Battle of Saigon (1968)

The First Battle of Saigon, fought during the Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War, was the coordinated attack by communist forces, including both the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong (VC), against Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam.

Background

In late January 1968 the VC launched the Tet Offensive attacking U.S. and South Vietnamese positions across South Vietnam.

Saigon was the main focal point of the offensive, but a total takeover of the capital was not intended or feasible. They rather had six main targets in the city which 35 battalions of VC were to attack and capture: the ARVN Joint General Staff compound near Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the Independence Palace, the U.S. embassy, Tan Son Nhut Air Base, the Long Binh Naval Headquarters and the National Radio Station. Because it was Tết (the Vietnamese New Year), the sound of firecrackers exploding masked that of gunfire, giving an element of surprise to the Vietcong attacks.

Battle

ARVN Rangers defend Saigon, Tet Offensive
ARVN Rangers defending Saigon

The Vietcong launched 35 battalions at Saigon. Sapper Battalions and the local forces attacked the Presidential Palace, the National Radio Station, the U.S. Embassy, and other principal targets.

The VC 5th Division launched an attack on the military bases at Long Binh and Biên Hòa Air Base. The North Vietnamese 7th Division launched an attack on the U.S. 1st Infantry Division and the ARVN 5th Division at Lai Khê. The VC 9th Division attacked the U.S. 25th Infantry Division base at Củ Chi Base Camp.

Adams photograph

The fighting in Saigon produced one of the Vietnam War's most famous images, photographer Eddie Adams' image of the summary execution of a VC prisoner on February 1, 1968. Nguyễn Văn Lém was captured by South Vietnamese national police, who identified him as the captain of a VC assassination and revenge platoon, and accused him of murdering the families of police officers. He was brought before Brigadier General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, the chief of the National Police, who briefly questioned him. Loan then drew his sidearm and shot the prisoner. Nguyễn's motives may have been personal; he had been told by a subordinate that the suspect had killed his six godchildren and a police major who was Loan's aide-de-camp and one of his closest friends, including the major's family as well.

Present at the shooting were Adams and an NBC television news crew. The photograph appeared on front pages around the world and won the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography,[1] a World Press Photo award[2] as well as seven other awards. The NBC film was played on the Huntley-Brinkley Report and elsewhere, in some cases the silent film embellished with the sound effect of a gunshot. General Westmoreland later wrote, "The photograph and film shocked the world, an isolated incident of cruelty in a broadly cruel war, but a psychological blow against the South Vietnamese nonetheless".

Aftermath

By early February, the Communist high command realized that none of their military objectives were being met, and they halted any further attacks on fortified positions. Sporadic fighting continued in Saigon until March 8. Some sections of the city were left badly damaged by the combat and U.S. retaliatory air and artillery strikes in particular. The Chinese district of Cholon suffered especially, with perhaps hundreds of civilians killed in the American counterattacks.

As cited in the Spector book on page xvi, "From January to July 1968 the overall rate of men killed in action in Vietnam would reach an all time high and would exceed the rate for the Korean War and the Mediterranean and Pacific theaters during World War II. This was truly the bloodiest phase of the Vietnam War as well as the most neglected one."

The Vietcong attacked targets in and around Saigon with much success during the May Offensive from 5 to 30 May 1968.

References

  1. ^ Winslow, Donald R. (April 19, 2011). "The Pulitzer Eddie Adams Didn't Want". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  2. ^ "1968 Eddie Adams SN1". World Press Photo. Retrieved 5 July 2018.

Bibliography

  • James R. Arnold (1990). The Tet Offensive 1968. Praeger Publishers. ISBN 0-275-98452-4.
  • Ronald H. Spector (1993). After Tet. Free Press. ISBN 0-02-930380-X

Coordinates: 10°46′01″N 106°40′01″E / 10.7669°N 106.6669°E

Battle of Saigon

The Battle of Saigon may refer to several battles in the city of Saigon in Vietnam.

