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Ray
22 Jan 07,, 19:13
Commentary > Opinion

from the January 22, 2007 edition

The Vietnam history you haven't heard

Before judging the Iraq war, get the facts on what really happened in the critical early years of the Vietnam War.
By Mark Moyar

QUANTICO, VA. - With ever-increasing frequency, Americans are told that Iraq is another Vietnam, usually by those accusing the Bush administration of miring the United States in a hopeless war. For most who make this comparison, the Vietnam War was an act of hubris, fought for no good reason and in alliance with cowards. But new historical research shows this conventional interpretation of Vietnam to be deeply flawed. The analogy, therefore, must be rethought.

Three journalists handed down the standard version of the Vietnam War in three bestselling tomes. The first two, David Halberstam's "The Best and the Brightest" (1972) and Stanley Karnow's "Vietnam: A History," (1983) each sold more than 1 million copies, while the third, Neil Sheehan's "A Bright Shining Lie" (1988), received the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

These books have profoundly influenced almost everything else that has been written about the Vietnam War. Because of the iconic status of these journalists and the political inclinations of the intelligentsia, the three books received few serious challenges prior to the publication last summer of my "Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965."

Historians such as Guenter Lewy, Lewis Sorley, and Michael Lind have also effectively contested some of the journalists' basic interpretations, and antiwar historians have produced more modest modifications, but the Halberstam-Sheehan-Karnow rendition of the war has remained dominant.

One reason for the durability of their version is that the endless repetition by other commentators produced the impression that it had to be right. Earlier, when writing a book on counterinsurgency in the latter years of the war entitled "Phoenix and the Birds of Prey," I, too, presumed that the first half of the war had been covered exhaustively. Only after many subsequent forays into archives and Vietnamese-language sources did I discover that the standard narrative of the critical early years was terribly wrong.

The books of Messrs. Halberstam, Sheehan, and Karnow can be fully understood only in the light of the authors' actions in Vietnam during 1962 and 1963. Their writings were key elements in the drama, particularly in the summer and fall of 1963 when the US Embassy instigated a coup against South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem.

Undermining South Vietnam's leader

During 1963, in contrast to later years, the American press corps largely favored American involvement in Vietnam. Many also believed, however, that the South Vietnamese president had to be replaced before the war could be won. Perhaps not fully aware of cultural differences, they faulted Mr. Diem for refusing to afford dissidents and US reporters the same freedoms they enjoyed in peacetime America.

Diem mishandled the Buddhist protests of mid-1963, they contended, by using a heavy hand instead of offering concessions. In truth, Diem did make concessions initially, but the Buddhists responded by accelerating their protests, enumerating more fictitious grievances, and demanding Diem's removal. Halberstam, Sheehan, and Karnow largely dismissed Diem's contention that the Buddhists were infiltrated with Communist agents, yet newly available Communist sources reveal that Diem was correct.

The Buddhists' unopposed insolence in the summer of 1963 undermined the Diem government's prestige, something no Vietnamese government could afford for long. Eventually, Diem's generals recommended that the government arrest the Buddhist movement's leaders and disperse the other protesters in order to restore its prestige. Diem consented and worked together with generals in executing the mission.

But then Halberstam and Sheehan published tendentious stories accusing Diem of acting without the knowledge of the military, citing "highly reliable" but anonymous sources. They also published stories stating that the officer corps was upset with Diem for his treatment of the Buddhists, based heavily on information from a Reuters stringer named Pham Xuan An who, unbeknownst to them, was actually a Communist agent. The stories were not true.

Halberstam, Sheehan, and Karnow would play crucial roles in events that fomented the coup that removed Diem on Nov. 1, 1963. Their anti-Diem information, much of it from ill-informed or agenda-driven sources, gave Diem's opponents in the US government the reasons they needed to remove what they considered to be an ineffective allied government. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge accepted their reports, spurring him to incite the coup.

Because the war went very poorly for the South Vietnamese after Diem's overthrow and assassination, the three journalists soon faced accusations that they had helped wreck the South Vietnamese government. Halberstam, Sheehan, and Karnow skillfully produced a defense, one they have maintained to this day.

