

 

had taken decisive steps to curtail American involvement

 

in the war.  In November 1973, Congress passed the War

 

Powers Act over President Nixon's veto and the outlook for

 

American military intervention to aid Saigon looked bleak.

 

Also, in late 1973, President Thieu formally proclaimed the

 

start of the "Third Indochina War."18  He then stepped up

 

ground and air attacks on Communist bases and launched a

 

series of land-grabbing operations in PRG held areas along

 

the eastern seaboard, in the Iron Triangle and in the Mekong

 

Delta.19  Unlike earlier successful operations, this time

 

the North Vietnamese and Vietcong counterattacked and

 

repulsed the ARVN units.  The result proved disastrous for

 

Thieu.  The North Vietnamese and Vietcong retook much of

 

the territory they lost in early 1973 during LANDGRAB 73

 

and seized additional territory formerly under the control

 

of the government of South Vietnam.

 

    With the North Vietnamese extensive upgrading of the Ho

 

Chi Minh Trail,by the fall of l974,the military balance had

 

definitely shifted in their favor.20  During this period,

 

South Vietnam's economic problems were steadily increasing

 

due to the U.S. troop withdrawal, reduction in military aid,

 

and the sharp rise in worldwide inflation caused by the Arab

 

oil embargo in 1973.  In addition, the economic crisis com-

 

pounded Thieu's political problems and provided his opposi-

 

tion in both the United States and Saigon with valuable

 

ammunition to assault his regime and spread a spirit of

 

defeatism among the general population in South Vietnam.

 

    By the end of 1974, this fear of abandonment by the U.S.

 

began to spread throughout the South.  The U.S. Congress,

 

faced with rising inflation and budgetary problems at home,

 

continued to question and criticize the policy of continu-

 

ing aid to the government of South Vietnam.  Critics in

 

America voiced their concern over the corruption and human

 

rights violations within the Thieu regime; they also

 

believed that if military aid was cut, it would encourage

                                                  

Thieu to seek a political settlement to end the war.21  The

 

U.S. Congress had now tired of the war in Southeast Asia;

 

Senator Edward Kennedy spoke for many in the Congress when

 

he insisted that it was time to terminate America's

 

"endless support for an endless war."  By the end of 1974,

 

Congress only approved an aid program of $700 million, half

 

of which comprised shipping costs.22

 

    In early 1975, Hanoi concluded that no United States

 

intervention could occur in an expanded war; the opportune

 

time to "launch a general offensive and uprising to liber-

 

ate the South completely" had arrived.23  The test would be

 

the province of Phuoc Long, northwest of Saigon.  On

 

January 6, 1975, the North Vietnamese succeeded in cap-

 

turing the provincial capital of Phuoc Long.  The ease of

 

their victory indicated that the RVNAF had weakened since

 

January 1973.  As General Dung wrote, Thieu was now forced

 

to fight a "poor man's war" and the military balance of

                                      

power rested with the North Vietnamese.24  Also, the fail-

 

ure of the U.S. to respond in any meaningful way to the

 

fall of Phuoc Long province confirmed the belief among the

 

North Vietnamese leadership that the United States would

 

not "jump back in"; they perceived Washington as in no

                                                  

position to rescue the government of South Vietnam.25

 

    The final collapse began on March 10, 1975 when General

 

Dung's forces attacked Ban Me Thuot in the Central Highlands.

 

After taking the city in two days, Dung moved north to

 

attack Pleiku and Kontum.  Realizing that his forces were

 

spread too thin to be effective against the massive assault

 

by the North Vietnamese, President Thieu ordered his forces

 

Click here to view images

 

in the north to withdraw and consolidate a defense in the

 

South around Saigon.26   In addition to military necessity,

 

some senior ARVN officers suggested another reason behind

 

Thieu's decision to redeploy the Airborne Division in I

                                      

Corps:to guard agianst a possible coup.27   In any event,

 

no plans had been prepared to execute a strategic retreat

 

of this magnitude and the North Vietnamese succeeded in

 

cutting the major roads leading south.  The withdrawal

 

turned into a rout when hundreds of thousands of civilian

 

refugees tried to flee with the departing soldiers and

 

clogged the avenues of escape.  As a result, much of the

 

South Vietnamese army was captured and destroyed, and

 

thousands of civilians died from enemy gunfire and starva-

 

tion.28  Subsequently, Pleiku and Kontum fell within a week.

 

    North Vietnamese forces continued their advance toward

 

the coastal city of Hue.  Thieu reversed his earlier deci-

 

sion to withdraw and ordered that Hue be held to the last

 

man.29  However, the population of Hue began to panic, many

 

remembering the Communist massacres during Tet in 1968.

 

By late March more than a million refugees were making

                                     

their way towards Da Nang.30   On March 25, 1975, Hue fell

 

and NVA forces marched on to Da Nang.  The defending ARVN

 

forces and civilian refugees, many of whom were families

 

of the ARVN soldiers, tried to flee by both air and sea to

 

escape the North Vietnamese Army.  Rumors of a "deal" to

 

Click here to view image

 

partition South Vietnam in half spread through the troops in

 

I Corps and the civilian population.  Now a retreat ensued

 

on an even larger and more tragic scale than the one from

                      

the Central Highlands.31   On March 30, 1975, Da Nang fell

 

and with its fall, both Military Regions 1 and 2 came under

 

the permanent control of the NVA--splitting South Vietnam

 

in two.

 

    The North Vietnamese Politburo then ordered General

 

Dung to begin the general offensive on Saigon at the very

 

latest by the final week of April 1975, before the end of

 

the "dry season."  In a tribute to their deceased leader,

 

the Politburo renamed the Saigon campaign calling it the

                     

"Ho Chi Minh Campaign."32

 

    The momentum was now with the North Vietnamese and they

 

were determined to take Saigon before the dry season ended.

 

However, the 18th ARVN Division put up the most valiant

 

defense of the campaign around the town of Xuan Loc, north-

 

east of Saigon.  Outnumbered against a force of more than

 

three NVA divisions, the 18th ARVN Division resisted

 

fiercely from April 9 until finally being overwhelmed and

 

forced to withdraw on April 20, l975.33  The delay allowed

 

the United States to successfully evacuate more than 130,000

                                                  

American and South Vietnamese citizens from Saigon.34   The

 

battle at Xuan Loc was the final decisive battle of the

 

Vietnam War.  When it ended, there were 16 NVA divisions in

 

Click here to view image

 

Military Region 3 ready to begin their final assault on

       

Saigon.35

 

    On April 21, 1975, the day after Xuan Loc fell, the

 

U.S. Congress rejected President Ford's request for aid to

 

South Vietnam for the last time and President Thieu resigned

 

and fled to Taiwan; he blamed the entire collapse on the

 

United States.36  He was replaced by Vice President Tran

 

Van Huong, who attempted to negotiate a settlement based

 

on the 1973 agreements.  However, North Vietnam's leaders

 

insisted that they would not negotiate with Huong and said

 

they would be willing to talk only with General Duong Van

 

"Big" Minh.  Huong finally stepped down in favor of "Big

 

Minh" on April 27, 1975, but the politburo had already

 

unanimously decided against a negotiated settlement, regard-

 

less of any political changes in Saigon.37  There was

 

nothing left to negotiate; the government of South Vietnam

 

no longer had control of anything in the South.

 

    On April 29, 1975, helicopter evacuations began and the

 

U.S. Ambassador, Graham Martin, departed Saigon.  On

 

April 30,1975, the last U.S. Marine helicopter departed

 

from the roof of the United States Embassy in Saigon and

 

NVA forces entered the grounds of the Presidential Palace.38

 

South Vietnam's last president, "Big Minh" surrendered

 

unconditionally to the North Vietnamese and the Vietnam War

 

finally ended.  However, the conflict in Southeast Asia

 

Click here to view image

 

did not stop; the fighting still continues today in Cambodia,

 

ten years later.

 

Click here to view image

 

 

                       VIOLATIONS

 

 

    As far as treaty violations are concerned, all the

 

signatory parties to the Paris Agreements must share the

 

blame in committing violations--some more than others,

 

however.  To be sure, the organizations established by the

 

Paris Agreements to investigate and deter violations lacked

 

both the authority and manpower to carry out their obliga-

 

tions.  However, the parties themselves were the only ones

 

capable of keeping the peace.

 

    Before reviewing some of the more serious violations

 

committed during the period following the signing of the

 

agreements, an examination of the organizations created to

 

insure the implementation of the cease-fire is necessary.

 

The responsibility for enforcing the Paris Agreements was

 

given to the Joint Military Commission (JMC).  Initially

 

comprised of four parties (North Vietnam, South Vietnam,

 

the PRG, and the United States) and called the Four-Party

 

JMC, the commission was to become  known as the Two-Party

 

JMC (South Vietnam and the PRG) 60 days after the signing

 

of the cease-fire agreements, when the U.S. had withdrawn

 

all its combat troops from South Vietnam and Hanoi had

 

returned all American POWs.

 

    The JMC had the responsibility under the agreements to

 

deter and detect violations, to deal with the violations,

 

and to settle conflicts and matters of contention between

 

the parties relating to the cease-fire.  It was then

 

supposed to send joint teams to investigate alleged viola-

 

tions of the agreements and assist the parties in finding

 

measures to prevent recurrence of similar cases.  However,

 

the JMC could only implement its responsibilities with a

 

unanimous decision by all members of the JMC; therefore,

 

it could operate only to the extent that each of the

                

parties desired.39

 

    The responsibility for controlling and supervising the

 

implementation of the Paris Agreements was given to the

 

International Commission of Control and Supervision (ICCS).

 

A successor to the International Control Commission that

 

had existed since 1954, the ICCS was composed of representa-

 

tives of four countries:  Canada, Hungary, Indonesia, and

 

Poland.  When it became apparent that the two Vietnamese

 

sides would not adhere to the agreements, Canada on July 31,

 

1973, withdrew out of sheer frustration, and was replaced by

 

Iran several months later.  Throughout its short lifetime,

 

the ICCS was composed of two Communist and two non-Commu-

 

nist members.40

 

    The ICCS had four missions:   to observe the truce,

 

investigate and report on violations, monitor the prisoner

 

exchanges and supply shipments, and, later, to help super-

 

vise the national elections.41  However, like the Joint

 

Military Commission, it had a major weakness:  the require-

 

ment to operate on the principle of unanimity.  Soon after

 

the signing of the Paris Agreements, it became readily

 

apparent that the Polish and Hungarian delegations were

 

there not to foster conciliation, but rather to protect

 

the interests of the Vietnamese Communists in every way

 

possible.  The two Communist delegations normally refused

 

to even authorize investigations of reported Vietcong or

 

North Vietnamese violations.  Since a unanimous decision

 

by all four members was required to take any action, the

 

non-Communist members were only able to make their own

 

unilateral observations without any official standing

 

under the agreements.

 

    However, even if the ICCS wasn't deadlocked at the poli-

 

tical level, it still could not have controlled the situa-

 

tion for it lacked any real power to do so (i.e., military

 

troops).  A truly neutral, international peacekeeping

 

force, which had the power to enforce its will, was needed

 

to deter violations.  The warring parties alone had the

 

responsibility and the power to enforce the agreements.

