Vietnam War Essay, Research Paper
North Vietnam was battling for ownership of South Vietnam, so they could be a unified communist nation. To prevent the domino effect and further spread of communism, the USA troops in 1965 went into action against the Viet Cong until 1975. Not only did the greatest superpower in the world get bested by a third world nation, but also lost badly. Perhaps this war could have been won, or prevented in the first place. The USA could have and should have won this war, with a combination of better weapons usage, better tactics and better support from their home country.
The First American combat troops in Vietnam landed at Da Nang in 8 March 1965 to defend the air base. With the exception of the nuclear weapon, every piece of equipment in America s mighty arsenal was used in the war. The USA President Lyndon Johnson said Our goal was to deter and diminish the strength of the North Vietnamese aggressors and try to convince them to leave South Vietnam alone #. Johnson limited the conflict to an air war at first, hoping to pound away and push the Viet Cong into giving in. He used planes such as the B-52 bomber to try to win the war as quickly as possible. So he unleashed a continuous bombing raid on North Vietnam. This was the raid known as Operation Rolling Thunder . American scientist created an array of ultra-sensitive devices to detect the army. THE B-52 dropped bombs in large amounts of the defoliating gas, Agent Orange. Hundreds of millions of acres of jungle were destroyed and even fields of rice paddies were poisoned because of Agent Orange. Agent Orange was supposed to eliminate the Viet Cong s advantageous hiding places, but it only turned the people the American s were fighting for against them even more. Yet another type of bomb was used. Napalm was also another mistake. By using a flammable jelly to literally burn up all of North Vietnam, the USA not only killed more civilians than soldiers, but also raised several ethnical questions. Weighing the consequences of using weapons such as napalm and Agent Orange, the USA quite possibly could have won the Vietnam War completely through the use of air power. More tonnage of ordinance was dropped in any given week during Vietnam than during all other wars in the history of the world combined. One would think this would make the war easy to win. Unfortunately, ethical problems and lack of planning made it impossible to settle the war in the air, thus forcing the USA to invade with ground forces.
American involvement in the war escalated of a frightening speed. President Johnson chose General Westoremland to command land forces in Vietnam. By 1967 Westmoreland commanded over 500,00 troops at the peak of war. On the tactics side, the entire US offensive used the essential comabat strategy of search and destroy missions. Search and destroy missions involved US soldiers soldiers going out of the base and finding then killing the enemy. Unfortunately the Viet Cong knew the land and knew where to hide. The Viet Cong set up booby traps, which meant the search and destroy missions was like throwing US soldiers away. For more US soldiers were killed from booby traps than other cause of deaths in Vietnam. The difference between the Americans and the North Vietnam was the tactics. The Viet Cong were ruthless soldiers who used guerilla tactics. They would recruit children, tie themselves to trees, use babies as bait for booby traps, and other unethnical things. These and other fighting techniques such as strapping explosives to kids and having them run up to US soldiers, were a few of the toils US soldiers had to deal with.
Weapons were another problem in Vietnam. The Americans weapons were useless in the dense jungle. The M-16, a revolutionary new infantry rifle, was prone to jams as well as water damaage. And in a country when it rains almost every day, was not good news. Also, US commanders underistimated the power of the Viet Cong s weapons, thinking that they only had muskets and bolt-action rifles. But since the Chinese and Russians were supplying the Viet Cong with modern AK-47s and other similar arms, the officers were faced with a nasty suprise. This suprise occurred when the communists Tet offensive launched in January 1968 quickly extinguished the light at the end of the tunnel . The Vietcong struck throughtout South Vietnam, including a penetration of the US embassy compound in Saigon.
The Tet Offensive had caught the Americans off guard. By early March American troops had cleared the last of the towns of their enemy troops. After years of confident predictions of victory Tet was a bitter blow for Johnson who had to admit the war was far from being won. America was bleeding. An American serviceman reported A group of little men in black pyjamas running in the rain ……defeated the greatest military power in the world. #
While Johnson had heaps of support at the beginning of the war, as soon as the Americans started to see that the war was unwinnable, their support declined. One in five of every soldier who fought – and died – was drafted and this caused distress among the public. Draft cards were burned publicly, schools walked out in protest of the war, and even large music events were held to stop the fighting. With all this public opinion against the war, it was extremely hard for the soldiers to fight a war when their home country did not support them for putting their life’s on the line.
