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Battle of Ap Bac The ARVN and The Battle of Ap Bac With the Geneva Accords of 1954, the French

agreed that Vietnam should be split into two halves at the 1 th !arallel as a temporar" measure until elections could be held in 195# to decide whether the $ationalist%&ommunists 'of $orth Vietnam( or the $ationalist%&apitalists 'of )outh Vietnam( should rule the reunited countr"* +he elections never too, place, and the -epublic of ')outh( Vietnam under the corrupt leadership of $go .inh .iem established itself under /) patronage* +here had technicall" been a 0-epublic of Vietnam1 and a 0Vietnamese $ational Arm"1 since 1949* +his was, however, a French attempt to 2ustif" their war in 3ndochina to an international audience* +he Vietnamese $ational Arm" eventuall" numbered around 1 4,444 men 'including air and naval forces(* 3n addition, there were regional &ivil Guard battalions 'which were full%time, but generall" less well e5uipped and trained than the regulars( and part%time 0local self%defence1 militias in the villages* 6n 1st 7anuar" 1954, the regular troops consisted of 45 infantr" battalions, 4 parachute battalions, 1 reconnaissance regiment '8 armoured car s5uadrons(, 4 mortar companies, 54 light infantr" battalions and 14 heav" weapons companies* +he officers were predominantl" pro%French, and lac,ed staff e9perience in most cases* +here were man" factions 'including the senior officers of the Arm"( who did not support .iem as leader* :owever, b" a mi9ture of force and political manoeuvre 'supported b" the /)( he prevailed and the Arm" was reorganised as the Arm" of the -epublic of Vietnam 'A-V$(* With the changeover to direct /) support 'under French control the Vietnamese Arm" had been paid for b" the /)A, but via France(, the new A-V$ was e9pected to fight a ;orean st"le conventional war against invading $orth Vietnamese regular soldiers* +he" were built up and trained for this st"le of warfare, which made their units too heav" and cumbersome for the counter%insurgenc" warfare the" were forced to underta,e as resistance to the increasingl" autocratic .iem built during the late 1954s* <" 195= the A-V$ consisted of four field divisions '=,544 men each(, si9 light divisions '5,444 men each(, 18 territorial regiments 'whose strength varied(, and a parachute regiment* <" 195# there were enough /*)* Arm" advisors for assignment to each A-V$ regiment* American officers were li,ewise reorgani>ing and helping train the small Vietnamese $av" '?,1#4 officers and men( and Air Force '4,444 officers and men(* +he Vietnamese @arine &orps was a two%battalion amphibious force within the nationAs naval establishment* <ac,ing these developing regular forces, at least on paper, were two generall" feeble paramilitar" organi>ations % the &ivil Guard '&G( and the Village )elf .efence &orps ').&(* +he larger of these, the &ivil Guard, e9isted within the @inistr" of 3nterior and was funded and advised b" the /*)* 6perations @ission '/)6@(* 3ts 4=,444 Author: Danny O'Hara

Battle of Ap Bac men, therefore, were not counted against the 'Washington set( 154,444%man force level ceiling that regulated the si>e of .iemAs regular forces* $or were the 4 ,444 members of the )elf .efence &orps, even though this organi>ation received limited amounts of /*)* militar" assistance funds* 3n an" case, serious shortcomings were evident in both the &G and the ).&* 6rgani>ed into provincial companies directl" responsible to the various province chiefs, the &ivil Guard was entirel" separate from the A-V$ chain of command* Furthermore, American civilians under government contract had armed and trained the &G for police%t"pe as opposed to militar" missions* +he ).&, essentiall" a scattering of local militia units, was even wea,er, having been organised at the village level into s5uads and an occasional platoon* Although the ).& units were subordinate to the respective village chief, the A-V$ bore the responsibilit" for providing them with arms and training* @ore often than not the A-V$ units gave their obsolete weapons to the ).& and showed little genuine interest in training them* 3n earl" 1959, the entire A-V$ was in the final phase of a reorganisation programme which would culminate b" mid%"ear in the formation of seven divisions of uniform si>e '14,544 men each(, five territorial regiments, and an airborne brigade 'formed from the old Arm" parachute regiment(* /nder the new organisation the seven standard divisions were to be deplo"ed in or near population centres throughout the countr" and were to be organi>ed under two corps head5uarters, one '3 &orps( located at .a $ang, and the other '33 &orps( located at !lei,u in the &entral :ighlands* A third provisional corps head5uarters had also been formed in )aigon for activation in the event of a national emergenc"* <" 19#1 the third corps head5uarters would be activated and geographic boundaries of all three corps would be delineated to facilitate the coordination of the governmentAs militar" efforts against the Viet &ong* A fourth &orps was formed in the @e,ong .elta in late 19#?* The Battle of Ap Bac As the A-V$ struggled to contain the $ationalist and &ommunist rebels in )outh Vietnam during the late 1954s and earl" 19#4s, the /)A graduall" stepped up militar" aid* 3nitiall" this was b" providing e5uipment and training, with some specialist /) units providing intelligence resources* +hree main areas altered the pace and scope of war in Vietnam from that of the French 3ndochina War '194#%54(B improved radio trac,ing and surveillance, the use of helicopters in combat operations, and the introduction of the @118 A!&* +he Viet &ong used WW? era radios 'mainl" captured from French forces in the earlier conflict(, which were easil" traced and intercepted b" /) specialists* +he V& were 5uite tight on using codes rather than open language, but at least the position of their radios could be traced and followed* Good intelligence pictures of which V& units were using which radios 'and their base areas( started to be formed, which gave a chance to locate their main units and crush them*

