|

Người lính VNCH, người bạn đồng minh dũng cảm

HEROIC ALLIES

Harry F. Noyes III

They were small, talked in sing-song squeaks, put a smelly fish sauce on their food, and often held hands with each other.

It is not surprising that American troops sent to Southeast Asia — mostly young, indifferently educated, and molded by a society with too much self-esteem and too little understanding of other cultures — found it hard to empathize with South Vietnam’s soldiers.

Still, it is a pity that many veterans of the Vietnam War have joined radical agitators, draft dodgers and smoke-screen politicians to besmirch the honor of an army that can no longer defend itself. To slander an army that died in battle because America abandoned it is a contemptible deed, unworthy of American soldiers.

Perhaps some find my assertion incredible. How can I possibly defend the armed forces of South Vietnam? Everybody “knows” they were incompetent, treacherous and cowardly, isn’t that so?

No, it is not. This article will outline some of the more compelling evidence against this scurrilous mythology and also examine why such a mythology arose to begin with.

Of course, the South Vietnamese forces were imperfect. They had their share of bad leaders, cowardly troops, and incidents of panic, blundering and brutality. So did the American forces in Southeast Asia.

In some respects — organization, logistics, staff work and leadership — South Vietnam’s armed forces did lag behind U.S. forces. But how could one expect otherwise in a developing nation that had just emerged from colonialism and was suddenly plunged into a war to the death against a powerful enemy supplied by the Communist bloc?

In fact, many of the weaknesses exhibited by the South Vietnamese forces were identical to the ones displayed by the U.S. armed forces during the American War of Independence, even though late 18th-century America had several advantages: the whole scale of the Revolutionary War was smaller and easier to manage; America’s colonial experience, unlike Vietnam’s, had fostered local self-government and permitted the country to develop some truly outstanding leaders; the British were less persistent than the North Vietnamese; and the French allies did not abandon young America the way the U.S. government abandoned South Vietnam.

But in any case, organization, logistics, staff work and even leadership are not the qualities at issue in the slandering of the South Vietnamese forces.

Two questions touch on the real issue. Were South Vietnamese fighting men so lacking in character, courage, toughness and patriotism that Americans are justified in slandering them and assigning them all blame for the defeat of freedom in Southeast Asia? Were U.S. soldiers so much better than their allies that Americans can afford to treat the South Vietnamese with contempt? The answer to both questions, I submit, is a resounding “No!”

The objective “big-picture” evidence is clear. The Tet Offensive of 1968 was supposed to crack South Vietnam’s will to resist. Instead, South Vietnamese forces fought ferociously and effectively: no unit collapsed or ran. Even the police fought, turning their pistols against heavily armed enemy regulars. Afterward the number of South Vietnamese enlistments rose so high, according to reports at the time, that the country’s government suspended the draft call for a while.

In the 1972 Easter tide Offensive, isolated South Vietnamese troops at An Loc held out against overwhelming enemy forces and artillery/rocket fire for days, defeating repeated tank assaults. I later met a U.S. adviser who described how a South Vietnamese infantry squad in his area was sent to destroy three enemy tanks. The members of the squad dutifully destroyed one tank, then decided to capture the other two. As I remember, they got one, but the other made its escape, with the South Vietnamese chasing it down a road on foot. The soldiers got chewed out upon returning…for letting one tank get away. The squad’s performance may not be the best demonstration of military discipline, but the incident demonstrates the high morale and initiative that many South Vietnamese soldiers possessed. Certainly it does not support charges of cowardice.

As further evidence, consider South Vietnam’s final moments as an independent nation in 1975, when justifiable despair gripped the country because it became clear that the United States would provide no help (not even fuel and ammunition). Yet one division-sized South Vietnamese unit held off four North Vietnamese divisions for some two weeks in fierce fighting at Xuan Loc. By all accounts, that battle was as heroic as anything in the annals of U.S. military history. The South Vietnamese finally had to withdraw when their air force ran out of cluster bombs for supporting the ground troops.

Once I saw a television documentary about an Australian cameraman who had covered the war. Unlike U.S. reporters, he spent much of his time with the South Vietnamese forces. He attested to their fighting spirit and showed film footage to prove it. He also recalled visiting an enemy-controlled village and being told that the Communists feared South Vietnamese troops more than Americans. The principal reason was that Americans were noisy, so the enemy always heard them coming. But that would have been immaterial if the South Vietnamese had not also been dangerous fighters.

However, the most important evidence of South Vietnamese soldiers’ willingness to fight comes from two simple, undeniable, “big-picture” facts — facts that are often ignored or disguised to cover up American failure in Vietnam.

Fact One: The war began some seven years before major American combat forces arrived and continued for some five years after the U.S. began withdrawing. Somebody was doing the fighting, and that somebody was the South Vietnamese.

Fact Two: The South Vietnamese armed forces lost about a quarter-million dead. In proportion to population, that was equivalent to some 2 million American dead (double the actual U.S. losses in all wars combined). You don’t suffer that way if you’re not fighting.

