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Viewing Topic "My review of "Army of the Republic of Vietnam 1955-75 (Men-at-Arms)""
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Posted by: Amaral [5 stars] Gordon L. Rottman strikes again December 13, 2012 By Filipe amaral Format:Paperback This is the first book on the ARVN I bought, it is so good that I bought the books 'Angels in Red Hats', 'Vietnam Airborne' and 'Vietnam Marines 1965-1973' to learn more about these brave little soldiers. As usual, Americans blame all its failures in Vietnam on their allies - which had few opportunities to defend themselves from these charges. This is the book for the uninitiated reader who does not know the ARVN. As always, Gordon L. Rottman writes for all types of readers and is always very clear in his narrative. I loved the book and I became a fan of the armed forces of South Vietnam. The plates are good as Osprey's plates always are, and the pictures are marvellous and rare. There are boxes with the Vietnamese terms translated to English, and one of those has the Vietnamese phonetic alphabet. Rottman also compares the capabilities of US and ARVN units, showing their numbers and equipments. A very good book. The author should make a Warrior title about the ARVN, just like he did about the NVA. As the author states, in page 42: "If provided with effective leaders and adequate fire support, ARVN soldiers were as good as any in Asia. They were generally well equiped, and were particularly effective when US artillery and air support was available. The ARVN soldier demonstrated his qualities well during the costly 1968 Tet Counter-Offensive, and the defeat of the 1972 NVA Easter Offensive in the northern provinces; sadly, he was all too often failed by his higher command and by the politicians he fought for." http://www.amazon.com/Army-Republic-Vietnam-1955-75-Men-at-Arms/dp/1849081816/ref=sr_1_36?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1363552278&sr=1-36 A brief review but I had to stand for Mister Gordon L. Rottman to defend him against the utterly unfair review of an American Lt. Colonel.
Posted on: 17/03/2013 20:38:00

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Posted by: Paintybeard
Total Posts: 371
Joined Date: Monday, 4 February 2013
Amaral, you must resist this dangerous tendency to glib generalising. You say: "...As usual, Americans blame all its failures in Vietnam on their allies..." But what nationality is Mr. Rottman? American! So plainly this isn't quite true, is it?
Posted on: 17/03/2013 22:41:00
Posted by: xeneize
Total Posts: 75
Joined Date: Friday, 18 January 2013
Amaral. I did read it so many times, the ARVN was effective "under US artillery and air support". In the first great battle alone the ARVN collapsed, South Vietnam was so artificial as the Mexico of Maximilian I, the emperor die in Mexico, Van Thieu and the south elite run away. I am tired to read "whit more money, more weapons, another USAF strike" the south can survive. The south was doomed from the day than was created!!!!
Posted on: 17/03/2013 22:45:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
Paintybeard then someone has a problem with both 'generalization' and 'exception'.
Posted on: 17/03/2013 23:38:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
xeneize General Lam Quang Thi explains why this is true analysing the Easter Offensive of 1972, where the ARVN defeated the NVA offensive. In 1975 the ARVN didn't even had ammo level acceptble for training. I can get get deeper on this. But not today.
Posted on: 17/03/2013 23:41:00
Posted by: Paintybeard
Total Posts: 371
Joined Date: Monday, 4 February 2013
Amaral, very sorry, but I don't quite understand you post 3, can you explain?
Posted on: 18/03/2013 00:31:00
Posted by: xeneize
Total Posts: 75
Joined Date: Friday, 18 January 2013
Amaral. In 1972 the ARVN have the B-52, and the NVA was unprepared for a coventional offensive, the coordination and logistics was very poor. In 1975 the NVA logistics was superb, they moved 3 complete corps in two weeks and the generals get armoured warfare training in the URSS. The NVA have only 100.000 artillery shell for ALL campaign, the ARVN expended 200.000 in a week ONLY in the first corps. The main supply depot for the NVA was the ARVN!!!!
