April 21

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Apr 21, 1975:

Thieu flees Saigon as Xuan Loc falls

Xuan Loc, the last South Vietnamese outpost blocking a direct North Vietnamese assault on Saigon, falls to the communists.

The North Vietnamese had launched a major offensive in March to capture the provincial capital of Ban Me Thuot in the Central Highlands. The South Vietnamese defenders fought very poorly and were quickly overwhelmed by the North Vietnamese attackers. Despite previous promises to provide support to the South Vietnamese if the communists violated the provisions of the cease-fire, the United States did nothing.

In an attempt to reposition his forces for a better defense, South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu ordered his forces in the Highlands to withdraw to more defensible positions to the south. What started out as a reasonably orderly withdrawal soon degenerated into a panic that spread throughout the South Vietnamese armed forces. They abandoned Pleiku and Kontum in the Highlands with very little fighting and the North Vietnamese pressed the attack from the west and north. In quick succession, Quang Tri, Hue, and Da Nang in the north fell to the communist onslaught. The North Vietnamese continued to attack south along the coast, defeating the South Vietnamese forces at each encounter.

As the North Vietnamese forces closed on the approaches to Saigon, the politburo in Hanoi issued an order to Gen. Van Tien Dung to launch the "Ho Chi Minh Campaign," the final assault on Saigon itself. Dung began to move his forces into position for the final battle.

The South Vietnamese 18th Division made a valiant final stand at Xuan Loc, 40 miles northeast of Saigon, and the South Vietnamese soldiers destroyed three of Dung's divisions. However, the South Vietnamese succumbed to the superior North Vietnamese numbers. With the fall of Xuan Loc, President Nguyen Van Thieu resigned and transferred authority to Vice-President Tran Van Huong. Thieu then fled Saigon, flying to Taiwan on April 25 and eventually on to Great Britain, where he now resides.

By April 27, the North Vietnamese had completely encircled Saigon and began to maneuver for their final assault. By the morning of April 30, the war was over. When the North Vietnamese tanks broke through the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon, the South Vietnamese surrendered and the Vietnam War came to an end.

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