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The Twenty-five Year Century

A South Vietnamese General Remembers the Indochina War to the Fall of Saigon

Lam Quang Thi

Publication Year: 2001

For Victor Hugo, the nineteenth century could be remembered by only its first two years, which established peace in Europe and France's supremacy on the continent. For General Lam Quang Thi, the twentieth century had only twenty-five years: from 1950 to 1975, during which the Republic of Vietnam and its Army grew up and collapsed with the fall of Saigon. This is the story of those twenty-five years. General Thi fought in the Indochina War as a battery commander on the side of the French. When Viet Minh aggression began after the Geneva Accords, he served in the nascent Vietnamese National Army, and his career covers this army's entire lifespan. He was deputy commander of the 7th Infantry Division, and in 1965 he assumed command of the 9th Infantry Division. In 1966, at the age of thirty-three, he became one of the youngest generals in the Vietnamese Army. He participated in the Tet Offensive before being removed from the front lines for political reasons. When North Vietnam launched the 1972 Great Offensive, he was brought back to the field and eventually promoted to commander of an Army Corps Task Force along the Demilitarized Zone. With the fall of Saigon, he left Vietnam and emigrated to the United States. Like his tactics during battle, General Thi pulls no punches in his denunciation of the various regimes of the Republic, and complacency and arrogance toward Vietnam in the policies of both France and the United States. Without lapsing into bitterness, this is finally a tribute to the soldiers who fell on behalf of a good cause.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

THE TWENTY-FIVE YEAR CENTURY

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pp. i-iv

CONTENTS

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p. v-v

Illustrations

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pp. vi-xii

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. 1-4

"A few years ago, I was invited to deliver a speech about the former Army of the Republic of Viet Nam at a general convention of the Vietnamese communities overseas in Dallas, Texas. I began my address with a quotation from Victor Hugo: 'Ce siecle avait deuxans!' (This century had two years!). For the French poet, a great admirer of Napoleon, the nineteenth century indeed could only be..."

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Early Years

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pp. 5-27

"South Viet Nam had always been the richest region the country. Its delta, traversed by the Mekong River, which forks into the Mekong in the North and the Bassac in the South as it enters South Viet Nam from Cambodia, had always served as the nation’s rice basket. South Viet Nam originally was part of the Khmer empire. The Vietnamese conquered it during their long and sometimes..."

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Military Apprenticeship

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pp. 28-38

"Candidates to the first class of the School of inter-Arms were required to have an equivalent of a secondary education, Level One. Tho and I were qualified to take the entrance examination, which was administered in Saigon and which we passed without difficulty. We also passed the physical examination and toward the end of June 1950, we were ordered to accompany a French military..."

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North Viet Nam

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pp. 39-59

"In Februrary 1952, I boarded an Air France flight to Hanoi. At that time, Air France provided daily passenger service between Saigon and Hanoi and also between other capitals of what was called les États d’Indochine. When I landed in Gia Lam Airport on the outskirts of Hanoi, the city was shrouded under a light but persistent rain, called..."

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Laos and Hauts Plateaux

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pp. 60-76

"After a few days of relaxation in Bae 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 Plan Thanh Gian."

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Between Two Wars

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pp. 77-106

"When I was a child and attended the elementary school in Bae Lieu, I was taught that France was la mere patrie. I also learned through history books that 'nos ancêtres sont des Gaulois' (our ancestors are the Gauls). Later at College Phan Thanh Gian, I was captivated by the French Revolution which began with la Prise dela Bastille, continued with Robespierre’s..."

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U.S. Command & General Staff College

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pp. 107-118

"The final list of students for the USC&GSC's 1963 Fall Course included two lieutenant colonels and three majors. Since I was the most senior officer, I was the de facto leader. A few days after we arrived at Fort Leavenworth, we heard the news of the raids on the pagodas in Saigon by armed troops. We learned later that Nhu had ordered his henchman, Col. Le Quang Tung, commander of the Special Forces, to use his troops..."

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7th Infantry Division

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pp. 119-138

"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..."

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9th Infantry Division

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pp. 139-180

"It was raining hard when I crossed into the 9th Infantry Division’s territory. It was the first storm of the monsoon season. The visibility was nil and the helicopter pilot lost his direction, so he requested my permission to land near a small watchtower somewhere north of the Bassac River. The chief of the Popular Forces unit that manned this small outpost was startled to see a full colonel dropping..."

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The Battle of Mang Thit

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pp. 181-193

"It is no secret that the U.S. media was hostile to teh 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 teh Communist cause during the war and who escaped to Paris after the fall of..."

photo gallery

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pp. A1-A4

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1968 Tet Offensive

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pp. 194-216

"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."

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Vietnamese National Military Academy

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pp. 216-262

"Toward the end of May 1968, after a brief ceremony when I transferred the command of the 9th Infantry Division to Col. Tran BaDi, I bid farewell to my staff and province chiefs. Then, I boarded a helicopter for my trip back to Saigon. I asked the pilot to circle the city of Sa Dec, then follow at low altitude the Mekong River up to Vinh Long before heading north to Saigon: I wanted to see for the last..."

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Military Region One

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pp. 263-290

"After a brief ceremony in which I transferred the command of the Military Academy to my brother Tho, I boarded a C-123 transport aircraft for my trip to Danang, where the headquarters of MRI was located. Normally, the pilot would stop at Nha Trang to refuel, but as the weather forecast for MRI was good, he decided to go directly to Danang without refueling."

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I Corps Forward

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pp. 291-333

"Shortly after the victory of Quang Tri, General Truong asked me to assume the command of the Northern Theater. Since the recapture of the Quang Tri Citadel in September, the situation had stabilized along the Thach Han River, north of Quang Tri. There were only small unit-sized contacts in the mountains west of RN1, as the Airborne Division and the 1st Division were expanding west-ward in an effort to capture as much ground as possible before a..."

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The Fall of Military Region One

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pp. 334-366

"While awaiting a new NVA offensive in the two northern provinces of Military Region I, I followed with increasing concern the developments in other Military Regions. On January 1, 1975, NVA’s 3rd and 7th Divisions, supported by T-54 tank units, launched a powerful attack on the provincial capital of Phuoc Long in MRIII, 115 kilometers north of Saigon. The Phuoc Long garrison consisted of..."

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The Last Days

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pp. 367-398

"The Naval Task Force, which carried the Marine Division and the remnant units of I Corps, arrived in Cam Ranh on the morning of the 29th. Destroyer HQ 405, where I had boarded the night of March 27, was also part of the Naval Task Force. Commander Nguyen Dai Nhon, the captain of Destroyer HQ 404 transporting General Truong...."

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EPILOGUE

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pp. 499-402

"As Viet Nam commemorates the twenty-fifth anniversary of its reunification, the economy is in serious disarray, plagued by a huge bureaucracy, rampant corruption and money-losing state enterprises. On the greater geopolitical scheme, twenty-five years after the 'Great Spring Victory,' Viet Nam, ironically, will become the battlefield for a new Cold War..."

NOTES

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pp. 403-408

GLOSSARY

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pp. 409-410

INDEX

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pp. 411-423


E-ISBN-13: 9781574414349
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574411430

Page Count: 448
Illustrations: 8 b&w illus., 16 maps
Publication Year: 2001

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Subject Headings

  • Generals -- Vietnam (Republic) -- Biography.
  • Indochinese War, 1946-1954 -- Personal narratives, Vietnamese.
  • Lām, Quang Thi, 1932-.
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Personal narratives, Vietnamese.
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