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What different tactics were used by both sides in an attempt to win the conflict in Vietnam between 1956 and 1968?

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Introduction

What different tactics were used by both sides in an attempt to win the conflict in Vietnam between 1956 and 1968? The Vietcong and the USA used very different tactics. This was mainly because of the difference in the way the two sides were equipped; the VC were a small poorly equipped group who had to use weapons they had acquired. The Americans were the most industrialized nation in the world and therefore had access to the most advanced weaponry of the time. While the Americans had the advantage of having the most advanced weaponry the VC had the advantage of knowing and being used to the area they were fighting in and whilst the Americans needed to win the war quickly the VC could go on fighting for as long as it took. The two sides did change their tactics throughout the war to adapt to what the other side was doing. Although the sides changed tactics their principal methods of engaging the enemy remained the same; the VC used guerrilla warfare and the Americans used open warfare. The concept of guerrilla warfare is to gradually wear down the enemy. The tactics included; retreating when the enemy attacks, raiding when the enemy camps, attacking when the enemy tires and pursuing when the enemy retreats. ...read more.

Middle

The VC was also helped by the geography of Vietnam; they knew the areas better than the Americans and they were more used to the climate. They used the jungle to hide in and operated at night. As a lot of US troops were being killed or wounded by booby traps and no VC were being found or killed as they were hiding in the jungle the Americans decided that it would be a good idea to destroy this jungle and then the VC would be forced out into open warfare. If this happened the Vietcong would easily be defeated by the superior American firepower. The US sprayed defoliants on the jungle to kill off the vegetation so the VC couldn't hide; it was also sprayed on some crops to cut off the Vietcong's food supply. The two main defoliants uses were agent orange (chemical) and napalm (Jellied petroleum). This tactic was not a success; the napalm was often dropped on innocent people and it caused 5th degree burns (through to the bone), agent orange was found to contain a dioxin which caused cancer this affected many American handlers. To avoid the bombs and the defoliants the VC went into underground tunnels. At first these tunnels were simple but they soon became complex. ...read more.

Conclusion

The VC incurred heavy losses in the offensive; the north regarded it as a failure. For American officials it added up to a defeat for the communists. The impression given by the American press was very different, their reporting of the incident gave the impression of an American and South Vietnamese defeat and of a war that America could never win. The TET offensive was an important turning point because it turned public opinion against the war in Vietnam. Johnson knew he would not be re-elected and so he turned down his party's nomination to run as president. He also knew that peace talks would now have to take place. In concluding I believe that it was never really possible for the American tactics to succeed the main reason for this is the US needed the South Vietnamese peasants on their side and all their tactics did was hurt them. The strategic Hamlet policy forcefully removed them from their homes and charged for this, the dropping of defoliants gave them horrible burns (napalm) and poisoned them (agent orange) and the search and destroy left them with no homes, livestock or crops. The geography of Vietnam also wasn't suitable for the main American tactic of open warfare; it suited the VC's tactic of guerrilla warfare. The Americans were always backing a loser who didn't have the will to fight its enemy. ...read more.

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