Viet Cong

The Việt Cộng (Vietnamese: [vîət kə̂wŋmˀ] (listen)), also known as the National Liberation Front, was a mass political organization in South Vietnam and Cambodia with its own army – the People's Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam (PLAF) – that fought against the United States and South Vietnamese governments during the Vietnam War, eventually emerging on the winning side. It had both guerrilla and regular army units, as well as a network of cadres who organized peasants in the territory it controlled. Many soldiers were recruited in South Vietnam, but others were attached to the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), the regular North Vietnamese army. During the war, communists and anti-war activists insisted the Việt Cộng was an insurgency indigenous to the South, while the U.S. and South Vietnamese governments portrayed the group as a tool of Hanoi. Although the terminology distinguishes northerners from the southerners, communist forces were under a single command structure set up in 1958.[6]

The headquarters of the Viet Cong based at Memot came to be known as Central Office for South Vietnam or COSVN by its Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) and South Vietnamese counterparts, a near-mythical "bamboo Pentagon" from which the Việt Cộng's entire war effort was being directed. For nearly a decade the fabled COSVN headquarters, which directed the entire war effort of the Viet Cong was the target of the RVN/US war effort, and which would have collapsed the insurgency war effort. US and South Vietnamese Special Forces sent to capture them usually were killed very quickly or returned with heavy casualties to the point that teams refused to go.[7] Daily B-52 bombings had failed to kill any of the leadership during Operation Menu despite flattening the entire area, as Soviet trawlers were able to forewarn COSVN, whom used the data on speed, altitude and direction to move perpendicular and to move underground.[7]

North Vietnam established the National Liberation Front on December 20, 1960, to foment insurgency in the South. Many of the Việt Cộng's core members were volunteer "regroupees", southern Việt Minh who had resettled in the North after the Geneva Accord (1954). Hanoi gave the regroupees military training and sent them back to the South along the Hồ Chí Minh trail in the early 1960s. The NLF called for southern Vietnamese to "overthrow the camouflaged colonial regime of the American imperialists" and to make "efforts toward the peaceful unification". The PLAF's best-known action was the Tết Offensive, a gigantic assault on more than 100 South Vietnamese urban centers in 1968, including an attack on the U.S. embassy in Saigon. The offensive riveted the attention of the world's media for weeks, but also overextended the Việt Cộng. Two further offensives were conducted in its wake, the mini-Tet and August Offensive. In 1969 the Việt Cộng would establish the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam, a shadow-country in South Vietnam intended to represent the organisation on the world stage and was immediately recognised by the communist bloc and maintained diplomatic links with many nations in the Non-Aligned Movement. Later communist offensives were conducted predominantly by newly mechanised PAVN forces, as the ability of the Việt Cộng to recruit among the South Vietnamese became much more limited. The Việt Cộng remained an active military and political front. The organisation was dissolved in 1976 when North and South Vietnam were officially unified under a communist government.

Political and military organization of the Việt Cộng was complex, with a series of well-constructed, overlapping networks, committees and organisations; see strategy, organization and structure.[8] Material aid was primarily provided through the well-established, ingenious Hồ Chí Minh trail, which withstood the most sustained bombing campaign in history while expanding the war effort; see logistics and equipment.[9][10] They had further developed a complex insurgency warfare method capable of countering overwhelmingly superior numbers and technology, retaining the strategic initiative during much of the war.[11] According to the Pentagon Papers, 90% of large firefights were initiated by the PAVN/VC and 80% were well-planned VC operations throughout most of the war[11] and as early as 1966 US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara expressed doubt about the US ability to win the war[12] (see NLF and PAVN battle tactics[13]).

Việt Cộng
Participant in the Vietnam War
FNL Flag
The flag of the Việt Cộng, adopted in 1960, is a variation on the flag of North Vietnam.[1]
Active21 July 1954 – 2 July 1976
Group(s)HQ Group
Central Office for South Vietnam

Military Wing

Political Wings

  • National Liberation Front for Southern Vietnam
  • Alliance of National Democratic and Peace Forces
Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam (1969-1976)
Military leader
PLAF Deputy Commander
Mme Nguyễn Thị Định
Political leader
COSVN Party Secretary
Area of operationsIndochina, with a focus on South Vietnam
Originated asViet Minh
AlliesNorth Vietnam
Soviet Union
Battles and war(s)See full list


The term Việt Cộng appeared in Saigon newspapers beginning in 1956.[14] It is a contraction of Việt Nam Cộng-sản (Vietnamese communist),[14] or alternatively Việt gian cộng sản ("Communist Traitor to Vietnam").[15] The earliest citation for Việt Cộng in English is from 1957.[16] Media worldwide referred to them as "Vietcong".[17] American soldiers referred to them as Victor Charlie or V-C. "Victor" and "Charlie" are both letters in the NATO phonetic alphabet. "Charlie" referred to communist forces in general, both Việt Cộng and North Vietnamese.

The official Vietnamese history gives the group's name as the Liberation Army of South Vietnam or the National Liberation Front for South Vietnam (NLFSV; Mặt trận Dân tộc Giải phóng miền Nam Việt Nam).[6][nb 1] Many writers shorten this to National Liberation Front (NLF).[nb 2] In 1969, the Việt Cộng created the "Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam" (Chính Phủ Cách Mạng Lâm Thời Cộng Hòa Miền Nam Việt Nam), abbreviated PRG.[nb 3] Although the NLF was not officially abolished until 1977, the Việt Cộng no longer used the name after PRG was created. Members generally referred to the Việt Cộng as "the Front" (Mặt trận).[14] Today's Vietnamese media most frequently refers to the group as the "People's Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam (PLAF)" (Quân Giải phóng Miền Nam Việt Nam).[18]



Soldiers and civilians took supplies south on the Ho Chi Minh trail (1959)

By the terms of the Geneva Accord (1954), which ended the Indochina War, France and the Việt Minh agreed to a truce and to a separation of forces. The Việt Minh had become the government of Democratic Republic of Vietnam since the Vietnamese 1946 general election, and military forces of the communists regrouped there. Military forces of the non-communists regrouped in South Vietnam, which became a separate state. Elections on reunification were scheduled for July 1956. A divided Vietnam angered Vietnamese nationalists, but it made the country less of a threat to China. The Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the past and Vietnam in the present did not and do not recognize the division of Vietnam into two countries. Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai negotiated the terms of the ceasefire with France and then imposed them on the Việt Minh.

