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Military History Chapter 21 Vietnam War

Military History Chapter 21 Vietnam War

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Military History Chapter 21 Vietnam War

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  1. Military HistoryChapter 21Vietnam War

  2. Vietnam War- Strategic Overview • Vietnam was longest US combat deployment (so far): • US combat units fought hostile actions (1965-72) • SOF also involved before & after that (1961-73) • Military advisor role started in 1959 • But no fixed date of start of US involvement • No Lexington & Concord or Pearl Harbor • or… New York Trade Center Towers • US entered & left incrementally • In series of incremental steps => 1950s-1970s • Successive US Administrations actively participated in the War: • From Truman to Nixon • All tried to save Vietnam from Communist take-over (as part of Containment Policy) • All would ultimately fail

  3. Lay of the Land

  4. Brief Historical Outline • Truman (May 1950)=> authorized $$Mil to aid French=> • preserve post-WW2 French Indochina colonies (image) • Ike continued US support, even following Dien Bien Phu • Aim: build Vn Nation out of diverse political factions • After French defeat, US took control of bad situation • Deployed military advisors to build SVN’s military • Tasked CIA to conduct psychological war against NVN • JFK: tripled $$ aid to SVN & increased military advisors: • Early ‘61 secretly deployed 400 SF & 30 Navy SEALs: • Tasked to “advise” ARVN & SVN Navy: CItactics & techniques • Covert direct action against North Vietnam (Oplan 34A) & VC in South • By Nov ‘63 16,300 advisors operate thru-out N/S Vietnam

  5. Johnson’s War • After JFK’s assassination, LBJ took over war • Determined not to “lose” Vietnam like Truman “lost” China • Embarked on a limited war strategy to convince NVN to cease infiltration of South Vietnam • After Tonkin Gulfincident & itsresolutionin Aug 1964: • LBJ secured Congress support (as equivalent of war): • Authorized by resolution to “take all necessary actions” • Following his 1964 re-election, LBJ did just that • Result: US military commitment intensified incrementally: • LBJ personally directed sustained bombing of targets in NVN • Mar ‘65=> Rolling Thunderbegan=> would last until 31Oct68 • US also deployed first combat units (USMC) in March 1965* • US took over war from ‘65-’69 when force levels peak @ 543K+

  6. Statistics & “Vietnam Syndrome” • Statistic totals: 2.7M served in Vietnam => 1.6 in combat: • 58K+ KIA & 300,000 WIA, ~ approx 2500 remain MIA • US spent between $140B to $175Bon the war • American outlook deeply influenced by Vietnam War: • Future Presidential Foreign Policy decisions affected as result • “Vietnam syndrome” hovered always in background to present • Not since Civil War has a conflict divided US society so • America’s first war ever lost • Humiliating political defeat for USG institutions • Especially for the US military- long time to recover • VN vetscame home as Nation tried to forget & move on • VN Vets were ignored at best & blamed for war at worst

  7. Vietnam’s History of People’s War • Vietnam has had a long tradition of war against outsiders • rebellion against China: the Trung sisters; • Later Trieu Au would lead another revolt in 248 AD • 10th century: defeated China’s Fleet & won independence • 13th century: Vietnam repulsed Kublai Khan 3 times • In process became experts in employing GW => • Stressed protracted war to wear a superior military power down • Raid & ambush tactics on the enemy’s over-extended LOCs • Outlined in Dao’s“Essential Summary of Military Arts” • Strategy: drew enemy into protracted campaign to wear him down • (Also applied these techniques to1st& 2nd Indo-China wars)

  8. Historical Experience with Outside Threats • Vietnam’s defeat of Mongols & Chinese=> • Now key part of Vietnam’s martial tradition & history: • i.e. struggle & resistance against superior outside forces • All became part of Vietnam’s military heritage • (In addition to Vietnam’s civil war that soon followed) • French involvement came in late 1850s: • Vn persecuted Fr & Euro missionaries & their converts • Gradually (late 1800s) => Fr establish & expand their colonies • French then expanded throughout all of Indo-China => • Also suppressed Vietnam’s civil war in process

