The Battle of Xuân Lộc

I just learned that the South Vietnamese General Lê Minh Đảo died in a Hartford, Connecticut hospital on 19 March 2020 at the age of 87. General Đảo commanded South Vietnamese forces at Xuân Lộc, some twenty miles northeast of Saigon in the final days of the Vietnam war. His 18th Infantry Division fought bravely from 9 to 21 April 1975 against three North Vietnamese divisions before being withdrawn to defend Saigon. Xuân Lộc was the last obstacle to the communists. After the North Vietnamese captured it, they surrounded Saigon. The city fell to the communists on 29 April 1975.

I was in my office at Tan Son Nhat on the northern edge of Saigon when the North Vietnamese captured Xuân Lộc. I was struggling to evacuate my 43 subordinates and their wives and children as the communist threat against Saigon grew. The fall of Xuân Lộc was Saigon’s death knell. By dint of sheer determination, I was able to get all my people safely out of the country before the final conquest. I escaped under fire on the night of 29 April.

General Đảo did not escape. After surrendering to the North Vietnamese on 9 May 1975, he was imprisoned for the next seventeen years. When he was finally released in 1992, he fled to the U.S.

The courage and self-sacrifice of General Đảo and others like him remain the unwritten story of the end of Vietnam. I am grateful for their acts of bravery.

2 thoughts on “The Battle of Xuân Lộc”

  1. Tom, I’m glad that you continue to push the story of The bravery and dedication and sacrifice of some in the South Vietnamese Army. The prevailing perception based on the observations and comments of many grunts in the field is that the ARVN would not stand and fight but would throw their rifles away and run. I think the truth is in between the two perceptions. You had many South Vietnamese generals and higher-ranking individuals who we’re not involved in the conflict for the independence of their country but their own personal gain. Then, you had soldiers who were conscripted into the army and really had no desire to fight for the regimes in power in the South. You had other South Vietnamese generals, high-ranking officers, and soldiers who fought for South Vietnam because they loved their country. The latter stories are not heard enough.

    As you yourself have indicated in your presentations, one of the deciding factors in this war was the determination and dedication of the North Vietnamese soldiers and affiliated Viet Cong cadres to fight to The bitter end regardless of the number of losses.

    I’m sorry to hear of the general’s death earlier this year. To have endured 17 years of imprisonment under the North Vietnamese because of his loyalty to what he considered his country is true bravery. I hope that he had a good life in the United States and was able to see children and grandchildren born in a free country.

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    1. Ken, I couldn’t agree more with everything you said. General Dao was unlike so many in the upper ranks of the Vietnamese power hierarchy. Corruption among South Vietnam’s top leadership was common. That was one of several reasons that we could never have won the war. But men like Dao and others I knew were true patriots, ready to give up their lives for love of their country. I grieve to this day over their loss.

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