The Vietnam War: Reasons for Failure - Why the U.S. Lost





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Published on Jun 19, 2012

In the post-war era, Americans struggled to absorb the lessons of the military intervention. About the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/087...

As General Maxwell Taylor, one of the principal architects of the war, noted, "First, we didn't know ourselves. We thought that we were going into another Korean War, but this was a different country. Secondly, we didn't know our South Vietnamese allies... And we knew less about North Vietnam. Who was Ho Chi Minh? Nobody really knew. So, until we know the enemy and know our allies and know ourselves, we'd better keep out of this kind of dirty business. It's very dangerous."

Some have suggested that "the responsibility for the ultimate failure of this policy [America's withdrawal from Vietnam] lies not with the men who fought, but with those in Congress..." Alternatively, the official history of the United States Army noted that "tactics have often seemed to exist apart from larger issues, strategies, and objectives. Yet in Vietnam the Army experienced tactical success and strategic failure... The...Vietnam War...legacy may be the lesson that unique historical, political, cultural, and social factors always impinge on the military...Success rests not only on military progress but on correctly analyzing the nature of the particular conflict, understanding the enemy's strategy, and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of allies. A new humility and a new sophistication may form the best parts of a complex heritage left to the Army by the long, bitter war in Vietnam."

U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote in a secret memo to President Gerald Ford that "in terms of military tactics, we cannot help draw the conclusion that our armed forces are not suited to this kind of war. Even the Special Forces who had been designed for it could not prevail." Even Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara concluded that "the achievement of a military victory by U.S. forces in Vietnam was indeed a dangerous illusion."

Doubts surfaced as to the effectiveness of large-scale, sustained bombing. As Army Chief of Staff Harold Keith Johnson noted, "if anything came out of Vietnam, it was that air power couldn't do the job." Even General William Westmoreland admitted that the bombing had been ineffective. As he remarked, "I still doubt that the North Vietnamese would have relented."

The inability to bomb Hanoi to the bargaining table also illustrated another U.S. miscalculation. The North's leadership was composed of hardened communists who had been fighting for independence for thirty years. They had defeated the French, and their tenacity as both nationalists and communists was formidable. Ho Chi Minh is quoted as saying, "You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours...But even at these odds you will lose and I will win."

The Vietnam War called into question the U.S. Army doctrine. Marine Corps General Victor H. Krulak heavily criticised Westmoreland's attrition strategy, calling it "wasteful of American lives... with small likelihood of a successful outcome." In addition, doubts surfaced about the ability of the military to train foreign forces.

Between 1965 and 1975, the United States spent $111 billion on the war ($686 billion in FY2008 dollars). This resulted in a large federal budget deficit.

More than 3 million Americans served in the Vietnam War, some 1.5 million of whom actually saw combat in Vietnam. James E. Westheider wrote that "At the height of American involvement in 1968, for example, there were 543,000 American military personnel in Vietnam, but only 80,000 were considered combat troops." Conscription in the United States had been controlled by the President since World War II, but ended in 1973."

By war's end, 58,220 American soldiers had been killed, more than 150,000 had been wounded, and at least 21,000 had been permanently disabled. According to Dale Kueter, "Sixty-one percent of those killed were age 21 or younger. Of those killed in combat, 86.3 percent were white, 12.5 percent were black and the remainder from other races." The youngest American KIA in the war was PFC Dan Bullock, who had falsified his birth certificate and enlisted in the US Marines at age 14 and who was killed in combat at age 15. Approximately 830,000 Vietnam veterans suffered symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. An estimated 125,000 Americans fled to Canada to avoid the Vietnam draft, and approximately 50,000 American servicemen deserted. In 1977, United States President Jimmy Carter granted a full, complete and unconditional pardon to all Vietnam-era draft dodgers. The Vietnam War POW/MIA issue, concerning the fate of U.S. service personnel listed as missing in action, persisted for many years after the war's conclusion.


