Big Ernie’s Scuttlebutt #6: 1973 Paris Peace Accords

Campaign Series Vietnam | Big Ernie's Scuttlebutt

As you were, Grunts,

Guess how many months negotiators haggled over the shape of the table? Well actually, the talks were stalled for five months over the bombing issue, but during that time, the North Vietnamese demanded  a circular table, while the US and South Vietnam side wanted it square. This article is a primer on the Paris Peace Accords of 1973 and will explain the main issues of the talks.

Talks Begin After 1968 TET Offensive

The Paris Peace Accords were a peace treaty signed on 27 January 1973, to end the Vietnam War. It  included North Vietnam (DRV,) South Vietnam, the United States, as well as a Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG.) In effect, it was to remove all remaining US Forces, and stop, at least temporarily, fighting between the three remaining powers.

It all began when US confidence was shaken after the 1968 TET Offensive. President Johnson halted bombing operations (Rolling Thunder,) over North Vietnam to encourage Hanoi to begin peace negotiations. The bombing halt covered most of North Vietnam, but operations continued in areas just north of the DMZ.

Shortly thereafter, Hanoi agreed to discuss a complete bombing halt, and representatives of both parties met in Paris, France on 10 May. The DRV Foreign Minister,  Xuan Thuy, met with US Ambassador W. Averell Harriman.

Negotiations stalled as North Vietnam demanded all bombing of North Vietnam be stopped. The US demanded de-escalation in South Vietnam. Finally, on 31 October, President Johnson agreed to end the airstrikes and serious negotiation began.

The table shape issue was also wrangled over during the May-October period. North Vietnam favored a circular table because it signified that all representatives, including the National Liberation Front (NLF,) would have “equal” voice. South Vietnam argued for a square table, that symbolized the two distinct sides in the conflict. Ultimately, they agreed on northern and southern government representatives sitting at a circular table, and all other parties sitting at individual square tables.

Nixon Election and New US Negotiators

Prior to the November 1968 elections, Richard Nixon, presidential candidate, began getting involved behind the scenes with the negotiations. Nixon asked  a prominent Asian-American politician Anna Chennault (widow of WWII Flying Tigers Gen. Claire Chennault,) to be his “back-channel” to South Vietnam President Thieu. She agreed, and learned that Thieu had no intention of attending the peace conference.

After winning the 1968 US presidential election, Richard Nixon assumed office in January 1969. He replaced US ambassador Harriman with Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., who was later replaced by David Bruce. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger was to become the chief US negotiator, however.

Also that year, the NLF set up the PRG to gain government status at the talks. However, the primary negotiations did not occur at the peace conference at all, but were carried out in secret discussions between Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, who had been deputy secretary of the Central Committee of the Southern Region.

Major Hurdles

From 1969 to 1972, the talks continued, but a tentative agreement was not reached because of key issues. The North Vietnamese demanded ouster of President Thieu; to be replaced by a coalition government. The US wanted all NVA forces to leave South Vietnam. And, although a bombing halt occurred in 1968, this issue arose again in 1972, when Nixon ordered Operation “Linebacker.”

The largest sticking point was that North Vietnam and NLF refused to recognize the South Vietnamese government, (ie Thieu.) With similar tenacity, Saigon refused to acknowledge NLF legitimacy. Initially, Harriman devised a system by which North Vietnam and US would be the named parties, but the NLF officials could join the North Vietnam team without being recognized by South Vietnam, while Saigon’s representatives joined the US delegates.

But, this did not resolve the issue. Even in August 1969,  Lodge informed Kissinger that: “. . . However he dresses it up, he is calling for the removal of Thieu–Ky–Huong (by us) and the formation of the “peace cabinet” of which they have spoken before.”

In secret negotiations in Paris 31 May 1971, Kissinger retracted the demand that US and DRV forces mutually withdraw, conceding that the armed forces of the DRV will remain in South Vietnam after a peace agreement. The demand for a mutual withdrawal had been one of the early US demands.

Breakthrough and Agreement

During the 1972 Easter Offensive, President Nixon announced that major concession, that the US would accept a ceasefire in place as a precondition for its military withdrawal. In effect, the NVA forces could remain in place. However, he also countered with “Operation Linebacker,” a significant bombing campaign in North Vietnam. It blunted the North’s drive in the South as well as inflicting damage in the North.

