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WaistGunner
07-19-2006, 01:02 PM
There doesn't seem to be much action on this forum so I thought I'd try to generate some as the Vietnam War is almost as high in my interests as WWII. Since there seemed to by some discussion on Tet I thought I'd start there.

In everthing I have read it is agreed that Tet 1968 was a major turning point of the war. It was a military failure and a political success all at the same time.

Prior to to the Tet Offensive the majority of the enemy faced by the Americans and her compatriots were Viet Cong Guerrilas. This was the first time America had engaged an enemy in this kind of war fair on this scale. American doctrine was not prepared for it. American doctrine of the time placed an emphasis on organized battle fronts that could be dominated by superior weapons and tactics. Instead they found themselves engaging an enemy that refused to recognize the traditional battle front philosophy. As a result the entirety of South Vietnam was in a sense the battle front.

The Tet Offensive was an attempt to engage the Americans and allies in a decisive battle. It was hoped that the people of South Vietnam would rise up to join the attackers (a seemingly recurrent hope of guerrila fighters). They hoped that the poeple would revolt against the current regime and at the same time convince the Americans that the war was unwinnable. The attack was to led off by the Viet Cong. The V.C. were to begin the attack followed by the North Vietnamese Army. However, the V.C. attack were successfully reppelled everywhere except Saigon and Hue. The NVA was unable to capitalize on the elemant of suprise and did not engage. This led the near decimation of the V.C. They never recovered from the loss of both men and materiel.

Since there was no general uprsing and they failed to secure any of their objectives the Tet Offensive was a military failure. However it was a critical point for the US opinion. It was at this point that American losses exceeded the losses of the Korean war. Public opinion for the war took a nose dive in the US. Without the support of the American public the war was destined to be a politcal loss no matter the amount of military successes.

Ironically had the American's stayed in the fight they would have seen their battle front philosophy come to fruition and may have been able to win the war. By 1972 over 80% of fighting was being done by the NVA in an organized front style push to the south. It was a style the American's were accustomed to and might have able to combat effectively. But by then support for the war had been lost. Morale both in the American people and american troops was virtually non-existent. Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap's prediction that the American people would not tolerate a prolonged high casualty war were correct.

Gen. Sandworm
07-19-2006, 02:19 PM
Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap's prediction that the American people would not tolerate a prolonged high casualty war were correct.

At what point did the North Vietnamese decide this would be a good tactic to employ? As in how early on? Was this the strategy the whole time or later?

Firefly
07-19-2006, 02:34 PM
Your premise is a good one, however the very fact that the US left Vietnam meant the North Vietnamese could change their tactics accordingley.

Tet did show that the US was not as they proclaimed, winning the War. The North Vietnamese could continue their persisting strategy that they knew the Americans would not be able to match, public opinion being what it was.

The Vietnamese were not stupid and knew what they were up against from the first major encounter in 1965. The movie 'We were soldiers' portrayed part of this 1st real encounter between the NVA and the US, the book tells the whole story.

As Col Hal Moore wrote - the Americans thought they had won, but the Vietnamese knew that they would win and it just took the US another 8 years to realise the truth.

Nickdfresh
07-20-2006, 12:23 AM
At what point did the North Vietnamese decide this would be a good tactic to employ? As in how early on? Was this the strategy the whole time or later?


All along. The U.S. was essentially fighting a two front war. One a counterinsurgency campaign against the "VC," and the other a battle of regular formations in pitched battles around the South with the NVA. The Ia Drang (1965) was the first major engagement of U.S. Air Calvary and the North Vietnamese Army...

Tet came as such a shock to the American people because gloating commanders like Gen. Westmorland kept saying that we were winning and had the VC, or the National Liberation Front, on the verge of defeat in the now infamous "Saigon Press Conferences"...

*edited for grammar

WaistGunner
07-20-2006, 11:40 AM
At what point did the North Vietnamese decide this would be a good tactic to employ? As in how early on? Was this the strategy the whole time or later?

They started off with this policy.

“You will kill 10 of our men, and we will kill 1 of yours, and in the end it will be you who tire of it.”
-Ho Chi Minh

WaistGunner
07-20-2006, 11:54 AM
Your premise is a good one, however the very fact that the US left Vietnam meant the North Vietnamese could change their tactics accordingley.

Tet did show that the US was not as they proclaimed, winning the War. The North Vietnamese could continue their persisting strategy that they knew the Americans would not be able to match, public opinion being what it was.

The Vietnamese were not stupid and knew what they were up against from the first major encounter in 1965. The movie 'We were soldiers' portrayed part of this 1st real encounter between the NVA and the US, the book tells the whole story.

As Col Hal Moore wrote - the Americans thought they had won, but the Vietnamese knew that they would win and it just took the US another 8 years to realise the truth.

True that they were able to change their tactics according to the American pull out. But let's not forget that Tet started January 31, 1968. American strength reached its peak in April 1969 approx. 543000. By that time the North Vietnamese had already been forced to changed their tactics to a more battle front tactic due to the casualties inflicted on the V.C. during Tet. For example one V.C. Captain that operated out of the Cu Chi tunnel systems started Tet with about 1000 men and after Tet had himself and four others.

