Why was the Vietnam War lost?

overopensights

ADC
Book Reviewer
Meh.

Skills'n'drills and good JNCOs might minimise casualties, but they won't outmatch wrong-headed strategic "thinking" .

A review of German performance in the first half of the last century would be apposite, I think.
Greetings stonker! I worked at ground level, was never 'Staff.'

Read up on how a British Division was sent to Vietnam from Burma in Sept 1945 and in a few months completely trashed the Viet Minh? Different time I know, but jungle tactics don't change.
 
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I'll leave others to debate the other points but I suspect the tactical situation there meant there was no reverse slope.
I was tempted to debate that, but - given that the VC/NVN combat philosophy was founded (AIUI) on the basis that they would negate US technological/materiel advantage by 'grabbing the enemy by the belt buckle' I'd say you're broadly correct.
 
Greetings stonker! I worked at ground level, was never 'Staff.'

Read up on how a British Division was sent to Vietnam from Burma in Sept 1945 and in a few months completely trashed the Viet Minh? Different time I know, but jungle tactics don't change.
British Indian soldiers and Japanese POWs rearmed and under British Command fighting Viet Minh
The_British_Army_in_Burma_1945_SE4081.jpg
412Bmv8ujaL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
 
I was tempted to debate that, but - given that the VC/NVN combat philosophy was founded (AIUI) on the basis that they would negate US technological/materiel advantage by 'grabbing the enemy by the belt buckle' I'd say you're broadly correct.
I might get this framed.
 

riksavage

Old-Salt
In summary, the US lost because this wasn’t mandatory reading at West Point/VMI/OTC. First published in 1961.

Trying to fight Vietnam like the Korean War was never going to work.

They should have employed a few of these (the firer would not have survived, but the result would have been impressive) M-29 Davy Crockett Weapon System.

674A754F-C1BC-4BB0-B9D7-68DBEDA0E3DE.jpeg
 
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Dwarf

LE
I have always felt that the war was lost at ground level. Just look at this for example. They should be on a reverse slope and in slit trenches, and those bloody Bivvies! What is missing in this pic is two good Infantry corporals who have completed 'Junior Brecon!' I decry the 58K losses and feel very sad about that, I visited the Wall in Washington last in 1919 and witnessed veterans in tears looking for their mates names carved in granite.
I agree with @Stonker. There were some good units and crap units in Vietnam but ultimately the direction was faulty.
I agree that many units could have been tactically better and two books for me stand out, one is Schwarzkopf's autobiography, the other is a novel based on experience- Fields of Fire by James Webb.
In the first when Schwarzkpf took over a unit in Vietnam there were a lot of errors that had been allowed to continue by a succession of COs and needed correcting. This by extrapolation could apply to many units in the conflict leading to a mentality of not winnining but just getting through the tour.
In the second one sees little things at a tactical level that perhaps were too conservative and could have been bettered.

But in both books what comes over to me is that the sheer size of the US machine allowed for a large amount of corruption at various levels. It also allowed for a great disassociation of the support elements from the combat troops. The direction of the war put troops in the jungle repeating the same tasks in the same areas over and over to no real war-winning effect and in a war of attrition the locals were always going to take the result.
Webb alludes to his company arriving on a position that had been dug in so many times that it was almost lunar-pocked.
Initiatives that might have meant something, like protected camps didn't work because of the corruption. Local officials, hand in hand with US counterparts, pocketed money for 'full' camps when they weren't at capacity. People who needed that protection were forced to stay where they were at the mercy of the VC to whom they then had to give support.
Schwarzkopf talks about Saigon being a cess-pit and that his Battalion was placed where it was because the area commander was scared of rockets that were about as dangerous as Scuds in GW1.

Too little war-winning direction, too much politics, too much corruption, better drills might have reduced the body-count, they wouldn't have won the war.
Too much of this went on at the expense of the men on the ground.
 
Greetings stonker! I worked at ground level, was never 'Staff.'

Read up on how a British Division was sent to Vietnam from Burma in Sept 1945 and in a few months completely trashed the Viet Minh? Different time I know, but jungle tactics don't change.
I may have mentioned it in passing but it was roundly ignored as inconvenient to the self acknowledged expurt on the subject .
 
An accurate summary here:

Yup. Pretty much on the mark.

Sadly, the employers of the US Army subsequently appear to have concluded that victory in every conflict is merely a matter of production + logistics = firepower, leading to success.

Which is seldom the case.
 
Nor does the 'Mur'can predilection for making pi$$-poor strategic judgements, wouldn't you agree?
I agree. The main US misjudgment appears to have been dewey-eyed support for anti-colonial movements, such as the Viet Minh, which deprived the French of material support at a time when the Viet Minh might have been beaten. By the time the US snapped out of that approach, the French had lost control of non-urban areas of North Vietnam.
A big unknown of course and, in hindsight, the French accepting in 1945 some sort of Commonwealth/Protectorate status for Indochina would have made sense.
 
A big unknown of course and, in hindsight, the French accepting in 1945 some sort of Commonwealth/Protectorate status for Indochina would have made sense.
To whom?

If not to Vietnamese people, then it woulda been immaterial: just another Western pipe dream.

North Vietnam leaders exploited and manipulated the desire of the governed to be independent of all foreign rule, but the fact is that it existed, strongly, in the first place, and had existed for years and years and years.
 
Nor does the 'Mur'can predilection for making pi$$-poor strategic judgements, wouldn't you agree?
True enough, we got bamboozled into Sicily, Salerno, Anzio rather than straight up to France
 
I agree. The main US misjudgment appears to have been dewey-eyed support for anti-colonial movements, such as the Viet Minh, which deprived the French of material support at a time when the Viet Minh might have been beaten. By the time the US snapped out of that approach, the French had lost control of non-urban areas of North Vietnam.
A big unknown of course and, in hindsight, the French accepting in 1945 some sort of Commonwealth/Protectorate status for Indochina would have made sense.
Major A. Peter Dewey OSS
 

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