The final major breakthrough came 8 October 1972, when In a meeting with Kissinger, Le Duc Thọ significantly modified his bargaining line, allowing the Saigon government to remain in power, and that negotiations between the two South Vietnamese parties could develop a final settlement. Within 10 days, the secret talks drew up a final draft. Kissinger held a press conference in Washington during which he announced that “peace is at hand.”

At the time the 1973 Paris Peace Accords were signed, the South Vietnamese government controlled about 80 percent of the territory and 90 percent of the population, although many areas were contested.

Areas in Red controlled by Communist Forces

Areas in Red controlled by Communist Forces

Enforcement of Agreement

With the concession President Nixon made, to allow NVA forces to remain in South Vietnam, enforcement of the agreement provisions were a concern. Privately, President Nixon assured President Thieu that if North Vietnam violated the agreement, the US would intervene militarily.

At a meeting 30 Nov 1972, Nixon addressed the Joint Chiefs of Staff, making similar assurances. Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt attended, and said: “The President’s discussion of the status of the cease-fire agreement increased my sense of being on a strange planet . . . It was perfectly obvious to all of us at the time that the promise of massive American assistance to South Vietnam and of prompt US retaliation to serious truce violations were the critical elements in securing the cease-fire and the fullfillment of these promises would be the critical element in maintaining the cease-fire. Yet the Administration never really let the American people – or Congress – in on this non-secret, apparently on the assumption that the critical element in persuading the Americans to accept the terms of the cease-fire was to allow them to believe that it meant the end of any kind of American involvement in Vietnam no matter what happened there after the cease-fire was agreed to. Not even the JCS were informed that written commitments were made to Thieu. There are at least two words no one can use to characterize the outcome of that two-faced policy. One is ‘peace,’ the other is ‘honor.'”

In late 1972, President Nixon won re-election by a wide margin. However, the Watergate scandal had already broken into the news. President Nixon probably had an idea this scandal would hamper any military moves against North Vietnam, in the post cease-fire era.

Agreement Reached

The US put great pressure on Thieu to sign the treaty, even without the concessions wanted by the South. To persuade Thieu, Nixon pledged substantial aid to South Vietnam, and to demonstrate his seriousness, Nixon ordered the heavy Operation Linebacker II bombings of North Vietnam in December 1972. (Known as “Christmas Bombings.”)

When Le Duc Tho agreed to resume “technical” discussions on 30 December, Nixon ordered a bmbing halt. With US committment to disengagement (and after threats from Nixon that South Vietnam would be abandoned if he did not agree,) Thieu had little choice but to accede.

On 15 January 1973, President Nixon announced a suspension of offensive actions against North Vietnam. Kissinger and Tho met again on 23 January, and signed off on a treaty that was basically identical to the draft of three months earlier. The agreement was signed by the leaders of the official delegations on 27 January 1973, at the Hotel Majestic in Paris, France.

Signing the peace accords

Signing the peace accords

Main Peace Accord Terms

  1. The withdrawal of all U.S. and allied forces within sixty days.
  2. The return of prisoners of war parallel to the above.
  3. The clearing of mines from North Vietnamese ports by the US.
  4. A cease-fire in place in South Vietnam followed by precise delineations of communist and government zones of control.
  5. The establishment of a “National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord” composed of a communist government, and neutralist side to implement democratic liberties and organize free elections in South Vietnam.
  6. The establishment of “Joint Military Commissions” composed of the four parties and an “International Commission of Control and Supervision” composed of Canada, Hungary, Indonesia, and Poland to implement the cease-fire. Both operate by unanimity.
  7. The withdrawal of foreign troops from Laos and Cambodia.
  8. A ban on the introduction of war materials in South Vietnam unless on a replacement basis.
  9. A ban on introducing further military personnel into South Vietnam.
  10. US financial contributions to “healing the wounds of war” throughout Indochina.


As a result of their efforts, Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho were awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize. However Le Duc Tho refused to accept it because “. . . Vietnam could not get a ‘tie.’ No matter how far the US minions are yet to fall, it is the only Nobel Prize for Vietnamese people.”

The cease-fire was declared, but hostilities resumed between North and South Vietnam only days after its signing. The agreement’s provisions were routinely violated by both sides. This elicited no response from the US. Nixon was embroiled in Watergate, and would have been politically too weak to act.

Ultimately, the Communists enlarged the area under their control by the end of 1973. The NVA gradually built up military infrastructure, and two years later, were in a position to launch the successful offensive that ended with the fall of Saigon, and the South Vietnamese government in 1975.