About 90,000 Việt Minh were evacuated to the North while 5,000 to 10,000 cadre remained in the South, most of them with orders to refocus on political activity and agitation.[14] The Saigon-Cholon Peace Committee, the first Việt Cộng front, was founded in 1954 to provide leadership for this group.[14] Other front names used by the Việt Cộng in the 1950s implied that members were fighting for religious causes, for example, "Executive Committee of the Fatherland Front", which suggested affiliation with the Hòa Hảo sect, or "Vietnam-Cambodia Buddhist Association".[14] Front groups were favored by the Việt Cộng to such an extent that its real leadership remained shadowy until long after the war was over, prompting the expression "the faceless Việt Cộng".[14]

Led by Ngô Đình Diệm, South Vietnam refused to sign the Geneva Accord. Arguing that a free election was impossible under the conditions that existed in communist-held territory, Diệm announced in July 1955 that the scheduled election on reunification would not be held. After subduing the Bình Xuyên organized crime gang in the Battle for Saigon in 1955, and the Hòa Hảo and other militant religious sects in early 1956, Diệm turned his attention to the Việt Cộng.[19] Within a few months, the Việt Cộng had been driven into remote swamps.[20] The success of this campaign inspired U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower to dub Diệm the "miracle man" when he visited the U.S. in May 1957.[20] France withdrew its last soldiers from Vietnam in April 1956.[21]

In March 1956, southern communist leader Lê Duẩn presented a plan to revive the insurgency entitled "The Road to the South" to the other members of the Politburo in Hanoi.[22] He argued adamantly that war with the United States was necessary to achieve unification.[23] But as China and the Soviets both opposed confrontation at this time, Lê Duẩn's plan was rejected and communists in the South were ordered to limit themselves to economic struggle.[22] Leadership divided into a "North first", or pro-Beijing, faction led by Trường Chinh, and a "South first" faction led by Lê Duẩn.

As the Sino-Soviet split widened in the following months, Hanoi began to play the two communist giants off against each other. The North Vietnamese leadership approved tentative measures to revive the southern insurgency in December 1956.[24] Lê Duẩn's blueprint for revolution in the South was approved in principle, but implementation was conditional on winning international support and on modernizing the army, which was expected to take at least until 1959.[25] President Hồ Chí Minh stressed that violence was still a last resort.[26] Nguyễn Hữu Xuyên was assigned military command in the South,[27] replacing Lê Duẩn, who was appointed North Vietnam's acting party boss. This represented a loss of power for Hồ, who preferred the more moderate Võ Nguyên Giáp, who was defense minister.[23]

Starved Vietnamese man, 1966.JPEG
This 23-year-old man, who had defected from the Communist forces and joined the South Vietnam Government side, was recaptured by the Việt Cộng and spent a month in a Việt Cộng internment camp, 1966.

An assassination campaign, referred to as "extermination of traitors" [28] or "armed propaganda" in communist literature, began in April 1957. Tales of sensational murder and mayhem soon crowded the headlines.[14] Seventeen civilians were killed by machine gun fire at a bar in Châu Đốc in July and in September a district chief was killed with his entire family on a main highway in broad daylight.[14] In October 1957, a series of bombs exploded in Saigon and left 13 Americans wounded.[14]

In a speech given on September 2, 1957, Hồ reiterated the "North first" line of economic struggle.[29] The launch of Sputnik in October boosted Soviet confidence and led to a reassessment of policy regarding Indochina, long treated as a Chinese sphere of influence. In November, Hồ traveled to Moscow with Lê Duẩn and gained approval for a more militant line.[30] In early 1958, Lê Duẩn met with the leaders of "Inter-zone V" (northern South Vietnam) and ordered the establishment of patrols and safe areas to provide logistical support for activity in the Mekong Delta and in urban areas.[30] In June 1958, the Việt Cộng created a command structure for the eastern Mekong Delta.[31] French scholar Bernard Fall published an influential article in July 1958 which analyzed the pattern of rising violence and concluded that a new war had begun.[14]

Launches "armed struggle"

Enemy situation, early 1964
Situation of the Communist forces in South Vietnam in early 1964

The North Vietnamese Communist Party approved a "people's war" on the South at a session in January 1959 and this decision was confirmed by the Politburo in March.[21] In May 1959, Group 559 was established to maintain and upgrade the Ho Chi Minh trail, at this time a six-month mountain trek through Laos. About 500 of the "regroupees" of 1954 were sent south on the trail during its first year of operation.[32] The first arms delivery via the trail, a few dozen rifles, was completed in August 1959.[33]

1964 Brinks Hotel bombing
Brinks Hotel, Saigon, following a Việt Cộng bombing on Dec. 24, 1964. Two American officers were killed.

Two regional command centers were merged to create the Central Office for South Vietnam (Trung ương Cục miền Nam), a unified communist party headquarters for the South.[21] COSVN was initially located in Tây Ninh Province near the Cambodian border. On July 8, the Việt Cộng killed two U.S. military advisors at Biên Hòa, the first American dead of the Vietnam War.[nb 4] The "2d Liberation Battalion" ambushed two companies of South Vietnamese soldiers in September 1959, the first large unit military action of the war.[14] This was considered the beginning of the "armed struggle" in communist accounts.[14] A series of uprisings beginning in the Mekong Delta province of Bến Tre in January 1960 created "liberated zones", models of Việt Cộng-style government. Propagandists celebrated their creation of battalions of "long-hair troops" (women).[34] The fiery declarations of 1959 were followed by a lull while Hanoi focused on events in Laos (1960–61).[35] Moscow favored reducing international tensions in 1960, as it was election year for the U.S. presidency.[nb 5] Despite this, 1960 was a year of unrest in South Vietnam, with pro-democracy demonstrations inspired by the South Korean student uprising that year and a failed military coup in November.[14]

Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the People's Liberation Armed Forces Lê Đức Anh.

To counter the accusation that North Vietnam was violating the Geneva Accord, the independence of the Việt Cộng was stressed in communist propaganda. The Việt Cộng created the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam in December 1960 at Tân Lập village in Tây Ninh as a "united front", or political branch intended to encourage the participation of non-communists.[36] The group's formation was announced by Radio Hanoi and its ten-point manifesto called for, "overthrow the disguised colonial regime of the imperialists and the dictatorial administration, and to form a national and democratic coalition administration."[14] Thọ, a lawyer and the NLF's "neutralist" chairman, was an isolated figure among cadres and soldiers. South Vietnam's Law 10/59, approved in May 1959, authorized the death penalty for crimes "against the security of the state" and featured prominently in Việt Cộng propaganda.[37] Violence between the Việt Cộng and government forces soon increased drastically from 180 clashes in January 1960 to 545 clashes in September.[38][39]

By 1960, the Sino-Soviet split was a public rivalry, making China more supportive of Hanoi's war effort.[40] For Chinese leader Mao Zedong, aid to North Vietnam was a way to enhance his "anti-imperialist" credentials for both domestic and international audiences.[41] About 40,000 communist soldiers infiltrated the South in 1961–63.[42] The Việt Cộng grew rapidly; an estimated 300,000 members were enrolled in "liberation associations" (affiliated groups) by early 1962.[14] The ratio of Việt Cộng to government soldiers jumped from 1:10 in 1961 to 1:5 a year later.[43]

A-1E drops white phosphorus bomb 1966
U.S. Air Force Douglas A-1E Skyraider drops a white phosphorus bomb on a Việt Cộng position in South Vietnam in 1966.

The level of violence in the South jumped dramatically in the fall of 1961, from 50 guerrilla attacks in September to 150 in October.[44] U.S. President John F. Kennedy decided in November 1961 to substantially increase American military aid to South Vietnam.[45] The USS Core arrived in Saigon with 35 helicopters in December 1961. By mid-1962, there were 12,000 U.S. military advisors in Vietnam.[46] The "special war" and "strategic hamlets" policies allowed Saigon to push back in 1962, but in 1963 the Việt Cộng regained the military initiative.[43] The Việt Cộng won its first military victory against South Vietnamese forces at Ấp Bắc in January 1963.

