General Patton And His Counterpart General Hieu (notes)

Gen. Hieu must have read Patton's book and followed his suggestions, or rather they were with him from the beginning. There is no doubt that Patton was the greatest general of WWII, and probably of modern times--in terms of knowledge and accomplishment. Gen. Hieu seems to have been more intelligent than Gen. Patton, however, quicker in analysis and perhaps more spiritual, but Patton for his part had a certain sense of duty and valorous honor, that when it came to the battle field--it was simply outstanding. I shall try to do justice to this two great generals, one who was outgoing, an actor, and cocky; the other more reserved, modest, and unpretentious. Yet the similarities are amazing. I will try to do justice to them. Thus they seem to complement each other.

Regarding Gen. Patton of the United States, Gen. Montgomery of England, Gen. Rommel of Germany, and Gen. Leclerc of France, some clarifications are in order here. First I do not think that Gen. Montgomery of England is in the same class as Patton, and by extension--Gen. Hieu. There are various reasons for this--as critics have maintained in regard to Monty's three costly mistakes at Deippe, Falaise Gap, and Arnhem. Also in North Africa, Monty did not stop Rommel in his drive to Egypt, rather this honor goes to Gen. Auchinleck, who, with less equipment and men than Montgomery, finally wrested away at the first battle of El Alamein, Rommel's initiative and his health. In fact Monty could only win with overwhelming advantage in equipment and men through a battle of attrition.

Rommel was the true master of North Africa.
Leclerc, I do not know much about.
Gen. Powell meanwhile never held the position of divisional commander and he had no combat experience at all in any such higher echelons. In this way, Gen Powell ressembles Ike whom was brought up the same way--political pull. Yet both Eisenhower and Powell, in their political ascent, cannot measure up to Patton on the battle field.

Gen. Hieu, although unacclaimed, had a lot of combat experience on the divisional level.

Plus despite obstructions he worked brilliantly on the corps level.

I have studied enough military history, battles, and weaponary, tactics, etc. to see and understand what is what in this task of placing Gen. Hieu in the history of 20th century wars. One thing for sure is that he had a lot of battle experience, and he had to fight a hard-to-find enemy. That he did so with distinction, makes him one of the best generals in modern times, in my opinion.

Everyone is familiar with Gen. George S Patton, Jr., old blood and guts, the swashbuckling, winningest general in World War II, who has been the subject of a critically-acclaimed major motion picture; yet few people are familiar with his quiet counterpart in Southeast Asia, Gen. Nguyen Van Hieu, the Vietnamese patriot and unsung hero of the ARVN. These two capable military officers--one widely known and the other neglected, just as one was brash and the other reserved--seem to be as far apart in style of leadership as one can possibly imagine. Here East and West never meet. Yet upon close examination, these officers are found to be so very much alike in the conduct of their general commands. Indeed the similarities between the two soldiers are striking--so much so that the case can be made that Gen. Hieu must have read Patton's book, studied it, and taken it to heart.

Topic of comparison (Patton's book page):

- Loyalty from the top down (p. 346)
- Example of officers (p. 378)
- Perfect discipline (p. 377
- Take time to set up an attack (p. 381)
- No such thing as tank country (p. 381)
- Maximum use of vehicles (p. 331)
- Tanks and infantry (p. 324)
- Close tank support of infantry (p. 388e)
- Wars are not won by defense (p. 319, 292)
- Air-ground cooperation (p. 374)
- Giving credit to others (p. 336)
- Diary (p. 374)
- Treated badly by higher ups
- Both died near end of war

George S. Patton, Jr. War as I Knew It: The Battle Memoirs of "Blood 'N Guts, Annotated by Colonel Paul D. Harkins, (Bantam Books: 1980).

Patton possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of battles, an exceedingly thorough understanding of the ways and thoughts of the enemy, and a masterful comprehension of the roadways and terrain--ancient and modern--on which the army campaign was to sweep.

Hieu was quite in deliberation yet decisive in execution, a master of maps and briefings yet thoroughly tactical in the field, communicative with allies, comprehensive on the larger plan yet good with details, and possessing a technological edge.

Both came from backgrounds that were rich in history and culture.

In some ways Hieu was more spiritual--while Patton achieved his glory and fame on earth--the unsung hero of the ARVN will perhaps yet gain his luster in heaven when the final battle will take place between good and evil. Here the weapons will be different, the outcome of the battle sure. No more losses, or wounded, and gone will be the dying cries of men and the bitter betrayals of friends turned enemy. In this war of perfect strategy held from on high and flawless tactics below, the trumpet will sound. Out into the field shall come St. Michael and all his glorious cohorts, the all-around commander Nguyen Van Hieu included; orders will be given, dispatched, executed, and with a shout of force the forces of evil shall fall before the mighty power of Him we call Lord. Victory! Victory! Victory! shall be ours at last! Happiness shall flow! Quickly souls of the just prevail and the poor inherit the earth. Now the slaves are set free; and the hungry fed. Charity reigns. Nothing more needs to be said, then, as silently we see when our hearts are pure. May the soul of the brave Lt. Gen. Nguyen Van Hieu, untiring soldier and fearless patriot of Vietnam, faithful son as he is, incorruptible in life and death, eternally rest in peace. Amen.

I have continued my research and I have found more evidence as to your brother's greatness and as to comparisons in military history. One such instance was Major General Richard Taylor, son of US president Zachary Taylor (and hero of the Mexican War). Gen. Taylor was a literary type (similar to your brother) who was also learned in the history of war. Confederate Gen. Taylor was instrumental in the success of Gen. Stonewall Jackson's Shenandoah campaign in 1862, much in the way that your brother, Gen. Hieu, was behind the credit other generals received in the Vietnam war. There is certainly nothing new in this phenomenon of "underwriter" generals.

There are other comparisons that could be made to enliven the story of your brother and to bring out his true place in military history. I have not the time to put them all down. Gen. Taylor was also denied victories, as he put it, by "bureaucratic" officers under whose command the army languished. There is no doubt that Gen. Hieu was to be found in the ranks of Gen. Robert E. Lee, Gen. Stonewall Jackson, Gen. Richard Taylor, and Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. Incidentally, George Patton's grandfather was killed in the Battle of Winchester in the Shenendoah campaign, the very same campaign Gen. Taylor helped Gen. Jackson to win!

The parallel with the war history of Gen. Taylor is appropriate, for it shows another general who is a literary type as was Hieu, it shows also a recognizable historical figure (son of US President and Gen. Zachary Taylor) who clearly and signally contributed to the success of Gen. Stonewall Jackson, much in the same way that Hieu aided Gen. Do. Also Gen. Taylor wrote a book on his time and experiences in the war, with his appraisal of tactics and strategies, an important book from the victor of the Battle of Winchester that was no doubt read and studied by Gen. Patton.

I also have come across an article on the US war maneuvers in Louisiana before the start of WWII. This took place in my home state and on the very same ground that Gen Taylor won a significant battle in the Red River campaign. It was here that Col. Eisenhower got his recognition for his later appointment as Supreme Allied Commander, and the same war game in which Gen Patton took part.

The importance of this historical fact is that it shows how the American Army picked its generals in an objective way, using the critera for which, if it had been used by the ARVN in conjunction with Gen. Hieu accomplishments in Vietnam, would have assured him of a top leadership position in the Vietnamese military. All in all, a straightforward historical account will offer an unbiased appraisal of Gen. Hieu place in modern military history. This is why I have decided to include civil war material in my account.

James Miguez
(jotted down notes)