HoangsaParacels: Sử gia Bill Laurie, người bạn thân thiết cuả những người lính Việt và dân tộc Việt Nam. Ông luôn luôn tranh đấu cho công bằng, lẽ phải cho một quân đội đã bị lãng quên. Sau đây là những cảm nghĩ cuả ông gửi gắm đến sử gia Villard về Quân Lực Việt Nam Cộng Hoà mà ông đã từng sát cánh chiến đấu bên họ, nhân dịp Tiến sĩ Villard đến quân Cam để phỏng vấn các chiến sĩ QLVNCH.
Bill Laurie here. Viet Nam '71-'72, '73-'75. Saw notice of your project with Max Hastings to interview former RVNAF personnel. I have sent notice of project to RVNAF friends with hopes they might be able to help.
If I may, allow me to submit thoughts that came to mind. I worked, on a daily basis, with RVN military people and civilians. Had language school and had extensive contact with VN people, military & civilian. During my time in VN became very aware of absolutely outstanding units and impeccably honest and capable military leasers. Here are some examples:
ARVN 7th Infantry Division, Mekong Delta, under command of BG Nguyen Khoa Nam. During the time I was the the 7th was not simply "good," they were outstanding, and reflected the skills and integrity of their commanding general Nguyen Khoa Nam. Nam came up through airborne ranks. He was revered by VN military and civilians all of whom recognized his militant honesty.
The 7th was, until now perhaps, impugned by their lackluster performance at Ap Bac in January '63, as described in Neil Sheehan's BRIGHT SHINING LIE. That certainly wasn't the case when I was there. Quite the opposite. 7th known not only for its tactical proficiency but also civil treatment of villagers.
7th Division elements were reportedly involved with resistance movements after Saigon's fall. Gen. Nam, appointed to commanding general of MR IV, took his own life on 1 May '75. He is, to this day, revered by VN military veterans.
Hau Nghia Province Regional Forces: The "RF" were province infantry operating in company and battalion formations. Hau Nghia was an important province as it was the only barrier between Cambodian border and Saigon. Thieu HAD to appoint capable province chiefs for this province. In '65 Hau Nghia was virtually under VC control. Daytime road traffic was hazardous. Members of U.S. advisory teams in two provinces were pulled out at nightfall.
Sometime in perhaps '69, Col. Nguyen Van Thanh was appointed Hau Nghia province chief. He was a no-nonsense capable military leader AND known to be 100% honest with no involvement --none---in corruption. He was respected and held in highest regard.
Under his leadership the Hau Nghia RF became very proficient, so much so that they humiliated three NVA regiments during the '72 offensive. Had these NVA forces broken through they would have had a clear shot to Saigon, 25 miles away. Col. Thanh was too good for his own good. The VC specifically targeted him for assassination and he was killed in summer of '72. The story of the the Hau Nghia RF, Col. Thanh, are spelled out in Col. Stuart Herrington's SILENCE WAS A WEAPON (republished as STALKING THE VIET CONG).
I went to Hau Nghia in '73 or '74 with then Capt. Herrington. He too was greatly admired by Hau Nghia RF who remembered him from his advisor days. Several of them came up to Stu and implored him to go on an operation with them, to "kick VC/NVA ass." They were a proud, capable, motivted force, far, far different than the dismal picture painted by U.S. "news" (sic) people.
18th ARVN Division. I'm sure you've heard of the 18th's defiant stand at Xuan Loc in '75. The 18th's CG, Gen. Le Minh Dao, spent 17 years in reeducation camps. He now lives somewhere on the east coast. He is an eloquent, intelligent, admirable man held in highest regard by his former troops, by U.S. who served with him.
81st Airborne Battalion commandos. Very highly regarded outfit. During attack on Phuoc Long-Song Be in Dec. '74-Jan '75 a company (maybe 2?) of 81s were airlifted in to defend vastly overwhelming NVA forces. They, and other defenders, put of a valiant fight but were overwhelmed. The 81st is known for its combat proficiency. Here is their website, with English language entries on the right.
See if you can find anyone who served with Col. Ho Ngoc Can. Col. Can was province chief of Chuong Thien, always among the worst provinces in RVN, bordering the U-Minh Forest. Col. Can would not surrender and fought on with some of his troops until they ran out of ammunition and were captured. Col. Can was to be executed. Reliable reports were that he was stood up against a wall to be shot and he excoriated and reviled his captors, calling them puppets of a foreign ideology. Rather than listen to his indictments they stuffed a lemon in his mouth, then they shot him. To this day Col. Can is held in highest regard by VN military.
These are only examples of capable RVNAF units. Their existence does not negate or attempt to screen or conceal poorly-led units, corruption, etc. Still, existence of latter does not justify exclusion of the former.
I left Viet Nam in April of '75, a few days before it was conquered by Hanoi's legions. To this day most Americans, and most of world audience for that matter, have no idea of how things evolved as they did. Some express amazement that RVN fell so quickly yet the real question is how they continued fighting as they did from mid-'74 on. Aid cutbacks were insidious and greatly restricted RVNAF operations. Lack of spare parts forced moth-balling river patrol boats, trucks, tanks, helicopters, etc. There are some supposed authors who aver RVNAF had sufficient munition, material, etc. That is wrong, 100% so. In addition 25% unemployment impoverished a military and citizenry already battered by 50% inflation. The situation was horrible. A Defense Attache Office (DAO) study in'74 indicated 80% -or similar order of magnitude- of RVNAF troops could not feed their families, even with commissary food.
I can attest to this as I was in daily contact with RVNAF people, their families, etc. IT was a horrid, wretched, disgusting situation.
I hope you can get some people from the units cited above. For all its' shortcomings RVNAF was far, far better than most people realize, even today's military personnel and others pretending to be historians. RVNAF improved immensely from '65 to '75. In '65 VN light infantry were defeating ARVN regulars (most of the time...but not ALL the time). By '72 RVNAF province and district RF and PF were holding their own against NVA regulars, so the entire ballgame had changed.
Many Americans are proud to have served with such outstanding human beings as Major. Nguyen Minh Chau:
To ignore and impugn such people, as far too many pseudo-historians have done, is inexcusable.
Thank you for undertaking this project and for attempting to set the record straight. These people deserve their place in history.
From Bill Laurie.
From Bill Laurie.