How was Vietnam different from other wars

Apr 2010
1
The Vietnam War was a unique American conflict in a lot of ways. Along with Korea and subsequent wars it was a limited war. It was the first major war in which guerilla tactics were used heavily against our forces. Largest homefront negative reaction to an American war. First war we lost. The slow and steady buildup from aid, to aid and advisors, then slow gradual troop deployment and increases in air power.

These are the more major ones I've come up with but I wanna hear what other major differences or properties unique to Vietnam that you guys can come up with
 

Lucius

Forum Staff
Jan 2007
16,363
Nebraska
Hello, BiggiesmallsNC,

Is this question related to some sort of paper or presentation at school?
 
Apr 2010
46
Toronto, Canada
Actually the War of 1812 was the first war the US lost :D

Okay enough of that....

First of all, Vietnam was doomed for failure it was fought by the French for something like 10 years and French President De Gaulle warned US leaders not to get too involved in the conflict. The North Vietnamese as you stated used guerilla tactics but they also trapped the US forces into very compromising positions by allowing whole divisions into an area then encircling and picking them off one by one. The Bombing by the US was also futile because of the lay of the land as the Viet Cong forces would go underground or take refuge in foliage that wasn't attacked.

The US military command had no experience or concept of Guerilla warfare and thus used conventional methods from WWII as the basis for their operations which failed. It's true the North never actually had huge victories in the conventional sense but they did enough damage over time that US public sentiment turned against the war. The Tet Offensive is a great example of this as the offensive worked early on but by and large it was a failure but Americans seeing the bloodshed and horror of American troops getting killed on top of Walter Cronkite telling the nation how horrible the situation was sealed the US military command's fate insofar as it concerned public sentiment.
 

HistoryFreak1912

Ad Honorem
Apr 2009
4,428
Alabama, USA
Actually the War of 1812 was the first war the US lost :D

Okay enough of that....

First of all, Vietnam was doomed for failure it was fought by the French for something like 10 years and French President De Gaulle warned US leaders not to get too involved in the conflict. The North Vietnamese as you stated used guerilla tactics but they also trapped the US forces into very compromising positions by allowing whole divisions into an area then encircling and picking them off one by one. The Bombing by the US was also futile because of the lay of the land as the Viet Cong forces would go underground or take refuge in foliage that wasn't attacked.

The US military command had no experience or concept of Guerilla warfare and thus used conventional methods from WWII as the basis for their operations which failed. It's true the North never actually had huge victories in the conventional sense but they did enough damage over time that US public sentiment turned against the war. The Tet Offensive is a great example of this as the offensive worked early on but by and large it was a failure but Americans seeing the bloodshed and horror of American troops getting killed on top of Walter Cronkite telling the nation how horrible the situation was sealed the US military command's fate insofar as it concerned public sentiment.
Agree with you I do, including the 1812 bit.

I think we should've listened to President de Gaulle. Why we didn't is a mystery to me.

I would also like to add that the US at this point was probably fightng a "Politically Correct" version of war in 'Nam. The politicians set up strict rules and guidelines for the military to follow rather then letting them get in there and get the job done.

At least that's what I've heard. :/
 

Son of Cathal

Ad Honorem
Oct 2008
4,311
The Bright Center of the Universe
The US strategy of attrition was also a major factor. Westmoreland believed that the war could be won if the US forces had a higher kill count than the enemy. Bloody ridiculous and they used to estimate the number (usually far higher than in reality) of enemy soldiers that they killed. Paul Ham gives a good account of America's failings in his book Vietnam: The Australian War.
 
Sep 2006
1,453
Korea (but I'm American!)
De Gaulle??? Why didn't they just look at the 20 year war that the Ming Dynasty fought from 1407-1427? They rolled in there with 500,000 soldiers and after 20 years they still didn't win. And that's with Vietnam fighting by itself. There are just some places you shouldn't go.
 
Dec 2009
19,933
Kissinger once gave a nice explanation on Vietnam's war as an analogy with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; if I remember rightly, the core idea was essentially that there's no way any army of any size or power can win a war with a resolute enemy that could entirely mix themselves with a largely sympathizing local civilian population (which in turn can't or shouldn't be entirely destroyed) and that were unlimitedly supplied by unreachable third parties.
 

skizzerflake

Ad Honorem
Mar 2010
2,141
Baltimore, Maryland
The other factor that always loomed over Vietnam was that it was a proxy war and just a part of the real big war. From the beginning it was conceived as part of the great conflict to stop the advance of communism. Vietnam itself was virtually unknown in the US prior to the war. The US could probably have crushed the North, except that the planners were always looking over their shoulders to see if the Russians or Chinese would get involved. The level of effort was "calibrated" (if that makes any sense) to be one click less than what would draw a response from the bad guys. Since nobody knew what was the critical point, the war was destined for defeat. The North had to persevere, rather than win, in order to eventually win. All that pretty much defines folly.

On the other hand, what was perceived as the relentless march of communism across the entire world, was delayed and confined to this steamy corner of southeast Asia and the post-war Vietnam was too darned independent to be part of the Global Communist Conspiracy. If the big goal was the real goal, was the war a loss? It kept the "Reds" busy and didn't result in a nuclear apocalypse so was Vietnam really just peripheral damage? I don't claim to have "the" answer to this.