Vietnam’s Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN

Andrew Wiest, Author, Jim Webb, Foreword by
Andrew Wiest, Author, Jim Webb, Foreword by . New York Univ. $35 (350p) ISBN 978-0-8147-9410-4
Paperback - 350 pages - 978-0-8147-9467-8
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This sympathetic biography of Pham Van Dinh and Tran Ngoc Hue, mid-level officers in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), provides a unique perspective among American war histories. Built by American advisers in 1955 to repel a conventional invasion, the ARVN was a Western-style force that actually spent most of its 25-year life battling a lightly armed insurgency. Ironically, its destruction came at the hands of a traditional invading army from North Vietnam, but by this time U.S. forces (which it had relied on for heavy artillery and airpower) were gone. Vietnam’s army suffered a chronic lack of imaginative leadership at the top, yet historian Wiest (Haig ) makes a good case that it often fought well, especially at the battalion and regimental level, when led by good officers such as Dinh and Hue. Wiest describes their energetic leadership as the war intensified during the 1960s, but it is not a story that ends happily. Hue spent 13 years in a North Vietnamese prison after his capture in 1970. Dinh surrendered his regiment in 1972, finishing his career in the NVA. Readers who persist through dense nuts-and-bolts battle descriptions will gain new respect for the mishandled South Vietnamese army. (Dec.)

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