How effective were the tactics used by the US during the Vietnam War?

Topics: Vietnam War, South Vietnam, Vietnam Pages: 7 (2853 words) Published: February 5, 2014
How effective were the tactics used by the US during the Vietnam War? The US used many tactics during the war with Vietnam and the tactics used were usually for one of two purposes: to destroy the Vietcong or win over the peasantry, which was what the population of Vietnam generally consisted of. However, some tactics proved to be more effective than others, and they were inter-related as one often wouldn’t work without the other. The US Army, alongside the South Vietnamese Army (the ARVN) found it difficult to beat the Vietcong tactics. It was important for the USA to gain support from the peasants living in Vietnam as it was necessary to convince them that the US army were doing the right thing for their country by defeating the Vietcong, thus preventing the spread of communism, which was the main reason for America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The series of tactics were designed to ‘win hearts and minds’, these tactics were very important to America in order to gain popularity amongst the Vietnamese population as the then president of the USA, Lyndon Baines Johnson used the phrase frequently and in May 1965 he said that: "So we must be ready to fight in Viet-Nam, but the ultimate victory will depend upon the hearts and the minds of the people who actually live out there”, which suggests that this was a key tactic during the War. The ‘winning hearts and minds’ programme consisted of three main tactics: strategic hamlets, pacification and democratisation. Due to the US and ARVN’s concern on Vietcong influence on the peasantry, the Strategic Hamlet programme was introduced in 1962. These were fortified villages, designed to protect peasants from the Vietcong and preventing the Vietcong from spreading communism among them. It consisted of moving peasants from various villages into the local strategic hamlet, where they were under control of the South Vietnamese army. Kevin Ruane said that the strategic hamlets were “designed to relocate the peasantry in areas where the army could protect them from Viet Cong terror and propaganda”. These were made because when the Americans first got involved in the Vietnam War, they established that the countryside needed to be controlled because the Vietcong only operated in the countryside in order to get support from the peasants also, after an attack, they could easily disappear into the jungle. However, the programme was very unsuccessful and counter-productive. In the hope that the villagers would be in favour of the ARVN and US’ actions, the peasants instead sympathized with Vietcong activity and resented the South’s regime. The strategic hamlets proved to be very ineffective as the peasants resented the idea from moving away from their homes, which had greatly affected their livelihoods and lifestyle. Also, as they were forced to move, this increased enmity towards the Ngo Dinh Bien government. Labour politician Denis Healey, after visiting a strategic hamlet in 1954, said that “It was a disaster. Peasants should never be taken more than five miles from the land where they farm”. Furthermore, peasants were promised money in exchange for building new villages and hamlets but their money was never given to them, which was a nuisance. The Spartacus website says that ‘one pointed out that: “Peasants resented working without pay to dig moats, implant bamboo stakes”.’ Also, as large stockades were built around the village, this led to the peasants feeling imprisoned and restricted in their own villages. As there was an increase in sympathy towards the Vietcong and communism, this linked to how there was a 300% increase over 2 years in NLF membership, which links to how the Strategic Hamlet programme failed and created the opposite result intended. Pacification was a counterinsurgency program launched by the USA and South Vietnamese government. It was another way the US tried to ‘win the hearts and minds’ of the South Vietnamese people and strengthen the hold of the South’s...
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