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Military History Chapter 21 Vietnam War. Vietnam War- Strategic Overview. Vietnam was longest US combat deployment (so far): US combat units fought hostile actions (1965-72) SOF also involved before & after that (1961-73) Military advisor role started in 1959

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vietnam war strategic overview
Vietnam War- Strategic Overview
  • Vietnam was longest US combat deployment (so far):
    • US combat units fought hostile actions (1965-72)
    • SOF also involved before & after that (1961-73)
    • Military advisor role started in 1959
  • But no fixed date of start of US involvement
    • No Lexington & Concord or Pearl Harbor
    • or… New York Trade Center Towers
  • US entered & left incrementally
    • In series of incremental steps => 1950s-1970s
  • Successive US Administrations actively participated in the War:
    • From Truman to Nixon
      • All tried to save Vietnam from Communist take-over (as part of Containment Policy)
      • All would ultimately fail
brief historical outline
Brief Historical Outline
  • Truman (May 1950)=> authorized $$Mil to aid French=>
    • preserve post-WW2 French Indochina colonies (image)
  • Ike continued US support, even following Dien Bien Phu
    • Aim: build Vn Nation out of diverse political factions
    • After French defeat, US took control of bad situation
    • Deployed military advisors to build SVN’s military
    • Tasked CIA to conduct psychological war against NVN
  • JFK: tripled $$ aid to SVN & increased military advisors:
    • Early ‘61 secretly deployed 400 SF & 30 Navy SEALs:
    • Tasked to “advise” ARVN & SVN Navy: CItactics & techniques
      • Covert direct action against North Vietnam (Oplan 34A) & VC in South
    • By Nov ‘63 16,300 advisors operate thru-out N/S Vietnam
johnson s war
Johnson’s War
  • After JFK’s assassination, LBJ took over war
    • Determined not to “lose” Vietnam like Truman “lost” China
    • Embarked on a limited war strategy to convince NVN to cease infiltration of South Vietnam
  • After Tonkin Gulfincident & itsresolutionin Aug 1964:
    • LBJ secured Congress support (as equivalent of war):
    • Authorized by resolution to “take all necessary actions”
    • Following his 1964 re-election, LBJ did just that
  • Result: US military commitment intensified incrementally:
    • LBJ personally directed sustained bombing of targets in NVN
    • Mar ‘65=> Rolling Thunderbegan=> would last until 31Oct68
  • US also deployed first combat units (USMC) in March 1965*
    • US took over war from ‘65-’69 when force levels peak @ 543K+
statistics vietnam syndrome
Statistics & “Vietnam Syndrome”
  • Statistic totals: 2.7M served in Vietnam => 1.6 in combat:
    • 58K+ KIA & 300,000 WIA, ~ approx 2500 remain MIA
  • US spent between $140B to $175Bon the war
  • American outlook deeply influenced by Vietnam War:
    • Future Presidential Foreign Policy decisions affected as result
    • “Vietnam syndrome” hovered always in background to present
  • Not since Civil War has a conflict divided US society so
    • America’s first war ever lost
    • Humiliating political defeat for USG institutions
    • Especially for the US military- long time to recover
  • VN vetscame home as Nation tried to forget & move on
    • VN Vets were ignored at best & blamed for war at worst
vietnam s history of people s war
Vietnam’s History of People’s War
  • Vietnam has had a long tradition of war against outsiders
    • rebellion against China: the Trung sisters;
    • Later Trieu Au would lead another revolt in 248 AD
    • 10th century: defeated China’s Fleet & won independence
  • 13th century: Vietnam repulsed Kublai Khan 3 times
    • In process became experts in employing GW =>
    • Stressed protracted war to wear a superior military power down
    • Raid & ambush tactics on the enemy’s over-extended LOCs
  • Outlined in Dao’s“Essential Summary of Military Arts”
    • Strategy: drew enemy into protracted campaign to wear him down
    • (Also applied these techniques to1st& 2nd Indo-China wars)
historical experience with outside threats
Historical Experience with Outside Threats
  • Vietnam’s defeat of Mongols & Chinese=>
