The author Nghĩa M. Võ a few days ago asked me to write a blurb to go on the cover of his newest book, The ARVN and the Fight for South Vietnam, which is due out on July 18 (publisher: McFarland & Company, Inc.). I have known for Nghĩa many years and have enjoyed his many books. Our last formal contact was in 2012 when I reviewed his Legends of Vietnam (McFarland & Company, Inc., 2012).
As I read through the text, the stories Nghĩa tells brought back vivid memories of my days on the battlefield in Vietnam. My work was primarily with U.S. forces, but, because I was fluent in Vietnamese, Chinese, and French, the three languages of Vietnam, I sometimes provided signals intelligence support to the South Vietnamese, that is, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). I formed strong bonds with ARVN soldiers who invited me into their homes and proudly introduced me to their wives and children. That made the ultimate North Vietnamese defeat and destruction of the ARVN and the execution of the soldiers I had worked with all the harder to bear.
Nghĩa sums up his book thus: “ . . . the ARVN fought bravely and for the duration even after the U.S. left. What was missing was a balanced and aggressive leadership along with continued U.S. military support.” In short, the U.S. abandoned South Vietnam and cut off material and financial support, condemning it to defeat and death.
The blurb I wrote for the book reads as follows: “The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) fought bravely against the North Vietnamese invaders for more than a decade. Then the U.S. withdrew its support. The ARVN was defeated and destroyed. Nghia Vo tells their heartbreaking story with precision, detail, and enlightened understanding.”
Reading Nghĩa’s retelling of the many battles ARVN fought, some of which I was involved in, sharpened my hurtful memories. The hardest to get through was the story of the North Vietnamese conquest of Ban Mê Thuột in the central highlands just before Saigon fell. I traveled to the highlands at the time and warned both U.S. and South Vietnamese officials of the coming defeat but was ignored. I still grieve today over the men lost in that battle.
Some wounds never heal.