Vietnam War - U.S. / Allies

Military Assistance and Training Advisory Course (MATA) Handbook for Vietnam - US Army Special Warfare School Handbook, January 1966.  Reference material for the military advisor in Vietnam.  Reflects doctrine as taught at the Special Warfare School in the 1960's and early '70's.  The handbook was prepared for use in the MATA courses of instruction and served as a ready reference for advisors in Vietnam.

Handbook for Military Support of Pacification - US Military Assistance Command Vietnam handbook, February 1968. Developed as a basic reference document. Designed for use by US, RVN and other other coalition military personnel.

JFK's Early Indecisions - Peter Kross. Vietnam Magazine article. Shortly after being sworn in as the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy held a routine Oval Office meeting with his national security adviser, Walt Whitman Rostow. The two men were discussing the important national security issues that faced the new administration. Among the hot international topics that the Kennedy team inherited from the outgoing Dwight D. Eisenhower administration were the ever-deteriorating situation in Laos, the tensions in Berlin between the Soviets and the United States, and the situation in Cuba. Kennedy then turned to Rostow and said: "This is the worst one we've got. You know, Eisenhower never mentioned it. He talked at length about Laos, but never uttered the word Vietnam."  What prompted the two men to discuss events in a country that not many Americans had ever heard of was a report written by Edward Lansdale, a veteran of the paramilitary wars of the 1950s, a specialist in counterinsurgency warfare and a man whose word was not taken lightly around Washington. Commenting on the report, the president told Rostow that Lansdale's narrative was "an extremely vivid and well-written account of a place that was going to hell in a hack."

Impossible to Stay Uninvolved - Colonel William Wilson, USA (Ret.). Vietnam Magazine article. President John F. Kennedy confronted a deteriorating situation in South Vietnam from the moment he took office in 1961. In Laos, U.S. friend Phoumi Nosavan was losing ground to a pro-Communist group supported by the Soviet Union. Rioting Buddhists and students were tearing apart South Vietnamese cities while terror squads murdered South Vietnamese officials, and U.S. military advisers died in battles half-heartedly fought by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) against the Viet Cong. South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem believed, like the former emperors of China, that he possessed a "mandate from heaven," and he expected the people to follow him as a leader by divine right. Diem's leadership was limited by his use of his family to maintain power. His brother Ngo Dinh Nhu ran the secret police force, and other family members exercised dictatorial control over various provinces. In addition, Diem's practice of forcing military commanders to work in concert with provincial leaders who were primarily politicians was a disaster.

LBJ's Disengagement Strategy - Stephen Young. Vietnam Magazine article. Thirty-five years past the 1968 Tet Offensive provides an excellent vantage point from which to re-examine the alleged truths about the Vietnam War. One such "truth" is that President Lyndon Baines Johnson, in sending U.S. Marines ashore in March 1965, followed shortly thereafter by U.S. Army ground combat units, broke the strategic continuity of American involvement in Vietnam and, in so doing, paved the way for the U.S. forces' ultimate defeat.  But that theory cannot withstand dispassionate analysis. The American commitment to Vietnam was very much part of the overall U.S. Cold War strategy. As President Harry S. Truman said on June 27, 1950, at the beginning of the Korean War, the attack on Korea made it "plain beyond all doubt that communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed invasion and war." Containment of such Communist expansion in Southeast Asia would remain the bedrock of U.S. national and military policy for the next 25 years.

The War Makers - John Dellinger. Vietnam Magazine article. In their naive ignorance, anti-war activists during the Vietnam War came close to undermining one of the foundation stones of American democracy. If military personnel had followed their shouts to disobey the orders of their civilian superiors and refuse to go to Vietnam, civilian control of the military would have been destroyed, for if the military chooses which orders it will obey, the result is a military dictatorship.  The military did not order itself into Vietnam. It went in accordance with the orders of five duly elected presidents, each appointed by the U.S. Constitution as the nation's commander in chief. Vietnam was the war that five presidents "owned" -- and yet no president "owned." Called "Johnson's war" or "Kennedy's war," or even "Nixon's war," Vietnam was actually the bastard child of five presidents: Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, Jr. None of them owned the war in the traditional way that American presidents had owned earlier wars. But each of them, to a greater or lesser extent, shared in the responsibility for the Vietnam War.

The Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition - Volume 1, Chapter 1, "Background to the Crisis, 1940-50," pp. 1-52. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971). The contents of this volume are drawn from the official record of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds. No copyright is claimed in the text of this official Government document.

The Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition - Volume 1, Chapter 2, "U.S. Involvement in the Franco-Viet Minh War, 1950-1954" (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).

The Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition - Volume 1, Chapter 3, "The Geneva Conference, May-July, 1954"  (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).

The Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition - Volume 1, Chapter 4, "U.S. and France in Indochina, 1950-56" (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).

The Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition - Volume 1, Chapter 5, "Origins of the Insurgency in South Vietnam, 1954-1960" (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).

The Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition - Volume 2, Chapter 1, "The Kennedy Commitments and Programs, 1961," pp. 1-39 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).

The Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition - Volume 2,  Chapter 2, "The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963," pp. 128-159 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).

The Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition - Volume 2,  Chapter 3, "Phased Withdrawal of U.S. Forces, 1962-1964," pp. 160-200. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).

The Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition - Volume 2,  Chapter 4, "The Overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem, May-November, 1963," pp. 201-276. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).

The Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition - Volume 2,  Chapter 5, "US-GVN Relations, 1964-1967," pp. 277-407. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).

The Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition - Volume 2,  Chapter 6, "The Advisory Build-Up, 1961-1967," pp. 408-514. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).

The Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition - Volume 2,  Chapter 7, "Re-Emphasis on Pacification: 1965-1967," pp. 515-623. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).

The Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition - Volume 3 Chapter 1, "U.S. Programs in South Vietnam, Nov. 1963-Apr. 1965," pp. 1-105.
(Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).

The Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition - Volume 3 Chapter 2, "Military Pressures Against North Vietnam, February 1964-January 1965," pp. 106-268. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).

The Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition - Volume 3 Chapter 3, "The Air War in North Vietnam: Rolling Thunder Begins, February-June, 1965," pp. 269-388 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).

The Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition - Volume 3 Chapter 4, "American Troops Enter the Ground War, March-July 1965," pp. 389-485 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).

The Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition - Volume 4 Chapter 1, "The Air War in North Vietnam, 1965-1968," pp. 1-276. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).

The Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition - Volume 4 Chapter 2, "U.S. Ground Strategy and Force Deployments, 1965-1968," pp. 277-604 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).

