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Why did America lose?
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Thread: Why did America lose?

  1. #1
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    Default Why did America lose?

    This has always puzzled me. A first world super power, that was capable of holding off the USSR, was pushed out by a 4th world army relying on bicycles and water buffalo for logistics and straw hats and black PJs.

    Could anyone shed any light as to the political powers or otherwise that brought the war to a close?

    What part did McNamara play?

    Was the war really lost before it began?
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    IMHO the US lost because they were trying to destroy, not create. There was never a South Vietnamese government that commanded the loyalty of it's people or armed forces in any meaningful way, still less any that deserved to. Thus the US were always fighting for a negative aim, not a positive one. Coupled with some less than bright tactics this IMHO means they never had a chance to win the political war. The military war just followed the political one.
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    And the NVA had a tough morale, it was hard to try to lower their morale.



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    Let us also not forget the ceasefire arrangement which was brokered. It required the US to leave, and as soon as they left the North moved against the South. The US were not defeated militarily, but politically. People often try to make out that the US was somehow defeated on the battlefield and driven out, but this is simply not true.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Man of Stoat
    Let us also not forget the ceasefire arrangement which was brokered. It required the US to leave, and as soon as they left the North moved against the South. The US were not defeated militarily, but politically. People often try to make out that the US was somehow defeated on the battlefield and driven out, but this is simply not true.
    Very good point. There are many things that lead to the political defeat of the US in Vietnam. US media for one. Tet was seen as a Vietnamese victory by many but was a complete failure for the north except in the american media. The kill ratio in the conflict was completly loppsided towards the US/S. Vietnam. However the never ending persistence of the north and their supporters helped achieve mounting pressure on the american goverment ........ at home and on the battlefield. For many years the US govt was convinced they were winning the war by what the numbers showed however along with the civil rights movement, growing distrust of the govt and constant streams of dead soldiers on the TV was alot to bear. Let us not forget the almost 50000 people that "almost" stormed the pentagon and the killings at Kent State Uni. for example. The north also played into these problems at home. Attempting to make a distrust between whites and blacks in the army. Also boundry conditions played a huge part in this conflict. It was in no way like the Korean war.

    Going to stop here and just make my point.

    My main belief here is that the North did their homework and studied the US and what would make them crack, while maintaining the best military tactics they could apply to the stonger american forces. Therefore forcing the US to abandon the war in Vietnam. On the otherhand the US failed to completly understand the history of the region and the effort that the north would put into the war. The also didnt expect the blowback that would be recieved in their own land.

    Funny how media coverage is a bit different today.

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    The North Vietnamese were well aware of the fact they could not defeat American might in a heads up confrontation. They were also well aware of the fact that they didn't have to. If you think about it it is very similar to the American Revolutionary War. In both cases the "rebel" force is under manned and under strength compared to their powerful opponents. In both cases the rebel forces were well aware of the anti-war factions. In both casesthe commanders knew they didn't have to defeat the enemy forces they just had survive long enough for the anti opinions to over rule the agressive opinions.

    You could say that N. Vietnam didn't defeat America in the physical sense, they simply outlasted American political resolve. Tet of course due to the politcal spin in part helped inbreaking the resolve. You could say that Tet is to America what Yorktown was to Britian.

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    Who knows what could've happened if america still went on in the vietnam war.

    (off topic) I do seem to recall that my mom said when she was little she saw troops in china that were going to war. I tried to get more info out of my mom about this but she says all she can remember.
    Last edited by PLT.SGT.BAKER; 08-12-2006 at 12:28 PM.



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    good tactics by Vietnam. American soldier rely on helicopters to transport their soldiers. At first they are scared because Vietnam soldier never saw a helicopter before, but as soon as they know what it is. Vietnam soldier always pretended to lost a battle and retreat, but they always come back and trace the american airfield(helicopter) and then suround the area. Not to mention over 90% of the time, the vietnam soldier start the battle, not American.
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    I do believe that the Vietcong disliked attacking Australian soldiers becuase they were so fomidable. Any thoughts?

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    Why did America lose? You first had to look at what the aims of their were and what the aims of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were.

    America was attempting, according to most sources, to stop the spread of communism. There were no military aims as such, no plans to do anything but defend, and to try to prop up an unpopular and corrupt regime. It should also be remembered that the USA, with the South Vietnamese 'government' refused to allow democratic elections to take place in the whole of the country after the French pulled out.

    Von Clauswitz, famously, wrote that war is politics by other means. Lincoln, in a policitical sense, talked about government being government being for, by and from the people. A civil war such as the Vietnamese American war required a political settlement, of the poeple.

    The USA could not win the politics, so it could not win the war.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gen. Sandworm
    Very good point. There are many things that lead to the political defeat of the US in Vietnam. US media for one. Tet was seen as a Vietnamese victory by many but was a complete failure for the north except in the american media. The kill ratio in the conflict was completly loppsided towards the US/S. Vietnam.
    I have a problem with this. You're leaving out the "Westmorland's (infamous) Saigon Press Conferences" factor. Gen. Westmorland, and the military at large, made repeated and increasingly bellicose statements regarding the "pacification" of South Vietnam, and how the War was going well when in fact the U.S. military was effectively doing what Sen. John McCain refers to as a "Whack-a-Mole." That is, securing areas for a short time that were soon bandit country again the minute we left, and often exaggerating the enemy losses through the "body-count" mentality. This all meant that the U.S. gov't was effectively lying to it's population both unintentionally, and by design, as the Pentagon Papers clearly showed, about the overall course of the war and how much sacrifice it would take to "win" it.

