Why do you think the US lost Vietnam?

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HarryBarnett175
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I'm interested in the topic. I was wondering, given the weakness of the Vietnam armies, why did it end up a mess?
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DonaldJTrump
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Vietnam was lost in Washington; not on the battlefield.
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CoolCavy
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  • The theory of Guerilla warfare


Guerrilla warfare was not like fighting a conventional war. Instead of large battles out in the open, Guerrilla tactics relied on 'hit and run' strategies using stealth to ambush the enemy and launch targeted attacks to ensure maximum damage with minimal casualties:




1)It was intended to build up support amongst the local people

2)Harass and weaken the enemy in the countryside, using food and shelter from the locals.

3)After gaining strength of the countryside build up strength in preparation to attack cities. Outnumber the government troops who will be tempted to defect to Guerrilla tactics.




  • Guerrilla Tactics, 1964-1968:


A key part of their tactics was to do as little as possible to upset the local population. There is a clear policy of trying to help villagers, to get them 'on side' so that the Vietminh can work in the area more effectively. They also used methods that would cause as little damage to the Vietcong themselves as possible and undermine the US war effort.



Tunnels:

To avoid the worst effects of US air power. Often were underground cities used as bases for the Vietcong that linked to areas of strategic importance e.g. hospitals. If a battle against the Americans turned against the VC they could use the hidden tunnels to escape and reappear miles away. The tunnels were hidden so it was hard for the US soldiers to follow and if they did find them there were booby traps at the entrances and a maze of dead ends.




Ho Chi Minh Trail:

This was a supply route North Vietnam used to help the Vietcong fighters in the South. The trail mainly ran through Laos and Cambodia which made it harder for the Americans to target as they were not at war with these countries. The US frequently bombed the trail in an attempt to shut it down however 40,000 Vietnamese worked to keep it open and often relocated it. This was frustrating to the Americans as supplies were still getting through no matter what.




Booby Traps:

The Vietcong used Booby Traps in order to inflict as many casualties and fatalities on the US army whilst keeping their fighters safe. Most of the materials needed for the Booby Traps were home made by the Vietnamese in villages, however many materials were scavenged from the US army and the ARVN. The Vietcong often used wooden spikes at the entrances to their tunnels which would severely injure the enemy and would often lead to infection. Mines were also used to kill or fatally wound the enemy whilst the Vietcong could be many miles away in safety.




  • The US response to Guerrilla tactics:


The USA used bigger and bolder tactics. They used expensive equipment and weapons such as tanks, helicopters and bombs. They also used chemical weapons. These tactics were often hugely destructive and many had a massively detrimental effect on the local Vietnamese population.




Operation Rolling Thunder:

This was massive campaign of bombing in North Vietnam. This was a retaliation as a US helicopter base had been destroyed as well as 10 planes. At first the bombers identified their targets such as bridges, radar system systems and along the Ho Chi Minh trail, However the US used cluster bombs that exploded into shrapnel pellets. These later turned into fibreglass fragments that couldn't be detected by X-ray. The bombing was effective as it damaged North Vietnam's war effort and disrupted supply routes. It also forced the North Vietnamese to negotiate however these bombs often hit civilians.







'Hearts and Minds':

This was a tactic to try and get the local population to support US involvement in Vietnam. The Americans built schools, roads and sewers in an attempt to do this as well as providing medical aid. However American weapons were so indiscriminate that the US forces often killed civilians as the Vietcong lived amongst them. Many locals were often displaced by the US to try and protect them, however in reality this just made the locals more resentful towards the US. Many of the locals instead supported the Vietcong as they thought the VC were 'fighting for them' and that the US were interfering foreigners who were destroying their way of life and didn't understand Vietnam.




Search and Destroy:

Much of the bombing had little effect on a Guerrilla army as the Vietcong would simply retreat into their tunnels. Therefore General Westmoreland established a base from which the US and ARVN could launch search and destroy raids. Small groups of soldier would act as bait to provoke an attack from the Vietcong then the air force was sent in to Napalm the enemy. The success of each mission was determined by the body count.




Napalm:

was a petroleum jelly that burned and destroyed jungle. Was intended to reveal the Vietcong's positions. However it also burnt through skin to the bone. When dropped it often hit civilians and many were severely injured or killed. This made the locals turn against the Americans and when images of the effects of Napalm emerged in the American media the US public started to question the war.




