The Vietnam War is viewed by the bulk as one of the worst periods in American history. The Americans moved into Vietnam in 1954 under the pretension of contending against an “evil and aggressive Communist regime”1. The authorities stated the Domino Theory as a ground for affecting themselves in person else’s war. whereby if America did non halt Vietnam from falling to Communism so other states would follow. and American autonomy. free endeavor and security would be put at hazard. It is difficult to specify one of import ground for the American’s licking in Vietnam.
There are many factors that explain it: limitations on the military and tactics that the American ground forces employed. coupled with the strength of the North Vietnamese Army. The war besides cost a batch of money. which meant rising prices. revenue enhancement rises and America’s economic system enduring. The prostration of the place forepart and the deficiency of support from the media was cause for the presidents to withdraw and was another ground for the undermining of the war attempt. This information from place frequently leaked to the front line and caused the impairment of troops’ morale. besides. the authorities was frequently criticised for non understanding the political nature of Vietnam. where no-one truly understand or cared about the term democracy.
The general consensus by most historiographers is that the military tactics employed played a big portion in finding the result of the war. Justin Wintle’s ‘The Vietnam Wars’ concentrates on the military facets. and suggests that while the Americans had a superior military and equipment. the tactics they used were useless due to the environment in Vietnam – Westmoreland’s search-and-destroy operations would hold been an effectual resistance to guerilla combat. ‘or would hold done had they been able to take topographic point in a certain environment ventilated by the Ho Chi Minh Trail’2. turn outing that the tactics used were inappropriate and non good thought out by the ground forces generals. Even Major John Fenzel in the US Army agreed that licking was due to tactical failures. which meant that they could non vie with the ‘multi-faceted scheme of insurgence and protraction’3 of the North Vietnamese ground forces. General Bruce Palmer Jr. stated that Vietnam was ‘…a diabolically cagey mixture of conventional warfare fought slightly unconventionally and guerilla warfare fought in the classical manner’4.
It was non merely that the American scheme was uneffective ; it was uneffective in the conditions and against a strong North Vietnamese ground forces absolutely adapted to their environment. Due to the absolute strength of American air power. the Americans were lucky plenty to maintain a good decease ratio where the figure of Vietnamese deceases to a great extent outnumbered their ain. nevertheless the fact that the war dragged on for so long greatly deteriorated the troops’ morale. Obvious tactical failures were the Phoenix Program under Nixon where troops agents infiltrated into Vietnamese peasant territories to observe militants. and while its consequence was obvious. its methods were seen to be violent and intelligence of inexperienced persons being murdered shortly reached place. Operation Apache Snow. where American soldiers attacked Vietcong taking safety on Ap Bia. now more normally known as ‘Hamburger Hill’ .
Military personnels attacked with fire-fight. hand-to-hand combat and aerial barrage. nevertheless this merely served to increase resistance to the war. so ‘Hamburger Hill’ was abandoned. which impelled Senator Edward Kennedy to label the operation as ‘senseless and irrseponsible’5. Morale among the military personnels was besides diminishing. When tactics looked successful. morale was high. But as schemes resorted to a grade of brutality with inexperienced persons being killed and bombing foraies. intelligence of deficiency of support from the place forepart reached the front line and the drawn out nature of the war ensured that morale shortly deteriorated.
Besides. the experience of war was moderately comfy. as Saunders points out in ‘Vietnam and the USA’ ; soldiers spent a considerable sum of clip off from the front line and in Japan or Saigon for ‘Rest and Recuperation’ . this evidently led to an ‘air of unreality and disorientation’6. where drug maltreatment was common. This deficiency of morale led to even more brutality. one Marine unit was known to say- ‘our emotions were really low because we’d lost a batch of friends…so…we gave it to them…whatever was traveling was traveling to travel no more – particularly after ( our ) 3 yearss of blood and backbones in the mud’7. There were
other factors. which led to this low morale. It was frequently thwarting for some soldiers as work forces in authorization were non ever every bit experient as them ; this meant that at that place appeared to be small construction to schemes. taking to confusion. They besides could non capture the Black Marias and heads of the Vietnamese. with the crossroads programme set-up by Diem. and the bombardment of Vietnam by Americans. the Vietnamese provincials disliked American military personnels. However. it is easy to understand the Americans deficiency of reaction to the Vietnamese. as the fortunes of the war were evidently frustrating. and they felt that they were contending person else’s war. resenting the American authorities for directing them. This disfavor for those who they were supposed to be assisting meant that it was a hard undertaking for the American military personnels to win the war.
