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When was Vietnam lost?

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    Posted: 11 Nov 2010 at 23:42
Hello to you all
 
I have been watching a very interesting documentary about the Vietnam war and how it unfolded and it made me do quite some research into the subject and also raised a lot of questions I hope to find answer to. The most important is when was Vietnam lost?
 
From the documentary (Vietnam: A Television History, you can find it on youtube) as well as from what I read it seems that Vietnam was permenantly lost during the Diem rule and that the Catholic-Buddhist struggle was the final straw. This elongated struggle seem to have helped charge the people up and make them turn more to the VC.
 
The American reluctance to address this issue once and for all exacerbated the situation. The US planners were divided into two wings who were at war with each other so things took time untill one wing won over the other and Diem was overthrown.
 
Two questions here. Is my analysis correct? Was Vietnam salvageable after Diem?
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Nov 2010 at 01:11
The root cause of the loss in Vietnam was taking it to be a political struggle rather than a nationalist one. From my own reading Roman Catholic/Buddhist was not such a significant issue: Vietnamese roots are Confucian.
Have you read Frances Fitzgerald's classic Fire in the Lake?
 
Given that fundamental error the war was lost pretty well before it started. Handled properly, however, it's possible that a noncommitted state like Yugoslavia (without the internal dissensions!) might have emerged without a war at all.


Edited by gcle2003 - 12 Nov 2010 at 01:12
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Nov 2010 at 03:36
I think victory needs to be defined more than anything else. Some may look back nostalgically at Vietnam as a lost opportunity, it could have become the South Korea of the region, cementing American supremacy with a burgeoning industrial powerhouse committed to capitalism and free trade. The much more interesting question for me personally is whether this was ever possible in Vietnam the way it materialised in South Korea, and if it was not, what was all the fuss about?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Nov 2010 at 04:01
Vietnam was "lost" at Dien Bin Phu and everything else was the aftermath of diplomatic blather within the context of the Cold War. Poor Bao Dai...but then he was no Sihanouk.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Nov 2010 at 04:45
Do the public know enough at this moment to answer the question? Could more information change the view of why it happened?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Nov 2010 at 05:29
drgonzaga raises an interesting point in mentioning Sihanouk. Vietnam (or maybe Viet Nam since I mentioned Fitzgerald) gets all the focus, Cambodia does only with regard to the killing fields (which Vietnam put an end to), and Laos hardly gets a mention excet from the conspiracy theorists. Why did they all go such different ways?
 
I'd also accept Vietnam was 'lost' by Dien Ben Phu although I don't think the French had any chance of holding on to it before that.
 
As for Korea, the North is hardly a success story, and the South had the advantage that early on Korean nationalism was focussed against Japan (and later China/Russia), not against any of the WW2 allies.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Nov 2010 at 08:33
Dien Bien Phu did not change anything in terms of strategic advantage.

The reason the French designed and build this complex deep in the Indochinese interior was political: they wanted to use a cemented position deep in the interior as a bargaining chip for getting themselves better terms at Geneva (the major players were already in talks and it was generally accepted that the French would need to cede substantial autonomy to the Indochinese).

The loss of Vietnam was never a foregone conclusion in its early stages. The Americans had proved themselves successful time and again of installing compliant puppets who could exercise a reasonable level of control and ensure a reasonable level of stability. The Phillipines (where the Americans had to crown and depose several rulers before getting one who was right for the job) is a case in point.

Pinpointing the exact point at which the South Vietnamese were too disenchanted with their regime to the point they would not all defend it as a whole is rather more difficult. During Diem's time it was probably still possible to do this - though Diem clearly needed to go first. Probably after the mass deployment of US troops it became much harder to convince the South Vietnamese that it was in their interest to struggle against other Vietnamese (Northerners) rather than their own armies which often contained foreigners.


Edited by Constantine XI - 12 Nov 2010 at 08:36
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Nov 2010 at 22:07
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

Dien Bien Phu did not change anything in terms of strategic advantage.
I don't think anyone said it did. It just demonstrated that the western powers were going to lose.
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The reason the French designed and build this complex deep in the Indochinese interior was political: they wanted to use a cemented position deep in the interior as a bargaining chip for getting themselves better terms at Geneva (the major players were already in talks and it was generally accepted that the French would need to cede substantial autonomy to the Indochinese).

