By JOHN G. MILLER (Annapolis)
The operation to which Robert H. Nooter referred
in his Nov. 9 letter was Lam Son 719. It was
conducted in 1971 to cut off the Ho Chi Minh
Trail in Laos and trap North Vietnamese forces
operating in South Vietnam without means of
supply -- a war-stopper, if not a war-ender.
I was the operations adviser to the South
Vietnamese Marine Division, operating out of the
forward command post at Khe Sanh; the Corps
Headquarters operated out of Dong Ha, farther to
the east. Mr. Nooter's base of operations in Hue
was far to the south and east.
Despite the selective photos of terrified
Vietnamese soldiers clinging to helicopter skids,
most of the South Vietnamese units acquitted
themselves bravely and well. Brigade 147, the
hardest-hit of the Vietnamese Marine units,
struck back at its opposing North Vietnamese
regiment so hard that the regiment was dropped
from the North Vietnamese order of battle.
Mr. Nooter's recollection also was faulty in
claiming that the South's troops were not tested
again before 1975. How could he forget the 1972
Easter Offensive, in which the South Vietnamese
beat back a three-pronged attack into the south,
with U.S. air and naval gunfire support?
Thanks to the political climate in the United
States, not even that measure of support was
available when the North Vietnamese attacked
again in 1975, and we proceeded
to abandon 17 million allies to the communists.
By HARRY F. NOYES III (San Antonio)
The high cost of the 1971 Laotian incursion was
our fault, not the fault of the South Vietnamese.
We underestimated the enemy, and the antiaircraft
fire was so devastating that we could not provide
the promised air support. Despite this and
despite being vastly outnumbered by their foe,
the South Vietnamese made a fighting withdrawal.
While Robert H. Nooter "received reports" in Hue,
Col. Robert Molinelli was over the battlefield.
He wrote in the Armed Forces Journal on April 19,
1971: "A South Vietnamese battalion of 420 men
was surrounded by an enemy regiment of
2,500-3,300 men for three days. The U.S. could
not get supplies to the unit. It fought till it
ran low on ammunition, then battled its way out
of the encirclement using captured enemy weapons
and ammunition. It carried all of its wounded and
some of its dead with it. Reconnaissance photos
showed 637 visible enemy dead around its
As for 1975, the North won because the South
Vietnamese were short of everything from rifle
and artillery rounds to tank parts, radio
batteries and bandages after Congress cut aid in
1974. Even the enemy said so. Nevertheless, a
reinforced South Vietnamese division held off
five of Hanoi's best divisions for a week at Xuan
Loc, in a battle
as brave as any ever fought by Americans.
It's bad enough that we abandoned the South
Vietnamese. Let's not insult them to assuage our