Battle of Ap Bac (1963)

Ap Bac was a village in the Mekong Delta, about 40 miles southwest of Saigon. The Battle of Ap Bac began to develop in December 1962. Three Vietcong companies built defensive positions along a mile-long canal connecting Ap Bac with the village of Ap Tan Thoi. The Vietcong dug in behind trees, grass, and shrubs with clear view of the surrounding rice fields. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) Seventh Division attacked the position, and although they outnumbered the Vietcong by ten to one, they were defeated. ARVN was characterized by incompetent officers and terrible morale. At the end of the battle on January 2, 1963, the ARVN had lost five helicopters and sixty dead, while the Vietcong suffered only three casualties. Although American military advisers in South Vietnam tried to claim the battle a victory because the Vietcong abandoned their position, the engagement showed how difficult a guerrilla war would be and how much learning the United States would have to do about the nature of warfare in Southeast Asia.