The ARVN and the Fight for South Vietnam by Nghia M. Vo

Nghia M. Vo’s The ARVN and the Fight for South Vietnam (McFarland, 269 pp. $39.95, Paper; $17.99, Kindle) contains a heavyweight history lesson. Vo has written widely on Vietnamese history and Vietnamese-American culture.

As he notes in the book, Vietnam has been at nearly continuous war with both foreign and domestic forces since its earliest history. The 1954 Geneva Accords that ended French colonial rule did not divide Vietnam into two separate countries (North & South), he says; it merely formalized the north-south division that Vietnam had almost always known.

America’s involvement in Vietnam following France’s departure was intended to help South Vietnam defend itself from North Vietnam’s attempt to overrun and dominate the South. In 1964, Gen. William Westmoreland decided, Vo contends, that only American forces could effectively fight the VC and NVA, so he relegated the South Vietnamese forces to a supporting role. In this inferior position, the South Vietnamese military did not learn to command and execute on the division level.

When the Americans left, the ARVN had to learn to stand alone in the fight against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army. The American decision to drastically scale back its support and what Vo contends was a failure to hold North Vietnam accountable for violations of the 1954 Geneva Accords and the 1972 Paris Peace Accords, in essence, he says, handed victory to North Vietnam.

The ARVN and the Fight for South Vietnam gives a South Vietnamese perspective of history, politics, religion, war, military successes and failures, reeducation camps, and much more. Vo devotes much of this book to chronicling heroic feats of his fellow countrymen in the face of overwhelming odds. He also writes about the atrocious conduct of the communist North Vietnamese after the South’s 1975 surrender.

Having served a tour in Vietnam in 1966-67 and since then having read many books on the subject, I thought I knew about most aspects of the American war. Learning about what transpired in South Vietnam after 1975 made this an immensely sad book to read. But having read it, I feel I have a better understanding of what happened.

I highly recommend The ARVN and the Fight for South Vietnam for anyone wanting to learn about what Vo calls the Fourth (1954-75) Vietnam War.

–Bob Wartman