    The Tet Offensive was, in a sense, the end of a widely effective Viet Cong (National Liberation Front), but the beginning of the North Vietnamese Army's increasing conventional forays into the South. In short, the whole thing blew up into a giant egg on Westmorland's, the Pentagons, and LBJ's faces.

    And the Vietnamese could sustain whatever we inflicted. I think the Irish have a proverb that goes something like, "it is not he that can inflict the most, but he that can withstand the most, that will win the day."



    However the never ending persistence of the north and their supporters helped achieve mounting pressure on the american goverment ........ at home and on the battlefield. For many years the US govt was convinced they were winning the war by what the numbers showed however along with the civil rights movement, growing distrust of the govt and constant streams of dead soldiers on the TV was alot to bear. Let us not forget the almost 50000 people that "almost" stormed the pentagon and the killings at Kent State Uni. for example. The north also played into these problems at home. Attempting to make a distrust between whites and blacks in the army. Also boundry conditions played a huge part in this conflict. It was in no way like the Korean war.

    Going to stop here and just make my point.

    My main belief here is that the North did their homework and studied the US and what would make them crack, while maintaining the best military tactics they could apply to the stonger american forces. Therefore forcing the US to abandon the war in Vietnam. On the otherhand the US failed to completly understand the history of the region and the effort that the north would put into the war. The also didnt expect the blowback that would be recieved in their own land.

    Funny how media coverage is a bit different today.

    Some good points here. But it's not the media's job to serve as pro-Gov't propaganda, and there was plenty of media manipulation but those that in fact knew the War was not going well but were callously putting on a brave face as our boys were dying. What's the media supposed to report in that case? The lovely weather in Hue?
    Last edited by Nickdfresh; 08-20-2006 at 09:37 AM. Reason: to add more of my BS

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug 1956
    Why did America lose? You first had to look at what the aims of their were and what the aims of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were.

    America was attempting, according to most sources, to stop the spread of communism. There were no military aims as such, no plans to do anything but defend, and to try to prop up an unpopular and corrupt regime. It should also be remembered that the USA, with the South Vietnamese 'government' refused to allow democratic elections to take place in the whole of the country after the French pulled out.

    Von Clauswitz, famously, wrote that war is politics by other means. Lincoln, in a policitical sense, talked about government being government being for, by and from the people. A civil war such as the Vietnamese American war required a political settlement, of the poeple.

    The USA could not win the politics, so it could not win the war.

    Very true. It's one, admirable, thing to fight against communism, but you have to fight FOR something as well, and it was certainly not democracy in this case. It was a corrupt, despotic military regime with links to French colonialists that was incapable of building a decent civil society or military force capable of standing on it's own. We simply went into somebody else's civil war.

    Nixon got the US out through "peace with honor" through the policy of "Vietnamization," an effort to finally modernize the ARVN and turn them into a mini-version US military (rather than adapting cultural nuances as the NVA had). I'm not sure why the US hadn't pursued this policy all along rather than giving up by about 1964 (most ARVN troops still carried WWII surplus M-1s into the late sixties!). By that time, everything was rushed and the ARVN troops were heavily dependent on over-whelming US firepower and mobility (as the the US Army & MC). The troops were low quality because they were poorly trained, exceedingly poorly led by a corrupt bunch of ****s of an officer corp, mostly poorly armed (until after 1968 anyway), had a rigid base camp/jungle fortress (9am-5pm) mentality.

    The US also labored under the delusion of "monolithic Communism," whereas everything was perceived to have been run from Moscow or maybe Peking. In fact, the War was planned very much in Hanoi. The NVA adapted Soviet technology, but had their own long tradition of anti-Colonial struggle going back to before WWII.
    Last edited by Nickdfresh; 08-20-2006 at 09:31 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1000ydstare
    This has always puzzled me. A first world super power, that was capable of holding off the USSR, was pushed out by a 4th world army relying on bicycles and water buffalo for logistics and straw hats and black PJs..

    Yeah, along with their AK-47s, T-54/55/56MBTs, BP-40 rockets, Soviet trucks, SA-2 SAMS, MIG-19/21s, 152mm artillery which often out-ranged US guns, a long tradition and experience in jungle warfare, and experience in both guerilla and conventional combat.

    The most common mistake if to think of Vietnam as only a guerilla war against the VC (or National Liberation Front). It was in fact a two front war against the NLF partisan army and the NVA regulars that were very heavily armed.
    Last edited by Nickdfresh; 08-20-2006 at 09:46 AM. Reason: adding bs

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hiddenrug
    I do believe that the Vietcong disliked attacking Australian soldiers becuase they were so fomidable. Any thoughts?

    Yes, Australian troops were each 7' tall, had 20mm Vulcan cannons mounted on their shoulders, and could bend over to fire explosing turds of naplam to 200m.



    But yes, the volunteer Australian Army was noted as more professional than the average US conscript. And the Aussie SAS was as good as anything in the theater.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hiddenrug View Post
    I do believe that the Vietcong disliked attacking Australian soldiers becuase they were so fomidable. Any thoughts?
    Army tactics and the strategies of base loc & log made a considerable difference to the cas ratio, and that in itself is one of the most important factors influencing individual sldrs' and sub-unit cmdrs' thoughts and subsequent actions.
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