 

Since they never really tried to make the cease-fire work,

                                              

the ICCS really never had a chance to succeed.42

 

    Of all the violations committed during the period

 

following the signing of the Paris Agreements, the land-

 

grabbing incidents had the most serious consequences.  For

 

the North Vietnamese and PRG, they made good sense; but

                                                       

for the government of South Vietnam, they were suicidal.43

 

The land-grabbing forced the RVNAF to disperse its forces

 

to maintain control, which ultimately weakened its position

 

tactically vis-a-vis the North Vietnamese and Vietcong

 

forces.  In addition, since the Polish and Hungarian dele-

 

gates to the ICCS were far from impartial, they consis-

 

tently used the unanimity rule to block investigations of

 

violations committed by the Communist forces.  For the

 

South, not only did it not enjoy the same preferential

 

treatment from the ICCS as the Communists received, the

 

government of South Vietnam was also fully open to public

 

scrutiny of its every action through the hostile voices of

 

television and newspaper reporters ready to report the

 

slightest infraction.  These biased reporters and critics

 

were quick to find fault with the South Vietnamese govern-

 

ment, and agreed with North Vietnamese propaganda that it

 

was the South Vietnamese forces who were the aggressors

 

and were blatantly violating the cease-fire.  Arnold Isaacs

 

refutes these false accusations in his book, Without Honor:

 

        Yet, though they may have been technically

    violating the cease-fire, by any but the most

    narrowly legalistic standard the South Viet-

    namese were justified, and the Communists had

    to bear a heavy responsibility for much of the

    continued fighting.  In sending squads of men

    to raise their flag just before the cease-fire

    in hundreds of places to which they had no

    historic claim, they may have acted within the

    letter of the peace agreement.  But they grossly

    violated its spirit.44

 

    The most serious violations of the agreements, however,

 

had to do with North Vietnam's disrespect for the neutrality

 

of Laos and Cambodia, and its infiltration of troops and

 

supplies into South Vietnam after the cease-fire.  The U.S.

 

State Department delivered an official protest on January 11

 

1975 to the ICCS, mostly in response to the North Vietnamese

 

over-running of the provincial capital of Song Be in Phuoc

 

Long province; however, this protest listed numerous viola-

 

tions committed by the Communists since the cease-fire on

 

January 27, 1973.  Among the violations, it accused the

 

North Vietnamese of illegally infiltrating over 160,000

 

troops into the South, tripling the strength of their armor,

 

increasing their artillery and antiaircraft weaponry and

 

improving their military logistics system (i.e., the Ho Chi

 

Minh Trail) running through Laos, Cambodia, the DMZ and

                    

South Vietnam itself.45  The comments made by General Dung

 

about the North's preparations for the final offensive on

 

South Vietnam confirm the veracity of the State Department's

 

accusations of Communist treaty violations:

 

        A key problem was to develop a system of

    roads for good mobility.  The project to build

    a strategic road east of the Truong Son moun-

    tain range began in 1973 and was completed by

    the first part of 1975.... Day and night they

    enthusiastically carried hundreds of thousands

    of tons of supplies of every description down

    to the stockpiles for the various battlefields,

    to ensure the success of our large-scale

    attacks.46

 

    Without a doubt, this post-cease-fire violation by

 

North Vietnam was the most blatant one committed during

 

the two year period following the signing of the Paris

 

Agreements in 1973.  Weakened by losses from the 1972

 

"Easter" offensive and LANDGRAB 73 operations, Hanoi

 

needed a complete build-up in order to restore a military

 

threat to South Vietnam.  The terms of the Paris Agree-

 

ments restricted resupply to both Communist and South

 

Vietnamese forces in the South to a one-for-one replace-

 

ment schedule.  However, by pouring in troops and equip-

 

ment into South Vietnam well in excess of the one-for-one

 

replacement schedule allowed by the agreements, North

 

Vietnam drastically shifted the military balance of power

 

in its favor.  Finally, because the U.S. Congress allowed

 

this infiltration to go on unchecked by prohibiting U.S.

 

bombing missions in Indochina, the North Vietnamese were

 

able to recover sooner than they would have in previous

 

years when the U.S. was activeiy involved in the war.

 

    From the Communists  viewpoints, there were several

 

actions taken by both the United States and South Vietnam,

 

aside from Thieu's later land-grabbing operations, that

 

they considered violations of the agreements.  The

 

eleventh hour shipments of arms and equipment as a part of

 

the Enhance and Enhance Plus programs in late 1972 were

 

considered by the North Vietnamese as technically vio-

 

lating the terms of the cease-fire agreements.  Projects

 

Enhance and Enhance Plus were undertaken in 1972 to

 

accelerate the delivery of military equipment and improve

 

the combat capabilities of the South Vietnam's armed

 

forces before the cease-fire.  Enhance was designed to

 

provide guns, tanks and artillery to the Vietnamese Army

 

(ARVN), while Enhance Plus was a program to augment and

 

modernize the Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) by providing

 

additional aircraft such as helicopters, F-5 fighters,

 

C-130 transports and AC-119 gunships.  In the minds of the

 

North Vietnamese, these programs justified their build-up

 

of men and supplies after the truce, since their build-up

 

restored what they considered to be the intended battle-

                                                 

field equilibrium when the agreements were signed.47

 

    During the same time period, Hanoi received military

 

aid from the Soviet Union and China.  However, the Commu-

 

nists' criticism of U.S. shipments to South Vietnam was

 

perfectly consistent with their ideological beliefs and

 

methods of conducting a political war.  In addition, while

 

replacement of equipment for South Vietnam was restricted

 

on a one-for-one basis by the terms of the agreements,

 

there was no such similar restriction for supplies brought

 

into North Vietnam.  As far as the infiltration of troops

 

and supplies into the South through the Ho Chi Minh Trail,

 

Hanoi simply chose to ignore the terms of the agreements.

 

    The North Vietnamese also charged that they had been

 

misled by the United States into thinking that all U.S.

 

military installations in South Vietnam would be dismantled

 

within 60 days of the signing of the Paris Agreements.48

 

Instead, the United States transferred title of its materiel

 

and bases to South Vietnamese control before it signed the

                

Paris Agreements.49  Hanoi considered this action to be a

 

violation of the terms of the agreements and used it for

 

public propaganda to justify its continuation of the

 

fighting in the South.  General Dung's comments attest to

 

this charge:

 

        Our people could not sit quietly by and

    watch the United States and their puppets cyni-

    cally violate the Paris Agreement....  If the

    enemy do not implement the agreement, and con-

    tinue the policy of Vietnamization, which is

    essentially a neocolonial war aiming to take

    over the whole of the South, then there is no

    other course for us but to conduct revolutionary

    warfare  destroy the enemy, and liberate the

    South.50

 

    The final major violation the PRG and North Vietnam

 

accused the government of South Vietnam of committing

 

dealt with the provisions in the Paris Agreements calling

 

for establishing a National Council of National Reconcilia-

 

tion and Concord and the holding of general elections.

 

Shortly after the agreements were signed, Thieu sought to

 

hold elections before the PRG could consolidate its terri-

 

torial control.  However, fearing that it would lose the

 

elections, the PRG refused to participate until Article 11

 

of the agreements dealing with democratic liberties of the

 

people was fully implemented by the government of South

 

Vietnam.51  The article basically called for:  personal

 

freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom

 

of meeting, freedom of organization, freedom of political

 

activities, freedom of belief, freedom of movement, freedom

 

of residence, freedom of work, right to property ownership,

 

and the right to free enterprise.  President Thieu rightly

 

refused to form a National Council of National Reconcilia-

 

tion and Concord to implement Article 11 until all North

 

Vietnamese troops inside South Vietnam were withdrawn.

 

However, he was continually badgered on this point by

 

several narrow-minded antiwar representatives of Congres-

 

sional delegations visiting South Vietnam during this period.52

 

Even in the United States during World War II, when its

 

national survival was at stake, the U.S. severely restricted

 

several of the freedoms called for in Article 11; in addi-

 

tion, the U.S. did not have to contend with over 160,000

 

enemy troops stationed inside its borders.

 

    Consequently, with the PRG's refusal to participate in

 

any elections until Article 11 was fully implemented and

 

Thieu's demand that all NVA troops withdraw first, the

 

negotiations between PRG and the government of South Viet-

                                 

nam broke down on April 16, 1974.53    By this time the

 

military balance had shifted to Communists and they had

 

obtained all they needed from the negotiations--time to

 

rebuild!  In October 1974, the Communists returned to their

 

familiar stance by refusing to negotiate further on any

 

issue with Saigon until the Thieu government resigned.54

 

    In essence, the Paris Agreements were clearly unenforce-

 

able by the mechanisms created to deter serious violations.

 

Both the ICCS and JMC lacked the real power to insure all

 

parties complied with the terms of the agreements.  This

 

arrangement proved much more disadvantageous to South

 

Vietnam than for North Vietnam and the PRG.  While the ICCS

 

proved grossly ineffective in insuring either side violated

 

the Paris Agreements, Senator J. William Fulbright and the

 

Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Senate

 

saw to it that the terms of the agreements were strictly

 

enforced upon the government of South Vietnam.55

 

 

                        CHAPTER 3

 

                     VIETNAMIZATION

 

 

                   AMERICAN ASSESSMENT

 

 

    Vietnamization had one primary purpose:   to allow the

 

United States to withdraw its combat troops from South

 

Vietnam and transfer the responsibility for conducting the

 

war to the South Vietnamese.  The Nixon Administration felt

 

that with continued U.S. aid, the South Vietnamese could be

 

equipped and trained to defend themselves.

 

    In addition to teaching the South Vietnamese how to

 

conduct the war in the field, a study by the BDM Corpora-

 

tion, on strategic lessons learned in Vietnam, points out

 

that Vietnamization also included U.S. assistance in

 

developing and expanding South Vietnam's military schools

 

and institutions of advanced military learning.  Astonish-

 

ingly, the curriculum for junior officers at the Military

 

Academy at Dalat was expanded to four years.  The study

 

comments on the adverse impact this action had on the

 

military leadership of the South Vietnamese armed forces.

 

An excerpt from that study follows:

 

        In the first case, the prime needs of the

    RVNAF, then engaged in the struggle for the

    national survival, required quickly trained

    commanders and leaders at all echelons to

    replace war losses and at the same time pro-

    vide for its rapid expansion.  Four years of

    commitment to this type of institution,

    though of important military and academic

    value and highly beneficial for military

    career attainments, was a luxury that could

    be ill-afforded given the impelling course

    of the war for the RVNAF.1

 

    Despite this gross mismanagement of South Vietnam's

 

most capable young military leaders, the U.S. leadership

 

was unaware of the serious consequences of their efforts

 

to design and train the South Vietnamese armed forces in

 

its own image.  As the BDM study concludes, the excessively

 

long military career training forced the South Vietnamese

 

armed forces to fight without its most capable leaders

 

just at the time when it needed them most on the battle-

 

field.  Throughout the entire Vietnamization period, the

 

United States felt the program was working well.  In fact,

 

U.S. military and political leaders alike used the RVNAF

 

defeat of the North Vietnamese army during the 1972

 

"Easter" offensive as positive proof that the Vietnamiza-

 

tion program was a tremendous success.