“Paris Peace Accords”, Wikipedia

“108. Letter From the Head of the Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks on Vietnam (Lodge) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)”

“No Peace, No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger, and Betrayal in Vietnam”, Larry Berman

1971 timeline excerpt –

Campaign Series Vietnam | Big Ernie's Scuttlebutt

Maj Gen Ernest Cheatham, USMC

Big Ernie’s Scuttlebutt is the latest series of articles by David Galster that provides an overview of the events in Vietnam from 1969 onward. The articles provide some interesting background information for the upcoming release of Campaign Series: Vietnam.

Big Ernie’s Scuttlebutt #5: 1972 Easter Offensive

Campaign Series Vietnam | Big Ernie's Scuttlebutt

As you were, Grunts,

What forces wreaked the greatest havoc on the Communist offensive? Well, the implied premise that the offensive was a failure is mistaken, but the NVA sustained heavy losses, largely due to B-52 bombing missions. Despite this, they met some of their political goals, which this article explains.

Offensive Overview

The Easter Offensive, was a major military campaign conducted by PAVN in the spring of 1972. The three major attack areas were: CTZ I – Quang Tri, CTZ II – Kontum, and CTZ III – An Loc. Overall, the NVA attacked with 14 divisions and 26 independent regiments. This was about 200000 troops and 300 tanks and armored vehicles. PAVN used  largescale conventional infantry and armor assaults, backed by heavy artillery. Both sides fielded weapons systems with the latest technology.

The operation began 30 March, and related combat continued into October. The COSVN goal was to gain territory, and inflict as much damage to ARVN forces as possible, with the hope that it would improve North Vietnam’s negotiating position at the Paris Peace talks.

Initially, the NVA overran several firebases near the DMZ, and captured the city of Quang Tri, before another attempt to seize Hue. NVA forces eliminated frontier defense forces in CTZ II, and advanced on Kontum. In the south, Communist troops overwhelmed Loc Ninh and assaulted An Loc, the capital of Binh Long Province.

The ARVN forces counterattacked in July, culminating in recapture of Quang Tri city in September. On all three fronts, initial PAVN successes were hampered by high casualties, inept tactics, and US and South Vietnamese air power. An unintended consequence for the North was launching of Operation Linebacker, the first sustained bombing of North Vietnam by the US since November 1968.

However, for all the heavy losses, the Paris Peace talks gained a renewed importance for both sides, and negotiators began making proposals and counters in earnest.


COSVN Planning

North Vietnam was committed to eventual takeover of the South and reunitication. This was clearly agreed to in the 19th Plenary Session of the Vietnam Workers Party. The communique discussed the overall conditions of the war, described their view of US aggression, and extolled the virtues of the Communist Party, its followers, and the “people.”

This communique excerpt illustrates the commitment: “In the interest of the nation and for the sake of their international duty, our people will do their utmost to fight shoulder to shoulder with the fraternal Lao and Cambodian peoples to drive the U.S. aggressors out of the Indochinese peninsula. Our people will constantly strive to contribute to the consolidation of the solidarity in the socialist camp and the international communist movement. . . “

 “Let our entire Party, people, and Army unite around the Party Central Committee, strive their hardest to implement by all means the sacred testament of President Ho Chi Minh for the sake of independence and freedom of the fatherland and for the welfare and happiness of the nation.”

 The North Vietnamese understood that conditions had changed, and perceived that the time was favorable for a major offensive. In particular, Secretary Le Duan believed that such a bold campaign could be successful. The changed conditions included US troop withdrawals, and the related Vietnamization program, loss of American public support, and weaknesses in the South Vietnamese Army, particularly its leadership.

COSVN (Central Office of South Vietnam) was the direct control authority conducting the liberation of South Vietnam. In April 1971, a COSVN conference discussed the war situation, and a Resolution 10 was made.

Resolution 10 acknowledged that the US pacification program (CORDS and Phoenix) achieved some temporary results, but that the guerrilla forces in the South, had “fought courageously and persistently, surmounted all difficulties, and are forging ahead . . .”  Also the 1970 US and ARVN Cambodian incursion had failed to destroy NVA forces and base camps in Cambodia. COSVN believed  their forces in Laos and Cambodia were still very active and effective, particularly at operating the Ho Chi Minh trail. The other goal was to oppose the Nixon Vietnamization program, given that US troop withdrawals would continue, and would rely on “puppet forces.” (ARVN).

However, greater involvement of ARVN against the VC would “aggravate contradictions between itself and the people of various classes. . . and deepen the internal dissensions in the puppet government.”