An Interview with Bernard Fall - Sergeant Roy Johnson. Marine Corps Gazette article, April 1967.  Text of a taped interview with Dr. Fall shortly before his death 12 February 1967. Dr. Fall was killed by a land mine while accompanying a Marine patrol 14 miles north of Hue. He was a professor of government at Howard University and the author of Street Without Joy, The Two Viet-Nams and Hell in a Very Small Place. The interviewer is Marine Sgt. Hoy Johnson of Combat Info Bureau, Da Nang.

Back to the Street without Joy: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Vietnam and Other Small Wars - Lieutenant Colonel Robert Cassidy, USA.  Parameters article, Summer 2004.  In 1961, Bernard Fall, a scholar and practitioner of war, published a book entitled The Street Without Joy. The book provided a lucid account of why the French Expeditionary Corps failed to defeat the Viet Minh during the Indo-china War, and the book’s title derived from the French soldiers’ sardonic moniker for Highway 1 on the coast of Indochina—“Ambush Alley,” or the “Street without Joy.” In 1967, while patrolling with US Marines on the “Street without Joy” in Vietnam, Bernard Fall was killed by an improvised explosive mine during a Viet Cong ambush. In 2003, after the fall of Baghdad and following the conventional phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom, US and Coalition forces operating in the Sunni Triangle began fighting a counter-guerrilla type war in which much of the enemy insurgent activity occurred along Highway 1, another street exhibiting little joy. Learning from the experience of other US counterinsurgencies is preferable to the alternative.

Civil Operations and Rural Development Support Program (CORDS) - Hearings before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, February - March 1970.

Civil Operations and Rural Development Support Program (CORDS) Part II - Hearings before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, February - March 1970.

Civil Operations and Rural Development Support Program (CORDS) Part III - Hearings before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, February - March 1970.

An American Civilian in the Vietnam War - Carl Fritz. American Diplomacy article. The Agency for International Development (AID) had sent me to be the assistant deputy for the Civil Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS) program in the five provinces that comprised the I Corps area of operations. As U.S. involvement in the war intensified, Washington had created CORDS, an integrated civilian-military organization, to further what we and our South Vietnamese allies called the Pacification Program, an effort to support and strengthen grassroots opposition to the Viet Cong among the peasantry. Although an American three-star general commanded CORDS in Danang, it was a largely civilian operation. The second in command, Alex Firfer, and the third, myself, were AID civilians. Of the 2,000 CORDS personnel in the I Corps area, only 750 were military. These civilians and soldiers worked as integrated teams providing advice to Vietnamese and American unit commanders at the provincial and district levels throughout I Corps. The Pacification Program was a sound idea, born of the perception that our efforts to defeat the Viet Cong by fire and armor were alienating the rural population we were seeking to protect.

The Heart and Mind of USAID's Vietnam Mission - Marc Leepson. American Foreign Service Association. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. set out not only to win military victory, but also to "win the hearts and minds" of the Vietnamese. This second, equally important campaign to bolster popular support for the South Vietnamese government against the Viet Cong centered on assistance and development programs worth billions of dollars to the war-torn country. The program was directed by a government agency designed to aid underdeveloped countries -- the U.S. Agency for International Development -- but its soul for the most part was molded in the minds of military men and spymasters like William Colby, who would later serve as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  From his perch as Saigon CIA station chief and later as the second director of the Civil Operations and Rural Development Support Program, Colby was highly influential in the war effort. Early on, he was a strong proponent of the "hearts and minds" strategy of which USAID was to be an important component. The CORDS initiative epitomized Colby's conviction that the war would be won or lost not on the battlefield, but in the struggle for the loyalty of the South Vietnamese people.

Phung Hoang - Advisor Handbook - Military Assistance Command Civil Operations and Revolutionary / Rural Development Support Handbook, November 1970.

After Action Report, IA DRANG Valley Operation 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry 14-16 November 1965 - Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore, USA.

A New Kind of War - Lieutenant General Victor Krulak, USMC. Serving in the Joint Staff as the focal point in counterinsurgency operations and training, I went to Vietnam eight times between 1962 and 1964. In those early years, I learned something of the complex nature of the conflict there. The problem of seeking out and destroying guerrillas was easy enough to comprehend, but winning the loyalty of the people, why it was so important and how to do it, took longer to understand. Several meetings with Sir Robert Thompson, who contributed so much to the British victory over the guerrillas in Malaya, established a set of basic counterinsurgency principles in my mind. Thompson said, "The peoples' trust is primary. It will come hard because they are fearful and suspicious. Protection is the most important thing you can bring them. After that comes health. And, after that, many things--land, prosperity, education, and privacy to name a few." The more I was of the situation facing the Vietnamese government and the Vietnamese Army, the more convinced I became--along with many other Americans, that our success in the counterinsurgency conflict would depend on a complete and intimate understanding by all ranks from top to bottom of the principles Thompson had articulated.  So the Marines, from colonels to private, were mentally prepared and reasonably ready for a counterinsurgency conflict. However, it turned out that the mission of the initial force to land at Danang was greatly different from what they had been practicing. The unit was restricted to protecting the Danang air base from enemy incursion, nothing more. It was not permitted to "engage in day-to-day actions against the Vietcong," nor were the Marines allowed to leave the air base or to be involved directly with the local population--which is what counterinsurgency is all about. Soon the force was enlarged to include the whole of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade of five thousand men, but it remained confined to the airbase area, tied to what the senior U.S. command, "COMUSMACV" termed "protection of the Danang air base from enemy attack."  This was never going to work. We were not going to win any counterinsurgency battles sitting in foxholes around a runway, separated from the very people we wanted to protect.

The Vietnamization Process In Retrospect - Major Mark Tull, USMC. US Marine Corps Command and Staff College thesis, 2000. Three major shortcomings in US policy led to the failure of Vietnamization. The US negotiated a flawed “peace” which allowed the NVA to retain forces in South Vietnam. The US Congress then failed to provide the money necessary to fund the programs agreed upon under Vietnamization. Finally, the US failed to honor President Nixon’s pledge to re-intervene in the conflict should the North Vietnamese flagrantly violated the peace agreement. Had the US addressed these issues, South Vietnam might be a free country today. The Vietnamization process was the final failure of US policy in Vietnam. Becoming official policy in the summer of 1969, the roots of its failure were planted long before. President Kennedy surrendered the initiative for the length of the conflict by failing to enforce the neutrality of Laos and, to a lesser extent, that of Cambodia. This failure allowed the North Vietnamese to establish sanctuaries in these countries and to construct the Ho Chi Minh trail. Supplied via the trail, the NVA used its sanctuaries to launch the attacks that eventually overwhelmed South Vietnam. The US also erred in forcing democracy on South Vietnam. It proved disruptive for a new nation with no democratic tradition that was engaged in a civil war. The US’ authorization of a coup against South Vietnamese President Diem was also a mistake. It added to the political instability within South Vietnam and this instability made it difficult to cultivate military leadership. Once the US committed combat troops in Vietnam, it Americanized the war and adopted a “Search and Destroy” strategy. These actions retarded the development of the RVNAF, isolated it from its people and made it vulnerable to enemy propaganda. Once Vietnamization was made policy, US troop withdrawals were linked to political concerns and not the military situation. The US ended the Vietnamization process by negotiating the Paris Peace Agreement that allowed the NVA to retain its forces in South Vietnam.

