Main Selection of Military Book Club
Army Historical Soc. Book of Distinction finalist
“The [North Vietnamese] now held most of Binh Long province from Chon Thanh north to the Cambodian border with the exception of the town of An Loc. It was clear that An Loc would be the scene of the next major North Vietnamese effort. A lot was at stake. Not only were the lives of the South Vietnamese soldiers and their American advisers on the line, but so too was the prestige of the South Vietnamese government. The loss of a province so close to Saigon would be a disastrous loss of face for President Thieu and his administration. From the American perspective, the battle would be the supreme test of Vietnamization and President Nixon’s policies in Vietnam. More than that, however, was the fact that very little stood between the North Vietnamese and Saigon except the forces at An Loc.” —from The Battle of An Loc
With the knowledge born of firsthand experience, James H. Willbanks tells the story of the 60-day siege of An Loc. In 1972, late in the Vietnam War, a small group of South Vietnamese held off three North Vietnamese divisions and helped prevent a direct attack on Saigon. The battle can be considered one of the major events during the gradual American exit from Vietnam. An advisor to the South Vietnamese during the battle, Willbanks places the battle in the context of the shifting role of the American forces and a policy decision to shift more of the burden of fighting the war onto the Vietnamese troops. He presents an overview of the 1972 North Vietnamese Easter Offensive, a plan to press forward the attack on U.S. and ARVN positions throughout the country, including Binh Long province and Saigon. The North Vietnamese hoped to strike a decisive blow at a time when most American troops were being withdrawn. The heart of Willbanks’s account concentrates on the fighting in Binh Long province, Saigon, and the siege of An Loc. It concludes with a discussion of the Paris peace talks, the significance of the fighting at An Loc, and the eventual fall of South Vietnam.
Twentieth-Century Battles—Spencer C. Tucker, editor