Posted on: 18/03/2013 00:36:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
Well, certainly Paintybeard. I made an ambiguos estatement (and reading again I kind of sounded like a jerk). What I said is that every time when we judge a social group (any group) what we look for is the ordinary ("the ephemeral proves nothing"), what happens most part of the time and why does it happen. For doing so we need to see the proportion (usually by the Principle of Paretto, or ABC Diagram) and take note of what is common and what is ephemeral. What is common (generalization, what is commonplace) and what is a mere exception to the rule (ephemeral). When Gordon L. Rottman stands by the side of the ARVN he is an exception, rather than the rule. The Americans made a good deal of effort to blame the ARVN, or the Buddists, or the media, or the politics and even the American people for each and every setback. They did so in other situations before (Italians in Somalia, for exemple), just like the British. "Yet, according to Newsweek, the VC could not have attacked Saigon and other cities without at least the passive support of the population. According to this line of reasoning, a good portion of the population in the South during the American Civil War must have been sympathetic to General Sherman's army." (General Thi, Chapter 6 'Rolling Thunder in a Gentle Land', pp118) "To make an objective, equitable, and informed judgment on the South Vietnamese Army, it is necessary to study its history, its role in nation building, its performance on the battlefield, and also the true causes of the 1975 disaster. Yet some American self-appointed pundits, including former Vietnam veterans, intentionally or by mistake, choose instead to make hasty judgments based on film footages of isolated actions or unconfirmed and even distorted stories, and to slander an army that fought and died for the cause of freedom. "It is a pity," wrote Harry F. Noyes, and Air Force veteran of Vietnam, "that many veterans of the Vietnam War have joined radical agitators, draft dodgers and smoke-screen politicians to besmirch the honor of an army that can no longer defend itself. To slander an army that died in battle because America abandoned it is a contemptible deed, unworthy of American soldiers". (Gen. Thi, pp119, the veteran is Harry F. Noyes, author of "Heroic Allies") The ARVN lost well over 200,000 dead during the Indochina Wars. In proportion to population, that was equivalent to some 2.5 million American dead. As Gordon L. Rottman noted in his book, most of US personnel seldom worked closely with the South Vietnamese. Operating separately even in combined actions. They like to point them as lacking discipline and military bearing, but as the author points out "not that all US units could claim "elite" status, by any means". Finding scapegoats is almost like a sport... As Bernard Fall pointed out in 1964: "This point needs to be made, and made clearly before a new mithology becomes accredited which blames the military setbacks of 1963-64 not upon the military and civilian bunglers who are responsible for them, but on the Buddhist monks or the American press corps in Saigon."
Posted on: 18/03/2013 21:23:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
xeneize not at all. About how a guerrilla works and how an active sanctuary is a sine qua non for any Revolutionary /Insurgency War is a major point of study that every person interested in irregular warfare must understand. There is a myth that the guerrilla is somewhat self sustaining and they live by what they captured of the enemy. It just can't be like that. It's not even possible. There is no army without logistics, a guerrilla is an army as well. That's why all COIN war is mostly fought at border junctions (Tunisia and Marrocco by the French in Algeria and Mozambique and Zambia by the Rhodesians, for exemple). Why is that? Because the security forces must forestall the guerrillas attempts to infiltrate the country with supplies, weapons, fighting men and advisors. The Americans and South Vietnamese were never able to stop NVA/VC infiltration. In 1975 General Dung, the NVA commander of the Spring Offensive said: "The strategic route east of the Truong Son Range [Ho Chi Minh Trail] was the result of the labor of more than 30,000 troops and shock youths. The legth of this route, added to that of the other old and new strategic routes and routes used during various campaigns built during the last war, is more than 20,000 kms. The 8-meter wide route of more than 1,000 kms, which we could see now, is our pride. With 5,000 kms of pipeline laid through deep rivers and streams and on the mountains more than 1,000 meters high, we were capable of providing enough fuel for various battlefronts. More than 10,000 transportation vehicles were put on the road..." Senior General Van Tien Dung, 'Great Spring Victory', pp 15). There would be no offensive in 1972 and 1975 without this pipeline alone. There is no army without logistics, especially a mechanized one. And there were 12 NVA divisions in 1972 and 15 in 1975.
