Losing Binh Dinh
The Failure of Pacification and Vietnamization, 1969-1971
Kevin M. Boylan
Americans have fought two prolonged battles over Vietnam—one in southeast Asia and one, ongoing even now, at home—over whether the war was unnecessary, unjust, and unwinnable. Revisionist historians who reject this view have formulated many contra-factual scenarios for how the war might have been won, but also put forward one historically testable hypothesis—namely that the war actually was won after the 1968 Tet Offensive, only to be thrown away later through a failure of political will. It is this “Lost Victory” hypothesis that Kevin M. Boylan takes up in Losing Binh Dinh, aiming to determine once and for all whether the historical record supports such a claim.
Proponents of the “Lost Victory” thesis contend that by 1972, President Richard Nixon's policy of “Vietnamization” had effectively eliminated South Vietnamese insurgents, “pacified” the countryside, and prepared the South Vietnamese to defend their own territory with only logistical and financial support from Americans. Rejecting the top-down approach favored by Revisionists, Boylan examines the facts on the ground in Binh Dinh, a strategically vital province that was the second most populous in South Vietnam, controlled key transportation routes, and contained one of the nation's few major seaports as well as the huge US Air Force base at Phu Cat. Taking an in-depth look at operations that were conducted in the province, Boylan is able to uncover the fundamental flaw in the dual objectives of “Vietnamization” and “Pacification”—namely, that they were mutually exclusive. The inefficiency and corruption of the South Vietnamese government and armed forces was so crippling that progress in pacification occurred only when Americans took the lead—which, in turn, left the South Vietnamese even more dependent on US support.
“Boylan’s careful and well-documented analysis of US and South Vietnamese counterinsurgency efforts in Binh Dinh province is a powerful and convincing refutation of those Revisionists who have counter-factually asserted that the US had won the war by 1970—only to have it lost because of the failure of Congress to support Saigon after the 1973 Paris agreement. His writing is clear and graceful, turning a tragic topic into a good read. I wish this book had been in print when I was writing my books.”
—Jeffrey Kimball, author of Nixon’s Vietnam War; The Vietnam War Files; and co-author of Nixon’s Nuclear Specter
“Exhaustive in its research and breathtaking in its analysis, Losing Binh Dinh is a monumental achievement and a significant addition to the growing scholarship on the pacification program in Vietnam.”
—Robert K. Brigham, author of ARVN: Life and Death in the South Vietnamese Army
“Diving deep beneath typical overviews of pacification in Vietnam, Kevin Boylan explores the realities in the field, showing the fraught choice between United States-centered versus South Vietnamese operations. In Losing Binh Dinh, Boylan also takes the reader beyond standard fixations on the Mekong Delta to focus on the second-most populous province of the land, one that had to be won if the American war was going to go America’s way. Losing Binh Dinh makes an important contribution to our knowledge of the central struggle for “hearts and minds” in South Vietnam. It is well worth reading.”
—John Prados, author of Vietnam: The History of an Unwinnable War, 1945–1975
“Losing Binh Dinh takes on the Revisionist School’s claim that pacification had succeeded in Vietnam in the years after the 1968 Tet Offensive. Kevin Boylan provides a comprehensively documented study that examines the progress of pacification in Binh Dinh Province in the latter years of the war before all U.S. forces were withdrawn. He clearly demonstrates that, at least for that part of Vietnam, pacification proved to be problematic. This well-written and scholarly treatment is a valuable addition to the historiography of the war.”
—James H. Willbanks, PhD, is a Vietnam veteran and author of Abandoning Vietnam and A Raid Too FarSee fewer reviews...