Blowtorch: Robert Komer and the Making of Vietnam Pacification Policy - Frank Jones. Parameters article, Autumn 2005. From Komer’s arrival in Vietnam in May 1967 through the end of the pacification program in February 1973, two leading authorities on this subject, Richard Hunt and Thomas Scoville, credit Komer, who left Vietnam in November 1968, and his successor, William Colby, later Director of Central Intelligence, with making CORDS largely successful on several levels. First, Komer integrated the organization effectively into the US Mission and Westmoreland’s headquarters, thereby promoting healthy working relationships with Bunker and Westmoreland and helping CORDS not only survive later changes in military and political leadership but improving, as was necessary, US military-civilian coordination and programs under a single manager. Although the US military contributed the bulk of the personnel, funding, and resources, civilians held numerous policymaking positions as well as serving as field advisers, thereby improving cooperation between military and civilians. Second, the lines of communication between the CORDS staff and South Vietnamese government officials became particularly reliable, which was of considerable value in gradually improving South Vietnamese pacification planning and program development. Third, CORDS strengthened South Vietnamese programs which had languished, such as support to local militia and the war against the Viet Cong’s politico-military infrastructure. CORDS, especially Komer, convinced the South Vietnamese government leadership to challenge the Viet Cong in contested areas after the Tet offensive. Fourth, over time, Komer created alliances with other senior officials who shared his vision. McNamara, whom Johnson revered during this period, was particularly instrumental in supporting his views, as was Rostow. Komer also divided and conquered when necessary, playing the Defense Department off the State Department. Another tactic he used was the anxiety and distrust between Johnson, who was determined to see his agenda implemented, and the State Department bureaucracy, which Johnson viewed as composed of an intellectual elite who resisted his objective. Komer bided his time, using McNamara to articulate his positions and Johnson’s impatience to bring the civilian agencies to heel. Fifth, the South Vietnamese pacification effort was centralized for better coordination, an initiative that began during Komer’s tenure but reached fruition only under Colby. CORDS also pressured the South Vietnamese government to overhaul its top-level pacification management, which produced results. Sixth, CORDS had some influence on the South Vietnamese government to replace corrupt or ineffective officials, which Komer initiated. Both Hunt and Scoville admit there is difficulty in measuring the effect on military operations. Nonetheless, pacification was emphasized in a number of military operations and gained limited priority among the military objectives specified in US-South Vietnamese campaign plans.

Reorganizing for Pacification Support - Thomas Scoville. US Army Center of Military History study, 1981. This study describes the background and implementation of President Lyndon Johnson's decision in May 1967 to create a civil/military organization, Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development; Support--CORDS, to manage US advice and support to the South Vietnamese government's pacification program. It focuses on the years 1966­68 when the organization was conceived and established, and it relates events both from the perspective of government leadership in Washington and the US mission in Saigon. Over these years, the organization changed three times, culminating in CORDS. Each change is examined with special emphasis on the role of important officials, such as General Westmoreland, Ambassador Komer, Secretary of Defense McNamara, and President Johnson.

Did the Marines Better Understand the Nature of the Vietnam Conflict and Was the Combined Action Program More Suitable than Civil Operations Revolutionary Development Support in Dealing With Insurgents? - Major Kenneth Eugene Wynn, USMC. US Marine Corps Command and Staff College thesis, 2000. During the Vietnam conflict the Marines of 3rd Battalion 4th Marines reconstituted a program which was utilized during military action in Haiti, Nicaragua and Santo Domingo conflicts. The Combined Action Program was an effective means of combating insurgents/guerrilla actions. The Viet Cong relied heavily on the popular support of the people and the Marines best understood the importance of separating/safeguarding the people from the guerillas. By doing this the Marines effectively reduced the Viet Cong’s requirements to exist: food, ammunition, supplies, money and most importantly recruits. Without the support of the people the Viet Cong would eventually cease to function and their cause would be suppressed. General Westmoreland failed to understand how important this lifeline was or just chose to believe that it was not a factor. Instead, he pursued the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Regular Army through conventional warfare. Civil Operations Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) was established in Vietnam in 1960 and was a myriad of civilian agencies providing support to the South Vietnamese people.  Howe, it was not until 1967 under the leadership of Robert Komer did these agencies combine their efforts in conjunction with the U.S. Army. Although the new CORDS (civil-military) experienced some success in the cities and heavily populated areas it failed to address the much need concentrated focus in the hamlet and villages where sympathy and support for the Viet Cong were prominent. Under the philosophy of guerrilla warfare the Viet Cong avoided the enemy and continued to plague the smaller isolated hamlets. CORDS was too much, too late, and in the wrong place. The Marines were still left with the responsibility of confronting the overwhelming insurgency problem until the lack of money and resources forced them to abandon the concept. If the United States Military is involved in future conflicts which focus on insurgence, civil unrest or guerrilla actions, senior military leaders must carefully review revolutionary/guerrilla strategy and the four models which can be used against them: Foco, Maoist, Leninist and Urban.

Combine Action and US Marine Experiences in Vietnam, 1965-71 - Phillip Ridderhof. In the summer of 1965, US Marine units moved out of their coastal enclaves in the I Corps region of South Vietnam. The main idea was for the Marines to take a more active part in engaging the Viet Cong insurgents in the area.  As Marine combat units moved into the hinterland and began engaging large Viet Cong and North Vietnamese units, a problem presented itself to Marine commanders. Marine resources were stretched in attempting an offensive strategy and also defend rear areas which found themselves under attack. A specific example was the Phu Bai combat base, south of Hue.  This was a major US base and the site of an airfield. Almost every night this airfield was subjected to mortar attacks from the surrounding area. Actual airfield security could not cover out to the range of the Viet Cong mortars. There were Marine infantry units in the area, but they  were  mainly conducting search and destroy operations. They could not occupy the area around the airport and maintain their offensive missions at the same time. This dilemma that threatened security around Phu Bai called for a solution. The solution was found in the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. The battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. William W. Taylor, had within its tactical Area of Responsibility (TAOR - it was within a units geographic TAOR that it conducted operations), the villages around Phu Bai that were thought to be the source of the Viet Cong mortar attacks.  According to Lt. Gen. Lewis Walt, the commanding general of the Marines in Vietnam, the idea came from Captain John J. Mullin, Jr. and plans were made up by Major Cullen B. Zimmerman, both officers from this battalion. On 3 August 1965 the first Combined Action Company (CAC) was put into operation.

