By Richard Webster

      On the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon and free South Vietnam, Vietnamese communities around the US held remembrance ceremonies to pay thanks to those American Vietnam Veterans and former South Vietnamese soldiers who fought for their freedom.

      The legendary South Vietnamese General, Le Minh Dao, commander of the l8th ARVN Division who fought the last heroic battle of the Vietnam War at Xuan Loc, was one of the guest speakers at the 30th Year Remembrance event in Phoenix, Az, April 30th, May lst organized by Bui Quang Lam, a former Vietnamese Ranger. 

      Those 500 in attendance at the evening banquet were former South Vietnamese Rangers, their American Ranger Advisors, Vietnamese who survived the communist gulags, their Vietnamese families, and members of COUNTERPARTs, an organization of former US military advisors and their foreign counterparts who served in the Southeast Asian theatre during the Vietnam War. 

      A Vietnamese Buddhist monk opened the ceremony with prayer, “We come here to pay homage and never forget those who fought for our freedom, the US and South Vietnamese soldier.  Those brave American soldiers who came to fight for our freedom against the Northern invaders were noble warriors.  When darkness threatened, you fought for liberty’s light.  You are the best.  You kept your promise.  We also remember and honor the American MIA’s, our former soldiers who died in the slave labor camps after the war in l975, those families who died at sea in the greatest Diaspora ever in Vietnam’s history, those disabled ARVN still living in Vietnam, and those still languishing in suppression in Vietnam.”

      Major General Dao addressed the audience:  “This is the first time I have had the opportunity to thank you for your service.   We who fought the communists knew what they would do when they took over the South.  No human rights, no freedom of religion, and no free press.  Sixty-five thousand were executed shortly after the fall of Saigon, and 250,000 perished in the re-education camps.  Human refugees were scattered all over the world”

      Major General Dao’s l8th ARVN Division defeated three NVA divisions at the Battle of Xuan Loc in April of l975, and was on his way to defeating two more divisions before his troops ran out of supplies and ammunition.

      General Dao grew up in the South and fought the communists for 22 years.  “The communists poisoned the thoughts of the South Vietnamese peasants against the central government.  The peace protestors disrupted the political process; the protestors were blind to the truth of the Vietnam War siding with the true aggressors.  I offer praise to those American soldiers who came to help against the human rights’ abusers.  The American Army was not defeated, but the war was lost by unconscionable political decisions.  After l972, we fought the communist bloc alone, and we were finally defeated.” General Dao is referring to when congress cut off all aid to our Southeast Asian allies whereby the Soviets and the Chinese increased their aid, military supplies, and direct involvement.

      General Dao spent l7 years in a concentration camp after the war, ten of those years locked in a cage in isolation.  His inner circle of officers, were treated likewise.

      Asked how he could survive, Dao, a Catholic, responded, “I ask myself, why me?  I fought for my country.  Why do my fellow officers and I deserve this?  How am I going to survive?  I finally gave myself up to God and survived it through His help.”

      Dao and his fellow prisoners were fed a handful of manioc and cracked corn a day, food normally fed to animals.  The communists worked and starved many of our former allies to death.  Those who survived learned to eat anything that crawled to include bugs, worms, and lizards.  They had no access to medicine, and when those who survived were finally released in l992, they were reduced to skin and bones covered with rags.

      Apparently, our recently defeated Vietnam Veteran Presidential Candidate, I’m John Kerry and I’m reporting duty, was given the wrong information by Madame Binh in Paris when she informed him that the communists had issues with only a few of the South Vietnamese officials, and if there were any grudges, they would be settled in a manner of a few weeks.  Could there be more to the Vietnam War than Kerry absorbed on his three-month tour of duty and the disinformation that he passed on during his congressional testimony in l971?

      Another speaker was Lieutenant General Edison Scholes (RET), who served as senior advisor in I CORP to the Vietnamese Rangers.  “Biet Dong Quan (Ranger),” were his first words as he addressed the crowd. “No war is over until the last combatant dies.  We who fought there will never forget the sovereign republic of South Vietnam and the incredible sacrifices the South Vietnamese made for their freedom.  We were together then, fighting side by side, and we are together now.”

