Vietnam A History 2

The Peace That Never Was 20

By now, forty thousand North Vietnamese troops had overrun Xuanloc, thirty-five miles northeast of Saigon on the road to Bienhoa airfield. The battle had raged for two weeks—the only engagement during the government’s last phase in which its forces fought well, as their aircraft inflicted heavy casualties on the Communists with such devastating weapons as cluster bombs. Speeding forward after ... Read More »

The Peace That Never Was 19

By late March, more than a million refugees were streaming toward Danang, which was itself being bottled up as Communist forces at¬tacked farther south along the littoral at Chulai and Quangngai. On March 25, the day Hue fell, North Vietnamese rockets crashed into downtown Danang, South Vietnam’s second largest city. Within three days, thirty-five thousand Communists were poised in its ... Read More »

The Peace That Never Was 18

Undaunted, Tra carried his case to Le Duan, a consistent advocate of energetic action in South Vietnam, who worked out a compromise. Tra could launch his operation in Phuoc Long province but only with limited forces. Beginning their attacks in the middle of December, the Communist troops seized the key junction on Route 14 the day after Christmas. On January ... Read More »

The Peace That Never Was 17

That the Communists could undertake such a stupendous enterprise testified to the failure of American bombings to destroy the equipment and fuel that they had amassed in North Vietnam over the preceding years. For they were not getting new supplies: Pham Van Dong and Le Duan, the party general secretary, were rebuffed in both Moscow and Beijing in October 1973 ... Read More »

The Peace That Never Was 16

Thieu’s regime was in relatively sturdy shape at the start of the truce. His army, equipped with last-minute deliveries of American weapons and still receiving U.S. aid, controlled roughly 75 percent of South Vietnam’s territory and about 85 percent of its population. But Thieu was jittery. The armistice was merely a “phase” in the war, he repeatedly affirmed, and he ... Read More »

The Peace That Never Was 15

The American public, exposed to accounts of these agonies, was not consoled by the knowledge that the Vietnamese on both sides could be just as cruel to each other. South Vietnamese and Vietcong prisoners were frequently savaged by their respective captors. Thieu’s jails bulged with critics of his regime, many of them innocuous, and the Communists were no more lenient ... Read More »

The Peace That Never Was 14

One argument advanced to explain the low casualties is that the populations of Hanoi and Haiphong were by then largely evacuated to the countryside. But that thesis skirts the fact, as I observed after the war, that most of the buildings in both cities were neither demol¬ished nor reconstructed. In fact, the B-52s were programmed to spare civilians, and they ... Read More »

The Peace That Never Was 13

At this stage, Nixon backtracked yet again. To scuttle Thieu, he feared, would lead to a Communist takeover of Vietnam. So he de¬cided to stop hectoring him, reckoning that Thieu would acquiesce once he realized that Congress, which reconvened in January, might cut off his aid. Perhaps, as Kissinger suspected, Nixon was being badgered by White House hard-liners like H. ... Read More »

The Peace That Never Was 12

Kissinger, aware that real estate meant strength, urgently cabled Thieu to “seize as much territory as possible,” especially in the pop¬ulous Saigon region. Orders meanwhile went out from the Pentagon for crash deliveries of military equipment to the Saigon government, an operation dubbed Enhance Plus—its purpose to furnish Thieu with hardware that, under the agreement, could be replaced. Materiel worth ... Read More »

The Peace That Never Was 11

Nixon emerged from his biggest foreign policy crisis to date with public approbation. Though the twenty-two thousand letters and tel¬egrams that poured into the White House favoring his actions against North Vietnam were not completely voluntary, having been organized by the Republican national committee, the opinion polls nevertheless showed his approval rating up to nearly 60 percent. But he was ... Read More »