The loss of Vietnam was never a foregone conclusion in its early stages. The Americans had proved themselves successful time and again of installing compliant puppets who could exercise a reasonable level of control and ensure a reasonable level of stability. The Phillipines (where the Americans had to crown and depose several rulers before getting one who was right for the job) is a case in point.
The Filipinos can't be compared to the Vietnamese, any more than they can be compared to the Afghans.
Quote
Pinpointing the exact point at which the South Vietnamese were too disenchanted with their regime to the point they would not all defend it as a whole is rather more difficult. During Diem's time it was probably still possible to do this - though Diem clearly needed to go first. Probably after the mass deployment of US troops it became much harder to convince the South Vietnamese that it was in their interest to struggle against other Vietnamese (Northerners) rather than their own armies which often contained foreigners.
I don't see any evidence the mass of the South Vietnamese ever wanted to fight against the North Vietnamese, any more than they worried (either side) about Communism.  Ho after 1945 was a hero to all Vietnam, not just the north.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Nov 2010 at 22:18
Originally posted by gcle gcle wrote:

I don't think anyone said it did. It just demonstrated that the western powers were going to lose.


Originally posted by drg drg wrote:

Vietnam was "lost" at Dien Bin Phu


Quote The Filipinos can't be compared to the Vietnamese, any more than they can be compared to the Afghans.



Why don't you think so?

Quote I don't see any evidence the mass of the South Vietnamese ever wanted to fight against the North Vietnamese, any more than they worried (either side) about Communism.  Ho after 1945 was a hero to all Vietnam, not just the north.


Yes, this is precisely the point I am making.


Edited by Constantine XI - 12 Nov 2010 at 22:19
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Nov 2010 at 16:21
First, "Vietnam" was never lost. It is still Vietnamese. The Vietnamese North-South War (as it is still called by many Vietnamese in the South) was lost between 1972 and 1975, though the roots of that loss go back to 1944-45, when the VNQDD failed to prepare to challenge the emerging Viet Minh for the coming power vacuum. Contrary to popular belief, the Vietnamese were hardly all in the Viet Minh camp. Most appear to have wanted Independence, if such could guarantee prosperity, and they were willing to back anyone who appeared capable of delivering such a state. The political lines between Vietnamese nationalists and the communists were still fluid, and yet to be set in concrete. The communists took an early lead in taking steps to educate the masses, thereby gaining their support. But they also began developing their own opposition. As for the Catholics versus Buddhists, that was over by 1967 and primarily effected Central Vietnam, which was likewise where the strongest support for the Viet Minh had been since 1944-45. Understand that the North had been traditionally Confucian, whereas the South (meaning Central Vietnam and areas further south as the lands were wrested away from the Cham and Cambodians, and opened to Vietnamese settlers) were traditionally Buddhist, though Catholic communities took root in both the Central and South, particularly after Minh Mang declared Confucianism as the official state cult, and initiated the anti-Catholic campaigns that eventually led to French intervention.  

Oh, yes, that is ancient history. Precisely my point. It was a Vietnamese civil conflict that could only, in the end, be settled by one of the two Vietnamese states that would re-emerge. GCLE refers to Yugoslavia, and he is entirely correct (in that point). But Indochina was off the American radar. Indochina had been a French colony, and France was an Ally. It was up to them to get in there and clean it up and, if they were smart, turn it over to someone and bow out. (a play on Gen. Leclerc's views). It took the Greek Civil War, the ending of the Chinese Civil War, the emerging Iron Curtain, and outbreak of the Korean War to place Vietnam on the U.S. agenda in 1950.

Dien Bien Phu was a bump in the road. A tactical victory that could be exploited for psychological ends, reminding all of Clausewitz' dictum. DBP destroyed the French theatre mobile reserves, but the greatly weakened Viet Minh still lacked the manpower to eject the French by force. And yes, as alluded to by other posters, many Vietnamese on both sides of the political spectrum hailed that 'victory' over Franco-Vietnamese forces.

