Ap Bac, My Tho - review by Rusty Compass
Mekong - My Tho | see and do guide

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Ap Bac, My Tho

| 11 Apr 2012
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Ap Bac, My Tho
Between My Tho and Vinh Long just off the main road.

Our rating
11 Apr 2012

One of the most symbolically significant of Vietnam's battlefields. It was here in 1963, that the Viet Cong won their first conventional victory over the US equipped and supported, South Vietnamese Army.

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About 20kms further on from My Tho is Ap Bac. It's rarely visited despite its convenient location and historical significance.

The Battle of Ap Bac was a watershed event in the history of United States’ involvement in Vietnam. It was the first time that the Viet Cong had stood up to the superior US supplied firepower of the South Vietnamese and inflicted major casualties. 83 South Vietnamese soldiers died that day and the US lost 3 of its “advisors”.

The Kennedy administration struggled to interpret what was an unmitigated disaster for the US ally and US forces.

The Battle of Ap Bac was a terrible omen for the deadly 13 year journey the United States was about to embark on in Vietnam.

Ap Bac today is a picture of timeless rural Vietnamese life. Farmers work in lush rice paddies while children cycle along narrow paths to school. The only indicators of its rise to global attention five decades ago are markers that resemble militaristic playground decorations. These show where choppers and APCs were destroyed. There’s also a memorial that includes a captured US Huey chopper.

At the end of the day on January 2 1963 when Ap Bac’s rural rhythms had been shattered,  American casulties in Vietnam stood at 56. When the war ended in 1975, Vietnamese casualties were more than 3 million and US casualties had passed 58,000.

This is a must see spot for anyone that's read Neil Sheehan's A Bright Shining Lie and those interested in America's long engagement in Vietnam. There's something profound about Ap Bac's understated commemorations and its almost perfect return to pre-war rural simplicity.

Regrettably, there is no meaningful information provided on sight for interested travellers.

Travel tips
About 20 minutes from My Tho on the road to Vinh Long.
Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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