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The art of coordination in the 1975 Spring General Offensive and Uprising

The 1975 Spring General Offensive and Uprising with Ho Chi Minh Campaign as the pinnacle crushed Saigon’s puppet government, liberated the South and unified the country. The victory of the resistance war against the U.S., for national salvation marked the striking development of Vietnam’s military art characterized by the art of coordination between forces and forms of combat.

The people of Saigon celebrate victory of the 1975 Spring General Offensive and Uprising (file photo)

1. The art of coordinated operations between services, corps and forces. The 1975 Spring General Offensive and Uprising commenced with the Central Highlands Campaign in which the battle of Buon Ma Thuot acted as the key one. To clinch the victory, in the very beginning, we determined to deploy a great force of services and corps to annihilate the enemy in this battlefield. In each direction, we disposed forces outnumbering the enemy. More specifically, in Buon Ma Thuot, our ground forces were 4.5 times as many as the enemy’s; our tanks and armoured vehicles were 3.5 times as many as the enemy’s; the number of our artillery was 5 times as many as the enemy’s. In Tri - Thien - Hue campaign and Da Nang campaign, our infantry units outnumbered the enemy’s. In Ho Chi Minh campaign, our forces vastly outnumbered the enemy’s. It should be noted that in this campaign, we deployed the Navy to liberate Truong Sa Islands, and it was the first time we used the Air Force to attack the enemy’s headquarters.

By concentrating the forces outnumbering the enemy’s and conducting large-scale combined service and arm operations in harmony, we were able to annihilate each division and corps of the enemy as well as each major part of their strategic defensive system. In Central Highlands campaign, our Commandos penetrated deep into and attacked the targets in Buon Ma Thuot town; especially, they took control of bridges and assisted other units in attacking the targets according to the campaign’s plan for coordination. Our artillery brought into play its strength and capability to suppress the enemy, shelled the targets inside the town, and assisted the infantry and tank units’ attack. Our Air Defence forces stayed close to each direction, engaged the enemy’s aircraft and protected our formation. Tank and Amour forces together with infantry forces raided and destroyed the enemy’s defensive line and led our attacking formation against important targets. Signal, Engineer, Transportation troops did their utmost to fastest and most opportunely serve the Campaign. With the coordination between corps and special elite forces, we successfully fulfilled the first key battle of the Campaign, creating favourable condition for counter-attacking and hunting down the enemy.

Victory of the Central Highlands campaign marked the significant development of the art of large-scale joint arm operation coordination, creating advantages and strength for us in Tri - Thien - Hue campaign and Da Nang Campaign. Promoting the advantage in strength, after liberating Quang Tri (March 19th), we liberated Hue city (March 25th), Thua Thien province, and Da Nang (March 29th). In those victories, we organized and used one mobile active corps (Army Corps 2) in cooperation with armed forces of the Tri - Thien Military Region and the Military Region 5 to penetrate deep into, isolate, besiege and quickly defeat the enemy. After the liberation of Da Nang, following the Politburo’s strategic Determination to “liberate Saigon and the South before the rainy season (May 1975), our active corps quickly advanced towards Saigon to lay siege to this city. More specifically, 5 corps together with tens of divisions, brigades, regiments and on-spot forces of the South in 5 directions attacked the targets in Saigon, namely the Independence Palace, Headquarters of the General Staff of Saigon Army, Tan Son Nhat airport, Capital Special Zone, General Office of Saigon Police. Thanks to our advantage and close coordination between forces, we quickly destroyed the enemy’s divisions in outer circle and penetrated deep into the city to attack the targets for the sake of the complete victory. With the strategic vision, the Politburo and the Central Military Commission commanded the Navy to liberate Truong Sa Islands and various targets in the sea from Saigon’s puppet government, gloriously fulfiled the cause of liberating the South, reunifying the country. It is obvious that the 1975 Spring General Offensive and Uprising was a big success of the art of large-scale joint service and arm operation coordination.

2. The art of combining offensive with uprising and vice versa in mountainous, rural, flat and urban areas. It was the combination of large-scale joint arm battles by active forces and uprisings by the masses that crushed local puppet governments to seize power. To win the victory, we advocated that “military offensives must go ahead to support and combine with uprisings by the masses”, with a view to destroying the enemy and taking the initiative and the advantage over the enemy. Military offensives by active forces would facilitate and ignite uprisings by the masses. The uprisings, in their return, would disperse the enemy and weaken troops and employees of Saigon government, facilitating the armed forces’ offensive against the enemy for the victory.

