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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > Vietnam War

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Vietnam War The Battle for Vietnam. .

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  #91  
Old 05 May 12, 09:12
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The Ia Drang Valley campaign was a landmark for me, because it introduced me to the most brilliant tactical commander I'd ever known.

Colonel Ngo Quang Truong was General Dong's chief of staff. He did not look like my idea of a military genius: only five feet seven, in his midforties, very skinny, with hunched shoulders and a head that seemed too big for his body. His face was pinched and intense, not at all handsome, and there was always a cigarette hanging from his lips. Yet he was revered by his officers and troops-and feared by those North Vietnamese commanders who knew of his ability. Any time a particularly tricky combat operation came up, Dong put him in command.

The airborne was alerted to prevent the North Vietnamese regiments defeated in the Ia Drang Valley from escaping back into Cambodia. I was half asleep in my room at the Manor BOQ after a big meal of curried chicken and beer when the call came to get out to the airport. Truong had assembled an unusually large task force of some two thousand troops to go to the Ia Drang the following morning, and had chosen me as his advisor.

We flew in transports to the red clay strip at Duc Co, my old stomping ground, then by chopper south to the river valley. From the minute we stepped off our helicopters we were involved in skirmishes and firefights. The valley was about twelve miles wide at the point where the Ia Drang flowed westward into Cambodia-and somewhere in those miles of dense jungle the main body of the enemy was on the move. We had landed to the north, and Truong ordered the battalions to cross the Ia Drang and take up positions along the Chu Prong Mountains, which formed a series of steep ridges to the south. It was fascinating to watch him operate. As we marched, he would stop to study the map, and every once in a while he'd indicate a position on the map and say, "I want you to fire artillery here." I was skeptical at first, but called in the barrages; when we reached the areas we found bodies. Simply by visualizing the terrain and drawing on his experience fighting the enemy for fifteen years, Truong showed an uncanny ability to predict what they were going to do.

When we set up our command post that night, he opened his map, lit a cigarette, and outlined his battle plan. The strip of jungle between our position on the ridges and the river, he explained, made a natural corridor-the route the NVA would most likely take. He said, "At dawn we will send out one battalion and put it here, on our left, as a blocking force between the ridge and the river. Around eight o'clock tomorrow morning they will make a big enemy contact. Then I will send another battalion here, to our right. They will make contact at about eleven o'clock. I want you to have your artillery ready to fire into this area in front of us," he said, "and then we will attack with our third and fourth battalions down toward the river. The enemy will then be trapped with the river to his back."

I'd never heard anything like this at West Point. I was thinking, "What's all this about eight o'clock and eleven o'clock? How can he schedule a battle that way?" But I also recognized the outline of his plan: Truong had reinvented the tactics Hannibal had used in 217 B.C. when he enveloped and annihilated the Roman legions on the banks of Lake Trasimene.

But, Truong added, we had a problem: the Vietnamese airborne had been called into this campaign because of high-level concern that American forces in pursuit of the enemy might otherwise venture too close to the Cambodian border. He said, "On your map, the Cambodian border is located here, ten kilometers east of where it appears on mine. In order to execute my plan, we must use my map rather than yours, because otherwise we cannot go around deeply enough to set up our first blocking force. So, Thieu ta Schwarzkopf"-thieu ta (pronounced "tia-tah") is Vietnamese for "major"-"what do you advise?"

The prospect of letting an enemy escape into a sanctuary until he was strong enough to attack again galled me as much as it would any soldier. Some of these fellows were the same ones I'd run into four months earlier at Duc Co; I didn't want to fight them again four months from now. So why should I assume that my map was more accurate than Truong's?

"I advise that we use the boundary on your map."