Soldaat van het Nationale Front voor de bevrijding van Zuid-Vietnam bevrijdingsleger in een buitgemaakte Amerikaanse tank
A Viet Cong soldier poses inside a captured M48 tank.

A landmark party meeting was held in December 1963, shortly after a military coup in Saigon in which Diệm was assassinated. North Vietnamese leaders debated the issue of "quick victory" vs "protracted war" (guerrilla warfare).[47] After this meeting, the communist side geared up for a maximum military effort and PAVN troop strength increased from 174,000 at the end of 1963 to 300,000 in 1964.[47] The Soviets cut aid in 1964 as an expression of annoyance with Hanoi's ties to China.[48][nb 6] Even as Hanoi embraced China's international line, it continued to follow the Soviet model of reliance on technical specialists and bureaucratic management, as opposed to mass mobilization.[48] The winter of 1964–1965 was a high-water mark for the Việt Cộng, with the Saigon government on the verge of collapse.[49] Soviet aid soared following a visit to Hanoi by Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin in February 1965.[50] Hanoi was soon receiving up-to-date surface-to-air missiles.[50] The U.S. would have 200,000 soldiers in South Vietnam by the end of the year.[51]

In January 1966, Australian troops uncovered a tunnel complex which had been used by COSVN.[52] Six thousand documents were captured, revealing the inner workings of the Việt Cộng. As a result of an agreement with the Cambodian government made in 1966, weapons for the Việt Cộng were shipped to the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville and then trucked to Việt Cộng bases near the border along the "Sihanouk Trail", which replaced the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Many People's Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam (PLAF) units operated at night,[53] and employed terror as a standard tactic.[54] Rice procured at gunpoint sustained the Việt Cộng.[55] Squads were assigned monthly assassination quotas.[56] Government employees, especially village and district heads, were the most common targets. But there were a wide variety of targets, including clinics and medical personnel.[57] Notable Việt Cộng atrocities include the massacre of over 3,000 unarmed civilians at Huế, 48 killed in the bombing of My Canh floating restaurant in Saigon in June 1965[58] and a massacre of 252 Montagnards in the village of Đắk Sơn in December 1967 using flamethrowers.[59] Việt Cộng death squads assassinated at least 37,000 civilians in South Vietnam; the real figure was far higher since the data mostly cover 1967-72. They also waged a mass murder campaign against civilian hamlets and refugee camps; in the peak war years, nearly a third of all civilian deaths were the result of Việt Cộng atrocities.[60] Ami Pedahzur has written that "the overall volume and lethality of Vietcong terrorism rivals or exceeds all but a handful of terrorist campaigns waged over the last third of the twentieth century".[61]

Logistics and equipment

Viet Cong Sworn In
People's Liberation Armed Forces Sapper Units are sworn in before the General Offensive, General Uprising, Tet Offensive.

Tet Offensive

Major reversals in 1966 and 1967, as well as the growing American presence in Vietnam, inspired Hanoi to consult its allies and reassess strategy in April 1967. While Beijing urged a fight to the finish, Moscow suggested a negotiated settlement.[62] Convinced that 1968 could be the last chance for decisive victory, General Nguyễn Chí Thanh, suggested an all-out offensive against urban centers.[63][nb 7] He submitted a plan to Hanoi in May 1967.[63] After Thanh's death in July, Giáp was assigned to implement this plan, now known as the Tet Offensive. The Parrot's Beak, an area in Cambodia only 30 miles from Saigon, was prepared as a base of operations.[64] Funeral processions were used to smuggle weapons into Saigon.[64] Việt Cộng entered the cities concealed among civilians returning home for Tết.[64] The U.S. and South Vietnamese expected that an announced seven-day truce would be observed during Vietnam's main holiday.

A U.S. propaganda leaflet urges Việt Cộng to defect using the Chiêu Hồi Program.

At this point, there were about 500,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam,[51] as well as 900,000 allied forces.[64] General William Westmoreland, the U.S. commander, received reports of heavy troop movements and understood that an offensive was being planned, but his attention was focused on Khe Sanh, a remote U.S. base near the DMZ.[65] In January and February 1968, some 80,000 Việt Cộng struck more than 100 towns with orders to "crack the sky" and "shake the Earth."[66] The offensive included a commando raid on the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and a massacre at Huế of about 3,500 residents.[67] House-to-house fighting between Việt Cộng and South Vietnamese Rangers left much of Cholon, a section of Saigon, in ruins. The Việt Cộng used any available tactic to demoralize and intimidate the population, including the assassination of South Vietnamese commanders.[68] A photo by Eddie Adams showing the summary execution of a Việt Cộng in Saigon on February 1 became a symbol of the brutality of the war.[69] In an influential broadcast on February 27, newsman Walter Cronkite stated that the war was a "stalemate" and could be ended only by negotiation.[70] Two more offensives occurred later that year, known as the "Mini-Tet" Offensives.

The offensive was undertaken in the hope of triggering a general uprising, but urban Vietnamese did not respond as the Việt Cộng anticipated. About 75,000 communist soldiers were killed or wounded across all three phases ending in August, according to Trần Văn Trà, commander of the "B-2" district , which consisted of southern South Vietnam.[71] "We did not base ourselves on scientific calculation or a careful weighing of all factors, but...on an illusion based on our subjective desires", Trà concluded.[72] Earle G. Wheeler, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, claimed that Tet resulted in 40,000 communist dead[73] (compared to about 10,600 U.S. and South Vietnamese dead). "It is a major irony of the Vietnam War that our propaganda transformed this debacle into a brilliant victory. The truth was that Tet cost us half our forces. Our losses were so immense that we were unable to replace them with new recruits", said PRG Justice Minister Trương Như Tảng.[73] Tet had a profound psychological impact because South Vietnamese cities were otherwise safe areas during the war.[74] U.S. President Lyndon Johnson and Westmoreland argued that panicky news coverage gave the public the unfair perception that America had been defeated.[75]

Viet Cong002
Guerrilla forces from North Vietnam's Vietcong movement cross a river in 1966 during the Vietnam War


The Tet Offensive according to deputy commander Nguyễn Thị Định had set the Viet Cong back but did not destroy their power base.[76] Aside from some districts in the Mekong Delta, the Việt Cộng failed to spurn popular uprising and create a governing apparatus in South Vietnam following Tet, according to an assessment of captured documents by the U.S. CIA.[77] However the breakup of larger Việt Cộng units increased the effectiveness of the CIA's Phoenix Program (1967–72), which targeted individual leaders although was known to often create civilian casualties. Further defections increased under the Chiêu Hồi Program following the failure of a General Uprising. Alongside defections, the expansion of voluntary Regional Force and Popular Force and expansion of the ARVN draft had deprived the Viet Cong of recruitment sources.

