General Le Minh Dao and Xuan Loc battle in 1974

W.Minh Tuan

General Le Minh Dao was born in 1933 in Saigon. He graduated from Class 10 of the National Military School of Da Lat, in 1954, with the rank of second lieutenant.

In 1968, at the age of 35, he was a colonel and governor of Chuong Thien province – present day a Long An area.

In March 1972, Mr. Le Minh Dao was assigned to be the commander of the 18th Division, the weakest division among the 10 divisions of the Saigon army. His predecessor was Major General Lam Quang Tho.

For some reason, the poor Major General Tho let the 18th Division become the weakest division in the Saigon army at that time, but was never dismissed, but was transferred to become the Principal of Truong Vo by Da Lat-a Military Academy of Dalat.

No wonder many officers of the Dalat military Academy were not good officers when Mr. Tho was the Principal. And this is also one of the reasons for the fall of the Saigon Government in 1975.

Colonel Dao has just been the Chief of the 18th Division for more than 7 months, then the 18th Division has matured, and has become one of the best fighting divisions of the Saigon army. For that reason, in November 1972, Mr. Le Minh Dao was promoted to brigadier general, a position equivalent to major general of the Hanoi army.

This is yet another proof that there are no bad soldiers, only bad commanders.

If the Saigon army had a better, more virtuous and talented commander than President Nguyen Van Thieu, they would not have lost the battle or lost the country in 1975.

When he took office as the commander of the 18th Division, the first thing Colonel Dao did was visit his soldiers brothers and sisters.

He strictly forbade the rationing of soldiers.

At that time, the evil of mutilation, theft, and corruption of soldiers’ rations and standards were raging throughout all components of the Saigon army, demoralizing the soldiers’ fighting spirit.

Meanwhile, President Nguyen Van Thieu only pays attention to taking care of his shiny hair every day, when he goes to meet reporters, foreign guests,,,.

Colonel Le Minh Dao had to reinforce the division’s dispensary so that he could treat sick and injured soldiers well.

He lived in harmony with the soldiers, without distinctions, manners,,,

With a friendly atmosphere, his absented soldiers comrades flooded back to the 18th Division after only a few days when Colonel Dao returned to command the division, completely different when Major General Tho commanded.

After that, Mr. Dao directly observed the terrain, where the 18th Division was in charge. He wanted to distinguish between bamboo forests, old growth forests, and rubber forests.

He not only rode a helicopter flying above the clouds on the wind to observe the field like General Tho.

It can be said that General Dao’s friendly, direct and close command style is quite similar to the command style of most of the commanding officers of the Hanoi army.

We all know that one of the commanding principles of our Hanoi army is that all military leaders, from big to small, directly visit and talk to many soldiers under their command, know the full name, know the rank, know the family background of many soldiers. When commanding any battle, in charge of any area, the commanding level must directly scout the field.

Colonel Nguyen Hai Bang, Deputy Head of Division 316 Division, commanded the battle for Buon Me Thuot, on March 10, 1975, opening the Ho Chi Minh Campaign, directly joined with the reconnaissance unit, swam across the river that there were many crocodiles, to go to the perimeter of Buon Ma Thuot town, to investigate in the field, see where to attack, where to hide troops, where tanks can enter, where to place artillery,,,.

General Nguyen Huu An, Commander of our 2nd Corps, is also the one who always directly himself to scouts the battlefield, before planning the battle.

And we also know how the command of the Saigon army, and the American army, was the majority of commanders who went to scout the field up on the sky by helicopter.

And when they command the battle, they also mainly command in helicopters up on the sky. The Saigon commanders were more used to drinking beer than fighting, sitting on the helicopter looking down at the ground, and calling to point out the soldiers on the ground to fight here, shoot there.

Even in Operation Lam Son 719, in Lao, in 1971, Lieutenant General Hoang Xuan Lam, who led this operation, leisurely played tennis in the afternoon in Dong Ha, and sat at the tennis court to call the commanders in Lao how to fight!!!

This operation was in Lower Laos.

So it can be said that the commanders of the Saigon army and the US army mainly commanded “in the clouds above the wind”.

Soldiers on the battlefield are extremely bored, wondering who they are fighting for? For those commanders who only know how to bake, cook troops, and only know how to touch women’s butts?

So the American army and the Saigon army no doubt lost.

