Saturday, March 12, 2005

North Vietnam's blitzkrieg is stopped -- for two weeks -- at Xuan Loc

By Dennis Rockstroh

North Vietnam’s blitzkrieg down South Vietnam’s Highway One in March and April 1975 was reminiscent of America general George Patton’s Third Army race across Europe in World War II.
The North Vietnamese seemed unstoppable.
Until they met the 18th ARVN (Army of the Republic of Viet Nam) Division at Xuan Loc, 40 miles east of Saigon.
The South Vietnamese division, fighting with a ferocity rarely seen, destroyed 37 North Vietnamese tanks and killed more than 5,000 enemy soldiers before falling to the massive thrust of PAVN (People’s Army of Viet Nam). Hanoi had dispatched 21 divisions, more than a quarter million men, to take Saigon.
Eventually, the north smashed through the south’s defenses at Xuan Loc, but the 18th Division had delayed the PAVN push for two weeks and allowed more people to escape Vietnam by sea and air and across trails in Laos and Cambodia.
But with the North Vietnamese victory, the stage was set for the final battle of the long war.
The big question was: Would America act?
Twenty-one North Vietnamese divisions massed outside Saigon.
A U.S. Navy cruiser moved to a position just off the coast of Vung Tau. It was armed with nuclear weapons.