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In the spring of 1972, North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam in what became known as the Easter Offensive. Almost all of the American forces had already withdrawn from Vietnam except for a small group of American advisers to the South Vietnamese armed forces. The 23rd ARVN Infantry Division and its American advisers were sent to defend the provincial capital of Kontum in the Central Highlands. They were surrounded and attacked by three enemy divisions with heavy artillery and tanks but, with the help of air power, managed to successfully defend Kontum and prevent South Vietnam from being cut in half and defeated.
Although much has been written about the Vietnam War, little of it addresses either the Easter Offensive or the Battle of Kontum. In Kontum: The Battle to Save South Vietnam, Thomas P. McKenna fills this gap, offering the only in-depth account available of this violent engagement. McKenna, a U.S. infantry lieutenant colonel assigned as a military adviser to the 23rd Division, participated in the battle of Kontum and combines his personal experiences with years of interviews and research from primary sources to describe the events leading up to the invasion and the battle itself.
Kontum sheds new light on the actions of U.S. advisers in combat during the Vietnam War. McKenna’s book is not only an essential historical resource for America’s most controversial war but a personal story of valor and survival.
Thomas P. McKenna, Lt. Col., USA (Ret.), served as a military adviser to the Army of South Vietnam and has published articles on military history in Vietnam, Military Officer, and Military Heritage magazines.
A gripping combat narrative. McKenna does an excellent job of combining his personal experiences and observations with the extensive information he has drawn from official records, contemporary press reports, and published works. -- David T. Zabecki, editor emeritus, Vietnam Magazine
Tom McKenna is a 'soldier's soldier.' His reputation for integrity, courage and professional know how is known throughout the Army. His peacetime as well as wartime service marked him as one of the infantry's most remarkable leaders, the kind admired by not only his subordinates but also his peers and superior officers. This book reflects his professional acumen and contributions to freedom. -- Major General Guy S. Meloy, USA (Ret.), former commanding general, 82nd Airborne Division
A superbly written and researched account of the 1972 NVA Easter Offensive and the heroism and professionalism of the unsung heroes of the Vietnam War, the advisor teams. If you are interested in understanding why the Vietnam War ended as it did, read this book. -- Major General Neal Creighton, USA (Ret.), former Commanding General of 1st Infantry Division
McKenna sweeps away the fog of war in his detailed history of the Battle of Kontum. He expertly blends his personal experience as a military adviser to the victorious 23rd South Vietnamese Division with years of painstaking research in this significant account of one of the final battles of the Vietnam War. -- Edward Richards, Emeritus Professor of English and Military Literature, Norwich University, CDR, USNR (Ret.)
Accurately describes the important contribution of the U.S. Air Force in winning the Battle of Kontum. B-52 bombers, fighter-bombers, and gunships supported the advisors and the troops in Kontum while C-130 airlifts delivered vital supplies to the beleaguered city. -- Major General James C. Pfautz, USAF (Ret.)
Although the Easter Offensive was the biggest battle of the Vietnam War, it has been neglected by historians. McKenna helps fill the gap with his account of the battle for Kontum in the Central Highlands. His perspective as a participant in the fighting there makes this an interesting and valuable addition to the historiography. -- Dale Andradé, author of America's Last Vietnam Battle: Halting Hanoi's 1972 Easter Offensive
Offers an illuminating picture of the colorful, contradictory ex-military man in action. McKenna. . . does an effective job of melding his own story with the bigger picture. -- Publishers Weekly
McKenna, a U.S. infantry lieutenant colonel assigned as a military adviser to the 23rd Division, participated in the battle of Kontum and combines his personal experiences with years of interviews and research from primary sources to describe the events leading up to the invasion and the battle itself. -- Siagon Arts, Culture, & Education Institute Newsletter
Thomas McKenna's fine work is an important addition to our knowledge of advisors and those they advised, during a critical period of the war . . . In a balanced and detailed account McKenna tells it like it was. -- Journal of Military History
Kontum sheds new light on the actions of U.S. advisers in combat during the Vietnam War. McKenna's book is not only an essential historical resource for America's most controversial war but a personal story of valor and survival. -- West Point Grad News
McKenna was a lieutenant colonel serving in South Vietnam as an adviser to the 23rd Army of the Republic of Vietnam. In this detailed account, he makes use of interviews, primary documents, and personal experience of how the 23rd successfully defended against three North Vietnamese divisions of superior numberical strength with the help of U.S. advisers and air power. -- Library Journal
This biography details his career in the US Army...and also gives information on his early life and his marriage, drawing on the author's personal interviews with Meadows. -- Book News
Riveting account of desperate combat. -- Armchair General
McKenna's book is not only an essential historical resource for America's most controversial war but a personal story of valor and survival. -- First Call
Although much has been written about the Vietnam War, little of it addresses either the Easter Offensive or the Battle of Kontum. In Kontum, Thomas P. McKenna fills this gap, offering the only in-depth account available of this violent engagement. -- Military Officer
Readers unfamiliar with the later stages of the Vietnam War will enjoy McKenna’s attention to detail, particularly his account of the battle of Kontum and the realities faced by American advisors. -- H-Net Review
The author's detailed accounts of the fighting make this book a must read for anyone interested in military history and particularly for anyone studying or who simply enjoys reading about the Vietnam War. -- Military Writers Society of America
McKenna has done a great job of bringing us his firsthand account of the Battle of Kontum and America's pivotal role in keeping South Vietnam from being split in half and defeated in 1972. This book is compelling reading wheather you were 'in country' at the time or not. -- Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association Aviator
McKenna combines solid research and first-person interviews with his own experiences there to produce an informative book that should serve as a 'how not to' for Iraq and Afghanistan. -- The Past in Review
A well-written book that examines a relatively brief but critical chapter of the Vietnam War. -- On Point
A powerful testament to the indispensable role played by advisor teams, which has often been obscured in conventional combat histories. . . . It is a must for any veteran or scholar who wants an in depth understanding as to how the Vietnam War was fought, and why its conclusion came to be. -- Military
Winner of the William E. Colby Award
[A] thorough and insightful account about the Easter Offensive launched by the North Vietnamese in Spring 1972. . . . Beyond being just a history of the Battle of Kontum, McKenna’s well-written and balanced account provides exceptional insights in the NVA, ARVN, and the withering commitment of the United States. -- Parameters: US Army War College Quarterly
[. . .] [T]he book is a heavily researched, very detailed look at the 1972 North Vietnamese Army invasion of South Vietnam, better known as the Easter Offensive, which was designed to topple the South Vietnamese government and end the war. [. . .] [A]nd offers an insightful picture of the colorful, contradictory ex-military man in action. -- VVA Veteran Books in Review
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
Battle of Kontum, Kon Tum, Vietnam
McKenna, Thomas P., "Kontum: The Battle to Save South Vietnam" (2011). Military History. 34.