How effective was the Vietnamization?

As part of the Vietnamization plan, together with efforts to update and prepare South Vietnamese army, the number of U.S. troops in Vietnam was reduced gradually yet constantly over time. In June 1969, Nixon announced the first U.S. troop withdrawal. In 1972, only 69,000 U.S. troops were present in Vietnam in compared to the peak of 549,000 in 1969. However, several offensives of North Vietnam during the period cast serious doubts on the effectiveness of this strategy.

Operation Lam Son 719 (February 8 – March 25, 1971) in southeastern of Laos, for example, exposed earnest weaknesses in South Vietnamese “leadership, planning, organization, motivation and operational expertise.” These internal deficiencies of South Vietnamese command structure once again reappeared in the Easter Offensive (March 30 – October 22, 1972), which also demonstrated heavy dependence of South Vietnamese army on U.S. air power to repulse the communist attacks. 

Under worldwide harsh criticism and massive anti-war protests across the U.S. as the the war escalated to Laos and Cambodia as well as the fear that gradual withdrawal of all U.S. troops would eventually result in a victory for the North communists, the Nixon Administration started to negotiate a peace settlement with North Vietnamese leaders in 1969. Despite initial disagreement of South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu, a peace accords was eventually signed in January 1973 at Paris in which the U.S. had 60 days to withdraw all its remaining troops in exchange for an immediate truce, American prisoners release and North Vietnam’s recognition of South Vietnamese government as well.

At the end of the month, Laird – the creator of the Vietnamization term, declared the completeness and success of the strategy that South Vietnamese army was now fully capable of protecting their own country security against the North communists. However, his claim turned out to be unfounded as Saigon and South Vietnam as a result, soon fell to the North Vietnamese forces on April 30, 1975.

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