Combined Action Platoons: A Strategy for Peace Enforcement - Major Brooks Brewington, USMC. US Marine Corps Command and Staff College thesis, 1996.  The concept of the Combined Action Platoon, as it evolved in Vietnam, has potential applications in operations other than war, particularly Chapter VII UN Peace Enforcement missions. FMFM 1-1, Campaigning, cites the Combined Action Program as an example of a short-lived but successful concept. If the Combined Action Platoons were successful, then how would the concept interface with today's doctrine in Peace Keeping/Enforcement missions?  The Combined Action Platoon's (CAP) genesis was not a deliberate plan from a higher headquarters, rather, it was a solution to one infantry battalion's problem of an expanding TAOR. The concept of combining a squad of marines with local Popular Forces (PF's) and assigning them a village to protect proved to be a force multiplier. The CAP concept was effective in denying the enemy a sanctuary at the local village level. The Pacification campaign seemed to work under the CAP concept, and the Marines fully embraced it. Objectively, there is no solid proof that the CAP concept was a resounding success; however, subjectively the evidence suggests otherwise.  Counterinsurgency operations and, in particular, the establishment of a foreign internal defense lends itself for the greatest utility of employing a CAP-style organization. Recent operations in Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia suggest a CAP-style organization could accomplish the assigned mission.

The U.S. Marine Corps Combined Action Program (CAP): A Proposed Alternative Strategy for the Vietnam War - Major Curtis Williamson III, USMC. US Marine Corps Command and Staff College thesis, 2002.  The Vietnam War was a war against an insurgency sustained by the resources drawn from the South Vietnamese peasant. The CAP offered a viable alternative to the strategy taken in Vietnam, challenging the sustaining infrastructure of the guerrilla, while providing security for the largely agrarian populace. Taking a lesson from Mao Tse-tung's insurgent rise to power in an agrarian setting, Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen Giap implemented a guerrilla-based strategy to liberate and unify Vietnam. Placing heavy reliance on the populace of South Vietnam to provide both men and food for the NVA and VC, the village represented a center of gravity for the Communist movement. Incapable of viewing Vietnam as anything but a conventional battleground, General William C. Westmoreland applied the unsuccessful strategy of "search and destroy," and wholly ignored the insurgent underpinnings of his enemy and their grip on the populace. Possessing a belief that the war was among the people, the Marines spawned combined action, that of combining a Marine rifle squad with a platoon of South Vietnamese Popular Forces who cohabitated together within a particular village. Never growing beyond 2,500 men and 114 platoons, the program achieved unsurpassed success towards providing security for the populace, threatening the guerrilla infrastructure, empowering the local and regional leaders to govern, and killing the enemy. Additionally, all attempts by senior Marine leaders to convince General Westmoreland of the CAP's validity as a fitting strategy for all ground forces failed to overcome his conventional inclination towards the nature of the war.

Civic Action: The Marine Corps Experience in Vietnam -Peter Brush. According to a 1939 US Army Field Manual, the ultimate objective of all military operations is the destruction of the enemy's armed forces in battle. Decisive defeat in battle breaks the enemy's will to continue fighting and forces him to sue for peace. This early Clausewitzian doctrine served the US well in World War II, but by the 1960's the teachings of Mao Tse-Tung, Lin Piao and Che Guevara became relevant to an understanding of the nature of "people's wars" or "wars of national liberation." The most effective strategy for opposing communism in wars of this type was of a dual nature. The destructive phase would address the conventional force threat, while the constructive phase was concerned with the political, economic, social, and ideological aspects of the struggle. The Marines understood this duality best. According to British counterinsurgency expert Sir Robert Thompson, "Of all the United States forces [in Vietnam] the Marine Corps alone made a serious attempt to achieve permanent and lasting results in their tactical area of responsibility by seeking to protect the rural population." This appreciation of the value of pacification was part of the historical baggage that the Marines brought with them to Vietnam.

The Combined Action Program: Vietnam - Captain Keith Kopets, USMC. The program, undertaken by the USMC during the Vietnam war, was an innovative and unique approach to pacification. In theory, the program was simple; a Marine rifle squad would join forces with a South Vietnamese militia platoon to provide security for local villages. CAP's modus operandi made it unique. While assigned to combined units, Marines would actually live in a militia unit's village.  CAP was a response to the conditions in Vietnam. As the senior command in the I Corps Tactical Zone, the Marines were responsible for securing more than 10,000 square miles of land that included the five northernmost provinces of South Vietnam. More than 2-1/2 million people lived in the I Corps area. Using the militia for local security made sense; there were not enough Marines to go around.

Insurgency, Counterinsurgency, And The Marines In Vietnam - Major Frank Pelli, USMC. US Marine Corps Command and Staff College research paper, 1990. The war in Vietnam continues to be hotly debated. Why the United States lost the war has been a key question surrounding the debate over its involvement. One of the most important points to recognize is that it was an insurgency. My purpose is to evaluate what an insurgency is, what is required to defeat it, and what the Marine Corps' concepts and actions were to counter the insurgency in Vietnam. The Marine strategy for Vietnam contained many of the important elements necessary to effectively conduct a counterinsurgency war. Mao is considered to be the primary influence in guerrilla warfare. He recognizes the importance of the people in the success of the war. Well-organized guerrilla units are encouraged by him to take the initiative, applying hit-and-run tactics, fighting in the enemy rear and establishing bases for popular support and for spreading their influence. He warned that guerrilla warfare is protracted and becomes conventional only as it approaches success. General Giap parrots much of Mao's philosophy. His war with the Japanese and French was an ideal test for the precepts of Mao and as result Giap reinforces much of what Mao offers in terms of guerrilla tactics. Giap's sound defeat of the French provides a clear illustration of an efficacious insurgency. Not every insurgency has been a success, however. The counterinsurgency conducted by the Malayans and the British in Malaya is an excellent example from which to draw lessons for success. The security of the people is essential. Once this is provided the police, who provide the intelligence on the enemy, and the military, who engage the guerrillas in small-unit combat, can join with the government to develop a strategy and operational plan to defeat the guerrillas and their infrastructure (the link to the people). Throughout its history the Marine Corps has learned to defeat guerrillas. They applied their knowledge in Vietnam with a strategy and tactics that parallel the Malaya counterinsurgency. They focused on the people and the link between the peasant and the guerrilla. Several effective programs, i.e. Combined Action Platoons, COUNTY FAIR operations and GOLDEN FLEECE operations, were conducted in I Corps in Vietnam. I believe that the Marines had the right formula to defeat the Viet Cong but for victory all of Vietnam needed to its application.