Agent Orange:

This was another chemical weapon that the Americans dropped on Vietnam it was a defoliant which like Napalm was intended to reveal the enemy's positions. The Americans used 82 million litres of Agent Orange to spray thousands of square kilometres of jungle. However in the long term it caused birth defects amongst civilians. This made them resentful against the US and these problems are still affecting the Vietnamese today.




Zippo Raids:

The search and destroy raids weren't always successful. Frustrated US soldiers would often set fire to villages using their cigarette or 'Zippo' lighters regardless of whether or not they supported the VC. As many villagers who had no involvement with the VC lost their homes the Americans became even more unpopular with the locals.




  • The My Lai Massacre (1968):


The Vietcong's 48th Battalion were believed to be hiding in the village of Son My in the North Vietcong 'Fortress' and leaflets were dropped by the US warning all non-Vietcong to leave. On 16th March 1968 Charlie Company of the 23rd Infantry Division of the US army were ordered to 'press forward aggressively and eliminate the 48th Battalion of the VC'. The commanders were assured that most of the population were VC sympathises and that the civilians would have left by 7am. They were told to burn houses, kill livestock and destroy food supplies.




The first Platoon led by Second Lieutenant William Calley entered one of the hamlets of Son My My Lai 4 at around 8am. The US troops entered the village easily where they burned houses and killed the inhabitants who were mostly old men, women and children. Women were gang raped and around 70 to 80 civilians were taken to a ditch and shot. Other civilians were mutilated.




Calley was the only soldier found responsible for the massacre. Officially 147 civilians were killed but the number could have been as high as 500. The incident was witnessed by a US helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson who tried to persuade Calley to stop. He rescued a number of civilians and reported the massacre but it was dismissed as exaggeration. Eventually in April 1969 the event was reported as a victory with 128 Vietcong dead and 22 civilians killed inadvertently.




  • Public reaction to the My Lai massacre and the trial of Calley:


The My Lai massacre destroyed the perception that the US were there as part of a 'moral right'. The US public were confused and distressed by the actions of young American boys. Soldiers returned to the US not as heroes but as 'baby killers'.




Calley was court marshalled and imprisoned but later pardoned by Nixon. 79% of the US public disapproved of the court marshal and 20% thought that what he had done was right.




How did the coverage of the Vietnam War in the USA lead to demands for peace?:




  • TV and Media coverage of the war:


Early coverage of the Vietnam war tended to be quite supportive of the cause and portrayed the soldiers as heroes. The Times magazine praised the war as 'a remarkable US military effort'. The American soldier was singled out for praise and they were idolised as 'down-to-earth' heroes. Many films glamorised the soldiers and in 1968 the film 'The Green Berets' showed the soldiers giving humanitarian aid to the Vietnamese and winning their 'hearts and minds' by giving the children sweets.




This was a contrast to the Vietnamese who including the South Vietnamese army were described as 'lousy little dirty bugouts'. This had a dehumanising effect and made it easier for the US soldiers to kill the Vietcong as their culture was seen as inferior and the US public supported the war as this representation made the Vietnamese seem as if they needed aid from the Americans. Films also portrayed them as a selfish people who neglected the poorer members of the community.




The US government wanted to involve itself in how the war was portrayed as if it was presented as if the Americans were losing and killing civilians people would lose support for the war and vote for a different president. Therefore propaganda was used.




Events such as My Lai and the Tet Offensive as well as the use of chemical weapons undermined the government's attempt to portray the US soldiers as heroes as the media's images of innocent civilians and children being killed shocked the US public and affected the positive image of war.




  • Protest movements in the USA


Protests about the Vietnam war began almost as soon as the US became involved. The protests grew from 1968 onwards for a variety of reasons:




Drafts: The Draft was a call from the government to join the army. The way in which the Draft worked was seen to be discriminatory. College students were able to avoid being called up which meant that the Draft was predominantly aimed at the poor and in particular the Black American populations. Many were reluctant to join as they were seeing though the media what happened to the soldiers that went over to Vietnam.




Media Coverage: The changing way in which the Media reported the war and incidents such as the My Lai massacre angered many Americans. They saw many young men coming home in body bags, atrocities being carried out by US soldiers and the impression given by the media was that the war was unwinnable. People also questioned the need to be involved in Vietnam. Public Opinion polls conducted each month in America showed that public support for US involvement in the war dropped from 59% in March 1966 to 35% in August 1968 and just 28% by May 1971.