But General Le Minh Dao, General Ly Tong Ba, General Le Van Hung, General Nguyen Khoa Nam,,, of the Saigon army were good generals who are loved and admired by soldiers and have a deep commanding style, directly almost like the Hanoi army. Unfortunately, they are not many, and they do not hold the highest command to be able to have policies that determine the war.

After only a few months of commanding the 18th Division, Colonel Dao led the 18th Division to defeat Hanoi army in many battles, such as the battle of Trang Bang, Cha Ray, the battle of An Loc, the battle of Doi Gio, the secret battle of the Iron Triangle, the battle of Ben Cat, the battle of An Dien,,,.

The situation of the war changed rapidly after the Paris Agreement was signed on January 27, 1973. The Saigon army under the command of President Thieu still did not change the way of fighting, did not change the strategy and tactics to cope with the new situation, while the Hanoi army immediately changed all strategies, tactics, fighting methods,,,.

For example, if the General Staff of Mr. Thieu proposed the Phu Quoc Island Plan, it is likely that the situation in the South would have changed greatly.

Phu Quoc Island is more than 500 square kilometers, almost equal to the area of ​​Singapore.

Singapore covers an area of ​​more than 700 square kilometers. For example, if the Saigon government expected that after the Paris Agreement, it would not be able to keep the South Việt Nam, then they may one day withdraw to Phu Quoc island, taking Phu Quoc island as the territory of the Republic of Vietnam.

With Phu Quoc island, only 3 divisions, and powerful navy and air force equipped by the US, are enough to protect. Then in the long run, they will use diplomatic measures,,, to reclaim the South Việt Nam later. Hanoi’s navy and air force are not strong, so it is difficult to capture Phu Quoc island.

The area of ​​Phu Quoc island is larger than today’s Singapore. If there was that Phu Quoc island option, the situation in South Vietnam might have changed dramatically.

Returning to the story of General Le Minh Dao, in April 1975, he was assigned to guard Xuan Loc, 60 km from Saigon, in the hope that he could stop the stormy advance of the Hanoi army.

If only this decision had been made a month earlier, in March 1975, and not Xuan Loc, but Buon Ma Thuot, and General Le Minh Dao was assigned to guard Buon Ma Thuot, the battle might have turned out in defferent way.

The picture of Việt Nam war would may has changed defferently.

At Xuan Loc, General Dao had 12,000 troops, including the 18th Division, and several additional brigades, to fight against General Hoang Cam’s 40,000 Hanoi troops, consisting of 3 divisions 6, 7, and 341. Fortunately for General Dao, General Hoang Cam of Hanoi is not a good general, so Mr. Dao can deal with Hoang Can not very difficult.

General Dao prepared the battlefield very carefully in both Long Khanh and Xuan Loc.

First, he occupied all the high points around Xuan Loc, and set up observatories there.

The layout of the cannons of General Dao is very clever. General Dao only left 4 cannons in Xuan Loc town, the rest, he placed cannons on Nui Thi mountain, and the southern mountains.

When our Hanoi army attacked, our troops were shot at very accurately by General Dao’s artillery, causing a lot of damage, but we could not detect where the artillery was fired.

The strongest infantry force of General Dao was the 5th Armored Cavalry of Lieutenant Colonel No, and the 48th Regiment of Lieutenant Colonel Tran Minh Cong. This is a mobile force that can coordinate in all directions and everywhere in the battlefield area.

The fixed defense force in Xuan Loc town, General Dao only arranged 2 battalions, and 1 company. These entrenched units had made very solid fortifications, calmly waiting for the Hanoi army to attack. When our Hanoi army attacked a few tens of meters away from the fortifications, General Dao’s soldiers began to emerge and counterattack fiercely.

General Dao’s command bunker is also arranged in 3 different places, if this tunnel is destroyed, then move to another cellar. So in the first 11 days of fighting, our Hanoi army could not detect General Dao’s whereabouts.

With such a layout of troops, General Dao always has plenty of forces to send to places where reinforcement is needed. So even though the number of troops is more than 3 times less than the enemy’s, the general Dao always seems to have a lot of troops in reserve.

General Dao’s communication and decoding force is also very good. When the Hanoi enemy informed each other, General Dao’s cryptographic force captured all the information, and decoded it in time, so General Dao always knew in advance all of the Hanoi enemy’s plans.

The battle of Xuan Loc began from April 9, 1975, to April 20, 1975.