Long after he'd issued his attack orders, Truong sat smoking his cigarettes and studying the map. We went over the plan again and again late into the night, visualizing every step of the battle. At dawn we sent out the 3rd Battalion. They got into position and, sure enough, at eight o'clock they called and reported heavy contact. Truong sent the 5th Battalion to the right. At eleven o'clock they reported heavy contact. As Truong had predicted, in the jungle below us the enemy had run into the 3rd Battalion at the border and decided, "We can't get out that way. We'll double back." That decision violated a basic principle of escape and evasion, which is to take the worst possible route in order to minimize the risk of encountering a waiting enemy. Had they climbed out of the valley up the Chu Pong Mountains, they might have gotten away. Instead they followed the low ground, as Truong had anticipated, and now we'd boxed them in. He looked at me and said, "Fire your artillery." We shelled the area below us for a half hour. Then he ordered his two remaining battalions to attack down the hill; there was a hell of a lot of shooting as we followed them in.

Around one o'clock, Truong announced, "Okay. We'll stop." He picked a lovely little clearing, and we sat down with his staff and had lunch! Halfway through the meal, he put down his rice bowl and issued some commands on the radio. "What are you doing?" I asked. He'd ordered his men to search the battlefield for weapons: "We killed many enemy, and the ones we didn't kill threw down their weapons and ran away."

Now, he hadn't seen a damn thing! All the action had been hidden by jungle. But we stayed in that clearing for the remainder of the day, and his troops brought in armful after armful of weapons and piled them in front of us. I was excited-we'd scored a decisive victory! But Truong just sat, smoking his cigarettes.

General H. Norman Schwarzkopf
It Doesn't Take A Hero (1992)
  #92  
Old 06 May 12, 09:06
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Sidebar: The Naïveté of General Schwarzkopf at Ia Drang Valley

General Schwarzkopf was mesmerized by LTC Truong's ability to sense the enemy's positions, while he did not see a damn thing. Each time Truong gave him order to fire artillery into the jungles, it was with pinpoint accuracy. Furthermore, he could not figure out why was it possible for Truong to anticipate the enemy troops' withdrawal paths, then to block them at two ends in order to box them in against the Ia Drang River. Major Schwarzkopf of the year 1965 and even General Schwarzkopf of nowadays - he published his memoir in 2002 - assumed with naïveté that Simply by visualizing the terrain and drawing on his experience fighting the enemy for fifteen years, Truong showed an uncanny ability to predict what they were going to do.

If in fact LTC Truong, upon receiving order to bring his troops from Saigon to the Highlands in search of enemy troops on their withdrawal to Kampuchea, selected on his own the landing zones amidst the vast jungles of Chu Pong massif, sniffed out on his own the enemy troops on the move, anticipated on his own the enemy's withdrawal paths and set up accurate ambush sites, the ways Major Schwarzkopf depicted, then Truong was indeed an exceptional commander with a uncanny and unmatched sixth sense. However, the reality was not as such.

General Schwarzkopf was naïve in thinking that LTC Truong acted on his own when he lead the Vietnamese airborne battalions in the Than Phong 7 Operation. In reality, he merely executed orders issued from II Corps General Staff from the outset through the conclusion of this operation. It is unthinkable that LTC Truong could have possessed the superhuman ability to sensing the enemy troops on the move under the cover of the dense canopies in the vast Chu Pong massif areas.

Let's unveil the mystery curtain of the magic show that mesmerized General Schwarzkopf in the Ia Drang valley in 1965, by filling the gaps in his account that is a product of nebulous memory with precise details on dates, coordinates and numbers provided by the II Corps Chief of Staff in his after action report Why Pleime.

(to continue reading, click here)

Last edited by Phieu; 06 May 12 at 11:33..
  #93  
Old 07 May 12, 06:52
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'The Most Brilliant Commander': Ngo Quang Truong

By James H. Willbanks

Ngo Quang Truong died of cancer on January 22, 2007, in Fairfax, Virginia. Shortly after his death, the Virginia Legislature passed a Joint Resolution "Celebrating the Life of Ngo Quang Truong." This singular honor for a man who came to this country in 1975 was clearly justified by the sacrifices that Truong made in defense of his South Vietnamese homeland and the exemplary life that he lived both before and after coming to his adopted country. He was considered one of the most honest and capable generals of the South Vietnamese army during the long war in Southeast Asia. General Bruce Palmer described him in his book The 25-Year War as a "tough, seasoned, fighting leader" and "probably the best field commander in South Vietnam." General Creighton Abrams, who commanded American military operations in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972, told subordinates that he thought General Truong was capable of commanding an American division.