The Marine Corps’ Combined Action Program and Modern Peace Operations - Common Themes and Lessons - Major William Go, USMC. US Marine Corps Command and Staff College thesis, 1997. The mixed performance of U.S. forces in recent low intensity conflicts or "small wars", i.e. Vietnam (counterinsurgency) and Somalia (peace operation), has been due in part to a failure to understand the political, economic, social, and cultural factors at work in the area of operations. The Combined Action Program (CAP) of the Vietnam War has been frequently cited by military historians as an example of a successful small wars operation, this because the CAP did have cultural aspect. The U.S. Marine Corps-led Unified Task Force (UNITAF) portion of the 1992-1995 UN operation in Somalia was successful partly because it applied lessons learned from Marine Corps small wars experience from the Central American "Banana Wars" of the 1930's and the CAP in Vietnam. Counterinsurgency and peace operations are similar in that they both involve adversaries often indistinguishable from noncombatants and that operations frequently occur in an environment totally unfamiliar to Americans. Even more than conventional operations, they are characterized by ambiguity, uncertainty, and friction.  In both cases, success depends on a well defined mission, properly trained and equipped forces, intelligently designed Rules of Engagement, and an in depth knowledge of the political, economic, social, and cultural aspects of the target area. As in conventional warfare, successful resolution of the conflict will depend on a political, not a military, solution. The Combined Action Program in Vietnam and UNITAF in Somalia both demonstrated that well trained and well led conventional forces can be successfully adapted to some unconventional roles. Both cases also demonstrated that military might, no matter how skillfully or how massively applied, cannot solve the underlying political cause of a conflict. Political problems require political solutions and the viability any political solution is wholly dependent on the characteristics of the native population. Presently, there is much that the U.S. military can do to improve the ways that it prepares forces for participation in peace operations. Too much emphasis is currently placed on tactics, techniques, and procedures and not enough is placed on cultural appreciation of the target area. A common failing of virtually all of our recent small wars experience has been that our forces have deployed "culturally under armed."

Marine Alternative to Search and Destroy - Vietnam Magazine article. A standard definition of military strategy is that it is the art and science of employing the armed forces of a nation to secure objectives of national policy by the application of force or the threat of force. More than 150 years ago Karl von Clausewitz wrote in On War, "The ends of strategy, in the final analysis, are those objectives that will finally lead to peace." To understand why, by these definitions, the United States failed to employ properly its forces in Vietnam, we must first look at the experience that influenced the strategies of search and destroy and of attrition. American operations based on conventional methods made little real progress in defeating the VC or the NVA during the period from 1965 to 1968. MACV, nevertheless, continued to stand by the strategy of attrition as the only way to fight the war and win it quickly. The strategy of counterinsurgency and pacification operations would take too long and become too drawn out. Thus, America continued to try to replicate the massive firepower approach that had proved so successful in World War II, and to a lesser extent in Korea. But as Westmoreland argued in his book A Soldier Reports: "Critics presumably saw some alternative, for the essence of constructive criticism is alternative. Yet to my knowledge, nobody ever advanced a viable alternative that conformed to the American policy of confining the war within South Vietnam." But the commandant of the Marine Corps, General David M. Shoup, and General Krulak both offered constructive criticism and on more than one occasion presented alternatives directly to Westmoreland and McNamara. Their recommendations included the enclave strategy, the clear-and-hold or ink-blot strategy, and the Combined Action Program. These were all viable alternatives that conformed to the overall American policy of confining the ground war to South Vietnam.

Personal Experiences with the Combined Action Program in Vietnam - US Marine Corps Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities Qucilook Report, March 2004. The Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities (CETO) conducted a professional military education discussion on March 5, 2004 concerning the Combined Action Program (CAP) in Vietnam.1 The guest speaker was Mr. Ed Matricardi, currently an attorney in Northern Virginia, who was a U.S. Marine corporal and served as a CAP squad leader in Vietnam during 1967. Mr. Al Paddock, Ph.D., an historian and retired U.S. Army Special Forces colonel who served three tours in Vietnam also participated in the session, as did the CETO staff.

In Defense of a Hamlet - Colonel James Humphries, USA (Ret.). Vietnam Magazine article. The Marine Combined Action Platoon (CAP) concept of placing 15 Marines and a platoon of Popular Force (PF) soldiers in a VC-controlled hamlet to wrest power from the Communists had enjoyed considerable success around Chu Lai. When the 196th LIB replaced the 7th Marines, who were deploying north, the Marine-style CAP teams were left in place and put under the operational control of the brigade. Lieutenant Colonel Charles R. Smith, who commanded the 4-31 in May 1967, later wrote: "I thought it [CAP philosophy] quite effective as the posts were constantly attacked by the VC who did not like losing people and villages to government control."

US Marines Combined Action Platoons Web Page - "We Are All Alone In Indian Country".

Cultural Differences, East and West: Silent Lessons From U.S. Involvement in East Asia - Lieutenant Commander Thomas Nolan, USN. US Marine Corps Command and Staff research paper, 1996. To what degree was the war in Vietnam influenced by differences in culture and time? Is there an effective model to study these differences to improve any future interactions? The war in Vietnam was influenced by cultural differences that paralleled; in general, the larger differences between East and West. One method of studying these differences and their impact is to use Ernst Cassirer's Circle of Humanity and its six categories-- art, language, history, science, religion, and myth -- to describe the essential elements of human culture. This paper will discuss religion, history, and science from Cassirer's Model to show that neither the United Sates nor North Vietnam really understood the other. The other components of the model -- art, language, and myth -- will not be examined as art was not a significant player in the conflict; language, while different for both sides, failed to alter the outcome of the conflict; and myth is too closely allied with religion; and accordingly, Cassirer treats them very similarly. Using only three categories also enhances the focus of the paper. Differing views of time, East and West, will also be discussed, highlighting their impact on the Vietnam conflict.

