2 Vietnam War (part II- 1965-1975): Escalation & Stalemate (1965-68) By’65 SVN Gov appeared on verge of collapse:NVN shifts to large scale military attacksOperational strategy: destroy SVN main forcesShift to stage 3 was strategically premature – why?US response: (1965 =>’68) major force ?_______________Fortunately for NVN, US force escalation was gradual:LBJ incrementally increased pressure (Ltd War Theory)But NVN able to absorb pain & rebuild/re-supplyMade minor tactical adjustments & continued war
3 Rolling Thunder’s Impact Rolling Thunder’s limited impact:Gradually increased IAW Limited War TheoryResult:Failed to meet operational objectives:NVN continued to infiltrate & re-supply/reinforce VC insurgents in the southAll along well established Ho Chi Minh TrailGeneral Westmoreland’s Operational Strategy on the ground:Halt enemy’s momentum =>Provide security to citiesThen: major search & destroy operations:Aim:Punish main force units & break NLF rural leadSubsequent to above – stabilize & pacify SouthCompel enemy to negotiate terms with US
4 Battle of Ia Drang (Nov’65) Central Highlands:1st major direct clash between US & NVANVA corps executes series of ops in Pleiku area:Aim: “knock out blow to SVN”Plan: conduct diversion on SF camp near Plei MeThen ambush the relief columnClassic lure & ambush tactic
5 Execution 1st stage – NVA diversion is successful: NVA springs ambush on ARVN relief columnThen US & SVN units launch sharp counterattackGain fire superiority with infantry, Arty, & CAS air strikesNVA plan defeated => conduct tactical withdrawalInterim Result:NVA: 850 KIA & 1700 WIAWesty sent 1st Air Cavalry to search & destroy of enemy:Series of violent clashes ensue14 Nov: largest encounter at LZ X-ray (Map)Fierce & heroic fighting ensued at individual platoon level*
6 Medal of HonorCitation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. As a platoon leader in the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), 1st Lt. Marm demonstrated indomitable courage during a combat operation. His company was moving through the valley to relieve a friendly unit surrounded by an enemy force of estimated regimental size. 1st Lt. Marm led his platoon through withering fire until they were finally forced to take cover. Realizing that his platoon could not hold very long, and seeing four enemy soldiers moving into his position, he moved quickly under heavy fire and annihilated all 4. Then, seeing that his platoon was receiving intense fire from a concealed machinegun, he deliberately exposed himself to draw its fire. Thus locating its position, he attempted to destroy it with an antitank weapon. Although he inflicted casualties, the weapon did not silence the enemy fire. Quickly, disregarding the intense fire directed on him and his platoon, he charged 30 meters across open ground, and hurled grenades into the enemy position, killing some of the 8 insurgents manning it. Although severely wounded, when his grenades were expended, armed with only a rifle, he continued the momentum of his assault on the position and killed the remainder of the enemy. 1st Lt. Marm's selfless actions reduced the fire on his platoon, broke the enemy assault, and rallied his unit to continue toward the accomplishment of this mission. 1st Lt. Marm's gallantry on the battlefield and his extraordinary intrepidity at the risk of his life are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
7 US CounterattackAs NVA attack – US counterattack with superior fire powerArty bombardment from other LZs (8K rounds expended)F-105 & B-52 CAS (friendly fire cas result)Bitter “danger close” fighting last 2 days(LTC Moore declared: “Broken Arrow”)Then NVA withdraw & set ambushNext day 2nd Battalion of 7th Calvary ambushed & suffer heavy casualties at LZ AlbanyCasualties: NVA – 3K KIA US: 300Impact on Giap & Westy’s conclusion about their Strategy?
