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9 The Battle of Mang Thit

Lam Quang Thi University of North Texas Press PDF

9 the battle of mang thit

IT IS NO SECRET THAT the U.S. media was hostile to the Viet Nam

War. The war was presented from unfavorable angles, with the media sensationalizing the news and distorting the truth if necessary, to achieve its antiwar objectives. I believe that the media played a major role in the final downfall of South Viet Nam. A Vietnamese journalist who was sympathetic to the Communist cause during the war and who escaped to Paris after the fall of Saigon said: “A physician who makes an error kills his patient; a general who makes an error kills one division; a journalist who makes an error kills an entire country.” And this was exactly what happened in Viet Nam.

Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap stated in a French television broadcast that his most important guerrilla during the Viet Nam War was the American press. This was a tragic compliment.

As a division commander, I had an interesting experience with a self-proclaimed Viet Nam expert. Harvey Meyerson, a professor at the University of Hawaii, decided one day to go to Viet Nam and write a book about the war as it was a fashionable thing to do in those days. However, in lieu of traveling all across the country as other correspondents did, he chose to stay in one province to observe the progress of the pacification program and the war in that province. He tried, from these observations, to reach conclusions about the Viet Nam War as a whole. The province he chose happened to be Vinh Long, located between the Mekong and Bassac

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13. The Aftermath

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Thirteen

The Aftermath

The Paris Agreement

After the ARVN’s victory in Kontum in May, the recapture of

Quang Tri and the liberation of An Loc in September, Hanoi finally realized they had lost the 1972 Easter Offensive. Their best divisions had been convincingly defeated—some of them badly mauled—by the South Vietnamese Army. The debacle of the NVA’s Nguyen Hue campaign pushed Hanoi to sign the Paris Peace Agreement in January 1973 to save what was left of its invading army from attacks by

ARVN units and bombardments by the USAF and VNAF. On the other hand, for the Communists, peace is considered only as a temporary phase of relative military quiescence, an expedient breathing space to be used for revising tactics and refurbishing arms for renewed fighting under more favorable conditions. Thus, shortly after the signing of the Agreement, the NVA feverishly prepared for a new invasion.

The Paris Agreement was an American creation that allowed the United States to disengage “with honor,” but didn’t solve the basic issue over which the war had been fought for a quarter of a century. The issue, according Arnold Isaacs, a noted author on

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7 7th Infantry Division

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7

7 th infantry division

BY THE TIME I FINALLY went home in June 1964, General Khanh seemed firmly in control. He also had the support of the Americans. Khanh kept the popular Gen. Duong Van Minh as a figurehead chief of state, but had him under close surveillance. Gen. Hoang

Xuan Lam, who commanded the 23rd Infantry Division at the time, once told me that when Gen. Duong Van Minh spent a weekend in

Ban Me Thuot, in the Hauts Plateaux, Khanh called in the middle of the night and instructed Lam to watch and to report all Minh’s activities.

The week following my return from the United States, I was assigned to the 7th Infantry Division at My Tho, thirty kilometers south of Saigon. I was excited to be able, at long last, to serve in the

Mekong Delta where I was born and raised. The Mekong Delta was rich and fertile, the climate was mild and the people so easy-going and so hospitable that my assignment was a sort of “coming home.”

It was a blessed opportunity for me to become acquainted again with my own country.

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4. Laos and Hauts Plateaux

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4

LAOS AND HAUTS PLATEAUX

After a few days of relaxation in Bac Lieu, I headed back to Can Tho and reported to the headquarters of the 1st Artillery Battalion located in Binh Thuy, five kilometers west of the city. Things were looking up. I finally was able to serve in my native Mekong River Delta. Can Tho had changed very much since the days I was a student at College Phan Thanh Gian. New construction had sprung up downtown, businesses were booming, and the people appeared more prosperous.

Can Tho Sector had been transferred to the Vietnamese authorities and the Sector Commandant was Lt. Col. Nguyen Khanh, a young and energetic officer. The military situation was relatively quiet with occasional skirmishes with small Viet Minh units. The 1st Artillery Battalion Headquarters and the Headquarters Battery were housed in three villas located on the western bank of the Binh Thuy River. The biggest villa was used as the office for the battalion commander, a French major, and also as Officers Quarters.

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10. 1968 Tet Offensive

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10

1968 TET OFFENSIVE

On January 30, 1968, the second day of the new Year of the Monkey, at 2:00 AM., my aide awakened me and reported that the VC had simultaneously attacked the capital cities of Vinh Long, Vinh Binh, and Kien Giang. The situation was particularly critical in Vinh Long where the enemy occupied most of the city and part of the airport, which was defended by a U.S. Army aviation unit. The 1968 Tet Offensive in the Mekong Delta had begun. In the evening of January 29, General Manh, IV Corps Commander, had called to inform me that the VC had attacked a few cities in Military Region II, and that I should take necessary measures against a possible enemy attack in the Delta. Consequently, I ordered that all leaves for the traditional Tet festivities be suspended immediately and all units put in the highest alert status.

For the Vietnamese, Tet is Christmas, New Year, and Thanksgiving combined. Tet is the occasion for people to relax after one year of hard work, for the peasants to thank “Heaven and Earth” for a good harvest and to celebrate, for the members of the family to get together and to pay respect to the ancestors, and mostly for the children to put on new clothes and to receive “lucky money” in small red envelopes from their parents and friends of the family. Thus, it was customary for the government and the VC to declare unilaterally a three-day truce on this occasion so that soldiers could celebrate this important holiday with their families after one year of fighting. Normally, one-third of the soldiers in each ARVN unit would rotate to spend time with their loved ones on this important holiday.

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