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  #94  
Old 08 May 12, 08:34
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The American Generals started to highly regard General Ngo Quang Truong since the day he had saved the live of Captain Thomas B. Throckmorton, Senior Advisor to the ARVN 5th Airborne Battalion, who was the son of Admiral Throckmorton.

Quote:
General Truong's career started in 1964, when he was commanding one such battalion. During a military operation, he had courageously saved the life of a critically wounded advisor, Captain Thomas B. Thockmorton, son of Lieutenant General John Thockmorton, second in command of MACV. Many officers were aware of Truong's aptitude, they expressed their endearment and were very supportive of him.
Hoang Van Lac and Ha Mai Viet
Blind Design (1996)


  #95  
Old 09 May 12, 09:04
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Vietnamese Generals did not regard General Truong as highly as the American Generals.

Quote:
After the war and their arrivals at a refugee camp in the U.S., both General Vien and Truong were approached by an organization called General Research Corporation. They were offered contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense's military history center to write documents relating to the Vietnam War. The inconsistencies between Vien and Truong then became more apparent. At one point during a meeting to compile information for the U.S., Truong asserted the failure to "Bad Leadership, Central Government lack of talent". Lieutenant General Dong Van Khuyen sided with General Vien and voiced his protest. Brigadier General Tran Dinh Tho, Assistant Chief of Staff J3, argued, "General Staff did all that it could. If there was any available means, it was always reserved for the Army Corps 1/Military Region 1. Both the Airborne and Marine Divisions, which were the general reserved forces, were sent to support the 1st Army Corps. Even after the objective was achieved, General Truong retained these divisions and utilized them as the local forces instead of sending them back to the Joint General Staff to maneuver other areas. What is there to criticize?"

During the heated conversations, General Vien did not utter one word. But after the meeting, General Vien pulled Khuyen and Tho aside and said, "They adapted to the new life over here! In Vietnam, those types would have their necks wringged." The fallout continued to be greater until one day in 1985, when General Vien summoned the Generals of the ARVN to Washington to discuss the Vietnam Veterans Association, General Truong had a very disobedient attitude, from the choosing of his seat to the methods of discussing the topics. Afterward, Truong was never present at the subsequent meetings.

General Truong never had such an attitude before, especially toward General Vien, the man to whom Truong should be indebted. When asked about it, General Truong revealed, "The faith has been lost, upon arriving in this land what remained is only the feelings, duties and love?"

Moreover, Truong blamed Vien for not seeing and following the changes in the newly developing situation. Meanwhile, a number of other generals also bitterly criticized Truong. Major General Nguyen Duy Hinh, Truong's former Chief of Staff gravely remarked, "Truong's knowledge was mediocre; during a meeting or conference he never gave out orders or instructions. His fame and reputation were only fictitious."

Major General Bui The Lan, Commander of the Marine Division, who was Truong's classmate seriously commented, "Upon facing the danger (the withdrawing from Da Nang), could one assess the bravery and real capacity of an individual."
General Hoang Van Lac and Colonel Ha Mai Viet
Blind Design (1996)


Quote:
General Truong, I Corps Commander, was occasionally given credit for being a "honest man" and a "good officer", but some sources stated that he lacked the schooling for a Corps Command.
This observation reflects the opinions of 22 out of 26 interviewees who were high-ranking officers (one general, eight lieutenant generals, two major generals, one brigadier general, and nine colonels). Half among these officiers held combat positions (chief of air force, chief of artillery, commander of I corps, commander of I corps forward, chief of the Capital Military District, deputy commander of I division); the other half held general staff positions. The following officers' names were mentioned: Tran Van Don, Nguyen Cao Ky, Lam Quang Thi, Lam Quang Tho, Nguyen Xuan Thinh, and Nguyen Duy Hinh.

Stephen T. Hosmer, Konrad Kellen and Brian M. Jenkins
Fall Of South Vietnam: Statements by Vietnamese Military and Civilian Leaders (1980)


General Truong did not attend the US Army Command & General Staff College.