8 Strategy of Attrition – Flaws? Westy concluded his strategy of attrition would workAssumption: US can inflict unbearable losses on NVAwhile keeping US casualties within acceptable limitsHistoric experience: all ran counter to previous events:WWII & recent experience in Asia:Recall US campaigns in Japan (Oki & Iwo) & KoreaRecent French experience in Vietnam at Dien Bien PhuEnemy sacrifice: Giap will sacrifice as many as it takes:Willing to sacrifice any amount of casualties necessary to winNVN’s Protracted War strategy = based on sacrificeTo what extent was US willing to go same distance?NVA control of losses: can chose when & where to strikeRetained strategic & tactical initiativeAwait US to depart op area => then reoccupyResult: No lasting operational solution=> fluid & dynamic sitcom
9 Political Dimension Political aspect gained importance over time: While military situation bogged downSaigon government in state of fluxCoup recently ousted (assassinated) DiemPower struggle among SVN generals sucked all oxygen outSeries of coups & counter-coups followsWar refugees crowd cityCorruption/black market/vice escalateAmerican society became divided over war with time:Anti-war protests escalateBoth Hawks vs. Doves want out“Go all the way militarily” vs. “give peace a chance”
10 Tet’68 & Battle for Hue Battle Prep: Operational Aim: Spring/summer’67 NVA prepare for major offensiveOperational Aim:Break deadlock of current operational situationOperational Strategy (NVA) & concept of operations:Diversion: lure US to remote areas away from citiesLaunch coordinated NVA/NLF strike on major citiesStrategic Objectives & ultimate strategic aim:Weaken SVN government & spark general uprisingConcurrently pursue negotiations w/US -objective?Get US to halt ?_______ & ?____________ allies/weaken SVNShape favorable coalition government & US departure
11 Execution – Phase I NVA attack Con Thien, Loc Ninh, Song Be, Dak To NVA lay siege on Khe Sanh (USMC/SF) outpostWesty reacts as NVA expected him to(Eager to confront NVA in major battle):Immediately dispatches re-enforcements & disperses forces to sound of guns(Major intelligence failure => managed perception by NVA)Result: major cities left vulnerable =>US combat troops deployed out of urban areas to field
12 Execution- Phase II NVA/NLF launch coordinated strikes on cities All timed but poorly coordinatedAttack 36 capitols, including assaults on:AMEMB, Tan Son Shut, & HueFollowing initial shock=> US/ARVN counterattackInflict heavy casualties & recover all cities except?
13 Battle for Hue (31 Jan-2 Mar’68) Background: cultural & religious capital of VietnamHue became major battle w/fierce conventional combatOrder of Battle:NVA: 2 infantry regiments & 2 NLF (VC) BattalionsUS: 8 USMC Battalions ARVN: 13 BattalionsBattle Preparation (NVA):Extensive pre-battle preparations:NVA pre-stage ammo/supplyElite advance units (sappers) clandestinely inserted prior to Tet attack
14 Execution NVA Advance units seize & hold key tactical objectives: Await reinforcements who arrive as plannedSoon NVA/NLF control most of Hue & its CitadelThreaten US Military Command HQTotal tactical surprise achievedInitial US/ARVN counterattacks fail:Brutal deadly fighting & close quarter battles ensue
15 Assaults & Counterattacks NVA conduct pre-set ambushes & inflict heavy casualties1 Feb: resist USMC major assaultNVA well entrenchedConduct effective counterattacksFirm decision to take Hue back results in destruction7th Fleet A/C & Arty bombard NVA positions in HueHue’s ancient historical treasures heavily damagedFinally Hue & Citadel retaken after bitter fighting & high causalities
16 Military & Political Impact of Tet & Hue NVA & NLF militarily defeatedForced to withdraw from initials gainsNo uprising of populace against SVN governmentNo other planned objectives achievedNLF units (VC) devastatedWould not recover for long timeTactical victory for US & ARVN forces- but at high costs:Heavy casualties suffered by US in retaking HueUS: 1100 KIA ARVN: 2300But brutality of the war would be bought home to America on TV
17 Strategic & Political Impact of Tet & Hue Major US domestic political impact:Tet was major surprise to all AmericansWestmoreland & LBJ viewed by Americans as not credibleWeeks prior launched PAO effort in US:Aim: convince all we had “turned the corner”Administration assessments overoptimisticPolitical disaster for LBJ:Public support for war plummetsLBJ approval rating drops to 26%!Drops out of 1968 presidential electionLBJ halts bombing & & ends gradual escalation policyIndicates desire to negotiate with NVAOnly Tactical move=> strategic objective remained – which was?
