40 Myths and Facts about the War in Vietnam
40 Myths and Facts about the War in Vietnam

40 Myths and Facts about the War in Vietnam

Larry Holzwarth - June 23, 2019

38. Fact: The American Embassy was not overrun by communist troops during the Tet Offensive

American defenders of the embassy in Saigon included the guard force of US Marines, supported by Army troops from Saigon and some ARVN forces which joined them. Although a breach was achieved in the security wall by the Viet Cong, they were unable to exploit it by having troops enter the grounds, and the attack was eventually repelled by the combined Allied forces, with heavy losses to the communist troops, mostly Viet Cong. Although news releases denied the reports of the embassy being partially occupied, which had been promulgated by the Associated Press and United Press International (and repeated by other news agencies) the denials were largely ignored as the press turned its attention to events elsewhere in the country, including the fighting at Hue.

40 Myths and Facts about the War in Vietnam
ARVN soldiers with a hatless American advisor during the war. US Army

39. Myth: Americans had to do the bulk of the fighting in Vietnam because the ARVN wouldn’t

Another longstanding myth of the Vietnam War is the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, known as ARVN, could not and would not fight. The myth, perpetuated by films, television, literature, and the prejudices of many, states that the ARVN for the most part did not support the puppet government installed by the Americans and in any case lacked the modern equipment necessary to conduct combat operations successfully. The ARVN was ineptly led, poorly equipped, inadequately supplied in the field, and lacked the motivation to defend its own country against the communists, leaving the Americans the burden of defending South Vietnam against communist aggression.

40 Myths and Facts about the War in Vietnam
ARVN Troops flush suspected Viet Cong from hiding circa 1968. US Army

40. Fact: ARVN fought hard and sustained heavy casualties throughout the war

The South Vietnamese Army was poorly equipped early in the conflict, since the Americans had to ensure that their own troops were adequately armed and supplied, leaving only obsolescent weaponry available to supply their ally. By the time of what Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger called Vietnamization – the transfer of responsibility for successfully prosecuting the war to the South Vietnamese – the weapons provided to ARVN were the same as carried by the Americans. Though corruption was present in the ranks of senior officers throughout the war, the front-line troops fought bravely and well, and many paid the price for their courage once Saigon fell and the futile war against the North Vietnamese ended after more than twenty years of continuous conflict.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Vietnam Archive: Pentagon Study Traces 3 Decades of Growing U. S. Involvement”. Neil Sheehan, The New York Times. June 13, 1971

“The Nation: Pentagon Papers: The Secret War”. TIME Magazine. June 28, 1971

“Congress Approves Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, August 7, 1964”. Andrew Glass, Politico. August 7, 2016

“The Truth about Tonkin”. LCDR Pat Paterson USN, Naval History, US Naval Institute. February 2008. Online

“The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia, 1961-1973”. Carl Berger, Office of Air Force History. 1977

“In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam”. Robert S. McNamara. 1995

“The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Escalation of the Vietnam Conflict”. Robert M. Gillespie, Clemson University. 1994

“China’s Involvement in the Vietnam War, 1964-1969”. Chen Jian, The China Quarterly. June, 1995

“The Campaign and Election of 1964”. Kent Germany, Miller Center, University of Virginia. Online

“What We Did: Reckoning with Vietnam 50 years after My Lai…” Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs Magazine. July 8, 2018

“The US Spent $141 Billion in Vietnam in 14 Years”. The New York Times. May 1, 1975

“We Were Soldiers Once…and Young – Ia Drang: the battle that changed the war in Vietnam”. Harold G. Moore, Joseph L. Galloway. 1992

“Victory in Vietnam: The Official History of the People’s Army of Vietnam, 1954 – 1975”. Military History Institute of Vietnam. 2002

“Remember the Brutal Air War in Vietnam”. Gerald D. Skoning, The American Spectator. October 13, 2017. Online

“Dien Bien Phu: Did the U. S. offer France an A-Bomb?” BBC News Magazine. May 5, 2014. Online

“How the Draft Reshaped America”. The New York Times. October 6, 2017

“Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia”. William Shawcross. 2002

“The Air Force in the Vietnam War”. John Correll, Air Force Association. 2004

“GI Heroin Addiction Epidemic in Vietnam”. The New York Times, May 16, 1971

“Vietnam, heroin, and the lesson of disrupting any addiction”. Sanjay Gupta, CNN. December 22, 2015

“The Tet Offensive shocked the nation and permanently changed US attitudes toward the Vietnam War”. Steve Atlas, Public Radio International. October 11, 2017

“History of Special Forces in Vietnam, 1961-1971”. Francis John Kelly, United States Army Center of Military History. 1973. Online

“Refugee Workers in the Indochina Exodus”. Larry Clinton Thompson. 2010

“Black and White in Vietnam”. The New York Times. July 18, 2017

“What happened in the Tet Offensive’s first 36 hours”. Associated Press (1968), reprinted in Military Times. January 31, 2018

“The Development and Training of the South Vietnamese Army, 1950-1972”. Brigadier General James Lawton Collins, USA, United States Army Center of Military History. 1975