Posted on: 18/03/2013 21:49:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
The ARVN fight for An Loc was one of the most heroic battles of the Vietnam War, the Easter offensive was a complete failure for the North (wich the Americans quickly announced as a US airpower victory), and Gen. Lam Quang Thi says that perhaps the Eastern Offensive victory was the biggest single victory of either the Indochina War or the Vietnam War. "General Paul Vanuxem, a French veteran of the Indochina War, called it "The Verdun of Vietnam". Sir Robert Thompson, advisor to President Nixon, considered An Loc the biggest victory of the Free World in the post-World War II era. Douglas Pike described An Loc as "the single most important battle in the war." Critics of the Vietnam War attributed the success of An Loc to US airpower. But General Abrams, the commander of US forces in Vietnam, had a ready answer: "I doubt the fabric of this thing could have been held together without US air," he told his commanders, "but the thing that had to happen before that is the Vietnamese, some numbers of them, had to stand and fight. If they do not do that, ten times the air we've got wouldn't have stopped them." The South Vietnamese Army and its people did stand and fight." (Thi, pp. 128) At the Spring Offensive the situation was very different, not only the US aipower was no longer available but the American support ceased. South Vietnam was a Third World country, it could not support the massive logistical needs of its First World armed forces. Units could not move due to lack of gas; artillery could not fire due to lack of shells; modern weapons systems remained unused due to shortages at all levels. The Americans in their urge to leave ('honorably' saving their 'derrières') forced the South Vietnamese to accept a treaty that left enemy forces in its soil (how brave of the Americans...). "In the middle of the NVA's frantic build-up in preparation for a new invasion, I was very concerned about adverse political developments in the United States. On April 4, 1974, the US Congress cut military aid to SVN for fiscal year 1974-75 from $1 billion to $750 million. Out of this $750 million, $300 million was appropriated as salary for the personnel at the US Defense Attaché's Office in Saigon. Significantly, Israel received $2.1 billion in military aid during the three-week Yom Kippur War in 1973. In other words, SVN, over one year, received 21 percent of what Israel obtained for three weeks. "The economic aid was cut," said President Thieu on a TV broadcast, "the military aid was cut, and we have no meas to fight." The president's words were true, for US aid now supplied only a small fraction of what the ARVN required to function in a calendar year. Without adequate aid, the ARVN would cease to be an effective fighting force." (Thi, pp 130) It was not unusual for ARVN units to fight until the ammo runned out and forced them to fall back. At Xuam Loc the 18th ARVN Division fought to the bitter end. "Despite the public image of corruption and incompetence," wrote George J. Weith and Merle L. Pribbenow, "the ARVN, as shown in the battle for Xuan Loc, was not an army of bumblers and cowards as it is so often portrayed. It was an army that stood and fought with great courage not only on a few well-known occasions like the siege of An Loc, but also in hundreds of little battles whose names most Americans never knew." And to mention the importance of the guerrila for the Principal of Mass necessary for the NVA offensive, General Dung pointed out that the NVA soldier was not better than the ARVN soldier. So the guerrila's job was to spread thin the ARVN forces so the NVA could have local superiority. "A comparison with the enemy over the entire area of the campaign showed that our infantry was not much superior to the enemy's. However, because we concentrated the majority of our forces in the main area of the campaign, we achieved superiority over the enemy in this area. As for infantry, the ratio was 5.5 of our troops for each enemy soldier. As for tanks and armored vehicles, the ratio was 1.2 to 1. In heavy artillery, the ratio was 1.2 to 1." (Dung, pp. 18) Giap also credited the failure of the Tet Offensive largely because of the ARVN soldiers.
Posted on: 18/03/2013 22:46:00
Posted by: Paintybeard
Total Posts: 371
Joined Date: Monday, 4 February 2013
Well, I asked you to explain Amaral, and you've certainly done that! The only draw-back is that you've done such a complete job that I no longer feel I need the book! Seriously, I'm impressed with your attempt to provide a review service on this forum. Now I shall have to work up the courage to try and do something similar. Just one more thing: Do you have a link to the "unfair review" by a US Lt. Colonel you mention at the end of your first post?
Posted on: 19/03/2013 00:43:00
Posted by: xeneize
Total Posts: 75
Joined Date: Friday, 18 January 2013
Amaral. I have "Black April" of George Veith, the most complete account of the fall of South Vietnam, this book reinforce my impression of the poor quality of the ARVN, some units were first class, the airborne division, the 81 airborne ranger group, but at the end the NVA was superior in determination and fighting spirit, the south was incapable to figth alone. Amaral, i do support the insurgents, you the counterinsugency
Posted on: 19/03/2013 01:18:00
Posted by: MTG
Total Posts: 30
Joined Date: Wednesday, 21 December 2011
Amaral - I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading your analysis.