Vietnam was not an un-winnable war ab initio. It became so for the Americans because they were unwilling to wage it as a total war, given that even a Communist Vietnam posed no viscerally visible threat. That limited its conduct of the war from its very beginning, and the very best it was ever designed to do was to buy enough time to raise up, equip, and train a nationalist Vietnamese Army capable of defending its borders against the North. No different than in the Nguyen-Trinh years, or the the Dang Ngoai - Dang Trong period. Both post-1954 Vietnamese regimes relied upon outside sponsors, since neither could afford the costs of the war on their own. So the sponsor with the stronger staying power would in the end see its client state prevail. Watergate threw the U.S. political system into such a state that an unelected president did the only honorable thing he could do. He ignored promises made to their client state and threw in the towel by keeping American air forces out of that final campaign.

ps. Anyone who bases their understanding of Vietnam on Fitzgerald, is woefully out of date. I would at least add David G. Marr's "Vietnam 1945: The Quest for Power" and for a nuanced understanding of the historical background: Li Tana's "Nguyen Cochinchina: Southern Vietnam in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries" and Choi Byung Wook's "Southern Vietnam under the reign of Minh Mang (1820-1841)" to the reading list.

Vietnam could have become another 'Korea', but to do so it would have needed two vital elements: First, an Army the relative size and quality of the ROK Army, whose ethos lies in the Japanese Imperial Army. And second, a sponsor willing to back up its promises even in the face of heated political opposition.

pps: Anyone who blithely dismisses the RVN as a 'compliant puppet' is as naive as the perfected idiots who used to spout their blithe assumptions that Hanoi's decisions were being made for them in Beijing and Moscow. 



Edited by lirelou - 13 Nov 2010 at 16:39
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Nov 2010 at 00:27
Originally posted by lirelou lirelou wrote:

First, "Vietnam" was never lost. It is still Vietnamese.
Pointless quibble. You might as well say Germany didn't lose in 1939-45 because it's still German. The question referred to the loss of Vietnam by the anti-Communist alliance. Cuba is still Cuban, but it was lost to the alliance in 1960.
 
The following detail (snipped) is useful and interesting, but I don't see how it alters the main point.
Quote
Vietnam was not an un-winnable war ab initio. It became so for the Americans because they were unwilling to wage it as a total war, given that even a Communist Vietnam posed no viscerally visible threat. That limited its conduct of the war from its very beginning, and the very best it was ever designed to do was to buy enough time to raise up, equip, and train a nationalist Vietnamese Army capable of defending its borders against the North.
Do I hear echoes of Iraq and Afghanistan? Or for that matter of the German army in 1918? Such wars are never 'won' without a full understanding of the history, biases, prejudices value structures of the people concerned - and of course with that war is rarely necessary. 
Quote
No different than in the Nguyen-Trinh years, or the the Dang Ngoai - Dang Trong period. Both post-1954 Vietnamese regimes relied upon outside sponsors, since neither could afford the costs of the war on their own. So the sponsor with the stronger staying power would in the end see its client state prevail. Watergate threw the U.S. political system into such a state that an unelected president did the only honorable thing he could do. He ignored promises made to their client state and threw in the towel by keeping American air forces out of that final campaign.
Nothing to do with Watergate. He had pulled over 400,000 troops out of Vietnam (starting in 1969) in his first term, well before the scandal broke, and probably a reason for his landslide victory in 1972. The détente with China marked by hs groundbreaking trip to the country, was some months before the break-in even occurred.
 
You're right that Nixon threw in the towel, but not because of Watergate. Being the most in touch wth reality of any US president since FDR, he simply came to his senses.
Quote
Vietnam could have become another 'Korea', but to do so it would have needed two vital elements: First, an Army the relative size and quality of the ROK Army, whose ethos lies in the Japanese Imperial Army. And second, a sponsor willing to back up its promises even in the face of heated political opposition.
Vietnam was never going to be another Korea because there was never going to be an equivalent to the Kim family (or for that matter a Korean equivalent to Ho).
You can accept a Syngman Rhee if the alternative is a Kim il-Sung.