18 Stalemate: Negotiating & Fighting (1968-1975) Nixon takes over Whitehouse in Jan 1969Claimed to have secret plan to end war – he didn’tFollowing failure of Kissinger's initial secret diplomacy, to include:Military threats (ignored) & covert activitiesUS resorts to “Vietnamization” strategy *Meanwhile=> NVN conduct strategy of “fighting while negotiating” (like in Korea)Closely coordinates military & political actions:Intensify maximum pressure to affect US home frontAim: Divide & worsen US-SVN differences
19 Nixon’s Secret Strategy The “Carrot & Stick” Nixon sends Kissinger to begin talks with NVN representative:Conveys strong desire for peaceful settlementProposed mutual withdrawal & restoration of DMZFollowed by secret bombing of NVA sanctuariesIn Cambodia & along Ho Chi Minh trailTo Public:Nixon announced Peace Plan to withdraw 25K troopsThrough Soviet & French contacts=>Threatens dire consequences if NVN rejects proposalHow did NVN respond to Nixon’s carrot & stick proposal
20 NVA Response NVN rejected Nixon’s carrot & stick proposal: Called Nixon’s bluffConcluded Nixon’s offer is really nothing new =>Virtually the same as LBJ’s previous oneBut NVN also hurting badly from battle damage from Tet’68 repulse:Must return to guerilla warfare & strategic defense (stage 1)NVN Strategy: consolidate & rebuild political structureDrag out negotiations with US & ignore Nixon’s threatWear Nixon down (like LBJ)Try to persuade Nixon to halt bombing
21 Vietnamization – or “Exit Strategy” Strategy to implement:US Advisors step up preparation of SVN counterpartsAim: get ARVN ready to take-over combat opsBuild-up SVN military strength & equipmentsVast re-supply effort initiated:New/modern weapons & equipment provided to SVNSVN also substantially increased its own forcesNixon mobilized public support for VietnamizationGives speeches & makes direct appeal to AmericansAlso attempted to persuade NVN to talk with US now(Rather than later with SVN)
22 Cambodian “Incursion” (April 1970) & Political Fall Out US & SVN conducted series of raids on Cambodian sanctuaries (done with acceptable execution)Required US CAS & advisors supportWhen leaked=> Nixon attempted to explain on TVBackfired into major protestsKent State became a symbol of student distrust & frustration
23 1972 Easter OffensiveNVN prepared for “final military offensive” to topple SVNMeanwhile=> Nixon & Kissinger pursued Triangular Diplomacy (?)Purpose & strategic objective of Triangular Diplomacy ?Detach NVN from its Soviet & PRC supportersForce NVN to negotiate seriously with USUSSRPRCNVN
24 Execution Mar’72: NVA launch conventional offensive into SVN: Infiltrate along Ho Chi Minh trail route into south:Strike, Kontum, Saigon, & Quang TriNVA attack ARVN main force units:Force ARVN to abandon Quang Tri & KontumARVN still able to hold An LocTake advantage of US combat troop withdrawals:US unable to provide combat ground support:SOF advisors only US combat ground troops availableUS still provides extensive combat air support (CAS)
25 Nixon’s Response: Linebacker I Nixon initially taken by surprise by aggressive offense:Orders B-52 strikes across DMZ ASAPLinebacker I beginsAlso orders mining of Haiphong harborsNVN shot down many US Air Craft– exhaust their supply of SAMsUS scrambled to rescue downed pilots – but how & with what?Only US combat ground troops available in Quang Tri are a few SOF advisors (Vietnamization)So they will have to do (later)*But NVA LOCs stretched to limitRe-supply too hard (bombing toll)ARVN acquit themselves wellHeavy casualties for both sides“Big Picture” type events often turn on individual actions…
27 1973 Paris Peace Agreement Following failed Easter Offensive Stalemate continuesUS Domestic politics:Nixon faced re-election in Nov’72:Sought to fulfill campaign promise of ’68 campaign:End war with “honor”Air War became more of a political problem – why?More sorties = more shoot downs = more ?_______________Still NVN becoming more & more isolated from sponsors:Triangular Diplomacy on NVN having desired effectNVN concludes Nixon likely to win 1972 re-electionBetter to deal with him before than after election
28 Breakthrough? Both sides moved slowly toward compromise: Major US Concession: NVA allowed to remain in placeFollowing Cease Fire (in place)In return=> NVN: dropped insistence on Thieu’s ousterSVN: resisted terms & obstructs settlement – why?What do they expect will happen without the US presence & direct support in SVN?Kissinger more interested in concluding any settlementDownplayed Thieu’s objections=> wants US to sign anywayNixon sympathized with Thieu’s concerns & rejected Kissinger’s proposal => wants additional modifications to agreementNixon ordered Kissinger to get NVN to accept amendmentsK then attempted to modify conditions already accepted by NVNNVN soundly reject attempt to modify agreed to version
