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Vietnam: The End, 1975

Vietnam: The End, 1975


CSC 1985







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




    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




1.  North Vietnamese and PRG Expectations              13

2.  South Vietnamese Expectations                      19

3.  American Expectations                              24




1.  The Postwar War:  1973-1975                        31

2.  Violations                                         56




1.  American Assessment                                67

2.  South Vietnamese Assessment                        72



            ARMED FORCES (RVNAF)


1.  RVNAF Leadership                                   74

2.  RVNAF Morale                                       81


CONCLUSION                                             86




CAST OF PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS                           99


ENDNOTES                                              103


ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY                                112





    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




    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




    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



    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



    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




    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




                       CHAPTER 1


               PARIS AGREEMENTS OF 1973






    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.





    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




    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




        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



        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



        ... 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





              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




    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




    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


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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




        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



    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




    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


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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


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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


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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




    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


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


ten years later.


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    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



    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



    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





                   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.





    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




                   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-




    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




        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



    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







    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-




    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.





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



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



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



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



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

          Van "Big" Minh.


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



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.





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



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.




Carl Albert       - Congressional representative from

                    Oklahoma; served as Speaker of the

                    House during the Nixon Administra-



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.









    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-



   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-



    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-



                        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-



    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.






    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.





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



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



    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



    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.


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