February 5

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Feb 5, 1975:

North Vietnamese begin preparations for offensive

North Vietnamese Gen. Van Tien Dung departs for South Vietnam to take command of communist forces in preparation for a new offensive. In December 1974, the North Vietnamese 7th Division and the newly formed 3rd Division attacked Phuoc Long Province, north of Saigon. This attack represented an escalation in the "cease-fire war" that started shortly after the Paris Peace Accords were signed in 1973.

The North Vietnamese wanted to see how Saigon and Washington would react to a major attack so close to Saigon. President Richard Nixon and his successor, Gerald Ford, had promised to come to the aid of South Vietnam if the North Vietnamese launched a major new offensive. With Nixon's Watergate resignation and Ford facing an increasingly hostile Congress, Hanoi was essentially conducting a "test" attack to see if the United States would honor its commitment to Saigon. The attack was much more successful than the North Vietnamese anticipated: the South Vietnamese soldiers fought poorly and the United States did nothing.

Emboldened by their success, the North Vietnamese decided to launch a major offensive against the South Vietnamese. "Campaign 275" began on March 1, 1975. The North Vietnamese forces quickly overran the South Vietnamese and the United States failed to provide the promised support. Saigon fell on April 30 and the South Vietnamese government officially surrendered.

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