Confining US forces to guarding bases, and an end to the destructive search and destroy had decreased motivations to join the VC and the effect of the South Vietnamese pacification program and programs such as the Land to the Tiller program had decreased some of the initial unpopularity of the RVN. By the end of 1969, there was little communist-held territory, or "liberated zones", in South Vietnam, according to the official communist military history.[78] There were no predominantly southern units left and 70 percent of communist troops in the South were northerners.[79]

Following the Tet Offensive Lê Duẩn and Hoàng Văn Thái whom represented the "Southern faction" favoring quick and decisive campaigns lost to Trường Chinh and Võ Nguyên Giáp, representives of the "Northern First" faction whom favoured a strategy of continual protracted, guerrilla warfare favouring the previously effective quick-attack and quick-withdrawals that worn down US forces while mechanising and modernising the PAVN.[80] The PAVN would later became field-tested at Operation Lam Son 719 and the Easter Offensive.[80] The prominent role of the Viet Cong would be increasingly sidelined by the more able PAVN.[80]

Viet Cong soldier DD-ST-99-04298
Việt Cộng soldier stands beneath a Việt Cộng flag carrying his AK-47 rifle.

Formation and Escape of the PRG

The Việt Cộng created an urban front in 1968 called the Alliance of National, Democratic, and Peace Forces.[81] The group's manifesto called for an independent, non-aligned South Vietnam and stated that "national reunification cannot be achieved overnight."[81] In June 1969, the alliance merged with the NLF to form a "Provisional Revolutionary Government." (PRG)

The Tet Offensive increased public discontent with American participation in the Vietnam War and led the U.S. to gradually withdraw combat forces and to shift responsibility to the South Vietnamese, a process called Vietnamization. Pushed into Cambodia, the Việt Cộng could no longer draw South Vietnamese recruits.[79] In May 1968, Trường Chinh urged "protracted war" in a speech that was published prominently in the official media, so the fortunes of his "North first" fraction may have revived at this time.[82] COSVN rejected this view as "lacking resolution and absolute determination."[83] The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 led to intense Sino-Soviet tension and to the withdrawal of Chinese forces from North Vietnam. The formation of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam however did see the Viet Cong leadership, as a front government of the Viet Cong, take a more prominent and pro-active international role.

Near-daily US bombardment of COSVN headquarters from over a year beginning in 1969 had failed during Operation Menu, despite the massive amount of tonnage dropped. Not a single leader was killed, as they were able to intercept information on flight-speed, time and other data from Soviet ships in the South China Sea.[7] This would later prompt a land-invasion by Lon Nol and Army of the Republic of Vietnam forces during the Escape of the Provisional Revolutionary Government. A very narrow campaign had nearly intercepted the Viet Cong leadership, and a follow-up campaign the Cambodian Campaign was then conducted

Beginning in February 1970, Lê Duẩn's prominence in the official media increased, suggesting that he was again top leader and had regained the upper hand in his longstanding rivalry with Trường Chinh.[84] After the overthrow of Prince Sihanouk in March 1970, the Việt Cộng faced a hostile Cambodian government which authorized a U.S. offensive against its bases in April. However, the capture of the Plain of Jars and other territory in Laos, as well as five provinces in northeastern Cambodia, allowed the North Vietnamese to reopen the Ho Chi Minh trail.[85] Although 1970 was a much better year for the Việt Cộng than 1969,[85] it would never again be more than an adjunct to the PAVN. The 1972 Easter Offensive was a direct North Vietnamese attack across the DMZ between North and South.[86] Despite the Paris Peace Accords, signed by all parties in January 1973, fighting continued. In March, Trà was recalled to Hanoi for a series of meetings to hammer out a plan for an enormous offense against Saigon.[87]

VC carrying POW in litter DD-ST-99-04295
Việt Cộng soldiers carry an injured American POW to a prisoner swap in 1973. The VC uniform was a floppy jungle hat, rubber sandals, and green fatigues without rank or insignia.[88]

Fall of Saigon

In response to the anti-war movement, the U.S. Congress passed the Case–Church Amendment to prohibit further U.S. military intervention in Vietnam in June 1973 and reduced aid to South Vietnam in August 1974.[89] With U.S. bombing ended, communist logistical preparations could be accelerated. An oil pipeline was built from North Vietnam to Việt Cộng headquarters in Lộc Ninh, about 75 miles northwest of Saigon. (COSVN was moved back to South Vietnam following the Easter Offensive.) The Ho Chi Minh Trail, beginning as a series of treacherous mountain tracks at the start of the war, was upgraded throughout the war, first into a road network driveable by trucks in the dry season, and finally, into paved, all-weather roads that could be used year-round, even during the monsoon.[90] Between the beginning of 1974 and April 1975, with now-excellent roads and no fear of air interdiction, the communists delivered nearly 365,000 tons of war matériel to battlefields, 2.6 times the total for the previous 13 years.[78]

The success of the 1973–74 dry season offensive convinced Hanoi to accelerate its timetable. When there was no U.S. response to a successful communist attack on Phước Bình in January 1975, South Vietnamese morale collapsed. The next major battle, at Buôn Ma Thuột in March, was a communist walkover. After the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, the PRG moved into government offices there. At the victory parade, Tạng noticed that the units formerly dominated by southerners were missing, replaced by northerners years earlier.[79] The bureaucracy of the Republic of Vietnam was uprooted and authority over the South was assigned to the PAVN. People considered tainted by association with the former South Vietnamese government were sent to reeducation camps, despite the protests of the non-communist PRG members including Tạng.[91] Without consulting the PRG, North Vietnamese leaders decided to rapidly dissolve the PRG at a party meeting in August 1975.[92] North and South were merged as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in July 1976 and the PRG was dissolved. The NLF was merged with the Vietnamese Fatherland Front in February 1977.[91]

Relationship with Hanoi

The alleged 1966 martyrdom of Việt Cộng soldier Nguyễn Văn Bé is much celebrated in Vietnam, despite the fact that he later turned up alive.[93]

Activists opposing American involvement in Vietnam said that the Việt Cộng was a nationalist insurgency indigenous to the South.[94] They claimed that the Việt Cộng was composed of several parties—the People's Revolutionary Party, the Democratic Party and the Radical Socialist Party[2]—and that NLF Chairman Nguyễn Hữu Thọ was not a communist.[95]

Anti-communists countered that the Việt Cộng was merely a front for Hanoi.[94] They said some statements issued by communist leaders in the 1980s and 1990s suggested that southern communist forces were influenced by Hanoi.[94] According to the memoirs of Trần Văn Trà, the Việt Cộng's top commander and PRG defense minister, he followed orders issued by the "Military Commission of the Party Central Committee" in Hanoi, which in turn implemented resolutions of the Politburo.[nb 8] Trà himself was deputy chief of staff for the PAVN before being assigned to the South.[96] The official Vietnamese history of the war states that "The Liberation Army of South Vietnam [Việt Cộng] is a part of the People's Army of Vietnam".[6]

