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Fighting the Vietnam War What American and Australian soldiers were up against.

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Presentation on theme: "Fighting the Vietnam War What American and Australian soldiers were up against."— Presentation transcript:

1 Fighting the Vietnam War What American and Australian soldiers were up against

2 Vietnam -Overview Longest war in U.S. history More than 58,000 killed 300,000 wounded 14,000 disabled 800,000 Vietnam veterans diagnosed as having significant to severe problems of readjustment.

3 Overview In Vietnam – over 2 million dead In Vietnam – 4 million wounded and 10 million displaced from their homes.

4 Public Opinion Two out of three Americans judge the Vietnam war to have been a mistake. Over 50% do not have a clear idea what the war was about. About 1/3 cant even remember which side we supported. 50% of Americans did not know where Vietnam was located

5 76% of the men sent to Vietnam were from lower to middle class families. The average age of a US soldier was 19 the average age of NVA/Vietcong was 18. Most soldiers were drafted – few enlisted. Soldiers served a tour of duty – about 1 year. In a typical 12 month tour, an infantry soldier stood a 3% chance of dying, a 10% chance of being seriously wounded, and a 25% chance of earning a Purple Heart. Longley, Grunts, p.87

6 How did the North Vietnamese Fight Back Against the U.S. Invaders? The North Vietnamese used classic Maoist guerrilla tactics. Guerrillas must move through the peasants like fish through sea, i.e., the peasants will support them as much as they can with shelter, food, weapons, storage, intelligence, recruits.

7 North Vietnamese Tactics In areas held by the NLF, the Communists distributed the land to the peasants. (By 1973, the NLF held about half of South Vietnam.) Their weapons were cheap and reliable. –The AK47 assault rifle out-performed the American M16 –The portable rocket launcher took out many US vehicles & aircraft. –They recycled dud bombs dropped by the Americans. Deadly booby-traps could inflict huge damage on young American conscripts!

8 I thought perhaps the enemy might be in civilian clothes, and armed, but at least Id be able to identify him. Didnt work out that way. I barely ever saw a live enemy soldier in combat. I always saw women and children and little tiny babies, and after firefights I would see dead enemy soldiers, but to see them face to face was a rare occasion. Longley, Grunts, p.94

9 Protracted War Strategy After Operation Rolling Thunder, the Communist Party moved to a protracted war strategy: the idea was to get the United States bogged down in a war that it could not win militarily and create unfavorable conditions for political victory.

10 Search & Destroy Tactics The United States countered with Search and Destroy tactics. In areas where the NLF were thought to be operating, troops went in and checked for weapons. If they found them, they rounded up the villagers and burned the villages down – thus these operations were often called Zippo raids. they rounded up the villagers and burned the villages down – thus these operations were often called Zippo raids. This often alienated the peasants from the American/South Vietnamese cause.This often alienated the peasants from the American/South Vietnamese cause. –As one marine said – If they werent Vietcong before we got there, they sure as hell were by the time we left. –The NFL often helped the villagers re-build their homes and bury their dead.

11 Burning camp A Viet Cong base camp burns as Pfc. Raymond Rumpa of St. Paul, Minnesota, walks away with his 45-pound 90mm rifle in My Tho, Vietnam, April 1968

12 Traversing the jungle During Operation Hastings, Marines of Company H, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment take to the water as they move to join other elements of their battalion in Dong Ha, Vietnam, July 1966

13 M-16 Rifle M-16 Rifle …Standard issue for infantrymen, fired.223 caliber/5.56mm bullets at a rate of 750-900 rounds per minute on automatic setting, or as fast as a soldier could pull the trigger on semiautomatic. The rifle had an effective range of about 435 yards. Before a late 1966 redesign, the fussy M16s responded poorly to wet, dirty field conditions, and often jammed during combat, resulting in numerous casualties. M16 cartridges came in 20 or 30-round "clips," which could be quickly popped in and out of the rifle's loading port during firefights.


15 M60 Machine Gun M60 Machine Gun Light enough to be carried on patrol and deadly in a firefight, the M60 fired up to 550 high-velocity bullets from a gas- powered belt fed system at a range of over 1,900 yards. The M60 could be fired from a bipod or tripod or from the hip. Perhaps its greatest limitation was the weight of its cartridge belts, which limited the amount of ammunition that could be carried into the field.

16 Soldiers fire a 105mm howitzer in support of infantry. This was the main artillery piece used by the US Army

17 ARVN soldiers with a captured VC prisoner after a June 1962 sweep on a suspected insurgent village…South Vietnamese Marines subject a VC prisoner to on-the-spot interrogation. The prisoners head is held under the water until hes about to drown. Hes then brought up and questioned. The process is repeated…

18 Bell UH-1 Helicopter Bell UH-1 Helicopter The Bell UH-1helicopter, popularly known as the "Huey," was the workhorse aircraft for US forces. Well adapted for jungle warfare, the Huey could fly at low altitudes and speeds, land in small clearings, maneuver to dodge enemy fire, and carry an array of powerful armaments. Among other duties, the versatile chopper transported troops, equipment, supplies, and support personnel into the field; provided additional firepower to troops engaged on the ground; and evacuated the dead and wounded.

19 Operation Ranch Hand When this failed to break down the jungle cover the USAF started Operation Ranch Hand – the defoliation program, using Agent Orange. – This deadly chemical cocktail, containing dioxin, killed off millions of acres of jungle to try to weaken the Vietcong – but left a horrendous legacy in Vietnam. – The dioxin got into the food chain causing chromosome damage to humans. There were hundreds of cases of children born with deformities.


21 Before/After: B-mangrove forest sprayed with Agent Orange in 1965. A-1970: the black patches show surviving trees

22 Operation Rolling Thunder In early 1965, the NLF attacked two U.S. army installations in South Vietnam, and as a result, Johnson ordered sustained bombing missions over North Vietnam. The bombing missions, known as Operation Rolling Thunder, caused the Communist Party to reassess its own war strategy During the war the US dropped 8 million tonnes of bombs on North Vietnam – destroy their industrial strength and ability to wage war They lost 3800 aircraft The air war was largely ineffective

23 B-52 Stratofortress B-52 Stratofortress Designed in the late 1940s to carry nuclear bombs on long-range, high-altitude missions to targets in the Soviet Union. Outfitted with conventional metal bombs at bases in Thailand and on Guam, B-52s flew tens of thousands of low-altitude, high- density bombing sorties in North and South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The massive bombing runs did not paralyze the enemy as they might have during more conventional warfare, but the B-52 proved instrumental in containing or breaking up North Vietnamese offensives, disrupting supply lines, and bringing the Communist forces to the negotiating table.

24 Phosphorous & Napalm Bombs Operation Rolling Thunder was backed up by phosphorous and napalm bombs – the latter causing dreadful burns to thousand of innocent civilians.

25 The most famous picture of the war. Children flee a misplaced napalm strike. The girl suffered severe back burns but her life was saved by an American doctor… This child was burned by napalm when US air force bombers attacked his village, where guerrillas were thought to be hiding

26 A NVA soldier reveals the entrance to a tunnel used as a hiding place by VC guerrillas

27 One of the tunnels in Cu Chi

28 Booby Traps- pungi sticks


30 Hidden Mines-A favorite spot for a mine was around a fallen tree or log lying across a path… SSgt. James Craig of the 2 nd Squadron, 11 th Cavalry, gingerly inspects a 22-lb Chinese mine during clearing operations near Quan Loi on Dec. 26, 1969

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