By taking a few pieces of evidence out of context, they asserted that the South Vietnamese war effort had been wrecked before Diem's death rather than after it, something that they had not claimed at the time. They were thus able to convince the American people that Diem had ruined the country and that the press had been right in denouncing him.

A multitude of previously untapped American and Vietnamese Communist sources show that the South Vietnamese war effort actually was thriving until the very end of Diem's life.

Diem's armed forces hurt the Communists far more seriously than Americans have been led to believe. So, too, did his poorly understood "strategic hamlets," fortified South Vietnamese communities stocked with government cadres and militiamen.

When the war became unpopular in America during the late 1960s, Halberstam, Sheehan, and Karnow stopped expressing support for the US defense of South Vietnam. They ridiculed the principal American rationale for war the so-called domino theory, which predicted that the fall of South Vietnam would lead to the fall of the other countries in the region. When many of the dominoes did not fall after South Vietnam fell in 1975, they held it up as proof that they were right.

The balance of power in Asia

Implicit in their argument was the assumption that Asia's international politics were essentially frozen in time between US intervention in 1965 and the end of the war in 1975. But the policies and capabilities of China and many of the region's other countries changed dramatically during that decade, and in considerable measure as a result of American intervention in Vietnam.

A variety of old and new sources from the communist side confirm what most Southeast Asian leaders knew then: In 1965, China and North Vietnam firmly intended to collaborate in knocking over the dominoes once they finished off South Vietnam an ambition they no longer had in 1975.

The military leaders of Indonesia, the most important Southeast Asian domino, informed the US in February 1965 that their future willingness to stand up to the pro-Communist President Sukarno and the massive Indonesian Communist Party would depend upon America's actions in Vietnam.

"President Johnson should learn to use his power and should hit North Vietnam hard," said General Marjadi in explaining why American inaction was discouraging the generals from taking a firm anticommunist position. "The prize for victory in Vietnam is all of Asia. Asia respects power, and has no respect for weakness or for strong people afraid to act." Indonesian generals later said that US intervention inspired them to oust Sukarno and work to destroy the Indonesian Communist Party in late 1965.

These are just a few of the numerous cases where the writings of Halberstam, Sheehan, and Karnow got it wrong. The record shows they were wrong, as well, to portray North Vietnam's revolutionary leader, Ho Chi Minh, as a xenophobic nationalist who put national interests ahead of global communism's interests. They were wrong to accuse America's military leaders of employing faulty military tactics. And they were wrong to claim that the US could not have won the war.

So, has Iraq become another Vietnam? For all the apparent similarities and differences it is much too early to tell. For all the books on the Iraq war, many critical facts are not yet known. As with Vietnam, it may take 40 years or more to uncover them. Most important, we do not yet know how Iraq will end. Ultimately, it was the contest of wills not predestination that determined the outcome of the Vietnam War. A similar contest will determine whether Iraq is one day remembered as another Vietnam.

Mark Moyar is the author of "Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965."

The Vietnam history you haven't heard | csmonitor.com (http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0122/p09s01-coop.html)

Vietnam interests me.

There are too many commentaries on Vietnam.

What is the reality in geopolitical terms, geostrategic terms as also from the tactical terms.

There are Vietnam veterans here as also military enthusiasts.

Could you all comment as to what you feel about the way Vietnam was approached as a case for victory and fought? And why was it not a success when the military might was applied in all its glory against the impoverished Vietcongs who were hardly an enemy that required to be defeated since they were so impoverished looking that the wind could have blown them away.

Shek
22 Jan 07,, 21:42
Vietnam interests me.

There are too many commentaries on Vietnam.

What is the reality in geopolitical terms, geostrategic terms as also from the tactical terms.

There are Vietnam veterans here as also military enthusiasts.

Could you all comment as to what you feel about the way Vietnam was approached as a case for victory and fought? And why was it not a success when the military might was applied in all its glory against the impoverished Vietcongs who were hardly an enemy that required to be defeated since they were so impoverished looking that the wind could have blown them away.