See also


  1. ^ Radio Hanoi called it the "National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam" in a January 1961 broadcast announcing the group's formation. In his memoirs, Võ Nguyên Giáp called the group the "South Vietnam National Liberation Front" (Nguyên Giáp Võ, Russell Stetler (1970). The Military Art of People's War: Selected Writings of General Vo Nguyen Giap. pp. 206, 208, 210.). See also the "Program of the National Liberation Front of South Viet-Nam". Archived from the original on 2010-06-26. (1967).
  2. ^ The terminology "liberation front" is adapted from the earlier Greek and Algerian National Liberation Fronts.
  3. ^ This also follows terminology used earlier by leftists in Greece (Provisional Democratic Government) and Algeria (Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic).
  4. ^ Major Dale R. Buis and Master Sergeant Charles Ovnand, the first names to appear on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
  5. ^ This is sometimes referred to as the "Genoa Policy" and later inspired Khrushchev to take credit for Kennedy's election.(Lynn-Jones, Sean M.; Steven E. Miller; Stephen Van Evera (1989). Soviet Military Policy: An International Security Reader. p. 28. ISBN 0-262-62066-9.)
  6. ^ There was also a U.S. presidential election in 1964.
  7. ^ Disappointed with the results of the 1964 U.S. presidential election, the Kremlin did not try to influence the election of 1968. Desiring "businesslike" relations, the Kremlin favored incumbent Richard Nixon against left-wing challenger George McGovern in 1972. (Lynn-Jones, p. 29).
  8. ^ Trà begins, "How did the B2 theater carry out the mission assigned it by the Military Commission of the Party Central Committee?" (Trần Văn Trà (1982), Vietnam: History of the Bulwark B2 Theatre, archived from the original on 2011-06-02)


  1. ^ "National Liberation Front (Viet Cong)".
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  29. ^ Ang, p. 23.
  30. ^ a b Ang, p. 24-25.
  31. ^ Karnow, p. 693.
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  35. ^ Ang, p. 7.
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  38. ^ Kelly, Francis John (1989) [1973]. History of Special Forces in Vietnam, 1961–1971. Washington, D.C.: United States Army Center of Military History. p. 4. CMH Pub 90-23.
  39. ^ Nghia M. Vo Saigon: A History 2011 - Page 140 "... on December 19 to 20, 1960, Nguyễn Hữu Thọ, a Saigon lawyer, Trương Như Tảng, chief comptroller of a bank, Drs. Dương Quỳnh Hoa and Phùng Văn Cung, along with other dissidents, met with communists to form the National Liberation Front..."
  40. ^ Zhai, Qiang (2000). China and the Vietnam Wars, 1950–1975. p. 83. ISBN 0-8078-4842-5.
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  48. ^ a b Zhai, p. 128.
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  51. ^ a b "1957–1975: The Vietnam War". libcom.
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  54. ^ Zumbro, pp. 25, 33
  55. ^ Zumbro, p. 32.
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    Jones, C. Don, Massacre at Dak Son Archived 2014-11-29 at the Wayback Machine, United States Information Service, 1967
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    "The Massacre of Dak Son". Time. December 15, 1967. Pictures of Dak Son can be viewed here.
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    Pike, Douglas. "Viet Cong Strategy of Terror". pp. 23–39.
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  69. ^ Lee, Nathan (April 10, 2009). "A Dark Glimpse From Eddie Adams's Camera". New York Times.
  70. ^ Walter Cronkite on the Tet Offensive, archived from the original on 2008-07-19
  71. ^ Tran Van Tra. "Tet". in Warner, Jayne S. Warner (1993). Luu Doan Huynh (eds.). The Vietnam War: Vietnamese and American Perspectives. Armonk NY: M.E. Sharpe. pp. 49–50.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link) A map of the military districts can be found here.
  72. ^ Tran Van Tra. "Comments on Tet '68".
  73. ^ a b "Vietnam Veterans for Academic Reform". Archived from the original on 2009-02-26.
  74. ^ Crowell, Todd Crowell (October 29, 2006). "The Tet Offensive and Iraq". Archived from the original on August 23, 2009.
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  78. ^ a b Whitcomb, Col Darrel (Summer 2003). "Victory in Vietnam: The Official History of the People's Army of Vietnam, 1954–1975 (book review)". Air & Space Power Journal. Archived from the original on 2009-02-07.
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  81. ^ a b Porter, pp. 27–29
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  83. ^ Ang, p. 139.
  84. ^ Ang, p. 53.
  85. ^ a b Ang, p. 52.
  86. ^ "The Viet Cong".
  87. ^ Karnow, p. 673.
  88. ^ Tran Van Tra. "Vietnam: History of the Bulwark B2 Theatre". Archived from the original on 2009-05-28.
  89. ^ Karnow, pp 644–645.
  90. ^ Karnow. pp. 672–74.
  91. ^ a b Porter, p. 29
  92. ^ Porter, p. 28.
  93. ^ Friedman, SGM Herbert A. "The Strange Case of the Vietnamese 'Late Hero' Nguyen Van Be".
  94. ^ a b c Ruane, Kevin (1998), War and Revolution in Vietnam, 1930–75, p. 51, ISBN 1-85728-323-6
  95. ^ Karnow, Stanley (1991). Vietnam: A history. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-670-84218-4., p. 255.
  96. ^ Bolt, Dr. Ernest. "Who is Tran Van Tra?". Archived from the original on 2011-07-10. Retrieved 2009-04-07.

Further reading

  • U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, The Human Cost of Communism in Vietnam (1972), part I, part II, part III, and part IV.
  • Marvin Gettleman, et al. Vietnam and America: A Documented History. Grove Press. 1995. ISBN 0-8021-3362-2. See especially Part VII: The Decisive Year.
  • Truong Nhu Tang. A Việt Cộng Memoir. Random House. ISBN 0-394-74309-1. 1985. See Chapter 7 on the forming of the Việt Cộng, and Chapter 21 on the communist take-over in 1975.
  • Frances Fitzgerald. Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1972. ISBN 0-316-28423-8. See Chapter 4. "The National Liberation Front".
  • Douglas Valentine. The Phoenix Program. New York: William Morrow and Company. 1990. ISBN 0-688-09130-X.
  • Merle Pribbenow (translation). Victory in Vietnam: The Official History of the People's Army of Vietnam. University Press of Kansas. 2002 ISBN 0-7006-1175-4

External links

1965 Qui Nhơn hotel bombing

The Viet Cuong Hotel in Qui Nhơn, was bombed by the Viet Cong on the evening of 10 February 1965, during the Vietnam War. Viet Cong (VC) operatives detonated explosive charges causing the entire building to collapse. The explosion killed 23 U.S. servicemen and 2 of the Viet Cong attackers.

Attack on Camp Holloway

The attack on Camp Holloway occurred during the early hours of February 7, 1965, in the early stages of the Vietnam War. Camp Holloway was a helicopter facility constructed by the United States Army near Pleiku in 1962. It was built to support the operations of Free World Military Forces in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.

In August 1964, the United States Navy reported they were attacked by torpedo boats of the North Vietnamese Navy in what became known as the Tonkin Gulf Incident. In response to the perceived aggression of Communist forces in Southeast Asia, the United States Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution which enabled U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson to deploy conventional military forces in the region to prevent further attacks by the North Vietnamese. Immediately after the Tonkin Gulf Resolution was passed, Johnson ordered the bombing of North Vietnamese Navy bases in retaliation for the reported attacks on U.S. Navy warships between 2 and 4 August 1964. However, the Viet Cong forces in South Vietnam were not deterred by the threat of U.S. retaliation.