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Comments • 4,888

The Vietnamese people had three options 1) Victory 2) Death 3) Surrender/Slavery to a foreign power. The Vietnamese people were fighting for their homeland. They had no where else to turn. The G.I.'s wanted to put in their 6 months and go home. Most were poor Whites from rural areas or minorities from the Ghetto's and Barrios. If they could not get a "college wavier", then they were going to fight. They knew they were poor and at the bottom. How much passion did you really expect from them?
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Britney Nguyen
I was born in south Vietnam (VNCH) and I'm a boat refugee exiled. I've run in the storms, the rains, the fires and use my skin as a metal jacket to dodge the bombs, the bullets and the landmines of communist - democracy of VN (supplied from Russia and China). Those were bitter days of my life. I haven't and would never forget I've cried like a river. Unfortunately the US has betrayed and abandon me after shaking hands with enemy. Therefore the millions and millions of people in the third country world could be welcome into the US and Western Europe to recieve the government's benefits suck as welfare food stamps, housing, medicare and free schooling for their children (including the millions of illegal immigration)
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Ww1 won Ww2 won Korea lost Vietnam lost Gulf war won Bosnia won Kosovo won Afganistan lost (terrorists still present) Libya lost ( situation didnt improve) Iraq lost (country in total anarchy, terrorists flourishing) Iraq/Syria/IS pending (this war resulted from the above mentioned iraq war) 
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I've despised the Viet Nam War since 1964 when a vet who was a family friend, returned at the age of eighteen and visited our house.  He was a total drunk because his nightmares would otherwise keep him in constant terror.  His life was ruined at 18.  Four years later, I was drafted right after the Tet Offensive mass attack from the communist guerillas.  I did everything I could to avoid that morass of combat.  I succeeded.  But I think about those who failed, some of whom I knew. The Viet Nam War is a stinkin' stain on America's credibility & ethical standing in the world.  As an American citizen who depends on the US government to properly represent us in international policy, it's obvious that it fails at that.  It was a misguided war from the beginning, and certainly not a 'defensive' act.  The US government acts like a bully, devoid of empathy, taking what it wants; if I knew a person like this, I'd avoid him and never consider him representative of my attitude.  The US took the side of an oligarchy instead of the common people here and there.  I say we should start enforcing the laws against criminals, and their criminal acts like the Viet Nam War! 
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Josh Sheil
It's funny because America has never won a war (besides the World Wars where they jump in at the end and say they did the work). I love America but God you guys need to calm down a bit and mind you own buisness for a while!
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America should be ashamed of this war. Terrible and unbelievable what they did there. As an American you can never defend this war, you should be deeply ashamed
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Who was in whose country? The Americans went half way round the world to wage war in Vietnam against a people who were no material or physical threat to the security of the United States or the American people. The Americans were foreign interventionist aggressors in the Vietnam War. The Americans stuck their long fucking nose into a civil war between Vietnamese belligerents. It was the Americans that kept escalating the war from 1965 onwards. It was the Americans that introduced chemical incendiary weapons, such as napalm and white phosphorus, on a huge scale into the war and expended literally millions of tons of high-explosive ordnance in indiscriminate strategic bombing, tactical air strikes, and artillery fire missions, all of which killed millions of Vietnamese civilians, and on top of all that then sprayed Christ knows how many billions of fucking gallons of toxic chemical defoliants which have caused hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese children to be stillborn or born with horrific birth defects. And Americans expect the rest of the fucking world to be sympathetic about a piddling 58,200 dead and 300,000 wounded Americans from the war compared to 3.4 million Vietnamese slaughtered, and Christ knows how many wounded and injured, as well as the southern half of Vietnam and much of the northern half devastated, all because the Americans went to war in Vietnam on a fucking whim and grossly underestimated the enemy they had to fight there. If you think that anyone outside the U.S. has much sympathy for the Americans killed or wounded in the Vietnam War, then you are a complete fucking idiot! The U.S. government sent the cunts there and the U.S. government and the nation it represents must shoulder the blame for what their forces did there. The U.S. deserved to fail in the Vietnam War, and it did! And the fact the United States was defeated in Vietnam still sticks in the guts of many Americans to this day, 41 years after the fall, or Liberation, of Saigon to the North Vietnamese. Many Americans have never got over the Vietnam War. Every American Vietnam vet that wipes himself out as an alcoholic or a narcotics addict or a shotgun-in-the-mouth suicide is a post-war victory for Vietnam and the Vietnamese people. That's fucking justice!
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Maurice The Guitar Hero
Anyone who defends this war should be ashamed. Vets didn't like this war, the public didn't like this war, Vietnam and the Vietnamese didn't like this war. Many lives lost on both lives that shouldn't have been lost in the first place. The U.S didn't benefit anything from this war, the only thing it benefited was its negative reputation among its own citizens, and thirsty politicians who were money hungry. And don't give me that America didn't lose that war bullcrap and we won every battle, we lost battles in Vietnam, we're not Mr. Unstoppable. They've been hiding the battles they've lost from the public. And this is from a loyal American. All I'm saying is this was a useless and pointless war. Look at it, there really isn't any point to going to Vietnam besides the Domino Effect.
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Britney Nguyen
God Bless American Soldiers. I have really deep respect for American Soldier who were shedding their fresh warm blood to fight again communists in Vietnam jungle to saved the millions Vietnamese non-communist. I will never forget American Soldiers who died to saving me from communists Vietnam and I will always keeping them closest to my heart.
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The US lost, just get it over with.
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