Edited by gcle2003 - 14 Nov 2010 at 00:29
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Nov 2010 at 00:48
GCLE and Constantine" [QUOTE] I don't see any evidence the mass of the South Vietnamese ever wanted to fight against the North Vietnamese, any more than they worried (either side) about Communism.  Ho after 1945 was a hero to all Vietnam, not just the north.[QUOTE]

Well, Vietnamese opposition to the developing Viet Minh from 1946 on had to count for something. The idea that those Vietnamese who opposed Communism from the beginning were 'puppets' of the French, and later the Americans, is the present government's view. Being anti-French, or anti-French colonialist, was not per se being Viet Minh, though the French security categorized them as such. Several million Catholics in the North, concentrated around Phat Diem and Bui Diem in the Red River Delta, were ardent nationalists (who, by the way, also included some very conservative Royalists). The French only drew them to their side by sending in the Army to give them a choice of fighting the Bao Dai government, or joining it. The lead unit to go into Phat Diem and fire the first shots of this show of force was an all Vietnamese parachute company in French service commanded by Nguyen Van Vy, later Chairman of the RVN Joint Chiefs of Staff. There were many other pockets of virulent anti-VM suspicion or resistance up and down Vietnam's long coast, as well as pockets of strong support. Thus, it wasn't really a "North South War" until after 1954, when the political settlement at Geneve redrew the lines almost along the old 16th to 19th century split.

Likewise, the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese who voluntarily enlisted in the RVN's defense, as well as the millions who either actively or passively supported it, have to count for something. Yes, there were those within the RVN's ranks who viewed Ho Chi Minh as a hero. But there were also common ARVN soldiers who used VM propaganda sheets with Ho's photo as toilet paper, just as there were RVN NCO's who had some very vulgar sentiments towards HCM and the Viet Cong tattooed on their bodies.

Hatred and commitment existed on both sides of that Vietnamese political divide.  And the ARVN's conduct during the 1972 Easter Offensive spoke volumes in favor of their willingness to defend their country against the northern State. Unfortunately, just as the North's victory was hardly writ in stone ab initio, neither was the South's survival.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Nov 2010 at 01:06
Interesting thing the comparison between Korea and Vietnam. The coditions in which both countries came about are exactly similar but each one turned out completely different than the other.
 
For me Vietnam was never a winnable war.... as long as the South was so divided. There was simply no sense of stability, no sense of a goal (except survival), no plan for the future and no effort to do so. The country went from coup to coup on a regular basis and their army was weak. The people wanted to be united and Ho was the only guy who actually raised this banner. Had the US entered the North in a total war it would have definitely won but they didn't and conditions in the south meant that.
 
As for Korea, I agree with lirelou on his theory. Ho was not a puppet like Kim was, had Kim been as nationalistic and independent as Ho who knows. But also the South was not divided. The army was always united and very strong as well (unlike South Vietnamese army). Plus the country immediately went into developement mode making people busy with building factories instead of making war.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Nov 2010 at 04:55
I don't think it should be overlooked that, in Korea, the US and the West in general had driven out the former occupying imperialist power (Japan) whereas in Vietnam the US, and the West in general, were allies of the previous occupying imperialist power (France).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Nov 2010 at 05:18
GCLE, the president who threw in the towel was Gerald Ford, not Nixon. Nixon laid the base by buying Thieu's acceptance of the Paris Accords by promising air support, but the decision not to provide it was Ford's, who was the only person ever to hold the office of President without having won a national election. (He had previously replaced Spiro Agnew as VP while Speaker of the House.) Had Nixon been in office, the 1975 offensive would likely not have been launched as it was. That may sound like a trifle, but it kept the B-52s out of the air while PAVN armor thundered South. If you think that the Northerners trusted the South, look at the large numbers of Northern troops and cadres who were re-settled into the South. They were an army of occupation without the name. And among many Southerners of that generation, they are still regarded as such. (The very young generations don't care. All they want are jobs and a future, which the current political system is desperate to provide, as long as it does not create power competitors.)