Following the Tet offensive, the American leaders began a slow reduction of US involvement. Johnson limited the bombing, began peace talks with Hanoi and the NFL, and withdrew as a candidate. His successor, Richard M. Nixon, announced a program of Vietnamization, the gradual withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam and the speeding up of training for South Vietnamese troops. Now, in 1968, he had inherited an unpopular war. I will not be the first President of the United States to lose a war .# As he gradually reduced US ground troops in Vietnam, he also increased bombing; the tonnage dropped after 1969 exceeded the already extraordinary levels reached by Johnson. Nixon expanded air and ground operations into Cambodia and Laos in attemps to block enemy supply routes along Vietnam s borders. Nixon travelled to Beijing and Moscow for talks and sent Henry Kissinger to Paris for secret negotiations with the North Vietnamese. The United States and the North Vietnam signed the Paris Peace return of US prisoners of war, in January 1973. It also included a cease-fire. The war continued but the American troops came home. Nixon siad it was peace with honour #, since a separate government remained in Saigon but Kissinger knew that the arrangement provided a decent interval between US withdrawal amd the collapse of the South.
With the departure of the American trooops South Vietnam was on its own. When the American prisoners of war were released the American public and their leaders just wanted to forget the whole unhappy experience of the war. A one billion aid package to South Vietnam was one of Nixon s last acts as President but Congress reduced it to 700 million. Nixon resigned as President in 1973. The new President, Gerald Ford, was unwilling to increase America s involvement. American aid was stopped all together in March 1975 on the grounds that defeat was invitable. In April 1975, North Vietnamese troops and tanks converged on Saigon, and the war was over.
America’s involvement varied from a supportive, advisory capacity early in the War, through Americanisation (direct participant with Rolling Thunder) to Vietnamization. The largest reason why America lost is very clear. When one is fighting for a country s independence, and the citizens of that country do not support the efforts trouble abounds. The South Vietnamese were not happy about the US soldiers being in their country, and it showed. Not having the support of the people you are fighting for is the worst curse that can be put on a military. I believe that the saddest chapter in American history could have been easily avoided with a combination of good leadership, planning, prearedness, and confidence. For the Americans did not know what they were fighting for, were not equipped for the conditions and were thrown into the meat grinder of an already lost battle.
By July 1965, Johnson faced the choice of being the first president to lose a great war or of converting the Vietnamese War into a massive, U.S. directed military effort. He chose a middle course that vastly escalated U.S. involvement but that stopped short of an all-out application of American power.
Following the Tet offensive, the American leaders began a slow and agonizing reduction of U.S. involvement. Johnson limited the bombing, began peace talks with Hanoi and the NLF, and withdrew as a candidate for reelection. His successor, Richard M. Nixon, announced a program of Vietnamization, which basically represented a return to the Eisenhower and Kennedy policies of helping Vietnamese forces fight the war, Nixon gradually reduced U.S. ground troops in Vietnam, but he increased the bombing; the tonnage dropped after 1969 exceeded the already prodigious levels reached by Johnson. Nixon expanded air and ground operations into Cambodia and Laos in attempts to block enemy supply routes along Vietnam’s borders
Why did the United States lose the war? Some postmortems singled out media criticism of the war and antiwar activism in America as undermining the will of the U.S. government to continue fighting. Others cited the restrictions placed by civilian politicians on the military’s operations or, conversely, blamed U.S. military chiefs for not providing civilian leaders with a sound strategy for victory. These so-called win arguments assume that victory was possible, but they overlook the flawed reasons for U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Washington had sought to contain international communism, but this global strategic concern masked the reality that the appeal of the communists in Vietnam derived from local economic, social, and historical conditions. The U.S. response to the Vietnamese communism was essentially to apply a military solution to an internal political problem. America’s infliction of enormous destruction on Vietnam served only to discredit politically the Vietnamese that the United States sought to assist. Furthermore, U.S. leaders underestimated the tenacity of the enemy. For the Vietnamese communists, the struggle was a total war for their own and their cause’s survival. For the United States, it was a limited war. Despite U.S. concern about global credibility, Vietnam was a peripheral theater of the cold war. For many Americans, the ultimate issue in Vietnam was not a question of winning or losing. Rather, they came to believe that the rising level of expenditure of lives and dollars was unacceptable in pursuit of a marginal national objective.