    • Now key part of Vietnam’s martial tradition & history:
      • i.e. struggle & resistance against superior outside forces
      • All became part of Vietnam’s military heritage
      • (In addition to Vietnam’s civil war that soon followed)
  • French involvement came in late 1850s:
    • Vn persecuted Fr & Euro missionaries & their converts
    • Gradually (late 1800s) => Fr establish & expand their colonies
    • French then expanded throughout all of Indo-China =>
      • Also suppressed Vietnam’s civil war in process
on protracted war an overview
“On Protracted War” – An Overview
  • Mao’s Guerilla Warmodel:
    • “On Protracted War”
    • Vietnam drew heavily on Mao’s model for war
  • Model instructed followers to proceed by 3 stages:
    • 1st - defensive stage:
      • survive, establish base & gain people’s support
      • conduct hit & run raids & ambush of soft targets
    • 2nd - equilibrium:
      • gradually expand offensive campaigns =>
      • stage larger battles of a more conventional nature
    • 3rd - Counter-Offensive:
      • Incorporate conventional military ops with guerilla warfare
      • Then ramp up to full scale conventional war (when ready)
first indo china war
First Indo-China War
  • WW2: Japan occupied & controlled Vietnam since 1940
    • Vietnamese allied with China to fight Japanese (GW)
  • Following Japan’s defeat, Ho Chi Minh asserted his leadership:
    • Led coalition of Communists Nationalists
    • Declared Vietnam independence on 2Sept45
    • Began talks with French
    • But both sides failed to agree on basic strategic aims
  • Nov’46=> Viet Minh attacked French garrisons =>
    • 1st Indochina war began => would last 8 yrs (1946-54)
escalation to major battle
Escalation to Major Battle
  • Jan’48: Viet Minh begin 2nd stage:
    • Expand military operations
    • Conduct bigger battles against French
  • Meanwhile (late ’49)=> China became Communist state under Mao:
    • Result=> China provides Vietnam with economic & political support
    • Also sanctuaries within China’s sovereign territory
  • 1951: Vietnam launched stage 3 prematurely:
    • Result: suffers major conventional defeat
    • Temporary set back for Viet Minh
  • 1953: at China’s insistence Vn lures French Commander (Navarre) into:
    • Plain of Reeds=> near a place called (?)
    • ?_______ __________ ____________
dien bien phu nov53 may54
Dien Bien Phu (Nov53-May54)
  • Gen Navarre established several strong French Firebases on surrounding hills near main base:
    • All manned by paratroops & Fr Foreign Legion
    • supplied thru airstrip by airlift
  • 1954: Chinese press Vietnamese to act decisively:
    • Giap orders arty/ammo towed into surrounding mtns
    • Complete surprise (operational and tactical surprise)
  • Viet Minh bombard French outposts from mountain sites:
    • Paratroops forced to abandon outposts 1 by 1 =>
    • 13Mar’54:Beatrice falls within hours of attack
    • Gabrielle & Anne Marie overrun during next 2 days
    • Impact: denied French airfield-key to French defense
      • Reinforcement & re-supply (also Fr artysuppressed)
dien bien phu final assault
Dien Bien Phu(final assault)
  • Remaining outposts must be re-supplied by airdrop (men/supplies):
    • Drops inaccurate (high altitude drops due to Vn AAA)
  • French situation now desperate
    • French government requests US help
    • Ike refuses to send US troops or tactical Nukes
  • Many French Foreign Legion troops desert
    • Hide in caves along Nam Yum & scavenge for food
    • Paratroopers left to fight alone until the end
  • 7 May’54: Last French position overrun
    • Fr survivors marched into captivity & humiliation
  • At on going Peace talks in Geneva
    • French must now accept distasteful political terms
    • Unfavorable terms a direct result of French tactical defeat
    • US must now take up containment directly
expanded us involvement
Expanded US involvement
  • By ‘54 US paying close to 80% of War’s cost
    • French viewed as containing communism in Asia
  • Ike refused to sign Geneva Accords:
    • Rejects VN’s temporary 2 year partition at 17th parallel
    • Wary of nation wide elections to determine fate in 1956
    • Well aware of who is most likely to win (who?)
