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Old October 2nd, 2017, 09:58 AM   #1
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Why US military effort saved South Korea but failed in Vietnam ?


Two Southeast Asia countries. Both were threatened by their aggressive northern communist versions. When North Korea crossed 38th parallel US involved in Korean peninsula militarily and restored status quo when armistice was declared three years later. In Vietnam though things turned out differently and US not only retreated in face of a fierce low level guerilla/insurrection warfare but eventually gave up even helping South Vietnam after peace accords in 1973. So what was the difference between two conflicts with two outcomes ? Geography , politics , strategy , morale , public and international support ?
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Old October 2nd, 2017, 10:11 AM   #2
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Public support. At that time the American public had no support for the war.
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Old October 2nd, 2017, 10:16 AM   #3

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Quote:
Originally Posted by merdiolu View Post
Two Southeast Asia countries. Both were threatened by their aggressive northern communist versions. When North Korea crossed 38th parallel US involved in Korean peninsula militarily and restored status quo when armistice was declared three years later. In Vietnam though things turned out differently and US not only retreated in face of a fierce low level guerilla/insurrection warfare but eventually gave up even helping South Vietnam after peace accords in 1973. So what was the difference between two conflicts with two outcomes ? Geography , politics , strategy , morale , public and international support ?
Politics.

The U.S. military in Vietnam was able to accomplish all of its military goals within the country. There was nowhere the U.S. couldn't go and nowhere safe from bombing. The U.S. was never militarily forced out of Vietnam the way it nearly was in Korea (see: Pusan perimeter and Incheon landing).

But you can't defeat a political situation militarily. Most Vietnamese were sympathetic to the North, and the U.S. was never a welcome presence except by a minority. Eventually it became a political question of how long should troops be left in a country that clearly doesn't want them there and where they aren't actually accomplishing anything other than killing a lot of guerillas (and sometimes civilians) and creating ever more enemies.
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Old October 2nd, 2017, 10:44 AM   #4
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Korea is not a Southeast Asian country but a Northeast Asian country.
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Old October 2nd, 2017, 10:49 AM   #5

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The US military was acclimated to fighting large military forces.

the North Vietnames invaded with a large military force with tanks, artillery and a supply column. After a few initial setbacks the US was and the rest of the NATO alliance was able to counter that large formed army and throw them back.

Then it did the same with the Chinese.

The NVA never tried a large scale military invasion so the US was left to fight a piecemeal insurgency campaign stamping down little firefights, losing a few men here and there and never being able to mount a decissive campaign.

theyre totally different wars with totally different forces involved.
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Old October 2nd, 2017, 10:51 AM   #6

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Public support. At that time the American public had no support for the war.
No TV's to bring the nasty side of war in glorious Technicolor into peoples living rooms.
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Old October 2nd, 2017, 10:55 AM   #7

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Actually, dear Pacific, they lost the Vietnam War because the strategic situation was different than this of Korea.
No real support from South Vietnamese populations who were schocked by the "arrogance" of these rich foreigners who exported the cold war in their country.
Even if the South-Vietnamese people didn,t want of the communism and of the domination of the Northern people (Vietnam was almost always separated between the North: thrinh and the South:Nguyen) .
There had always been a gap between the american and the Vietnamese.
The French had a better feeling and contact because of cultural similarities.
The situation was different in Korea where tha Americans were seen as heroic friends who came to defend the liberty of their country.
That explain the important role of the South Korean Army
in this war ("the forgotten war).
Moreover the military situation was different in both wars.
A conventional front line in Korea and a non conventional one in Vietnam with a sanctuarized North Vietnam.
The Americans didn't understand the strategy of the North-Vietnamese, they thought only "fire power".
It took a lot of time to undetstand they couldn't win because their army was too clumsy and was located in a too much different country, without a real support of the population, with too much cultural differences and that they supported a corrupted South Vietnamese regime.
Actually the Vietcong had always initiative and the Americans couldn't prevent that.
The example of the couchi tunnel is striking.
Despite big meanings and many years, never the Americans suceeded to destroy or neutralize thes Vietcong tunnel located to only 40 kilometers from Saigon.
Moreover we MUST ADD that the North Vietnamese were formidable fighters and that they knew they couldn't loose this war even if it would be very hard and long.
The main goal of the Vietnamese wasn't to win battles but to continue to fight until the end, i.e the inevitable final victory.
U.S Armt was clearly beaten, the domestic political contesr of this war was not the reason of the American defeat but consequences of the impossibility to beat the Vietnamese.
Then, when you can "win" only battles but not the war....you loose the war.

Last edited by phil1904; October 2nd, 2017 at 11:11 AM.
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Old October 2nd, 2017, 11:04 AM   #8

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Korea was against a state or states (Korea and China). Vietnam was to some extent a guerilla war. Moreover, the terrain and other hindrances like bad strategy cost the US.
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Old October 2nd, 2017, 11:06 AM   #9
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Times changed. In the early 50s both political parties were firmly anti-communist. In the late 60s early 70s, not so much. The New Left had largely hijacked one of the parties and since that party controlled Congress they were able to shut the war down by passing and overriding the veto with the War Powers Resolution. With that, when the major conventional attack occurred in '75 the sitting president was essentially powerless to stop what was coming.
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Old October 2nd, 2017, 11:09 AM   #10
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A great many South Vietnamese wanted national unification and saw the Hanoi government as more legitimate than the Saigon regime. The government of South Vietnam was too closely associated with the hated French colonialists (and after the French left, with the Americans who were widely seen in pretty much the same light). You can't force a government on people who don't want it.

The South Koreans seem to have been less interested in national unification. While the government of Sygnman Rhee was oppressive at times, South Korea did impose land reforms in 1949, a step which may have convinced many South Koreans that Rhee would effectively respond to national concerns and problems. The government of South Vietnam was widely perceived to be uninterested in solving the country's problems.
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