Black April: The Fall of South Vietnam, 1973-75

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Veith: Well, two answers to this question. First, even though they are commonly called the “anti-war movement,” I prefer to call them the “pro-Hanoi,-anti-GVM movement,” since that’s exactly what they were. After the Paris Accords, many of the pro-Hanoi groups gathered in Germantown, OH in October 1973 to plot their strategy. At that time, they decided to continue to press the Congress to stop aid, to cut off funds for the police, etc., even though the American troops and prisoners had come home They did so by claiming the Thieu government was jailing 200,000 political prisoners, which was an absurd figure, and that the GVN was responsible for continuing the war. So Congress, which was looking for an excuse to get out, fell easily for the pro-Hanoi propaganda line. So, they had an indirect responsibility for the loss of South Vietnam. The direct responsibility, of course, lies with the Communists, who violated virtually every clause in the Paris Accords.

FP: Overall, America could have won the war if it really wanted to, correct?

Veith: If one defines “win” as the continuation of a non-communist, free South Vietnam, then yes. It would have required changes in military strategy–physically cutting the Ho Chi Minh Trail with U.S troops, for example–and closing off the port of Sihanoukville. But once the Communist logistics had been severed, winning the war on the ground in South Vietnam would eventually have occurred.

FP: What were the consequences of the fall of South Vietnam?

Veith: I think two consequences happened, but they played out over ten years. One, the Russians were emboldened to increase their efforts around the globe to supply arms and aid to covert Communist movements, and hence over-extended themselves, with Afghanistan the ultimate debacle. Second, it forced the U.S. to re-evaluate its position in the world, and it wasn’t until Ronald Reagan came along that America managed to re-assert itself internationally. The other point that people should always remember is that we took in hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees. Those people today are prosperous, and their children are graduating from our finest colleges. That uniquely American impulse, to help the helpless, should always be a source of pride to us. And let me tell you, you will have to look far and wide to find a group of non-native people who are as pro-American as the former South Vietnamese. They truly appreciate this country and its freedoms. Attending one of their ceremonies is a refreshing course in patriotism.

FP: What are the lessons of the fall of South Vietnam?

Veith: Too often, commentators try to draw an evaluation regarding the tenacity of the American people to prosecute a war far from home and not readily apparent to our national interests. It was one of the longest wars in American history, yet the American people sustained an interest in the conflict despite enormous sacrifices in men and money. If anything, I think one lesson is that the American people will support, for the most part, a strategy that is clearly articulated and pursued with consistency. Lastly, despite the sneering contempt from academics and others, I believe intervening in South Vietnam in 1965 probably saved Indonesia and much of the rest of that part of the world. It is well to remember back then that the Communist bloc was viewed as a monolith, with victory inevitable. The fall of South Vietnam certainly helped spread that view, but the ten years gained helped strengthen the free world enough so that it eventually survived and overcame the challenge from this great evil.

FP: What is the overall message of your book?

Veith: That the South Vietnamese military did not just collapse like a house of cards in 1975, and that the image so prevalent in the U.S. of the South Vietnamese as a bunch of corrupt cowards is simply not true. Vietnamization had worked, and that if we had continued to support South Vietnam with economic and military aid, and helped defend her when attacked (or bombed the infiltration columns in February and March 1973 to show we were serious), the Republic of Vietnam would probably still be a viable entity today. Unfortunately, most of the Americans had left Vietnam by then, and so many of the advisors who had worked so hard to develop the South Vietnamese military weren’t around to see the fruits of their labor.

FP: George J. Veith, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.

Veith: My pleasure, always great talking to you.

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  • Chezwick

    I've never been one for historical revisionism…."If we had only done this or that, things would have been different…"

    Fact is, the North had the unshakable advantage of being a fully mobilized, militarized society….which is the advantage of all totalitarian regimes in times of war…(an advantage that morphs into liability during peace-time, when economic performance becomes paramount).

    South Vietnam was an artificial construct from its inception in 1954. It was an American creation, negotiated at Geneva out of the ashes of France's defeat….and it was without any real national roots, unlike the Communists, who had spent more than a decade mobilizing the peasantry to fight both the Japanese and the French.

    The Vietnam War was a tragedy on many levels…

    1) The loss of 58,000 of America's finest…and almost 2 million Vietnamese.

    2) America's use of jungle defoliants, which had long-lasting environmental repercussions and was absolutely reprehensible.

    3) The radicalization of America's youth, which has had an enduring, deleterious influence on our educational institutions as these students subsequently came of age, took over academia, and bastardized higher eduction in the USA.

    4) The anti-war movement's despicable depiction of the Vietnamese and the Cambodian Communists as benign actors (much as the Left today carries water for Islam). If one felt compelled to oppose the war back in the late 60s/early 70s for principled or even patriotic reasons, why was it necessary to lionize our Communist enemies and pretend they were something other than what they were, which were Stalinists at best (Vietnam) and genocidal monsters at worst (the Khmer Rouge)?

    If there is any positive in the war, it might be that the decade we engaged in Vietnam bought Thailand the time to begin a modernization process that effectively neutralized the Communist insurgency there that might otherwise have taken over and given life to the oft-ridiculed 'domino theory'.