29 “Peace is at hand” (?)Progress on the settlement then stalled a week before US Presidential Elections:NVN retreated to their prior hard-line positionReleased news of previously agreed upon deal to PressKissinger was forced to “clarify” NVN’s statement to pressResults in his now famous quote of Oct 1972:“Peace is at hand”But events on the ground that very same day were anything but peaceful…
30 Linebacker II – the Christmas Bombing (Dec 1972) NVN became recalcitrant & restated their previous positions:Nixon & Kissinger become frustrated with continued NVN stallingNixon then ordered renewed & more aggressive bombingsNixon to CJCS:“ now’s your chance to win militarily”Linebacker II (The “Christmas Bombing”) beganSOF advisor-teams resume clandestine combat operations against NVA & VC
31 Agreement ReachedNVN exhaust remaining SAMs with little chance of re-supply from Soviets or PRCAgree to resume serious talks w/USNixon promised Thieu US will stand firm for SVNMade secret commitment to protect SVN if Truce is violatedConvinced Thieu to agree to settlement termsHe has little choice…US & NVN come to terms & sign essentially the same earlier agreed upon settlement in Jan’73:US troops return along with most of US POWsBut 2500 MIA remained unaccounted for
32 Final Offensive Following US withdrawal => tensions mount Both SVN & NVN jockey for advantage & positionNVN bide their time & await opportunity to strikeMeanwhile US continues support to SVNCivilian (CIA contract) advisors replaced militaryEarly 1975: NVA launch final offensive to South:ARVN resist=> withdraw => retreat => panic => & finally become routedThieu ordered re-establishment of defense line to SouthBut ARVN Troops see hand writing on the wallNobody wants to be last soldier to die in failed warArmy soon collapsedThieu then resigned & departed Vietnam for good
33 Fall of Saigon (30 April 1975)President Ford & Kissinger desperately try to gain Congress support for SVNCongress refuses to allow Air (ground is nonstarter) supportNot about to fulfill secret Nixon promise they were unaware ofAmerica had had it in VietnamAmericans begin evacuation of US citizens & select SVNEmergency evacuation operation to USN ships takes many but not most of SVN refugees trying to fleeNVA tanks then enter SaigonCity falls 30 April 1975
34 The Vietnam War’s Legacy Ambiguous & unclearOpen to many interpretationsUS Tactics validated:Helicopter & its role in future operationsSmart bombs for precision guided strikesNew era of air warfare rises (B-52 CAS)NVN strategy vs. US industrial power debated:Agricultural society defeats major industrial power?Questionable NVN claim of victory model for futureContrasting strategies evaluated:People’s protracted war strategy (Giap willing to go to limit)US strategy of attrition (Search & destroy tactics not effective)Military versus political objectives (Political Will is essential)
36 Conflicting post-War Analysis Several hard lessons were learned as a result of VietnamFor some=> we simply backed the wrong horse:US Military power & $$$ support never be enough regardless=>Military & $ pwr couldn’t prop up RVN’s corrupt & failed regimeLocal revolutionary war fought for nationalistic & political aimsTherefore US caught in middle of bitter civil warFor others: war too hard to win under political constraints:War considered integral part of global Cold War threatKey political concern for LBJ administration: avoid escalationBoth in intensity of fighting & geographic regionResult: US attempted to fight limited conventional warWithout a coherent & realistic operational strategyWhile applying separate poorly chosen tactics to support it
37 Serious Strategic Disconnect US approach to war appeared to have serious disconnects:Political Aims were unrealistic given the military constraints setOperational Strategy poorly matched to those strategic aimsTactics employed served a failing strategyResult: Tactical success served a poor operational strategyWhich in turn attempted to achieve Unrealistic strategic aims =>Which ultimately resulted in political failure at the end of the dayPolitical decisions makers failed to realize until too late:That superior American military power can’t make up for what?American people’s lack of political will to continue war indefinitely!These failures would affect many in different waysIncluding foreign policy decisions taken following the Cold War
