MYTH: Vietnamization was a failure.

ARVN = Army of the Republic of Vietnam, or the South Vietnamese army.

The US originally sent combat troops into Vietnam in 1965 to shore up the ARVN until they could rebuild themselves into a fighting organization that could withstand the Soviet and Chinese supported Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army. It just took so long for the ARVN to get their act together that we all forgot why we were there in the first place.

No doubt, most American Vietnam combat veterans, recall the ARVN as corrupt, lazy and unwilling to fight.

An ARVN anecdote

From our position on top of six M113 A1's rolling slowly forward we gawked at the entire company of ARVN troops we were following. Their M-16s held over their shoulders, one hand on the barrel and the other holding their buddy's hand, all walking along like they were on a picnic.

We felt like sitting ducks as we rolled slowly through thick grass behind these picnickers.

Elements of the 2nd & 2nd were guarding the Rome Plow ops from strategic locations in or near a Michelin rubber plantation. An NVA division was known to have moved into the AO during the previous three days. Our platoon was assigned to scout a heavily traveled tributary of the Ho Chi Minh trail uncovered by the Rome Plows that morning.

On the radios the chatter was mostly about the ARVN and what to if we made contact with the enemy

“What are we going to do if we take fire and these idiots are still dancing around in front of us?” squawked the radio

“I donno man,” another voice replied “Ain't much loss if they get shot”

“Not much but a courtsmartial” squawked in a third voice.

“All I know” a fourth voice injected, “is if the NVA pop up and these picnickers don´t get out of the way, Sin loi boy-san.”

“Alright, cut the chatter.”

Lucky I guess, cause we didn´t have that issue come up that day. One less bad memory to keep me awake at night.

According to all reports the corruption the ARVN were famous for in the press did not go away.

But the Americans were doing just that ... going away. Entire divisions were being redeployed, either home or to Europe or to deactivation.

Once the ARVN soldiers realized the Americans were really going to go home, these South Vietnamese troops realized they had a choice between fighting and becoming communist. They were finding the motivation they needed.

By mid 1968, word of the brutality of the Hue massacres spread throughout Vietnam, convincing any of the South Vietnamese people who were not already opposed to communist rule to reject any Communist regime.

So as hard as it is for many of us to believe, about 1970 or 71 depending on the unit, the ARVN troops started to become properly motivated. They actually did form themselves into a moderately disciplined fighting force by 1972.

I have spoken with several former advisors who worked with ARVN units who were motivated from the beginning, but the rest began to feel the necessity when we handed them our weapons and said "goodbye".

The defeat of the NVA in their 1972 Spring Offensive demonstrates this. During one discussion, I heard a voice object to the use of the term "defeat" so perhaps a more accurate way to say it is ... the decimation of the North Vietnamese Army during the 1972 Spring Offensive demonstrates that the ARVN could fight if properly motivated.

Besides being driven back to their starting point, (give or take) the North Vietnamese lost 100,000 KIA compared to the ARVNs loss of 25,000.

Were there setbacks? Yes. Did they have trouble overcoming the enemy? Of course they did. Twenty-five thousand KIA, that’s some darn heavy fighting. Glad I wasn’t there for that one.

Someone else said with "American air power" ... yes and we fight with American air power, too ... so that’s not really a relevant issue, is it?

What happened in 1975?

The fall of Saigon is a long story that includes corruption, paranoia and politicians with unsound agendas. I will save that for a different chapter (also see PS below).

But just because Saigon fell two years later does not mean the ARVN were not ready when we left in 1973.

They were ready.

The U.S. accomplished its objective for sending combat troops to Vietnam.

When Kissinger signed the peace treaty in 1973 it was because the main U.S. objectives for sending combat troops to Vietnam were accomplished. That is ... to shore up the South Vietnamese government & to train and build the ARVN until they became a viable fighting force.

That happened.

Vietnamization was the main strategy that accomplished the task. When the ARVN took over the war in 1972 they were a well-equipped 1.1 million-man army that demonstrated IN COMBAT their capability to repel a full-fledged invasion.

The fact that the media claimed Vietnamization to be a failure is a vivid demonstration of the way in which the media changes the story to fit their own agenda.

They tweak some facts and ignored others sitting on a cloud of "objectivity." Unfortunately that cloud of objectivity is a smokescreen hiding and distorting the real facts that refute their defeatist rhetoric. Positive news was ignored or reframed to appear negative. Negative news was overemphasized.

Ladies and Gentlemen, U.S. soldiers did not loose that war. The U.S. media lost that war, or at least they made a significant contribution to the loss. The writings of the Communist players are full of their bragging about how they manipulated the U.S. media to their own ends.

Perhaps there should be a monument to Walter Cronkite in Hanoi.

The 58,178 (plus) brave American soldiers who died during the Vietnam War do not deserve to have their names tainted with a defeat they did not earn.

Thanks to Michael Kleinberg for use of the photo

They fought bravely and the records of Chinese Communist Advisors clearly show that the Allies were winning when the Paris Accords were signed.

A peace treaty is supposed to be the end of a war. The fact that both the North and South Vietnamese broke the treaty numerous times after the Paris Accords were signed, has no effect (or shouldn't have) on the valiant sacrifice of these brave American men.

From early in the War, both the North Vietnamese and the Southern Communists were adamant that there would be no peace treaty. The Communists finally signed the Paris Accords because they were losing & they knew it.

They knew they couldn´t afford to sustain the losses they were suffering. The Americans offered them a way out and they took it.

The treaty was their only salvation. They didn´t admit it. Of course, they wouldn´t. The bold-faced lie was always part of their strategy. The Communists were losing and admit it or not, they knew it.

The defeat, that is the fall of Saigon, came almost 3 years after the U.S. combat forces left the theater. The last U.S. combat brigade left Vietnam at the end of 1972. Other than civilian contractors acting as military and logistics advisers, American troops played no part in defending South Vietnam against the 1975 invasion that toppled the Saigon government.

Signing the Paris AccordsJanuary 1973

It is time to set the record straight. Those names on that Wall demand accuracy in our history. Stop the lies and squelch the myths. The South Vietnamese lost the Vietnam War, not the U.S. Especially not the American soldiers.

PS: You can blame Congress for not passing the emergency funding in time if you like, but when Saigon fell, there were still millions of unused dollars in the South Vietnamese Government’s U.S. bank accounts. It wasn’t the lack of funds that caused Saigon to fall. It was the fear that the funds would run out.

The South Vietnamese Government panicked at the anticipation of a lack of funds.

If the South Vietnamese reenforced the troops in the I & II Corps areas, and put up the good fight they were capable of, reenforcing each other's postions, instead of calling a general retreat to III Corps area, there probably would have been enough support in Congress to temporarily lift the ban on air support for the South Vietnamese and pass the approximately $750 Million the bill requested in Congress.

According to the Communists' own records, if the US lifted the ban on the use of airpower and attacked the North Vietnamese Army, they had orders to retreat. The 1975 Spring Offensive was only supposed to be a test to see if we would keep our promise to the South Vietnamese. A few hundred US Air Force sorties and the offensive would have been over and the Saigon government would have survived.

President Thieu’s panic caused that fatal decision to withdraw his forces to the III and IV Corps areas. And that, my friends, was the beginning of the very rapid end.

Admitting that he couldn’t hold the northern areas placed doubt in the minds of the Congressmen about his ability to hold 3rd and 4th Corps as well. They were not willing to continue to fund what was rapidly becoming a lost cause.

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