Lieutenant Colonel James H. Willbanks,
USA (ret.) “is Director of the Department of Military History, U. S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth,
Kansas. He is a retired Lieutenant Colonel with twenty-three years service as an Infantry officer in various
assignments, to include a tour as an advisor with both the Royal Thai Army in Vietnam and the 18th Division of the Army of
the Republic of Vietnam. He also served in command and staff assignments in Panama, Japan, Germany, and
CONUS with duty in the 3rd Infantry, 7th Infantry, 9th Infantry, and 1st Cavalry Divisions and as chief of contingency planning
in U.S. Southern Command. While on active duty, he also served two tours as an instructor in the Center
for Army Tactics.
Before assuming his present duties,
Dr. Willbanks served twelve years as an instructor in the Department of Joint and Multinational Operations, specializing in
theater campaign planning. Dr. Willbanks took a leave of absence from CGSC in 1996-1998 and worked in Saudi
Arabia as an infantry doctrine writer for the Royal Saudi Land Forces. Dr. Willbanks received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Texas A&M University and a
Master of Arts and Doctorate in History from the University of Kansas. Lieutenant Colonel James H. Willbanks
is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, and Kansas City Kansas Community College.
As a historian, Dr. Willbanks focuses on 20th Century military operations with a specialization on the Vietnam War.
Dr. Willbanks is an Honor Graduate
of the U. S. Army Command and General Staff College, where he received the Master Tactician Award and Strategist Additional
Skill Identifier. He is also a graduate of the School of Advanced Military Studies. His
personal military awards and decorations include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with “V” and Oak
Leaf Cluster, Air Medal, Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, Joint Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with
Two Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Two
Silver Stars, and Combat Infantryman’s Badge.”
Lieutenant Colonel James H. Willbanks
is the author of Abandoning Vietnam: How America Left and South Vietnam Lost Its War; The Battle Of An Loc; The
Vietnam War; The Tet Offensive: A Concise History; and, Machine Guns: An Illustrated History of Their Impact.
According to the book description of
Abandoning Vietnam: How America Left and South Vietnam Lost Its War, “Did America’s
departure from Vietnam produce the “peace with honor” promised by President Richard Nixon or was that simply an
empty wish meant to distract war-weary Americans from a tragic “defeat with shame”? While James Willbanks
doesn’t offer any easy answers to that
question, his book convincingly shows why America’s strategy for exiting the Vietnam
War failed miserably and left South Vietnam to a dismal fate.
That strategy, “Vietnamization,”
was designed to transfer full responsibility for the defense of South Vietnam to the South Vietnamese, but in a way that would
buy the United States enough time to get out without appearing to run away. To achieve this goal, America poured millions
of dollars into training and equipping the South Vietnamese military while attempting to pacify the countryside. Precisely
how this strategy was implemented and why it failed so completely are the subjects of this eye-opening study.
Drawing upon both archival research
and his own military experiences in Vietnam, Willbanks focuses on military operations from 1969 through 1975. He contends
that Vietnamization was a potentially viable plan that was begun years too late. Nevertheless some progress was made and the
South Vietnamese, with the aid of U.S. advisers and American airpower, held off the North Vietnamese during their massive
offensive in 1972. However, the Paris Peace Accords, which left NVA troops in the south, and the subsequent loss of U.S. military
aid negated any gains produced through Vietnamization. These factors coupled with corruption throughout President Thieu’s
government and a glaring lack of senior military leadership within the South Vietnamese armed forces ultimately led to the
demise of South Vietnam.
A mere two years after the last American
combat troops had departed, North Vietnamese tanks rolled into Saigon, overwhelming a poorly trained, disastrously led, and
corrupt South Vietnamese military. But those two years had provided Nixon with the “decent interval” he desperately
needed to proclaim that “peace with honor” had been achieved. Willbanks digs beneath that illusion to reveal the
real story of South Vietnam’s fall.”