Friday, May 12, 1972

Another Top General Fired by Thieu

SAIGON (AP) --President Nguyen Van Thieu fired his controversial commander in the central highlands Wednesday in the continuing high-level military shakeup resulting from battlefield setbacks.

Lt.Gen. Ngo Dzu, commander in the 2nd Military Region that includes the highlands, was replaced by Maj. Gen. Nguyen Van Toan, who had been deputy commander in the 1st Military Region.

The disclosure was made ahead of Thieu's own official announcement by John Paul Vann, senior U.S. adviser in the 2nd Region, in a news conference at Pleiku. He said Dzu's dismissal resulted from criticism of his forces for having lost four districts and a number of bases to the enemy.

He identified those who had pressured Thieu to fire Dzu as members of the National Assembly, especially in the affected areas.

"All distant critics like to see a scalp fall," said Vann, who publicly had defended Dzu against his critics.

"One senior military commander obviously bears responsibility for the defense or lack of defense of his areas," Vann said. Of Toan, he added: "Either he will be better or worse, I have no way of knowing which.

Dzu is said to be suffering from a mild heart ailment and reportedly asked Thieu for a leave of absence. But reliable sources say his removal stems directly from recent failures by forces under his command.

About a dozen bases and one district headquarters in the highlands, plus three districts and several other bases in coastal Binh Dinh Province, have been lost since the enemy offensive began March 30.

The coastal setbacks have created a major threat to the provincial capital of Kontum, which is expected to come under attack at any time. After South Vietnamese troops were driven out of Quang Tri and lost the country's entire northernmost province to the enemy, Thieu fired the Regional commander, Lt. Gen. Hoang Xuan Lam, and replaced him with Lt. Gen. Ngo Quang Truong.

Dzu is regarded highly by senior U.S. officers as a military planner. He was a principal architect of the 1970 Cambodian incursion, but his field performance has left much to be desired, they say.

Dzu became a controversial figure a year ago when it was alleged by a U.S. congressman that he was heavily involved in Vietnam's illicit drug traffic.

Dzu emphatically denied the allegation and was backed by Thieu and Vann.

"Another Top General Fired by Thieu", by Saigon (AP), published in the Pacific Stars and Stripes on Friday, May 12, 1972 and reprinted from European and Pacific Stars and Stripes, a Department of Defense publication copyright, 2002 European and Pacific Stars and Stripes.
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