Battle Of AP Back


     On July 7, 1954 Bao Dai, president of Vietnam appointed Ding Diem as

Prime Minister. Dai was a pro French president who did not have communist
beliefs for Vietnam. Diem was man who refused French rule and favored American
ideas. He was a Roman Catholic, thus causing him to be an opponent of communism
as well. He also maintained a link to the CIA through Colonel Edward Lansdale,
renowned expert on counterinsurgency. In April 1955 Diem launched an offensive
against his main rivals in the south (Coa Dai and Hoa Hoa sects well as the
powerful Binh Xuyen pirates) and declared himself president. Since the south was
a mainly Buddhist and Diem was Catholic, it caused him to be isolated from the
people. His fear of a coup and obsession with power caused him to distrust all,
but his own family. Between Diem and his family there was a spread of corruption
throughout the country. By the late 1950's South Vietnam had degenerated into
repressive, undemocratic state, which left its people angry and isolated. 1957
sparked the first sign of trouble as guerillas launch attacks on government
agencies in rural areas. It was believed that the Vietnamese Communist launched
the attacks; also know as the Viet Cong (VC), who was of the Viet Ming party
that stayed behind. They had gone under ground a few years earlier in 1954. They
gained the support of North Vietnam and in 1959 began a policy to reunify

Vietnam with a large-scale infiltration of armed cadres into the south along the

Ho Chi Man Trail. Due to the resentment caused by Diem, a substantial part of

South Vietnam was taken over by the communist (VC). The US, under the leadership
of President John F. Kennedy, was convinced that the insurgency in South Vietnam
was part of a Sino-Soviet campaign to ensure the spread of Communism. The US
government sent aid to South Vietnam in the form of US supplied M-113 armored
personnel carriers, helicopters, aircraft along with pilots and mechanics to
train South Vietnamese personnel on their use. Also US Special Forces (green
berets) and Army advisors were deployed to boost the capability of the Army of
the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). At the end of 1961, about 3,160 US service
personnel were in Vietnam. The number would rise to about 16,000 two years
later. Even the advantages of US military technology and advisors to South

Vietnam, after a short time the VC learned to operate around them. This was due
to the AVRN unit commanders, many of who were just political appointees, lacked
resolve. Thus allowing the VC to escape instead of risking heavy AVRN
casualties. The VC was engaging in new techniques ranging from the relocation of
villagers to more fortified areas to use of air and artillery strikes in rural
areas. This resulted in more alienation of the people from Diem's cause,
ultimately leading to the peasant class assisting the VC. January 2, 1963 the

AVRN 7th Division was ordered to destroy a VC in the hamlet (AP) of Tan Thoi.

The plan was for AVRN infantry to be landed by helicopter to the north of the
hamlet, while two Civil Guard battalions supported by a company of M-113s
approached from the south through the neighboring hamlet of Bac. Originally it
was believed that the transmitter was guarded by an estimate of 120 VC. In
reality it was guarded by about 360. The AVRN attack went wrong from the very
start. After the infantry had landed at 0703 hrs, it was discovered that the
weather was not good enough for any more helicopter operations, due to a thick
ground fog. Further operations had to post-poned until 0930 hrs. The first clash
occurred at 0745 where the Civil Guard blundered into the VC section across
their route. After the loss of their company commander the South Vietnamese Army
went to the ground and called for much needed reinforcements. Helicopters were
landed 300 yards west of Bac and were supported by UH-1 gunships. It is said
that US pilots landed 200 yards from the hamlet into a VC ambush. As they came
in at about 1020 hrs they were hit by machinegun and rifle fire from hidden
foxholes. One of the CH-21 was shot down and another came in to recover the
aircrew. That helicopter and a UH-1 met a similar fate. The infantry on board
took cover in the paddy dikes. A call was made to the commander of the M-113s
ordering him to suggest an immediate advance on Bac, but the APCs were away to
the west beyond a series of canals. Some ARVN unit commanders had initially
refused to move. It was not until 1300 until the first APCs reached the battle
area. At 1430 hrs they charged the VC held positions, but the VC held their
ground using grenades to hold off the vehicles. An airborne division was to the
made available to the ARVN but were ordered the east of Bac to cut off the
retreat of the VC. The VC was resourceful enough to wait until nightfall to slip
away into the darkness leaving only 18 dead behind. America suffered only 3
fatalities, but the AVRN suffered over 80 due to the indecisiveness of their
leaders. Later after much conflict in South Vietnam, a coup was plotted and
carried out against Diem. He was assassinated due to his oppressive nature
against the Buddhist religion. America at this point could not back out of the
conflict and was committed by November 1, 1963.