Academic journal article Military Review

The Battle of AP Bac, Vietnam: They Did Everything but Learn from It

Academic journal article Military Review

The Battle of AP Bac, Vietnam: They Did Everything but Learn from It

Article excerpt

THE BATTLE OF AP BAC,VIETNAM: They Did Everything But Learn from It, David M. Toczek, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 2001, 185 pages, $62.00.

In 1964, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson said, "I have not thought that we were ready for American boys to do the fighting for Asian boys. What I have been trying to do with the situation that I found, was to get the boys in Vietnam to do their own fighting with our advice and with our equipment."

The United States never intended to commit ground forces to fight in a place called Vietnam. America's preferred role was to train and help the fledgling Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) defeat a Maoist insurgency waged by the People's Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF) within South Vietnam and to deter an invasion from the North. That effort failed, necessitating the commitment of U.S. ground forces in strength and leading ultimately to America's least popular war.

In The Battle of Ap Bac, Vietnam, David Toczek explains many of the reasons for early U.S. failures in Vietnam While Toczek clearly has learned a number of lessons from the battle that he chronicles, he contends that the "they" of his subtitle-the senior leadership of the U.S. Army during the early years of the Vietnam war--did not. Toczek's discussion of why lessons were ignored is of great relevance today as the Army struggles to define its role in supporting failed and failing governments amid the wreckage of the post-Cold War world.

The Battle of Ap Bac took place on 2 January 1963. The 7th ARVN Division attacked to destroy a PLAF force that was protecting a radio station in the Mekong Delta. For the first time in the Second Indochina War, PLAF forces stood their ground, inflicting substantial casualties on the much larger and better-- armed ARVN forces and downing five helicopters. …

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