  • Instead US used 2 yr time to back separate non-communist Government below 17th parallel
    • Government in South to be led by who?
    • ?________ ______ ________- a Catholic
    • What is the faith of Vietnam majority?
    • ?_________________
  • 1956 elections overwhelmingly favor Ho Chi Minh:
    • Vote results ignored by US & new RVN Gov
second indochina war
Second Indochina War
  • Following South Vietnam refusal to allow free election=>
    • Ho Chi Minh began modernization of his forces
    • Prepares to deploy NVN advisors south
    • Begins armed struggle in South Vietnam(SVN)
  • Diemstarts search to rout out Viet Minh south in 1956
    • Included all viewed as opposed to his rule:
    • i.e. All non-Catholics & minorities alike
  • By ’57: Viet Minh in South close to all but eliminated
    • Result: Viet Minh launched major rebellion against Diem’s Government
    • Initiate guerilla warfare, intelligence ops, propaganda
    • Focus: develop support base in rural villages
    • Diem’s harsh policies facilitate Viet Minhefforts
violence escalates
Violence Escalates
  • Raids & assassinations escalate between 1958 => 1960:
    • 1958: 700 gov. officials killed
    • 1960: 2500 killed
  • By 1960: National Liberation Front (NLF) established
    • (Political arm of Viet Minh rebellion)
    • By Dec’63: PAVN (NVA) escalated infiltration/support to Viet Minh
    • Ho Chi Minh Trail established
    • NVN sends men & supplies south
  • By 1965: full blown insurgency was established in SVN:
    • US concludes Diem’s regime will fall without direct military support
nlf s war aims strategy
NLF’s War Aims & Strategy
  • Political Aim:
    • Unite South under NVN government of Ho Chi Minh
  • NLF Grand Strategy:
    • Combine political & military aspects of struggle
    • Undermine SVN political & military positions
    • Rally people & popular support for NLF cause
  • Political Tactics:
    • Conduct “Agitprop”
    • Tactical focus: village level
      • Establish a tight political & military structure
    • By’63: NLF was successful =>
      • Signed up 300K supporters in countryside
nlf military strategy tactics
NLF Military Strategy & Tactics
  • Tacticsformulated to serve strategic & political ends:
    • 1st stage: hit & run raids & just survive
    • Targets selected for maximum psychological impact
  • Assassination: target most effective & most despised
    • Mayors, village chiefs, teachers
    • Ambush ARVN troops & government strategic Hamlets
    • Sabotage commercial transport infrastructure
  • Strategic Objective:
    • Provoke government to react w/repressive actions:
    • Aim: alienate the very people government is suppose to protect
    • Demonstrate to people ineffectiveness of Gov efforts
chinese tactical model
Chinese Tactical Model
  • By’65:PAVN provided direct support to SVN insurgents:
    • Employed Chinese model, tactics, & techniques
    • Totaled 500K troops with 500K in reserve
    • Divisions comprised 10K Troops:
      • Used 7.62 AK-47s w/3-5 grenades each member
    • 3 infantry regiments in South:
      • Weapons company attached: 60/82 mm mortars
      • 57/75mm recoilless rifles, RPGs & Machine Guns
  • Train extensively in night ops & effective concealment
    • Small unit tactics employing stealth
    • Meticulous planning & full scale rehearsals
    • Detailed withdrawal plans & back-up contingencies
    • Preposition supplies & ammo & escape routes
tactical focus
Tactical Focus
  • Bottom line:
    • a well respected opponent:
    • NVAsoldier was good, dedicated,
    • Well trained & highly motivated troop:
    • Extensive training & battlefield prep
  • NVA tactics & doctrine’s focus:
    • Raid & ambush=> (became experts at)
    • Small unit mobility to minimize US technology:
      • Extreme close contact
