The Lore of the Last Stand

Being a lover of history, I was on wikipedia for a few hours today jumping around links when I got to a subject that I couldn't stop thinking about. What is it about a last stand that pulls so strongly on the human emotion? Is it because a band of brothers sacrifice themselves to save the lives of others? Or is it because these men would rather die on their feet than live on their knees? I think it's amazing because these people have found something worth dying for. And really, what is a life worth if you have nothing to live for? One last stand in particular stands out the most to me, and I'll get to that at the end. The last stands by the Spartans at Themopylae, the Texans at the Alamo, and Brits/French at the Dunkirk evacauations all had the same thing in common. They delayed the enemy so that their comrades could re-gather and fight. They sacrificed their lives with a strong faith that victory was sure to follow. And in those three cases, they did win: The Greeks allied to defeat the Persians, the Texans beat the Mexicans, and the Allies took back France from Germany. But the story of the South Vietnamese 18th Division really makes me want to tear up out of sadness and pride in these soldiers. The difference in their last stand is that they knew they were going to lose. There was no hope left. Political strife tore apart the Southern government, and the Americans had deserted. They lost their homes and families, the only thing they had left was the rifle in their hands and the buku balls in their pants and by God they were gonna use them. The majority of them must have been like 18-21 years old. And I'm a 23 year old wondering whether I should buy Medal of Honor or Call of Duty :/

Here's their story from Wikipedia

The 18th Division was an infantry division in the III Corps of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). The U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam considered the 18th as undisciplined and was well known throughout the ARVN for its "cowboy" reputation. In 1975 the 18th was made famous as the only ARVN division that stood fast and refused to surrender before Saigon fell.

During the last major battle of the Vietnam War, the vastly out numbered 18th Division stood and fought at Xuan Loc, 38 miles north of Saigon. This battle is considered the epic last stand of ARVN forces, where the 18th earned the name "The Supermen". It was commanded by General Le Minh Dao, a smart, conservative and emotional commander. The 18th made a defiant apocalyptic last standagainst communist forces in Xuan Loc, a city strategically important for intersecting five main routes. The fierce fighting raged for two weeks. The 18th Division, outnumbered 7:1 by the Vietnam People's Army (VPA) forces, all but destroyed three VPA divisions before finally was overwhelmed by superior numbers. The division was forced to evacuate from the city on April 21, 1975, nine days before thefall of Saigon. Upon learning the 18th had lost "Xuan Loc" that afternoon at 3:00pm President Nguyen Van Thieu made a tearful televised speech that was broadcast around the world in which he blamed the United States for abandoning South Vietnam; he closed the speech by resigning the presidency. The 18th was finally destroyed while defending Bien Hoa Air Base.

There's also stories of airmen that fought until the end. The majority of Air Force planes stripped their planes of armaments and deserted to Thailand or American carriers, but some took off with a full payload and attacked the enemy until they were shot down.

This is a picture of two soldiers from the 18th.

I think what's more amazing about the 18th that they had that reputation for being mavericks. It goes to show you that no matter what other people think of you, if you know you're right, just do what you do. There's always an opportunity for redemption. You'll get your respect and your actions will echo in eternity.

Rest easy brothers, you're free now.


v-man said...

great post! Learned something really interesting today! Thanks mac.

J.Frosty said...