Sir,

The National Liberation Front (NLF, aka Vietcong), were broken because of the Tet Offensive in the attempt to move from the second to third phase of guerilla warfare. It was a devestating blow to the cadre ranks, and this provided breathing space to allow a more unified, "one war" approach to flourish under GEN Abrams from 1968-1972. The NLF, while still a minor threat, was no longer the player it once was after Tet. Miracle rice and the land to the tiller program (to name two SVN successes), in combination with the Tet disaster for the NLF allowed the SVN central government to begin reasserting control over much of the countryside.

In the end, it was a conventional force, armed with tanks and anti-tank missiles, that defeated SVN in 1975. It was not an insurgency.

Thus, there is a strong case that it was the strangling of funds and equipment to SVN, knocking out one of the legs of the stool holding up SVN. However, this isn't enough, as there was enormous graft and corruption issues with SVN leadership, and so there were tremendous inefficiencies because of that. Additionally, there was political infighting and cronyism appointments of military leaderships, resulting in inefficiencies there as well.

In the end, a war that lasted 25 years and endured several phases is easily misconstrued.

I've read Sorely and Sheehan's books, and have Karnow's on standby. The rest I actually have on my Amazon.com wish list. So, I may be able to provide a better answer in a few years when all my wishes come true ;)

S2
22 Jan 07,, 22:31
Brigadier,

I'd concur with the Major's assessment w/ respect to the NLF. There is, of course, considerable speculation that the intent of the N. Vietnamese gov't was to do exactly that-destroy the politico/military apparatus associated with the broad-based southern resistance. Still, in my estimation, the war had become a conventional conflict between the United States and N. Vietnam by mid-late 1965. Certainly this was the case in the central highlands and mountainous north. Too, N. Vietnam had already routinely violated both Laotian and Cambodian sovereignty in the movement of supplies south. Troops would follow in the same overwhelming manner. Sihanouk turned a blind eye. The Laotians didn't. Both paid the price in any case.

Of course, it was our inclination to seek out large forces, so it may have been a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts to see the war in this light. Certainly, it was our opinion that ARVN forces were largely incapable of giving battle to NVA regiments as a matter of planned offensive operations until Vietnamization was well in hand, and we relegated the ARVN to security duties while their forces matured. While certain that I'm wrong, I don't recall ARVN forces taking an active offensive role against NVA forces until Tet, at Hue and later as part of Operation Pegasus-the 1st Cav Division's relief of Khe Sanh.

It's interesting that Mr. Moyar suggests that the strategic hamlet program had gained momentum in 1963 upon the brink of the coup. It's conceivable that the intent to isolate the rural population from the Viet Cong was beginning to have effect.

I do not fully understand the reasons behind the NVA reinforcement of the south beginning in 1965, except to accelerate the conflict. Moyar seems to hint that concurrence was reached between the PRC and Hanoi in 1965 suggesting, perhaps, a formalized accord to escalate the liberation of the south. This may explain the appearance of NVA regiments on the southern battlefield by mid-1965. Certainly, that summer those forces constituted a strategic threat to the south by attempting to cut the nation along the central highlands to the coast.

I'd concur with Moyar that our nation's press certainly presented a far different picture of Vietnam in 1964-1965 than later. I distinctly recall reading as a child very early news such as the Gulf of Tonkin fights, evacuation of U.S. dependants in the fall of 1964, and the rocket attacks on Pleiku airfield. The tone was distinctly confrontational. Then again, perhaps it was reading the STARS AND STRIPES while living on an army base in Germany where troops were receiving orders left and right for the 'Nam. My dad and everybody around me knew we were going to war-and felt good about it. Afterall, we'd held the line in S. Korea and we'd do so here, or so the thinking went among my father's peers.

Times were different and many of our younger journalists and diplomats were quite infected by JFK's dictum to "...bear any burden and pay any price...". The Peace Corps was considered a nearly revolutionary exportation of American idealism. Further, the prism of a bi-polar confrontation colored any perspective. Notions such as "wars of national liberation", "third world", and "non-aligned movements" were still nascent theories just emerging. In general, today's neo-conservative might have felt quite comfortable in the early sixties JFK administration.