 

    In the early stages of the North Vietnamese "Easter"

 

offensive launched at the end of March 1972, President

 

Nixon viewed the invasion as a sign of weakness on the part

 

of the North Vietnamese; he clearly believed that Vietnami-

 

zation was working.  The President stated that if Vietnami-

 

zation wasn't working, the North Vietnamese would have

                                          

waited and let the process fail on its own.2  Despite his

 

outward optimism, President Nixon still expressed personal

 

doubts about South Vietnamese durability and their willing-

 

ness to fight.  The following entry in Nixon's diary

 

reflects his doubts:

 

        Of course, the weak link in our whole chain

    is the question as to whether the South Vietnam-

    ese have the will to fight....  The real problem

    is that the enemy is willing to sacrifice in

    order to win, while the South Vietnamese simply

    aren't willing to pay that much of a price in

    order to avoid losing.  And, as Haig points out,

    all the air power in the world and strikes on

    Hanoi-Haiphong aren't going to save South Viet-

    nam if the South Vietnamese aren't able to hold

    on the ground.3

 

    With the massive support of U.S. airpower, especially

 

B-52 and F-111 bombing missions, the South Vietnamese armed

 

forces did hold the ground and soundly defeated the massive

 

North Vietnamese army conventional attack in 1972.  The

 

following comments by U.S. Army General William Westmoreland

 

concerning the results of the 1972 operations support the

 

conclusion that as far as the United States was concerned,

 

the Vietnamization program was a success:

 

        Here, apparently, was the ultimate test of

    the long years of American effort to create via-

    ble South Vietnamese armed forces and of the

    decision taken by my predecessors many years

    before to organize regular units rather than

    light antiguerrilla forces.  Even as the test

    developed, the last American battalions began

    to move, not to help in the fight but to com-

    plete American withdrawal...as the results of

    the test eventually demonstrated, the ARVN, for

    all of the many errors in plans and execution, no

    longer required the assistance of American ground

    troops, although their success owed much to

    American tactical air support.4

 

    Although the RVNAF showed they no longer required the

 

assistance of American ground troops in 1972, they were

 

still heavily dependent on U.S. airpower and U.S. resupply

 

and maintenance support--both of which were severely cut

 

by Congress after the U.S. troop withdrawal in 1973, and

 

almost non-existant in early 1975.  The United States

 

taught the South Vietnamese armed forces well on how to

 

fight and win a conventional war against the North Viet-

 

namese; however, the U.S. taught them the American way,

 

with massive firepower and plenty of mobility (i.e.,

 

artillery, air and helicopters) that could only be supported

 

by continued U.S. aid--something a war-weary U.S. public and

 

Congress were unwilling to fund.  President Nixon noted this

 

in his memoirs:

 

        For more than two years after the peace agree-

    ment the South Vietnamese had held their own

    against the Communists.  This proved the will and

    mettle of the South Vietnamese people and their

    desire to live in freedom.  It also proved that

    Vietnamization had succeeded.  When Congress

    reneged on our obligations under the agreements,

    the Communists predictably rushed in to fill the

    gap.  The Congressional bombing cutoff, coupled

    with the limitation placed on the President by

    the War Powers Resolution in November 1973, set

    off a string of events that led to the Communist

    takeover in Cambodia and, on April 30, 1975, the

    North Vietnamese conquest of South Vietnam.

 

        Congress denied first to me, and then to

    President Ford, the means to enforce the Paris

    Agreement at a time when the North Vietnamese

    were openly violating it.  Even more devastating

    and inexcusable, in 1974 Congress began cutting

    back on military aid for South Vietnam at a time

    when the Soviets were increasing their aid to

    North Vietnam.  As a result, when the North

    Vietnamese launched their all-out invasion of

    the South in the spring of 1975, they had the

    advantage in arms, and the threat of American

    action to enforce the agreement was totally

    removed.  A year after the collapse of South

    Vietnam, the field commander in charge of

    Hanoi's final offensive cited the cutback in

    American aid as a major factor in North Viet-

    nam's victory.  He remarked that Thieu "was

    forced to fight a poor man's war," with his

    firepower reduced by 60 percent and his

    mobility reduced by half because of lack of

    aircraft, vehicles, and fuel.

 

        The war and the peace in Indochina that

    America had won at such cost over twelve years

    of sacrifice and fighting were lost within a

    matter of months once Congress refused to

    fulfill our obligations.  And it is Congress

    that must bear the responsibility for the

    tragic results.5

 

    Indeed, if Vietnamization had any chance at all in

 

being successful in 1975, it was thwarted by Congress',

 

withholding of two vital prerequisites:  U.S. air support

 

and military aid.  However, there were serious problems

 

within the South Vietnam government which acted to erode

 

American public and Congressional support.  These internal

 

problems ultimately brought about the collapse of the

 

South Vietnamese armed forces.  The best the United States

 

could do was to continue to provide aid and buy time to

 

hopefully allow the South Vietnamese to solve their own

 

internal problems.  Unfortunately, U.S. patience had grown

 

thin by 1975.

 

               SOUTH VIETNAMESE ASSESSMENT

 

 

    If American leaders felt that Vietnamization was a

 

success, there were many South Vietnamese leaders who

 

did not share that optimistic view; some in fact were

 

highly critical of the program.  Some even called it a

 

"U.S. Dollar and Vietnam Blood Sharing Plan," enabling

 

the United States to stage a "peace with honor" solution

 

in South Vietnam.6  One South Vietnamese leader who was

 

critical of Vietnamization was General Tran Van Don,

 

former Chairman of the Senate and House Defense Committee,

 

and finally, Minister of Defense.  Here is what he had to

 

say about the Vietnamization program:

 

        I was an opponent of Vietnamization....  I will

    tell just one story.  I visited (some units in the

    field) and tried to understand the program of

    Vietnamization of the war...it was in the head-

    quarters of 5th Division.  I discussed the question

    with the commander of the division, General Minh Van

    Hieu, a most honest general, and capable, too.  I

    was surprised by his answer; it opened my eyes.  I

    asked him, "What do you think of Vietnamization?"

    He said to me, "It's impossible to be implemented."

    "Why?"  He said, "The 5th Division covers an area

    where there were two other divisions, Americans,

    and now with the departure of the two American

    divisions I have only my division to cover the

    whole area.  I have three regiments for this area

    and must use one regiment to replace one division.

    How can I face the enemy like this?  I have become

    weaker."  He looked very disappointed.  I was

    surprised; he was a quiet man, a polite man, and he

    tried to do his best.  But he said to me that this

    was impossible.  "How can I cover a bigger area with

    less units?"  So the Vietnamization of the war means

    that we are becoming weaker.7

 

    Generals Don and Hieu were not alone in expressing con-

 

cern that Vietnamization fostered weakness within the South

 

Vietnamese armed forces.  General Cao Van Vien, the last

 

Chairman of the South Vietnamese Joint General Staff, also

 

felt that the RVNAF were not prepared to take over, for the

 

program would require ARVN to stretch its forces to fill

 

the void created when the American forces withdrew:

 

         So, when the United States shifted its policy

    to negotiation and began withdrawing forces from

    Vietnam under the expedient program of "Vietnami-

    zation," the Republic of Vietnam armed forces were

    not entirely prepared to take over, psychologically

    or physically.  How could they--without a substan-

    tial increase in the number of major combat units--

    effectively replace seven divisions, four brigades,

    and innumerable support units of the U.S. forces

    committed in Vietnam in addition to other non-

    Communist forces?  No amount of training, equip-

    ment, or political exhortation could effectively

    fill the physical void or ease the feeling of

    insecurity that set in.  Our forces began to

    stretch and soon suffered the consequence.8

 

    Using the results of the 1972 "Easter" offensive by the

 

North Vietnamese as an example to illustrate the results of

 

Vietnamization, General Vien came to the opposite conclusion

 

from that given by General Westmoreland and President Nixon.

 

Instead of proving the success of Vietnamization, he empha-

 

sized that the 1972 operations brought to light the criti-

 

cal and, ultimately fatal, weakness of Vietnamization:

 

         The enemy's offensive of 1972 dramatically

    brought to the surface the basic weakness of the

    Vietnamization process.  Without U.S. support in

    airpower and mobility, the Republic of Vietnam

    armed forces could hardly have held An Loc,

    defended Kontum, or reoccupied Quang Tri.9

 

    Perhaps the biggest complaint about the Vietnamization

 

program is that it came along too late; however, when it did,

 

it required too much, too soon of the South Vietnamese armed

       

forces.10   For too long, the South Vietnamese officers and

 

soldiers were relegated to a second class role while the

 

Americans assumed full responsibility for fighting the war.

 

The South Vietnamese armed forces became overly dependent

 

on U.S. money and equipment to sustain itself, and needed U.S.

 

airpower as a protective shield.  Consequently, the South

 

Vietnamese learned to do things the easy way, taking it for

 

granted that the needed supplies would always flow, and if

 

they did get into any serious trouble, the United States

 

would always be there to rescue them.  However, unlike in

 

the 1972 North Vietnamese "Easter" offensive, the U.S.

 

chose not to intervene on South Vietnam's behalf in 1975.

 

                        CHAPTER 4

 

               COLLAPSE OF THE REPUBLIC OF

 

                   VIETNAM ARMED FORCES

 

 

                     RVNAF LEADERSHIP

 

 

    In analyzing leadership within the Republic of Viet-

 

nam's armed forces prior to the final collapse in 1975,

 

three characteristics of the top military leaders come

 

into sharp focus:  incompetence, passivity and corruption.

 

This is not to say that these characteristics were exhi-

 

bited by all of South Vietnam's military leaders nor that

 

the required leadership to guide the RVNAF to success in

 

1975 was not available.  Indeed, the brillaint resistance

 

by the 18th ARVN Division at Xuan Loc, led by General

 

Le Minh Dao, gives some evidence that good leaders did

 

exist in South Vietnam in 1975; however, the system simply

 

did not allow enough of them to surface in time and take

 

charge in enough critical situations to have any signifi-

 

cant impact on the final outcome of the war.1  In other

 

words, South Vietnam ran out of time in 1975.

 

    In any nation, the political role of its armed forces

 

is critical, especially if the nation looks to its mili-

 

tary leaders for political leadership as well.  Under these

 

conditions where the military forms the political base of

 

government, the military can be susceptible to politicization.

 

Such a system ensures its military leaders are chosen,

 

promoted, and favored for political loyalty rather than

 

professional military skill.2  Unfortunately for South

 

Vietnam, this was the situation of the RVNAF top leader-

 

ship in 1975.

 

    In fact, after the November coup of 1963 when the

 

military overthrew the Diem regime, military leadership in

 

South Vietnam became intricately entwined with the politi-

 

cal structure.  The political instability which followed

 

the 1963 coup adversely affected the performance of the

 

South Vietnamese armed forces; this precipitated increased

 

involvement by the United States in conducting military

 

operations in South Vietnam by 1965.  Although the Thieu

 

government succeeded in bringing some semblance of sta-

 

bility to the government of South Vietnam, the corruption

 

and politicized promotion system remained.  General Cao Van

 

Vien was highly critical of military leadership within the

 

Republic of Vietnam's armed forces, and he had this to say

 

about it:

 

        Of the flaws and vulnerabilities that military

    leadership in the RVNAF might have demonstrated,

    the most detrimental were perhaps political-

    mindedness and corruption.  The November coup of

    1963 had changed military leadership so completely

    that the RVNAF were never the same again.  Its

    effect could still be felt even after elective

    democracy had been institutionalized.  Politics had

    been so ingrained among senior commanders that it

    was impossible for them to relinquish it and

    return to military professionalism.  The Thieu

    regime, in fact, feared not so much the enemy from

    the outside as those who had once been partners

    and comrade-in-arms.  And that explained why, one

    by one, the politically ambitious ones had to go,

    but potential rivalry still persisted.3

 

    The tragic results that can occur when a promotion

 

system is based on loyalty instead of competence is clearly

 

illustrated by the inept performance of II Corps' commander,

 

General Pham Van Phu, during the Central Highlands with-

 

drawal operations in March 1975.  General Phu's failed

 

leadership produced a strategic disaster, causing approxi-

 

mately 75 percent destruction of II Corps' combat strength

                                              

and the permanent loss of the Central Highlands.4  During

 

the withdrawal, General Phu left his men behind to fight

 

the North Vietnamese while he fled to safety in Saigon by

 

helicopter.  General Don commented that Phu could have

 

been a "famous colonel" but that Thieu "made him a general,

 

and at Premier Khiem's personal recommendation gave him one

                                          

of Vietnam's most difficult military jobs."5  General Don

 

was specifically referring to Phu's appointment as the

 

commander of II Corps.  Unfortunately, only in a system

 

which rewards loyalty instead of competence, could a general

 

like Phu have achieved such high rank and command responsi-

 

bility.