Posted on: 19/03/2013 22:15:00
Posted by: Paintybeard
Total Posts: 371
Joined Date: Monday, 4 February 2013
Definitely enjoyed the analysis... but that still doesn't mean I think you're right about WW1!
Posted on: 19/03/2013 23:47:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
Thanks Paintybeard, this is the link: http://www.amazon.com/review/R1EF8C665GVSQI/ref=cm_cr_pr_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1849081816&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag=#wasThisHelpful He gave only 1 star for the book. I am searching for more book on the ARVN. I started "Angels in Red Hats" and I am loving it. About WW1 I will buy "Paths of Glory", "The Price of Glory", "Verdun 1916 - They shall not pass", "They Shall Not Pass - The French Army on the Western Front 1914-1918" and maybe "Verdun 1916 - Un Tirailleur En Enfer" just because of you.
Posted on: 20/03/2013 01:49:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
xeneize both NVA and ARVN depended on their patrons (USSR and USA). That's how every insurgency works. That why it's called "indirect warfare", as General André Beaufre point out in his book "Introduction à la Stratégie", the exterior movement (out of the battle zone) is more important than the interior moviment (inside the battle zone) in the irregular warfare. The major objective in war is to defeat the will of the enemy, and in the particular case of the irregular warfare, to make the patron of the enemy lose hope that his protegé will be able to achieve victory. The communists were succesful and America gave up on South Vietnam. On the other hand, the NVA had plenty of tanks, artillery, ammunition and other supplies. US colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr. said the Soviets and Chinese supported the NVA without appearing too much, the Americans with their "step aside, I will do it" failed at this and South Vietnam became known as an American puppet. "Our problem was not so much political interference as it was the lack of a coherent military strategy - a lack for which our military leaders share a large burden of responsability." (Colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr., "American Strategy in Vietnam - A Critical Analysis", pp. 88) As ARVN Colonel Lung stated in "Strategy and Tactics" and is cited by Summers: "In 1965, when the US forces started pouring into the South, the Minister of Defense, General Cao Van Vien, wrote a paper entitled 'The Strategy of Isolation' in which he likened the task of stopping infiltration to that of turning off the faucet of a water tank. General Vien advocated turning off the faucet throgh the isolation of North Vietnam. He would fortify a zone along the 17th parallel from Dong Ha to Savannakhet and follow this with a landing operation at Vinh or Ha Tinh, just north of the 18th parallel, cutting off the North's front from its rear. In 1972 General Vien published the original paper with the following added conclusions: 'In her alliance with the United States, Vietnam was hamstrung in her action, causing her strategy to be confined to the defensive.'" This strategy was the nightmare of the NVA as Giap himself and many other high ranking personnel admitted and is included in Chapter 2 of "Rolling Thunder in a Gentle Land" by Colonel Bui Tin. When he asked General Le Trong Tan, the NVA Chief of Staff, how would he proceed if he had been the American Chief of Staff: 'He smiled and said, "A slight shift in strategy, nothing earthshaking, would have made all the difference. The Americans needed to deploy no more than a division of troops in the Dong Hoi panhandle [Quang Binh province] slightly to the north of the 17th Parallel, supported by a fleet of ships off the coast. They could have declared that this American incursion into North Vietnam was limited in scope, both in terms of time and space. Not offensive in nature, it was required merely to prevent the People's Army of the North from infiltrating into the South." General Tan went on to explain, "This strategy would have been lethal, because China would have sat idly by, while our troops were pinned down, defending our rear in the North, which, of course, was our main and unavoidable priority. The military configuration of the war would have flipped. The impetus of the fighting in the South would have reversed itself. The United States with impunity could have invaded and withdrawn, invaded and withdrawn, with its mobility guaranteed by the covering fire of the Seventh Fleet."'(pp 66) Every year Giap visited Military Zone IV, headquartered in Vinh to carry out military exercises intended to counter this threat. But as General Tan told Bui Tin, the choosed to fight "a rich man's war", relying on their armament and firepower. One of the great minds in South Vietnam was General Truong, he said that if the infiltration had been brought under control the South Vietnamese could have solved their internal problems. As Summers say "In a 1976 interview, former South Vietnamese Secretary of Defense Tran Van Don stated his belief that no strategy could have been successful unless it effectively stopped the infiltration from the North, a task General Don thought could have been done. Elaborating on this, former I Corps commander Lieutenant General Ngo Quang Truong said that in hindsight halting infiltration was the most critical requirement." (Summers, pp. 104) In irregular warfare, the military aspect is secundary while the civilian order is the prime objetive both for the guerrillas and security forces. The military aspect has its major focus in stopping infiltration. That the French did superbly well in Algeria, were regular batallions of Algerian fighters even went into mutiny when ordered to cross the border into Algeria. The French were succesfull in destroying the FLN hopes of moving from the guerrilla to the mobile phase of the classic Maoist revolutionary war progrmme - which the French studied avidly.
