South Vietnamese troops report that 55 soldiers have been killed in two clashes with communist forces. Claiming that the war had “restarted,” South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu asserted, “We cannot allow the communists a situation in which…they can launch harassing attacks against us,” and ordered his forces to launch a counter-offensive to retake lost territory. The announcement essentially marked the end of attempts to adhere to the agreements of the Paris Peace Accords.
A cease-fire had been initiated in Vietnam on January 28, 1973, under the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords. These most recent battles were only the latest rounds in ongoing fighting that had followed the brief lull provided by the cease-fire. A large part of the problem was that the Peace Accords had left an estimated 200,000 North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam. Renewed fighting broke out after the cease-fire as both sides jockeyed for control of territory in South Vietnam. Each side held that military operations were justified by the other side’s violations of the cease-fire. What resulted was an almost endless chain of retaliations.
During the period between the initiation of the cease-fire and the end of 1973, there were an average of 2,980 combat incidents per month in South Vietnam. Most of these were generally low-intensity harassing attacks by the North Vietnamese designed to wear down the South Vietnamese forces, but the communists intensified their efforts in the Central Highlands in September when they attacked government positions with tanks west of Pleiku. As a result of these post-cease-fire actions, the South Vietnamese lost an estimated 25,473 soldiers in battle in 1973.