Author: Danny O'Hara

Battle of Ap Bac 3n the French War, Viet @inh bases in inaccessible areas gave good securit" as, apart from dropping paratroopers into the area, other units had long marches with man" chances of ambush before entering the V@ stronghold* +his gave the V@ ample opportunit" to either flee or prepare intricate ambush s"stems to defeat the attac,ers* With the introduction of /) helicopters to the war, A-V$ units could be transferred in minutes to positions that were several da"s 2ourne" from their bases* +his massivel" improved both mobilit" and surprise for the A-V$* +he building of two mechanised companies with 15 @118 A!&s each in April 19#? gave a similar increase in firepower and assault capabilit" to the A-V$* +hese two units were deplo"ed in the @e,ong .elta region 'which was the most active at that point( and proved themselves able to put V& units 'who apparentl" had no anti% armour weapons( to flight* 6peration in the .elta during 19#? had shown that with their American advisors and e5uipment, the A-V$ could defeat the V& guerrillas* )everal actions had resulted in V& routs C and heav" losses from fighter%bombers dropping bombs and napalm on the fleeing guerrillas* +here had been some disturbing 'for the /) advisors( tendencies for the A-V$ commanders to not press combat with the V& and to leave the wor, to artiller" and air units* :owever there was still confidence that if the V& would stand up and fight the A-V$ in a conventional manner then the technological superiorit" of their e5uipment would destro" the guerrillas and give e9tra confidence to A-V$ troops and commanders* +he ideal opportunit" seemed to present itself at the end of .ecember 19#?, when surveillance showed the presence of a main force V& unit in the hamlet of +an +hoi fourteen miles northwest of @" +ho 'and about fort" miles southwest of )aigon(* -adio intercepts seem to indicate that the V& was using +an +hoi as some form of head5uarters centre, and that a reinforced compan" of main force V& defended the position 'i*e* about 1?4 men(* An attac, b" the local A-V$ formation, the th .ivision, was planned for the ?nd 7anuar" 19#8 b" the /) advisor" team* /nits of the th .ivision 'which had the best record for action against the V& at that point( would be supported b" &ivil Guard battalions, together with the 4th @echani>ed -ifle )5uadron of the ?nd Armoured &avalr" -egiment in @118 A!&s, and helicopters 'both transports and the new gunships(* +he plan involved converging assaults on the hamlet b" the ?nd <attalion of the 11th 3nfantr" -egiment of the th .ivision landed to the north b" helicopter, two &ivil Guard battalions marching up from the south, while the @118s moved up along the western perimeter of the battle >one waiting to advance and trap the retreating V&* +wo companies of the 1st <attalion of the 11th 3nfantr" -egiment were held at +an :iep airbase as a reserve 'to be moved into battle b" helicopter(* <atteries of 145mm howit>ers and 4*?1 mortars were positioned to the south to provide support fire* '+he ensuing battle has become ,nown as the <attle of Ap <ac, due to the name of the hamlet around which most of the fighting occurred* :owever, 0Ap1 is Vietnamese for 0hamlet1 C therefore 0Ap <ac1 is 0<ac hamlet1(*