Resolution 10 concluded that “For this reason, in addition to the requirements of dealing heavy blows to U.S.troops and expediting the anti-war movement demanding repatriation of the U.S. and satellite troops, the destruction of puppet forces, especially the mobile forces and tyrannical puppet units in local areas will be of particular significance in turning the tide of the war in South Viet-Nam and the Indochinese theater of operations in our favor.”

 General Giap, the Minister of Defence worked with COSVN to plan the 1972 Easter Offensive. The operation was given the name Operation “Nguyen Hue,” after the hero who defeated an invading Chinese army in 1788. General Van Tien Dung would lead the overall offensive.

The plan called for an initial attack across the demilitarized zone (DMZ) toward Hue and Da Nang, with other forces pressing in from the A Shau Valley. Giap wanted to force President Thieu to commit reserves to protect the northern provinces, after which the NVA would launch a second assault from Cambodia to threaten Saigon. A third attack in the Central Highlands would take Kontum, and aim for the coast in Binh Dinh Province, thus possibly splitting South Vietnam in two. This might lead to its collapse or, at the very least, a more favorable peace agreement.

Intelligence Estimates

North Vietnam succeeded in masking the considerable military invasion from American and South Vietnamese detection. Some US field officers said that the invasion came as a surprise, especially in Military Region 1. Although there were signs of increased enemy activity, particularly by unattended ground sensors, no one suspected an attack of the intensity of the Easter Offensive.

The U.S. Army’s 525th Intelligence Group was an independent unit under control of MACV. There were other military intelligence units organic to different American divisions, as well as CIA and NSA operations. In late 1971, the last organic intelligence unit conducting air reconnaissance missions, an unit of the 101st Airborne Division, was shipped back to the United states. The CIA had also moved many people during the last months of 1971, although it continued to operate its network.

For the 181-day period ending 30 April 1971, the 525th produced 11630 reports, evaluated 124000 captured documents, and 1250 tons of enemy material. Among enemy documents exploited were  detailed orders of battle and COSVN plans for the spring offensive.

Lt. Col. John Oseth, who was the G-2 adviser to 3rd ARVN Division, acknowledged that there might have been isolated agent reports of an impending invasion, but the general consensus, at least at the division level, was that the threat of enemy attack though present, was not great. Oseth recalls

that the most frequent complaint about military intelligence operations in 1972 was absence of American air units to provide aerial reconnaissance.

A top Vietnamese general, Lt. Gen. Ngo Quang Truong, IV Corps, asserts that intelligence had predicted much of what the enemy did. They knew where the main foci of the offensive would be. The exception is the DMZ, where the untested and newly-formed 3rd Division was stationed.

US Army Chief of Staff Gen. William Westmoreland, and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, were the individuals most responsible for the perception that intelligence failed to perform before the Easter Offensive. In late 1971 and early 1972, they proclaimed the enemy would launch a large offensive during the Tet holidays in mid-February of 1972. During a press conference in Saigon on 31 January 1972, Westmoreland stated that ” . . . communist forces were mounting a multi-phase offensive timed to coincide with the Tet holidays, and with President Nixon’s trip to the People’s Republic of China in mid-February.” They predicted an offensive, but got the timing incorrect.

Quang Tri and Hue

The NVA B-5 Front in CTZ I – Quang Tri consisted of the 304th and 308th Divisions. General Le Trong Tan led these forces. The attack began on 30 March 1972, with an intense artillery barrage on the northernmost ARVN outposts. The 309th division moved across the DMZ and attacked.

From the west, the 304th, including an armoured regiment, moved out of Laos along Route 9, past Khe Sanh, and into the Quang Trị River Valley. This thrust put pressure on FSB Sarge, southwest of Quang Tri City and, FSB Anne was also attacked.

The ARVN 3rd Division defended the group of ARVN firebases near the DMZ. These firebases were known as the  “ring of steel.” The 56th Regiment was headquartered at FSB Carroll, while the 57th Regiment was located at FSB C-1. The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, organic to the division,was located near Landing Zone Sharon. In addition, the 147th VNMC Brigade at Mai Loc was under control of 3rd Division.

On 1 April, General Giai ordered withdrawal of 3rd Division south of the Cua Viet River for reorganization. The following morning, ARVN armoured elements held off a PAVN attack while the crucial Highway QL-1 bridge at Dong Ha was blown.

