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Vietnam's Forgotten Army

Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN

Andrew Wiest, Jim Webb

Publication Year: 2008

2009 Society for Military History Distinguished Book Award for Biography

Vietnam’s Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN chronicles the lives of Pham Van Dinh and Tran Ngoc Hue, two of the brightest young stars in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). Both men fought with valor in a war that seemed to have no end, exemplifying ARVN bravery and determination that is largely forgotten or ignored in the West. However, while Hue fought until he was captured by the North Vietnamese Army and then endured thirteen years of captivity, Dinh surrendered and defected to the enemy, for whom he served as a teacher in the reeducation of his former ARVN comrades.

An understanding of how two lives that were so similar diverged so dramatically provides a lens through which to understand the ARVN and South Vietnam’s complex relationship with Americas government and military. The lives of Dinh and Hue reflect the ARVNs battlefield successes, from the recapture of the Citadel in Hue City in the Tet Offensive of 1968, to Dinhs unheralded role in the seizure of Hamburger Hill a year later. However, their careers expose an ARVN that was over-politicized, tactically flawed, and dependent on American logistical and firepower support. Marginalized within an American war, ARVN faced a grim fate as U.S. forces began to exit the conflict. As the structure of the ARVN/U.S. alliance unraveled, Dinh and Hue were left alone to make the most difficult decisions of their lives.

Andrew Wiest weaves historical analysis with a compelling narrative, culled from extensive interviews with Dinh, Hue, and other key figures. Once both military superstars, Dinh is viewed by a traitor by many within the South Vietnamese community, while Hue, an expatriate living in northern Virginia, is seen as a hero who never let go of his ideals. Their experiences and legacies mirror that of the ARVNs rise and fall as well as the tragic history of South Vietnam.

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

It was through and because of the course I teach on Vietnam War history at the University of Southern Mississippi that that I not only came to a real study of the Vietnam War but also came to have occasion to travel to Vietnam, where I met Pham Van Dinh. Many veterans participate in the course, and it was because of them that Vietnam became my ...

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pp. xiii-xvi

I have worked for many years to help bring reconciliation both inside Vietnam and between Vietnam and the United States. In this process I have come to know and respect many people inside the Vietnamese government. I have become friends with people who served in the Army against which I fought. I have strengthened and nurtured my respect ...

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Preface: Welcome to America

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pp. xvii-xviii

It seemed an auspicious day to begin life anew. On 11 November 1991 —Veterans’ Day—the airliner carrying Tran Ngoc Hue1 (who goes by the nickname Harry), along with his wife and his three daughters, prepared to touch down at National Airport in Washington, DC. After years of suffering and effort and four tiring days of travel, the Vietnamese ...

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Introduction: Welcome to Vietnam

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pp. 1-10

IN MAY 2001, on a day that seemed oppressively hot even to a Mississippi native, while relishing an ice-cold bottle of water in the lounge of the Huong Giang (Perfume River) Hotel in Hue City, Vietnam, I discovered that sometimes a book can quite literally walk up and introduce itself to you. I was in Vietnam on the third and final ...

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1. Coming of Age in a Time of War

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pp. 11-30

SENSING THAT THE looming spread of World War II to the Pacific was the historic moment for which he had long waited, in early 1941, disguised as a Chinese journalist, Ho Chi Minh slipped from exile in China across the border to Vietnam, his first return to the land of his birth in thirty years. In the jungles of the rugged limestone hills near ...

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2. A War Transformed: Battle, Politics, and the Americanization of the War, 1963–1966

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pp. 31-64

IT WAS A heady time to be a leader of men in South Vietnam, and, even as they faced their first tests in battle, Dinh and Hue also became swept up in some of the most important political events of their time. In the coming years, the onset of governmental chaos and discord at the highest levels shook the ARVN to its very core and left the survival ...

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3. Fighting Two Wars: Years of Attrition and Pacification, 1966–1967

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pp. 65-94

WHILE SOUTH VIETNAM labored to recover from a disaster of its own making, on a strategic level it was the time for which General William Westmoreland, Commander of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (COMUSMACV), had been waiting, time to take the battle to the enemy and win the Vietnam War. Westmoreland, perhaps ...

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4. A Time for Heroes: The Tet Offensive

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pp. 95-123

THE TET OFFENSIVE was the crushingly ironic series of battles that sealed the fate of the American military effort in South Vietnam. Having devoted thousands of lives to their war of attrition, American forces had arguably achieved a great measure of success by the opening of 1968, imposing prodigious losses on communist forces. Even so, ...

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5. After Tet: The Year of Hope

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pp. 124-156

IN THE UNITED STAT E S , the massive tactical victory of the Tet Offensive very nearly escaped notice, lost amid the cultural and political chaos that both defined 1968 and ripped the heart out of the American war effort. To the South Vietnamese, though, the victory in the Tet Offensive was the seminal moment in their nation’s short history. The ...

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6. Hamburger Hill: The Untold Story of the Battle for Dong Ap Bia

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pp. 157-176

HOPING TO BUILD on the startling gains of 1968 through the prosecution of combined operations, Abrams planned to redouble offensive efforts against the NVA and its base areas in 1969. Although he realized that NVA forces were marshaling in Laos and that the communists might be planning a new attack of their own, Abrams called on ...

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7. A War Transformed: Vietnamization, 1969–1970

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pp. 177-196

AS AMERICAN POLITICAL and military leaders made critical strategic decisions in both Washington and Saigon during the summer of 1969, a deceptive calm fell over I Corps. In the wake of Hamburger Hill, communist strength throughout the region south of the DMZ was at a low ebb and included only five NVA regiments and two VC ...

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8. Shattered Lives and Broken Dreams: Operation Lam Son 719

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pp. 197-228

WHILE VIETNAMIZATION ALTERED the strategic reality of the war in I Corps, the major military event of 1970 took place further to the south. For years, U.S. and South Vietnamese military leaders alike had longed to mount major operations against the communist base areas and supply lines just across the border in Cambodia, uncomfortably ...

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9. The Making of a Traitor

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pp. 229-272

IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE conclusion of Operation Lam Son 719, President Nixon proclaimed, “Tonight I can report that Vietnamization has succeeded.” He then announced an acceleration of the U.S. troop withdrawal process, with an additional 100,000 troops slated to return to the United States by November 1971, and promised his war-weary ...

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10. Journeys Home: Life in the Wake of a Lost War

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pp. 273-297

WHILE DINH WENT through a personal metamorphosis in the wake of Operation Lam Son 719 and the Easter Offensive, Tran Ngoc Hue came to terms with the sad reality of life as a prisoner of war. After reaching Hanoi in the spring of 1971, Hue spent the next six months in the soul-wrenching loneliness of solitary confinement at the Hanoi ...

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pp. 298-304

THE LIVES OF Pham Van Dinh and Tran Ngoc Hue were both dominated and defined by the Vietnam War. Choosing similar paths, Dinh and Hue embraced a noncommunist nationalism fueled largely by a fundamental Vietnamese value: family. Driven by the tenants of on and hieu, as well as by an almost paternalistic devotion to their fledgling ...


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pp. 305-328


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pp. 329-328


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pp. 339-349

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9780814797457
E-ISBN-10: 0814797458
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814794104
Print-ISBN-10: 0814794106

Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975.
  • Pham, Van Dinh, 1937-.
  • Vietnam (Republic). Quân lực -- History.
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Biography.
  • Tran, Ngoc Hue 1942-.
  • Vietnam (Republic). Quân lực -- Officers -- Biography.
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