38 Review of Vietnam’s Lessons Long term status of Communism vs. capitalismCapitalism is alive and well (even in China & Vietnam)Review of Vietnam’s Lessons Learned:CI vs. Conventional warfareRole of battle environment? (which favors which?)Plans & deserts vs. jungles & mountains (& now cities)Political constraints on US military power(was military victory precluded by the politicians?)Assessment of Limited War Doctrine:Incremental & graduated response failed big time
39 Modern Hi-tech Military Advances Flexible Response strategy required expansion & modernization of US conventional forcesSECDEF McNamara played a major role in modernizing US forcesEstablished “Brush War” capability (like for Vietnam)USAF & USN build-up:WWII BBs refitted & updated (USS New Jersey)CV/CVN on Yankee Station in Tokin Gulf launch F-4 & A-4 strikesB-52 (Guam) & F105/F-4 (Thailand): Rolling Thunder
40 Weapons Technology Advances High Tech Equipment development included:Radar units small & portable developedSniffers detect infiltrators’ odorsSensors & passive transmitters alert SF teamsIBM 1430s computers predict enemy movementsPuff (AC-47 gunships) & AFSOC AC-130 Specter Gunships provide devastating fire support
41 Troops, Weapons, & Equipment Troops: best ever trained & equipped to date:1 Million men combat ready & divisions expand:11 to 16Airlift & equipment stockpiles expandedArmy reorganization:Task oriented for specific jobsDirect ground support weapons & equipment:Armor Personnel CarriersWeapon advances: (M-60, M-16, Stoner LMG, M-79)Helo & its role: UH-1, Cobra, CH-47, 1st Air Cavalry
42 Strategy of Attrition: Search & Destroy Operational strategies often involve individual actions and consequences for those who must implement themFor conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Seeing indications of the enemy's presence in the area, S/Sgt. Morris deployed his squad and continued forward alone to make a reconnaissance. He unknowingly crawled within 20 meters of an enemy machinegun, whereupon the gunner fired, wounding him in the chest. S/Sgt. Morris instantly returned the fire and killed the gunner. Continuing to crawl within a few feet of the gun, he hurled a grenade and killed the remainder of the enemy crew. Although in pain and bleeding profusely, S/Sgt. Morris continued his reconnaissance. Returning to the platoon area, he reported the results of his reconnaissance to the platoon leader. As he spoke, the platoon came under heavy fire. Refusing medical attention for himself, he deployed his men in better firing positions confronting the entrenched enemy to his front. Then for 8 hours the platoon engaged the numerically superior enemy force. Withdrawal was impossible without abandoning many wounded and dead. Finding the platoon medic dead, S/Sgt. Morris administered first aid to himself and was returning to treat the wounded members of his squad with the medic's first aid kit when he was again wounded. Knocked down and stunned, he regained consciousness and continued to treat the wounded, reposition his men, and inspire and encourage their efforts. Wounded again when an enemy grenade shattered his left hand, nonetheless he personally took up the fight and armed and threw several grenades which killed a number of enemy soldiers. Seeing that an enemy machinegun had maneuvered behind his platoon and was delivering the fire upon his men, S/Sgt. Morris and another man crawled toward the gun to knock it out. His comrade was killed and S/Sgt. Morris sustained another wound, but, firing his rifle with one hand, he silenced the enemy machinegun. Returning to the platoon, he courageously exposed himself to the devastating enemy fire to drag the wounded to a protected area, and with utter disregard for his personal safety and the pain he suffered, he continued to lead and direct the efforts of his men until relief arrived. Upon termination of the battle, important documents were found among the enemy dead revealing a planned ambush of a Republic of Vietnam battalion. Use of this information prevented the ambush and saved many lives. S/Sgt. Morris' gallantry was instrumental in the successful defeat of the enemy, saved many lives, and was in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.