Author: Danny O'Hara

Battle of Ap Bac At that point, the /)A had deplo"ed a few helicopter transport companies to Vietnam, mainl" e5uipped with the Vertol &:%?1 )hawnee '0Fl"ing <anana1(* .ue to increasing amounts of V& fire against helicopters, the first armed /:%1A :ue"s had been deplo"ed as an e9perimental unit to Vietnam in 6ctober 19#?* 3n $ovember, a further eleven /:%1< versions were added 'these had a more powerful engine, and the weapons pac,age now included @%#4 D@Gs in h"draulicall" operated turrets rather than fi9ed to the s,ids as on the /:%1A C both carried seven or eight 4mm roc,ets attached to each of the s,ids(* +here was a ma2or A-V$ airborne operation planned in another sector on the same da", and onl" 14 &:%?1 transports were available to th .ivision* +his meant that the helicopter landed battalion would have to be landed in companies rather than en masse* +hat morning a heav" fog la" across most of the .elta area, and was particularl" heav" around +an :iep airbase* +he helicopters managed to land the first compan" successfull" at about 4 E44, but then the fog closed in and the second and third companies could not be landed until after 49E84* +his meant that the first compan" sta"ed on the DF rather than advancing, and therefore the first units to advance into the battle area were the two &ivil Guard battalions marching from the south 'which had set off around 44E44(* +he area of the battle, as t"pical in rural Vietnam, was crossed b" irrigation canals 'see map C all of the lines on the map are canals(* While of no great si>e, the" presented a serious obstacle to the @118 as the sides were too steep to allow the vehicles to climb out* As the crews then had to construct a rough bridge of brushwood, then get at least one A!& across before winching the rest over C for the whole compan" to cross one of these could ta,e an hour or more* 3n addition, the edges of the canals were heavil" overgrown, and during the French 3ndochina War the guerrillas had developed tactics of digging fo9holes into the ban,s of these canals* Gach of the two &ivil Guard battalions formed a +as, Force* +as, Force A was to advance on +an +hoi along the canal via <ac, while +as, Force < similarl" moved up via +an !hu .ong* +he captain in charge of 0A1 was suspicious of the tree%lined canal 2ust south of Ap <ac, and so at around 4 E45 he halted the battalion about 154m awa" behind a low padd" di,e, and sent part of one compan" forward to reconnoitre the position* At around 84m from the tree line, a V& mainforce platoon dug in along the ban, open fire* +he &ivil Guards started to flee bac, to the di,e behind, but were then also hit b" fire into their right flan, 'from a unit of regional guerrillas hidden in a coconut grove(* +he &G compan" commander and his e9ecutive officer were ,illed in seconds, and instead of providing covering fire the rest of the battalion too, cover behind the di,e* )ome raised their rifles above the di,e and fired blindl" ahead C causing more casualties to their beleaguered comrades fleeing from the V&*

Author: Danny O'Hara

Battle of Ap Bac

+he battalion commander then attempted various half%hearted flan,ing manoeuvres for the ne9t two hours, until he was lightl" wounded himself and the efforts petered out* .uring these two hours, the battalion called in repeated artiller" stri,es but these all landed behind the V& positions* At around 14E44, the battalion commander radioed his superior '@a2or Dam Huang +ho, the province chief, who had his :H less than 8,m to the south( re5uesting support* :e reported eight dead and fourteen wounded 'including himself(* -ather than order +as, Force < to support their comrades, or moving up and ta,ing charge himself, or attempting to sort out the artiller" problems 'which had been reported to him b" one of the American advisors(, +ho called the th .ivision commander '&olonel <ui .inh .am( and demanded that the two reserve companies be landed behind the canal to cut off the V&* .am agreed and at 14E?4 the 1st &ompan"I11th -egiment were landed 2ust west of <ac* /nfortunatel", the V& also had units dug in along the tree line surrounding the hamlet, plus further units on the canal running towards +an +hoi* +he senior /) advisor to the th .ivision 'Dt* &ol* 7ohn Vann( guessed that there ma" be troops in <ac, and from his D%19 spotter plane advised the incoming helicopters 'ten &:%?1s transporting the A-V$, plus five escorting /:%1 gunships( to land out of *84 cal range from the tree line* :owever, due to previous disagreements between Vann and the helicopter units, the" ignored him and landed within ?44m of the western tree line of <ac* +he V& immediatel" began pouring fire into the helicopters as the" came in to land, using D@Gs, <A-s and rifles* +he gunships immediatel" returned fire with roc,ets Author: Danny O'Hara

