Table of Contents
The Vietnam War was a lengthy and costly conflict that involved North and South Vietnam. The latter was supported by its allies, specifically the United States of America. This war was long since it was intensified by the ongoing Cold War between the United States of America and the Soviet Union. The Vietnam War was devastating because it resulted in the deaths of more than 3 million people (Burns et al., 2017). More than half of these victims were Vietnamese civilians. Various war tactics and strategies were used during this event. The Vietcong applied guerilla tactics, frustrating the enemy and establishing strong relationships with the peasants, while the United States used bombing, taking the fight to the enemy, technology, and escalation.
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Tactics and Strategies Used by North Vietnam
The Vietcong was aware of the U.S. military strength. Thus, its strategy had to be specific and accurate to avoid significant damage. The first strategy applied by the Vietcong included the use of guerilla attacks. The Vietcong picked battles carefully to ensure the militants were only involved in fights they could win. The Vietcong used daggers and swords. In addition, explosives captured from the Americans were applied in the battles. Since the Vietcong had a better understanding of the jungle, booby traps were set to attack the U.S. troops (Kalansooriya, 2019). The traps were made of pointed bamboo sticks, mines, and grenades. The Vietcong also used tunnels to escape into the jungle. This strategy aided the militants in avoiding being captured and tortured by the U.S. troops.
Frustrating the Enemy
The Vietcong frustrated the Americans by applying simple tactics. For instance, the militants retreated when the U.S. troops attacked. This factor made it challenging for U.S. soldiers to ambush the former. Likewise, the Vietcong raided enemy camps and stole mines and grenades, which were used to set up booby traps (Hennessy, 1997). The Vietcong also attacked the U.S. troops when they were tired. This tactic was vital in frustrating the Americans since targeting the Vietcong in their strongholds was difficult.
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Developing a Positive Relationship with the Peasants
The Vietcong relied on the peasants during the Vietnam war. Specifically, peasants provided food, shelter, and hiding places (Kalansooriya, 2019). The Vietcong treated the peasants with respect to benefit from these factors. For instance, the militants helped the peasants with their workloads. This strategy allowed the Vietcong to establish positive relationships with the latter.
Tactics and Strategies Used by the United States of America
Bombings were a key tactic for the United States since President Johnson believed that the strategy would destroy the supply routes of North Vietnam. Strategic military bases in the capital city of North Vietnam were targeted through air raids. Approximately three million tons of bombs were dropped on Vietnam during the war. Even though the U.S. government believed that this strategy would be effective, most of the bombings were inaccurate due to the jungle landscape of North Vietnam (Andrade, 2008). Likewise, the country had not constructed key industrial targets during this period. Hence it was difficult for the U.S. to cause significant damage via the bombings.
Increasing the number of American troops was an essential strategy for President Johnson during the war. The president’s aim while increasing the troops was to avoid being outnumbered by the North Vietnamese soldiers. In 1965, President Johnson ordered two battalions of U.S. Marines to be deployed in Da Nang (Burns et al., 2017). The troops were tasked with protecting military bases in this region. Between 1965 and 1966, approximately 200,000 soldiers were sent to different bases in North Vietnam (Kocher et al., 2011; Burns et al., 2017). Escalation was considered an effective tactic for winning the war.
Search and Destroy
This strategy was crucial for the United States since it allowed President Johnson to “take the war to the enemy.” U.S. soldiers were sent into the jungle and villages of Vietnam to fight the Vietcong. This tactic risked the lives of U.S. soldiers since they became easy targets for Vietcong guerrilla attacks (Hennessy, 1997). In addition, the strategy increased the number of civilian casualties and the destruction of villages. For instance, the tactic led to the My Lai massacre, where the U.S. troops were responsible for the mass murder of more than 500 unarmed South Vietnamese civilians (Andrade, 2008). This occurrence harmed the United States’ reputation.
During the mid-20th century, U.S. technology was more advanced than that of North Vietnam. The former took advantage of this factor by using high-altitude bombers. In addition, napalm was dumped on suspected Vietcong strongholds using jets. Guerrilla combatants were destroyed using helicopters (Kocher et al., 2011). The U.S. government also applied media channels such as Television to spread information that favored the nation and destroyed North Vietnam’s image (Laslie, 2015). For instance, a false body count of Vietcong casualties was spread via the Television. Technology favored the U.S. military since the Vietcong lacked advanced defense mechanisms. This strategy increased the number of Vietnamese casualties.
During the Vietnam war, the Vietcong and the United States used various tactics and strategies. The tactics were determined by multiple factors, such as technology and resources available to each nation. The Vietcong relied on techniques such as frustrating the enemy, developing a positive relationship with peasants, and guerilla attacks. On the other hand, the United States used bombings, escalation of its troops, and technology.
- Andrade, D. (2008). Westmoreland was right: learning the wrong lessons from the Vietnam War. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 19(2), 145-181.
- Burns, K., Corrigan, B., Sanders, F., & Burns, K. (2017). The Vietnam War. Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group.
- Hennessy, M. A. (1997). Strategy in Vietnam: The Marines and Revolutionary Warfare in I Corps, 1965-1972. Greenwood Publishing Group.
- Laslie, B. D. (2015). The Air Force way of war: US tactics and training after Vietnam. University Press of Kentucky.
- Kalansooriya, K. L. S. R. (2019). Vietnam War: Application of Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” by Viet Cong.
- Kocher, M. A., Pepinsky, T. B., & Kalyvas, S. N. (2011). Aerial bombing and counterinsurgency in the Vietnam War. American Journal of Political Science, 55(2), 201-218.