By 2 April, Camp Carroll was surrounded, and it surrendered. The entire 56th Regiment was lost at this point. The 56th and 57th Regiments had only received their last battalions in late January 1972. These troops were substandard performers in previous units, and there was too little time for training, and insufficient experience to develop dependable combat organizations.

The PAVN advance was slowed by delaying actions and ARVN counterattacks for three weeks, but on 27 April, the North Vietnamese came on again, launching multi-pronged attacks against Dong Ha and advancing to within 1.5 kilometers of Quang Tri City.

As a side note, a Campaign Series Vietnam scenario is planned for the action at Dong Ha: Dong Ha – April 1972,  filename: VN_720402_Dong_Ha.scn.

General Giai planned a staged withdrawal to regroup south of the Thach Han River, but confusion and conflicting orders from Lam and Giai caused most formations to splinter and collapse. The area north of Quang Tri city was lost at this point. On 29 April, Giai ordered a general retreat to the My Chanh River, thirteen kilometers to the south. U.S. military advisors in Quang Trị called for emergency helicopter extraction, and on 1 May, 132 survivors were evacuated, including 80 US.

Hoping to break the stalemate developing on the northern front, Lt. Gen. Tran Van Quang, commander of the B-4 Front, attacked on 1 April west from the A Shau Valley toward Hue with the 324B Division. Spoiling attacks by the ARVN 1st Division, however, threw off the timetable.

On 28 April, the  29th and 803rd NVA Regiments seized FSB Bastogne, the strongest anchor on Hue’s western flank. This made FSB Checkmate untenable, and it was evacuated that night.

This exposed Hue to a direct thrust along Route 547. On 2 May, NVA forces south of Hue tried to surround the city. They also attempted to press their attack southward down Highway 1, and across the My Chanh River to Hue, but were halted by increasingly reinforced ARVN troops. After General Truong took command of I Corps, the 1st and Marine Divisions were reinforced by 2nd and 3rd Brigades of the Airborne Division, and the reorganized 1st Ranger Group, raising ARVN to 35000 troops.

The weather cleared for a week, which was fortunate because it permitted massive US bombing. The PAVN advance was finally halted on 5 May.

Easter Offensive 1972


The PAVN objective in the third phase was to overrun the Central Highlands and seize Kontum and Pleiku. This would enable a thrust eastward to the coastal plains, splitting South Vietnam in two.

North Vietnamese forces, under the command of Lt. Gen. Hoang Minh Thao, commander of the B-3 Front, included the 320th and 2nd NVA Divisions in the highlands and the 3rd Division in the lowlands, approximately 50,000 men.

The defenders were ARVN II Corps, with the 22nd and 23rd Divisions, two armored cavalry squadrons, and the 2nd Airborne Brigade, all under the command of Lt. Gen. Ngo Du.

Intelligence showed a buildup of NVA forces in the tri-broder region in January, and ARVN units were deployed near the border at Tan Canh and Dak To. This was to slow any advances and allow air power application. Gen Du ordered Col. Le Due Dat, commander of the 22nd Division to move the  forward CP, 47th Regiment, and logistical support to the Tan Canhand Dak To II areas. The 19th Cavalry Regiment was ordered to the Tan Canh area to reinforce the division’s organic 14th Cavalry Regiment. Col. Dat placed this unit at Ben Het, thinking that any NVA armor assault must come from that direction.

The ARVN II Corps staff began to doubt whether the enemy possessed the capability to attack, and in early April this estimate appeared to be accurate as the 320th NVA Division’s 48th.and 52nd Regiments sustained heavy losses in assaults on the fire bases on Rocket Ridge. B-52s and tactical aircraft continued to pound at the massed enemy forces in this area. Four to five NVA battalions were rendered combat ineffective.

A prisoner confirmed this, and said reinforcements were infiltrating daily, however, and units were regaining original strength. At the same time the 42d and 47th ARVN Regiments were in heavy contact north and east of Dak To with elements of the 2nd NVA Division and the 66th Regiment. Prisoners said the mission of 2nd Division was to seize Dak To II airfield. Gen. Du felt the forces in the Dak To area were insufficient to counter a multi-divisional attack.

Gen. Du wanted to bolster the Dak To forces with nine ARVN battalions from Binh Dinh. But, this would leave that province stripped of ARVN regular forces, and defended only by territorial forces. US advisor Vann convinced him that such a move might prove disastrous. The area of operations of the 23rd Division was adjusted to give it responsibility in Kontum, eliminating the need to move battalions from Binh Dinh.

