A buzzer sounds in my head every time I use the term ‘Vietnam war’. That terrible forty-year
conflict savaged almost every part of Southeast Asia and many in the military refer to it as SEA or the ‘Southeast Asia war’. In my youth I received a graphic correction to my misconception and I have been stuck with the buzzer that results in the conscious use of the term ‘Vietnam war’. The Easter Offensive is definitely a Vietnam war story.
A General Giáp special, the Easter Offensive caught both the South Vietnamese and the American commands unprepared. The plan very nearly worked. John Malch, an historian, archivist of this era, and in-country during the offensive, writes that a military officer told him “had it not been for the vast number of
U.S. Military combat troops and the massive capability of strategic bombing by air assets from Guam and Thailand, the battle would have turned in favor for the North Vietnamese Army (NVA).” The troop strength in April 1972 was 158,000; many, many boots on the ground.
Võ Nguyên Giáp was an old-style Communist revolutionary and the best NVA general of the
Vietnam war era. General Giáp was colorful, engaging and effective. His campaigns drove France out of Vietnam. For good measure, he fought the United States to a stalemate before ousting it as well. Giáp was a merciless, albeit respected, adversary willing to take huge losses of life to achieve his objectives. When he died in October 2013, the New York Times pointed out that in spite of his 102 years, “…he had not faded away. He was regarded as an elder statesman whose hard-line views had softened with the cessation of the war that unified Vietnam. He supported economic reform and closer relations with the United States while publicly warning of the spread of Chinese influence and the environmental costs of industrialization.” Never forget that no matter how harmless the old man looked, General Giáp was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of American service personnel and millions of Vietnamese. Continue reading