Why Couldnt the US win the Viet Nam conflict?

Mark Conley

Active member
Over the years I have noticed that a lot of people say we lost the war in Viet Nam, Its always been a fascination subject for me, as my Father was in Viet Nam with the Air Force for most of my formative years (10-14) and I always wondered why was he gone so long if we did so bad over there. And It was crushing when we finally got out of Viet Nam, and it fell 3 years later.

I would like to start a topic that deals with why the US couldn't win the war in Viet Nam. As always:

Keep your opinions as factual as possible. provide links if possible, to back it up.

Value each other opinions. No flamming Please. There are considerate and polite ways to tell someone they are essentially full of :cen: if you believe them to be so.

I would like to believe that what we discuss here could possibly relate years later when some of our younger members are leaders. With that thought in mind lets start this topic.

My Contribution: We could not win the Viet Nam Conflict because it was an action where we were essentially disconnected from reality by expectations versus the real situation. Bad association with the people and bad warfighting policy were the two biggest factors in why we lost the Viet Nam conflict.

We were disconnected from a country that had bad internal politics and leadership. We were led to believe we were saving a country to preserve its democracy from communism: What we essentially stepped into was a pseudo-democratic dictatorship designed to preserve its own austerity, with first Diem, then Ky. Most of the people in the South were persecuted by these governments. When we finally were engaged in South Viet Nam to help these institutions stay in power, these same persecuted people only saw us as the same, with self interests as their own government. That was essentially our first big mistake. We did not really have the peoples acceptance. We should have let this country fall to the communists, let them live under the rule of the north, and then asked them wether or not they wanted help.

We could not get the South Viet Nam government to accept and allow the means to eliminate the military and insurgent threat from the North. We were a country that practiced total war, with the annialation of our enemys ground, air, and logistics base to either eliminate that countries war base capability, or cause such attrition that the enemy would sue for peace. Because the South Viet Nam government already knew that total war would mean massive retaliation on its on soil, possibly against more of the people they had already persecuted, they deliberately limited the type of support we could provide in the early stages of the conflict, to try and prevent further unrest in its people. Instead, we tried to pacify the populace by telling them we would protect them from insurgency. We would win their hearts and minds, counting on their bodys to follow. We poured millions in aid, setting up hospitals, agriculture, and industry. This was all very fine and good, except that the people just wanted the fighting to stop. Those that truly believed we would stay and help were quite shocked when we finally pulled out, and left them to their fate.

Bad association with the people and bad warfighting policy were the two biggest factors in why we lost the Viet Nam conflict.
Also because the VC were very resourcefull. Like using unexploded bomb fuses as hand grenades for one (history channel).
The Amerian people were another major factor. There were massive anti-war anti-military anti-government riots. College students jumping on the band wagon and hippies and peace-niks who had no respect or appreciation for anything were vocalising their views. The enemy was inspired by this and thought they could win. It makes you wonder how many lives were lost directly because of this.

I've heard some Vietnam vets say they didn't lost the war, they just never got a chance to finish.
Thats all ways a good way to look at it. One major reason for the protests was the showing of dead American Marines, sailors, soldiers, and airman on tv. The public didnt realize how many where coming home in body bags. :(
FutureRANGER said:
...The Amerian people were another major factor. I've heard some Vietnam vets say they didn't lost the war, they just never got a chance to finish.

probly a good way to put it. we never turned the full might of our forces against North Viet Nam : wonder what would of happened if we did?

From a military standpoint, we were winning the war! But little Civil war in homeland didn't let it finish, so we didn't have chance to finish it......
I will tell you why, the media, like right now in Iraq, only told one side of the story.

During the Tet Offensive the VC were able to capture the American embassy, but only held it for 5 HOURS! The media then broadcasted the pictures of the VC troops running around the embassy but never told of the Marines retaking the embassy merely hours later. In another instance an entire village of almost ten thousand was massacred by the VC, many were buried alive, but the media never said anything about that, they showed a picture of 1 VC being shot by a South Korean Police Officer and the public went nuts. The Tet offensive was a huge military victory of the US and South Koreans, but the media twisted the story, picked only negative aspects of the incident, and ran with them, the people back home thought we had lost a major battle. The US was waiting for a huge battle over the VC where they could finally destroy them and here they got it, only when they tried to continue with their attacks the media started criticizing the President and the Pentagon and before you know it we were losing support back at home.

Vietnam was a Political loss, not a military loss, that is the first thing you have to learn when discussing the issue. Due to pressure from the people back home Johnson attempted to micro manage the war, every bombing missions had to go through him, we were not allowed to attack the VC in Laos or Cambodia, only small units of Special Forces were allowed to cross into those countries. You can not have a president 10,000 miles away from the battlefield running the show, that is why we have Generals and Colonels, to make the decisions fast and on the spot.
No matter what we would of lost the war. 90% of the vietnamies did not want us in there and even if we took out the main person in charge over the vietcong we still would of lost because people over there didnt want us. We had no right to be over there pushing are views onto others. I think we never should of been there in the first place. There was no need of thousands pf troops dieing because we desided to be barbaric typical americans and try to rule over another counrty that doesnt like us nore want us. What is the point of most the wars in this age that america has when that 90 billion could be spent on college students tuition, education, better health care, ECT... I believe this generations Vietnam will be the Iraq war. Alot that has been said back in the day of vietnam was lies and so is iraq. Everyone has the right to a voice but according to bush anyone that doesnt agree with his obserd views is a terrorist and anti patriotic. Like the war in vietnam.
Probably heaps of reasons but a few could be