How, then, did the South Vietnamese get their bad reputation?

Certainly there were occasional displays of incompetence and panic by South Vietnamese forces. The same can be said of U.S. forces. I knew an American artillery commander whose gunners once had to defend their firebase by firing canister point-bank into enemy ranks because the U.S. infantry company “protecting” them had broken in the face of the enemy assault and was huddling, panic-stricken, in the midst of the guns.

That incident does not mean the whole U.S. Army was cowardly, and occasional breakdowns among America’s allies did not mean all South Vietnamese soldiers were cowards. Yet one would think so, the way the story gets told by some veterans — and by the political apologists for a U.S. government that left South Vietnam in the lurch.

The truth of the matter was best stated nearly two centuries ago when a British woman asked the Duke of Wellington if British soldiers were ever known to run in battle. “Madam,” replied the Iron Duke, “All soldiers run in battle.”

Even a cursory study of military history confirms this. Civil War battles reveal a continuous ebb and flow of bravery and fear, as Confederate and Union units alike first attacked bravely, then crumbled and fled under horrendous fire, before regrouping and charging again. No armies ever laid more justified claim to sheer self-sacrificing heroism than those two, yet they were subject to panic as a routine price for doing bloody business on the battlefield.

Author S.L.A. Marshall describes how one American rifle company in World War II fled in panic from a screaming Japanese banzai charge: a second unit fought on, quickly killing every Japanese soldier involved (about 10), and discovered that most of them were not even armed.

If the same thing had happened to a South Vietnamese unit, it undoubtedly would have been cited repeatedly by self-appointed pundits as incontrovertible proof of the cowardice of all South Vietnamese troops.

Why? We’ve already hinted at the answer. It all depends on the color and native tongue of the troops involved. The ugly truth is that the South Vietnamese forces’ false reputation is rooted in American racism and cultural chauvinism.

I can personally attest to the pervading, massive and truth-distorting reality of the phenomenon. When I arrived in Vietnam in June 1969, I immediately began to witness continuous displays of ignorance and contempt by some Americans toward the Vietnamese people and their armed forces.

White troops, black troops, and civilian Americans such as journalists — all were equally afflicted. This passionate hatred of Vietnam and its people had an astonishing power to become contagious.

Pages: 1 2 3 4

4 Phản hồi cho “Người lính VNCH, người bạn đồng minh dũng cảm”

  1. Dieu Minh says:

    Rất cần thiết để phổ biến bài này bằng Anh ngữ cho bạn bè 5 châu 4 biển biết cũng như qua phần tiếng Việt để toàn dân Việt biết rằng chiến tranh VN đã được nhìn thấy như thế nào dưới mắt một người Mỹ nhân bản.

  2. chi linh Bui says:

    TOI RAT PHUC NGUOI VIET NGOUI CUU CHIEN BING MY NAY, SAU KHI TRO LAI MY DA DI HOC LAI DE LAY DUOC BANG CAO HOC. CAM ON ANH DA TRINH BAY MIT CACH KHACH QUAN VE MOT QUAN LUC VNCH. TO DUOC DINH CU O MY SAU VAI NAM O TU DUOI CHE DO CONG SAN.
    VI KHONG THICH MOT CHE DO MAN DI MOI RO CU CONG SAN NEN DA THOAT KHOI DAT NUOC BANG BAT CU GIA NAO DU PHAI BO MANG TREN RUNG SAU HAY BIEN CA. CUOI CUNG TO DA DAT CHAN TREN NUOC MY. BANG MOI GIA DI HOC LAI DE CO MOT CAI NGHE DE VUON LEN TRONG XA HOI MY. CUOI CUNG TOI DA CO MOT NGHE KHIEM NHUONG DE BAO DAM CUOC SONG CUA XU NGUOI, NHUNG ANH VAN KHONG DU DE VIET LACH. TUY NHIEN TRONG LUC DI LAM O CAC CO QUAN CUA XA HOI MOI, TOI DEU CO CO HOI GIAI THICH CHO NGUOI MY RO. LUC DAU HO CON ARGUING VOI TOI, TOI DAN CHUNG VA GIAI THIC CHO HO THAY RO CAI SAI CUA BON CHINH KHACH MY DA NOI XAU KHI BO ROI DA BO ROI MIEN NAM VIET NAM. TOI CAM ON CAC NHA TRI THUC MY CO CAI NHIN TRUNG THUC NHU TAC GIA
    DA VIET LEN THUC THUC NAY.

  3. Trung Hoàng says:

    Hình ảnh nguời lính VNCH rất đáng yêu.

  4. Aqua says:

    Tháng Tư Đen , xin thành kính tưởng nhớ những Anh linh tử sĩ đã VỊ QUỐC VONG THÂN . Mãi mãi lịch sữ sẽ khắc ghi công trạng của các Anh

Phản hồi