Interesting times those were...

Shek
22 Jan 07,, 22:42
I do not fully understand the reasons behind the NVA reinforcement of the south beginning in 1965, except to accelerate the conflict.

COL Summers' thoughts on this was that it was a race against the clock - move in and make the "liberation" of the south a fait accompli before the US could move in and stabilize the situation in the south.

Ray
23 Jan 07,, 06:12
In the end, it was a conventional force, armed with tanks and anti-tank missiles, that defeated SVN in 1975. It was not an insurgency.

Shek,

It was rather extraordinary that NV could do so, given that the SV were better equipped and trained (at least that is what is the general impression).

If NV and PRC was to move in and make the "liberation" of the south a fait accompli before the US could move in and stabilize the situation in the south, what prevented the US to beating the clock? The US did have resources to do so or didn't they?

How much did the political situation, apart from corruption in SV, play a role in the military operations?

S2,

The clubbing of villages to isolate the resources from the insurgents is an aspect that is of interest to me. I am not totally aware of its success in VN, but we borrowed a leaf from it and applied it to Mizoram. It proved to be quite a success, so much so that today we have no insurgency in Mizoram, even though it was one of those raging one in those days.

Yes, those were interesting times, politically as also militarily.

S2
23 Jan 07,, 07:14
Brigadier,

Mr. Moyar's suggestion that the Strategic Hamlet program was gaining traction under the Diem regime is interesting.

"Diem's armed forces hurt the Communists far more seriously than Americans have been led to believe. So, too, did his poorly understood "strategic hamlets," fortified South Vietnamese communities stocked with government cadres and militiamen."

I understand that the article takes a topical approach, but if challenging the conventional wisdom, I'd prefer that Mr. Moyar gave some indication of evidence to back the above assertion.

It was my understanding that the strategic hamlet concept was, in fact, an alienating feature of the Diem regime by separating Vietnamese families from traditional lands to which they were rather spiritually wed. Further, there were substantial allegations that the hamlets were often hovels, offering neither adequate security nor sustenance-often a function of the endemic corruption within the South Vietnamese government. Actually, there seems a superficial parallel to our own corrupt agents and representatives on American Indian reservations of the 1870s-80s.

A variation of this theme, perhaps, which seems to have enjoyed resounding success was the U.S.M.C. CAP (Combined Action Platoon, I believe) program that would place a platoon, broken down to squad sized elements living among the locals within a network of hamlets. Living and working with the locals on their land seemed an effective alternative that later briefly emerged.

Sir, if I might, I'd suggest that the ARVN of 1975 was a skeleton of a rather substantial force that existed by 1972. Remember that the Easter 1972 NVA offensive was soundly defeated around An Loc, though only after ARVN forces were defeated at Loc Ninh. U.S. ground forces were utterly absent, other than advisors.

There is evidence that even at this late date, key ARVN units did not display resolve and determination, particularly their leadership. These same units, commanded under desperate conditions by U.S. advisors fought with great skill and vigor. It DID mark our debut of the TOW ATGM, fired from UH-1Ds, to great effect. That offensive, like the 1975 assault was marked by a significant NVA armor augmentation.

As such, sir, there seems indications both during the NVA Easter offensive of April, 1972 and the previous ARVN invasion of Laos in 1971 that the South Vietnamese command and staffing abilities at the brigade and higher echelons had still not matured. Little wonder that in our absence of 1975, these deficiencies would again play a role.

Two significant differences, however. First, South Vietnam was not yet ink-spotted with the Paris Peace Accord territorial adjustments which later rendered South Vietnamese defenses null. Loc Ninh, as example, remained a North Vietnamese bastion under the NLF guise from it's capture in April, 1972 until liberation.

Secondly, the U.S. Congress had not yet cut off aid to the Thieu regime. These two elements seemed to have assured a North Vietnamese victory. To an Army trained to fight under a firepower-intensive rationale, this was akin to sweeping the rug from beneath the feet of the ARVN at their most vulnerable moment.