 

    While the politicized promotion system tended to push

 

incompetent officers to higher levels of leadership within

 

the RVNAF, the extensive American involvement in conducting

 

the war produced passivity within South Vietnam's military

 

leadership.  Because they were completely dependent upon

 

the United States for technology, firepower, and mobility,

 

the South Vietnamese military leaders tended to rely on

 

their American advisors to make decisions.  In addition,

 

most Americans preferred to work with Vietnamese who were

 

willing to be cooperative.  Buu Vien, former South Viet-

 

namese Assistant Minister of Defense, stated that pleasing

 

Americans became the principle goal of South Vietnam's

 

officers.  He describes the effect American involvement in

 

South Vietnam had upon its leadership in the following

 

passage:

 

        The presence of American advisors at all

    levels of the military hierarchy created among

    the Vietnamese leadership a mentality of reli-

    ance on their advice and suggestions.  Even

    though some officers didn't like the intrusive

    presence of their American counterparts, most

    of them felt more confident when they had their

    advisors at their sides.  The ideas might be

    theirs, but they felt more assured when those

    ideas were concurred in by American advisors

    than when they were suggested by their superiors.

    Officers talking about their performance never

    failed to mention how much they were being

    appreciated by their American counterparts as

    though appreciation by American advisors was

    evidence of their success, their command

    ability, their honesty.6

 

    The most common mistake the United States made in

 

training South Vietnam's military leaders was to give them

 

minor roles to play during joint U.S./Vietnamese operations;

 

this discouraged independent initiative within the South

 

Vietnamese armed forces.  Colonel Vu Van Uoc, the Chief

 

Operations Officer of the South Vietnamese Air Force, made

 

the following comments concerning the manner in which the

 

United States conducted joint operations and fostered

 

South Vietnamese dependence:

 

        ... during the years 1964-1972 when U.S.

    troops were actively fighting in South Vietnam,

    most campaigns and big military operations were

    placed under American supervision.  Even in

    joint U.S./Vietnamese operations, ARVN was only

    given a minor role and air force tactics were

    placed under the supervision of American advisors.

    In that situation, ARVN felt a too-heavy depend-

    ence upon U.S. forces and one can hardly say

    these operations were under Vietnamese jurisdic-

    tion.  The same policy was applied to high-ranking

    and also to combat officers, so that ARVN com-

    pletely lost the notion of being an independent

    army.7

 

    However, it is a natural tendency for any army which

 

supplies the major portion of the war fighting equipment

 

to exercise greater control over operations.  In addition,

 

the political climate in the United States would simply

 

not allow for South Vietnamese officers to command American

 

troops during combat operations, especially if the possi-

 

bility of incurring high U.S. casualties existed.

 

    The most damaging element found within the high-ranking

 

military leadership of South Vietnam was corruption.  The

 

adverse impact corruption had in eroding the support of the

 

U.S. public and Congress, and eventually the South Vietnamese

 

people, spelled disaster for the Thieu regime and was largely

 

responsible for the ultimate collapse of South Vietnam and

 

its armed forces.

 

    Corruption assumed many forms from bribery to black

 

marketeering.  However, its most serious form involved the

 

buying and selling of military appointments and the collec-

 

tion of army pay from "ghost soldiers" and "roll-call"

 

soldiers.  In all cases, corruption succeeded in destroying

 

morale and crippling the effective combat power of the

 

South Vietnamese armed forces.

 

    The buying and selling of military appointments enabled

 

inept officers to obtain positions, and in some cases criti-

 

cal military commands, for which they were not qualified.

 

In the case of "ghost soldiers," superior officers would

 

pocket the salaries of soldiers who had been killed or had

 

deserted by simply not taking them off the payroll.  In

 

order to evade the draft, the system of "roll-call soldiers"

 

was devised whereby soldiers would appear only for roll-call

 

and would give their salary to their superiors in return for

 

being allowed to be absent from duty.  This had a more

 

serious implication other than the loss of large amounts of

 

money:  many units were severely under-manned and this was

 

not discovered until they had to go and fight in combat.

 

    More important than under-manned units and incompetent

 

commanders, corruption created an ever widening gap between

 

the leaders and the ARVN soldiers.  This demoralizing

 

situation eventually affected the soldier's desire to fight

 

for their leaders and the country.  A former South Viet-

 

namese commander made the following comments concerning

 

the effect of corruption upon the soldiers and the people:

 

        Corruption always engenders social injustice.

    In Vietnam, a country at war, social injustice

    was more striking than in any other country.

    Corruption had created a small elite which held

    all the power and wealth, and a majority of middle-

    class people and peasants who became poorer and

    poorer and who suffered all the sacrifices.  It

    was these people who paid the taxes to the govern-

    ment, the bribes to the police, who had to buy

    fertilizer at exhorbitant prices and to sell their

    rice at a price fixed by the government, and it

    was also these people who sent their sons to fight

    and die for the country while high government

    officials and wealthy peopled sent theirs abroad.

    An army doctor once told me that he was disheartened

    to see that all the wounded, all the amputees who

    crowded his hospital came from the lower class,

    from the peasants' families, and that they had

    suffered and sacrificed for a small class of

    corrupt elite.  The government professed to win

    the heart and the mind of the people, but all it

    had done was to create a widening gap between the

    leadership and the mass; and this increasing

    conflict, this internal contradiction, if we were

    to use Communist parlance, could not last; it had

    somehow to be resolved.  Unfortunately it was

    resolved in the Communist way.8

 

    In summary, the leadership within the South Vietnamese

 

armed forces encompassed all the worst possible features.

 

It lacked the competence to do the job when the crisis

 

arose; the aggressiveness to take and gain the initiative

 

from the enemy; and ultimately, the moral credibility to

 

maintain the loyal support of its soldiers and the South

 

Vietnamese people.

 

                      RVNAF MORALE

 

 

    In the end, the survival of South Vietnam depended upon

 

the individual ARVN soldier's willingness to fight, resist

 

and eventually defeat the enemy.  This willingness to fight

 

was extremely dependent upon troop morale.  Yet, like every-

 

thing else in South Vietnam, under the impact of the North

 

Vietnamese offensive in 1975, the soldiers' morale also

 

rapidly collapsed.  While the events of 1975 would seem at

 

first glance to indicate that morale collapsed suddenly

 

after the Central Highlands debacle, a closer analysis

 

indicates that the collapse of morale began much sooner

 

and was undermined by serious economic and political condi-

 

tions within South Vietnam.

 

    In 1973 an economic depression occurred in South Vietnam

 

which had a devastating effect on military morale.  There

 

were two main factors which contributed to the crisis in

 

South Vietnam.  One was the rice shortage of 1972, caused

 

by poor harvests throughout Asia, which sharply increased

 

the price of rice for everyone, including the ARVN soldiers

 

The second was the U.S. troop withdrawal and closing of

 

American bases which wiped out about 300,000 jobs.9  The

 

depression was also related in part to the worldwide

 

economic crisis that followed the Arab oil embargo of late

 

1973 and the subsequent quadrupling of oil prices.

 

    The economic crisis had a devastating effect upon the

 

salaries of the ARVN soldiers which failed to keep pace

 

withinflation throughout South Vietnam brought on by the

 

oil embargo.  A soldier's monthly salary actually supported

 

him for only about a week.  The U.S. Defense Attache Office

 

(DAO) in Saigon reported that this salary situation

 

affected "tactical performance, as well as morale," because

 

so many men worked at other jobs and were unavailable for

 

military duties.  Surveys conducted by the DAO reported

 

that 92 percent of enlisted men and junior officers thought

 

their pay and allowances were inadequate, 80 percent felt

 

standard rations were insufficient, half had insufficient

 

clothing, and 40 percent had inadequate housing.  In addi-

 

tion, a DAO report in 1974 indicated that "it is quite

 

clear that RVNAF personnel are forced to live at less than

 

reasonable subsistence levels, and that performance and

 

mission accomplishment are seriously affected."  The report

 

cautioned that "deterioration" had to be halted "if RVNAF

 

is to be considered a viable military force."10

 

    An indication that the deteriorating economic condition

 

were affecting the morale of the South Vietnamese armed

 

forces can be seen from the following comment by a high-

 

ranking South Vietnamese officer:

 

        Yeah, you are a soldier, you are a squad leader

    with your squad, and you get the order to defend a

    hill to the death.  You cannot defend to the death,

    when every week you hear from your family that

    they don't have enough food to eat.  And you

    look back to Saigon, the rich had food, liquor,

    they have money, they relax, have a good time.

    Why fight to the death?  For whom?11

 

    The political conditions within South Vietnam also had

 

a direct bearing on the morale of the South Vietnamese

 

armed forces.  In particular, the corruption and discrimina-

 

tion surrounding South Vietnam's mobilization system was

 

counterproductive toward maintaining morale within the

 

military.  Instead of establishing a limited tour of duty

 

in the military, the mobilization law required a draftee to

 

stay in the army until he was either killed or became

 

physically unable to fight.  As a result, corruption,

 

draft dodging and desertion reached epidemic proportions

 

in South Vietnam, ultimately taking its toll upon the

 

morale of the ARVN soldiers who felt they shared a dispro-

 

portionate share of the burden in fighting the war.  The

 

former Assistant Minister of Defense, Buu Vien, said of

 

the mobilization law that "in reality, it was a discrimina-

 

tory law whose enforcement...due to several clauses on draft

 

deferments, created two categories of citizens:  those who

 

were forced into the army and those fortunate enough to

 

stay out."12

 

    The departure of American forces in 1973, along with the

 

subsequent cutback in U.S. aid and cutoff of U.S. air support,

 

also had a debilitating effect upon the morale of the South

 

Vietnamese armed forces.  Because of the cutback of U.S.

 

military aid, the RVNAF were forced to restrict their expendi-

 

tures of ammunition for artillery and helicopter sorties for

 

troop mobility and medical evacuation missions.13  This

 

action resulted in increased combat losses creating a

 

general feeling among the ranks that many soldiers were

 

dying needlessly.