-Who Protested and why:

Students: Many were pacifists. Organised a 36 hour 'teach-in' against war at the Universities which was attended by 30,000 students. Students burned their draft cards. The pacifist Norman Morrison set himself on fire. In 1967 the anti-war movement grew and protests became increasingly violent.




Black People: there were 3 main black people who opposed going into Vietnam: Mohammed Ali, Martin Luther King and the Nation of Islam. They argued that it cost $500,000 to kill a Vietcong fighter but only $53 were spent on black people in America. Black soldiers were 2x more likely to be killed. The Nation of Islam said 'Why should we fight for a country that won't give equal rights...no Vietcong ever called me '******''.




Politicians: the Democrats were anti-war. High up Congressmen admitted that 'Rolling Thunder' didn't work. The Gulf of Tonkin wasn't a valid reason for war. There were 600,000 draft dodgers. Slogan 'Hey, Hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?' became infamous.




Celebrities: Many said they didn't know what the US was fighting for. Thought there was no just reason behind it. Jimmi Hendrix used popular songs with the themes and sounds of war. Celebrities were in the public eye so were very influential and people listened to them.




Parents and Families: Mothers were concerned about their sons being drafted for war. They would be bombing and destroying people who hated them. Nearly every family was impacted. Over 50,000 US soldiers were killed and many suffered physical and psychological injuries.




Veterans: Some veterans killed themselves. Many ended up homeless. Soldier complained that they had been told that they were fighting against communism but were actually fighting a civil war.




-The forms of protest:




Student protests: Several student organisations were established to oppose US involvement in Vietnam. These included Student Libertarian Movement, established in 1972. Student protests took the form of 'teach ins', marches and rallies.

Mass rallies and marches: Inspired by the Civil Rights Movement these saw large numbers of people march in demonstration against the war. In 1967 over 400,000 people marched from Central Park to the UN headquarters to make their views clear.

Music: Protests against the war were also influenced by many popular entertainers of the time. Music festivals often focussed on the anti-war theme and many songs were written about the war.






  • The Kent State University Protest (1970):

    On 4th May 1970 there was an anti-war protest led by University students. 4 students were killed and in response 10,000 students marched on Washington and went on strike.
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04MR17
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They lost because they shouldn't have been there in the first place.
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username4340906
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(Original post by HarryBarnett175)
I'm interested in the topic. I was wondering, given the weakness of the Vietnam armies, why did it end up a mess?
They didn’t build a wall.
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El Salvador
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The US worships a false god
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MongoDB
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Nhphap
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Woww. U guys understand about my country history!!! I’m really happy
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Dannyboy2015
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(Original post by Nhphap)
Woww. U guys understand about my country history!!! I’m really happy
Yes, history is something that is taught over here in the UK lol.

Actually the amount of historians in the UK is growing which is an odd trend compared to other parts of the world. Which is a worrying trend to those that study history.

This is for many reasons - the most obvious of which is potential jobs abro*cough* ensuring that mistakes of the past are never repeated.

Too bad those teens that wanted to intimidate a native American didn't understand much about history eh?
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04MR17
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(Original post by Nhphap)
Woww. U guys understand about my country history!!! I’m really happy
It's a relatively popular topic for GCSE and/or A Level history here. (Students aged 14-18 study these, but most of them choose to). I doubt it's taught in America.

And there's things in our history that aren't taught widely probablt because we aren't very proud of it.
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Nhphap
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Lol I see!!! Now i am studying in UK but I don’t take history so I don’t really understand too much about history but my friends take this subject and they say they have to study too.

