The Spartan-like defense and also tragedy of Xuan Loc, April 1975.

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The last significant battle the the Vietnam battle was combated at Xuan Loc, just 37 miles east by northeast the Saigon. In April 1975 the town was the east anchor of south Vietnam’s last line the defense against the phibìc Vietnamese sirloin to the capital. The line ran west v Bien Hoa, just north that Saigon, to Tay Ninh, near the Cambodian border. Once it broke, Saigon was doomed—and through it the Republic the Vietnam itself.

When the north Vietnamese army attacked Xuan Loc (pronounced Swan Lock) on April 9, the communists and nearly everyone else intended the army of the Republic that Vietnam’s 18th division to collapse choose a house of cards, as had actually so numerous other ARVN units throughout the NVA’s huge Spring offensive of 1975. But ARVN pressures under Brig. Gen. Le Minh Dao battled fiercely in a desperate effort to conserve their country. By the moment Xuan Loc did fall 12 work later, many of the people was great at just how well the ARVN had actually fought, and the NVA had paid a much steeper price than it expected. Indeed, the valiant stand at Xuan Loc by heavily outnumbered ARVN soldiers echoes the famous sacrifice the King Leonidas’ 300 Spartans dealing with Xerxes’ Persian masses at the fight of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. Greece. The Persians climate marched south and captured Athens.

Xuan Loc, the capital of long Khanh province, had constantly been a strategically perceptible place. The town sat astride the French-built Highway 1, near the junction v Highway 20. From Xuan Loc, Highway 1 ran practically 40 miles eastern until it reached the southern China Sea, where it turned north and went increase the coastline past the Demilitarized Zone and on come Hanoi.

After Da Nang fell on march 29, 1975, a north Vietnamese army soldier stands together the spoils the war, a broken-down American-made Huey helicopter. (A. Abbas/Magnam Photo)

From march 1967 to January 1969 the U.S. 11th Armored mounties Regiment’s Blackhorse base Camp was some 4 miles south of Xuan Loc. During that time, Highway 1 was reasonably secure from Xuan Loc west towards the northern edge that Saigon. But since 1962 the road eastern to the coast had been shut down completely, together it ran through the love of the may Tao “Secret Zone,” a mountainous area wherein the Viet Cong fifth Division was based and also U.S. Knowledge hadn’t penetrated. From November 1967 to at an early stage 1968, procedure Santa Fe, conducted by the U.S. Ninth Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade, the 1st Australian job Force and the ARVN 18th Division, test to open up Highway 1 come the coast. Return the roadway was ultimately opened, the VC fifth Division mainly avoided contact as it positioned itself for the Tet attack in so late January 1968.

During the war, phibìc Vietnam launched three significant offensives against South Vietnam. The Tet attack of 1968 and also the Easter attack of 1972 were army failures. The 1975 feather Offensive would succeed. By the time, all U.S. Forces were the end of Vietnam, and also legislation passed by congress in June 1973 prohibition the use of federal government funds for army operations in south east Asia without congressional approval.

In 1975 north Vietnam, which had organized its army divisions into four corps, cursed all four to assaults on the South. The NVA pressure in southern Vietnam totaled 270,000 troops, 1,076 artillery pieces and mortars, 320 tanks and also 250 other armored vehicles.

After successful probes in at an early stage 1975 in the northern sector of the south Vietnamese III Corps Tactical zone (a military region encompassing Saigon and also provinces come the north), the NVA on march 8 launched campaign 275, command at ban Me Thuot, a provincial capital in the central Highlands, component of the II Corps zone. The ARVN organized out because that eight days. Once Ban Me Thuot fell, Pleiku and Kontum, also in the main Highlands, were outflanked and also cut off from the south. NVA forces easily drove towards An Khe and the coast—effectively cutting south Vietnam in two. The NVA then took the northern I Corps zone cities of Hue and also Da Nang, which fell on march 29.

ARVN systems in those locations had quickly collapsed during the non-saw NVA advance. They abandoned your positions and joined 10s of hundreds of panic-stricken refugees trying come escape come the south, bringing widespread looting and destruction in your wake. Through the end of March, the NVA effectively controlled the whole northern fifty percent of south Vietnam.

Ignoring frantic pleading from south Vietnamese chairman Nguyen van Thieu, the United says would not intervene, despite security guarantees provided to Saigon in the January 1973 Paris tranquility Accords. Also if the president want to provide military support, the battle Powers Act, spread in November 1973, severely restricted his ability to walk U.S. Forces on his own.

The NVA, meanwhile, positioned its forces for the Ho Chi Minh Campaign, the final phase of the conquest of south Vietnam. The phibìc Vietnamese IV Corps progressed on Xuan Loc native the northeast, if the NVA II Corps converged top top the town from the northwest. The ARVN 18th Infantry division was essentially all the stood in your way.

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Earlier in the war, the 18th Infantry Division had actually the reputation as among the ARVN’s worst units. That changed rapidly in march 1972, after ~ 39-year-old Dao suspect command. Dynamic and aggressive, that was among the best officers in the ARVN. Unequal so plenty of other ARVN senior officers, who careers had been constructed on family, social and also political connections—even on bribery and also corruption—Dao progressed on slim ability. In spite of the youthful great looks and large dark sunglasses that provided the impression he to be just an additional playboy from the elite, privileged course of south Vietnamese, Dao had an inner main point of steel and also one that the ideal tactical mental on either next of the Vietnam War.

The general eschewed a palatial villa in favor of a usually two-story residence close to where his troops to be billeted. During the battle, Dao spent much of his time moving amongst his frontline troops fairly than issuing orders native a secure command post bunker. The insisted the all his officers maintain close contact with subordinates at the very least “two level down.” It to be an unorthodox format of management in an army characterized through a rigid class stratification between officers and also enlisted men. Dao’s troops repaid their commander with unstinting devotion and loyalty.

Before the fight at Xuan Loc, Dao defiantly told international journalists: “I am determined to hold Xuan Loc. Ns don’t care how many divisions the communist will certainly send against me. I will smash lock all! The world shall view the strength and also skill the the army of the Republic of Vietnam.”

Dao and also his commanders prepared well. First, lock evacuated the soldiers’ households to the relative safety that the large logistical basic at long Binh, close come Saigon, enabling the guys to emphasis on the fight due to the fact that their families were out of prompt harm’s way. Dao likewise had the foresight to establish two fully functional alternating divisional command posts.