Bigfella
23 Jan 07,, 12:08
Ray,

I actually have Moyar's book. I bought it last week. Unfortunately it is quite lengthy, so I won't have time to read it properly anytime soon. A couple of things I have read so far are worrying, however:

*Moyar is a little too self-consciously 'revisionist' for me. He makes a big point of it in the book's intro. people who feel they are tryong to argue against 'accepted wisdom' are often over-zealous in 'proving' their case. You'll notice how keen he is to big note his own work. Always a red flag.

*He takes the admittedly unique approach of blaming the press for Diem's downfall. This is a variation on an old theme, and it smells just as bad in this context. We are talking about reports from a literal handful of reporters on a conflict few Americans had heard of. And this swayed the US govt to help remove Diem? I remain to be convinced.

*He focusses on 3 books. I own all 3, though it is years since I read them.
- Halberstam's 'Best & Brightest' is almost entirely focussed on the goings on in Washington & the US Embassy in Saigon. Discussion of the Diem regime limited by comparison. The book has been important in framing discussion of these issues, but it has not gone unchallenged.
- Sheehan's book is very heavily influenced by his relationship with its central figure - John paul Vann. This is clear throughout. It also contains some very insightful comments on the failures of US doctrine, including the experience of Victor 'Brute' Krulak in unsuccessfully trying to change it. A worthwhile read, but to suggest that it has somehow framed understanding of the war is a wild overstatement.
- Karnow's book is probably the most influential of the three. It has become one of the standard 'general' histories of the war aimed at the ordinary reader (along with Herring's 'America's longest War'). It has the flaws inherent in all such works, but I will have to read Mpyar, Karnow & others to get an idea of the validity of his objections.

*A real concern is one of the few pages of the book I did read. It was part of a discussion of the 1963 'Buddhist Crisis'. In trying to minimize the significance of Buddhism in the RVN it tried to divide the nation of 15 million up into distinct religious groups: Buddhist 3-4 mill (50% practising & 50% non-practising); Catholic 1.5 mill; Cao Dai 1.5-2 mill; Hoa Hao 1.5-2 mill; Confucian/Ancestor worship 4 mill. The purpose of this was to claim that journalists in particular exaggerated the importance of Diem's anti-Buddhist campaigns to ordinary Vietnamese.

While he mentions briefly the 'loose' affiliation of the majority of Vietnamese with Buddhism, his insistence on imposing Western ideas of religion being 'either/or' is deeply misleading. First, the Hoa Hao was a Buddhist sect. Violently anti-communist after they executed its founder in 1947, they turned on Diem after he began persecuting Buddhists. The Cao Dai venerate the Buddha and many aspects of their faith are influenced by Buddhism. In addition to this, many Confucians also follow some buddhist teachings. The combination of Confucian, Ancastor worship & Buddhist beliefs is common throughout Vietnam. Buddhist monks are (or were) highly respected figures within Vietnamese society, even among non-Buddhists. If Moyar was unaware of these facts his competence is in question. If he was aware & chose to ignore them, his motives are.

I'll try to skim a bit of the book & get back to you on it.

Just one other point. Shek mentioned that the NLF estroyed itself during Tet. This is only partly true. It did cripple its combat strength, but the bulk of those who died were combat personnel rather than the more important organising cadre. These survived to mount even less successful 'mini-Tet' offensives later in the year (May & August I think). This finally crippled the NLF structure, along with much improved US tactics.

Sorry if I've gone on a bit.

Shek
23 Jan 07,, 12:43
Just one other point. Shek mentioned that the NLF estroyed itself during Tet. This is only partly true. It did cripple its combat strength, but the bulk of those who died were combat personnel rather than the more important organising cadre. These survived to mount even less successful 'mini-Tet' offensives later in the year (May & August I think). This finally crippled the NLF structure, along with much improved US tactics.

Thanks for the correction/clarification.

Ray
23 Jan 07,, 13:10
Very interesting insights and thank you.

More would be appreciated.

It will be wonderful if any of you should recount with analysis the whole genesis and conduct.

It would be very educative for quite a few members and others who visit WAB since quite a few have only an inkling of what was Vietnam. Some also have incorrect impression of the situation and why things happened the way it happened.

