The Battle of An Khe Pass (1972) was a Pyrrhic victory. The South Korean forces’ conduct in this battle neither frustrated the enemy’s purpose nor minimized Korean sacrifices; and the combination of the Korean’s passive attitude and the pressure to act quickly resulted in poor performance and heavy casualties. This battle revealed the Korean forces’ inherent problems and heightened their pre-existing frictions with the U.S. and South Vietnamese forces during the Vietnamization period (1969–1973). Yet, the result of the battle created the necessary circumstances to justify the Koreans’ further presence in Vietnam. Based on extensive research of various U.S. and South Korean archives, this article explores the Battle of An Khe Pass in the context of the Vietnamization phase of the Vietnam War.
This article examines the problem of Operational Control (opcon) in the relationship the Republic of Korea Forces in Vietnam (rokfv) built with the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. When the rokfv deployed in Vietnam, they faced the dilemma of pursuing their own interests while maintaining a good relationship with U.S. forces. Therefore, the rokfv refused to fight under the opcon of U.S. forces, even though all rok troops remaining in South Korea were under U.S. opcon. Instead of arguing who would have opcon over the rokfv, the United States and the rok negotiated the establishment of a cooperative relationship. Although their opcon was not perfect at first, the rokfv nevertheless proved their military professionalism and achievements through securing areas and building company bases in their Vietnamese territories, rather than search-and-destroy operations, to achieve pacification. As a result, the rokfv built a parallel command in which the South Vietnamese, Americans, and South Koreans cooperated, which allowed them to carry out a Korean style of war under a more equal relationship with U.S. forces.