 

    Many conditions occurred after 1973 that acted to under-

 

mine the morale of the South Vietnamese armed forces.  How-

 

ever, when the end came in April 1975, there were three

 

major factors which had a direct impact upon the final

 

collapse of the RVNAF.  The first was the "psychological

 

collapse" where each soldier believed that "the war had

 

lasted too long, had been too costly, and had offered too

 

few prospects of favorable termination."  Finally, the

 

ARVN soldiers convinced themselves that "the enemy would

 

never give up."14

 

    The second factor was the breakdown of leadership and

 

discipline when high-ranking commanders refused to fight

                                                  

and abandoned their units to seek personal safety.15

 

Such was the case with General Phu, II Corps commander,

 

who after prohibiting his men from moving without orders

 

and vowing to defend his region to the end, left his head-

 

quarters without informing his subordinates and fled by

 

helicopter to safety in Saigon.16

 

    A third and most crucial factor also existed:  the

 

belief spread by rumors that deals had been made with the

 

Communists by the Thieu regime to abandon certain areas

 

South Vietnam defended and that the North Vietnamese

 

would take control of areas where the ARVN soldiers'

 

families lived.17  Unlike American forces, which fought

 

abroad while their families lived safely at home, South

 

Vietnamese soldiers fought in areas inhabited by their

 

families.  When the situation progressed to the point

 

that the lives of their families were endangered, the ARVN

 

soldiers deserted to save their families.  Many were well

 

aware of the atrocities committed by the Communists after

 

they captured Hue during the Tet offensive in 1968.18

 

    In retrospect, these serious morale problems, along with

 

the severe cutback in U.S. aid and cutoff in U.S. air support,

 

combined to put enormous pressure on the RVNAF.  The pres-

 

sure was so great that South Vietnam's army totally disin-

 

tegrated.  An analysis of the final report written by the

 

Defense Attache in Saigon accurately described what

 

happened to the Republic of Vietnam's armed forces:  "It

 

was individual decisions of tens of thousands of ARVN troops

 

to put the safety of their families ahead of their military

 

duties that disintegrated the vast South Vietnamese military

 

structure."l9

 

                       CONCLUSION

 

 

    April 30, 1985 will mark the tenth anniversary of the

 

fall of South Vietnam.  Still, after ten years, the

 

haunting memory of millions of panic-stricken South Viet-

 

namese fleeing by sea and air to escape the on-rushing

 

North Vietnamese Army remains deeply etched in the minds

 

of those who were there to witness those tragic events in

 

1975.  Even more disheartening, the refusal of the United

 

States to take decisive action to fulfill its obligations

 

to a former ally may have serious implications for our

 

future relationships with other democratic third world

 

nations, and their perception of the U.S. as a reliable

 

ally.  Although numerous lessons can be drawn from

 

Vietnam experiences, three will have significant impact

 

upon future U.S. actions in foreign affairs.

 

    The first lesson is the need to distinguish between

 

problems which lend themselves to political solutions and

 

those which require military ones.  Indeed, the Paris

 

Agreements failed miserably because they did not solve this

 

very problem.  The Joint Military Commission was one

 

created to solve a political problem--that of determining

 

which side controlled which territory.  Because this issue

 

of controlling territory was not decided through political

 

means, the cease-fire could not last.  Conversely, the U.S.

 

and South Vietnam's reluctance to put effective military

 

pressure on North Vietnam by conducting the ground war

 

above the 17th parallel and denying Hanoi a secure rear

 

area was a major mistake not to apply a military solution

 

where one was needed.  Instead, the U.S. only employed

 

air warfare to a point where the North Vietnamese would

 

agree to negotiate if the bombings were halted, allowing

 

them time to regroup and prepare for their next offensive.

 

By allowing the enemy to maintain the initiative, RVNAF

 

morale suffered drastically because the soldiers eventually

 

felt the situation was hopeless and appeared to them that

 

the enemy would never give up.  The policy to negotiate

 

politically what had  not been won on the battlefield

 

proved disastrous throughout the Vietnam War, and is a key

 

point our future leaders should keep in mind during nego-

 

tiations in future armed conflicts.

 

    A second lesson to be learned from Vietnam is that the

 

U.S. must have domestic support for its foreign policy to

 

succeed.  More importantly, our leaders must be articulate

 

enough to express that policy clearly, and convince the

 

American people that our nation pursue that policy in order

 

to protect our national interests.  Again, U.S. policy-

 

makers failed to analyze the U.S. public's willingness to

 

support the Vietnam War and were unable to rally domestic

 

support for our foreign policy in Vietnam, especially in

 

the period following the signing of the Paris Agreements

 

in 1973.  Prior to engaging in future third world con-

 

flicts, our national leaders must cautiously avoid commitment

 

until certain that the national will is strong enough to

 

sustain U.S. policy over an extended period of time--possi-

 

bly under adverse conditions.

 

    Although I did not devote much time in this paper speaking

 

about the role of the news media during this period, it's

 

very apparent the North Vietnamese were much more effective

 

than the U.S. in using the press to justify their policies

 

and aims.  Our leaders need to be more adept in explaining

 

our foreign policy to the American public and more aggressive

 

at correcting erroneous press reports.  The outrageous

 

reports of indiscriminate U.S. bombings of North Vietnam in

 

December 1972 by the Western news media were extremely

 

successful in substantially hardening public and Congressional

 

opinions against continued American involvement in the war

 

and forcing the Nixon Administration to stop the bombing.

 

In halting the bombing when it did, the U.S. failed to

 

destroy North Vietnam's war sustaining capabilities just at

 

the most opportune moment when Hanoi's air defenses were

 

almost completely annihilated and U.S. aircraft could have

 

virtually roamed free over the skies of North Vietnam.1  As

 

a result, the North Vietnamese got the cease-fire they

 

needed, succeeded in forcing the U.S. out of Vietnam, and

 

gained precious time to rebuild their combat power for

 

their final assault on South Vietnam.

 

    The truth about the Christmas bombings revealed that

 

only military areas were targeted and hit (aside from

 

some civilian structures such as the Bach Mai Hospital

 

which suffered damage because it was built near a military

 

airfield, despite repeated U.S. warnings to Hanoi not to

 

locate civilian structures near military areas).2  In addi-

 

tion, there were only 1,623 civilian casualties total

 

during the entire 12-day operation--surprisingly small when

 

compared to almost 84,000 people killed in one night during

 

the fire bombing of Tokyo in March 1945 during World War II.3

 

Unfortunately, very little of this was ever explained to

 

the American public by the news media at the time.  This

 

type of reporting damaged our foreign policy because it

 

worked to distort and confuse the real issues.  If our

 

foreign policy is to be supported by the American people,

 

our leaders must be more effective in dealing with the

 

media to insure that our policies and actions are clearly

 

and effectively explained to the people.

 

    Finally, our political and military leaders must under-

 

stand the needs of the people that we are trying to help.

 

Americans cannot always assume that our way of fighting is

 

appropriate in every situation.  In the case of South Viet-

 

nam, the RVNAF was designed to resemble the U.S. military

 

structure; they were inundated with modern, technologically

 

superior weapons and saddled with an enormously expensive

 

and manpower-intensive logistics system to maintain their

 

armed forces.  Consequently, although the RVNAF numbered

 

1.1 million men, only 100,000 were actual combat troops.

 

When the U.S. aid was cut after 1973 and the RVNAF had to

 

restrict their expenditure of ammunition and use of heli-

 

copters, they lost the technological advantage and mobility

 

they enjoyed over the North Vietnamese Army in 1972; they

 

were forced to fight a "poor man's war" against a numeri-

 

cally superior enemy.  This situation proved fatal in 1975.

 

    As I stated in the beginning of this paper, we would

 

try to analyze some crucial events which occurred prior to

 

April 30, 1975, and try to determine the reason the South

 

Vietnamese armed forces suddenly and totally collapsed in

 

those fateful early months of 1975.  The reasons were many:

 

low morale, uncontrolled corruption, incompetent leader-

 

ship, and the lack of U.S. military aid and air support,

 

especially close air and deep interdiction of Hanoi's war-

 

sustaining operations along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  There

 

were two critical events which occurred after 1973 that

 

sealed the fate of South Vietnam and paved the way for

 

North Vietnam to successfully conclude a military solution

 

to the conquest of South Vietnam:  the Paris Agreements in

 

January 1973 and the Congressional bombing cutoff in

 

August 1973.

 

    Without a doubt, the agreement signed in Paris to end

 

the war and restore the peace in Vietnam was a critical

 

turning point in the beginning of the end for South Vietnam.

 

Although the Nixon Administration fully intended that South

 

Vietnam would remain free and independent, the fact remains

 

that the agreement was only successful in withdrawing U.S.

 

troops from South Vietnam and obtaining the return of

 

American POWs from North Vietnam.  Hanoi had good reason

 

for strictly complying with these two terms:  by removing

 

the U.S. from the war, North Vietnam was free to rebuild

 

after the devastation it suffered during the 1972 "Easter"

 

offensive and prepare for its final offensive in 1975 to

 

conquer all of South Vietnam.

 

    The superb military performance of the ARVN troops

 

during the Communist LANDGRAB 73 operation provides clear

 

proof that the South Vietnamese forces were militarily

 

stronger than the Communist forces in the South in 1973.

 

If the terms of the Paris Agreements were kept and North

 

Vietnam not allowed to massively rebuild its forces in the

 

South as it did, the cease-fire could have worked, and

 

South Vietnam would have had a much more favorable chance

 

for survival.  The Thieu government definitely needed

 

reform; however, with over 160,000 NVA regular troops

 

inside South Vietnam's borders, democratic reform was a

 

luxury a government concerned with national survival

 

could ill-afford.  However, removal of the external North

 

Vietnamese threat could have gone a long way towards

 

creating a favorable environment within the South to

 

encourage meaningful reforms.

 

    Many former South Vietnamese leaders truly believed

 

that the "fates" were against them in 1975.  They felt that

 

no matter what  they could have done to change things in

 

1975, the outcome would have been the same.  Some leaders,

 

like South Vietnamese General Don, remarked that they

 

seriously thought about overthrowing the Thieu regime and

 

trying to form a coalition government with the PRG.4  How-

 

ever, they were fearful that they would lose American

 

support, since the U.S. was so constant in its support of

 

President Thieu.5  However, the memory of the political

 

chaos in South Vietnam that followed after the 1963 Diem

 

coup was firmly established in the minds of the U.S.

 

leadership and was one of the primary reasons the Nixon

 

Administration held firm in its support of the Thieu

 

government, despite its often corrupt and inefficient

 

practices.  The United States was firmly committed to

 

decreasing its  active involvement in the war and politi-

 

cal stability in South Vietnam was necessary in order for

 

Vietnamization to succeed.

 

    Indeed, because of the events which occurred after the

 

overthrow of the Diem regime and the external military

 

threat posed by North Vietnam, the Nixon Administration's

 

position in relation to its support of the Thieu government

 

was the correct one.  The corruption and inefficiency

 

within the Thieu regime was not unique and is common in

 

many developing countries throughout Asia, including Commu-

 

nist Vietnam today.  The only reason the Western world

 

doesn't see the corrupt, inefficient, and oftentimes cruel

 

practices within Communist governments like Hanoi's is

 

because the Communists have complete control over the press

 

and systematically liquidate any political opposition which

 

could cause unrest and dissension among the local popula-

 

tion.

 

    Despite the lack of support by the United States and

 

the enormous external threat posed by the North Vietnamese

 

Army, the Thieu regime cannot hold itself unaccountable

 

for its failure to gain the support of its own soldiers in

 

1975.  Although the scenes of south Vietnamese rangers

 

fleeing in panic from Da Nang presented a horrifying and

 

disgusting image of the RVNAF to the world, the perform-

 

ance of some ARVN soldiers, especially during the battle

 

of Xuan Loc, indicates that some were extremely capable

 

and willing to fight, provided they had the proper leader-

 

ship.  The shortage of competent, professional military

 

leadership in 1975 was a key factor in the disintegration

 

of morale within the RVNAF, which precipitated the rapid

 

and unprecedented collapse of one of the largest armies in

 

Asia.  Thieu's fixation on the internal threat to his

 

regime and his policy to reward political loyalty with

 

promotion and command proved fatal to South Vietnam by

 

producing a military leadership which was incapable of

 

dealing effectively with the external threat posed by

 

North Vietnam in 1975.

 

    In conclusion, the top military leadership in South

 

Vietnam, created by a politicized promotion system, proved

 

incapable of successfully combatting the North Vietnamese

 

threat in 1975.  However, there were younger and more

 

capable South Vietnamese officers who could have provided

 

the necessary leadership to the RVNAF to prevent its

 

collapse if they could have surfaced to the top earlier.