The North Vietnamese Army ( NVA ) on the other manus were really good suited to the milieus and made the most of their environment. The state of affairs in Vietnam appeared to be. as James Cameron stated. ‘from the minute the US prepared its first bomb in the North of Vietnam. she welded the state together unshakeably. Every bomb was a fillip for Ho Chi Minh’8. It seemed that whatever hindered the American ground forces merely strengthened the Vietnamese. What the Americans did non gain was that the blitzes from firepower united the North Vietnamese. Chinese and Soviet assistance meant that the NVA could bask modern hardware: projectile launchers. anti-aircraft batteries. howitzers and flamethrowers. The position shared by many historiographers is that ‘they could be defeated but they could ne’er be vanquished’9. they had great doggedness and their tactics were clearly laid out. in drumhead:
Americans onslaught and NVA retreat
Americans cantonment and NVA raid
Americans tyre and NVA onslaught
Americans retreat and NVA pursue
The construction of the ground forces besides seemed more advanced than that of the Americans. Someone transporting supplies and ammo maintained each unit. Structure was built upon the thought of ‘cells’ of three or ten work forces. so if they were discovered or captured. they would non lose big Numberss of military personnels. This besides meant that they could travel about more stealthily and communicating around the cell was easier. The NVA became adept at puting dumbbell traps and it became difficult for Americans to efficaciously contend them as they attacked enemy units and so softly disappeared into the jungle. The Communists were besides better at winning over the Vietnamese population. Their combination of ferociousness and kindness allowed them to derive the support of the Vietnamese provincials. This evidently gave them an advantage over the American Army.
The actions of the American Presidents besides went some manner in sabotaging the war attempt. Eisenhower had restricted engagement in the war. rejecting any thought of bombing the state – ‘you boys must be brainsick. We can’t use those atrocious things against Asians for the 2nd clip in less than ten old ages. ’10. While he did give support to the Gallic in their Vietnam conflict. Eisenhower saw that directing military personnels in would be unwise. When Kennedy became president. he increased America’s committedness to Vietnam. necessitating a more adventuresome foreign policy and bigger defense mechanism outgo. The war is seen as ‘Johnson’s War’ as it was Johnson who started major escalation. With the Gulf of Tonkin declaration. it appeared that the population was behind Johnson and his attempts to direct more military personnels to Vietnam. but towards the terminal of his term. public sentiment had swayed and their was force per unit area to get down conveying soldiers back
place. Nixon had ab initio supported the war. but shortly he was under a batch of force per unit area to let fewer military personnels out. and convey more back. Nixon shortly began to organize secret bombardment runs so that he could carry through his ain wants refering Vietnam without losing the public’s assurance. Nixon was able to pull strings the state of affairs by doing proclamations of troop backdowns at times so that it would diminish resistance. Finally. Nixon ended the war due to public resistance. the realization that the war was non winnable. the demand for a vote-winning action. and resistance from Congress. The chief job with the presidents is that they seemed to hold their ain personal docket for Vietnam. cognizing small about the existent state of affairs. After a meeting with. Johnson and Kennedy. a State Department expert said – ‘…I was asked to state something at the terminal of the meeting and they looked at me perfectly helpless. the whole group of them.
There was non a individual individual there who knew what he was speaking about…They merely did non understand the designation of patriotism and Communism’11. this issue was besides brought up at a National Teach-In. ‘the compulsion of American policymakers with what they see as massive Communism has blinded them to the fact that Communism in Asia has adapted itself to nationalism’12. Those in power frequently fooled the populace and hence undermined American engagement in the war. as there was a good putting to death ratio. where it looked like the American forces were winning. functionaries could gull themselves into believing it would be a triumph ; nevertheless the Tet Offensive showed the world of the state of affairs. Presidents seemed to be set on destructing Communism. being blind to the fact that constructing a executable South Vietnam was outside of America’s power. what was needed was for them to understand Vietnam and ‘work with instead than against this powerful force’13. The bulk of Vietnamese did non ‘even know the difference between communism and democracy’14.