Last edited by Phieu; 09 May 12 at 12:25..
  #96  
Old 10 May 12, 08:26
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Besides General Tri, General Thanh and General Truong who were considered as “combat fighting generals” by the American opinion – media and high ranking officers, the remainder of the 161 ARVN Generals were considered rather mediocre like in the opinion expressed by Colonel William Miller in the following quote regarding General Le Van Hung:

Quote:
General Hung came from a well-to-do family with all the social status necessary for command in the South Vietnamese Army, and he disliked overbearing Americans who wanted the war fought according to American rules. This resentment colored Hung's relations with U.S. officers since the early 1960s, garnering him a reputation as "anti-American." Before being awarded command of the 5th Division in 1971 on the advice of his friend and mentor, General Minh, Hung was a province chief in the Mekong Delta. He came to III Corps as part of a clique of officers, the so-called "Delta Clan," brought from the Mekong region to surround Minh with loyal minions. Hung was fairly tall for a Vietnamese, about five-foot-six. Even during the dark days just before the siege of An Loc he remained an immaculate dresser: fatigues pressed, insignia polished and straightened. He later returned to IV Corps as the deputy corps commander, and when South Vietnam fell in the spring of 1975, Le Van Hung and his commander committed suicide rather than surrender to the communists.

As division senior adviser, Colonel William Miller got to know Hung better than any other American. But Miller himself never quite knew what to make of Hung. When he first came to the 5th ARVN Division in the summer of 1971 Miller reported to TRAC (Third Regional Assistance Command) that "Hung displays outstanding leadership, is aggressive, organized, and forceful. He appears extremely knowledgeable, has confidence in himself and is quickly gaining the confidence of his subordinates." Miller was either being less than candid with his commander or he had badly misread his counterpart. On the eve of the battle in III Corps Miller's perceptions of Hung were more sharply etched. In one way the 5th ARVN Division commander was just like other South Vietnamese officers Miller had served with during precious tours; they all regarded their counterparts as a faucet to tap the wealth of supplies and ammunition flowing through the American logistical pipeline. But Hung was more aloof than most South Vietnamese officers. Although he respected Miller, Hung rarely sought out his advice and often did not inform him of tactical decisions. Hung was no coward, but like many other high-ranking South Vietnamese officers he tried to refrain from making tough decisions. If possible he would wait and watch, hoping a bad situation would just go away.
Dale Andrade
Trial by Fire, 1995, (pp 389-390)

Last edited by Phieu; 10 May 12 at 12:04..
  #97  
Old 11 May 12, 04:45
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Why is it that there were so few ARVN Generals who were considered “combat fighting generals”? There are several reasons for this.
The first reason is that the North Vietnamese Communist invaders who initiated the Vietnam War chose to conduct mainly a guerrilla warfare, meaning keeping the fighting on the battlefield at battalion size or smaller when they were weaker than their opponents and only escalated it to a division and corps level when stronger.

Battles at division and corps size amounted to the ten fingers of one’s two hands: (1) Do Xa 1964, (2) Pleime 1965, (3) Cambodian Invasion 1970, (4) Low Laos Invasion 1971, (5) Kontum 1972, (6) Quang Tri 1972, (7) An Loc 1972, (8) Duc Hue/Svay Rieng 1974, (9) Ban Me Thuot 1975, and (10) Xuan Loc 1975.

Ergo, only those Generals who got the chance to command or control one of those major battles had had the opportunity to show off – if they had them - their military skills: 1. Do Cao Tri, 2. Vinh Loc, 3. Do Cao Tri, 4. Hoang Xuan Lam, 5. Ly Tong Ba, 6. Ngo Quang Truong, 7. Le Van Hung, 8. Pham Quoc Thuan, 10. Pham Van Phu, and 10. Le Minh Dao.