      • (often at “Danger Close” ranges)
    • Concentrate on weak point, overwhelm & encircle
    • Then quickly withdraw => rarely held territory
  • Key Lesson Learned:
    • Never follow a blood trail – why? ?_________________
us counter insurgency ci limited war
US Counter Insurgency (CI) & Limited War
  • US foreign policy (FP) focused on Containment:
    • Halt communist expansion directed from Moscow
    • Main focus of US FP throughout Cold War (CW)
  • Vietnam War viewed as just another communist threat of attempted expansion:
    • Specific attempt at communist expansion in SE Asia
    • Ho Chi Minh & NVN inspired by Moscow & Beijing
  • During’60s=> Vietnam became test case for JFK’s CI doctrine:
    • JFKcampaigned to replace Ike’s massive retaliation=>
      • Replacement National Security Strategy?
result flexible response
Result: Flexible Response
  • JFK placed major emphasis onCI:
    • To counter Mao’s guerilla warfare in SE Asia
    • Carried out by SOF advisors
      • 400 SF & 30 SEALs May 1961
      • 16,300 military advisors by Nov 1963
  • Also JFK ordered covert actions against NVN
    • (OPLAN 34A) by SOG Teams
  • CI Strategy against NLF:
    • Build-up of military support to ARVN:
      • APCs, CV air support, Helos, TACAIR
    • SF advisors conducted training & civic action:
    • US Helo support to ARVN:
      • Infiltration/extraction & Medivac
    • Direct support, to include “advising” SVN SOF teams into enemy held areas
strategic hamlet program
Strategic Hamlet Program
  • Another attempt to protect people from insurgents by isolating them
  • Theory: serve as instrument of $$ & social reform & security:
    • Attract the people to SVN gov programs
    • Convince peasant SVN gov better than NLF
  • Objective: relegate insurgents to outlaw status
    • Lose support of masses => force revised NLF aims:
    • Return insurgent to Survival mode (stage 1)
  • Reality: program failed in both concept & execution:
    • Dislocated peasants from village bred resentment
    • SVN Government (notNLF) viewed as bad guy
    • Poor security => vulnerable villages easy to overrun
factors in failure
Factors in Failure
  • Result: opposite of desired government objective
    • People’s discontent rose while security & safety fell
    • Atrocious execution by Nhu alienated peasants
  • Another factor – conventional military mindset:
    • Conventional US Army leaders resisted CI
    • Did not support CI concept
    • Conflict in philosophies of war: Clausewitz vs. Sun Tzu
  • Conventional military preferred conventional methods:
    • Bigger = better mindset employing modern weapons
    • Even though jungle warfare very tough environment
    • Conventional infantry & armor profile ineffective
    • Tactical surprise unlikely – operational surprise hard
battle of ap bac 2 jan 1963
Battle of Ap Bac (2 Jan 1963)
  • LTC John Paul Vann:
    • Pressed IV Corps tactical zone Cmdr MG Cao, & Col Dam, Cmdr of 7thARVN, to attack 3 VC radio companies (350 men) near hamlet of Ap Bac
    • Located 65 KM southwest of Saigon in theMekong Delta
    • Plan: 3 pronged pincer attack from different directions by 3 Battalions of 7th Infantry,
      • Supported by regional units, 13 APCs (3500 men), ABN & US Helos (CH-21s & UH-1s)
    • Objective: Surprise & overwhelm enemy with numbers
  • Executionbadly flawed:
    • ARVN commander delayed attack too long
    • Allowed enemy to discover Cmdr’s intent:
    • Time to prepare defense to receive attack
  • No tactical surprise =>
    • First sign of resistance ARVN froze
    • 1 prong of offense refused to even attack
    • Remaining units purposely failed to block enemy’s escape
  • Result: numerous ARVN casualties (friendly fire):
    • 61 KIA & 100 WIA
    • Viet Cong slip away undetected (3 KIA)
  • Victory claimed anyway (why?)