Battle of Ap Bac and machine guns, and were ama>ed that the V& continued to return fire and did not flee as had previousl" happened with helicopter attac,s* +he &:%?1s had dropped their A-V$ troops 'who dived into the mud of the padd" fields and generall" refused to fire(, and then attempted to ta,e off* All of the helicopters had received multiple hits, but onl" one was unable to lift* +he pilot reported that he was shutting his engine and that he, his co%pilot and two crewmen would ta,e cover with the A-V$* +he helicopter crews had a 0code1 which said that downed crew should be rescued straight awa", and that leaving them to ma,e the best of it with the A-V$ was not enough* +herefore one of the other &:%?1s landed between the downed helicopter and Ap <ac to lift them out C and therefore landed in the worst of the V& fire* +his second helicopter was 5uic,l" shot out of action, and two crews were now in the padd" fields* +he command pilot of the gunship platoon announced that he was going in for them C and attempted to land behind the two wrec,s with covering fire from his four other helicopters* As he slowed down to a hover, the /:%1 was rac,ed b" V& machinegun fire and the rotor blade was shattered* +he gunship crashed into the padd" about 54m behind the others* A third &:%?1 had meanwhile crash%landed a short distance awa" from the battlefield due to damage* +his meant that in five minutes the V& had shot down four helicopters* +he" tried to add insult to in2ur" b" burning the downed helicopters in the padd" with rifle grenades and then #4mm mortar shells C but the" were out of range of the grenades, and the mortar shells missed* +he artiller" observer with the A-V$ compan" in the padd" field was calling in support fire, but refused to put his head above the low ban, he was ta,ing cover behind* +herefore the rounds landed an"where but on the V& positions* <ullets then hit the radio operator and then the radio itself, and all attempts to call in fire ceased* After about half an hour, two V$AF ),"raiders appeared and dropped napalm 'on the huts of Ap <ac, rather than the actual V& positions around the hamlet(, then made further passes to drop conventional bombs and also to strafe* +he A-V$ assumed that the V& would be ,illed or at least suppressed b" this, and man" got up for a better loo, C then came under renewed fire from the V&* +he A-V$ resumed their prone positions behind the low padd" field walls* Vann meanwhile was berating the advisors to the @118 s5uadron, which appeared to be sat doing nothing to the west of the canal between +an !hu .ong and Ap +an +hoi* +he commander of the unit, &aptain D" +ong <a, had served with the French forces as an officer in an armoured car regiment, and attended armour courses in both France and the /)A* :e had previousl" proven himself an aggressive commander with his mechanised s5uadron, and was held b" the American advisors to be that rarest of creatures C a fighting A-V$ officer* +herefore it was a surprise to Vann and the advisor" team with the s5uadron that <a was sat on the other side of the canal and not ma,ing an" effort to advance and support his pinned infantr" comrades* :e repeatedl" refused to move, and even after an order was issued b" &olonel .am to advance, he reported that crossing the canal was too difficult and that the infantr" should be sent instead* Author: Danny O'Hara