The Vietnam War was the first war with free imperativeness. so the media played a immense portion in sabotaging the war attempt. undermining public sentiment and corrupting American military personnels in Vietnam. The media had started off back uping the American presidents and their determinations about the war. nevertheless. their support shortly decreased as intelligence of the barbarous world of the war and the runs that had been covered-up leaked to the imperativeness. Press coverage was a major factor in guaranting deficiency of public support. and hence the retreat of presidents from Vietnam. One noteworthy illustration is the issue of ‘Life Magazine’ . which saw a full edition with two hundred and 42 exposure of the soldiers killed in Vietnam during merely one hebdomad of combat.
Equally good as demoing the adversities which Americans had to digest in Vietnam. the media showed ‘footage of the bulldozing of human carcases into mass Gravess. the napalming of kids. and the devastation of small towns by American soldiers’15. so that the populace began to dislike soldiers. doing many work forces to seek to dodge the bill of exchange. Not merely did the media allow public resistance to distribute. it besides undermined the military ; less people were drafted into the war. low morale. and secrets were leaked to the imperativeness from military personnels in Vietnam which the media was able to work.
The NVA would so be able to see this and could anticipate onslaughts. The images that were on telecasting were so powerful that they have been used as one of the chief grounds why America was defeated due to the feeling left on the populace. Although. Riddick argues against this analysis – ‘while the media can act upon public sentiment. inVietnam media coverage simply reflected. and did non make the national temper of disillusionment’16. The authorities. nevertheless. understood how influential the loss of media support could be. In February 1968. a CBS newsman. Cronkite. left an aside non meant for broadcast – ‘what the snake pit is traveling on? I thought we were winning this war? ’ President Johnson purportedly said – ‘If we’ve lost Cronkite. I’ve lost Mr. Average citizen’ .
In order to get by with the enlargement in Vietnam. US fiscal assistance was greatly increased. Washington had. for illustration. sent out about $ 2billion worth of assistance in the clip running up to the Paris Peace Agreement. The war was bing money. and started to interfere with the economic system. Johnson. nevertheless. would non acknowledge to the extent of outgo in instance Congress decided to cut budgets on his domestic programmes. In 1965 the authorities shortage was $ 1. 6billion. in 1968. it was $ 25. 3billion. Johnson had non requested the needed wartime revenue enhancement additions. This resulted in rising prices. and finally taxpayers became incensed and they increased the force per unit area on Johnson to set an terminal to the war. or to take a different attack. The war was a great hinderance on America’s economic stature. It denied financess to America and other demands. such as infirmaries and instruction.
In the early 1960ss. Vietnam was popular ; nationalism was strong in a confident state. who assumed that they had the necessary arms and firepower to guarantee triumph. Opinions on the war differed harmonizing to geographics and age. The Southern and Mid-West counties were conservative and loyal whereas coastal counties were broad and democratic. The older coevalss supported the war because of the consequence of World War II. which had brought prosperity. The younger coevalss had more broad attitudes. They were concerned with freedom of address and self-expression. Conscription besides made the war unpopular with immature grownups. which resulted in low morale in the ground forces and a autumn in the figure of military personnels as bill of exchange documents were torn up. Further into the 1960ss. anti-war sentiment was turning in America. the turning point was the Tet Offensive. where the populace was able to see the world of the war and the fact that they were non winning.
Soldiers returning place were jeered at and called ‘baby-killer’ . and trust in the American authorities was missing. At the oncoming of war. those who opposed it could be split straight into three classs: ‘people with leftist political opinions…pacifists who opposed all wars…liberals who believed that the best manner of halting the spread of Communism was by promoting democratic instead than autocratic governments’17. The fact that presidents had decided to utilize chemical warfare particularly upset the populace as they saw images and heard narratives of guiltless work forces. adult females and kids deceasing as a consequence.
The sixtiess was besides a clip of black rights. There were disproportional Numberss of inkinesss contending in Vietnam. and it seemed unjust for America to anticipate inkinesss to contend this war for ‘freedom’ when they enjoyed small of this at place. Historians saw the inkinesss as ‘comparing themselves with the Vietnamese: both were. in their position. victims of a racialist government’18.
