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North Vietnam's 1972 Easter Offensive (Paperback)

Hanoi's Gamble

American History Photographic Books Colour Books Vietnam 20th Century Military

By Stephen Emerson
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Cold War 1945 - 1991
Pages: 128
ISBN: 9781526757128
Published: 16th April 2020

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By the end of 1971, in what Hanoi called the American War and at the height of the Cold War, the fighting had dragged on for eight years with neither side gaining a decisive advantage on the battlefield and talks in Paris to the end the war were going nowhere. While the United States was steadily drawing down its ground forces in South Vietnam, Washington was also engaging in a grand effort to build up and strengthen Saigon’s armed forces to the point of self-sufficiency. Not only had the ranks of Saigon’s forces swelled in recent years, but they were now being equipped and trained to use the latest American military equipment. Perhaps now was the time for Hanoi to take one last gamble before it was too late.

With the rumble of men and mechanized equipment breaking the early morning silence, some 40,000 North Vietnamese troops advanced across the demilitarized zone into South Vietnam on March 30, 1972 in what would become the largest conventional attack of the war. Ill-prepared and poorly led, South Vietnamese troops in the far north were quickly routed in the face of the ensuing onslaught. Likewise, coordinated attacks across the Cambodian border northwest of Saigon and into the central highlands in the coming weeks gained steam and in due course as many as 200,000 men along with T-54/55 main battle tanks, 130mm towed artillery, ZSU-57 self-propelled ant-aircraft guns, and hundreds of trucks and armored personnel carriers were engaged across three battlefronts. Soon Saigon’s beleaguered forces were being pushed to the brink of defeat in what appeared to be the end for the Thieu government. Ultimately, however, the timely and massive intervention by U.S. and South Vietnamese air power, along with the bravery of some South Vietnamese commanders and their American advisers saved the day. Hanoi’s gamble had failed and in its wake lay up to 100,000 dead and South Vietnamese roads littered with the smoldering wrecks of North Vietnamese military equipment. Moreover, it would be another three years before the North had recovered enough to try again.

Stephen Emerson’s latest book entitled “North Vietnam’s 1972 Easter Offensive” is outstanding. It is well researched and well written and covers the time in 1972 when North Vietnam came very close to winning everything it sought to achieve by striking a decisive blow to South Vietnam’s government and thus force the United States to capitulate to the North’s terms for ending the war.

Instead, South Vietnamese forces rally by fighting effectively inspired by new leaders in key positions and aided by many brave American advisors on the front lines. At the same time, President Nixon doubles down with an expanded commitment of air power that takes advantage of the massing of the North’s conventional troops and smashes them and their supply lines. This defeat on the battlefield along with Nixon’s decision to attack North Vietnamese targets in Hanoi and Haiphong cause North Vietnam’s Le Duan to reassess and return to the negotiating table.

Emerson does a superb job describing all that takes place during this critical time period that places South Vietnam in a position to maintain its independence in 1972. I highly recommend this book that describes not only an important time in our history, but has many parallels to the situation we find ourselves in with Afghanistan currently.

Colonel Roger H. Ducey, USAF, (ret.)

Well illustrated throughout, including a section of colour photos in the centre of the book.
An interesting read. The story of the Vietnam War is a long one, and had many aspects. This book concentrates on just one series of events, prior to the final NVA success in 1975. A good read.

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Military Model Scene, Robin Buckland

By the end of the 1971, the Vietnam War had raged for eight years without either side gaining a decisive advantage, and the Paris peace talks were achieving little if anything.

The United States was withdrawing it’s own ground forces in South Vietnam at this point, while trying to train, strengthen and equip the South Vietnamese Army.

If ever North Vietnam was going to invade South Vietnam, it would have to be before the South got too strong.

On March 30, 1972, North Vietnamese forces invaded South Vietnam, making considerable gains, it was now only a matter of time for the South.

Well-written and illustrated, this book brings a crucial event in the Vietnam War to vivid life.

Read the full review here

Hellbound

About Stephen Emerson

Stephen Emerson was born in San Diego, California into a U.S. Navy family; his father was a career naval aviator and his mother a former Navy nurse. Steve and his siblings grew up on various Navy bases during the Vietnam War. His father served two combat tours in Vietnam flying both the A-4 Skyhawk and the A-7 Corsair II and participated in Operation Rolling Thunder while flying off the U.S.S. Midway in 1965 with Attack Squadron 22.

Steve worked as intelligence analyst covering political-military affairs in Africa and the Middle East before embarking on an academic career. He served as Security Studies Chair at the National Defense University’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies and previously as an associate professor of National Security Decision-making at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Steve has written widely on subjects from American national security affairs and political instability to terrorism, African conflicts, and counter-insurgency. Chief among these are his critical assessment of U.S. counter-terrorism policy in Africa, ‘The Battle for Africa’s Hearts and Minds’, and his comprehensive military history of the Mozambican civil war in The Battle for Mozambique. He holds a PhD in International Relations/Comparative Politics from the University of Florida and currently resides in Orlando, Florida.

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