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The art of posture establishment and force generation in the General Offensive and Uprising of Spring 1975

The General Offensive and Uprising of Spring 1975 lasted from 4th March to 30th April 1975 and was divided into three strategic offenses into the Central Highlands, Hue – Da Nang, and Sai Gon – Gia Dinh together with other campaigns and uprising movements. To successfully end the war, liberate the South and unify the country, under the sound leadership of the Party, our People and troops have flexibly applied the art of people’s war, established disposition and developed an overwhelming force – the key factors to the victory and a distinctive feature of Vietnam’s military art.

General Vo Nguyen Giap and the Central Military Commission discussed the development of Ho Chi Minh Campaign (4/1975)

1. In the first offensive into the Central Highlands, our goal was to annihilate an important part of the enemy’s force, liberate Buon Ma Thuot and South Central Highlands, open up a corridor linking the Central Highlands with Southeastern provinces, hence separating and creating a new strategic complexion in the South. Implementing our goal, the establishment of disposition, and force generation are important factors which were paid much attention and carefully planned. Accordingly, we actively combined on-spot forces (28 infantry and guerrilla battalions) with the main troops reinforced by the Ministry of National Defence (14 infantry battalions) and the main forces of the MR5, the Southeast (10 battalions). This generated an overwhelmingly superior force compared with the enemy, especially on the main directions of the Campaign and key battle of Buon Ma Thuot. Particularly, in this Campaign, the art of diversion and posture establishment and initiative seizure was also a highlight and a big success of us in both operational and strategic levels. By a number of sophisticated diversionary measures, we successfully attracted and contained the enemy’s main mobile force in the North of Central Highlands, leading to their unattendedness in the South of Central Highlands, the main cause of their contingency and easy defeat. This was the art of diversion and enticement which changed the troop balance on the main battlefield of Central Highlands in our favour. Although we reinforced only 4 divisions (316, 968, 10, and 320) to this theatre, we created an overwhelming posture, especially on the main directions of the campaign. In addition, as we skillfully combined containment and separation with flexible and sharp combat plans, we won the key battle of Buon Ma Thuot easily.

Buon Ma Thuot victory gave us an advantage to defeat the enemy’s Division 23 in Phuoc An and brought about an operational and strategic advantage for the armed forces of Central Highlands to break the enemy’s defensive posture, annihilate and completely destroy their entire force in the Central Highlands, totally liberated this region and soon advanced to the central coastal delta, separated their strategic disposition, and created an opportunity for developing the strategic offensive into the General Offensive and Uprising throughout the South. In fact, the victory of our strategic grand assault in the Central Highlands not only brought us a new development in operational and strategic posture but also contributed greatly to changing the balance of force in our favour.

2. While our first strategic attack in the Central Highlands fought an ambush against the enemy in Buon Ma Thuot and their 2nd Corps along the Road No. 7, our Thi Thien and 5th military regions and 2nd Corps simultaneously launched two campaigns to attack the enemy in the North of the Central Highlands under the control of their 1st Corps and 1st Military Region. When our first campaign in the Central Highlands succeeded, the enemy risked being separated and their 3rd Corps was directly threatened, they had to abandon Quang Tri to reorganise. Given the fast developments on the battlefield, on 24th March 1975 the Politburo and the Central Military Commission decided to launch attack into Da Nang. Under the direct leadership of the Central Military Commission and the General Command, the armed forces of Tri Thien Military regions, 5th Military Region and 2nd Corps quickly developed the two middle-scale operations into large-scale ones, annihilating the enemy and liberating Hue – Da Nang.

In this strategic attack, although we were inferior in strength and weaponry, we still had many advantages, such as: our new victory in the Central Highlands, our blockage and separation over the enemy, our seizure of opportunity to generate an overwhelming force to fast attack them in Hue, Tam Ky, Da Nang. As a result, after just over one month of general offensive and uprising, with two strategic campaigns in the Central Highland and Hue – Da Nang, we gained land-sliding victories as annihilating and completely destroying the entire enemy’s military and political system in their two strongholds, liberating 16 provinces, 5 cities and many other districts. Our liberated areas were widened with ¾ of the area and ½ of the population of the South. After the victory in Hue – Da Nang (29th March 1975) the proportion of enemy’s troop to ours was 1/1.12 (464,000 to 530,000) in which main troop was 1/1.95 (235,000 to 457,873), local troop was 3.2/1 (229,800 to 71,727). As such, in just a short time of struggle, the strategic balance between the enemy and us on the battlefield has changed dramatically. While the enemy troop reduced drastically, ours increased rapidly.

Clearly, together with the decisive victory of the strategic campaign in the Central Highlands and the subsequent one in Hue – Da Nang, we defeated the enemy’s plan of clustering, changing significantly the proportion of troop between the enemy and us in both strategic and theatre levels. Accordingly, the situation of war then was changed fundamentally in our favour, bringing about an unprecedented opportunity for us to implement our bigger strategic goals in an earlier time.

3. The strategic final offensive into the enemy’s last stronghold of Sai Gon – Gia Dinh. When the time for liberating the South came, the Politburo decided to gather our forces, weaponry and material quickly (at least 12 divisions) to liberate Sai Gon – Gia Dinh before rainy season. Subsequently, (on 30th March 1975 and 14th April 1975), the Politburo officially launched Ho Chi Minh Campaign – a large-scale, joint-force strategic operation to end the war. The art of disposition establishment and force generation in this fight was that the General Command discovered and grasped the opportunity in a timely manner; flexibly and creatively applied the factors of plan, stratagem, posture and opportunity; and gave out the sound leadership and direction. This was the foundation for our forces to carry out rapid movement, coordination, offensive and uprising, generating superiority for dominating the enemy on our way to Sai Gon.

In terms of posture, we actively built a high level people’s war posture; conducted separation and blockage; promoted the uprising of the masses; strengthened our occupation of crucial areas. In the meantime, the enemy was in extreme panic and on the brink of collapse. In terms of strength, we greatly damaged the enemy’s force by big fights. Moreover, we actively built our main corps, changing fundamentally the proportion of troop in our favour (1.7/1). We also deployed 516 artilleries, 550 missiles and anti-aircraft guns, 01 A37 plane company, 320 main battle tanks, while the enemy’s force was kept in stagnation. This was our fundamental advantage, bringing us the superiority to defeat the enemy’s last effort and liberate the South, unify the country.

All in all, in just 55 nights and days of struggle, under the sound and clever leadership of the Party, the ingenious command of the Central Military Commission, the General Command, of the commanders and command on the battlefields, we have made a historic victory in the 20th Century in the General Offensive and Uprising of Spring 1975. This victory left us a number of valuable lessons in which the art of posture establishment and force generation always represents the quintessence of military for us to inherit, study and apply in the present cause of Fatherland construction and protection.

Senior Colonel, Assoc Proff, Doctor HOANG XUAN NHIEN and Colonel, Master TO HUY CU

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