S2,

In India, we located the units in platoon worth and had villages organised next to it. Therefore, movement in areas elsewhere without permission would mean that the person was an 'outsider' and in all probability an insurgent. If a relative or friends visited, he would have a pass from the area from where he was coming as also a pass allowing him to stay issue by the local post commander.

In India insurgencies, unless fired upon or if the person attempts to flee or make suspicious and aggressive move, we cannot fire. This possibly ensures that the population does not get hostile since there can be very few cases that they can claim to be wanton killing, at least in their conscience.

The tribals are very steeped in Christianity and are very God fearing. That, too, was our advantage.

Shek
23 Jan 07,, 14:19
Shek,

It was rather extraordinary that NV could do so, given that the SV were better equipped and trained (at least that is what is the general impression).

If NV and PRC was to move in and make the "liberation" of the south a fait accompli before the US could move in and stabilize the situation in the south, what prevented the US to beating the clock? The US did have resources to do so or didn't they?

Sir,

The North Vietnamese didn't think that the US would intervene and make the commitment that it did. I believe that the thinking on NVN's part was that they could provide some insurance to that end by making intervention irrelevant if there is nothing to intervene for. As history demonstrated, it was a miscalculation.

wabpilot
24 Jan 07,, 01:16
Vietnam interests me.

There are too many commentaries on Vietnam.

What is the reality in geopolitical terms, geostrategic terms as also from the tactical terms.

There are Vietnam veterans here as also military enthusiasts.

Could you all comment as to what you feel about the way Vietnam was approached as a case for victory and fought? And why was it not a success when the military might was applied in all its glory against the impoverished Vietcongs who were hardly an enemy that required to be defeated since they were so impoverished looking that the wind could have blown them away.I did two tours in Viet Nam. Trust me, the VC were not pushovers. I recall one day, I was leading a two plane section out of Delta Station. We got a call of troops in contact and hustled out to give them a little air support. By the time we got there, a Company of Marines which had been trying to advance up a ridge was in dire straits, with VC almost overrunning them. Things were so extreme, that the CO called for ord on his position. We made three passes, the first, we dropped on the OP. Thankfully, the bombs flew a few feet long. The FAC said, that the drop caused Charlie to retreat a little.

On the second pass, we aimed about 100 yards uphill, trying to encourage Charlie to keep moving back and up the valley. Apparently one of the Mk82s hung up on the rack because it separated at a funny angle and flew way long. Deuce reported smoke from the back side of the ridge line.

On our third pass, we aimed at the military crest and armed tail only. We put the MK82s on target. The whole top of the ridge line blew off with massive secondary explosions and over 100 KBA. Yep, that day, Charlie had lots of ammo and good organization. He needed to be defeated the way that only NavAir and ground forces can.

neilmpenny
28 Jan 07,, 01:40
Just one other point. Shek mentioned that the NLF estroyed itself during Tet. This is only partly true. It did cripple its combat strength, but the bulk of those who died were combat personnel rather than the more important organising cadre. These survived to mount even less successful 'mini-Tet' offensives later in the year (May & August I think). This finally crippled the NLF structure, along with much improved US tactics.

Sorry if I've gone on a bit.

What also really damagd the NLF in the TET offensive, apart from what is mentioned previously, is the fact that pretty much every mole they had hidden in the south was exposed.

Shek
28 Jan 07,, 15:49
How much did the political situation, apart from corruption in SV, play a role in the military operations?

Sir,

Aside from the corruption on the logistical side, the cronyism, relatives and lackeys of the politicians were given commands that they were not up to the task of performing. It took the proven incompetence in almost all cases before the American choice of a commander who was competent was finally promoted into a position that was deserved. This covers the Vietnamization phase from 68-72.

Under Diem (prior to major US involvedment) he did the same thing, except that many units' primary mission was actually a "republican guard" type role to prevent Diem's overthrow from a coup. This destroyed unit of command, as there were lower ranking officers who didn't "report" to their commanders, but rather straight to Diem. Added to this, was the fear by Diem that casualties would only exacerbate the desire of the military to form a coup. Thus, you had some ineffective commanders and a disjointed command structure that was hobbled by a strategic outlook that the danger was not from the NLF, but from within the SVN Army.