Vietnam: Army Multiplier, The Birth Of Air Mobility - Major J. W. Barton, USA. US Marine Corps Command and Staff College thesis, 1988. In Vietnam, Airmobility was a misapplied combat multiplier and as such, a failure to understand the nature of that war. In perspective, airmobility was not the cause of the ultimate defeat of the U.S. national objectives. It did, however, contribute to that defeat. Nothing has done more to multiply the combat power of the Army as the helicopter. It has driven force structure changes and revolutions in tactics. Today's Army Aviation was born in the Vietnam War, a war we lost. Airmobility, synonymous with Vietnam, contributed to that defeat. Unable to carry America to victory in a low-intensity-conflict, the most limited form of war, airmobility is given no place in future wars by military reformers. Airmobility did not cause the American defeat in Vietnam--it did, however, contribute. Too much reliance was placed on airmobility. The move to airmobility was rushed from the beginning. Needing a quick end to the conflict, the Secretary of Defense pushed for a technological answer, disregarding the political and social problems. The Army leadership, blinded by the initial successes of airmobile forces, came to view airmobility the tactic as a strategy. This strategy, highly successful in battles with main forces, removed the Army from the Vietnamese villages, a must in a counterinsurgency war. The American pattern of operations, from basecamp to landing zone, was quickly recognized by the enemy, allowing them to gain control over the pace of the war. The improper application of airmobility contributed to America's loss in Vietnam. With the political leadership avoiding the social and political problems, and the Army, locked into a body count mentality substituting tactics for strategy, the North Vietnamese were able to control the operational tempo of the war. Unable to defeat the US Army on the battlefield, they conducted a "war of time" against the American will and won.

Vietnam: A Complex Adaptive Perspective - Major Stephen Nitzschke, USMC. US Marine Corps Command and Staff College thesis, 1997. An examination of the Vietnam War within the conceptual framework of complex adaptive system (cas) theory will offer a different perspective of the war and provide insight into the utility of using cas theory in the study of warfare. The Marine Corps has already begun to change the way it views military conflict. Marine Corps doctrinal publications are moving away from the old Newtonian worldview. Instead, they are using new science metaphors to describe the nature of war. Specifically, the new science of complex adaptive systems describes warfare in biological rather than traditional mechanistic terms. This study includes an examination of the Vietnam War as a clash between complex adaptive systems. The "seven basics of complex adaptive systems," developed by University of Michigan Professor, John H. Holland, provide a foundation for this investigation. His work developing a universal theory for complex adaptive systems has resulted in four cas properties: aggregation, nonlinearity, flows and diversity; and three mechanisms; tags, building blocks and internal models. These seven basics provide a construct for examining America's quantitative and Hanoi's qualitative approach towards the Vietnam War. The U.S. strategy of attrition warfare and the communist strategy of dau tranh help illuminate the utility of cas theory in the study of warfare. Other wartime events provide historical examples that illustrate the fundamental properties of complex adaptive systems. Every military professional should become familiar with complex adaptive system theory. Using cas theory to examine the Vietnam War will offer a perspective that emphasizes its qualitative aspects, its holistic nature and its nonlinear behavior. Cas theory, when applied to the study of warfare, suggests organizational and doctrinal changes that exploit cas properties to improve a military organization's adaptive capability.

Kit Carson Scouts - Captain William Cowan, USMC. Marine Corps Gazette article, October 1969. Immediately west of the main Citadel in Quang Tri City, capital of South Vietnam's northernmost province, lies a small but strongly fortified compound. Built with Marine Corps money and materials, it is defended only by former North Vietnamese regulars and former Viet Cong. Though few Marines know of its whereabouts or purpose, the products of that compound represent a potent asset to the small unit leader operating against Communist forces in the Republic of Vietnam.  It is the 3rd Marine Division's Kit Carson Scout School, staffed by Marines and dedicated to the task of training former enemy to work with units of the 3rd Marine Division. The Kit Carson Scout program was originated and implemented by Marines. It started when the 1st Marine Division decided to use defectors to locate enemy weapons caches and booby traps. Though they were mostly untrained, their exceptional performance with Marine units was noted in Saigon, and Gen Westmoreland issued a message in September, 1967, directing all infantry divisions in Vietnam, both Marine and Army, to begin using Kit Carson Scouts in conjunction with friendly operations. In addition, Gen Westmoreland directed that a minimum of 100 scouts per division was necessary to insure effectiveness. The 3rd Marine Division was the first unit in Vietnam to reach that level when the fourth Kit Carson Scout class graduated from the school in Quang Tri City in December, 1967.  The Scouts are known as Hoi Chanhs (generally translated in Vietnamese as "one who has returned"), and their reasons for defection from the VC or NVA differ. Although many are disillusioned with communism or unfulfilled Communist promises of land, money or battlefield glory, most of them return to the Government of South Viet Nam (GVN) control because they are tired of the constant pressure of allied operations and honestly believe they are on the losing side.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail - John Correll. Air Force Magazine article, November 2005. During the Vietnam War, US pilots could see weapons, military equipment, and war supplies moving on 40-car trains on the railroad near Hanoi and being unloaded from ships in the Haiphong harbor. They could look, but not strike. Preventing these war supplies from reaching South Vietnam was a primary goal of US strategy, but Air Force and Navy aircraft were seldom allowed to go after them in the North Vietnamese heartland, where they were concentrated and wide open to attack. The White House, fearing that bombing Hanoi and Haiphong might escalate the war, would not allow the shipments to be targeted until they were broken up into small loads and headed south on jungle pathways. Transported by trucks, bicycles, and porters with A-frames on their backs, they were difficult to find and even more difficult to stop.

The Case for the Vietnam War - W. W. Rostow. Parameters article, Winter 1996-97. For seven years, Robert McNamara and I were colleagues in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. It is difficult to describe the ties that were formed as a result of our facing together the series of crises that confronted the United States in the 1960s. On occasion, my advice to the President differed from McNamara's, most notably on Vietnam and on policy toward Southeast Asia. Such differences among colleagues were inevitable and proper, however, and now, 30 years after we worked together, I continue to hold McNamara's devoted service in high regard. McNamara's recent book, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, begins with a dozen or so interesting but terse pages on the author's background; his schooling; his meeting, and marriage to, Margaret McKinstry Craig, to whose memory the book is dedicated; his wartime service as an air corps statistical control officer; and his postwar service with the Ford Motor Company. He had been president of that company for only seven weeks when John Kennedy made him Secretary of Defense in 1961. The problems of Vietnam from 1961 to early 1968 occupy virtually the rest of the book. Although the war lasted some eight more years, the story ends with McNamara's transition to the World Bank in 1968, as the Tet offensive begins. In the period 1965-67, Robert McNamara came to believe that Vietnam was "a problem with no solution." This is the theme of his book. His frustration arose because the war was fought under five rules, which, as he saw it, proved incompatible with victory. These rules were: (1) that Southeast Asia as a whole must be kept from communist control; (2) that US troops should not be sent outside the borders of South Vietnam; (3) that the South Vietnamese should achieve political stability and--with US tutelage and military aid--learn to defend themselves; (4) that the United States under no circumstances should initiate the use of nuclear weapons; and (5) that the enemy operated under the assumption that it could win "a long inconclusive war." In the face of these rules, McNamara came to believe that the United States should withdraw from Vietnam, because Rule 3 proved impossible of attainment, and the costs of withdrawal (Rule 1) would be tolerable. To a degree impossible to determine, his conclusion, by his own account, was influenced also by the anti-war sentiment in the country which extended to his immediate family.

