Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Dr. Andrew Wiest

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Heather Stur

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. Kyle Zelner

Committee Member 3 School



The American historiography of the Vietnam War has tended to focus on the actions of the United States Armed Forces, the People’s Army of Vietnam, and the Viet Cong, while the history of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) has remained largely untold. ARVN, when mentioned, is usually portrayed as incompetent, ineffective, and even cowardly. Recently, historians like Andrew Wiest and Mark Moyar have challenged this view of ARVN that was originally advanced by journalists Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam. Moyar even suggested that ARVN was winning the war until the assassination of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. However, there has been no in-depth examination of ARVN military performance during this period to prove Moyar’s point.

This study seeks to evaluate the success of ARVN combat operations against the Viet Cong and to highlight its central role in the Vietnam War using the records of the U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, the Neil Sheehan Papers, and memoirs and articles from South Vietnamese soldiers. Despite some Viet Cong victories, such as the battle of Ap Bac, ARVN won numerous forgotten battles that demonstrate their battlefield dominance at that time. This thesis argues that from 1962-1963 ARVN was successfully defeating the Viet Cong on the battlefield. At least militarily, ARVN was making significant progress in the Vietnam War.