-{SpoonmaN}-
31 Jan 07,, 01:31
What also really damagd the NLF in the TET offensive, apart from what is mentioned previously, is the fact that pretty much every mole they had hidden in the south was exposed.

The fact that they slaughtered thousands of civilians probably didn't help their PR campaign either.

xerxes
31 Jan 07,, 05:01
Diem was a strict catholic who did not much like the other alternatives. The real question for me to the vietnam war expert if the following:

would China intervined had MCAV forces crossed into North Vietnam and captured Hanoi - like the Korean War - or was McNamara bluffed? ...

My view is that he was bluffed.

Officer of Engineers
31 Jan 07,, 05:16
It was an open secret that Chinese troops were already in North Vietnam. PLAAF ground based air defences were protecting Hanoi and Chinese engineers built a large portion of the Ho Chi Minh trail.

Was it a bluff? Maybe but Chinese troops were already manning the lines.

xerxes
31 Jan 07,, 05:27
^^

but that would in line of Chinese involvment in north korea prior to Thanksgiving offensive ... but would the PRC launched a major offensive by their "volountear army" had the US forces crossed into the North and topple the Hanoi government?

For some reason I dont think they wanted a second Korean War. The nuclear teeth of the paper-tiger was greatly feared and China was amidst its revolutions farcry from its energetic days of Korean War when the PRC was only one year old.

Officer of Engineers
31 Jan 07,, 05:36
From the historic records, Mao had no intention of intervening against the Americans but then, he was also a mad man who launched the Great Leaps Forward and the Great Proliteriate Cultural Revolution. So, we don't know if he would have actually got himself involved except that there were Chinese troops already in Vietnam.

About the only thing I can say is that this time around, the Americans would have wiped any Chinese Army off the face of the earth.

xerxes
31 Jan 07,, 05:39
About the only thing I can say is that this time around, the Americans would have wiped any Chinese Army off the face of the earth.

I will meditate on this phrase ^^^ and give you an answer by tomorrow ....

Officer of Engineers
31 Jan 07,, 05:49
Look up the 1979 1st Sino-Vietnam War.

xerxes
31 Jan 07,, 05:55
I actually answered your view on that war in this thread

http://www.worldaffairsboard.com/history-warfare/31585-greater-east-asia-co-prosperity-sphere-2.html

though I agree that a Chinese massive invasion of North Vietnam in response to US crossing the North Vietnam border, would have spiked considerable sense of nationalism among Vietnamese against Chinese

Officer of Engineers
31 Jan 07,, 06:01
Sorry,

I didn't see that post until you pointed it out to me. But you missed my point here. The strategic, operational, and tactical blunderings that characterized that 79 war when pitted an American war machine such as the one that was in Vietnam would have meant no Chinese army would have walked home.

Also


You cannot reason that today PLA is weak because of their humiliating defeat by a Soviet's satellite 25 years ago, no more that I can show the Sino-Indian war to be a major weakness of the Indian armed forces.

The point here is not that the PLA is weak because of the 1st Sino-VN War. They've improved considerably to the point that they've won the 1984 2nd Sino-VN War but that the PLA is checked by some very good armies. The PLA is not going to march to Hanoi even if she wanted to.

xerxes
31 Jan 07,, 17:08
I didn't see that post until you pointed it out to me. But you missed my point here. The strategic, operational, and tactical blunderings that characterized that 79 war when pitted an American war machine such as the one that was in Vietnam would have meant no Chinese army would have walked home.


very much agreed ... i see your point



The point here is not that the PLA is weak because of the 1st Sino-VN War. They've improved considerably to the point that they've won the 1984 2nd Sino-VN War but that the PLA is checked by some very good armies. The PLA is not going to march to Hanoi even if she wanted to.

I have to read about the 2nd sino-vietnamese war ... but incase of Chinese military march to Hanoi I will give more credit to the battleharden Vietnamese and less credit to flaws of PLA

Bigfella
02 Feb 07,, 01:52
The shadow of America's involvment in Korea hung long over Vietnam. Korea was, by its conclusion, very unpopular with the American public. No American President wanted America to be dragged into another land war in Asia.

