This article about a brave ARVN general deserves to be published, but the author, an American veteran who interviewed the general personally, does not have any contacts with websites that would be suitable for this.  If anyone knows of such a website, please let me know so I can put them in touch with the author and give this bit of true history the publication it so well deserves.





“Co Van My (American Advisor), Vietnamese soldier. We the same,” proudly stated South Vietnamese General Ly Tong Ba, who was recognized by COUNTERPARTS  for his valor and service at their annual 2013 reunion in Las Vegas, Nevada.  “We fought the communists side by side,” he proclaimed while embracing former American advisors who fought with the South Vietnamese in the Vietnam War.   

Colonel Ly Tong Ba commander of the ARVN 23rd infantry division during the Battle for Kontum  turned back three battle -hardened North Vietnamese divisions to save the city from capture during the 1972 Easter Offensive.  Promoted to Brigadier General after the battle, General Ba expressed his anger against the author Neil Sheehan for totally ignoring his heroic effort in the book, “A Bright Shining Lie.”

 General Ba comments, “Sheehan says I am a bad soldier when I was the Captain in the Battle of Ap Bac, but his writings about that battle misrepresent my role and that of the Vietnamese soldiers that day. We walked into an ambush. Instead a VC company there was a main force reinforced VC Battalion dug in waiting for us.  I was the commander of the APC Company and we had already crossed three canals when we were ambushed by an overwhelming force.  I had asked for protective screens for our APC’s but the American advisors said we didn’t need them.  My commander ordered us to withdraw and not lose any more men that day. I was a Captain. I had to follow orders” 

 Captain Ba’s armored company had eight vehicle commanders killed because there were no bullet shields to protect them.   “I learned a lesson that day,” says the General.  “Don’t pursue the enemy into the jungle.  The jungle can defeat you.  I used that tactic in Kontum. We never attacked a larger force but engaged them in fortified positions.  Another lesson was that the M113 armored vehicles should advance on a parallel line side by side instead of one M113 after another. Ground troops would also be better utilized as well. “

What Sheehan doesn’t mention in his book, “A Bright Shining Lie,” is that there was a second battle of Ap Bac in which the same South Vietnamese soldiers of the ARVN 7th Division crushed the 514th VC Provincial Battalion reinforced with members of the 261st Main Force Battalion who were at the first battle.   Captain Ba’s armored unit helped crush the VC in that battle two years later which caused heavy casualties and desertions from the Viet Cong ranks.   An honest appraisal of the improvement of ARVN’s fighting ability could not have ignored that fact but one won’t find mention of it in his book.

Genera Ba expresses his opinion that the Soviets and Chinese gave their VC/NVA allies newer and more effective weapons than the US allies. “We were always behind the VC from weapons to organization including fighting methods. They get the AK 47, and then finally the ARVN gets the M 16. They had the superior RPG’s (rocket propelled grenades) and we had the 3.5 rocket launchers, and then the LAW. The NVA also had the Soviet AT-3 wire-guided missile like the TOW only it could be carried in a single man pack.”

Translated from General Ba’s book written in Vietnamese, “They operated on the larger size units, and then we increase the size of our operating units. But after each time like that, after we suffered losses and lost more able commanders, then we are forced to make some changes, and the Americans would agree to give more aids etc. Especially in the Battle of Ap Bac, after we lost many brave men, the Americans agree to install the bullet shields on the M113.”

 The Regional Forces/Popular forces fought many years with American vintage WWII weapons-the M1 rifle and M2 carbines before finally getting the M 16 in 1970.  The ARVN also had nothing in their arsenal to match the Russian T54/T55 tanks equipped with 100MM guns used later in the war, nor was the US 105 and 155 artillery a match for the longer range more mobile NVA 130MM artillery piece.

And of course, the aggressors from the North were better supplied in the end by their Russian and Chinese allies, when America deserted their South Vietnamese allies cutting off all aid.

 General Ba remembers, “John Paul Vann’s helicopter crashed on the way to see me.  He was flying to our 23d division headquarters to share fruit and treats from a promotion party that he had just attended.  I remember him fondly. He always had to have his orange juice every morning with a copy of the Stars and Stripes.”

Vann recognized General Ba during the Battle of Kontum as a commander who earned his stripes on the front lines and who spent time there encouraging his troops. “Vann said I was the only ARVN commander who could defeat the NVA. I tell him, don’t say that or I go to jail,” comments General Ba.

General Ba emphatically asks? “Who did the communists liberate when they conquered the South?  They enslaved the people and operated ‘revenge’ camps for years.  I spent 13 years in the camps. “He was in the same camp as General Le Minh Dao, who fought the last battle at Xuan Loc defeating three NVA divisions before running out of supplies and ammunition.

Genial Ba continues. “The communists broke the Paris Peace treaty but no one cared or did anything about it. Using today’s language, they would be called terrorists because they ruled and conquered by terror. They murdered our village administrators and teachers in the South. “

  “You know how General Giap got his soldiers to charge in human wave attacks at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu?”  asks General Ba.  “The communist soldiers knew that if they didn’t charge to certain death, their families would either be killed back in their village or they would receive no food. That’s the way the communists do things.”

Sheehan and his journalist partner David Halberstam spent their early careers in Vietnam criticizing every mistake the ARVN made with little knowledge of the underlying fabric of Vietnamese society and praising the valiant efforts of the Vietnamese communists while ignoring the terror/murder they used to control the peasants to follow their cause.   This writer has never met a former American advisor who didn’t consider “A Bright Shining Lie” to be a propaganda hit piece against the South Vietnamese Army and the struggling democracy they were attempting to build.

 Mark Moyar, author of “Triumph Forsaken” has said that Sheehan and  Halberstam did more damage to US foreign policy than any two journalists in the history of the United States with their naiveté and one-sided reporting.  General Ba, one of the forgotten true patriots in the battle for freedom in Vietnam would agree with that. Years after the War in an interview on C-Span, when they should have known better, Sheehan and Halberstam denied that the Communists collected their blood debt from the Southerners in the reeducation camps where tens of thousands died.

“Who did the communists free? “asks General Ba . “They put everyone in huge slave labor camps after the war.  No Vietnamese is free in Vietnam today.  The communist party owns and controls everything, and the Vietnamese protesting for human rights are in jail.” 

Rich Webster

Lieutenant/Mobile Advisory Team Leader with the Regional Forces/Popular Forces in Long An and Long Khanh Provinces, 1968/1969.

May 2013