US Armed forces won every significant battle of the Vietnam War ? Firepower piled up mounds of enemy dead ? Close to 1 million PLAF and PAVN (communist) fighters killed during war o 50,000 American soldiers killed ? US never forced to retreat or abandon fixed position ? These tactical victories never produced 2 outcomes that mattered most o Never destroyed enemy?s power o Never gained peasantry control for Saigon government (controlled countryside) Westmorland?s plan was to attack and destroy enemy main units whenever and wherever they could be found ? Identify large contingents of enemy soldiers, cut off their escapes, attack them from all sides with artillery and air power, send in ground troops to mop up what is left ? By doing so, he hoped to achieve 1 or both of 2 things that would allow Saigon to establish control over the country o Reach ?cross over? point where enemy deaths exceeded recruitment ? 1965-68, communist forces in the South increased despite huge losses they suffered ? Communists getting troops down the HCM trail quicker than US could kill them ? VC stepped up recruitment in the South ? Inflict such crushing losses that the enemy?s will to continue would be broken. o Communists had much better intelligence, therefore were always initiate the battles and could thusly control the pace of the war o They were willing to suffer huge losses o Only 2% of American probes sent out to find enemy actually made any contact o Little possibility of a quick victory given the Vietnamese were willing to suffer huge losses when they did confront the US Other options open to US ? Bomb HCM Trail o Not realistic, as it was a system of trails and not just one route o Only 8% of troops coming down trail were killed o Little supplies went down trail ? Pacify countryside o Shift demographic balance from communists to Saigon o Dry up communist recruitment o Saigon pacification teams were supposed to identify and eliminate VC officials and sympathizers, provide security, and build infrastructure in areas that had just been cleared after battle o Westmorland didn?t care for pacification ? Looking at WW2 and Korean War, didn?t see this as a significant undertaking ? Only 7% of money spent of bombs was spent of pacification o Pacification teams often caused more problems ? Peasants couldn?t identify with them as they were middle class ? Often stole from peasants o Saigon couldn?t appeal to countryside the way communists could ? Easier to identify with other Vietnamese than Americans ? US tried to curb indiscriminate violence against civilians, but it was difficult to distinguish between friend and foe in South Vietnam ? Me Lai Incident ? American soldiers killed/raped civilians in a hamlet ? Civilian casualties not outrageous compared to other wars (28-60% depending on source) ? Still, this alienated people from Saigon and their American backers o From 1965-67, large-scale operations became the ends, whereas they needed to be the means toward the larger goal ? The real battles needed to be in the countryside against the social revolution taking place ? Still, not fair to say US ignored countryside ? Realizing that they couldn?t compete of social level, US sought to depopulate communist areas, thus turning communists into refugees (random bombing, military fire, poising rice fields, forced deportations) o This was essentially pacifism, which made other pacifism efforts unnecessary o 25% of communist population became refugees and escaped to urban coast o By forcing people to move, US and Saigon could more easily control population because urban resistance was easier to crush than resistance in the countryside o This was of limited value ? Most refugees were women, men stayed in countryside ? Urban refugees were often bitter and hostile toward Saigon ? Like a public admission that US and Saigon could not compete with NLF for control in villages and countryside ? Build wall across HCM trail by invading Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam to cut off Vietnamese battlefield in the South o Cambodia likely would have switched to openly communist position had US invaded o Terrible terrain in Cambodia o Taking US further from supply lines, taking communists closer o May have crippled US position in Europe by committing so many more troops ? More internal approach of real pacification o Westmorland still more interested in large-scale warfare o Would not have provided quick victory, required more American troops, wouldn?t yield many enemy deaths o Not clear that Americans were qualified for pacification ? Couldn?t speak the language ? Flooding the patriotic country with foreigners ? Couldn?t compete with NLF in countryside since it wasn?t involved in radical land redistribution o May indeed have been wiser to stick to Search-and- Destroy missions and create refugees ? Mrugesh Patel Microsoft Word - The Limits of Attrition and Pacification - March 7, 2008.doc
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