    • Rationale: conventionally- held ground
    • ARVN performance does not bold well for future
tonkin gulf incident
Tonkin Gulf Incident
  • SVN maritimesea commandos & advisors
    • Conduct sea-borne & raids on NVN radar
    • Raids conducted in/around Tonkin gulfop area
  • Objective:
    • Force NVN to light off radar’s ELINT
    • Permit US DDs w/special ELINT collection
  • NVN Response:
    • Torpedo boats attack SVN commandos:
    • SOF insertion craft (NASTIES) in vicinity
  • NVN craft see US DD Maddox & engage:
    • Result: 3 enemy PT sunk or damaged
  • 2 days later- NVN PT appear to fire on US DDs:
    • USS Maddox & Turner Joycall for CV air CAS
      • Who find nothing
tonkin gulf resolution
Tonkin Gulf Resolution
  • Capt of USS Maddox not sure second NVN attack actually occurred, but...
    • Files report to CINCPAC via chain of command
  • LBJ sees opportunity to exploit NVN “attack”:
    • Applies much political pressure to confirm attack
    • Meanwhile=> Admin prepared draft resolution for Congress:
      • Resolved for President to “take all action necessary”
      • Protect US forces & its allies
  • While Navy still try to figure out what really occurred:
    • LBJ exploits incident: Tonkin Gulf Resolution
    • Passed unanimously by House & all but 2 in Senate
    • (Just as administration drafted it) => significance?
    • Future impact on US involvement?
nlf threat grows
NLF Threat Grows
  • By 1965 => NLF secured Mekong Delta (Map) =>
    • Appeared to have gained both momentum & initiative, especially in the Delta
    • Appeared to US that SVN Gov about to fail
  • USconcluded it must send massive assistance to prevent its collapse
    • Specially configured armored landing craft were deployed
operation rolling thunder mar 65 nov 68
Operation Rolling Thunder (Mar’65- Nov‘68)
  • Mar ‘65 (after LBJ safely re-elected)=> US strikes:
    • Launched massive strategic bombing of North
    • Longest sustained air bombing campaign in US history
  • Targets primarily along northern areas of DMZ:
    • Included bridges, railheads, & logistic supply dumps
    • Also re-supply routes along Ho Chi Minh Trail
major us ground combat introduced
Major US Ground Combat Introduced
  • LBJ also deployed USMC to DaNang in late July’65:
    • Two Battalion Landing Teams waded ashore
    • Prepare to conduct active forward defense & search & destroy ops
  • From then on, US begins to take direct control of war =>
    • Major ground combat & key battles conducted by US
    • More US combat units deploy
    • ARVNrelegated primarily to garrison defense duties as the US directly takes over the War
theory practice of limited war
Theory & Practice of Limited War
  • Flexible Response (review):
    • Tailored action required only to meet political aim
    • Avoids dilemma of massive retaliationas only option
    • Result:military instruments limited to minimum needed to send the enemy a message
      • Target hit to modify enemy’s behavior (political end)
  • Limited War theories& civilian theorists:
    • Flexible Responseprovided basis of limited war theories
    • Ltd War Theoriesprovide set of broad guidelines:
      • Focused on attaining US political objectives
      • Military considerations not taken into account
    • Craft military response to send clear signalto enemy
      • Convey political intent to attain desired enemy response
theory vs reality
Theory vs. Reality
  • Result in practice:
    • Political considerationsdominated military actions
    • Military responses limited to minimum required
    • Civilian leadership prevalent thru-out all operations
      • LBJselected many of the bomb targets personally
      • Limited geographic battle areas of operations
    • BDA unimportant =>only political message sent is central
  • Theory’s Flaw?