 

If the U.S. Congress had been willing to fulfill its moral

 

obligations to South Vietnam and allowed the President a

 

free hand to effectively punish Hanoi's blatant violations

 

of the Paris Agreements, South Vietnam could have survived

 

the 1975 NVA offensive.  If the terms of the agreements had

 

been strictly enforced upon Hanoi, there is a very strong

 

possibility that North Vietnam would not have been able to

 

recover as quickly as it did; and, with a little more time,

 

the younger military officers in the RVNAF could have had

 

time to move into top leadership positions.

 

    If these officers could have succeeded in making signi-

 

ficant reforms within the armed forces, then the RVNAF may

 

have been able to thwart the NVA offensive and quite possi-

 

bly made a difference in the final outcome of the Vietnam

 

War.  However, events proved that the deficiencies inherent

 

in the Thieu regime eroded the support of its people and

 

soldiers; thus, the collapse was inevitable.  Also, the

 

political climate in the United States during this time

 

period would not allow for U.S. support to the government

 

of South Vietnam to continue indefinitely.  Although these

 

younger officers could have eventually fostered the neces-

 

sary reforms, the South Vietnamese needed to make quick

 

changes and simply ran out of time in 1975.

 

 

            CHRONOLOGY OF SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

 

1972          - Serious negotiations conducted by the U.S. and

    North Vietnam during this year to end the

    Vietnam War.

 

Jan 25  - President Nixon reveals that Henry Kissinger has

          been secretly nogotiating with the North Viet-

          namese since 1969.

 

Mar 30  - North Vietnam launches the "Easter" offensive.

 

Jun 17  - Five men were arrested for breaking into Demo-

          Cratic National Committee offices; Watergate

          Episode begins.

 

Aug 1   - Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho meet again in

          Paris to resume peace talks.

 

Oct 8   - In Paris, Le Duc Tho proposes a new peace plan

          for the first time offering a settlement without

          the removal of South Vietnam's President Nguyen

          Van Thiew.  After reaching an agreement on all

          but a few details, he and Kissinger also agree

          that the pact will be signed October 31, follow-

          ing a secret journey by Kissinger to Hanoi.

 

Oct 18  - Kissinger arrives in Saigon to present the draft

          agreement to Thieu.

 

Oct 22  - Thieu rejects the agreement.  He mainly rejects

          The formation of the NCRC and the acceptance of

          NVA troops inside South Vietnam.  He gives

          Kissinger a list of 69 amendments to the agree-

          Ment before signing.

 

Oct 26  - Radio Hanoi broadcasts the agreement and accuses

          the U.S. of reneging.  A few hours later,

          Kissinger announces that "peace is at hand."

 

Nov 7   - Nixon is reelected by a landslide over Senator

          George McGovern.

 

Nov 20  - Kissinger resumes talks with Le Duc Tho and pre-

          sents him with the 69 amendments demanded by Thieu.

          North Vietnamese interpret this as a "breach of

          faith" and demand the October draft be signed in

          its original form without changes.

 

Dec 12  - Thieu announces that he still opposes the "false

          Peace."

 

Dec 14  - Hanoi calls for Thieu's removal and peace talks

          are deadlocked.  Kissinger blames Hanoi and Nixon

          sends North Vietnam an ultimatum to begin talking

          seriously within 72 hours or face the consequences.

 

Dec 18  - Linebacker Two operations begin.

 

Dec 30  - The "Christmas bombing" ends.

 

1973          - The "Third Indochina War" starts during this year

          and Congress enacts measures to limit further U.S.

          involvement in Southeast Asia.

 

Jan 8   - Kissinger and Le Duc Tho meet in Paris and again

          agree on a settlement.  The principal features are

          basically the same as those drafted in October.

 

Jan 21  - Nixon warns Thieu that U.S. aid will be cutoff if

          Saigon does not sign the agreements.  Thieu agrees

          to sign.

 

Jan 23  - Communists launch LANDGRAB 73 operation to gain

          land and population control prior to cease-fire.

 

Jan 27  - Paris Agreements of 1973 formally signed.

 

Feb 3   - LANDGRAB 73 operations end.

 

Mar 29  - Last American troops leave Vietnam.

 

Apr 1   - Last American POWs released.

 

Aug 15  - Congress terminates U.S. bombing in Cambodia and

          requires Congressional approval for funding of

          U.S. military action in any part of Indochina.

 

Nov 7   - Congress overrides Nixon's veto of the War Powers

          Resolution.

 

1974          - North Vietnam's leaders make plans during this year

          to "liberate" all of South Vietnam by 1976.

 

May 9   - Impeachment hearings on Nixon begin in the Congress.

 

Aug 9   - Nixon resigns; Ford becomes President.

 

1975          - North Vietnamese begin conventional offensive to

    conquer South Vietnam this year.

 

Jan 6   - Communists capture Phuoc Long province, north of

          Saigon.

 

Feb 5   - North Vietnamese General Van Tien Dung goes south

          to take command of Communist forces.

 

Mar 10  - Communists attack Ban Me Thuot.

 

Mar 15  - Thieu orders northern provinces of South Vietnam

          abandoned to consolidate a defense around Saigon.

 

Mar 20  - Thieu reverses himself and orders Hue be held to

          the last man.

 

Mar 25  - Hue falls.

 

Mar 30  - Da Nang falls; NVA controls both Military Regions

          1 and 2.

 

Mar 31  - Politburo in Hanoi directs General Dung to capture

          Saigon before the dry season ends; renames Saigon

          campaign the "Ho Chi Minh Campaign."

 

Apr 9   - Battle of Xuan Loc begins; the last South Vietnamese

          Defense line before Saigon.

 

Apr 17  - In Cambodia, Phnom Penh falls to the Khmer Rouge.

 

Apr 20  - Xuan Loc falls; the next day, Congress rejects

          President Ford's request for aid to South Vietnam

          for the last time.

 

Apr 23  - President Ford calls the Vietnam War "finished."

 

Apr 25  - Thieu leaves Saigon for Taiwan.  Vice-President

          Tran Van Huong becomes the new South Vietnamese

          President.

 

Apr 27  - President Huong steps down in favor of General Duong

          Van "Big" Minh.

 

Apr 29  - Helicopter evacuation begin; U.S. Ambassador Martin

          departs.

 

Apr 30  - Last U.S. Marine helicopter departs from the roof of

          the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and "Big Minh" surrenders

          unconditionally to the North Vietnamese.  Vietnam

          War ends.

 

 

                  CAST OF PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS

 

North Vietnamese

 

Le Duan           - Born in 1908 in Quang Tri, he rose

                    rapidly in the Communist Party hier-

                    archy.  By 1959, he was secretary-

                    general of the Lao Dong (Workers Party);

                    later succeeded Ho Chi Minh as the North

                    Vietnamese Communist Party's First Secretary.

 

Le Duc Tho        - Born about 1912 in nothern Vietnam.

                    Responsible for directing the insurgency

                    in the South; at the same time, negotiated

                    with Henry Kissinger to draft the paris

                    Agreements of 1973.

 

Tran Van Tra        - Born in central Vietnam in 1918.  Became

                    a deputy commander of the Communist

                    forces in the South; it is believed he

                    was purged after 1975 for criticizing the

                    Communist Party leadership.

 

Van Tien Dung  - Born in 1917; became a protégé of Vo

                    Nguyen Giap.  Directed the 1975 offensive

                    against Saigon; became defense minister

                    of Vietnam after 1975.

 

Vo Nguyen Giap        - Born in 1912 in central Vietnam.  Chief

                    Communist strategist during the Vietnam

                    War. Retired from public life after 1975.

 

South Vietnamese

 

Bui Diem          - South Vietnamese ambassador to the United

                    States from 1966-1972; later served as

                    roving envoy for President Thieu.

 

Cao Van Vien      - South Vietnamese general who served as

                    the last chairman of the South Vietnamese

                    Joint General Staff.

 

Duong Van Minh  - Known as "Big Minh" because of his size,

                    he served as senior army officer under

                    Diem and led the coup against Diem in

                    November 1963, but was toppled shortly

                    after taking power.  Became President of

                    South Vietnam in April 1975; surrendered

                    unconditionally to the North Vietnamese

                    on April 30, 1975.

 

Ngo Dinh Diem  - South Vietnam's first President.  Over-

                     thrown and murdered by his own generals

                    in November 1963.  His fall started the

                    chain of events that led to full-scale

                    American intervention in South Vietnam.

 

Nguyen Van Thieu - Born in 1924 in central Vietnam.  Became

                    President of South Vietnam in 1967.  Led

                    South Vietnam during Vietnamization and

                     the Paris peace negotiations.  However,

                    because of corruption and incompetence

                    within his regime, he was unable to main-

                    tain the popular support of the South

                    Vietnamese people.  He fled Vietnam just

                    before the fall of Saigon in late April

                    1975, blaming the collapse on the lack

                    of U.S. support.

 

Tran Van Don      - Born in France in 1917.  Served as a

                    senior officer in the Diem regime and

                    later became one of the organizers of

                    the coup to overthrow Diem.  Served as

                    South Vietnam's last Minister of Defense

                      and escaped to the United States in 1975

                    before the fall of Saigon.

 

Tran Van Huong - Born in 1903 in My Tho.  Served as mayor

                    of Saigon and Prime Minister of South

                    Vietnam for a few months in 1964 and early

                    1965 and again in 1968 for a year.  Served

                    as Thieu's vice-president from 1971-1975.

                    Became President of South Vietnam after

                    Thieu resigned and served for one week;

                    then he stepped down in favor of "Big

                    Minh."

 

Pham Van Phu      - Incompetent South Vietnamese general in

                    command of II Corps in the Central High-

                    lands.  Vowing to defend what was left of

                     his region to the last man, he abandoned

                    his men and escaped by helicopter to

                    safety in Saigon.  He later committed

                    suicide before the fall of Saigon.

 

Americans

 

Carl Albert       - Congressional representative from

                    Oklahoma; served as Speaker of the

                    House during the Nixon Administra-

                    tion.

 

Gerald R. Ford  - Became President after Nixon

                    resigned in August 1974.  Tried to

                    restore American aid to South Viet-

                    nam in 1975 but failed; declared

                       that the war was finished after

                    Congress rejected aid after the

                    fall of Xuan Loc on April 21, 1975.

 

J. William Fulbright - Senator from Arkansas from 1945-

1979.        Chairman of the Senate

Foreign Relations Committee during

the Vietnam War.  Later turned

against the war and was instru-

mental in passing the War Powers

Resolution in 1973.

 

Alexander Haig  - Commanded an infantry division in

                    Vietnam and later joined Kissinger's

                    National Security Council staff in

1969.        Negotiated with President

Thieu during the final phase of the

cease-fire talks in 1972.

 

Henry Kissinger      - Appointed National Security Advisor

                     by President Nixon in 1969.  Nego-

                    tiated with Le Duc Tho to achieve

                    the Paris Agreements in January

1973.        He was later appointed to

Secretary of State by Nixon.

 

Mike Mansfield       - Senator from Montana and early

                    Supporter of the Vietnam War.

                       Later turned against the war.

 

Graham Martin      - Last American ambassador to South

                    Vietnam, from 1973 until the fall

                    of Saigon in 1975.

 

Richard M. Nixon - Elected to President of the United

                    States in 1968 and 1972 but forced

                    By Watergate scandal to resign in

                    1974.  Enacted the Vietnamization

                    Policy to withdraw U.S. troops from

                    Vietnam and sought "Peace with

                    Honor" in negotiating the Paris

                    Agreements in 1973.