Vietnam in Retrospect: Could We Have Won? - Jeffrey Record. Parameters article, Winter 1996-97. Notwithstanding the departure of the last US combat troops from Vietnam in 1973, the Vietnam War continues to be fought and refought here in the United States. Wars are unpleasant to wage, and even more unpleasant to lose. The Vietnam War has divided Americans as has no other foreign conflict since the War of 1812. George McGovern, politically both product and victim of the war, has declared it "our second civil war. We are going to be fighting [it] for the rest of our lives."  Was the war a noble cause, a crime, or simply a monumental strategic mistake? Did 58,000 Americans die in vain? What was the cause and nature of the conflict? Was US intervention justified? Was it necessary to Americanize the war? What were the causes of US defeat? Was the United States in fact defeated? These are among the many questions Vietnam-generation Americans continue to ponder, especially those whose lives were directly touched by the war. But perhaps none is more agonizing--and intriguing--than that of whether the United States could have won the war. To this and so many other questions posed by Vietnam there can be no definitive answers. The decisions that propelled the United States into Vietnam and that determined the way we fought the war cannot be undone for the sake of testing what are by now academic hypotheses. One can only speculate about what might have been. Yet the passage of time has afforded a capacity for more informed judgment; we now know much more about the consequences of decisions than we did at the time they were made. Distance, together with the Cold War's demise, also offers the opportunity to develop perspectives on the war less contaminated by blind passion and by the once unquestioned verities of what in hindsight seems a strategically and intellectually hysterical anti-communism.

Vietnam: We Could Have Won - Major John Frenzel, USMC. On the 25th Anniversary of our withdrawal from Vietnam, it is constructive to look back and ask if the U.S. military ever discovered the elements of a strategy in South Vietnam that, given the proper circumstances, might have achieved American objectives. Had those elements and circumstances existed how could they have been combined into a strategy that could have served American objectives at an acceptable cost? In retrospect, that is, how could we have won? During the eight years from 1965 to 1972, America's involvement in Vietnam fluctuated from massive escalation to gradual withdrawal. American strategy also wavered in its approach, from unilateral U.S. "Search and Destroy" tactics designed to atrit the enemy, to combined "Clear and Hold" operations which focused on pacification programs and Vietnamization. A number of critics continue to declare our defeat in Vietnam as predestined, citing a milieu of political, military and cultural factors which contributed to our defeat. However ruinous our involvement ultimately was, our defeat should not be regarded as preordained: just as American intervention was decisive in prolonging the war by postponing a North Vietnamese victory, America's defeat was ultimately determined by its own strategic failures during those eight crucial years. Ultimately, Hanoi's multi-faceted strategy of insurgency and protraction proved an elusive target for America's rather one-dimensional strategy of attrition. A revised alternate strategy, incorporating those elements which proved successful from 1965 to 1972 could very well have achieved U.S. policy objectives at an acceptable cost. More specifically, a revised Limited Shield/Pacification strategy incorporating the vital elements of strategic defensive operations, an expanded Demographic Frontier Program, accelerated Vietnamization, diplomacy and limited offensive operations could be effectively combined in a comprehensive strategy, and applied in three phases: Reversal of the Insurgency (Phase I); Diplomacy and Vietnamization (Phase II); and, Limited Offensive Operations and Settlement (Phase III). Had a Limited Shield/ Pacification Strategy been employed at the outset, it is possible that a viable and enduring peace settlement could have been reached by 1972 and an American defeat in Vietnam could have been averted.

Tet Offensive - Wikipedia. The Tet Offensive (January 30, 19681969) was a series of operational offensives during the Vietnam War, coordinated between guerrilla elements of the National Liberation Front's People's Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF) or "Viet Cong" and North Vietnam's People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), against South Vietnam's Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), and United States military and other ARVN-allied forces. The operations are so named because they were timed to begin on the night of January 3031, 1968, Tết Nguyên Đán (the lunar new year day). The offensive began spectacularly during celebrations of the Lunar New Year, and sporadic operations associated with the offensive continued into 1969. Although generally considered a disastrous military failure that resulted in the loss of an estimated 35,000 soldiers killed, 60,000 wounded, and 6,000 POWs, against 2,800 ARVN and 1,100 U.S. KIA, the Tet Offensive has also been seen as a turning point of the war in Vietnam, in which the NLF and PAVN won an enormous psychological and propaganda victory leading to the loss of popular support for the War in the United States and the eventual withdrawal of American troops, effects likely exacerbated by the Johnson Administration's preceding failure to communicate openly with the public about the conduct of the War. Viewed from a historical distance, the Tet Offensive is also a major example of the value of propaganda and media influence in the pursuit of military objectives, a central tenet of late 20th-century and early 21st-century modern warfare, especially with respect to terrorism.

Armor Evens the Odds in Two Urban Battles: A Tale of Two Cities - Hue and Khorramshahr - Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lamont, USMC. Marine Corps Gazette article, 1999.  This article reviews the role of armor in the urban battlespace with an eye toward how history can assist in charting the way ahead. In looking at areas around the globe, beyond the confines of the former Warsaw Pact, 75 percent of politically significant urban areas are located within 150 miles of the sea. These Key factors, proximity to the littoral battlespace and frequency of conflict, coupled with continued economic growing pains of a global marketplace, make the Third World urban setting a dangerous place well into the next century.

Hue, the Mirror on the Pole View Around the Corner to Future Urban Combat - Major Jonathan Hull, USMC. US Marine Corps Command and Staff College thesis. The United States Marine Corps has adopted Operational Maneuver From the Sea, and in conjunction with this revolutionized means of power projection, is evaluating small, highly mobile "Killer Team" organizations, heavily reliant on technology and indirect firepower, as the executor of operations ashore. The preponderance of the world's population, cities, and market centers are located on the littorals, where naval forces will find themselves engaged. This being the case, Marines must expect to fight in urban areas. An examination of the Battle for Hue in the Republic of Vietnam during the Tet Offensive of 1968, serves to illustrate that these small conceptual Killer Teams would be greatly pressed, and most likely fail in urban combat.