According to The Tunnels of Cu Chi by Tom Mangold and John Penycate when the V.C. were ready to admit defeat in 1970. About the same time American began their withdrawal from the theater.

I have We Were Soldiers Once... It one of my favorite books. I can't help but admire Rick Rescola.

Firefly
07-20-2006, 12:50 PM
I think the obvious flaws for the US in Vietnam were:

- A mainly conscript force that did not have unit cohesion or much in the way of experience. Units were not deployed in theatre for 12 months and staying together, there were always guys learning the job at the same time as guys trying not to get hurt in their last few weeks.

- Lack of a goal. To the guys on the ground the War seemed open ended with no clear purpose or mission.

- The North being off limits. With only aircraft being used to interdict supplies there was only so much the US could do. Within this many targets were restricted.

- Too much political interference, the War was run from Washington.

This culminates at Tet where despite having a huge ground force the US was second guessed by both the VC and NVA. It was certainly costly to them but live TV of VC in embassy grounds in Saigon just did not look good to the US public who were being told they were winning.

Coupled with the above the US troops on the ground had a certain disdain for both the local populace and their military allies the ARVIN troops. For the most part these soldiers were even worse off than the US ones in unit cohesion etc.

Finally, the reliance on body counts by the US as a measure of gauging how the war was being won was completely backward in my opinion.

Mix that in with the rife drug problem and I think that by 1968, Tet was the beginning of the end for US forces.

Nickdfresh
07-20-2006, 05:17 PM
True that they were able to change their tactics according to the American pull out. But let's not forget that Tet started January 31, 1968. American strength reached its peak in April 1969 approx. 543000. By that time the North Vietnamese had already been forced to changed their tactics to a more battle front tactic due to the casualties inflicted on the V.C. during Tet. For example one V.C. Captain that operated out of the Cu Chi tunnel systems started Tet with about 1000 men and after Tet had himself and four others.

According to The Tunnels of Cu Chi by Tom Mangold and John Penycate when the V.C. were ready to admit defeat in 1970. About the same time American began their withdrawal from the theater.

I have We Were Soldiers Once... It one of my favorite books. I can't help but admire Rick Rescola.

Of course Tet seriously damaged the VC/NLF. I've heard it put forth that this was actually a cynical and ruthless premeditated plan by the North Vietnamese Gov't in order to prevent any serious threat of autonomy in the NLF. I think a mutually exclusive lie being touted by both the U.S. ex-senior command and the Vietnamese gov't is that the VC were mearly partisans serving directly under the North Vietnamese Army. Some ex-VC state that they were in fact an independent, autonomous group, and that their true goal was to overthrow the Saigon regime, replace it, and only then unite with the North on equal terms, rather than assisting a complete domination brought about ultimately by NVA armor...

In any case. the NLF/VC were actually finished off largely through the efforts of "Operation Phoenix," which started out as a CIA-led intelligence/counter-intelligence gathering program on the NLF devised by William Colby, who later became DCI, and it quickly became little more than an assassination program...

Nickdfresh
07-20-2006, 05:23 PM
I think the obvious flaws for the US in Vietnam were:

- A mainly conscript force that did not have unit cohesion or much in the way of experience. Units were not deployed in theatre for 12 months and staying together, there were always guys learning the job at the same time as guys trying not to get hurt in their last few weeks.

- Lack of a goal. To the guys on the ground the War seemed open ended with no clear purpose or mission.

- The North being off limits. With only aircraft being used to interdict supplies there was only so much the US could do. Within this many targets were restricted.

- Too much political interference, the War was run from Washington.

This culminates at Tet where despite having a huge ground force the US was second guessed by both the VC and NVA. It was certainly costly to them but live TV of VC in embassy grounds in Saigon just did not look good to the US public who were being told they were winning.

Coupled with the above the US troops on the ground had a certain disdain for both the local populace and their military allies the ARVIN troops. For the most part these soldiers were even worse off than the US ones in unit cohesion etc.

Finally, the reliance on body counts by the US as a measure of gauging how the war was being won was completely backward in my opinion.

Mix that in with the rife drug problem and I think that by 1968, Tet was the beginning of the end for US forces.


These are some valid and very good points, but the U.S.'s main problem was that our Allies were corrupt shit comprised of a small Catholic minority in a predominately Buddhist country. We were involved in someone else's civil war, and the guys we supported were often ex-colonial lackeys of the French with little or no nationalist credibility. The Army of South Vietnam (ARVN) performed poorly (for the most part, they did have some very good elite units though) because they were poorly led and were only really trained and armed with the latest American weaponry towards the end of America's involvement.

Deja-vu? :confused:

Gen. Sandworm
07-21-2006, 02:52 AM
Just thought I might throw this picture up for those who might not be familiar with Tet.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/51/Tet-Offensive-Map.jpg

From :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tet_Offensive