By 1973, after a decade of brutal armed contact and with nearly 60,000 Americans dead, the once proud and mighty USA had been brought to its knees. Feeling isolated the USA decided to abandon its commitment in Vietnam after rising pressure from years of mistakes. America withdrew from Vietnam due to several main reasons; some were long-term e.g. Protests of the American citizens, and others were short-term factors e.g. Morale of American soldiers. In this essay I will discuss the main factors for American withdrawal from Vietnam and try to process the most important ones. I will show how the US media combined with protests in the USA was the most important reason for American withdrawal and ultimately led to the American withdrawal from Vietnam.
America’s first mistake regarding the war was the most fundamental. Their tactics. All of America’s tactics were inappropriate, brutal and they were only looking for fast solutions and never the bigger picture. America did the worst thing possible in a war and based all of their tactics on assumptions, which by matter of coincidence were all wrong. The first indication of American tactics being reckless and inappropriate was the infamous “Operation Rolling Thunder” ordered by LBJ and subjected the Ho Chi Minh Trail and other suspected communist bases in South Vietnam to bombing for 8 weeks. 3 ½ years later more bombs had been dropped on South Vietnam than all the bombs that were dropped in the Second World War, the Ho Chi Minh Trail was still intact and the most casualties inflicted were those on Vietnamese civilians leading America to lose the “Hearts and Minds” of the Vietnamese. After the very first battle of Vietnam, set in The Ia Drang valley, America set a pattern for their tactics which would remain for the rest of the war; tactics which would question the very competence of the American government. General Westmoreland was convinced that if the communists maintained heavy losses they could not and would not continue the war, and also that the American people would accept the American losses if it meant the communists could be defeated. This lead to America measuring their success in the war by using kill to death ratios. In other words, if communists were losing more soldiers than America, then America was winning, and vice versa. General Westmoreland continued to believe that a use of superior firepower over the communists would lead to victory in any battle combined with the usage of search and destroy missions (for lack of a better word, wandering aimlessly into communist territory and expecting to surprise them).
In light of the above it’s not surprising that whilst American tactics were failing, the communist’s guerrilla tactics yielded success over the Americans. After the first battle in The Ia Drang Valley the Vietcong knew they could not win large battles with the US as they had backing artillery and air support. They instead opted to do ‘Hit & Run’ guerrilla raids on unsuspecting American troops during search and destroy missions. This would mean much fewer casualties and also having the element of surprise over the Americans. If they were forced into a large battle the Vietcong would try to stay close to the enemy to stop the Americans from calling artillery and air support (they wouldn’t want to hit their own troops of course). Over 51% of Americans killed in the war were killed by small arms i.e. pistols, machine guns, basic military equipment. The communists never tried to think they could go face to face with the full might of the American army and so devised guerrilla tactics to fight a war the Americans were unfamiliar with and were reluctant to fight. Whilst America was always on the lookout for NVA troops to have a large battle they assumed that the less trained Vietcong guerrilla fighters would be of little threat and left them to the ARVN. Whilst the Americans hopelessly looked for the NVA, the Vietcong would watch on and when they least expected...
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