  9. “On Protracted War” – An Overview • Mao’s Guerilla Warmodel: • “On Protracted War” • Vietnam drew heavily on Mao’s model for war • Model instructed followers to proceed by 3 stages: • 1st - defensive stage: • survive, establish base & gain people’s support • conduct hit & run raids & ambush of soft targets • 2nd - equilibrium: • gradually expand offensive campaigns => • stage larger battles of a more conventional nature • 3rd - Counter-Offensive: • Incorporate conventional military ops with guerilla warfare • Then ramp up to full scale conventional war (when ready)

  10. First Indo-China War • WW2: Japan occupied & controlled Vietnam since 1940 • Vietnamese allied with China to fight Japanese (GW) • Following Japan’s defeat, Ho Chi Minh asserted his leadership: • Led coalition of Communists Nationalists • Declared Vietnam independence on 2Sept45 • Began talks with French • But both sides failed to agree on basic strategic aims • Nov’46=> Viet Minh attacked French garrisons => • 1st Indochina war began => would last 8 yrs (1946-54)

  11. Escalation to Major Battle • Jan’48: Viet Minh begin 2nd stage: • Expand military operations • Conduct bigger battles against French • Meanwhile (late ’49)=> China became Communist state under Mao: • Result=> China provides Vietnam with economic & political support • Also sanctuaries within China’s sovereign territory • 1951: Vietnam launched stage 3 prematurely: • Result: suffers major conventional defeat • Temporary set back for Viet Minh • 1953: at China’s insistence Vn lures French Commander (Navarre) into: • Plain of Reeds=> near a place called (?) • ?_______ __________ ____________

  12. Dien Bien Phu (Nov53-May54) • Gen Navarre established several strong French Firebases on surrounding hills near main base: • All manned by paratroops & Fr Foreign Legion • supplied thru airstrip by airlift • 1954: Chinese press Vietnamese to act decisively: • Giap orders arty/ammo towed into surrounding mtns • Complete surprise (operational and tactical surprise) • Viet Minh bombard French outposts from mountain sites: • Paratroops forced to abandon outposts 1 by 1 => • 13Mar’54:Beatrice falls within hours of attack • Gabrielle & Anne Marie overrun during next 2 days • Impact: denied French airfield-key to French defense • Reinforcement & re-supply (also Fr artysuppressed)

  13. Dien Bien Phu(final assault) • Remaining outposts must be re-supplied by airdrop (men/supplies): • Drops inaccurate (high altitude drops due to Vn AAA) • French situation now desperate • French government requests US help • Ike refuses to send US troops or tactical Nukes • Many French Foreign Legion troops desert • Hide in caves along Nam Yum & scavenge for food • Paratroopers left to fight alone until the end • 7 May’54: Last French position overrun • Fr survivors marched into captivity & humiliation • At on going Peace talks in Geneva • French must now accept distasteful political terms • Unfavorable terms a direct result of French tactical defeat • US must now take up containment directly

  14. Expanded US involvement • By ‘54 US paying close to 80% of War’s cost • French viewed as containing communism in Asia • Ike refused to sign Geneva Accords: • Rejects VN’s temporary 2 year partition at 17th parallel • Wary of nation wide elections to determine fate in 1956 • Well aware of who is most likely to win (who?) • Instead US used 2 yr time to back separate non-communist Government below 17th parallel • Government in South to be led by who? • ?________ ______ ________- a Catholic • What is the faith of Vietnam majority? • ?_________________ • 1956 elections overwhelmingly favor Ho Chi Minh: • Vote results ignored by US & new RVN Gov

  15. Second Indochina War • Following South Vietnam refusal to allow free election=> • Ho Chi Minh began modernization of his forces • Prepares to deploy NVN advisors south • Begins armed struggle in South Vietnam(SVN) • Diemstarts search to rout out Viet Minh south in 1956 • Included all viewed as opposed to his rule: • i.e. All non-Catholics & minorities alike • By ’57: Viet Minh in South close to all but eliminated • Result: Viet Minh launched major rebellion against Diem’s Government • Initiate guerilla warfare, intelligence ops, propaganda • Focus: develop support base in rural villages • Diem’s harsh policies facilitate Viet Minhefforts