In the 1975 Spring General Offensive and Uprising, the combination of military offensive and mass uprising witnessed the development in nature, scale and tempo. When the Central Highlands campaign started, the enemy was in state of total panic. Seizing this opportunity, the Party Committee of Dac Lac town directed propaganda armed units to enter the town, resume the operation of the revolutionary bases and encourage the masses to rise up and wipe out 13 stations, 35 strategic hamlets and local government of the enemy, establish revolutionary governments at all levels. While the enemy’s headquarters were attacked by our main forces, the masses in coordination with guerrilla forces and local troops rose up to annihilate the enemy and gain power at grass-roots level. The victory of the Central Highlands campaign encouraged the political struggle to gain land and the people in urban areas and their environs across the South.

In the campaigns of Tri - Thien - Hue and Da Nang, before our corps and divisions attacked cities and towns, in their environs, the masses and local armed forces rose up to destroy the puppet governments in villages and communes, creating favourable condition for our main forces to launch offensives. At the same time, in urban areas, political forces encouraged the masses to stage demonstrations against the enemy’s governments, thereby panicking the enemy’s troops in Saigon and Da Nang. After Tri - Thien - Hue campaign and Da Nang Campaign ended in victory, and Saigon Army’s Regions I and II were destroyed, all the pressure was placed on Saigon - Gia Dinh. Before our 5 flanks attacked Saigon, the work of preparation for uprising by the masses was very eventful. The Party Committee of Saigon - Gia Dinh assigned tens of thousands of cadres, party members and ordinary people, and propaganda teams to cooperate with active corps in seizing power. Under the leadership of grass-roots level cadres, from April 29th to April 30th 1975, the people rose up in 107 neighbourhoods (76 ones inside the city and 31 ones in its environs). It proved that the 1975 Spring General Offensive and Uprising was the pinnacle of closely combining offensive with uprising and vice versa to scatter and annihilate the enemy’s troops, thereby ending the war in shortest time.

3. The art of combining military struggle with political struggle and agitprop among the enemy’s troops. During the cause of revolutionary struggle, our Party determined to fight against the enemy militarily, politically and via agitprop among the enemy’s troops. To do so, military offensive would play a directly decisive role while political struggle and agitprop among the enemy’s troops consolidate military strength, thereby creating the synergy, making a change in the complexion of the war to end it. The combination of military struggle, political struggle and agitprop among the enemy’s troops took place during the resistance war against the U.S., but in the 1975 Spring General Offensive and Uprising, it took place at a quicker tempo and on larger scale, forming the posture of strong, widespread people’s war. That posture not only annihilated a large number of the enemy’s troops but forced numerous employees of the enemy’s government to leave the office or hand over power to the revolutionary forces. Even in many places, the enemy’s government had fallen apart before our armed forces came.

To achieve the effectiveness in agitprop among the enemy’s troops, the forces in charge of this work must grasp the opportunity. In the 1975 Spring General Offensive and Uprising, when our divisions and corps destroyed the enemy’s fortifications in outer circle, the forces in charge of conducting uprising and agitprop among the enemy’s troops dropped leaflets, used speakers and talked to troops and employees of the enemy’s government to persuade them to surrender. In reality of Ho Chi Minh campaign, when our 5 flanks started to attack the targets inside the city, forces in charge of agitprop among the enemy’s troops made plans to take part in uprisings for taking power at grass-roots levels. In parallel with robust offensives by our corps, since April 28th 1975, the forces conducting uprisings and political struggle forced thousands of Saigon government’s troops to disperse and its local governments to be handed over to us. By the morning of April 30th 1975, most of the enemy’s governments fell apart. That was a favourable condition for our corps to attack and control the targets.

Victory of the 1975 Spring General Offensive and Uprising has elapsed for ages, but the lessons learnt from it remain valuable and should be studied and flexibly applied to today’s cause of national construction and defence.

Sr. Col. Nguyen Van Luong, Military History Institute of Vietnam

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