Among those ten Generals, only General Tri, Truong and Dao are remembered as “combat fighting generals. Tri for being aggressive, Truong for retaking Quang Tri, and Dao for holding the last stand.
  #98  
Old 12 May 12, 09:38
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Because the VC only conducted mainly battalion or smaller sized hit and run operations, they did not give much chance to the ARVN Generals to plan for major confrontation with the enemy. It was hard to launch an attack against an evasive enemy. They were forced to just be on the defensive. Among the 10 major battles,
- the offensive ones were: Do Xa 1964, Cambodian Invasion 1970, Low Laos Invasion 1971;
- and the defensive ones: Pleime 1965, Kontum 1972, Quang Tri 1972, An Loc 1972, Duc Hue/Svay Rieng 1974, Ban Me Thuot 1975, and Xuan Loc 1975.
  #99  
Old 12 May 12, 12:32
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Quote:
opinion expressed by Colonel William Miller in the following quote regarding General Le Van Hung
Col. Ulmer, Miller's successor during An Loc battle, had much better opinion about general Hung as far as I recall.
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  #100  
Old 12 May 12, 14:47
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Originally Posted by Przemyslaw View Post
Col. Ulmer, Miller's successor during An Loc battle, had much better opinion about general Hung as far as I recall.
Can you find that opinion?
Colonel Hung did not do much during the An Loc battle. He was pinned down in his command bunker while most of the actions were happening on the surface. The relief of the besieged city was mainly planned by Colonel Le quang Luong, airborne brigade commander.

Last edited by Phieu; 13 May 12 at 03:02..
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Old 13 May 12, 05:47
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phieu View Post
Can you find that opinion?
Are you asking him to provide a {-gasp-} ...Reference?
  #102  
Old 13 May 12, 08:08
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Another reason for the paucity of ARVN combat fighting Generals was the dimension of the battlegrounds.
Quote:
The terrain and the location of our country, in terms of search and destroy the enemy operation, do not provide the opportunity to deploy simultaneously three Regiments together with support units. Looking back from the day the Division was created to the Highlands' debacle, no Military Tactical Region had launched an operation that used a whole division, that is, all 3 Infantry Regiments, with Artillery, Engineer and Armored Cavalry Battalions, etc.
That’s General Vinh Loc’s statement quoted from Thư Gừi Người Bạn Mỹ (Letters to an American Friend, page 71)
Without a battleground wide enough to allow the use of an entire division, a commanding general does not have the opportunity to exercise his potential combat fighting talent. Which explains why only three names came up: Tri, Truong, Dao.

Last edited by Phieu; 13 May 12 at 22:29..
  #103  
Old 14 May 12, 03:18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by don744 View Post
I have read somewhere that he was removed as deputy prime minister and subsequently given a post as the Minister of Birth Control and Population Regulation. That's the job to which I am referring. I suppose travelling the country teaching young women how to practice safe sex wouldn’t be all that bad a gig…would it?
According to "official history" Giap was arrested in the 1930s by the french and spent 2 years in jail, but the only witness for his case was his future wife*.
Some sources also indicated that he was never arrested, and after the french crackdown of 1930s he even attended an elite school in Huế, the Imperial capital. How'd he do that? By selling some of his compatriots(the Kuomintang).
Some sources even state that Giap(in 1930s) was not a revolutionary at all, but an agent working for the french.**
Some sources guessed he was a communist apparatchik working against the Nationalist KMT.
In Vietnamese context, a Generalissimo "teaching women safe sex" is a humiliation, and "wouldn't be that bad a gig..." part would never happened. In short, it's a shame and boring post. But he swallowed it too well, to the surprise of every Vietnamese. They respect him more after his "courageous service in the field of medicine".


*son of an early revolutionary tell me about Giáp's only witness. Apparently, that guy become a renowned "reactionary", for all he witnessed.
**You can check about "Giap's Godfather" , a french agent named André Louis Marty in Cecil B. Currey's book "Victory at all costs"

Bonus: According to "offical history", Giáp's father was a "patriot mandarin who retired from his job and returned home practicing Eastern(herbal) Medicine" , but the guy I mentioned made it clear that Giáp's father was a "peasant who never retired from his job, just practicing Eastern(herbal) medicine".
"That's how I became a reactionary"- he said.

