Tet Attack In Pleiku

Despite the warnings of trouble ahead, the II Corps commander, Lieutenant General Vinh Loc, left his post before Tet to celebrate the holiday in splendor in Saigon. A graduate of the French cavalry school at Saumur as well the U.S. Command and General Staff Colllege, Loc was among the last of the old-style "war lord" corps commanders, and he was known for his high living. He came naturally by his aristocratic tastes and bearing. His father was a cousin of Bao Dai, Vietnam's last emperor, and had been a minister of the imperial court at Hue. He was executed by the Communists in 1946.

Shortly after 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 30, the corps commander flew back to Pleiku from Saigon in his personal airplane, a converted DC-3 with an executive interior design including a bed. He went immediately to the center of the flaming, bleeding city and began directing a platoon action to clear Communist troops from the area of his official mansion. After a while Colonel J.W. Barnes, the chief U.S. liaision officer at II Corps headquarters, sent word that the problems of battle throughout the II Corps Tactical Zone required Loc's attention at the command post. Loc turned on the American emissary who brought him this message, shouting in English that President Thieu had personally ordered him to hold Pleiku City at all costs, and that he would not be ordered about by Americans.

A little later Loc rode up the hill to his headquarters, preceded by a jeep of security guards. He entered the building pale with anger and encountered Colonel Barnes. "I am not an American corporal, I am the II Corps general in command" he cried. He slammed his fist through a fiberboard partition and ran up the stairs to his office, than ran back downstairs and chewed out Barnes again. After that, he refused to speak to Barnes and turned his back if the colonel came into his presence. Despite the problems this posed during the period of greatest military action of the war, the U.S. Command stuck by Barnes, refusing to transfer him to another post and insisting that he had only been doing his job in summoning the corps commander to headquarters. A month after Tet, Loc was removed as corps commander and reassigned as commandant of the National Defense College.

Don Oberdorfen
Tet! (1971)

ARVN Generals