THE HERO OF THE BATTLEOF KONTUM REFUTES NEIL SHEEHAN

This article about a brave ARVN general deservesto be published, but the author, an American veteran who interviewed thegeneral personally, does not have any contacts with websites that would besuitable for this.  If anyone knows of such a website, please let me knowso I can put them in touch with the author and give this bit of true historythe publication it so well deserves.

THE HERO OF THE BATTLEOF KONTUM REFUTES NEIL SHEEHAN

“Co Van My (American Advisor),Vietnamese soldier. We the same,” proudly stated South Vietnamese GeneralLy Tong , who was recognized by COUNTERPARTSfor his valor and service at theirannual 2013 reunion in Las Vegas, Nevada.“We fought the communists side by side,” he proclaimed whileembracing former American advisors who fought with the South Vietnamese in theVietnam War.

Colonel Ly Tong commander of the ARVN 23rd infantry division during the Battle for Kontumturnedback three battle -hardened North Vietnamese divisions to save the city fromcapture during the 1972 Easter Offensive.Promoted to Brigadier General after the battle, General expressed his anger against the author Neil Sheehan fortotally ignoring his heroic effort in the book, “A Bright ShiningLie.”

General comments, “Sheehan says I am a bad soldier when I was the Captain in theBattle of , but hiswritings about that battle misrepresent my role and that of the Vietnamesesoldiers that day. We walked into an ambush. Instead a VC company there was amain force reinforced VC Battalion dug in waiting for us.I was the commander of the APC Companyand we had already crossed three canals when we were ambushed by anoverwhelming force.I had asked forprotective screens for our APC’s but the American advisors said wedidn’t need them.Mycommander ordered us to withdraw and not lose any more men that day. I was aCaptain. I had to follow orders”

Captain armored company had eight vehicle commanders killed because there were nobullet shields to protect them.“I learned a lesson that day,” says the General.“Don’t pursue the enemy intothe jungle.The jungle can defeatyou.I used that tactic in Kontum. We never attacked a larger force but engaged themin fortified positions.Anotherlesson was that the M113 armored vehicles should advance on a parallel lineside by side instead of one M113 after another. Ground troops would also bebetter utilized as well. “

What Sheehan doesn’t mention in hisbook, “A Bright Shining Lie,” is that there was a second battle of in which the same SouthVietnamese soldiers of the ARVN 7th Division crushed the 514thVC Provincial Battalion reinforced with members of the 261st MainForce Battalion who were at the first battle.Captain armored unit helped crush the VC in that battle two years later which causedheavy casualties and desertions from the Viet Cong ranks.An honest appraisal of theimprovement of ARVN’s fighting ability could not have ignored that factbut one won’t find mention of it in his book.

Genera expresseshis opinion that the Soviets and Chinese gave their VC/NVA allies newer andmore effective weapons than the USallies. “We were always behind the VC from weapons to organizationincluding fighting methods. They get the AK 47, and then finally the ARVN getsthe M 16. They had the superior RPG’s (rocket propelled grenades) and wehad the 3.5 rocket launchers, and then the LAW. The NVA also had the SovietAT-3 wire-guided missile like the TOW only it could be carried in a single manpack.”

Translated from General book written in Vietnamese, “They operated on the larger size units, andthen we increase the size of our operating units. But after each time likethat, after we suffered losses and lost more able commanders, then we areforced to make some changes, and the Americans would agree to give more aidsetc. Especially in the Battle of , after we lost many brave men, the Americans agree toinstall the bullet shields on the M113.”

The Regional Forces/Popular forces foughtmany years with American vintage WWII weapons-the M1 rifle and M2 carbinesbefore finally getting the M 16 in 1970.The ARVN also had nothing in their arsenal to match the Russian T54/T55tanks equipped with 100MM guns used later in the war, nor was the US 105 and155 artillery a match for the longer range more mobile NVA 130MM artillerypiece.

And of course, the aggressors from the Northwere better supplied in the end by their Russian and Chinese allies, when Americadeserted their South Vietnamese allies cutting off all aid.

General remembers, “John Paul Vann’s helicopter crashed on the way to seeme.He was flying to our 23ddivision headquarters to share fruit and treats from a promotion party that hehad just attended. I remember himfondly. He always had to have his orange juice every morning with a copy of theStars and Stripes.”

Vann recognized General during the Battle of Kontum as a commander who earnedhis stripes on the front lines and who spent time there encouraging his troops.“Vann said I was the only ARVN commander who could defeat the NVA. I tellhim, don’t say that or I go to jail,” comments General .

General emphatically asks? “Who did the communists liberate when they conqueredthe South?They enslaved the peopleand operated ‘revenge’ camps for years.I spent 13 years in the camps. “Hewas in the same camp as General Le Minh Dao, who fought the last battle at Loc defeating three NVA divisions before running outof supplies and ammunition.

Genial continues. “The communists broke the Paris Peace treaty but no one caredor did anything about it. Using today’s language, they would be calledterrorists because they ruled and conquered by terror. They murdered ourvillage administrators and teachers in the South. “

“You know how General got hissoldiers to charge in human wave attacks at the Battle of Bien ?”asks General .“The communist soldiers knew thatif they didn’t charge to certain death, their families would either bekilled back in their village or they would receive no food. That’s theway the communists do things.”

Sheehan and his journalist partner David Halberstam spent their early careers in Vietnamcriticizing every mistake the ARVN made with little knowledge of the underlyingfabric of Vietnamese society and praising the valiant efforts of the Vietnamesecommunists while ignoring the terror/murder they used to control the peasantsto follow their cause.This writerhas never met a former American advisor who didn’t consider “ABright Shining Lie” to be a propaganda hit piece against the SouthVietnamese Army and the struggling democracy they were attempting to build.

Mark Moyar,author of “Triumph Forsaken” has said that Sheehan andHalberstam didmore damage to USforeign policy than any two journalists in the history of the United Stateswith their naiveté and one-sided reporting.General ,one of the forgotten true patriots in the battle for freedom in Vietnam wouldagree with that. Years after the War in an interview on C-Span, when theyshould have known better, Sheehan and Halberstamdenied that the Communists collected their blood debt from the Southerners inthe reeducation camps where tens of thousands died.

“Who did the communists free?“asks General . “They put everyone inhuge slave labor camps after the war.No Vietnamese is free in Vietnamtoday.The communist party owns andcontrols everything, and the Vietnamese protesting for human rights are injail.”

Rich Webster

Lieutenant/Mobile Advisory Team Leader with the RegionalForces/Popular Forces in Long An and Long KhanhProvinces, 1968/1969.

May 2013

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