Saturday, September 8, 2012

"The Supermen": Battle of Xuan Loc April 1975 - ARVN 18th DIvision

18th Division soldiers at Xuân Lộc

Battle of Xuan Loc was the last major battle of the Vietnam War, the vastly outnumbered 18th Division stood and fought at Xuan Loc, 38 miles north of Saigon. It was commanded by General Le Minh Dao.

Vietnam War Patch ARVN 18th INFANTRY Division "THE SUPERMEN"

Found the patch above and bought it last night.


This first account inserted 09/09/2012 thanks to comment by indyjonesouthere
The Battle of Xuan Loc; Mar 17 – Apr 17, 1975 & The End
Xuan Loc was the last major battle for South Vietnam. This town sits astride Q. L. (National Road) #1, some 40 odd miles to the northeast of Saigon (on the road to Phan Thiet) and was the capitol of South Vietnam’s Long Khanh province. The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) attack fell on the Army Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) 18th Division.12
On March 17th, 1975 the NVA 6th & 7th Divisions attacked Xuan Loc but were repulsed by the ARVN 18th. On April 9th the NVA 341st Division joined the attack. After a four thousand round artillery bombardment, these three divisions massed, and spearheaded by Russian tanks and other armored vehicles, mounted a second assault on Xuan Loc. But again, the ARVN 18th held its ground. The NVA reinforced with their 325th Division and began moving their 10th & 304th Divisions into position. Eventually, in a classic example of the art of “Mass and Maneuver” the NVA massed 40,000 men and overran Xuan Loc.
During this fight, the ARVN 18th had 5,000 men at Xuan Loc. These men managed to virtually destroy 3 NVA divisions, but on April 17th, 1975 they were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and the weight of the “Mass.” Before overrunning Xuan Loc the NVA had committed six full divisions, plus a host of various support troops.

The 18th Infantry Division was an infantry division in the III Corps of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). The U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam considered the 18th as undisciplined and was well known throughout the ARVN for its "cowboy" reputation. In 1975 the 18th was made famous as the only ARVN division that stood fast and refused to surrender before Saigon fell. During the last major battle of the Vietnam War, the vastly outnumbered 18th Division stood and fought at Xuan Loc, 38 miles north of Saigon.

This battle is considered the epic last stand of ARVN forces, where the 18th earned the name "The Supermen". It was commanded by General Le Minh Dao, a smart, conservative and emotional commander. The 18th made a defiant apocalyptic last stand against communist forces in Xuan Loc, a city strategically important for intersecting five main routes. The fierce fighting raged for two weeks. The 18th Division, outnumbered 7:1 by the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) forces, all but destroyed three PAVN divisions before finally it was overwhelmed by superior numbers.

The division was forced to evacuate from the city on April 21, 1975, nine days before the fall of Saigon. Upon learning the 18th had lost "Xuan Loc" that afternoon at 3:00pm President Nguyen Van Thieu made a tearful televised speech that was broadcast around the world in which he blamed the United States for abandoning South Vietnam; he closed the speech by resigning the presidency. The 18th was finally destroyed while defending Bien Hoa Air Base.

The Battle of Xuan Loc also known as "The last stand at Xuan Loc", was the last major battle of the Vietnam War that took place in Xuan Loc, Dong Nai Province. Over a period of twelve days, the ARVN 18th Infantry Division attempted to stop three People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) divisions from overunning the town.

In regards to Saigon, General Van Tien Dung planned to launch a five pronged drive on the South Vietnamese capital, but wishing to avoid the same level of destruction inflicted during the Tet Offensive. As a result, General Dung made a decision to throw his regular units against the ARVN, and try to destroy the irreplaceable South Vietnamese units to prevent them from regrouping in Saigon.

During the fight for Xuan Loc both sides displayed feats of courage, leadership and determination. For the soldiers of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam led by Major General Le Minh Dao in particular, the battle proved that they were determined fighters, contrary to a percentage of Western media which often portrayed them as cowards.

Following their victories in the Central Highlands, the Communist forces were applying pressure on the South Vietnamese on all battlefields. Xuan Loc, located in Long Khanh Province, was a small town that occupied the key roads into the capital, Saigon.

The main North Vietnamese formation moving towards Xuan Loc were the 341st, 6th and 7th Divisions. Defiantly blocking their way were the ARVN 18th Division, Long Khanh provincial forces, and 82nd Ranger Battalion. On 12 April 1975, the 1st Airborne Brigade, made up of four Airborne Battalions and one Airborne artillery battalion, was moved into the area of operations by helicopter.


Following the initial assault on April 9, the 341st VPA Division bombarded Xuan Loc with more than four thousand rounds of artillery fire. North Vietnamese tanks and infantry began moving into the streets of Xuan Loc, and the battle which followed was unique in many respects for the Vietnam War, involving units of divisional size, devastatingly effective VNAF airpower and sophisticated US-made BLU-82 Daisy Cutters. Between the 3rd and 11th of April, North Vietnamese units attempted to push into Xuan Loc, but the 43rd and 52nd ARVN Regiments held their ground as one assault after another was beaten back.

When the situation in the area was temporarily stabilised, the South Vietnamese air force began resupplying the ground forces. On April 12, 93 tons of artillery ammunition was flown in by CH-47 Chinook helicopters, and another 100 tons arrived the following day. While resupplying efforts were underway, flights of A-1 Skyraiders were called in to provide close-air-support as South Vietnamese C-130s blasted North Vietnamese formations using Daisy Cutter bombs.

On April 13 the North Vietnamese forces resumed their attack, fighting with the 1st Battalion of the 43rd ARVN Regiment.

After 12 days and nights of ferocious combat against the North Vietnamese Army, the ARVN defenders gradually give ground when Military Region III headquarters ordered the 18th Infantry Division and other units to pull back to Bien Hoa. The 18th Division had to fight its way out with the supporting armoured task force losing half of its equipment. Coincidentally, the 6th VPA Division was also moving the same direction as the ARVN, with 130mm artillery pieces aimed at Bien Hoa airbase. On the morning of April 16, artillery and rocket strikes damaged six F-5s and 14 A-37s. The artillery attack on Bien Hoa also marked the end of organised resistance after heavy assaults on ARVN positions along Routes 1 and 20. On April 20, all resistance were ended with the 1st ARVN Airborne Brigade withdrawing towards Ba Ria in Phuoc Tuy where it continued to fight.

In contrast to the general impression of total collapse on the part of the ARVN, the events at Xuan Loc was described as 'heroic and gallant' by the South Vietnamese defenders. It was one of the few places where the ARVN, though outnumbered, stood and fought with a tenacity which stunned their opponents. The stand of the ARVN so impressed the rest of the entire South Vietnamese Army, that previously routed, they grew confident again. News reporters were flown in from around the world to witness the battlefield strewn with VPA casualties, repelled in assault after assault with heavy losses, including at least 37 T-54 tanks destroyed or knocked out. Even the official Vietnamese Communist history of the Vietnam War states that the fighting at Xuan Loc was "cruel".


With Xuan Loc and all of Long Khanh Province secured, the gateway to Saigon was opened for North Vietnam's final assault. The only thing stood on their way were small pockets of desperate ARVN defenders.

For South Vietnam and its government, the fall of Xuan Loc was another painful blow following the loss of the Central Highlands. But for the men of the 18th Infantry Division and other units, inside a larger defeat they could find a personal victory, as they proved for the last time during this decade-long conflict that they could stand and fight.