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Letter: The U.S. didn’t lose the Vietnam War

A unit of the 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment U.S. Marines, rests alongside a battered wall of Hue’s imperial palace after a battle for the Citadel during the Tet Offensive, February 1968. The Marines reported heavy casualties in street fighting in the ancient capital city of Vietnam. As the country celebrated Lunar New Year after midnight on Jan. 31, 1968, communist forces launched a wave of surprise attacks that became known as the Tet Offensive and would change the course of the Vietnam War. — AP file photo
A unit of the 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment U.S. Marines, rests alongside a battered wall of Hue’s imperial palace during the Tet Offensive, February 1968. — AP file photo

I enjoyed reading Barbara Sweet’s July 4th article Vietnamese boat siblings “Trong Nguyen, Trang Nguyen return to N.L. decades after arriving here to start new life” — a happy ending to a harrowing escape from Vietnam. During the past decades, I have often wondered about the outcome of the many “boat” people.

I took exception to one statement in the article: “Duoc, who had served in the military, supported the losing U.S. side during the Vietnam War,” which implies that the United State forces lost the war in Vietnam. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Statements as this have done much damage throughout the years, not only to the U.S., but also to the American and Canadian Vietnam veterans who served in that war. The United States forces did not lose, they left.

Usually, people affiliate the phrase losing a war to actual defeat. In fact, Webster Dictionary defines “lose” as “to undergo defeat.” When people hear the misguided statement that America lost in Vietnam, it infers that the North Vietnamese Army/Viet Cong beat the U.S. militarily. The following are some facts that prove the point that the American military actually won in Vietnam.

America never lost any major battles in Vietnam, yet the North Vietnamese lost many, including the 1968 Tet Offensive.

America never lost or gave up ground, yet many NVA/VC strongholds were decimated.

America lost approximately 59,000 dead during the Vietnam War, yet the NVA/VC lost 924,048.

America had 313,616 wounded; the NVA/VC had approximately 935,000 wounded.

North Vietnam signed a truce on Jan. 27, 1973, which included several agreements as follows:

• That the demilitarized zone (DMZ) at the 17th parallel would remain a provisional dividing line between North and South Vietnam.

• No military movement across the DMZ.

• Would not use force of any kind to unify the country.

Based on the Paris Peace Accord, an agreement on ending the war and restoring peace in Vietnam that North Vietnam signed on Jan. 27, 1973, the last U.S. troops left Vietnam on March 29, 1973, and only a small defense attaché office and a few marines were left at the American Embassy. Saigon fell two years later, primarily because the 94th Congress rejected President Gerald Ford’s plea in 1975 to honour and sustain the terms of the Paris Accord Agreement. The primary provision was to provide adequate economic and military assistance to South Vietnam. Thirteen days after the president’s plea was rejected, Cambodia fell on April 17, 1975. South Vietnam fell on April 30, 1975.

After all the U.S. troops left Vietnam, the North Vietnamese violated the treaty and began a major offensive to overtake South Vietnam, which resulted in the fall of Saigon. There were no American combat troops in Vietnam for two years prior to the fall of South Vietnam.

These are all very important points when evaluating the fact that actually, the U.S. won militarily in Vietnam, and they left. There is a big difference between losing and leaving.
If there had been a line drawn around Germany during the Second World War, and the Allies were told they could not go into Germany, we would still be fighting the Second World War. If a line was drawn around Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, and the ground forces were told they were not allowed to enter Iraq, we would still be fighting Operation Desert Storm.

Consequently, in Vietnam, America was militarily limited as far as obtaining their objective because they could not cross over into North Vietnam. The American soldiers and Canadian volunteers in Vietnam were subjected to some of the fiercest warfare that America has ever experienced, and they won all the battles.

Yes, Saigon fell two years after the Americans left, but that does not mean that they lost. It is sad that they left and didn’t stay to finish it — they took the North Vietnamese word on the treaty. Equally sad is that the 94th Congress forced the surrender of South Vietnam and Cambodia.

Imagine if all American forces left South Korea today, and North Korea invaded and decimated South Korea; that would not indicate that the U.S. lost the Korean War. This was the case in Vietnam. They won militarily; North Vietnam signed a truce. America left, and then North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam.

Cathy Saint John, proud sister
of two Canadian Vietnam veterans
St. John’s

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