Battle of Ap Bac +he infantr" that <a was tal,ing about were the 8rd &ompan" of the ?nd <attalionI11th -egiment, who had landed north of his position 2ust over an hour before and were advancing on +an +hoi 'as were the ?nd &ompan" who had been dropped to the east of the hamlet(* :owever, Vann ,new that if he ordered these units to march to the relief of the A-V$ compan" and the helicopter crews near <ac, the" would soon realise the strength of the opposition there and halt somewhere en route* <etter to leave them advancing on +an +hoi 'which was, after all, the real ob2ective( and get <a to move his @118s towards <ac* For about half an hour the /) advisors and an increasingl" indignant <a engaged in arguments about what could and could not be done* Gventuall" <a agreed to let one of the /) advisors use one of the @118s to loo, for a better crossing site over the canal* +he &ivil Guards of +as, Force A were now halted in the padd" fields, but were neither under fire nor firing at the V&* +he /) advisors tried to push their commander to tr" and outflan, the V& in the canal ban, ahead of them, but he reported that he was under orders 'from @a2or +ho( to maintain his 0bloc,ing position1* +as, Force < was still slowl" advancing through the region of +an !hu .ong* At 11E14, Vann flew bac, over <aJs position and noted that the A!&s still had not moved* :e then contacted the /) advisor 'over a radio that <a could hear( and told him to shoot <a and ta,e command of the s5uadronK +he advisor and <a then decided to lead the @118s south to where a better crossing point was e9pected* After discussion with the helicopter pilots bac, at +an :iep, Vann decided to tr" another rescue mission for the downed crew 'some of whom were reported as seriousl" wounded(* :e had assumed that all of the V& fire at the helicopters and the A-V$ compan" 'who were now down to about half of their initial strength of 14? men( had been from the southern branch of the canal below <ac* +herefore he organised for the gunships 'of which one had been damaged and ta,en out of service( to strafe this area and suppress it while one of the &:%?1s landed west of the wrec,s to recover the wounded* +his went ahead C and the &:%?1 was 5uic,l" shot up* +he V& tall" was now five helicopters shot down 'plus another out of service(* @eanwhile the ?nd <attalionI11th -egiment had reached +an +hoi C and wal,ed straight into the fire of a reinforced V& mainforce compan", plus platoons of regional guerrillas* +he three A-V$ companies 5uic,l" assumed defensive positions around the hamlet* $ow onl" the @118 s5uadron was ma,ing an" sort of aggressive movement* With the battle stalled around the two hamlets, repeated V$AF fighter%bomber stri,es with napalm, bombs and machinegun fire were called in* /nfortunatel", the pilots continued to hit the 'unoccupied( huts and animal shelters rather than the surrounding tree lines* Artiller" stri,es were similarl" ineffective*

Author: Danny O'Hara

Battle of Ap Bac At 18E45, the first three @118s were across the canal and could advance towards <ac* While &aptain <a was using his vehicle to winch across the remainder, the other two went ahead to rescue the helicopter crew and A-V$ infantr"men* +he V& fired a few #4mm mortar shells at them, but the" arrived at the crash site without real incident* +here was no V& fire from the tree line, and the wounded aircrew were 5uic,l" moved into one of the @118s* As this was being done, the V& started firing again* +he two *54 cals from the @118s returned fire, but two problems prevented this from having much effectE the gunners could not see the V&, and the heav" machinegun was difficult for the small Vietnamese soldiers to handle* +he fire was cutting swathes through the vegetation, but the V& were actuall" positioned beneath* +he V& fire ,illed one of the @118 drivers 'who were operating with their heads out of the vehicle(* +wo more A!&s had crossed the canal, and <a sent them to assault the canal around <ac, where the V& *84 cal @Gs were apparentl" situated* As the" approached, the infantr"men disembar,ed and 'as the" had been taught b" their American trainers( advanced firing their rifles and <A-s in support of the *54 cals* :owever, unli,e previous actions where the V& had been panic,ed b" the @118s and started fleeing as the" approached C this time the" held their positions and returned fire* &asualties 5uic,l" mounted among the A-V$ mechanised infantr", and the *54 cal gunners both duc,ed down into the vehicles and thereb" began firing into the s,"* +he two A!&s and their infantr" were obviousl" rattled b" their e9perience, and started to pull bac,* <a had now got more of the A!&s across, and 'leaving one to continue the winching operation( set off himself with both his vehicle and one other* :e moved up to confer with the @118 crews and their /) advisor b" the helicopter wrec,s, but in a flu,e incident he banged his head and was ,noc,ed unconscious as his vehicle 2olted* +he @118 s5uadron was now effectivel" leaderless, as none of the remaining $&6s would ta,e charge* +he remaining @118s moved up and assaulted the canal positions individuall", and were all driven bac,* +he heaviest losses were among the gunners, who were also the commanders of each vehicle* +he s5uadronJs morale was rapidl" ebbing* +he last @118 to arrive at the fire fight was a specialist oneB this was the first use of the modified flamethrower version, and both advisors and A-V$ full" e9pected this to finall" clear the V&* <ut as it moved up to attac,, the flamethrower sputtered and failed to ignite correctl" 'due to a fault" mi9 of the petrol 2ell"(* )o much for /) technolog"K After twent" minutes, a da>ed <a was bac, in command* :e went bac, to his training and launched another assault with the carriers and their riflemen in support* .espite the fact that the @118 crews were now becoming ver" 2itter" 'the drivers were now using the periscope%st"le vision s"stem from inside the vehicles, which made them move slower and with less abilit" to ,eep trac, of other vehicle positions, and the *54 cal gunners were almost all replacements(, most of the carriers graduall" trundled

