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U.S. Military Advisers Criticize Vietnamese Infantrymen

Jan. 6, 1963 - Angry U.S. military advisers charged today that South Vietnamese infantrymen refused direct orders to advance during Wednesday’s battle at Ap Bac and that an American Army captain was killed while out front pleading with them to attack. The South Vietnamese commander of an armored unit also refused for more than an hour to go to the rescue of 11 American crewmen of downed helicopters and an infantry company pinned down by Communist fire, they said. “It was a miserable damn performance,” one American military man said of the humiliating and costly defeat suffered by government troops at the hands of outnumbered Communist guerrillas in the fight for Ap Bac, a jungle hamlet 30 miles south of Saigon. Other Americans involved in the battle spoke of the “lack of aggressiveness” of Vietnamese commanders, their refusal to heed recommendations of their American advisers, refusal to carry out direct orders from their superiors, and a breakdown in the chain of command of the 7th Vietnamese Division. As a result, American sources said, the government troops suffered a needlessly high casualty toll, 65 dead and at least 100 wounded — the second highest since the war against the Viet Cong began. U.S. casualties were also the highest in any single battle in Vietnam. An American general narrowly escaped being killed when Vietnamese artillery accidentally shelled their own troops after the fight was over.


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