Vietnam War 1971 – LAM SON 719

A story published in the November/December 2021 issue of The VVA Veteran Online provides yet another disturbing look at the idiocy of the Vietnam war.

The story “Lam Son 719 – No Surprises” by John Prados describes in detail, a failed operation that was pushed through toward the end of the war, despite warnings from U.S. advisors and commanders. Prados writes, “The comments by Kissinger and Johnson are quite revealing—and they indicate that Lam Son was a major error. As it turns out, the truth is worse than it seemed.” He continues with this:

U. Alexis Johnson, a senior official at the State Department, said that Lam Son was “ill-conceived from the start. It required an unproven group of soldiers to strike at an objective that the enemy would defend stoutly in a region where it had superior logistics. Johnson was right. Lam Son 719 ended with South Vietnamese troops desperately clinging to the skids of helicopters in hopes of escaping Laos. There was a huge toll. American casualties equaled those of the 1968 siege of Khe Sanh, with enormous losses in helicopters to boot.”


In early November 1970, President Richard Nixon ordered a full review of alternatives for offensive action. As we have learned since the war, Nixon’s top priority was increasing his reelection chances in 1972, even more than pursuing promising peace initiatives. He and Kissinger loved to promote his demeanor as being a madman, aka The Madman Theory where nations think he was irrational and volatile. According to the theory, those leaders would then avoid provoking the United States, fearing an unpredictable American response.”

The Lam Son 719 operation fit that mold of madness at an exorbitant cost, with thousands of Americans and ARVN’s either killed or wounded.

“Lam Son 719 was scheduled to begin on February 8. On January 26 Bob Haldeman wrote: “Hanoi has our plan, we’ve discovered.” On the afternoon of January 27, 1971, MACV commander Abrams recommended canceling the planned offensive. On January 29 intercepted messages indicated that the North Vietnamese were expecting an attack in Laos. Nixon and Kissinger’s stubborn adherence to a plan that had leaked to the enemy set up the South Vietnamese—and American support troops and airmen—for a huge disaster.”

How did ‘Tricky Dicky’ (Nixon) spin that disaster?

On April 7th, President Nixon claimed that, “Tonight I can report that Vietnamization has succeeded.” South Vietnam, President Thiệu claimed that the operation in Laos was “the biggest victory ever.” Thiệu was re-elected unopposed on October 2, 1971 while Nixon won the November 7, 1972 presidential election, with nearly 61-percent of the popular vote. Less than two years later, on August 8, 1974, he announced his resignation, with impeachment proceedings against him underway for the Watergate affair. Source

“According to XXIV Corps’ official figures, which were close to those reported by the media, ARVN casualties included more than 7,000 killed, wounded or captured – a casualty rate of nearly 40 percent. Combined U.S. casualties for both Lam Son 719 and Dewey Canyon II included 253 killed or missing in action and 1,149 wounded. In terms of equipment, the U.S. lost 107 helicopters destroyed and 601 damaged (20 percent of which were so badly damaged that they were not expected to fly again). The U.S. Air Force lost six fighter-bombers and a forward air controller aircraft, and four pilots were killed in action (or declared missing).” Source



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