Vietnam War

I believe the US lost the war in both the United States and in Vietnam. During the Vietnam war the two sides, the United States with South Vietnam and North Vietnam with the Viet Cong, used very contrasting tactics. the US went for what was known as the ‘War of the Elephant’. These tactics were what the United States was used to, and what they were very good at. They involved huge numbers of troops and large quantities of equipment. The North Vietnamese used the tactics of guerrilla warfare. While these called for a smaller number of troops and equipment the North Vietnamese used a much larger number of irregular troops. While the US’ style was effective against similar styles of warfare, this new style was very different to anything they had encountered before. Guerrilla warfare was completely different to what they were used to. This lead to the defeat of the Americans in skirmish after skirmish. The US generals had no idea of how to deal with this new kind of warfare.

While the Americans were bringing in troops and equipment to fight this war the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong were slowly subverting the villages and general population to their cause. The Americans and the South Vietnamese would establish a base, but all the area outside the immediate vicinity of the base was Viet Cong territory. There were no clear lines of battle or territory. The Americans thought they could fight the war against a clear enemy. The Viet Cong would subvert a village to their cause, then be able to hide in the village as normal peasants when the Americans came only to revert to combatants when the danger passed. This made it very difficult for the Americans as they had to see every one and every thing as a threat. The American soldiers killed many non-combatants as they did not have a way of identifying who was Viet Cong and who was not. All of this contributed to the loss of the war.

After President Kennedy was assassinated Vice President Lyndon B Johnson came to power. Johnson believed that the victory in Vietnam would be swift. To Johnson ‘nothing could be worse than … being responsible for America losing a war to the Communists’. After the Tonkin Gulf incident, Johnson escalated the US involvement in the war. In 1968, the firebase at Khe Sahn was attacked. B52 strikes were called in to relieve the pressure on the marines defending the firebase. In 1970 at Kent State University an Anti-War protest was in full swing. National Guardsmen fired tear gas and bullets into the crowd. Four people were gunned down. This was one of the events that started the hippie movement of the 70’s. Slogans like ‘Make Love Not War’ and symbols like the peace symbol were to become icons for the younger generations. Draft dodging became prevalent with support of the war gone from the young people and many young Americans moved to Canada. People had lost faith in the war. Lyndon B Johnson resigned not wanting to be the first American president to lose a war.

From October 1969 the real force in America, their silent majority had shifted their favor to the protesting students. There was a general feeling of US soldiers dying needlessly in Vietnam. The media had a big hand in the American public realizing all was not going well in Vietnam. While Johnson then Nixon were proclaiming that the war was nearly finished and the American intervention was to be praised, the American public was seeing images of napalm bombings, devastation and the worst of all American soldiers dying on their television sets and radio nightly. By now the American people were sick of the war that had run of to long. A war that they were assured would be short had stretched out into eleven years of total war. The American government had lost the support of what gave them power, the people.

The Americans used conventional tactics against very different and new tactics which ended up costing them a lot of manpower that would not have been needed if the NVA had used conventional tactics. The North Vietnamese had undermined the foundation of American support in Vietnam by converting the peasants to their cause. The American public lost the will to fight when the media presented the m with scenes of their children dying. It is generally considered that America lost the war, but it is not agreed on where America lost the war. I believe that the war was finally lost in the minds of the US public, but only as a result of the military defeat in Vietnam.

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