This was carried out by helicopters escorting the troops to designated areas to search and eliminate any force they seeked out. This was a major advantage for the US troops as it allowed for swift and accurate deployment of troops and helped remove wounded from certain areas. Moreover, the terrain and geographical perspective of Vietnam made troop movement extremely difficult and the best and easiest way to travel was in the air.
The reality of these tactics and operations was quite different. US troops normally made mistakes as the could never tell the difference between a VC and a civilian, this was because there was no unique difference between clothing; they did not wear a specific attire or uniform. This was further aggravated by false information fed to the troops. This was done by troops attacking wrong villages containing no VC however due to no uniform it was extremely hard to determine whether to kill or not. These lead to an extremely high civilian death rate and also led to the un-popularity of the US troops and South Vietnamese Army (SVA). In addition to this, American troops also had very little training and experience in the terrain of Vietnam. This gave the opposition a huge advantage as the US troops would follow the stream or river allowing the VC to counter them from all angles and side. This also led to a high US death rate.
Correspondingly, Westmoreland also introduced the Body Count. This was the amount of VC killed by a single troop. The main objective was to increase moral in Vietnam but also back home in America. They would want to know whether these missions and tactics were a success. Through the data you would be under the impression that all these operations were working well and all were a success. However, the reality was different, as these figures were mainly a lie. Many soldiers would lie on their count. Then this information was falsified in the information sent back to the USA. Additionally, after a raid, they could barely tell the difference between a dead VC and a dead Civilian, so they would estimate how many were killed. But, to add the VC would also try and remove dead bodies were ever possible.
However, the effectiveness of Search and Destroy could now be call into question. Throughout the continuation of Search and Destroy Operations and raids the VC and NVL thought of ways to counter these tactics. This made it extremely difficult for US troops to keep the “high” body count. This led to the US Troops to find more serviceable ways of using the Search and Destroy tactic, which meant going hands on into the suspected villages and looking for evidence to show that they were aiding Vietcong soldiers, if they found any traces of them facilitating the VC they would burn the village. This type of Search and Destroy method was called a Zippo Raid due to the type of lighter used. However, this tactic can be called into question as many South Vietnamese civilians were injured and badly affected in these raids. This would affect the US ethos of Winning the Hearts and Minds of the Vietnamese. What this actually did was it provoked the South Vietnamese people against them.
Furthermore, this led to the My Lai Massacre which was undoubtedly one of the most notorious events of the Vietnam War. My Lai was a village with roughly 700. On March 16th 1968, 1 platoon was commanded by Lieutenant William Calley and was ordered to My Lai village. They were part of Task Force Barker – the codename for a search and destroy mission. They had been told to expect to find members of the NLF (called Vietcong or VC by the US soldiers) in the vicinity as the village was in an area where the NLF had been very active. The platoon moved through the village and shot many Men, Women and Child even if not of military nature. Many children between the ages of 3 – 5 were also killed. Afterwards, those who returned to the village claimed that it took three days to bury the bodies. They were later to report that some of the children had their throats cut and that some of the bodies had not just been shot but had also been mutilated.
During the course of the Vietnam War, defoliation also seemed a very unlawful tactic, a lot of special operations were created using defoliation. In addition, it was many used to un-cover enemy save havens and the Ho Chi Minh trail. Many societies would agree that the use of defoliant and napalm seemed increasingly aggressive.
Agent Orange is a toxic chemical herbicide that was used from about 1965 – 1970. It is fifty times more concentrated than normal herbicides, this extreme intensity completely destroys all plants in the area. Agent Orange was one of the main mixtures used during Operation Ranch Hand. The Operation was intended to deprive Vietnamese farmers and guerrilla fighters of clean food and water in hopes they would relocate to areas more heavily controlled by the US, to add the operation then went on to source out the Ho Chi Minh trail.
Operation Ranch Hand spanned out over a gloomy nine years, the air force had long running campaigns to defoliate jungles and Vietnamese terrain. Their main objective to deprive the communist forces. The basis of Ranch Hand was simple, the American soldiers want to strip the vegetation and jungle growth to be better protected against an ambush against the VC and the help locate the trail. Many air force planes contained defoliate to help save lives in the field. The code named used for these kinds of attacks was “cowboy”.
However, you cannot judge Defoliation to be a success. One aspect was to un-cover the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The Trail allowed VC to transport ammunition, guns and food to areas in the South were VC were talking refuge. The trail went through a vast type of terrain varying from jungles to mountainous regions. The US never found the Trail after countless defoliation and search missions due to the fact that the trail never went through Vietnam itself, it went through Neighbouring countries such as Cambodia. Moreover, the preposterous amount of Defoliants exposed to civilians caused major birth defects to new born babies.
In addition, Agent Orange was not the only type of chemical used in the Vietnam War. There was a substance called Napalm used additionally. Napalm was used from about 1965 to around 1972. Napalm is an adhesive petroleum which is an almost jelly like substance, but when ignited sticks practically to anything. Napalm was first used in flamethrowers for the US ground troops. They burned sections of the forest down in hopes of eliminating guerrilla fighters. Later into the War B-52 Bombers began to drop bombs containing the substance napalm. These bombs were quite deadly as they were capable of destroying 2500 square yards. The amount of Napalm used was three times as much as that was used in World War II.