Author: Danny O'Hara

Battle of Ap Bac forwards* +he dug%in V&, without an" anti%tan, weaponr", should soon brea, and runK <ut, in an act of desperate heroism, )5uad Deader .ung leapt out of his fo9hole in front of one of the lumbering @118s* !ulling a grenade from his belt, he drew the pin and threw it on top of the vehicle* 3nspired b" his act, the rest of his section followed suit, and other guerrillas further down the line fired rifle grenades* Apart from .ung, all of his section were ,illed or wounded b" bullets or the shrapnel of their own grenades C but the grenade e9plosions bro,e the strained morale of the A!& crews and these all pulled bac,* +he V& had achieved the seemingl" impossible feat of defeating armoured vehicles without appropriate weapons* 3t was now 14E84, and the A-V$ assault had ground to a complete halt* +he 3V A-V$ &orps commander, General :u"nh Van &ao 'the superior to &olonel .am(, had flown to +an :iep at around 11E84 on hearing of the helicopter losses* :e re5uested the use of a paratroop battalion from A-V$ reserves, which was granted* +he /) advisors suggested that the paras be dropped to the east of <ac and +an +hoi to prevent a V& retreat at night C but &ao was adamant about dropping them behind the @118 unit and the pinned A-V$ compan" in front of <ac* +he drop was apparentl" planned for 1#E44* At 15E44, the one reall" effective air stri,e of the da" too, place* An American observer in an D%19 directed a V$AF ),"raider 'flown b" a /) pilot( onto the V& machinegun position at the corner of the canal line to the south of <ac* +his eventuall" silenced the machinegun fire, but the air stri,e was then replaced b" more ineffective artiller" bombardments* +he &ivil Guards of +as, Force < had now arrived level with <ac, and their commander 'a First Dieutenant( had positioned them read" to carr" out a flan,ing manoeuvre on the V& fo9holes* :owever, he re5uested permission from @a2or +ho to do so C and was refused* +he time for the paradrop came and passed* 3n fact the paras of the =th !arachute <attalion did not start dropping from their &%1?8 aircraft until 1=E48* .ue to a mista,e from either lead pilot or 2umpmaster, the" dropped late in the flight path and landed to the west and northwest of +an +hoi C directl" into V& fire* +he A-V$ paratroops were probabl" their best troops, and modelled themselves on the gallant and aggressive paras of the French arm" in the previous war* +he" could not organise themselves under these conditions, and as night fell 'at around 19E84( the" had managed onl" piecemeal assaults against the V& for the loss of 19 men dead and 88 wounded* &ao refused re5uests for illuminating flares to show an" nocturnal V& activit", and indeed the V& evacuated at around ??E44* +he A-V$ and their /) advisors tried to represent Ap <ac as an A-V$ success 'as the V& had eventuall" vacated their positions(, but b" all measures it was an unmitigated disaster* For the V& it was pure triumph*

Author: Danny O'Hara

Battle of Ap Bac The View From The Other Side +he V& commander of the ?#1st V& @ain Force <attalion was well aware that the A-V$ were to attac, his position around +an +hoi on the ?nd 7anuar"* A mi9ture of sp" reports and radio intercepts 'the A-V$ tended to tal, in uncoded language( indicated a large scale attac, in the area* 3n fact the V& command needed a victor" to maintain their support in the @e,ong .elta* +he th .ivision actions in 19#?, with <aJs @118 s5uadron, helicopters, and support from V$AF fighter%bombers, had sha,en the resolve of the troops and local populace* +he cadre of the units C all communists with a histor" of fighting against the French and then .iem C could neither return to $orth Vietnam 'who would not accept defeated officers bac,( nor survive for long if the V& structure collapsed* +heir onl" answer was to find wa"s to defeat the new American technolog" and show the guerrillas that the" could still win with their own resources* 3ntense training, particularl" of machine gunners, was underta,en to improve their abilities in anti%aircraft fire* +he troops were also taught that the @118 had man" vulnerabilities which could be e9ploited without actual anti%tan, weaponr"* @uch of both training programmes was based on wishful thin,ing or dubious assumptions, but the main effect was to improve confidence in the troops* +he @ain Force V& were now e5uipped with weapons of /) manufacture 'ta,en from A-V$ troops and outposts( C a mi9ture of @%1 rifles or carbines, and +hompson )@Gs, together with a pair of <A-s in most platoons, plus a *84 cal machine gun with each compan"* +he -egional guerrillas were less well e5uipped, using more French rifles, as did the Village @ilitias* <ac and +an +hoi were effectivel" two interdependent positions lin,ed b" the irrigation canal* +his meant that troops and supplies could be moved between the firing positions 'which were dug into the ban,s under the e9isting foliage C rendering them almost invisible even close up(* .ug%out sampans were used along the canals, and men could wade waist%deep along them 'ta,ing cover against the sides in case of air or artiller" attac,(* <" ??E44 on the 1st .ecember, the V& were in place* +he defenders were all men from the .eltaB the 514th -egional <attalion was the local unit for .inh +uong !rovince, and most of the men in 1st &ompan" ?#1st @ain Force <attalion were from @" +ho or <en +re !rovinces* +heir were about 854 guerrillas in the two hamlets C a mi9ed battalion of 8?4 men of the ?#1st and 514th, plus 84 village guerrillas to act as scouts, bearers and emergenc" replacements* +he best unit C the @ain Force compan" C was positioned in <ac with one platoon on the southern canal, and the rest 'including two *84 cal machineguns and the onl" #4mm mortar( around the hamlet and the canal running to +an +hoi* +his hamlet was defended b" the 1st &ompan" 541st -egional <attalion, plus another platoon of -egional guerrillas, all dug in along the canal ban,s*

