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Hell in An Loc

The 1972 Easter Invasion and the Battle That Saved South Viet Nam

Lam Quang Thi

Publication Year: 2009

In 1972 a North Vietnamese offensive of more than 30,000 men and 100 tanks smashed into South Vietnam and raced to capture Saigon. All that stood in their way was a small band of 6,800 South Vietnamese (ARVN) soldiers and militiamen, and a handful of American advisors with U.S. air support, guarding An Loc, a town sixty miles north of Saigon and on the main highway to it. This depleted army, outnumbered and outgunned, stood its ground and fought to the end and succeeded. Against all expectations, the ARVN beat back furious assaults from three North Vietnamese divisions, supported by artillery and armored regiments, during three months of savage fighting. This victory was largely unreported in the U.S. media, which had effectively lost interest in the war after the disengagement of most U.S. forces. Thi believes that it is time to set the record straight. Without denying the tremendous contribution of the U.S. advisors and pilots, this book is written primarily to tell the South Vietnamese side of the story and, more importantly, to render justice to the South Vietnamese soldier.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Illustrations and Maps

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pp. iv-

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Foreword

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pp. v-ix

The American tragedy that was the Vietnam War is the subject of seemingly endless fascination in both U.S. academic and popular circles. Efforts to interpret the war range from big screen portrayals, including Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump and Mel Gibson in We Were Soldiers, to well-documented tomes on the military prosecution of...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-6

While searching for a title for this book, I was inspired by Bernard Fall’s Hell in a Very Small Place, in which the late Vietnam historian described in dramatic detail the fifty-five-day horrors at the French camp retranché of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Little did the author know that eighteen years after the French’s humiliating...

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1. The Sieges of the Indochina Wars

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pp. 7-21

In Valley of Decision, John Prados and Ray W. Stubbe reported that at the height of the siege of Khe Sanh, in February 1968, Gen. William C. Westmoreland asked Col. Reamer W. Argo, command historian, to make a study comparing Khe Sanh with past sieges and to recommend a course of action for the embattled garrison. Argo...

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2. Setting the Stage

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pp. 22-43

Tay Ninh, Binh Long, Phuoc Long, Long Khanh, and Binh Tuy, the northern provinces of Military Region III (MRIII), with their dense forests, small hills, and low elevations, offer a sharp contrast to the lush and flat rice fields immediately to the south. They form a natural arc extending from Cambodia to the west and north...

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3. The Opening Salvos

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pp. 44-63

Toward the end of March, President Thieu, who was actively involved in the pacification process—and for this reason was dubbed “the number one pacification officer” by William Colby, former CIA chief in Saigon—setting aside intelligence reports of an impending NVA offensive, convened the annual meeting of all...

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4. Prelude to the Battle of An Loc

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pp. 64-82

While the battle was raging in Loc Ninh, President Thieu, on April 7, convened a meeting of the corps commanders at the Independence Palace in Saigon to assess the national military crisis. Present at the meeting were Gen. Tran Thien Khiem, the prime minister, Gen. Cao Van Vien, Chairman of the JGS, Gen. Dang Van...

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5. The First Attack on An Loc

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pp. 83-99

While the defenders took advantage of the lull preceding the attack to reinforce the garrison with fresh units, the NVA brought in additional anti-aircraft outfits in an effort to cut off resupply by air. At the time the attack on An Loc began, the NVA had up to nine anti-aircraft battalions positioned around the city. On the...

Image Plates

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6. The Second Attack on An Loc

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pp. 100-115

The landing of the paratroopers in the Doi Gio area added a new dimension to the battle of An Loc: it forced the enemy to try to capture the city before the rescuing units joined forces with the defenders. So, after only one day of recuperation and refurbishing, the enemy renewed their efforts to take An Loc. Following their...

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7. Reinforcing An Loc

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pp. 116-141

While the war was raging at Loc Ninh, General Minh, III Corps commander, finally realizing that Binh Long—and not Tay Ninh— was the main objective of the enemy’s 1972 Easter Offensive, ordered the 43rd Regiment of the 18th Division, reinforced with the 5th Armored Squadron, to secure Route 13 north of Lai Khe. The relief...

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8. The Third Attack on An Loc

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pp. 142-158

In early May, intelligence reports confirmed that two regiments of the NVA 5th Division, the E6 and the 174th, had moved from their location south of Loc Ninh to the Doi Gio-Hill 169 area southeast of An Loc. This area was abandoned by the 1st Airborne Brigade after the 6th Battalion was overrun by superior NVA forces...

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9. Securing Route Nationale 13

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pp. 159-176

As mentioned in an earlier chapter, General Minh, III Corps commander, was concerned about an attack on the cities immediately north of Saigon by elements of NVA’s 7th Division in conjunction with two independent VC regiments and other local units. The latter constituted what was known as the Binh Long Division. An...

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10. End of the Siege

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pp. 177-190

Immediately after the historic link-up between the 6th and 8th Airborne Battalions, ARVN troops launched a counter-attack to recapture the lost terrain in the city. In the north, the 81st Airborne Commando Group and the 3rd Ranger Group reoccupied the northern part of An Loc without encountering enemy...

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11. The ARVN 18th Division in An Loc

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pp. 191-204

Colonel (later General) Le Minh Dao had a rather unremarkable career. In the early 1960s, he served as an aide-de-camp for a French-trained general who was one of the masterminds of the coup d’etat against President Diem. Dao subsequently attracted the attention of the “Delta Clan,” which awarded him the position of...

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12. Assessing the Battle of An Loc

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pp. 205-219

Historians and even generals seem to have a tough time categorizing a siege as “successful” or “unsuccessful” from the defenders’ perspective. The authors of Valley of Decision, for example, mentioned that during a meeting of the National Security Council on March 27, 1968, Gen. Earl Wheeler, Chairman of the JCS, seemed...

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13. The Aftermath

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pp. 220-243

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...

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Epilogue

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pp. 244-248

After the fall of South Viet Nam in 1975, politicians and military analysts predicted that Viet Nam’s pro-Western neighbors would fall like dominoes in the face of seemingly unstoppable North Vietnamese divisions equipped with the latest Soviet and Chinese weaponry. Thirty-three years later, no dominoes have fallen. Instead, the...

Appendix

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pp. 249-250

Notes

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pp. 251-265

Glossary

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pp. 266-267

Bibliography

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pp. 268-272

Index

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pp. 273-282


E-ISBN-13: 9781574413595
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574412765

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 9 b&w illus., 14 maps
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Regimental histories -- Vietnam (Republic).
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Campaigns -- Vietnam -- An Lộc -- Personal narratives, Vietnamese.
  • Lâm, Quang Thi, 1932-.
  • An Loc, Battle of, An Lộc, Vietnam, 1972 -- Personal narratives, Vietnamese.
  • Easter Offensive, 1972 -- Personal narratives, Vietnamese.
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Aerial operations, American -- Personal narratives, Vietnamese.
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