  16. Violence Escalates • Raids & assassinations escalate between 1958 => 1960: • 1958: 700 gov. officials killed • 1960: 2500 killed • By 1960: National Liberation Front (NLF) established • (Political arm of Viet Minh rebellion) • By Dec’63: PAVN (NVA) escalated infiltration/support to Viet Minh • Ho Chi Minh Trail established • NVN sends men & supplies south • By 1965: full blown insurgency was established in SVN: • US concludes Diem’s regime will fall without direct military support

  17. NLF’s War Aims & Strategy • Political Aim: • Unite South under NVN government of Ho Chi Minh • NLF Grand Strategy: • Combine political & military aspects of struggle • Undermine SVN political & military positions • Rally people & popular support for NLF cause • Political Tactics: • Conduct “Agitprop” • Tactical focus: village level • Establish a tight political & military structure • By’63: NLF was successful => • Signed up 300K supporters in countryside

  18. NLF Military Strategy & Tactics • Tacticsformulated to serve strategic & political ends: • 1st stage: hit & run raids & just survive • Targets selected for maximum psychological impact • Assassination: target most effective & most despised • Mayors, village chiefs, teachers • Ambush ARVN troops & government strategic Hamlets • Sabotage commercial transport infrastructure • Strategic Objective: • Provoke government to react w/repressive actions: • Aim: alienate the very people government is suppose to protect • Demonstrate to people ineffectiveness of Gov efforts

  19. Chinese Tactical Model • By’65:PAVN provided direct support to SVN insurgents: • Employed Chinese model, tactics, & techniques • Totaled 500K troops with 500K in reserve • Divisions comprised 10K Troops: • Used 7.62 AK-47s w/3-5 grenades each member • 3 infantry regiments in South: • Weapons company attached: 60/82 mm mortars • 57/75mm recoilless rifles, RPGs & Machine Guns • Train extensively in night ops & effective concealment • Small unit tactics employing stealth • Meticulous planning & full scale rehearsals • Detailed withdrawal plans & back-up contingencies • Preposition supplies & ammo & escape routes

  20. Tactical Focus • Bottom line: • a well respected opponent: • NVAsoldier was good, dedicated, • Well trained & highly motivated troop: • Extensive training & battlefield prep • NVA tactics & doctrine’s focus: • Raid & ambush=> (became experts at) • Small unit mobility to minimize US technology: • Extreme close contact • (often at “Danger Close” ranges) • Concentrate on weak point, overwhelm & encircle • Then quickly withdraw => rarely held territory • Key Lesson Learned: • Never follow a blood trail – why? ?_________________

  21. US Counter Insurgency (CI) & Limited War • US foreign policy (FP) focused on Containment: • Halt communist expansion directed from Moscow • Main focus of US FP throughout Cold War (CW) • Vietnam War viewed as just another communist threat of attempted expansion: • Specific attempt at communist expansion in SE Asia • Ho Chi Minh & NVN inspired by Moscow & Beijing • During’60s=> Vietnam became test case for JFK’s CI doctrine: • JFKcampaigned to replace Ike’s massive retaliation=> • Replacement National Security Strategy?

  22. Result: Flexible Response • JFK placed major emphasis onCI: • To counter Mao’s guerilla warfare in SE Asia • Carried out by SOF advisors • 400 SF & 30 SEALs May 1961 • 16,300 military advisors by Nov 1963 • Also JFK ordered covert actions against NVN • (OPLAN 34A) by SOG Teams • CI Strategy against NLF: • Build-up of military support to ARVN: • APCs, CV air support, Helos, TACAIR • SF advisors conducted training & civic action: • US Helo support to ARVN: • Infiltration/extraction & Medivac • Direct support, to include “advising” SVN SOF teams into enemy held areas

  23. Strategic Hamlet Program • Another attempt to protect people from insurgents by isolating them • Theory: serve as instrument of $$ & social reform & security: • Attract the people to SVN gov programs • Convince peasant SVN gov better than NLF • Objective: relegate insurgents to outlaw status • Lose support of masses => force revised NLF aims: • Return insurgent to Survival mode (stage 1) • Reality: program failed in both concept & execution: • Dislocated peasants from village bred resentment • SVN Government (notNLF) viewed as bad guy • Poor security => vulnerable villages easy to overrun