An International War Tribunal was set up and they. along with other critics. claimed that ‘US behavior in Vietnam is comparable to the atrociousnesss committed by the Nazis in WW2’19. In 1967. the ‘Vietnam Veterans Against the War’ was formed. one member stated ‘I hope that someday I can return to Vietnam and assist to reconstruct the state we tore apart’20. Besides. anti-war leaders claimed that if military personnels were non withdrawn from Vietnam. the authorities might necessitate to convey them place to halt a revolution. Apart from these remarks to the authorities. several protests were taking topographic point. By 1965. organized mass meetings were being held in about 40 American metropoliss and a few foreign capitals. There were a batch of pupils protests as the younger coevalss refused to accept the authorization of the authorities.
Groups against the war were dedicated to protesting for the backdown of military personnels. seting a batch of force per unit area on the authorities. Violent protests started to go more common as more atrociousnesss became evident in the imperativeness. specifically the incident of My Lai where approximately 400 inexperienced persons were murdered. which damaged the morale statement about the demand to salvage Vietnam. In November 1965. Norman Morrison imitated the actions of Buddhist monastic in Saigon by puting fire to himself out side the Pentagon. A protest at Kent University where four pupils were killed by unfastened fire brought the message to the populace that ‘loss of life as a consequence of the Vietnam War…was no longer confined to Indchina’21.
There was still a considerable sum of support for the authoritiess policies. nevertheless. even a minority in America can protest vociferously and do a immense difference. particularly when figured of regard and authorization speak out. For illustration. Senator J. William Fullbright spoke out against ‘that haughtiness of power which has inflicted. weakened and in some instances destroyed great states in the past’22. Martin Luther King besides spoke out about how ‘the Great Society has been shot down on the battleground of Vietnam’23.
Public force per unit area meant that in 1968. Johnson had lost assurance in his determinations and his war and he announced he was naming of bombing foraies and was prepared to open treatments on the possibilities of peace negotiations. However. the war was prolonged into Nixon’s term as president. which served merely to beef up the anxiousness against the war. As C. Reich stated. ‘the War seemed to sum up the immoralities of our society: devastation of people…environment…war by the rich and powerful against the hapless and incapacitated. justification based on abstract reason. lip service and lies’24. The presidents knew that unless public sentiment was swayed towards them and the war. they would non be able to remain in power. By the clip Vietnam ended. it was clear that a major ground for backdown was down to public sentiment.
There is no uncertainty that public sentiment went a long manner in guaranting that presidents retreated and the war attempt undermined. Opposition resulted in a diminution in military personnels and protests throughout America which demonstrated the unrest which politicians had to move on. However. there are other factors which add to this to explicate America’s licking. the failure of the American ground forces against a strong Vietcong force. the function of the media. the economic state of affairs due to mass outgo. and the sightlessness of the authorities to the existent state of affairs in Vietnam.
Saunders – ‘The USA and Vietnam’ ( p. 2 )
2 Wintle – ‘The Vietnam Wars’ ( p. 136 )
3 Major John Fenzel – ‘Vietnam: We Could Have Won’
4 General Bruce Palmer Jnr. – ‘The 25-Year War: America’s Military Role in
Vietnam’ ( p. 176 )
5 Wintle – ‘The Vietnam Wars’ ( p. 165 )
6 Saunders – ‘The USA and Vietnam 1945 – 75’ ( p. 85 )
7 Ibid. ( p. 89 )
8 James Cameron – ‘Witness’
9 Wintle – ‘The Vietnam Wars’ ( p. 165 )
10 Saunders – ‘The USA and Vietnam 1954 – 75’ ( p. 32 )
11 State Department Report 1963
12 National Teach-In – Gettleman – ‘Vietnam: History. Documents. and Opinions on a Major World Crisis’ ( p. 411 )
13 Gettleman – ‘Vietnam: History. Documents. and Opinions on a Major World Crisis’ ( p. 411 )
14 Vietnam Veterans Against the War Statement – John Kerry to the Senate Committee of Foreign Relations – 1971
15 Franklin H. Bruce – ‘From Realism to Virtual Reality: Images of America’s Wars’ ( p. 441 )
16 Riddick – ‘The Vietnam War’
17 A Vietnam Overview – World Wide Web. spartacus. schoolnet. co. uk/VietnamWar. htm
18 Higgins – ‘Vietnam’ ( p. 101 )
19 A Vietnam Overview – World Wide Web. spartacus. schoolnet. co. uk/VietnamWar. htm
21 Wintle – ‘The Vietnam Wars’ ( p. 168 )
22 Ibid. ( p. 157 )
23 Ibid. ( p. 161 )
24 C. Reich – ‘The Greening of America’ ( p. 194 )