Vietnam War. How did the US lose when the odds were in their favour???. Focus Questions. Why was the Vietnam War so controversial? Why did America lose the Vietnam War? What were the policies of Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon, the stated reasons for those policies, and the results?
How did the US lose when the odds were in their favour???
Photograph taken from USS Maddox (DD-731) during her engagement with three North Vietnamese motor torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin, 2 August 1964.The view shows one of the boats racing by, with what appears to be smoke from Maddox' shells in its wake.
“As President of the United States I have concluded that I should now ask the Congress, on its part, to join in affirming the national determination that all such attacks will be met, and that the United States will continue in its basic policy of assisting the free nations of the area to defend their freedom.
As I have repeatedly made clear, the United States intends no rashness, and seeks no wider war. We must make it clear to all that the United States is united in its determination to bring about the end of Communist subversion and aggression in the area. We seek the full and effective restoration of the international agreements signed in Geneva in 1954, with respect to South Vietnam, and again in Geneva in 1962, with respect to Laos... “
Vietcong attack on U.S. military barracks at Pleiku
Operation Rolling Thunder:
2) Air attack on Ia Drang:
US begins to arrest, interrogate and kill suspected Vietcong activists in Vietnam
Most documents about the program were destroyed in the 70s
Goes against the Geneva Convention
“Indeed, a US officer would lament on this "mania of the body count" propelling Phoenix. Operatives found it a "matter of expediency just to eliminate a person in the field rather than deal with the paperwork." An "awful lot of vendettas (were) carried out with Phoenix license" where covert operatives—which included ex-convicts, corrupt police and military officials, and other mercenaries attracted to the CIA money—"assassinated a lot of the wrong damn people."The War in Vietnam
Vietcong and North Vietnam Army directly attack South Vietnam
Lost 58,000 men
Took 50 small towns + most major cities
NVA and VC retreat but America has seen the resolve of the Northern forces and realizes they’ll need more soldiers to defeat them
Public support for the war is lostThe War in Vietnam
Massacre of 300 civilians at My Lai
Fought a guerrilla war, ambushing US patrols, setting booby traps and landmines, and planting bombs in towns. They mingled in with the peasants, wearing ordinary clothes. The Americans couldn't identify who the enemy was.
Supplied with rockets and weapons by China and Russia. They used the Ho Chi Minh Trail - a jungle route through Laos and Cambodia - to supply their armies. The Americans couldn't attack their supply routes without escalating the war.
Tactic was "hanging onto the belts" of the Americans - staying so close to the Americans so they could not use air or artillery backup without killing their own men.
The Americans' tactics
Fought a hi-tech war, using B52 bombers, artillery, helicopters, napalm and defoliants (Agent Orange). This killed many innocent civilians, and failed to stop the Vietcong guerrillas.
Forced the peasants to leave Vietcong-controlled areas and made them live in defended strategic hamlets in loyal areas. This created immense opposition, and allowed Vietcong infiltrators into loyal areas.
Troops were sent on patrols, then supported by air and artillery when attacked. This demoralised the soldiers, who realised they were being used just as bait.
Search and destroy patrols went out looking for "Charlie", as they called the Vietcong. But the patrols were very visible, and easy to ambush. This led to atrocities such as "zippo raids" to burn villages, and the unprovoked massacre of peaceful villagers at My Lai in 1968.
Evaluate the following quote: “The Vietcong's tactics helped them to defeat the Americans; the Americans' tactics merely helped them to lose."