.. rom 5,416 to 3,888, and MACV staff strength from 1,894 to 1,395 and many were military cadre from leaving American units trying to complete their twelve month tours. During 1972 General Abrams, and his successor in June, General Fredrick C. Wayand, threw the weight of the advisory effort into a succession of material supply porjects that enabled the South Vietnamese to complete existing modernization programs; to make up for heavy combat losses; to create new units, and to fill their depots with munitions, fuel, spare parts, and other supplies. The eventual result was a massivesea and airlift between October 23 and December 12 1972 that brought over 105,000 major items of equipment to South Vietnam, about 5,000 tons by air and the rest by sea.
In the field of supply the most critical and the most costly item in the South Vietnamese inentory was ammunition. In 1972, under MACV guidance, the Central Logistics Command established a more detailed system to moniter the status of all munitions: base, field, and unit depot stockage; unit expenditures; and ammunition maintenance. Unused ammunition was subject to rapid deterioriation and had to examined periodically and , if necessary, reconditioned of destroyed. Stockage levels in each ammunition category were critical. Munitions stocks increased from 79,000 short tons in January 1969 to 146,900 in January 1972 and 165,700 in January 1973. However, a normal monthly expenditure rate of 33,000 short tons, which could rise to over 100,000 short tons per month in periods of intense combat, made continued resupply by the United States vital.
Another potential problem was the vulnerability of ammunition dums; the enemy had destroyed over 24,000 short tons of depot ammunition during the Easter offensive alone. The South Vietnamese would have to maintain, protect, and ration their existing stocks as carefully as possible. Following the Easter offensive of 1972, MACV and the Joint Cheifs of Staff suddenly decided that further additions had to be made. These included two more M48 tank battalions; two additional air defence and three more 175-mm. self – propelled artillery battallions; crews for one hundred sophisticated antitank missle launchers; and, for the South Vietnamese Air Force, thirteen aviation squadrons. The new air units represented a major expansion and included aircraft for two more squadrons of heavy CH-47, three of A-37 jet fighter bombers, two of large C130 transports, and five of F5 jet fighters.
Perhaps anticipating some kind of agreement in Paris, the Department of Defence agreed to ship this material to South Vietnam as soon as possable under the code name Project ENHANCE and to raise and train units and crews at some later date. At the same time, in order to strengthen the territorials, MACV authorised more Regional Forces battalions and enlarged province tacticle staffs to provide better command and control. To create these new units without violating the 1.1 million troop ceiling, MACV and the Joint General Staff again made compensatory reductions in Popular Forces strength. Fall of Vietnam It took almost one year for the North Vietnamese to rebuild their strength and launch their own major offensive. On March 30 1972 three North Vietnamese Army divisions crossed the Demilitarised Zone in northern South Vietnam, overrunning advance bases of the new South Vietnamese 3d Division; three days later, three more enemy divisions headed south across the Cambodian border twards Saigon, surrounding positions held by the 5th Division in the III Corps Tacticle Zone, and two weeks after that, two other divisions attacked the 22nd Infintry Division in the Highlands, while smaller units struck at towns in Binh Dinh Province along the coast.
Because of the timing of the attacks, they were quickly called the “Easter Offensive.” Through all of this, the North Vietnamese had only won two district towns, Loc Ninh, near the Cambodian border, and Dong Ha, opposite the Demilitarised zone, a small showing for the heavy prices they paid. The ceasefire agreement of January 23 1973 marked an end to the American policy of Vietnamization. The agreement specified the complete withdrawl of all American military forces from South Vietnam, including advisors, and the end of all U.S. military actions in support of Saigon. The North Vietnamese, in turn, agreed to put a ceasefire in place, the return of Amerocan Prisoners of War, and an end to infiltration in the South.
The accord caught many American generals by suprise, including General Abrams, the new Army cheif of staff (Abrams had stepped down as MACV commander on June 28 1972 to replace General Westmoreland as the Army chief of staff, and the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment on October 12). He had felt that the United States would end up with some type of permanent ground and air comittment similar to that in South Korea. Instead, there was to be no residual support force, not even an advisory mission, and, in theory, the Viet Cong and Saigon governments were to settle their political differances at some later date. The ceasefirebegan at 8 o’clock on Sunday, January 28 1973, and the war ground to a temporary halt. In the sixty days that followed, slightly over 58,000 forign troops departed South Vietnam, including about 23,000 Americans, 25,000 Koreans, and a few hundred assorted Thais, Fillipinos, and Nationalist Chinese.
Their leaving left about 550.000 South Vietnamese regulars and another 525,0000 territorials to face a regular North Vietnamese army that Americans estimated at 500,000 to 600,000 troops, of which about 220,000 were in South Vietnam and the rest close by. The final U.S. withdrawals were timed to match the release of American prisoners of war by the North Vietnam. MACV headquarters dissolved on March 29, and three new agencies took over it’s remaining functions. Thus ended the ill fated American involvement in Vietnam.
In late 1973, the cease fire was broken by the sending of 18 divisions from North Vietnam into the south. This, in time, would become one of the worst blood baths of the war. This continued through 1975, when the enemy came to be in near Saigon, and elements of the underground political opposition came into the open and held meetings to voice their antigovernment feelings. The government moved in and on March 27 1975, arrested a number of poeple suspected of plotting a coup. On April 2 1975, the South Vietnamese Senate even adopted a resolution holding President Thieu personnally responseable for the detiorating situation and asking him to take immediate steps to form a broader cabinet.