    • Reality of war - military factors do count:
    • Assumptionregarding enemy’s response& friction’s role?
    • Precisionof message sent & how it is received & interpreted
    • How theenemy will respond remains uncertain
    • Gradual escalationin attempt to get desired response flawed
modern hi tech military advances
Modern Hi-tech Military Advances
  • Flexible Response strategy => conventional forces
    • SECDEF McNamaramodernized US forces
    • Established “Brush War” capability (for Vietnam)
  • USAF & USNbuild-up:
    • WWII BBs refitted & updated
    • CV/CVNon Yankee Station in Tokin Gulf launch F-4/A-4 strikes
    • B-52 (Guam) & F105/F-4 (Thailand): Rolling Thunder
weapons technology advances
Weapons Technology Advances
  • High Tech Equipment:
    • Radar units small & portable developed
    • Sniffersattached to skids of UH-1s to detect infiltrators’ odors
    • Sensors & passive transmitters alert SF teams
    • IBM computers predict enemy movements
    • Puff (AC-47 gunships) &
    • AFSOC AC-130 Specter Gunships
      • provide devastating fire support
troops weapons equipment
Troops, Weapons, & Equipment
  • Troops: best ever trained & equipped to date:
    • 1 Million men combat ready & divisions expand:11 to 16
    • Airlift & equipment stockpiles expanded
    • Army reorganization:
      • Task oriented for specific jobs
  • Direct ground support weapons & equipment:
    • Armor Personnel Carriers
    • Weapon advances: (M-60, M-16, Stoner LMG, M-79)
    • Helo & its role: UH-1, Cobra, CH-47, 1st Air Cavalry

Next: Military History

Chapter 21b

Vietnam War

(to be continued)

us combat units direct ground operations
US Combat Units: Direct Ground Operations
  • US also deployed first full combat units in March 1965:
    • 3500 USMCs land on DaNang beaches for combat ops
    • Key US threshold passed
    • (Many to follow incrementally)
  • From then until April 1969, US commitment gradually increased:
    • US ground troop levels & combat units grew steadily
    • US combat actions rose incrementally for next 4 yrs
    • Operation Starlite was typical
  • From ‘65-69: US took over most fighting from ARVN
    • US troop levels peaked at 543,400 troops by early 1969
conflicting post war analysis
Conflicting post-War Analysis
  • Several hard lessons were learned as a result of Vietnam
  • For some=> we simply backed the wrong horse:
    • US Military power & $$$ support never be enough regardless=>
    • Military & $ pwr couldn’t prop upRVN’s corrupt & failed regime
    • Local revolutionary war fought for nationalistic & political aims
      • Therefore US caught in middle of bitter civil war
  • For others: war too hard to win under political constraints:
    • War considered integral part of global Cold War threat
    • Key political concern for LBJ administration: avoid escalation
      • Both in intensity of fighting & geographic region
  • Result: US attempted to fight limited conventional war
    • Without a coherent & realistic operational strategy
    • While applying separate poorly chosen tactics to support it
serious strategic disconnect
Serious Strategic Disconnect
  • US approach to war appeared to have serious disconnects:
    • Political Aims were unrealistic given military constraints
    • Operational Strategy poorly matched to those strategic aims
    • Tactics employedserved a failing strategy
  • Result: Tactical success served poor operational strategy
    • Which in turn attempted to achieve Unrealistic strategic aims =>
    • Which ultimately resulted in political failureat the end of the day
  • Political decisions makers failed to realize until too late:
    • That superior American military power can’t make up forwhat?
    • American people’s lack of political will to continue war indefinitely!
  • These failures would affect many in different ways
    • Including foreign policy decisions taken following the Cold War