French colonization of Vietnam battleSiege of Saigon in 1859, leading to the capture of the city by the French NavyDivided Vietnam and Vietnam War battlesBattle of Saigon (1955), between the Vietnamese National Army and the Bình Xuyên crime syndicate

Battle of Saigon (1968), during the Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War

Fall of Saigon, the end of the Vietnam War in 1975

List of battles (alphabetical)

Alphabetical list of historical battles (see also Military history, Lists of battles):

NOTE: Where a year has been used to disambiguate battles it is the year when the battle started. In some cases these may still have gone on for several years.

Nguyễn Cao Kỳ

Nguyễn Cao Kỳ (listen; 8 September 1930 – 23 July 2011) served as the chief of the Republic of Vietnam Air Force in the 1960s, before leading the nation as the prime minister of South Vietnam in a military junta from 1965 to 1967. Then, until his retirement from politics in 1971, he served as vice president to bitter rival General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, in a nominally civilian administration.Born in northern Vietnam, Kỳ joined the Vietnamese National Army of the French-backed State of Vietnam and started as an infantry officer before the French sent him off for pilot training. After the French withdrew from Vietnam and the nation was partitioned, Kỳ moved up the ranks of the Republic of Vietnam Air Force to become its leader. In November 1963, Kỳ participated in the coup that deposed president Ngô Đình Diệm and resulted in Diệm's assassination.

In 1964 Kỳ became prominent in junta politics, regarded as part of a group of young, aggressive officers dubbed the Young Turks. Over the next two years, there were repeated coup attempts, many of which were successful, and Kỳ was a key player in supporting or defeating them. In September 1964, he helped put down a coup attempt by Generals Lâm Văn Phát and Dương Văn Đức against Nguyễn Khánh, and the following February he thwarted another attempt by Phát and Phạm Ngọc Thảo. His favored tactic in such situations was to send fighter jets into the air and threaten large-scale air strikes, and given his reputation for impetuosity, he usually attained the desired backdown. After the latter attempt, he also had the weakened Khánh forced into exile and eventually took the leading position in the junta in mid-1965 by becoming prime minister, while General Thiệu was a figurehead chief of state. During his period at the helm, he gained notoriety for his flamboyant manner, womanizing, and risky and brash behavior, which deeply concerned South Vietnam's American allies and angered the Vietnamese public, who regarded him as a "cowboy" and "hooligan". He cared little for public relations, and on occasion publicly threatened to kill dissidents and opponents as well as to flatten parts of North Vietnam and South Vietnamese units led by rival officers with bombings, although none of this materialized.

Nevertheless, Kỳ and Thiệu were able to end the cycle of coups, and the Americans backed their regime. In 1966 Kỳ decided to purge General Nguyễn Chánh Thi, another officer in the junta regarded as his greatest rival, from a command role. This provoked major unrest, particularly in South Vietnam, where some units joined with Buddhist activists supportive of Thi and hostile to Kỳ in defying his junta's rule. Three months of large-scale demonstrations and riots paralyzed parts of the country, and after much maneuvering and some military battles, Kỳ's forces finally put down the uprising, and Thi was exiled, entrenching the former's grip on power.

In 1967, a transition to an elected government was scheduled, and after a power struggle within the military, Thiệu ran for the presidency with Kỳ as his running mate—both men had wanted the top job. To allow the two to work together, their fellow officers had agreed to have a military body controlled by Kỳ shape policy behind the scenes. The election was rigged to ensure that Thiệu and Kỳ's military ticket would win, and strong executive powers meant that junta, in effect, still ruled. Leadership tensions persisted, and Thiệu prevailed, sidelining Kỳ supporters from key military and cabinet posts. Thiệu then passed legislation to restrict candidacy eligibility for the 1971 election, banning almost all would-be opponents; Kỳ and the rest withdrew as it was obvious that the poll would be a sham; Thiệu went on to win more than 90 percent of the vote and the election uncontested, while Kỳ retired. With the fall of Saigon, Kỳ fled to the United States. He continued to heavily criticize both the communists and Thiệu, and the former prevented him from returning. However, in 2004, he became the first South Vietnamese leader to return, calling for reconciliation between communists and anti-communists.

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