Vietnam was a war of attrition. It was the hardest war the United States has ever fought. We were fighting for a people who did not want us there and for a government that was to corrupt to help it and it’s people. Putting that aside, we where and still are the most powerful country in the world. This being said, why where we not able to successfully defeat the Viet Cong and The North Vietnamese Army? To that end there are many reason, one being our war strategy, another being the way the Vietnmese fought the war, and finally the People of the United States did have there hearts in the war. In this paper I will however stick to how owner tactics and how our military leaders failure to properly adapt and create a war plan led to our defeat. I will also go into the Viet Congs strategy as it change led to our failure.
What was so terrible about our war strategy? We did of course win almost every engagement of the war. We fought long and hard against an enemy that hardly ever was seen. Our tactics in the beginning of the war where simple, conventional tactics, this meaning you where here, they are there, you just have to get where they are. Operation Starlight was a classic textbook engagement. A large regiment of about 1500 Viet Cong was gathered in and around a small village named Van Tuong in northern South Vietnam. U.S. intelligence has found out from a Viet Cong deserter that the VC regiment was planning an attack on the Marine base Chu Lai. With this knowledge the Marines decided to strike the first blow. The Marines where to attack from three sides forcing the Viet Cong into the South China Sea. The attack was executed by the book and though it was a tough fight the United States devastated the 1st Viet Cong Regiment while sustaing only limited casualties.
The VC surviors of the American offensive did learn something from there defeat. The saw the way Americans fought. They noticed when placed in a situation where they where taking incoming fire, they would dig in and call for fire support, either from the air or ground artillery. It was only after the fire support neutralized the target that the infantry would move forward and attack what ever survived the aerial bombardment. The Viet Cong realized that they could not over power the better-equipped Americans, and for the rest of the war they avoided face-to-face confrontations.
The VC retreated to the safety of the jungles and rice patties of Southwestern Vietnam where they could execute their own form of guerrilla warfare. The Viet Cong fought in three man teams, called cells. These Cells where highly effective fighting units in remote jungle areas. The VC strategy was simple, break down the American’s will to fight. They did this several way’s, first by using mines and other booby traps, which did not kill, but maimed. The next was hit and run tactics. The VC had networks of tunnels connecting hooch-to-hooch, village-to-village almost across the entire country. They would pop up and fire at you then disappear in to the massive network of tunnels underneath you.
American generals and advisors where ill prepared for this type of warfare and stood by the old belief the person with the biggest gun always wins. The continued with there daily search and destroy tactics above ground, clearing wide areas while the VC lived underneath them lived in relative safety of what was happing above, except for the ocasinal coming up to fire at the Americans above. At the end of a day the American’s would be airlifted via helicopters back to base, witch left the VC to roam above ground. Reclaiming the land supposedly cleared early in the day. And so this went on, day after day, night after night.
This explanation is a bit overly simplified however the basic Idea holds true, we lost the was from a strategic stand point because our leader failed to adapt and create a viable war plan.