Lolol but I haven’t seen someone want to intimidate a native America before
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JustOneMoreThing
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Poor America, the victims.
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grim-RIM
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(Original post by HarryBarnett175)
I'm interested in the topic. I was wondering, given the weakness of the Vietnam armies, why did it end up a mess?
in my personal opinion i really don't believe the U.S lost the war against vietnam. this is the same country which has the best military force in the world, the problem was the resillience proabably stemming from both the discipline of asian cultures but additionally also the grudge that was still held from the U.S and the dropping of the atomic bombs on hiroshima and nagasaki. i'm not the worlds biggest expert in history yet i do know a lot about the cold war and ww2 so im forming my opinion quite strongly based on those two as these were both huge factors themelves in the vietnamese war. A big thing with the war on vietnam came from the fact that since they were so resillient the U.S army hadn't progressed much, yet thus leads on to a common misconception surrounding this war. it is completely in my opinion accurate that the U.S very easily could of either kept up the combat or possibly even dropped nuclear weapons yet i think whole-heartedly that two big factors gave way to the demise of the war and america pulling out. And these to me are as follows, the financial impedement of the war was not one to be taken lightly this war cost america a lot of money and the fact that america were losing a lot of lives and innocent american men were dying or being captured and tortured made america think twice about the war. Secondly however i think the peace campaigners also made a huge impact on america pulling out. the famous song give peace a chance by John lennon famously sung by many anti-war protesters made the american government realise what the people wanted.
"All we are saying is give peace a chance"
such a simple quote made the governing bodies behind the USA's involvement in the war on vietnam reflect and think maybe this isn't worth the loss of money, the deaths of our people and ultimately upsetting the entirety of america the genral public vote these guys in they have to keep them happy.

i hope this helps, from a bored 15 year old in county durham
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Dannyboy2015
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So much GCSE history here.

Personally I think they lost bcos Russia was too cold.

Can you believe that a history teacher told me to use that as a valid point for my A-level exam?

cw0tIdidthere?
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anosmianAcrimony
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(Original post by grim-RIM)
in my personal opinion i really don't believe the U.S lost the war against vietnam. this is the same country which has the best military force in the world, the problem was the resillience proabably stemming from both the discipline of asian cultures but additionally also the grudge that was still held from the U.S and the dropping of the atomic bombs on hiroshima and nagasaki. i'm not the worlds biggest expert in history yet i do know a lot about the cold war and ww2 so im forming my opinion quite strongly based on those two as these were both huge factors themelves in the vietnamese war. A big thing with the war on vietnam came from the fact that since they were so resillient the U.S army hadn't progressed much, yet thus leads on to a common misconception surrounding this war. it is completely in my opinion accurate that the U.S very easily could of either kept up the combat or possibly even dropped nuclear weapons yet i think whole-heartedly that two big factors gave way to the demise of the war and america pulling out. And these to me are as follows, the financial impedement of the war was not one to be taken lightly this war cost america a lot of money and the fact that america were losing a lot of lives and innocent american men were dying or being captured and tortured made america think twice about the war. Secondly however i think the peace campaigners also made a huge impact on america pulling out. the famous song give peace a chance by John lennon famously sung by many anti-war protesters made the american government realise what the people wanted.
"All we are saying is give peace a chance"
such a simple quote made the governing bodies behind the USA's involvement in the war on vietnam reflect and think maybe this isn't worth the loss of money, the deaths of our people and ultimately upsetting the entirety of america the genral public vote these guys in they have to keep them happy.

i hope this helps, from a bored 15 year old in county durham
Wow, you have no idea what you're talking about
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anosmianAcrimony
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They lost because the Viet Cong was so well interspersed with civilians and the environment that for every VC member killed, three more civilians were convinced to join the resistance.
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grim-RIM
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Haven't proved me wrong with evidence I just provided my opinion
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DJKL
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If we can describe what the USA "winning" would have looked like we can then work out why they "lost".

Winning was , imho, ill/non defined.

Did it require conquest of the North?
Did it require holding a permanent border with the North?
Did it require a permanent, lasting, peace accord with the North?
Etc

Frankly any military/political action which has a poorly thought out satisfactory conclusion will likely always end up "lost".
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username4263278
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Mainly because Vietnam was a country which just wanted to be united, it was really only the USA (concerned after the fall of Britsh Malaya that the communist would spread rapidly throughout south-east like to Cambodia and Laos), and a small minority of Vietnamese citizens who wanted, capitalism at all costs. With the guerilla warfare, the US not used to tropical climate and unpredictableness of the Vietcong including events like the Tet offensive it was only a matter of time before the USA had to withdraw their forces. It got such a mess mainly because of the US politics getting tied up in this.
(Original post by HarryBarnett175)
I'm interested in the topic. I was wondering, given the weakness of the Vietnam armies, why did it end up a mess?
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DrMikeHuntHertz
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Viet Minh were an American toy in the first place just like the Taliban were
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