The CGSC Foundation hosted the 15th lecture in the Vietnam War Commemoration Lecture Series May 9, 2023, at the Riverfront Community Center in downtown Leavenworth, Kansas. Dr. James H. Willbanks, Professor Emeritus and former General of the Army George C. Marshall Chair of Military History at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and decorated Vietnam War veteran, was the returning presenter in the series.
CGSC Foundation President/CEO Col. (Ret.) Rod Cox welcomed the attendees and recognized sponsors of the speakers series as well as all the Vietnam veterans present. He introduced Willbanks after the dinner was winding down.
Willbanks’ presentation was focused events of 1973 in South Vietnam that followed the signing of “The Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam.” All U.S. forces departed South Vietnam by the end of March 1973 in accordance with the peace agreement. Despite the hope that the signing of the peace agreement would end the war, the fighting began anew even before the cease-fire went into effect as U.S. troops departed. The military action that occurred in 1973 essentially constituted a third Indochina War. During the bitter fighting that year, the South Vietnamese fought on alone. Willbanks described how the South Vietnamese forces fought valiantly in 1973, sustaining the third highest casualties of the war (after 1968 and 1972) before the fighting took a fatal downturn the following year and ultimately to the fall of Saigon in 1975.
After his lecture and a question and answer period, Cox presented Willbanks with the School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) ornament, the first SAMS ornament made, in appreciation for his willingness to travel all the way from his home in Texas back to Leavenworth to present the lecture. Willbanks then took a group photo with all the Vietnam veterans in attendance.
Dr. James H. Willbanks retired from the faculty of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in 2018, after 26 years of service following over 23 years of active-duty service as an Infantry Officer in various assignments, to include a tour as an advisor with a South Vietnamese infantry regiment during the 1972 North Vietnamese Easter Offensive. While a member of the CGSC faculty, Willbanks served as the director of the Department of Military History and as the General of the Army George C. Marshall Chair of Military History.
Willbanks is an honor graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and a graduate of the inaugural class of the School of Advanced Military Studies. He holds a B.A. in History from Texas A&M University, and a M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of Kansas. He is the author or editor of 21 books on the
Vietnam War and other topics in military history. Dr. Willbanks also served as a consultant to Ken Burns in the preparation of his 10-part documentary on the Vietnam War which aired on PBS in 2017.
His military awards and decorations include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with “V” and Oak Leaf Cluster, two Purple Hearts, and Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with two Silver Stars. He and his wife Diana now reside in Georgetown, Texas.
The Vietnam War Commemoration Lecture Series is presented by the CGSC Foundation. This event is part of the CGSC Foundation and its Simons Center’s Distinguished Speaker Series and was sponsored by: the Tim and Karen Carlin Family Foundation, First Command Financial Services, Col. (Ret.) Bob and Terri Ulin, Col. (Ret.) Bill and Marge Eckhardt, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) and Mrs. Richard Keller, Brig. Gen. (Ret.) William West, Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Stan Cherrie, Lt. Col. (Ret.) William and Kathleen Connor, Sr., and Col. (Ret.) Tom and Candy Dials.
American involvement in Vietnam lasted 20 years and spanned three decades – from November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975. Nine million Americans, approximately 7.2 million living today, served during that period. The nation inaugurated the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the war on May 28, 2012, and the commemoration period will continue through Nov. 11, 2025, to recognize those that served and to help the public learn about the war and the lessons it provides. The CGSC Foundation is an official commemorative partner of the program and the Vietnam War Commemoration Lecture Series is conducted in support of that effort.
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