It was speculated that to save what they could, the government should send a plenipotentiary to Paris and ask the Fench governmentto act as official intermediary in negotiations to be conducted with the Communists. But President Thieu appeared only incredulous. Demands that President Thieu should resign and transfer his powers at once to General Duong Van Minh were resurrected in earnest. A coalition government led by General Minh, it was said, stood a better chance of being accepted by the Communists; if so, more bloodshed could be averted. On Monday April 21, during a meeting at Independance Palace, President Thieu announced his decision to step down.
He inferred that the United States wanted him to resign, and whether or not he consented, certain generals would press for a replacement. As required by the Constitution of South Vietnam, he was prepared to transfer the presidency to Vice President Tran Van Huong. Finally, he asked the armed forces and the national police to fully support the new president. In the evening of April 21, 1975, the televised transfer of power ceremony took place at Independance Palace. After President Huong took over, he immediatly went about imposing certain forceful measures, among which was a formal ban on all overseas travel. Servicemen and cival servants who had fled to foreign countries were ordered to return within thirty days; if they failed to do so, their citizenship would be revoked, and all their belongings confiscated.
The only people that the new government would allow to go overseas were the old and the ill; they were to be permitted to seek treatment out of the country after posting a large bond (to say nothing of the large bribes required to obtain such a pass). In the meantime, the militry situation became increasingly bad. In the afternoon of Sunday April 27 1975, the defence minister, Mr. Tran Van Don, led a military delegation composed of general officers of Joint General Staff and the commander of CMD in an apperance before a meeting before both houses of Congress. By 7:30 pm, 138 senators and representatives were present.
Mr. Don summarized the military situation: Saigon was now surrounded by fifteen enemy divisions under the control of three army corps. The Saigon – Vung Tau Highway had been cut, and enemy troops were advancing tward the Long Binh base. At 8:20 pm, the General Assembly voted to hand over the presidency to General Minh. The next day, Monday April 28, 1975 at 5:30 pm, General Minh was sworn in as president.
President Minh was much more confident. He based his conviction of an eventual political arrangement with the Communists on these ficts as he saw them: (1) The Communists did not have a solid structure in Saigon – negotiations would provide more time for solidation. (2) The provisional government was strongly anti – Communist and the Communists preferred a “two Vietnams” solution. (3) It was believed that Communist China preferred a divided Vietnam and a unified Vietnam would pose a threat to China’s border. Finally, “The Communists know that the people of South Vietnam don’t like Communism. Since it is impossible for the Comminists to kill them all, it is to their advantage to negotiate. So he firmly believed that a government with him at the head would be more acceptable to the Communists, and that they would be willing to negotiate with him for a political solution. President Minh waited in vain for a favorable word from the other side, but none came. The response of the Communists was omnious: they bombed Tan Son Nhut Air base the moment he was sworn in, and shelled Saigon barely twelve hours later.
Still a last ditch effort was attempted by President Minh’s people to contact the Communists through their representative at Tan Son Nhut. But the answer was evasive and intimidating. It was then that President Minh realised that all hope was gone. He gave twenty – four hours for all U.S. personnel to leave South Vietnam. The evacuation proceeded ferverishly throughout the night and was over at 5:00 am on April 30.
At 10 :00 am on April 30,1975, President Minh ordered the armed forces to stop fighting, and gave in to all Communist demands. And the Republic of South Vietname came under Communist control and no longer existed as a free nation. Conclusions The United States policy of Vietnamization was a good idea, but the time was not ripe for it to best be used. Saigon’s military strength was rated by nearly all experts in South Vietnam as uncapable of handleing a combined threat. True, Vietnamization was not what led to the total withdrawl of troops from Vietnam, but the opinions pressed by Laird had somewhat of an affect on our agreeing to sign a ceasefire agreement.
Also, if we had used Vietnamization’s program of building up South Vietnam’s armed forces more extensively, South Vietnam might still be in exiezce today. — Selected Bibliography Clarke, Jeffrey J. Advice and Support: The Final Years, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Washington, D.C., 1988 Fenton, James. The Day Saigon Fell, New Statesman and Society v4, August 1991 Fox, Sylvan.
“Vietnam Cease- Fire Goes Into Effect.” St. Louis Post – Dispatch, January 28, 1973 “Growing Gloom in a Shrunken Land.” Time, April 7,1975, pp. 29 – 34 Keeler, Rick. Information taken from interview on March 27, 1993 Le Gro, William E. Vietnam: From Cease – Fire to Capitulation, U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1981 MacDonald, Charles B.; Charles, von Luttichau V.
P. The U.S. Army in Vietnam, Army Historical Series: Office of the Cheif of Military History, United States Army “Now, Trying to Pick Up the Pieces.” Time, April 14, pp. 6 – 13 “Seeking the Last Exit from Viet Nam.” Time, April 21, 1975, pp. 14 – 31 Vien, Cao Van.
The Final Collapse, Center of Military History, U.S. Army, pp. 141 – 166 World Book Encyclopedia, 1967 ed. V – “Vietnam”.