 

William C. Westmoreland - Appointed head of military advisory

                          Mission to Vietnam in 1964 by Presi-

                          dent Johnson.  Commanded U.S. combat

                          forces in Vietnam until 1968; later

                          became Army Chief of Staff.

 

Frederick C. Weyand - U.S. Commander in Vietnam in 1972

                      who warned that if the negotiations

                      in Paris did not solve the crucial

                      political question of territorial

                      control, the military truce commission

                      would be limited in its ability to

                      stop the fighting.  Proven correct,

                      when the Third Indochina War began.

 

 

 

                        ENDNOTES

 

                      INTRODUCTION

 

 

    1.  Daniel S. Papp, Vietnam: The View from Moscow, Peking

Washington, Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1981, p. 206.

 

    2.  Van Tien Dung, Our Great Spring Victory.  New York

and London:  Monthly Review Press, 1977, p. 10.

 

    3.  Ibid., p.  10.

 

    4.  Ibid., pp. 12-15.

 

    5.  Ibid., pp. 17-20.

 

    6.  Ibid., p.  19.

 

    7.  Ibid., p.  25.

 

    8.  Cao Van Vien, The Final Collapse, Washington:  Govern-

ment Printing Office, 1983, p. 7.

 

    9.  The BDM Corporation, A Study of Strategic Lessons

Learned in Vietnam, Vol. II, South Vietnam, Defense Techni-

cal Information Center Technical Report, Alexandria, VA:

Defense Logistics Agency, 1980, pp. 5-50.

 

    10. Cao Van Vien, The Final Collapse, Washington:  Govern-

ment Printing Office, 1983, pp. 7-8.

 

    11. Ibid., p. 8.

 

    12. Stephen T. Hosmer, Konrad Kellen and Brian M. Jenkins,

Thee Falls of South Vietnam:  Statements by Vietnamese Military

and Civilians Leaders, New York:  Crane, Russak, 1980, p. 12.

 

    13. Ibid., pp. 11-12.

 

    14. Ibid., p. 132.

 

    15. William E. Le Gro, Vietnam frown Cease-Fire to

Capitulation, Washington:  Government Printing Office, 1981,

p. 30.

 

    16. Stephen T. Hosmer, Konrad Kellen and Brian M. Jenkins,

The Fall of South Vietnam:  Statements by Vietnamese Military

and Civilian Leaders, New York:  Crane, Russak, 1980, pp. 11-13.

 

    17. Ibid., p. 9.

 

                         CHAPTER 1

 

    1.  Arnold R. Isaacs, Without Honor, Baltimore and

London:  The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983, p. 18.

 

    2.  Stanley Karnow, Vietnam:  A History, New York:

The Viking Press, 1983, p. 640.

 

    3.  Arnold R. Isaacs, Without Honor, Baltimore and

London:  The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983, p. 19.

 

    4.  Stanley Karnow, Vietnam:  A History, New York:

The Viking Press, 1983, p. 647.

 

    5.  Ibid., p. 643.

 

    6.  Arnold R. Isaacs, Without Honor, Baltimore and

London:  The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983, p. 23.

 

    7.  Ibid., p. 51.

 

    8.  Stanley Karnow, Vietnam:  A History, New York:

The Viking Press, 1983, p. 647.

 

    9.  William E. Le Gro, Vietnam from Cease-Fire to

Capitulation, Washington:  Government Printing Office,

1981, p. 2.

 

   10.  Stanley Karnow, Vietnam:  A History, New York:

The Viking Press, 1983, p. 651.

 

   11.  Ibid., pp. 652-653.

 

   12.  Van Tien Dung, Our Great Spring Victory, New York

and London:  Monthly Review Press, 1977, p. 7.

 

   13.  George C. Herring, America's Longest War:  The

United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975, New York:  Alfred A.

Knopf, 1979, p. 254.

 

   14. Allan E. Goodman, The Lost Peace, Stanford, CA:

Hoover Institution Press, 1978, p. 174.

 

   15. Tran Van Don, Our Endless War, San Rafael, CA and

London:  Presidio Press, 1978, p. 202.

 

   16. Ibid., p. 215.

 

   17. Stephen T. Hosmer, Konrad Kellen and Brian M. Jenkins,

The Fall of South Vietnam: Statements by Vietnamese Military

and Civilian Leaders, New York:  Crane, Russak, 1980, p. 29.

 

   18. Tran Van Don, Our Endless War, San Rafael, CA and

London:  Presidio Press, 1978, p. 208.

 

   19. Ibid., p. 209.

 

   20. Henry A. Kissinger, White House Years, Boston and

Toronto: Little, Brown, 1979, p. 1462.

 

   21. Richard M. Nixon, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon,

New York:  Grosset and Dunlap, 1978, pp. 749-750.

 

   22. Stephen T. Hosmer, Konrad Kellen and Brian M. Jenkins,

The Fall of South Vietnam:  Statements by Vietnamese Military

and Civillian Leaders, New York:  Crane, Russak, 1980, p. 30.

 

   23. The BDM Corporation, A Study of Strategic Lessons

Learned in Vietnam, Vol. II, South Vietnam, Defense Technical

Information Center Technical Report, Alexandria, VA:  Defense

Logistics Agency, 1980, pp. 5-50.

 

   24. Henry A. Kissinger, White House Years, Boston and

Toronto: Little, Brown, 1979, p. 1470.

 

   25. Richard M. Nixon, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon,

New York:  Grosset and Dunlap, 1978, p. 743.

 

   26. Ibid., p. 744.

 

   27. Denis Warner, Certain Victory:  How Hanoi Won the War,

Kansas City:  Sheed Andrews and McMeel, 1977, p. 8.

 

   28. Richard M. Nixon, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon,

New York:  Grosset and Dunlap, 1978, p. 888.

 

   29. Henry A. Kissinger, White House Years, Boston and

Toronto: Little, Brown, 1979, p. 1470.

 

                         CHAPTER 2

 

    1.   William E. Le Gro, Vietnam from Cease-Fire to

Capitulation, Washington:  Government Printing Office,

1981, p. 21.

 

    2.   Ibid., p. 31.

 

    3.   Ibid., p. 32.

 

    4.   W. Scott Thompson and Donaldson D. Frizzell, The

Lessons of Vietnam, New York:  Russak, 1977, p. 279.

 

    5.   Stanley Karnow, Vietnam:  A History, New York:  The

Viking Press, 1983, pp. 657-658.

 

    6.   Allan E. Goodman, The Lost Peace, Stanford, CA:

Hoover Institution Press, 1978, p. 169.

 

    7.   Tran Van Don, Our Endless War, San Rafael, CA and

London:  Presidio Press, 1978, p. 230.

 

    8.   Van Tien Dung, Our Great Spring Victory, New York

and London:  Monthly Review Press, 1977, p. 9.

 

    9.  Ibid., p.  38.

 

   10.  Ibid., p.  19.

 

   11.  Ibid., p.  10.

 

   12.  Ibid., p.  13.

 

   13.  Ibid., p.  13.

 

   14.  Ibid., pp. 14-15.

 

   15.  Louis A. Fanning, Betrayal in Vietnam, New Rochelle,

NY:  Arlington House, 1976, pp. 195-239.

 

   16.  Arnold R. Isaacs, Without Honor, Baltimore and London:

The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983, pp. 93-94.

 

   17.  Ibid., p. 94.

 

   18.  George C. Herring, America's Longest War:  The

United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975, New York:  Alfred A.

Knopf, 1979, p. 257.

 

   19.  Ibid., p. 257.

 

   20. Allan E. Goodman, The Lost Peace, Stanford, CA:

Hoover Institution Press, 1978, p. 171.

 

   21. George C. Herring, America's Longest War:  The

United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975, New York:  Alfred A.

Knopf, 1979, p. 258.

 

   22. Ibid., p. 258.

 

   23. Van Tien Dung, Our Great Spring Victory, New York

and London:  Monthly Review Press, 1977, p. 25.

 

   24. Ibid., p. 18.

 

   25. Ibid., pp. 20-23.

 

   26. Stephen T. Hosmer, Konrad Kellen and Brian M. Jenkins,

The Fall of South Vietnam:  Statements by Vietnamese Military

and Civilian Leaders, New York:  Crane, Russak, 1980, p. 178.

 

   27. Ibid., p. 178.

 

   28. George C. Herring, America's Longest War:  The

United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975, New York:  Alfred A.

Knopf, 1979, p. 259.

 

   29. Stanley Karnow, Vietnam:  A History, New York:  The

Viking Press, 1983, p. 665.

 

   30. Ibid., pp. 665-666.

 

   31. Stephen T. Hosmer, Konrad Kellen and Brian M. Jenkins,

The Fall of South Vietnam:  Statements by Vietnamese Military

and Civilian Leaders, New York:  Crane, Russak, 1980, p. 212.

 

   32. Van Tien Dung, Our Great Spring Victory, New York and

London:  Monthly Review Press, 1977, pp. 159-160.

 

   33. William E. Le Gro, Vietnam from Cease-Fire to

Capitulation, Washington:  Government Printing Office, 1981,

pp. 173-177.

 

   34. Cao Van Vien, The Final Collapse, Washington:  Govern-

ment Printing Office, 1983, p. 149.

 

   35. William E. Le Gro, Vietnam from Cease-Fire to

Capitulation, Washington:  Government Printing Office, 1981,

p. 177.

 

   36. Louis A. Fanning, Betrayal in Vietnam, New Rochelle,

NY:  Arlington House, 1976, p. 191.

 

   37. Tran Van Don, Our Endless War, San Rafael, CA and

London:  Presidio Press, 1978, p. 253.

 

   38. Arnold R. Isaacs, Without Honor, Baltimore and

London:  The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983, pp. 475-

476.

 

   39. Ibid., pp. 93-95.

 

   40. William E. Le Gro, Vietnam from Cease-Fire to

Capitulation, Washington:  Government Printing Office, 1981,

p. 3.

 

   41. Arnold R. Isaacs, Without Honor, Baltimore and

London:  The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983, p. 96.

 

   42. Ibid., pp. 96-98.

 

   43. Allan E. Goodman, The Lost Peace, Stanford, CA:

Hoover Institution Press, 1978, p. 169.

 

   44. Arnold R. Isaacs, Without Honor, Baltimore and

London:  The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983, p. 79.

 

   45. William E. Le Gro, Vietnam from Cease-Fire to

Capitulation, Washington:  Government Printing Office, 1981,

p. 138.

 

   46. Van Tien Dung, Our Great Spring Victory, New York

and London:  Monthly Review Press, 1977, p. 14.

 

   47. Arnold R. Isaacs, Without Honor, Baltimore and

London:  The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983, p. 80.

 

   48. Allan E. Goodman, The Lost Peace, Stanford, CA:

Hoover Institution Press, 1978, p. 173.

 

   49. Ibid., p. 173.

 

   50. Van Tien Dung, Our Great Spring Victory, New York

and London:  Monthly Review Press, 1977, p. 10.

 

   51. Allan E. Goodman, The Lost Peace, Stanford, CA:

Hoover Institution Press, 1978, p. 174.

 

   52. William E. Le Gro, Vietnam from Cease-Fire to

Capitulation, Washington:  Government Printing Office, 1981,

p. 144.

 

   53. Allan E. Goodman, The Lost Peace, Stanford, CA:

Hoover Institution Press, 1978, p. 174.

 

   54. Ibid., p. 175.

 

   55. Sir Robert Thompson, Peace Is Not At Hand, New York:

David McKay, 1974, p. 140.

 

 

                        CHAPTER 3

 

    1.  The BDM Corporation, A Study of Strategic Lessons

Learned in Vietnam, Vol. II, South Vietnam, Defense Technical

Information Center Technical Report, Alexandria, VA:  Defense

Logistics Agency, 1980, pp. 5-35.