On 14 April FSB Charlie on the northern end of Rocket Ridge received heavy artillery fire followed by an attack by the 48th NVA Regiment. The 42nd and 47th ARVN Regiments continued their attempts to hold the ridge lines around Tan Canh and Dak To II, but slowly fell back to the main compound. On 19 April, 1/42 Battalion was isolated. And after several days of heavy artillery bombardment, the ARVN forces at FSB Delta were overrun.

On 22 April, Gen. Du ordered some artillery to the Dak To District. The defenses in the Tan Canh area appeared adequate for a short while. But, NVA forces had increased significantly, and by 24 April, the Tan Canh/Dak To II area was encircled. On 25 April, Gen. Du decided to abandon FSBs 5 and 6, affording the NVA movement down Route 14 to Kontum.

The NVA was surprised at the ease with which they took Tan Canh. They decided to attack Kontum without artillery preparation, to save time. The 14 May attack had three major axes of advance: The 48th NVA Regiment and one company of the 203rd Tank Regiment attacked from the northwest along Route 14. The 64th NVA Regiment attacked south, with one company of armor. The 1st and 28th NVA Regiments advanced south against the 53d ARVN Regiment. The 141st Regiment probed the sector forces who defended the southern positions along the river.

By nightfall on 14 May, the front lines had been restored by the 23d Division through fierce, hand-to- hand fighting. When the B-52s arrived, they caught NVA troops in the open with little cover. An airlift was begun on 15 May to evacuate the families of Montagnard refugees.

Between 18 and 21 May there were five assaults. These were generally broken up by claymore mines, artillery, tenacious ARVN soldiers, Spooky and Spectre gunships, and B-52 airstrikes. The PAVN offensive was thwarted, and although fighting continued, ARVN gradually regained control of the area. The Campaign Series Vietnam game will feature a scenario at Kontum. The scenario title is Battle of Kontum – May 26–27, 1972.

Battle for Dak To

An Loc

An invasion force of 35470 troops was launched from Cambodian Base Area 708 by the B-2 Front’s 5th VC Division and 203rd Armoured Regiment. They advanced down Highway 9 toward the border outpost of Loc Ninh. There, 2000 men of the ARVN 9th Regiment and a battalion of Rangers beat back five separate infantry/armor assaults before collapsing under the attack on 7 April.

The North Vietnamese then isolated the 25th Division in neighboring Tay Ninh Province by sending the 24th and 271st Independent NVA Regiments to conduct diversionary attacks against the 25th ARVN Division in northern Tay Ninh Province.

This diversion masked movement of the 7th NVA and 9th VC Divisions. The 7th Division bypassed An Loc, and moved south on Highway 13 to block relief efforts. 9th VC Division was assigned to attack and capture An Loc.

Sensing that of An Loc would be the next target, ARVN III Corps commander, Lt. Gen. Nguyen Van Minh dispatched the 5th Division to hold the town. They were reinforced by two Ranger battalions and two infantry battalions by 11 April. The 21st Division, was rushed from the Mekong Delta to Chon Thanh Camp to join a regiment of the 9th Division as a relief force. All forces were placed under Brig. Gen. Le Van Hung, 5th Division commander.

By 13 April, An Loc was surrounded and under attack by the 9th VC Division. Attacks persisted and PAVN forces eventually battered their way into the town, seizing the airfield and reducing the ARVN perimeter to a square kilometer. During another assault on 21 April, NVA tanks actually forced their way through the defense perimeter, but were destroyed by anti-tank weapons and helicopter gunships. PAVN infantry managed to seize most of the northern sector, and began digging in. Supporting infantry failed to advance with the NVA tanks, and were easy prey for anti-tank weapons. This failure of tactical coordination was one of PAVN main weaknesses.

After the attack failure 21 April, the battle devolved into a siege, with North Vietnamese pounding An Loc with mortar, rocket, and artillery fire. Completely surrounded, An Loc could only be resupplied by airdrops due to loss of the airfield. Resupply was accomplished by 448 aerial missions parachuting 2693 tons of food, medical supplies, and ammunition.

A relief effort by 21st ARVN Division never reached An Loc. For three weeks, the division crept northward along Highway 13, but it was held up by constant delaying actions of smaller PAVN forces. Although never reaching its goal, it inadvertently supported the beleaguered city by diverting elements of the 7th NVA Division.