The evidence on China's intentions is inconclusive. Further research will no doubt clarify the issue in future years, but even then it is simply impossible to know how China might have responded to a large American army appearing on another border only a dozen or so years after Korea.

China certainly spent the mid-60s constructing military infrastructure (airfields, bases, rail lines) in the south. If the PLAAF didn't engage the USAF directly, it certainly assisted the Vietnamese in doing so. There were also several hundred thousand Chinese regulars who served in Vietnam during the war, though none in combat roles (except perhaps some AA units & unit advisors).

What is important here is: did America have good reason to believe China might intervene? The answer is Yes. That America would have beaten the DRV & PLA is not relevant. That victory would have come at a very heavy price. Keep in mind that even before the Tet Offensive, with less than 30,000 US dead, opposition to the war was already in the 40% range & rising steadily.

Even without Chinese intervention, invading the North would have cost tens of thousands of US lives. Throw in China and the figures just keep going up. Worse, China could just keep funnelling irregulars over the border in their thousands almost indefinately. Once Mao had used the Red Guards to regain power they became a bit of an embarrassment. Why not give them a bit of training, arm them & send them to die in Vietnam? No match for US troops, but capable of doing enough damage to make the war VERY unpopular at home.

And for what? America's Vietnamese allies couldn't even govern the South, where they had most support. If you think the VC & DRV fought hard in the South, imagine how much harder they would have fought in an area with much more support, and where they had already beaten the French? US dead & wounded would have been vastly higher, and the war much less popular much more quickly. US Administrations knew this. Invading the North was never an option.

GVChamp
02 Feb 07,, 05:50
A question of my own: The ARVN was pretty friggin big when we left, no? How the heck did it get ****stomped so gosh darn quickly?

wabpilot
02 Feb 07,, 06:18
A question of my own: The ARVN was pretty friggin big when we left, no? How the heck did it get ****stomped so gosh darn quickly?Logistics. The North had uninterupted supply lines. The US Congress would not authorize money to supply South Viet Nam. Nor, would they allow the President to use force to cut the North's supply lines. In short, the US Congress permitted gross violations of the very peace accords they so ardently sought. Treachery of the most rancid sort. The Democrats will never outlive that stain on their reputation.

GVChamp
02 Feb 07,, 19:20
Logistics. The North had uninterupted supply lines. The US Congress would not authorize money to supply South Viet Nam. Nor, would they allow the President to use force to cut the North's supply lines. In short, the US Congress permitted gross violations of the very peace accords they so ardently sought. Treachery of the most rancid sort. The Democrats will never outlive that stain on their reputation.

If the US had decided to provide a limited support role, what would we have done? Just fly over weapons and bomb the NVA with B-52s?

Shek
02 Feb 07,, 19:34
If the US had decided to provide a limited support role, what would we have done? Just fly over weapons and bomb the NVA with B-52s?

We had disrupted the Ho Chi Minh Trail with the B52 raids. Once these stopped, NVN was able to make it a super highway and in fact, built POL pipelines into SVN for the 1975 offensive.

Likewise, without the prospect of American support, there wasn't an assurance of back up to stiffen resolve. This made the retreat in the Central Highlands turn into a rout and finally a pursuit.

Aid, advisors, and CAS would have made a difference and definitely extended some life to SVN. Whether it would have been sufficient in the end, or have allowed enough breathing space to create an effective and self-sustaining SVN, it's easy to argue that it wouldn't have.

The above is lacking quite a few details, but it does get you towards the conclusion, which I think is valid.

wabpilot
02 Feb 07,, 23:16
If the US had decided to provide a limited support role, what would we have done? Just fly over weapons and bomb the NVA with B-52s?Rolling Thunder III, or better yet, Instant Thunder. If we had resumed mining Hai Phong Harbor, interdicting the Ho Chi Min Trail and hitting selected bridges around Hanoi, the ARVN would have had a fighting chance. Also, we would have had to commit to providing the logistical support the South needed. We did not and the result is entirely predictable.