Quote:
When the 'Pol Pot problem" developed truly serious dimensions in late 1977, giap returned to the scene. He spent most of 1978 organizing an NLF style response for Kampuchea, that in creation of a Liberation Army, a Liberated Area, a radio Liberation, and a standby Provisional Revolutionary Government. This was the tried method, but by its nature, slow. Apparently the politburo judged it did not have time for protracted conflict, and so in 1978 opted in favor of a Soviet-style solution: tanks across the border, invasion and occupation of Kampuchea. Giap opposed it, although evidence of this is mostly inferential, holding that a quick military solution was not possible, that Pol Pot would embrace a dau tranh strategy against PAVN and the result would be a bogged down war. Giap proved to be painfully correct and, for the sin of being right when all others are wrong in a collective leadership decision-making process, was eased out of Politburo level politics. Apparently all factions ganged up on him, but his removal was designed to eliminate Giap as factional infighting without tarnishing Giap the legend. It appears he did not resist this power play as he might have done, with possibly bloody consequences, which may be a tribute to his better judgements.
http://www.vwam.com/vets/nva/giap.html

Last edited by Bobavi; 14 May 12 at 03:34..
  #104  
Old 14 May 12, 10:25
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In the quote previously posted, General Vinh Loc advanced another reason for the lack of ARVN combat fighting commanding generals: proper schooling to command a division or corps:

Quote:
Even if one would like to, one did not have enough space which would allow the deployment of a whole Division, not to mention that very few commanders underwent proper training in Large Unit command.
Thư Gừi Người Bạn Mỹ (Letters to an American Friend, page 71)

Among the three known combat fighting generals Tri, Truong and Dao, only Tri did attend the US Army Command and General Staff College. Truong and Dao did not.
This explains why armor units were not committed in the retake of Quang Tri and in the defense of Xuan Loc: Truong and Dao did not know how to use tanks in combination with other units.
  #105  
Old 15 May 12, 12:13
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The reason tanks were not used at An Loc was General Nguyen Van Minh, III Corps Commander disbanded the III Corps Assault Amor Task Force established by General Do Cao Tri:

Quote:
III Armor Brigade headquarters was activated in November 1970 and, after intensive training with a U.S. advisory team headed by LTC. C.M. Crawford, with Maj Racine, Cpt Waer, and others, was declared combat ready and assigned to III Corps for employment in January 1971. Task-organized with the 15th and 18th Armored Cavalry Squadrons and a variety of infantry, artillery, and supporting units, it was the core and frame of LTG Do Cao Tri's III Corps ATF, established to meet battle-field demands in Cambodia. The ATF was the corps' combined-arms reserve. When reinforced for violent combat, its strengthand capability were equivalent to a mechanized division. It operated either alone or with the ARVN's 5th, 18th, or 25th Infantry Divisions. Wherever there was heavy combat in the III Corps Tactical Zone, the ATF was always present.

The Task Force crossed swords many times with the North Vietnamese Army's (NVA) 5th, 7th and 9th Infantry Divisions, both in Cambodia and Viet Nam. It rescued from destruction the 5th Ranger TF at Chlong and Dambe in February and March 1971, the 8th Regimental Combat Team(RCT) of the 5th Infantry Division at Snoul in June 1971, and the 30th Ranger Battalion at Alpha Base, six km east of Krek plantation, in November 1971.

The tragic death of General Do Cao Tri in a helicopter crash in February 1971 marked the turning point of the war in South Viet Nam. LTG Nguyen Van Minh, succeeding General Tri as III Corps Commander, made mistake after mistake from the very start. He and I differed on many points regarding the conduct of operations in Cambodia. Because of his weakness, we suffered many setbacks and, little by little, lost the initiative to the enemy. Often, I could not help arguing with him, and our relationship became more and more tense. After the victory near Krek in November 1971, I made up my mind to apply for admission to the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

From 1972 to 1973, I went to the U.S. to complete my advanced military education. Shortly after my departure, General Minh dispersed the resources of the III Armor Brigade and completely disbanded the III Corps ATF. When the battle of An Loc - Binh Long broke out violently during the summer of 1972, the Armor units of III Corps were completely paralyzed.
General Tran Quang Khoi


And although the III Corps Assault Armor Task Force was reestablished by General Thuan, III Corps Commander, and although General Toan, III Corps Commander, was an armor officer, tanks was also not put into used in the Xuan Loc battle, because Toan and Do, the 18th ID Commaner, did not know how to use them in combination with other units.
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