Posted on: 20/03/2013 03:00:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
As for the quality of the ARVN, they ranged from the very professional to the almost useless. But, as Gordon L. Rottman said they were not very different from other Asian armies. The 1st Division was so professional that it could shoulder the Marines and Airborne soldiers. Those three together with the ARVN Rangers had better equipment, training and leadership. Nobody had many combat jumps as the ARVN airborne, not even the Americans. The Marines from 1966 to 1968 were in the field 75% of the time, then the highest figure by South Vietnamese forces. "Lieutenant General Robert E. Cushman, commander of III Marine Amphibious Force in I Corps Tactical Zone, and his principal subordinate, Lt. Gen. Richard G. Stilwell, commander of XXIV Corps, both felt that because of Truong’s efforts, the ARVN 1st Division was “equal to any American unit.”" http://eyedrd.org/2011/08/ngo-quang-truong-the-most-brilliant-commander.html I would love to see Osprey books about these forces, and Osprey lacks coverage about the (very effective) ARVN Rangers. Only the 91st Airborne Ranger Bataillon is briefly covered in "Vietnam Airborne". I also wish to see the Battle for Quang Tri were these units fought and defeated the NVA. The Marines even carried an amphibious assault.
Posted on: 20/03/2013 03:38:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
Thank you very much, MTG.
Posted on: 20/03/2013 03:38:00
Posted by: xeneize
Total Posts: 75
Joined Date: Friday, 18 January 2013
Amaral. you know a lot of Vietnam war, me too, but one thing is sure, the NVA won the war, my opinion is in some aspect viased, i love the NVA because did figth against the USA and didn't give up despite terrible losses. The history don't give alternatives, only facts.
Posted on: 20/03/2013 04:02:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
Yes, it doesn't. But what I am explaining is why the South lost while the North won. The PAVN had a best idea of objective (to conquer the South) than the US/ARVN had. The PAVN soldier was better motivated by idological ardor and had plenty of Soviet and Chinese support. The ARVN lost, but they fought to the last. When General Duong Van Minh's message of surrender was announced, five ARVN generals, including General Le Van Hung, the hero of An Loc, committed suicide rather than surrender to the North Vietnamese. That's not for cowards.
Posted on: 20/03/2013 05:05:00
Posted by: Paintybeard
Total Posts: 371
Joined Date: Monday, 4 February 2013
Hello Amaral, thank you for the link, that American Lt. Col sounds like a complete fool. And I'm delighted to hear that you plan to get hold of Alistair Horne's "Verdun - Price of Glory". He is an excellent writer and covers the high-level strategy as well as the lives of ordinary solidiers. If you enjoy it I hope you will be encouraged to read some of his other French history too. I was also interested in your analysis in post 15. You know far more on modern counter insurgency warfare than I do, so I'd be interested to hear your opinion of the Malaysian emergency. I think the British ended up doing much what you suggested: Concentrating the Army at the borders to cut the supply routes while the police kept peace in the villages. This was mainly done because we had one of our most inteligent generals (Gerald Templer) in charge, who had the strength of character to convice the politicians that the one sure way to stop the communists was to make Malaya independent as fast as possible.
Posted on: 20/03/2013 10:19:00

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