 

    2.  Richard M. Nixon, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon,

New York:  Grosset and Dunlap, 1978, p. 587.

 

    3.  Ibid., p. 600.

 

    4.  The BDM Corporation, A Study of Strategic Lessons

Learned in Vietnam, Vol. II, South Vietnam, Defense Technical

Information Center Technical Report, Alexandria, VA:  Defense

Logistics Agency, 1980, pp. 5-50.

 

    5.  Richard M. Nixon, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon,

New York:  Grosset and Dunlap, 1978, p. 889.

 

    6.  Stephen T. Hosmer, Konrad Kellen and Brian M. Jenkins,

The Fall of South Vietnam:  Statements by Vietnamese Military

and Civilian Leaders, New York:  Crane, Russak, 1980, pp. 37-

38.

 

    7.  Ibid., p. 36.

 

    8.  Cao Van Vien, The Final Collapse, Washington:  Govern-

ment Printing Office, 1983, p. 6.

 

    9.  Ibid., p. 6.

 

   10. Stephen T. Hosmer, Konrad Kellen and Brian M. Jenkins,

The Fall of South Vietnam:  Statements by Vietnamese Military

adn Civillan Leaders, New York:  Crane, Russak, 1980, pp. 14-

15.

 

                        CHAPTER 4

 

    1.  William E. Le Gro, Vietnam frown Cease-Fire to

Capitulation, Washington:  Government Printing Office, 1981,

p. 179.

 

    2.  The BDM Corporation, A Study of Strategic Lessons

Learned in Vietnam, Vol. II, South Vietnam, Defense Technical

Information Center Technical Report, Alexandria, VA:  Defense

Logistics Agency, 1980, pp. 5-56.

 

    3.  Ibid., pp. 5-51.

 

    4.  Ibid., pp. 5-33.

 

    5.  Tran Van Don, Our Endless War, San Rafael, CA and

London:  Presidio Press, 1978, p. 244.

 

    6.  Stephen T. Hosmer, Konrad Kellen and Brian M. Jenkins,

The Fall of South Vietnam:  Statements by Vietnamese Military

and Civilian Leaders, New York:  Crane, Russak, 1980, pp. 72-

73.

 

    7.  Ibid., pp. 73-75.

 

    8.  Ibid., pp. 75-76.

 

    9.  Arnold R. Isaacs, Without Honor, Baltimore and

London:  The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983, p. 301.

 

   10.  Ibid., pp. 300-301.

 

   11.  Stephen T. Hosmer, Konrad Kellen and Brian M. Jenkins,

The Fall of South Vietnam: Statements by Vietnamese Military

and Civillan Leaders, New York:  Crane, Russak, 1980, p. 122.

 

   12.  Ibid., pp. 119-121.

 

   13.  Ibid., p. 121.

 

   14.  Ibid., pp. 126-127.

 

   15.  Ibid., p. 127.

 

   16.  Arnold R. Isaacs, Without Honor, Baltimore and London:

The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983, p. 381.

 

   17.  Stephen T. Hosmer, Konrad Kellen and Brian M. Jenkins,

The Fall of South Vietnam: Statements by Vietnamese Military

and Civilian Leaders, New York:  Crane, Russak, 1980, p. 127.

 

   18.  Ibid., p. 127.

 

   19.  Gareth Porter, Vietnam:  The Definitive Documentation

of Human Decisions, Stanfordville, NY:  Earl M. Coleman

Enterprises, 1979, p. 659.

 

 

                       CONCLUSION

 

 

    1.  Sir Robert Thompson, Peace Is Not At Hand, New York:

David McKay, 1974, p. 135.

 

    2.  Stanley Karnow, Vietnam:  A History, New York:  The

Viking Press, 1983, p. 653.

 

    3.  Ibid., p. 653.

 

    4.  Tran Van Don, Our Endless War, San Rafael, CA and

London:  Presidio Press, 1978, p. 241.

 

    5.  Stephen T. Hosmer, Konrad Kellen and Brian M. Jenkins

Thee Fall of South Vietnam: Statements by Vietnamese Military

and Civilian Leaders, New York:  Crane, Russak, 1980, p. 259.

 

                 ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

 

A.  North Vietnamese Sources - Books

 

    Dung, Van Tien.  Our Great Spring Victory.  New York and

         London: Monthly Review Press, 1977.  Extremely

         readable and straightforward account of the 1975

         North Vietnamese offensive that conquered South

         Vietnam by the NVA's field army commander.

 

    Giap, Vo Nguyen.  How We Won the War .  Philadelphia:

         Recon Publications, 1976.  Provides excellent informa-

         tion about the Communist Party's participation in the

         1975 offensive.  Clearly describes how the NVA used

         surprise in the timing and direction of attack to

         cause the RVNAF to make costly mistakes.

 

    Giap, Vo Nguyen.  The Mllitary Art of People's War.

         New York and London:  Monthly Review Press, 1970.

         Laced with ideological rhetoric, but provides a good

         background of the Vietnam struggle from the North

         Vietnamese perspective by the NVA's chief strategist.

 

B.  South Vietnamese Sources - Books

 

    Don, Tran Van.  Our Endless War.  San Rafael, CA and

         London:  Presidio Press, 1978.  Provides a thorough

         background of the Vietnam War from the South Viet-

         namese viewpoint by South Vietnam's last Minister

         of Defense.

 

    Hosmer, Stephen T., Konrad Kellen and Brian M. Jenkins.

         The Fall of South Vietnam:  Statements by Vietnamese

         Military and Civilian Leaders.  New York:  Crane,

         Russak, 1980.  A summary of oral and written state-

         ments by 27 former high-ranking South Vietnamese

         military officers and civilians on their percep-

         tions of the causes of the collapse of South Vietnam.

 

    Vien, Cao Van.  The Final Collapse.  Washington:  Govern-

         ment Printing Office, 1983.  Detailed account of

         RVNAF actions during the 1975 NVA offensive by the

         last chairman of the South Vietnamese Joint General

         Staff.

 

C.  American and Other Non-Vietnamese Sources - Books

 

    Amter, Joseph A. Vietnam Verdict.  New York:  Continuum

         Publishing, 1982.  Although sympathetic towards

         North Vietnam, provides useful background informa-

         tion on the political arguments during the Vietnam

         War from 1945-1975.

 

    Fanning, Louis A.  Betrayal in Vietnam.  New Rochelle,

         NY:  Arlington Press, 1976.  Extremely critical of

         the U.S. Congress' actions in dealing with the

         government of South Vietnam.  However, it provides

         a very detailed and accurate account of the clash

         between the executive and legislative branches of

         the U.S. government during the period prior to the

         collapse of South Vietnam.

 

    Goodman, Allan E.  The Lost Peace.  Stanford, CA:

         Hoover Institution Press, 1978.  Provides excellent

         insight into the reasons for the failure of the

         1973 Paris Agreements to keep the peace in Vietnam.

 

    Herring, George C.  America's Longest War:  The United

         States and Vietnam, 1950-1975.  New York:  Alfred A.

         Knopf, 1979.  Provides a useful and informative

         account of both U.S. and South Vietnamese actions

         and policies from the earliest periods to the final

         collapse in 1975.

 

    Isaacs, Arnold R.  Without Honor.  Baltimore and London:

         The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983. Extremely

         detached and honest account of the post Paris Agree-

         ments period.  Clearly examines events from the

         viewpoints of the North and South Vietnamese and

         the Americans.  Provides very interesting reading.

 

    Karnow, Stanley.  Vietnam:  A History.  New York:  The

         Viking Press, 1983.  From the fifteenth century

         until the final collapse, this book provides the

         most comprehensive and balanced history of the

         Vietnam struggle ever written.  By studying Viet-

         nam's past and culture, as well as the political

         and military events that occurred in Vietnam after

         America's involvement, the book provided a great

         perspective to the Vietnam War.

 

    Kissinger, Henry A.  White House Years.  Boston and

         Toronto:  Little, Brown, 1979.  The memoirs of

         the former National Security Advisor to President

         Nixon and Secretary of State in the Nixon and Ford

         Administrations covering the period 1969-1973.

         Provides a personal account of the peace negotia-

         tions and the U.S. position on achieving peace in

         Vietnam.

 

    Le Gro, William E.  Vietnam from Cease-Fire to

         Capitulation.  Washington:  Government Printing

         Office, 1981.  Provides an extremely detailed and

         accurate account of RVNAF, NVA and PRG military

         battles from the signing of the Paris Agreements

         until the battle for Saigon in April 1975.

 

    Lomperis, Timothy J.  The War Everyone Lost--And Won.

         Baton Rouge and London:  Louisiana State University

         Press, 1984.  Fairly useful analysis of the U.S.

         role in Indochina.  The book analyzes U.S. tactics

         in Vietnam and concludes that in losing a people's

         war, the Communists went on to win the war by

         adopting a conventional strategy.  Consequently,

         the U.S. won a war it thought it lost, and lost

         by default what it could have won.

 

    Nixon, Richard M.  The Memoirs of Richard Nixon.

         New York:  Grosset and Dunlap, 1978.  Provides an

         interesting personal account by an American Presi-

         dent and gives some insight into how domestic

         events affected U.S. foreign policy in Vietnam.

 

    Papp, Daniel S.  Vietnam:  The View from Moscow, Peking,

         Washington.  Jefferson, NC:  McFarland, 1981.

         Superb detailed analysis of the Vietnam War from

         the global perspective of the U.S., Soviet Union,

         and China.

 

    Porter, Gareth.  A Peace Denied.  Bloomington and

         London:  Indiana University Press, 1975.  Detailed

         account of how the numerous treaty violations

         sabotaged the Paris Agreements and prevented

         the achievement of a lasting peace in Vietnam.

 

    Porter, Gareth.  Vietnam:  The Definitive Documentation

         of Human Decisions.  Stanfordville, NY:  Earl M.

         Coleman Enterprises, 1979.  Extremely useful

         account of original message traffic, speeches

         and other documents during the Vietnam War which

         provided a unique insight into the events occurring

         in 1973-1975.

 

    Snepp, Frank.  Decent Interval.  New York:  Random House,

         1977.  Extremely vivid reading about events and

         decisions made during the final period inside

         South Vietnam.

 

    The BDM Corporation.  A Study of Strategic Lessons

         Learned in Vietnam.  Vol. II.  South Vietnam.

         Defense Technical Information Center Technical

         Report.  Alexandria, VA:  Defense Logistics

         Agency, 1980. Provides extremely useful informa-

         tion on various U.S. and South Vietnamese policies

         during the Vietnam War.  Also contains discussions

         with many of the senior civilian and military

         decision-makers of the Vietnam era.

 

    Thompson, Sir Robert.  Peace Is Not At Hand.  New York:

         David McKay, 1974.  Extremely accurate account of

         Communist treaty violations after the signing of

         the Paris Agreements.  Provides a unique insight

         into the Communist negotiating strategy by the

         former head of the British Advisory Mission to

         Vietnam.

 

    Thompson, W. Scott and Donaldson D. Frizell.  The

         Lessons of Vietnam.  New York:  Crane, Russak,

         1977.  Excerpts from a 1973-1974 colloquium on

         the Vietnam War at the Fletcher School of Law

         and Diplomacy which included 31 distinguished

         military and civilian panelists.

 

    Warner, Denis.  Certain Victory:  How Hanoi Won the War.

         Kansas City:  Sheed Andrews and McMeel, 1977.

         Extremely readable and detailed account of

         events during the final collapse by an

         Australian news reporter.

 



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list