  24. Factors in Failure • Result: opposite of desired government objective • People’s discontent rose while security & safety fell • Atrocious execution by Nhu alienated peasants • Another factor – conventional military mindset: • Conventional US Army leaders resisted CI • Did not support CI concept • Conflict in philosophies of war: Clausewitz vs. Sun Tzu • Conventional military preferred conventional methods: • Bigger = better mindset employing modern weapons • Even though jungle warfare very tough environment • Conventional infantry & armor profile ineffective • Tactical surprise unlikely – operational surprise hard

  25. Battle of Ap Bac (2 Jan 1963) • LTC John Paul Vann: • Pressed IV Corps tactical zone Cmdr MG Cao, & Col Dam, Cmdr of 7thARVN, to attack 3 VC radio companies (350 men) near hamlet of Ap Bac • Located 65 KM southwest of Saigon in theMekong Delta • Plan: 3 pronged pincer attack from different directions by 3 Battalions of 7th Infantry, • Supported by regional units, 13 APCs (3500 men), ABN & US Helos (CH-21s & UH-1s) • Objective: Surprise & overwhelm enemy with numbers

  26. Execution • Executionbadly flawed: • ARVN commander delayed attack too long • Allowed enemy to discover Cmdr’s intent: • Time to prepare defense to receive attack • No tactical surprise => • First sign of resistance ARVN froze • 1 prong of offense refused to even attack • Remaining units purposely failed to block enemy’s escape • Result: numerous ARVN casualties (friendly fire): • 61 KIA & 100 WIA • Viet Cong slip away undetected (3 KIA) • Victory claimed anyway (why?) • Rationale: conventionally- held ground • ARVN performance does not bold well for future

  27. Tonkin Gulf Incident • SVN maritimesea commandos & advisors • Conduct sea-borne & raids on NVN radar • Raids conducted in/around Tonkin gulfop area • Objective: • Force NVN to light off radar’s ELINT • Permit US DDs w/special ELINT collection • NVN Response: • Torpedo boats attack SVN commandos: • SOF insertion craft (NASTIES) in vicinity • NVN craft see US DD Maddox & engage: • Result: 3 enemy PT sunk or damaged • 2 days later- NVN PT appear to fire on US DDs: • USS Maddox & Turner Joycall for CV air CAS • Who find nothing

  28. Tonkin Gulf Resolution • Capt of USS Maddox not sure second NVN attack actually occurred, but... • Files report to CINCPAC via chain of command • LBJ sees opportunity to exploit NVN “attack”: • Applies much political pressure to confirm attack • Meanwhile=> Admin prepared draft resolution for Congress: • Resolved for President to “take all action necessary” • Protect US forces & its allies • While Navy still try to figure out what really occurred: • LBJ exploits incident: Tonkin Gulf Resolution • Passed unanimously by House & all but 2 in Senate • (Just as administration drafted it) => significance? • Future impact on US involvement?

  29. NLF Threat Grows • By 1965 => NLF secured Mekong Delta (Map) => • Appeared to have gained both momentum & initiative, especially in the Delta • Appeared to US that SVN Gov about to fail • USconcluded it must send massive assistance to prevent its collapse • Specially configured armored landing craft were deployed

  30. Operation Rolling Thunder (Mar’65- Nov‘68) • Mar ‘65 (after LBJ safely re-elected)=> US strikes: • Launched massive strategic bombing of North • Longest sustained air bombing campaign in US history • Targets primarily along northern areas of DMZ: • Included bridges, railheads, & logistic supply dumps • Also re-supply routes along Ho Chi Minh Trail

  31. Major US Ground Combat Introduced • LBJ also deployed USMC to DaNang in late July’65: • Two Battalion Landing Teams waded ashore • Prepare to conduct active forward defense & search & destroy ops • From then on, US begins to take direct control of war => • Major ground combat & key battles conducted by US • More US combat units deploy • ARVNrelegated primarily to garrison defense duties as the US directly takes over the War

