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In WWII the average age of the combat soldier was 26, in vietnam it was 19 (thanks Paul Hardcastle).
I think this probably had the biggest impact on the behaviour of the soldiers, along with 'Guerilla' warfare, not knowing who the enemy was, weak Platoon leadership etc.
Imagine being a 19 year old, witnessing such atrocities at such a young age is bound to influence your decision making skills.
In retrospect it was a completely futile war, but I guess there were lots of people who made an absolute fortune out of it. Somebody always doesedit on 19/10/13 by Cobaltic1978 because: (no reason given)
The Vietnam War was simply a cash cow for the military industrial complex. It wasn't about winning or stopping communism, it was about companies like Boeing making a fortune. Bullets fired, need to buy new ones. Plane goes down, need to buy a new one. If the US tried to win the war, the gravy train would be over.
As for the body count, well, we still needed to look like we were trying to win, and keep the Vietnamese fighting. In previous wars (except Korea), the US would follow the correct Sun Tzu strategy of winning the war by destroying the enemy's ability to wage war. If the enemy can't manufacture weapons, can't feed or transport troops, they will realize they can't win. Surrender is the only option.
Instead, if you just kill civilians, women and children, that will only enrage the enemy and make them want revenge. The war goes on, and military contractors keep making money. It's like Gen. Smedly Butler said in his book; in war, people are asked to make sacrifices, but arms manufacturers prices go up.
Vietnam is the first real live media covered war too, it had far more exposure to the public eye, 'as it happened', than any previously. This would account for the greater outcry about it. More people knew stuff.
Stuff is handy.
Shugo, I too am a student of history, and I appreciate those who look at the present from a historical perspective. The advantage that many miss about history is that it allows you to see an event from more points of view than your own, and you're able to see things more clearly. Of course this is assuming that the history that you're looking at is not to skewed to the writers' bias.
When I consider the strategy for the Vietnam war, I can't think of another strategy than the one that was chosen that would make any sense, as the war was one of attrition. I also consider the attitudes of the people making the decisions. It would be hard to argue that LBJ's attitude toward 'commies' was anything other than 'kill them all', and that his attitude would extend to civilians as well as combatants. I don't think LBJ really liked brown people too much. LBJ's feelings on the matter just happened to match in effect, if not in impetus, the strategy most likely to achieve victory conditions in the most efficient way. In theory.
The NVA had a counter strategy that was very effective, and that was to 'hamstring' American forces. The KIA count on the NVA side is remembered at a little over a million. (Just considering combatant counts now, not collateral damage.) The KIA count for the USA a little under 60,000. The number that is more important to look at in this war, when considering the NVA strategy is the wounded in action count.
We killed a million of them, and wounded 600 thousand. They only killed 60 thousand of us, but they wounded 350 thousand. They're strategy was to attack our resources of time, manpower, and equipment. They used the fact that we would never leave a fallen soldier behind against us. They knew that if they were to only wound us, we would be too busy taking care of the wounded to fight. The logistics, the labor, and the expense necessary to care for a wounded soldier is twentyfold that of a dead one.
With the enemy's strategy in mind, I still believe that kill as many as you can as fast as you can is the best strategy. My personal philosophical attitude toward the war itself has nothing to do with the fact that I regard the chosen strategy to be the correct one.
The VC delivered a similar warning to the residents of a hamlet not far from Danang. All were herded before the home of their chief. While they and the chief’s pregnant wife and four children were forced to look on, the chief’s tongue was cut out. Then his genital organs were sliced off and sewn inside his bloody mouth. As he died, the VC went to work on his wife, slashing open her womb. Then, the nine-year-old son: a bamboo lance was rammed through one ear and out the other. Two more of the chief’s children were murdered the same way. The VC did not harm the five-year-old daughter — not physically: they simply left her crying, holding her dead mother’s hand.
In 1960, some 1,500 South Vietnamese civilians were killed and 700 abducted. By early 1965, the communists’ Radio Hanoi and Radio Liberation were able to boast that the VC had destroyed 7,559 South Vietnamese hamlets. By the end of last year, 15,138 South Vietnamese civilians had been killed, 45,929 kidnaped.
By the time Vietnam came around, the American people were becoming more aware. Tho they reacted negatively against US, more and more at least saw the uselessness of such conflicts.
reply to post by Shugo
I find it hard to blame poorly trained soldiers and poor communications for what happened in Vietnam.
Let's assume the goal of the US military was to defeat the communists in Vietnam. We know the communists are being supplied by the Soviets and Chinese from the north. We have both air and naval superiority. Take a look at a map of Vietnam, and the winning strategy becomes clear.
Establish a beachhead at Hai Phong, and then just carpet bomb your way to Ha Noi. Once Ha Noi falls, supply lines from the north are severed. The communists would be reduced to starving in the jungles with sticks and knives. It's a simple, unstoppable plan that would have ended the war in a couple of years, tops.
Instead, the strategy the US used seemed to be designed to create a prolonged stalemate and a divided country, like Korea.
The war being drug out though has nothing to do with what I was asking. I wasn't getting at what the cause of Vietnam was, I was asking what the reason for the amount of bloodshed in the war actually was.