Author: Danny O'Hara

Battle of Ap Bac +he village guerrilla scouts had raised the alarm at about 44E44 'having heard the &ivil Guards set off(, and the troops manned their positions* +he plan b" the ?#1st commander was to spring a heav" ambush on the approaching A-V$, then melt awa" before reinforcements arrived* :owever, events unfolded differentl" and b" noon the V& commander realised that he had no escape e9cept for eastwards across open swamp where fighter%bombers would cut his men down* +he officers and $&6s passed amongst the V& positions and told the men that retreat was impossible until nightfall C it was 0<etter to die at "our post1* While the napalm, bombing, artiller" and strafing seemed ineffective to the /) advisors and some of the A-V$ officers, it did put the V& under intense ps"chological strain* +he regular platoon on the canal south of <ac had their commander wounded, and together with the local guerrillas positioned with them the" felt during the late morning that the" were cut off and li,el" to be overwhelmed b" an" renewed A-V$ assault* +he" contacted the compan" commander in <ac and re5uested permission to retreat* +his was given 'the compan" commander e9pecting to move them to positions around <ac(, but the troops e9hibited poor camouflage discipline and were spotted b" an FA& who called in an air stri,e on them* Few casualties were actuall" caused, but the troops dispersed and would not move bac, into the fighting lines* +he compan" commander re5uested reinforcements from +an +hoi 'which the battalion commander refused(, and had to send a s5uad from the positions around <ac to hold the southern line* With the @118s approaching, he was sure that his position would be untenable* +he continuous bombardments were affecting his men too* 3n the end, as described above, the V& prevailed against four times their number of enem" C an enem" e5uipped with armour and artiller", and supported b" helicopters and fighter%bombers* +he" suffered 1= ;3A and 89 W3A, whilst inflicting over =4 ;3A and 144L W3A on the A-V$, together with three dead and = wounded Americans, plus five helicopters* +he battalion commander arranged the departure time for the guerrillas at ??E44, when the" began phased movements with covering detachments in case of an uncharacteristic night assault b" the A-V$* +he withdrawal proceeded without incident and the units moved off to the east* @en were sent to retrieve the bodies of )5uad Deader .ung and his men 'he had been ,illed during the afternoon b" an air stri,e or artiller" bombardment( C but could not locate the bodies and were worried in case the A-V$ troops heard them moving around so close* As the V& stated laterB 0&omrade .ung would not come1* <" 4 E44 on the 8rd 7anuar", the V& were in their hidden camps in the swamps* Di,e their ancestors against the &hinese and @ongol invaders, the" had inflicted a ver" Vietnamese victor" on an overwhelming enem"* V& morale surged and A-V$ fell as a result of Ap <ac* Why The ARVN Didnt Fight? +o the American advisors, the conduct of man" A-V$ officers in the debacle was cowardl" and reprehensible* +he" saw the world as a blac, and white 0&ommunist vs* Author: Danny O'Hara