  32. Theory & Practice of Limited War • Flexible Response (review): • Tailored action required only to meet political aim • Avoids dilemma of massive retaliationas only option • Result:military instruments limited to minimum needed to send the enemy a message • Target hit to modify enemy’s behavior (political end) • Limited War theories& civilian theorists: • Flexible Responseprovided basis of limited war theories • Ltd War Theoriesprovide set of broad guidelines: • Focused on attaining US political objectives • Military considerations not taken into account • Craft military response to send clear signalto enemy • Convey political intent to attain desired enemy response

  33. Theory vs. Reality • Result in practice: • Political considerationsdominated military actions • Military responses limited to minimum required • Civilian leadership prevalent thru-out all operations • LBJselected many of the bomb targets personally • Limited geographic battle areas of operations • BDA unimportant =>only political message sent is central • Theory’s Flaw? • Reality of war - military factors do count: • Assumptionregarding enemy’s response& friction’s role? • Precisionof message sent & how it is received & interpreted • How theenemy will respond remains uncertain • Gradual escalationin attempt to get desired response flawed

  34. Modern Hi-tech Military Advances • Flexible Response strategy => conventional forces • SECDEF McNamaramodernized US forces • Established “Brush War” capability (for Vietnam) • USAF & USNbuild-up: • WWII BBs refitted & updated • CV/CVNon Yankee Station in Tokin Gulf launch F-4/A-4 strikes • B-52 (Guam) & F105/F-4 (Thailand): Rolling Thunder

  35. Weapons Technology Advances • High Tech Equipment: • Radar units small & portable developed • Sniffersattached to skids of UH-1s to detect infiltrators’ odors • Sensors & passive transmitters alert SF teams • IBM computers predict enemy movements • Puff (AC-47 gunships) & • AFSOC AC-130 Specter Gunships • provide devastating fire support

  36. Troops, Weapons, & Equipment • Troops: best ever trained & equipped to date: • 1 Million men combat ready & divisions expand:11 to 16 • Airlift & equipment stockpiles expanded • Army reorganization: • Task oriented for specific jobs • Direct ground support weapons & equipment: • Armor Personnel Carriers • Weapon advances: (M-60, M-16, Stoner LMG, M-79) • Helo & its role: UH-1, Cobra, CH-47, 1st Air Cavalry

  37. Next: Military History Chapter 21b Vietnam War (to be continued)

  38. Back-up Slides

  39. US Combat Units: Direct Ground Operations • US also deployed first full combat units in March 1965: • 3500 USMCs land on DaNang beaches for combat ops • Key US threshold passed • (Many to follow incrementally) • From then until April 1969, US commitment gradually increased: • US ground troop levels & combat units grew steadily • US combat actions rose incrementally for next 4 yrs • Operation Starlite was typical • From ‘65-69: US took over most fighting from ARVN • US troop levels peaked at 543,400 troops by early 1969

  40. Conflicting post-War Analysis • Several hard lessons were learned as a result of Vietnam • For some=> we simply backed the wrong horse: • US Military power & $$$ support never be enough regardless=> • Military & $ pwr couldn’t prop upRVN’s corrupt & failed regime • Local revolutionary war fought for nationalistic & political aims • Therefore US caught in middle of bitter civil war • For others: war too hard to win under political constraints: • War considered integral part of global Cold War threat • Key political concern for LBJ administration: avoid escalation • Both in intensity of fighting & geographic region • Result: US attempted to fight limited conventional war • Without a coherent & realistic operational strategy • While applying separate poorly chosen tactics to support it

  41. Serious Strategic Disconnect • US approach to war appeared to have serious disconnects: • Political Aims were unrealistic given military constraints • Operational Strategy poorly matched to those strategic aims • Tactics employedserved a failing strategy • Result: Tactical success served poor operational strategy • Which in turn attempted to achieve Unrealistic strategic aims => • Which ultimately resulted in political failureat the end of the day • Political decisions makers failed to realize until too late: • That superior American military power can’t make up forwhat? • American people’s lack of political will to continue war indefinitely! • These failures would affect many in different ways • Including foreign policy decisions taken following the Cold War