The Battle for Hue - Brigadier General Edwin Simmons, USMC (Ret.). Marine Corps Wargaming and Assessment Center's Read Ahead Package - Urban Warrior War Game One, 1998.  With and invisibility almost incomprehensible to Occidentals, the North Vietnamese had infiltrated two regiments of regulars into the ancient imperial capital of Hue to join the local force Viet Cong units already embedded in the city. After midnight on 30 January 1968, as part of North Vietnam's great Tet offensive; these forces materialized behind a thundering rocket and mortar barrage and seized most of the city in an iron grip.

The Battle for Hue - Lieutenant General Ernest Cheatham (USMC Ret.) and Lieutenant General George Christmas (USMC Ret.).  Notes from the 23 January 1998 Hue City Professional Military Education (PME) brief presented by LtGen Cheatham, then Commanding Officer 2nd Battalion 5th Marines (2/5); and LtGen Christmas, then Commanding Officer Hotel Company 2/5 (H 2/5); to the Urban Warrior Commander’s Conference at Marine Base, Quantico, Virginia.

Lessons Learned: Charlie 1/5, Operation Hue City - First Lieutenant Scott Nelson (USMC), Second Lieutenant Nick Warr (USMC) and Second Lieutenant Travis Curd (USMC). Even under the best of circumstances, street fighting is a bloody business. This was, in the end, the ultimate lesson learned by the United States Marine Corps personnel who participated in this historical battle, considered by many to be the bloodiest of the Vietnam War.

Massacre at Hue - Wikipedia. The Massacre at Hue is the name given to describe the summary executions and mass killings that occurred during the Viet Cong and North Vietnam's capture, occupation and withdrawal from the city of Huế during the Tet Offensive, considered one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War. During the months and years that followed the battle, dozens of mass graves were discovered in and around Hue containing nearly 3000 civilians. In some of the mass graves victims were found bound together; some appeared tortured; others were even reported to have appeared buried alive. Estimates vary on the number executed, with a low of a couple hundred to a high of several thousand. A number of US and South Vietnamese authorities as well a number of journalists who investigated the events took the discoveries, along with other evidence, as proof that a large-scale communist atrocity had been carried out in and around Hue during its four-week occupation. Some of these same sources also contended these killings were premeditated, and part of a large-scale purge of a whole social stratum. Other authorities contended a 'massacre' never occurred, and the numbers and circumstances of the casualties were exaggerated or fabricated for war propaganda reasons, although no evidence is cited by these authorities. Battleground Saigon - John McManus. Vietnam Magazine article.  The infiltrators would spring their surprise on Tet, the Vietnamese lunar new year and one of the country's biggest holidays. Previous years had seen a wary truce during Tet, but not 1968. The Communists expected to be able to overwhelm the ARVN forces, rally the South Vietnamese people to their cause and destroy the Saigon government.

The Battle for Saigon - David Zabecki. Vietnam Magazine article. The key to Giap's plan was the concept of the "General Offensive," borrowed from Chinese Communist doctrine. Following the General Offensive, in a one-two punch combination, would come the "General Uprising," wherein the people of the South would rally to the Communist cause and bring down the Saigon government. The General Uprising was a distinctly Vietnamese element of revolutionary dogma.

Senior General Vo Nguyen Giap: Military Genius or Communist Butcher? - Major Clinton Wadsworth, USMC. US Marine Corps Command and Staff College thesis, 2000. General Vo Nguyen Giap organized the first Viet Minh military force in 1944, a thirty-four man armed propaganda “brigade.” Over the next thirty-five years, Giap created an army of over one million people, a force that would defeat the French, Americans, South Vietnamese, Cambodians and Chinese. Some historians refer to Giap as a military genius. Others point to his willingness to sacrifice his soldiers in the face of superior firepower, and dismiss Giap as a butcher. Based on these conflicting views, it is prudent and timely to determine if Giap is truly one of history’s greatest military geniuses. As a tactician, Giap had mixed results. His actions in 1951, 1968 and 1972 gained his army little and cost them dearly. In these three campaigns alone, Giap lost an estimated 180,000 troops. In the wars against the French and the Americans, Giap was obliged to accept high casualties to compensate for his lack of equivalent firepower: it was a matter of men balanced against material, but if losses were not balanced by results, Giap called off the action. When he realized his ledger was not balanced during the campaigns of 1951, 1968, and 1972, Giap stopped his attacks. When the results justified the sacrifice, as at Dien Bien Phu, Giap pressed for a victory. Critics of Giap’s “butcher bill” tend to discount the very nature of warfare. Slaughter in wholesale fashion has been the reality of most wars. During the Civil War when Grant faced Lee at Cold Harbor, 7,000 Union soldiers died in less than half an hour. In the battle of the Somme, 1 July to 19 November 1916, approximately 1,250,000 German, French, and British soldiers fell. The British suffered 60,000 killed or wounded on the first day. The Communist casualties resulting from the Tet and Easter offensives can not be laid at Giap’s feet, as he opposed both of the operations and strenuously argued against them. Had the North Vietnamese Politburo listened to Giap and his fervent arguments for protracted revolutionary war, they would have achieved their victory with fewer casualties. Giap’s genius resides in his firm grasp of strategy, specifically revolutionary war or “people’s war”, as Giap prefers to call it. Giap’s strategy of revolutionary war totally integrated two principal forms of force—armed force and political force, military dau tranh and political dau tranh. Their combined use created a kind of war unseen before: a single war waged simultaneously on several fronts—not geographical fronts, but programmatical fronts—all conducted by one and the same authority, all carefully meshed. It was a war in which military campaigns were waged for political and diplomatic reasons; economic measures such as land reform were adopted to further political ends; political or diplomatic losses were accepted to forward military campaigns; and psychological campaigns were launched to lower enemy military effectiveness. All actions; political, military, economic, and diplomatic, were weighed for their impact on the other elements of dau tranh and on the advance towards the final goal—victory. Giap’s grasp and application of grand strategy clearly characterizes him as a genius and one of the premier strategists of the twentieth century.

General Tran Van Tra: An NVA General Looks Back- John Carland. Vietnam Magazine article. As military commander of the B-2 Front from 1964 to 1976, General Tran Van Tra of the People's Army of Vietnam led the war in the field against the Americans. On November 23, 1990, at the Vietnam Mission to the United Nations in New York City, John M. Carland of the U.S. Army Center for Military History conducted the following interview with General Tra. Tran Minh Dzung, the third secretary at the mission, served as interpreter.

Vietnam: History of the Bulwark B2 Theater: Volume 5 - Concluding the 30-year War - Colonel General Tran Van Tra. FBIS translation, 1982.