By 12 June, the last PAVN forces were driven from An Loc, and and over 1000 ARVN wounded were evacuated. Slowly, the decimated North Vietnamese units faded away into the north and west.

Two scenarios from this front will be featured in the Campaign Series Vietnam game: Battle of Loc Ninh – April 4 – 7, 1972, and  Battle of An Loc – April 13, 1972 – July 20, 1972. Filenames:   VN_720404_Loc_Ninh.scn and  VN_720413_An_Loc.scn

Battle for An Loc


By the end of June, ARVN forces were counterattacking, which culminated in recapture of Quang Tri City in September. On all three fronts, initial North Vietnamese successes were hampered by high casualties, inept tactics, and the increasing application of US and South Vietnamese air power.

Communist casualties were estimated to be up to 100000 troops. Airpower, particularly B-52 bombing was a major contributor to these losses. However, ARVN troop losses are estimated to be as high as 200,000. These were serious losses to both sides.

President Nixon ordered Operation Linebacker, to resume bombing North Vietnam. The Communist forces gained valuable territory within South Vietnam from which to launch future offensives, and they obtained a better bargaining position at the peace negotiations. A new urgency arose in the Paris talks, to end the war


“Military Intelligence Operations and the Easter Offensive”, Thomas H. Lee

“Document 91”, The 19th Plenary Session, Central Committee of the Vietnam Workers Party

“Resolution 10 – Document 99”, COSVN

“Annex J An Loc”, USMACV Command History Vol. I

“Annex K Kontum”, USMACV Command History Vol. I

“Annex L Quang Tri and Hue”, USMACV Command History Vol. I

“Easter Offensive”, Wikipedia

Campaign Series Vietnam | Big Ernie's Scuttlebutt

Maj Gen Ernest Cheatham, USMC


Big Ernie’s Scuttlebutt is the latest series of articles by David Galster that provides an overview of the events in Vietnam from 1969 onward. The articles provide some interesting background information for the upcoming release of Campaign Series: Vietnam.


Big Ernie’s Scuttlebutt #4: Vietnam War 1971

Campaign Series Vietnam | Big Ernie's Scuttlebutt

As you were, Grunts,

In the “quiet” year of 1971, would you believe that the largest airborne operation of the war involved an ARVN invasion into Laos? This article describes some of the major events of 1971, both military and political. It was a strange time, with many surprises and contradictions.

Vietnamization Program

The program to expand, equip, and train the South Vietnamese Army was known as the “Vietnamization Program.” The goal was to make South Vietnam militarily self sufficient against North Vietnam so that the US forces could withdraw.

As of January, 1971,  Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird said that the “Vietnamization” was ahead of schedule, and that the combat mission of the US troops would end in summer 1971. Indeed, the reduction of US troops was significant. The total US troops in Vietnam went from 334600 on 31 December 1970 to 156800 on 31 December 1971.

There were two key political developments. The US Congress adopted the revised Cooper-Church Amendment in January, which prohibited the introduction of US ground troops or advisers into Cambodia, and declared that US aid to Cambodia should not be considered a commitment to the defense of Cambodia. This was the Congressional response to Nixon’s Cambodian Incursion the previous year.

The other development was the Mansfield Amendment, authored by Senator Mike Mansfield, and adopted by Congress in June. The amendment urged withdrawing American troops from South Vietnam at “the earliest practical date.” This was the first time in US history that Congress had called for the end of a war.

The Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger announced in July that the US was prepared to provide $7.5 billion in aid to Vietnam, of which $2.5 billion could go to North Vietnam, and to withdraw all American forces within nine months.

The last major ground operation for American forces was Operation “Jefferson Glenn.” Three battalions of the 101st Airborne patrolled the area west of Hue, called the “rocket belt,” to prevent communist rocket attacks. Americans were gradually replaced by ARVN soldiers. The operation claimed to have inflicted 2026 casualties on the NVA/VC.

In October, President Nixon announced that “American troops are now in a defensive position. The offensive activities of search and destroy are now being undertaken by the South Vietnamese.”

Lam Son 719

The largest 1971 operation was Lam Son 719. It was a joint US-ARVN thrust into Laos to destroy supply depots on the Ho Chi Minh trail. The Americans provided a blocking force and air support, while only ARVN troops entered Laos. This battle is described in detail in the CS Legion article UHH#11 Truong Son Ground Combat.

