This Day In History: The North Vietnamese Capture Phuoc Long (1975)

On this day in 1975, the North Vietnamese army secured a major victory. Communist forces over-run Phuoc Binh, the capital of Phuoc Long Province. The capital was of great strategic importance and it was less than 100 miles north of Saigon. It was a major blow to the government of the South and it was the second provincial capital lost to the Communist North that year.  The North Vietnamese launched a three-pronged offensive on the provincial capital and they were supported by the Viet Cong who had been attacking the Southern Vietnamese garrison for some weeks. The Communists took the capital easily and the South Vietnamese army only offered token resistance and many units simply fled or were taken prisoner. This was indicative of the poor morale of the Southern troops. The communists were soon able to expand their control into the entire province. The Southern army lost a lot of equipment and lost over twenty planes. President Nixon had promised the Saigon government that they would receive continued American military support. This was in return for the Saigon government’s participation in the Paris Peace Talks. To the anger of Thieu, the South Vietnamese President the US did nothing and allowed Phuoc Binh to fall to the Communists.  The South was not the only one that was surprised so too was the government in the North. They had anticipated that the Americans would help the South Vietnamese at Phuoc Long. The North Vietnamese had expected to be bombarded by American bombers during their attack on the Provincial Capital. The Hanoi government had fully expected the Americans to return in force in order to help their Southern allies. They had misjudged the mood of the US, which was weary of the war and wanted peace. The fall of the Provincial capital persuaded the North and their communist allies that the South was more or less on its own and that it would only receive limited US military assistance.  The fall of Phuoc Long was a turning point in the war. The North Vietnamese soon launched a general offensive and the Viet Cong stepped up their attacks.

M41 South Vietnamese Tank

The Southern army so long accustomed to American support were soon demoralized and they often melted away.  The US believed that South Vietnam was a lost cause and that they could do no more to help their former allies. The world watched in amazement as the communists were first able to isolate Saigon and later capture it after an offensive that lasted less than three months. The capture of Saigon ended the war in Vietnam.