  • Heinzng1

    "South Vietnam was an artificial construct from its inception in 1954. It was an American creation, negotiated at Geneva out of the ashes of France's defeat….and it was without any real national roots, unlike the Communists, who had spent more than a decade mobilizing the peasantry to fight both the Japanese and the French."

    Under most Vietnamese Ho Chi Minh sneaky took credit of defended country to defeat French and Japan. The only South Vietnam lost the country because we were not treat people a much evil as Ho Chi Minh. That why HCM won the war.
    Beside US felt into the trap of Communist to kill President Diem who made HCM worried and scared to loose power.
    My mother and father village from Nghe An and Ha Tinh in that time. HCM and Truong Chinh brought middle class people buried them alive just up to the neck and used the cow plow to cut people heads. My mother told me when HCM Communist took power they killed all the patriot people who fought against French. Most of them ran away and followed President Diem. (1 million people pledged to the South Vietnam after Geneva Accords).
    American did not know and did not want to know right and wrong, With lack of information and NOT deep thinkers most anti war people were trapped into the picture that Communist supplied to them to see.
    Most US Jewish Congressmen and women voted NO to NOT continue support SVN. They wanted US paid attention to Israel the added to whole scheme end up US and SVN lost what it was not supposed to loose. Then the world lost the trust in US since then.

    • KarshiKhanabad

      I flew helicopters in Vietnam, 1971-72. I wear a South Vietnamese flag on my vet's cap. It is a tragedy to this day, the fall of the Republic of Vietnam. At least many Vietnamese refugees & their children are American citizens. It did not have to end the way it did. Giap is alive in his nineties, is that just? The RVN flag was first flown more than a century ago. I was privileged to fly over and see a beautiful country then.

  • objtec

    Nobody seems to remember LBJ said, "I have no intention of winning the Vietnam war. I have to prosecute the war or the conservatives will say I am soft on communism. But I can't win because the Liberals would never forgive me." From the Hart-Hank newspaper chain.

  • Mo_

    I was born in '68. I was too young to know anything about the war at the time. I learned about through the years through Hollywood. It's been only in the past few years that I've begun to learn the truth. It's left me horrified.

    It looks like this is a book I will be reading. I can't imagine it will be an easy one. I was lied to my entire life.

  • al222

    to this day, the left considers the fall of South Vietnam one of their "great victories." I suppose it is, as long as one can willfully ignore the 2-3 million Asians slaughtered by the Communists in the aftermath of our withdrawal. you NEVER hear the left take any "credit" for that part of the equation.

  • jemaasjr

    Somebody on our side, I forget who, asked why it was that all the "good Vietnamese" were on the other side." Of course there were good people on both sides, but what he was referring to was lack of commitment on our side by the local population. From the little I saw of the war, this was essentially correct. The North was all in and the South just sort of went along because we bought them off. Too bad they ended up with that creepy communist system, and the death toll was kind of heavy also.

  • Ron

    The first mistake we made in Vietnam was not to have south Vietnam build their own munitions plant. The second mistake in Vietnam was not to have south Vietnam build their own munitions plant.

  • kutzukid

    The biggest thing we did wrong was after TET we did not “right soldier arms” and march to Hanoi. We killed so many of them they were devastated as a combat efficient army, that it took them months to rebuild. We could have won the war then, but for politicians and the likes of Walter Concite and Dan Rather…thank for nothing. Did you know that after TET marine units reconning went 30 miles into North Vietnam and never saw a soldier, but were called back…..check it out. BTDT

    • LoboSolo

      The problem with that thought is that we had tried that in Korea and it had brought an onslaught of Chinese troops. China and the Soviet Union were strongly backing NVN. They, huru the Chinese, would not had stood passivly by.

      However, we could and should hav led guerrilla ops north of the DMZ. I think we could hav found enuff folk living north of the DMZ that would hav fought against the communists as guerillas.

  • LoboSolo

    Most of what Veith says seems here seems to be right but I will disagree on one thing:

    “That the South Vietnamese military did not just collapse like a house of cards in 1975, …”

    That is blatantly wrong. Thru a string of bad planning, bad reactions, bad intelligence, conflicting orders, bad leadership (civilian and military), lack of a mobilie reserv, bad rumors of a deal being cut, and many other things that happen’d in a short timeframe the ARVN melted away.

    It began with the fall of Hue and rumors of deal being cut set off a flood of refugees. ARVN forces found the roads making troop movement almost impossible. North Vietnamese forces swiftly took the gift of the growing instability, and with the abandon’d equipment of the ARVN, they launcht strong attacks on all fronts.

    Many ARVN generals abandoned their troops to fend for themselves and ARVN soldiers deserted “en masse” as morale fell.

    Aside from the heroic stand by the 18th Division at Xuân Lộc and the fighting about Saigon, ARVN resistance all but stoppt. Less than a month after Hue, Saigon fell and South Vietnam was no more.

    The sudden and utter downfall of the ARVN shockt the world. Even North Vietnam was amaz’d at how quickly South Vietnam fell asunder.