Battle of Ap Bac $on%&ommunist1 struggle, and could not understand how the A-V$ didnJt ta,e the opportunit" to destro" a V& regular formation* )ome of the officers C &aptain <a in particular C had proven themselves brave and competent on previous occasions, so wh" the cowardice nowM +he answers mainl" lie in the political life of the A-V$ and the .iem regime as a whole* .iem was more concerned b" coup attempts than the V&, and disciplined officers who lost men in action to an" degree* 3n fact he had rebu,ed &ao 'one of his most lo"al supporters( not long before the battle for ta,ing too heav" losses in the th .ivision attac,s on the V& during 19#?* @a2or +ho was another of his political appointees who was also a local counterpoint to &ao 'especiall" as he commanded the ?nd Armoured &avalr" -egiment(* &aptain <a was a <uddhist 'and as such regarded as suspect b" the &atholic .iem and his cronies(, who had been accused of s"mpath" with a previous coup attempt* :aving cleared his name of this affair, he was still bloc,ed from promotion to @a2or until further proof of his lo"alt" was forthcoming* +he previous actions in the .elta had occurred when his s5uadron was directl" attached to the th .ivision, but the" had recentl" been transferred to the ?nd A&- and hence to +hoJs command* When ordered b" &olonel .am to advance on <ac, he had tried 'without success( to contact +ho and chec, whether this was acceptable to his commanderJs political position* At around 18E44 he managed to raise +ho and receive permission to advance* 6verall, none of the A-V$ officers wanted to ta,e the blame for losses and would rather do nothing than act aggressivel" and lose position in the regime* +his caused inertia in A-V$ actions that t"pified the <attle of Ap <ac* 6n particular set of decisions was that b" &ao involving the paras* &ao wanted the battle finished and not blamed on him* 6ne wa" was to place the paras in a position close to <ac but not bloc,ing the retreat routes needed b" the V&* :opefull" the" would then slip awa" and let him tr" to tid" things up* While he told the /) advisors 'particularl" Vann( that 0)aigon was late1 with the drop, the" arrived as he had arranged 'at about 1=E44(* +he /) advisors did not alwa"s help b" their naNve and condescending manner with man" A-V$ officers* +he" had no ,nowledge of Vietnamese culture or histor", and assumed that A-V$ officers were Asian versions of themselves* +he" were not at all aware of the social and political bac,ground to the actions b" their opposite numbers* Wargaming Ap Bac +his is probabl" a good one to spring on pla"ers unaware of the real histor"K 6n paper, it loo,s li,e a wal,over for the A-V$, and perhaps should be presented as such* +he entire action is basicall" a brigade level fight, though individual actions 'such as the @118s assaulting around <ac( could be fought at s,irmish level* +he main factors are, of course, the tendenc" of the A-V$ to stop and go to ground, and the V& abilit"

Author: Danny O'Hara

Battle of Ap Bac to stand and ta,e most of what comes their wa"* +he list of troops involved on both sides isE A-V$ ?nd <attalion 11th 3nfantr" -egiment '8 &ompanies( C 884 men in total 1st <attalion 11th 3nfantr" -egiment '1st &ompan" onl"( +as, Force 0A1 '&ivil Guard <attalion( +as, Force 0<1 '&ivil Guard <attalion( 4th @echani>ed -ifle )5uadron ?nd A&=th !arachute <attalion 98rd +ransportation &ompan" 'Dight :elicopter( /tilit" +actical +ransport :elicopter &ompan" '/++:& C 5 gunships(

'85?nd -anger &ompan" was also positioned north of +an +hoi, but did not enter the action( !lus artiller" and air support* V& 1st &ompan" ?#1st @ain Force <attalion O 1st &ompan" 514th -egional <attalion O 8?4 men in total 84 village and provincial guerrillas

+here are several features of the battle which can either be randoml" determined or altered from the historical events to increase pla"abilit"* 6ne is the earl" morning fog C if this was less of a problem then all of the ?ndI11th infantr"men would have been in place around 4=E44 and then would have attac,ed the +an +hoi positions earlier* Also if +ho had been less obstructive and given clearance for the &ivil Guards and <a to attac, more vigorousl"* An earlier paradrop, and especiall" a better carried out version, ma" also have made a real difference* 6n the support side, if the helicopter pilots had landed further out from <ac the" ma" not have suffered the same level of losses, and if the V$AF ),"raiders and artiller" had ta,en note of re5uests to attac, the tree lines rather than the hamlet of <ac, then things ma" have wor,ed out differentl"*

Author: Danny O'Hara