 In summary, the ARVN armor and infantry task force consisted of the 1st and 3rd Armored Brigades, 1st and 2nd Infantry Divisions, plus the Airborne Division and 1st Ranger Group. Advancing west along Route 9, this effort failed when faced by NVA counterattacks of the 304th, 308th, 320th and 2nd Divisions. ARVN helicopter assaults faltered due to unexpected numbers of anti-aircraft guns. (NVA 367th Air Defense Division) Poor condition of Route 9 slowed advance, and hampered resupply. ARVN artillery range was inferior to the NVA’s 122mm and 130mm guns.

However, Operation Lam Son 719 had the largest airborne assault of the Vietnam War utilizing 120 Huey helicopters to transport two battalions to capture Tchepone. This transportation center was captured without major resistance, because the NVA abandoned it.

After its capture, many stocks of supplies were destroyed. But, President Thieu of South Vietnam ordered the withdrawal of ARVN troops from Laos. He ignored the recommendation of MACV Commander General Creighton Abrams that ARVN reinforce and hold its position. The withdrawal became a disaster with heavy ARVN casualties.

Map of Lam Son

War Protests in US

Vietnam veterans threw away over 700 medals on the west steps of the United States Capitol building in Washington to protest the Vietnam War. The next day, antiwar organizers claimed that 500000 marched, making this the largest demonstration since November 1969. Police arrested more than 1200 protesters during the 1971 May Day rallies.

Lt. Calley Trial

The courts-martial of Lt. William Calley was a significant event. It was the result of the My Lai massacre in 1968.

This was a high profile massacre in the news media. It involved the killing of Vietnamese villagers by American soldiers at My Lai. In March 1968, soldiers from ‘Charlie’ Company, deployed in the coastal province of Quang Ngai, were sent into areas believed to house Viet Cong soldiers and sympathisers. This company was in 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 23rd (Americal) Infantry Division.

Operating under stress,with questionable intelligence, and unclear orders, US soldiers entered the small hamlet of My Lai, and began firing indiscriminately on people and buildings. When they left at dusk, hundreds of Vietnamese peasants lay dead, the vast majority were women, children, and aged.

The incident was concealed for several months, until revealed by concerned American soldiers, and later, journalist Seymour Hersh. The My Lai massacre, as it became known, caused horror and outrage in the United States and around the world. It raised questions about the methods being used in Vietnam and whether American soldiers were doing more harm than good.

Calley was the only soldier convicted for his role in the massacre. In March 1971, he was convicted of murder, and sentenced to life imprisonment and hard labor at Fort Leavenworth. President Nixon ordered Calley, to be transferred from Leavenworth to house arrest. The life sentence was reduced to 20 years, but Calley served only three and one-half years before being paroled.

Paris Peace Negotiations

The peace talks in Paris between North Vietnam, South Vietnam, the National Liberation Front (Viet Cong,) and the United States enter the fourth year. Little or no progress had been made. Henry Kissinger introduced a new US proposal to withdraw from South Vietnam, with a cease fire in place, and an exchange of prisoners. The cease fire in place was a key concession, because it would allow North Vietnamese soldiers to remain in South Vietnam at least temporarily.

North Vietnam negotiators Le Duc Tho and Xuan Thuy responded to Kissinger’s 31 May proposal with a nine-point “bargaining proposal.” This was the first time that the North Vietnamese had indicated a willingness to negotiate, rather than presenting unilateral demands. But later, the North Vietnamese Politburo instructed its negotiators not to make any further concessions.

President Nixon ordered the initiation of Operation Proud Deep Alpha, an intensive five-day bombing campaign against military targets in North Vietnam just north of the border above the 17th parallel. This was likely meant to provide leverage in the peace negotiations.

Paris Peace Conference


“1971 in the Vietnam War”, Wikipedia

UHH#11 Truong Son Ground Combat“, CS, David Galster

Campaign Series Vietnam | Big Ernie's Scuttlebutt

Maj Gen Ernest Cheatham, USMC


Big Ernie’s Scuttlebutt is the latest series of articles by David Galster that provides an overview of the events in Vietnam from 1969 onward. The articles provide some interesting background information for the upcoming release of Campaign Series: Vietnam. is now with a new host!

A quick heads-up, y’all:

We’ve now migrated our site to SiteGround, and are super happy to see the improvement in performance!

However, as always, site migration can be a complicated thing.

At the moment we are seeing most of the picture links not opening, especially if it is a picture that is zoomed to its real sized when clicked at. Also, many post title pictures are not showing.

We are updating all the picture links on our blog entries over the coming weeks.

Thank you for your patience!

Campaign Series Legion

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