December 13

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Dec 13, 1974:

North Vietnamese commence attack on Phuoc Long Province

North Vietnamese General Tran Van Tra orders 7th Division and the newly formed 3rd Division to attack 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 reacted 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 attack. With Nixon's resignation and Ford facing an increasingly hostile Congress, Hanoi was essentially conducting a "test" attack to see if the U.S. 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 U.S. did nothing.

The communists overran the last South Vietnamese positions in Phuoc Long on January 6, 1975. Emboldened by their success and by the American passivity, the North Vietnamese leadership decided that it was time to launch a major offensive. The next attack was launched in March, with Ban Me Thuot in the Central Highlands as the initial objective. Once again, the South Vietnamese forces were largely ineffective and the U.S. failed to respond. When the North Vietnamese intensified their efforts, the South Vietnamese, feeling abandoned by the United States, collapsed totally in just 55 days. On April 30, 1975, the North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gates of the presidential palace and the South Vietnamese surrendered unconditionally.

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