Throughout 1964, the Viet Cong launched several attacks on U.S. military facilities in South Vietnam but Johnson did not start further retaliations against North Vietnam, as he tried to avoid upsetting U.S. public opinion during the 1964 United States Presidential Election. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, were experiencing political changes of their own as Nikita Khrushchev was removed from power. As leader of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev had begun the process of disengagement from Vietnam by reducing economic and military aid to North Vietnam. However, in the aftermath of Khrushchev's downfall, the Soviet government had to redefine their role in Southeast Asia, particularly in Vietnam, to compete with the growing influence of the People's Republic of China.

In February 1965 Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin travelled to Hanoi to rebuild Soviet ties with North Vietnam, and the formation of a military alliance was on the agenda. Coincidentally, senior security adviser to the U.S. President McGeorge Bundy was also in Saigon to report on the political chaos in South Vietnam. In the shadow of those events, the Viet Cong 409th Battalion staged an attack on Camp Holloway on 7 February 1965. This time, with his victory in the 1964 presidential election secured, Johnson decided to launch Operation Flaming Dart which entailed strikes on North Vietnamese military targets. However, with Kosygin still in Hanoi during the U.S bombing, the Soviet government decided to step up their military aid to North Vietnam, thereby signalling a major reversal of Khrushchev's policy in Vietnam.

Battle of Gang Toi

The Battle of Gang Toi (8 November 1965) was fought during the Vietnam War between Australian troops and the Viet Cong. The battle was one of the first engagements between the two forces during the war and occurred when A Company, 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR) struck a Viet Cong bunker system defended by Company 238 in the Gang Toi Hills, in northern Bien Hoa Province. It occurred during a major joint US-Australian operation codenamed Operation Hump, involving the US 173rd Airborne Brigade, to which 1 RAR was attached. During the latter part of the operation an Australian rifle company clashed with an entrenched company-sized Viet Cong force in well-prepared defensive positions. Meanwhile, an American paratroop battalion was also heavily engaged in fighting on the other side of the Song Dong Nai.

The Australians were unable to concentrate sufficient combat power to launch an assault on the position and consequently they were forced to withdraw after a fierce engagement during which both sides suffered a number of casualties, reluctantly leaving behind two men who had been shot and could not be recovered due to heavy machine-gun and rifle fire. Although they were most likely dead, a battalion-attack to recover the missing soldiers was planned by the Australians for the next day, but this was cancelled by the American brigade commander due to rising casualties and the need to utilise all available helicopters for casualty evacuation. The bodies of the two missing Australian soldiers were subsequently recovered more than 40 years later, and were finally returned to Australia for burial.

Battle of Long Khánh

The Battle of Long Khanh (6–7 June 1971) was fought during the Vietnam War between elements of 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF) and the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army during Operation Overlord. The fighting saw Australian infantry from 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) attack a heavily fortified communist base camp in Long Khanh Province, while Centurion tanks providing close support crushed many bunkers and their occupants. Regardless, the Viet Cong fought hard to delay the Australian advance and although the bunker system was subsequently captured, along with a second system further south, the Australians suffered a number of casualties and the loss of a UH-1 Iroquois helicopter. With the Australians unable to concentrate sufficient combat power to achieve a decisive result, the bulk of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese force successfully withdrew intact, although they probably sustained heavy casualties in the process.

Battle of Minh Thanh Road

The Battle of Minh Thanh Road took place on 9 July 1966 when a Viet Cong force attacked a 1st Infantry Division convoy triggering a prepared US ambush, in which an overwhelming response of armour, artillery and airpower reacted to an ambushed convoy. The Viet Cong, primarily armed with RPG-2, recoilless rifles and small-arms had engaged and destroyed some vehicles in a convoy but were prevented from overwhelming the convoy through a massive response of US armoured, artillery and aerial support. Much of the attacking ambush had slipped past the aerial and armoured cordon set-up.

Battle of Suoi Bong Trang

The Battle of Suoi Bong Trang (23–24 February 1966) was an engagement fought between US, Australian and New Zealand forces, and the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War. The battle occurred during Operation Rolling Stone, an American security operation to protect engineers building a tactically important road in the vicinity of Tan Binh, in central Binh Duong Province, 30 kilometres (19 mi) north-west of Bien Hoa airbase. During the fighting, soldiers from the US 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division and the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR), which had been attached for the operation, fought off a regimental-sized Viet Cong night assault. Repulsed by massed firepower from artillery and tanks, the Viet Cong suffered heavy casualties and were forced to withdraw by morning. After the attack, the Americans and Australians made no attempt to pursue the Viet Cong, focusing on securing the battlefield and evacuating their own casualties. The Viet Cong continued to harass the American sappers with occasional sniper and mortar fire, but these tactics proved ineffective, and the road was completed by 2 March.

Battle of Suoi Chau Pha

The Battle of Suoi Chau Pha (6 August 1967) was fought during the Vietnam War between Australian troops and the Viet Cong. The battle took place during Operation Ballarat, an Australian search and destroy operation in the eastern Hat Dich area, north-west of Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy province. Following a covert insertion the day before which had caught a number of Viet Cong sentries by surprise, A Company, 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (7 RAR) had patrolled forward unaware of the presence of a large Viet Cong main force unit nearby. Clashing with a reinforced company from the Viet Cong 3rd Battalion, 274th Regiment, a classic encounter battle ensued between two forces of roughly equal size. Fought at close quarters in dense jungle amid a heavy monsoon rain, both sides suffered heavy casualties as neither was able to gain an advantage. Finally, after a battle lasting several hours, the Australian artillery proved decisive and the Viet Cong were forced to withdraw, dragging many of their dead from the battlefield after having suffered crippling losses.

Battle of Đồng Xoài

The Battle of Đồng Xoài (Vietnamese: Trận Đồng Xoài) was a major battle fought during the National Liberation Front Summer Offensive of 1965 as part of the Vietnam War. The battle took place in Phước Long Province, South Vietnam, between June 9 and 13, 1965.

In 1964, General Nguyễn Khánh gained control of the South Vietnamese government after General Dương Văn Minh was overthrown in a military coup. Although General Khánh was able to gain control of the military junta, he failed to garner support from the civilian population when he implemented various laws which limited the freedoms of the South Vietnamese people. He then had a falling-out with the Catholic faction within his own government, when he became increasingly reliant on the Buddhist movement to hold on to power. Consequently, on February 20, 1965, General Khánh was ousted from power and was forced to leave South Vietnam forever. The political instability in Saigon gave North Vietnamese leaders in Hanoi an opportunity to step up their military campaign in the south. They believed the South Vietnamese government was able to survive because it still had a strong military to combat the growing influence of the Viet Cong. With the summer campaign of 1965, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces aimed to inflict significant losses on the South Vietnamese military. In Phước Long Province, the Communist summer offensive culminated in the Đồng Xoài campaign.

The fight for Đồng Xoài began on the evening of June 9, 1965, when the Viet Cong 272nd Regiment attacked and captured the Civilian Irregular Defense Group and U.S. Special Forces camp there. In response to the sudden Viet Cong assault, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) Joint General Staff ordered the ARVN 1st Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, to retake Đồng Xoài district. They arrived on the battlefield on June 10, but were quickly overwhelmed by the Viet Cong 271st Regiment near Thuận Lợi. Later that day, Đồng Xoài was recaptured by the ARVN 52nd Ranger Battalion, which had survived an ambush while marching towards the district. On June 11, further South Vietnamese reinforcements arrived in the form of the ARVN 7th Airborne Battalion. The South Vietnamese paratroopers, while searching for survivors of the 1st Battalion in the Thuận Lợi rubber plantation, were defeated in a deadly ambush by the Viet Cong. On June 13 U.S. Army General William Westmoreland decided to insert elements of the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade into a major battle for the first time, because he feared the Viet Cong could secure a major base area in Phước Long Province. By that time, however, the Viet Cong had already withdrawn from the battlefield, so the U.S. paratroopers were ordered to return to base without a fight.

