Technological Deficits in the Vietnam War

Topics: Vietnam War, Guerrilla warfare, Vietnam Pages: 7 (1527 words) Published: February 11, 2015


Hans Ree, Naurie Olamo, Sonny Tong
“Technological Deficits in the Vietnam War”
April 21, 2014

Without using any cutting-edge machinery, North Vietnam defeated both South Vietnam and the United States. The infantry followed its commands and the soldiers performed to the best of their capabilities, yet the weapons afforded to them fell short. Although the U.S. possessed superior technology and more troops, they ultimately lost the war due to the use of old tactics emphasizing gains in land; as America supplied its troops with unsuitably heavy weaponry, it rendered them incapable of immediately adapting to the guerilla tactics used by the Viet Cong who utilized their familiarity with the jungle terrain and superior mobility to attack. America lost the war because the weapons provided to the grunts and tunnel rats, although slightly different for each specialization, were unsuitable for the given environmental conditions, and for combating the guerilla tactics the Viet Cong employed. The weapons the grunts and tunnel rats possessed were too loud to engage in guerilla warfare. A single shot from an M-16 rifle was loud enough to alert any NLF or Viet Cong forces of the approaching American soldiers. Though the tunnel rats (American soldiers assigned the task of killing tunnel-using Viet Cong) did not carry the exact same supplies as the rest of the infantry, their gear lacked critical differences from regular gear, and therefore impeded their performance in tunnels. The pack frames and any other unnecessary weight that the soldiers carried (such as nearly 30 pound M-60’s or 20 pounds of ammunition) had to be taken off prior to entering Viet Cong tunnels, consequently slowing the troops and giving the Viet Cong more opportunities to attack. Moreover, the standard issue M-16 rifle deafened soldiers for a few seconds due to its high muzzle flash and loud noise. To combat this problem, American soldiers would scavenge for quieter and lighter revolvers or pistols that would make less noise in the tunnels, however, this detracted from their attention and alertness to the already silent Viet Cong, again, leaving them more susceptible to ambush and attack. Another flaw America had was that the grunts, the infantry (foot) soldiers, were not trained or supplied with the knowledge/materials to combat guerilla warfare. This kind of warfare utilized traps that would not necessarily kill, but disable and infect soldiers with diseases, resulting in more than 75,000 veterans becoming physically disabled. Traps could range from simple traps such as the Punji trap (spiked wheels that when stepped on, dismember the leg) to hidden explosives. The soldiers who received only basic training were utterly ill equipped for this type of warfare; none of their supplies, including weapons, had the capability to locate said traps, leaving every deployed soldier vulnerable with the weight of 90 pounds of grenade launchers, machine guns, and rifles, and odds and ends. While the Americans had major power arms at their disposal, such as the B-52 - a plane with a one ton capacity for bombs, and advanced weaponry relative to the Viet Congs, these capabilities were moot in terms of inflicting damage on the Viet Cong. Due to the Viet Cong’s underground tunnels and their anti-aircraft system, the heavy bombing of the North became a major drawback for the U.S. A study from the state department found that the bombing of the North Vietnam had no significant effect. The Vietcong forced 90,000 civilians to dig a 30,000-mile long underground tunnel to as a means to keep transport flowing. As a result, the agricultural economy of Vietnam was unaffected by the heavy bombing of the US. Furthermore, the bombing campaign was widely inaccurate; it was later found that 80% of all casualties were civilians. Aerial warfare not only failed to adequately harm the North, it inversely rebounded onto the U.S. in the form of casualties and...

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Vietnam War photos still powerful nearly 50 years later - NBC News
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