      “We fought a just, noble, honorable cause.  Our flags, the U.S. and South Vietnamese represented justice and freedom.  It is a soldier’s duty to fight the war, which we did.  It is the politician’s job to prosecute the war wisely, which it wasn’t.  We were also comrades in grief.  We grieved for our comrades who died by our side, for the boat people, and those caught in the killing fields after the war.  A soldier’s grief stays forever.  That’s why we can’t forget.”

      “Our cause was obvious on the battlefield, but the media turned our victories into defeat.  Former soldiers here today, American and Vietnamese, were witness to uncommon valor unseen in history as we fought America’s longest war.  We many times fought two wars at the same time-a conventional and a counterinsurgency war.”

      Generals Scholes and Dao summarized what some historians and political scientists are now saying about the Vietnam War, “It was given away at the end by the politicians, not lost.”

      The accurate history of the Vietnam War is still open to interpretation, as the South Vietnamese side has been completely ignored.  By l968, free debate in the U.S. about the war had been stifled by the intimidation of sanctimonious and intolerant radicals who supported a communist victory.  The advocacy journalism of that time marched lock step with the anti-war crowd.  That mind set still inhabits the inner sanctum of the dominant media powers and the university corridors today where the anti-war draft-dodger generation maintain their influence.

      Those COUNTERPARTS members who served in the CORDs program in the audience as administered first by Robert Komer, and then by William Colby, would agree with General Dao when he said, “Your leaders tied your hands behind your back, and they did everything not to win the war.  But you were still exceptional.  You helped with the South Vietnamese pacification programs, built roads, conducted medcaps, and the people in the South knew what you did.”

      CORDS (Civil Organization for Revolutionary Support) was John Paul Vann’s counterinsurgency- designed program that aligned 5-man mobile advisory teams with the Regional Forces/Popular Forces and took back the villages from the VC after l968.

      This writer has been back to Vietnam twice now, and when I traveled off the tourist path, and met with the little people of Vietnam, I was treated with the greatest respect-like a returning hero-just confirming what General Dao said.

      I was in Xuan Loc in 2002 and 2004 near where I served as a Co Van with the 413th Regional Force Company in l969 in the little village of Cam Tan near the site of the famous battle at Xuan Loc.  There’s a giant communist graveyard in Xuan Loc adorned by ugly Soviet style statues staring silently at 6,000 NVA graves.

      Not once have I seen a mourner there or anyone enter the gates.  The reason for that is that none of the North Vietnamese soldiers that died there lived in the South.  They were young peasants conscripted and sent south to die for the communist hierarchy in Hanoi.  The South Vietnamese didn’t welcome the North as liberators, but viewed them as conquerors taking away their freedom, which is historically what played out.

      There are no monuments or cemeteries to the fallen dead of the South.  Unlike our own Civil War, the xenophobic communist victors of the North have bull dozed the Southern soldiers graves into oblivion.

      Friend of the American soldier and veteran, Ross Perot was one of the speakers on Sunday at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in downtown Phoenix.  Perot praised the American soldier in fighting for freedom around the world, by quoting from the book of Isaiah, “Who will go?  Send me.”

      Referring to the line in the Star Spangled Banner, “Does the flag still wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave?” Perot ended by answering, “It does because of American soldiers and veterans like you here today.”

      To learn more about the advisor association, visit the web site atwww.counterparts.net

“Tuong Huu Dong Nam A” is the Vietnamese name of the organization.  Dong Nam A refers to Southeast Asia.  Tuong Huu means a friendship that is even more than comrades-in-arms and means something like case-hardened, battle trusted, mutual trust, and a belief in a common cause.  A perfect example was the statement of a Montagnard soldier to his Counterpart, “You die.  I die.”

      Those advisors (Co Vans) who served with the South Vietnamese forces in Vietnam will never forget them, and that’s why we showed up in strength at their 30th year Remembrance Event.  We have no regrets nor offer any excuses for our Vietnam service.  Our cause and their cause was a noble one, as history will record. 

Re-print with permission of:

Richard Webster

Lieutenant with RF/PF 68/69

COUNTERPARTS PAO

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