Củ Chi tunnels

The tunnels of Củ Chi are an immense network of connecting tunnels located in the Củ Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country. The Củ Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the Viet Cong's base of operations for the Tết Offensive in 1968.

The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, and helped to counter the growing American military effort.

Operation Amarillo

Operation Amarillo was an operation conducted by 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division in Bình Dương Province, lasting from 23–31 August 1966.

Operation Bribie

Operation Bribie (17–18 February 1967), also known as the Battle of Ap My An, was fought during the Vietnam War in Phuoc Tuy province between Australian forces from the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6 RAR) and two companies of Viet Cong from D445 Battalion, likely reinforced by North Vietnamese regulars. During the night of 16 February the Viet Cong attacked a South Vietnamese Regional Force compound at Lang Phuoc Hai, before withdrawing the following morning after heavy fighting with South Vietnamese forces. Two hours later, a Viet Cong company was reported to have formed a tight perimeter in the rainforest 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) north of Lang Phuoc Hai, near the abandoned hamlet of Ap My An. In response, the Australians deployed a quick reaction force. Anticipating that the Viet Cong would attempt to withdraw, as they had during previous encounters, forces from the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF) were inserted to block the likely withdrawal route in the hope of intercepting and destroying them.

On the afternoon of 17 February, American UH-1 Iroquois helicopters and M113 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) deployed 6 RAR into the area north-west of Hoi My. Following an airmobile assault into an unsecured landing zone at 13:45, A Company 6 RAR was surprised by a strong, well-sited and dug-in Viet Cong force — which, rather than withdrawing, had likely remained in location in an attempt to ambush any reaction force sent to the area. The Australians were soon contacted by heavy small arms fire, with a third of the lead platoon falling wounded in the initial volleys. A Company subsequently broke contact and withdrew under heavy fire from what appeared to be a Viet Cong base area. Initially believing they were opposed by only a company, 6 RAR subsequently launched a quick attack by two companies. However, unknown to the Australians, the Viet Cong had been reinforced and they now faced a battalion-sized force in well prepared positions.

At 15:35, supported by air strikes, armour, and fire from A Company, B Company assaulted the position. From the outset, lead elements came under constant Viet Cong sniper fire from the trees, and from previously undetected machine-guns. The assault soon faltered, with steadily increasing casualties as the Viet Cong withstood multiple frontal assaults, including bayonet charges by two separate platoons. Surrounded and receiving fire from all sides, the lead Australian elements from B Company could advance no further against the determined dug-in force; all attempts to regain momentum failed to dislodge the defenders. Initially, the Australians used their APCs to secure the landing zone at the jungle's edge, but when the infantry was in trouble they were dispatched as a relief force. Fighting their way forward, the M113s finally arrived by 18:15 and began loading the most seriously wounded as darkness approached. The Viet Cong subsequently launched two successive counter-attacks, both repulsed by the Australians. During the fighting, one of the APCs was disabled by a recoilless rifle at close range, killing the driver.

By 19:00, after a five-hour battle, B Company broke contact and withdrew into a night harbour near the landing zone with the remainder of the battalion. Mortars, artillery fire and airstrikes covered their withdrawal, then pounded the battlefield into the evening. After a tense night, the Australians returned in the morning to find the Viet Cong had left the area, dragging most of their dead and wounded with them while avoiding a large blocking force. A hard-fought affair at close range, the disciplined Viet Cong force matched the Australians as both sides stood their ground, inflicting heavy casualties on each other, before each fell back. Although 6 RAR ultimately prevailed, the vicious fighting at Ap My An was probably the closest the Australian Army came to a major defeat during the war.

Operation Coburg

Operation Coburg (24 January − 1 March 1968) was an Australian and New Zealand military action during the Vietnam War. The operation saw heavy fighting between the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF) and North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong during the wider fighting around Long Binh and Bien Hoa. American and South Vietnamese intelligence reports had indicated that an imminent communist offensive during the Tet New Year festival was likely, and in response the Australians and New Zealanders were deployed away from their base in Phuoc Tuy Province to bolster American and South Vietnamese forces defending the Long Binh–Bien Hoa complex north-east of Saigon. 1 ATF deliberately established fire support bases astride the communist lines of communication in the vicinity of the village of Trang Bom, expecting that they would attempt to destroy them. The Australians subsequently clashed with the Viet Cong during early patrols in Area of Operations (AO) Columbus, while later Fire Support Base (FSB) Andersen was repeatedly subjected to major ground assaults.

Although the operation was mounted too late to prevent the attacks on Saigon, the Australians and New Zealanders successfully disrupted the communist lines of communication, limiting their freedom of manoeuvre to attack the Long Binh–Bien Hoa complex, while they were also able to successfully interdict their withdrawal, causing heavy casualties. The operation was also significant as it was the first deployment of 1 ATF outside its Tactical Area of Responsibility (TAOR) in Phuoc Tuy, and in this it set a precedent for later operations outside the province. Meanwhile, the remaining Australian forces in Phuoc Tuy Province also successfully repelled repeated Viet Cong attacks against Ba Ria and Long Dien, as part of the Tet Offensive that had engulfed population centres across South Vietnam.

Operation Cocoa Beach

Operation Cocoa Beach was a US Army operation that took place along Highway 13 near Lai Khê, lasting from 3 to 8 March 1966.

Operation Crimp

Operation Crimp (8–14 January 1966), also known as the Battle of the Ho Bo Woods, was a joint US-Australian military operation during the Vietnam War, which took place 20 kilometres (12 mi) north of Cu Chi in Binh Duong Province, South Vietnam. The operation targeted a key Viet Cong headquarters that was believed to be concealed underground, and involved two brigades under the command of the US 1st Infantry Division, including the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR) which was attached to the US 173rd Airborne Brigade. Heavy fighting resulted in significant casualties on both sides, but the combined American and Australian force was able to uncover an extensive tunnel network covering more than 200 kilometres (120 mi).

The operation was the largest allied military action mounted during the war in South Vietnam to that point, and the first fought at division level. Despite some success, the allied force was only able to partially clear the area and it remained a key communist transit and supply base throughout the war. The tunnels were later used as a staging area for the attack on Saigon during the 1968 Tet offensive before they were largely destroyed by heavy bombing from American B-52 bombers in 1970, ending their utility.

Operation Lam Son II

Operation Lam Son II (Vietnamese: chiến dịch Lam Sơn II) was a combined United States and South Vietnamese military and public relations operation in the village of Tân Phước Khánh, Tân Uyên District, in III Corps around 40 km north of the capital Saigon staged from June 2 to June 5, 1966 during the Vietnam War. It was done in order to simultaneously win public support (hearts and minds) for the government of South Vietnam by holding a village fair and providing social services while simultaneously screening the congregated area to arrest and remove Viet Cong guerrillas operating in the area.