1. US were unable to fight "a total war" ie bomb the business out of North Vietnam due to political reasons at the time.

2. US were continually trying to prop up corrupt governments in South Vietnam.

3. Too many US soldiers were draftees. More specialized troops needed.

4. Drugs were rife amongst many of the US soldiers.

5. Domestic support for the war collapsed.

6. North Vietnamese were bloody good fighters.

7. US soldiers found it extremely difficult to know who the enemy was amongst the general Vietnamese population ( a little like Iraq for that matter)

8. Viet Cong were extremely difficult to track down and were getting plenty of local support.

and we could go on.
Militarily we almost won Vietnam, the French almost won it before we became involved. The second biggest problem with Vietnam was Johnson, he tried to micro manage the war. That is impossible to do from 10,000 miles away, the times are almost the exact opposite for one, and Johnson was obviously not a born military leader. Our greatest weapon over the North Vietnamese was our Air Force, and we did not use it like we should have, we should have been bombing Northern Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian factories and military positions constantly, rolling thunder lasted what, 1 month? And then Johnson ended that too. We have Generals and Admirals for a reason, they should have been running the war, not Johnson, especially considering he was more of an economic and social equality president, not a person for whom the military was his greatest concern.
I have a VietNamese friend whose family had to leave Saigon in 1973 because the commies were killing, raping, seizing lands and oing what they're good at.
they left the country at night, left everything they had and used a small boat to cross the shark-stormed sea. they stayed three weeks there, then ended up in e refugee boat people camp in Malaysia, where his mother had to sell her wedding ring in order to get six eggs for the kids.
they finally got to get a permit for the US and my buddy now is happy and patriotic.

US should have won the war in Nam for the good of the Vietnamese people themselves. In my opinion, it lost it because of the home protestors. People gets cowardly antiwar when the war is being dragging on for longer than foreseen, not because they believe the war is wrong in itself, as they say.
US "lost" in Vietnam purely because of Anti-VietnamWar opinion inside USA.

If USA really wanted, it could not have been "defeated".

There was actuall not a "defeat", just a "retreat", they didn't want to play the war game more.

Even today, if USA with full support of the people, then it can win any war (non-nuke war) against any country.

But war is not a pure military thing, it is a combination of all factors.
Yep! I agree with Frog! Peoples opinion inside are the most important, if people don't have will, war is as it good as lost!
Well, there are probably many reasons why the Americans did not prevail in Vietnam.

The basic truth is that the Americans were fighting a determined, capable enemy, who were on their home turf, and who were able to keep themselves well supplied and use tactics which made it hard for the Americans to bring their air power to bear. This meant that for much of the time it was infantry soldier against infantry soldier: and when it comes down to that, always bet on the home team (as we British learned in the Revolutionary War).

What is also true is that the Americans won almost every pitched battle they fought - the Viet Cong (FLN) and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) forces suffered huge casualties during the war. But because the FLN was able to command widespread active and passive support from the local population in the disputed areas, it meant the Americans struggled to hold the ground they had won and there were always more recruits for the locals' cause. Again, another echo of the Revolutionary War.

Most important of all, though, was that the Americans were fighting a bigger war, of which Vietnam was only a part. Bombing the North would have brought China into the war alongside the NVA, whereas putting in too many reinforcements would have depleted the divisions facing the Russians in Europe. The home front was divided, in part due to resistance to the war itself, but also because of the awakening Civil Rights movements, and its Women's Rights counterpart. American attention was often elsewhere, whereas for the Vietnamese, it never was.

Still, from an American perspective, the sacrifice of so many in Vietnam was not useless. After Vietnam, there were no further significant Communist insurgencies in the region - the "dominos" that started falling with Korea came to a stop. China and Russia never engaged American forces openly. Japan and Germany stayed pro-Western. Not long after the Vietnam war finished, America moved into a long period of increasing wealth and improved social justice, which has not yet ended despite a few bumps in the road.

There are many reasons why the Americans should be proud of the way their forces fought in Vietnam, and the freedoms that were won because of it. Much of the good things in todays world were shaped in places like Ia Drang or Dong Ha - and the men who fought there were heroes indeed.
I believe we "lost" the conflict because of how resourceful and prepared the enemy was.

The VC relied mostly on Guerrilla warfare, something the US had only dabbed on in the previous wars.

By the time we arrived in 'nam, the VC had worked their way into South Vietnam and made themselves fit in, making it that much harder for the US soldiers to do their job correctly.

My uncle was a radio-man in Vietnam, and he has told me that VC's would often pretend to be Southies, even killing some of their own men to gain Americans' trust, then they'd kill a number of US soldiers in their sleep before finally being caught.

All I can say is that I'm glad we discovered the strength of Kevlar before Vietnam, otherwise, I wouldn't have an awesome great-uncle.
I think America lost Vietnam because the North Vietnamese fighters, fough a different way to what America expected.

They fought from tunnels and holes in the ground and used hit-and-run tactics and they knew the area because it was where they had lived.

Not all North Vietnamese were like this of course the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) fought head on battles, but they usually atacked in mass, with Militia support and the strong points the Americans were trying their best to hold on to were lost

Of course Vietnam was an unpopular war and became more unpopular with the amount of casualties being taken.