According to General Dao’s comments about our Hanoi enemy army, it was as follows:

-“The Hanoi enemy army was completely passive. General Hoang Cam was too hasty and wanted to win quickly, so he was always confused. They use a lot of rookie troops, with no combat experience.”

In the direction of Long Khanh, a few kilometers from Xuan Loc, the 52nd Task Force was in charge.

But Hanoi’s 6th Division attacked in this direction. According to General Dao, Hanoi’s 6th Division is a good division, fighting was very good, so the Long Khanh side of the 52nd Task Force struggled very hard. After 6 days of fighting, from April 9 to April 15, the 52nd Task Force was defeated by the Hanoi 6th Division, the remaining troops fled to Bien Hoa.

Xuan Loc’s side, commanded by General Dao, was very stable.

Then, from April 15, the Hanoi army, General Tran Van Tra replaced General Hoang Cam.

General Tra changed the way of fighting, from fighting hard to practice attack to encircling, isolating, from frontal attack, to flank attack. And instead of hitting Xuan Loc directly, the Hanoi army turned around towards Bien Hoa, behind of Xuan Loc.

General Tra ordered artillery to attack Bien Hoa airport, preventing bombers from flying to support Xuan Loc. General Tra let his troops capture Dau Giay, and road 20, close to Bien Hoa, was the headquarters of the army The 3rd Army Corps of General Nguyen Van Toan, was the superior commander of General Dao, and completely isolated Xuan Loc.

At this time, the battlefield situation changed, General Toan’s command post was threatened, causing General Toan to ask General Dao for help. A few days earlier, General Toan also sent troops, aircraft and artillery to support General Dao. Now, it was General Toan who had to order General Dao to withdraw from Xuan Loc to rescue General Toan.

That means that General Tra did not need to fight directly at Xuan Loc anymore, but still drove General Dao out of Xuan Loc.

Here again, the commander is very important.

If our Hanoi army continued to let the mediocre general Hoang Cam command the battle of Xuan Loc, perhaps the entire 4th Army of Hanoi would continue to be held at Xuan Loc, then perhaps the outcome of the Việt Nam war would be very different.

But General Vo Nguyen Giap, minister of Defence Ministry, and General Staff in Hanoi understood the situation in Xuan Loc, and replaced General Cam by general Tran Van Tra, so the battlefield situation changed rapidly.

On the side of the Saigon army, General Nguyen Van Toan, commander of the 3rd Army Corps of the Saigon army, was also a more mediocre general than General Hoang Cam of Hanoi. This General Toan is famous for waltzing, drinking, and flirting woman better than fighting.

But because of his close relationship with President Thieu, Mr. Toan remained in this position forever to arrange drinking parties and waltzes, no matter how the battlefield situation changed.

President Thieu appoints a person close to him to the leadership position, regardless of that person’s talent and morality, that is, digging his own grave.

On April 20, Mr. Toan ordered General Dao to withdraw his troops to Bien Hoa, to protect Mr. Toan.

General Dao retreated on foot with his soldiers, rather than fleeing by helicopter like many other commanders. And he organized a retreat at night on April 21, so escaping the siege of Hanoi’s army with safe.

On April 23, President Tran Van Huong, who had just assumed Presidency from Thieu, signed a decision to promote Brigadier General Dao to major general, equivalent to the rank of lieutenant general of the Hanoi army.

If President Tran Van Huong boldly signed the promotion of 4 stars general to General Dao, and let him replace General Cao Van Vien as the Chief of the General Staff, it was very likely that General Dao could do something to change the war situation. Because at that time, the soldiers and weapons of the Saigon army were still quite large, and quite strong.

April 30, 1975, the last day of the Saigon army, the generals of the Saigon army fled to the sea, General Dao did not run away, he stayed with the soldiers, and he was captured by Hanoi army, and was forced to study in education camps in various locations in Việt Nam.

General Dao had passed the studies, reeducated, reformed for 17 consecutive years, going through all kinds of different prisons, from south to north.

In 1992, he was released back home in Saigon, and in 1993, General Le Minh Dao was allowed to go to the US to reunite with his family.

Unfortunately, General Le Minh Dao now in the US has joined the fierce anti-communist movement.

If general Dao go back to Việt Nam to visit former battle fields, to retell his stories, it would must more meaningfull.

Vietnamese communist Party and State are very humane, ready to open the door to welcome all people of goodwill to visit the country and participate in the construction of the country. ///

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