On the night of June 1, the eve of the village fair, elements of the US 1st Division and the South Vietnamese 5th Division arrived on the outskirts of the village by foot and helicopter and sealed it off. Early the next morning they entered the village and screened the inhabitants, before taking adult males away for brief questioning, detaining communists and South Vietnamese military deserters or conscription evaders and returning the rest to the village. At the fair, the village of 9,000 were entertained by South Vietnamese and American military bands, while the South Vietnamese military cultural troupe performed plays, folk singing and dancing. Games for children, lotteries and a free lunch of unfamiliar western food were provided to the villagers.

In addition to the festivities, Vietnamese leaders, from civil servants to the province chief, Lieutenant Colonel Lý Tòng Bá attended the fairs and made speeches and spoke to the villagers individually about government policies and initiatives such as agricultural assistance. Personnel from US and South Vietnamese medical units did health checks on villagers, providing medicine and organizing appointments for further treatment in the city where required. The festival was considered highly successful by the anti-communist organizers to they added a third day of activities to the schedule after the festival had started.

The Americans and South Vietnamese deemed the mission to have been very fruitful due to the change in the disposition of the villagers as well as the fact that during an immediately after the fair, some of the populace gave intelligence that resulted in some communists being arrested, while other Viet Cong defected and revealed the location of weapons and documents. Later, Viet Cong sources revealed that they had lost half of their support in the village and that their political losses would take two months to recover. Operation Lam Son II was then replicated in various villages in the area.


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Viet Cong attack on Tan Son Nhut Air Base (1966)

The sapper and mortar attack on Tan Son Nhut Air Base occurred during the early hours of 4 December 1966. Tan Son Nhut Air Base was one of the major air bases used for offensive air operations within South Vietnam and for the support of United States Army and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) ground operations. The attack by Vietcong (VC) sappers supported by mortar fire was repulsed by the United States Air Force (USAF) base security forces by 04:00 on 4 December, however VC stragglers continued to be engaged in and around the base until 5 December.

Vietnam War

The Vietnam War (Vietnamese: Chiến tranh Việt Nam), also known as the Second Indochina War, and in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America (Vietnamese: Kháng chiến chống Mỹ) or simply the American War, was an undeclared war in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies; South Vietnam was supported by the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand and other anti-communist allies. The war is considered a Cold War-era proxy war from some US perspectives. It lasted some 19 years with direct U.S. involvement ending in 1973 following the Paris Peace Accords, and included the Laotian Civil War and the Cambodian Civil War, resulting in all three countries becoming communist states in 1975.

American military advisors began arriving in what was then French Indochina in 1950 to support the French in the First Indochina War against the communist-led Viet Minh. Most of the funding for the French war effort was provided by the U.S. After the French quit Indochina in 1954, the US assumed financial and military responsibility for the South Vietnamese state. The Việt Cộng, also known as Front national de libération du Sud-Viêt Nam or NLF (the National Liberation Front), a South Vietnamese communist common front aided by the North, initiated a

guerrilla war against the South Vietnamese government in 1959. U.S. involvement escalated in 1960, and continued in 1961 under President John F. Kennedy, with troop levels gradually surging under the MAAG program from just under a thousand in 1959 to 16,000 in 1963.By 1964, there were 23,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam, but this escalated further following the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which a U.S. destroyer was alleged to have clashed with North Vietnamese fast attack craft. In response, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution gave President Lyndon B. Johnson broad authorization to increase U.S. military presence, deploying ground combat units for the first time and increasing troop levels to 184,000. Past this point, the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) engaged in more conventional warfare with US and South Vietnamese forces. Every year onward there was significant build-up of US forces despite little progress, with Robert McNamara, one of the principal architects of the war, beginning to express doubts of victory by the end of 1966. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces relied on air superiority and overwhelming firepower to conduct search and destroy operations, involving ground forces, artillery, and airstrikes. The U.S. conducted a large-scale strategic bombing campaign against North Vietnam. The Tet Offensive of 1968, proved to be the turning point of the war; despite years of American tutelage and aid the South Vietnamese forces were unable to withstand the communist offensive and the task fell to US forces instead. The Tet Offensive showed that the end of US involvement was not in sight, increasing domestic skepticism of the war. The unconventional and conventional capabilities of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) increased following a period of neglect and became modeled on heavy firepower-focused doctrines like US forces. Operations crossed international borders; bordering areas of Laos and Cambodia were used by North Vietnam as supply routes and were heavily bombed by U.S. forces.

Gradual withdrawal of U.S. ground forces began as part of "Vietnamization", which aimed to end American involvement in the war while transferring the task of fighting the communists to the South Vietnamese themselves and began the task of modernizing their armed forces. Direct U.S. military involvement ended on 15 August 1973 as a result of the Case–Church Amendment passed by the U.S. Congress. The capture of Saigon by the NVA in April 1975 marked the end of the war, and North and South Vietnam were reunified the following year. The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities (see Vietnam War casualties). Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed vary from 966,000 to 3.8 million. Some 275,000–310,000 Cambodians, 20,000–62,000 Laotians, and 58,220 U.S. service members also died in the conflict, and a further 1,626 remain missing in action. The Sino-Soviet split re-emerged following the lull during the Vietnam War and confllict between North Vietnam and its Cambodian allies in the Royal Government of the National Union of Kampuchea, and the newly-formed Democratic Kampuchea begun almost immediately in a series of border raids by the Khmer Rouge and erupted into the Cambodian–Vietnamese War, with Chinese forces directly intervening in the Sino-Vietnamese War. The end of the war and resumption of the Third Indochina War would precipitate the Vietnamese boat people and the bigger Indochina refugee crisis, which saw an estimated 250,000 people perish at sea. Within the US the war gave rise to what was referred to as Vietnam Syndrome, a public aversion to American overseas military involvements, which together with Watergate contributed to the crisis of confidence that affected America throughout the 1970s.

Đắk Sơn massacre

The Đắk Sơn Massacre was a massacre committed by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, in the village of Đắk Sơn, Đắk Lắk Province, South Vietnam.

Prior to the attack, earlier battles had occurred between the Viet Cong and the village defence militias. On December 5, 1967, two battalions of Viet Cong attacked Dak Son village, and after a battle with the defence militia, were alleged to have killed between 114 to 252 civilians in a "vengeance" attack on the hamlet of Đắk Sơn, home to over 2,000 Montagnards. The Viet Cong believed that the hamlet had at one point given aid to refugees fleeing Viet Cong forces.Troops marched into a village near Dak Son, some of which used flamethrowers effectively. As the Viet Cong fired their weapons, people were incinerated inside their own homes, and some who had managed to escape into foxholes in their homes died of smoke inhalation. The homes that were not destroyed by flamethrowers were destroyed with grenades, and on the way out patches of the main town were set afire. Just before they left the village, the Viet Cong shot 60 of the 160 survivors. Most of the remaining villagers were taken hostage.

Vietnam War timeline
DRV General Secretary: Lê Duẩn / President: Ho Chi Minh
General Secretary: Lê Duẩn / President: Tôn Đức Thắng

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