At Ap Bac, a village in the Mekong Delta 50 miles southwest of Saigon, the Viet Cong inflict heavy casualties on a much larger South Vietnamese force.
About 2,500 troops of South Vietnam’s 7th Infantry Division–equipped with automatic weapons, armored amphibious personnel carriers, and supported by bombers and helicopters–failed to defeat a group of 300 guerrillas who escaped after inflicting heavy losses on the South Vietnamese.
By the time the battle was over, the South Vietnamese suffered 80 killed and over 100 wounded in action. The battle was seen as symbolic of the poor fighting ability of the South Vietnamese army, revealing that government troops could neither cope with the strategy nor match the fighting spirit of the Viet Cong. Even with superior numbers and the assistance of American technology and planning, the South Vietnamese could not defeat the Viet Cong. South Vietnamese officials in Saigon were irate with U.S. advisers’ candid assessments of the action, which were highly critical of the South Vietnamese soldiers and their leaders. The Lao Dong party (the ruling Vietnamese Workers’ Party) in Hanoi called the battle at Ap Bac a victory, saying that it “signified the coming of the new revolutionary armed forces in the South.”