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The U.S. in Vietnam. Part II. William C. Westmoreland Maxwell Taylor. U.S. troops in Vietnam. 1964, year end: 24,000 1965, year end: 184,000 1966, year end: 385,000 1967, year end: 490,000 Total troop strength will exceed 500,000 in 1968. Aspects of the build-up.

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U s troops in vietnam
U.S. troops in Vietnam

  • 1964, year end: 24,000

  • 1965, year end: 184,000

  • 1966, year end: 385,000

  • 1967, year end: 490,000

  • Total troop strength will exceed 500,000 in 1968.

Aspects of the build up
Aspects of the build-up

  • LBJ: did not call out the reserves or the National Guard.

  • Army had to rely upon volunteers and draftees to meet personnel needs.

    • Field forces in Vietnam: about half volunteer, half drafted.

  • Manpower issues complicated by one-year tours of duty

  • Issues of class and race?

Limiting the war 1965 68
Limiting the War: 1965-68

  • Army: not allowed to attack NVA bases on Cambodia, Laos, or north of DMZ.

  • Air Force/Navy: Target and engagement restrictions placed on Rolling Thunder.

  • LBJ – does not impose any economic constraints.


  • Northern provinces

  • Central highlights & coast

  • Northwest of Saigon

  • Mekong River delta

U s strategy 1965 68
U.S. strategy: 1965-68

  • U.S. combat forces given primary responsibility for locating & eliminating large NVA/VC units.

  • GVN + various U.S. civil and military agencies pursue pacification effort.

  • Air Force & Navy maintain bombing of North Vietnam (Rolling Thunder).

Westmoreland s plan
Westmoreland’s plan

  • First defend South Vietnam, defeat Communist offensives, secure bases for additional troops.

  • Then launch offensives to destroy enemy units.

  • Ultimately hoped to attack Communist sanctuaries, shift effort of U.S. troops to pacification.

U s combat operations
U.S. combat operations

  • Unpopulated areas: “Search & destroy” operations relied upon helicopter mobility and superior artillery and air support.

  • Populated areas: U.S. troops employed patrols and helped provide security for roads and villages.

Air support
Air Support

  • Helicopter gunships

  • Air Force/Marine sorties with high explosives or napalm.

  • Operation ARC LIGHT

Ia drang november 1965
Ia Drang, November 1965

  • First large engagement between U.S and NVA troops.

  • 7th Cavalry prevails, but takes high casualties.

  • Demonstrates effectiveness of:

    • U.S. air support

    • NVA/VC close infantry tactics.


  • Marines: pursue “combined action program.”

  • Elsewhere MACV relies upon GVN efforts.

    • U.S. assistance complicated by bureaucratic confusion.

  • 1967: U.S. aid efforts centralized under the Office of Civil Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS).

    • Launched OPERATION Phoenix to eliminate, capture, or co-opt VC cadres.

Problems bombing the drv
Problems bombing the DRV

  • Objectives.

  • Effectiveness?

    • Subsistence–level economy.

    • DRV has manpower to operate air defenses and repair bombing damage.

    • DRV able to maintain flow of supplies and men to support operations in the South.

  • Cost?

    • 900 aircraft and >1,000 crewman lost Rolling Thunder to 1968.

    • $10 of expense to inflict $1 damage?

Assessment of u s efforts 1965 67 positives
Assessment of U.S. efforts 1965-67:Positives

  • South Vietnam defended (still exists).

  • More stable GVN:

    • Nguyen Van Thieu and Nguyen Cao Ky come to power in 1965.

  • NVA on defensive.

  • VC insurgency checked.

Assessment of u s efforts 1965 67 negatives
Assessment of U.S. efforts 1965-67:Negatives

  • NVA able to raise troop levels, resulting in escalating U.S. forces.

  • Pacification:

    • Ties of rural population to GVN still tenuous.

    • VC organization still functioning.

  • Large displacement of rural population.

Communists develop a plan general offensive general uprising
Communists develop a plan:“General Offensive – General Uprising”

  • NVA to first launch attacks in central highlands & near DMZ area to draw off U.S. reserve troops.

  • VC cadres to infiltrate towns and cities & capture GVN/ARVN installations, which would precipitate a general revolt.

    • U.S. posts to be assaulted to sow confusion, & for psychological effect.

  • NVA units to reinforce VC forces & “liberated” citizens in urban areas.

The siege of khe sanh
The Siege of Khe Sanh

  • Isolated U.S. base near DMZ surrounded.

  • NVA attacks began January 21, 1968.

    • Lasted 77 days

The tet offensive
The Tet Offensive

  • Began January 30, 1968.

  • Violence erupts in more than 200 villages, towns & cities.

  • About 80,000 Communist troops participated.

Tet communist military defeat
Tet: Communist military defeat

  • No urban uprisings occurred.

  • U.S. and ARVN troops prevailed in urban battles.

  • NVA reinforcements checked by air strikes and counterattacks.

  • Of 80,000 men, Communists lost half (including numerous VC cadres).

Tet communist political victory
Tet: Communist political victory

  • Tet destroyed LBJ’s will to continue the conflict.

  • Also shocked in the U.S. public, greatly expanded popular disaffection with the war.

The u s domestic scene
The U.S. domestic scene

  • Growing anti-war movement.

  • Sympathetic coverage by news media.

  • How mainstream?

Lbj after tet
LBJ after Tet

  • Sends another 20,000 troops to Vietnam, but rejects Westmoreland’s request for 206,000.

    • Authorized a limited call-up of reserves.

  • Announced on March 31, 1968:

    • Would stop Rolling Thunder

    • Would seek talks to end the war (no preconditions).

    • Would not seek re-election.