Al Jass, Kim Il-sung was not a puppet. But neither was he a nationalist in the political sense. And he likely was not even a true Communist in the early part of his career. He had fought the Japanese as a guerrilla in Manchuria in the CCP sponsored (and largely manned) Anti Japanese United Army (which recruited its partisans in the same manner Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago was 'recruited'). When his band fell apart (mostly through desertion and surrender), he escaped into the Soviet Union and would have remained in a detention camp for the duration of the war if the Germans had not invaded. Needing people to keep an eye on the Japanese, the Soviets organized the 88th Independent Infantry Brigade, a special reconnaissance unit which kept tabs on the Japanese. KIS commanded a Battalion within the 88th 'Strelnaya' (Sharpshooters) until released to return to Korea with about 60 members of his old battalion. In the immediate post-war period, while all the major Korean communist leaders went South to build the networks necessary to defeat Kim Koo and Syngman Rhee's forces, KIS remained in the north and made himself useful to the Soviets, whose end goal was a SOviet-friendly state in Korea. Thus KIS was able to put his men in the emerging security forces, and later into what became the NK Army, laying the ground for the Korean War, and a purge of the old communists in the wake of that War.  Dr. Andrei Lankov's opinion is that had KIS been ordered to remain in the Soviet Union in the wake of WWII, he likely would have remained in the Army as a career officer, and retired as a high ranking Soviet general.

Back to Vietnam. The ARVN military machine was better than it is given credit for. But it suffered from defects that were unique to the South (sizable ethnic and religious minorities). Any vision of the Vietnamese as a people united in support of Uncle Ho throughout the war period needs to be tempered with regional, ethnic, and historical considerations of the time.

Also, as to why the war was really being fought, and why it continued: From a North Vietnamese standpoint, the South was absolutely necessary to its own survival. Rice cultivation in the North could only marginally meet the needs of its population. Failure to secure the Mekong Delta, which historically produced a rice surplus (and only failed to do in the post 1975 years, when production plummeted, which caused the government to back off collectivization) meant that a divided Vietnam would forever make the North dependent upon China in times of low crop yields or disasters, ergo reducing North Vietnam to the perpetual status of a client state.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Nov 2010 at 05:42

I'd still hold that Nixon did the giving up, even though Ford (always a Vietnam hawk) was in the White House at the time of the final débacle. You should recall that he asked Congress for funds to support the South, but Congress turned him down. So you can blame congress if you like, but that entire turnabout in the US position in 1970-1975 was due to Nixon (and Kissinger).

Incidentally, a more important element than Watergate in Nixon's decisions was the crisis of 1971 which led to the US's first trade deficits of the century, and the country being forced to come off the gold standard. A major reason for giving up the war was that the US could no longer finance it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Nov 2010 at 05:46
GCLE, In re:

"I don't think it should be overlooked that, in Korea, the US and the West in general had driven out the former occupying imperialist power (Japan) whereas in Vietnam the US, and the West in general, were allies of the previous occupying imperialist power (France)."

Yes, a good point. And Korea bordered an already major Communist power in 1945, and Indochina/ Vietnam would do so by October 1949. Also, both France and Japan had looked upon these colonies as a permanent part of their empires. However, while Japan was defeated, and many French realized that the days of White colonialism in Asia were over, there were still some French holdouts who viewed Indochina was rightfully theirs. They had, after all, built its modern infrastructure and brought it into the 20 Century without the high mortality rate of the late Choseon Dynasty. (Death by one's 40s in the early 20th Century.) Here, I refer to Thierry d'Argenlieu and his supporters, who threw the first monkey wrench into Ho CHi Minh's efforts to obtain recognition from the French. 

However: Korea occupied a much smaller peninsula (It is over 1,700 kilometers from Saigon to Hanoi by road), which had been a homogeneous state for nearly two thousand years, whereas Saigon and the Mekong Delta of Vietnam had been settled by the Viets for less than 250 years, and its Central portion only a few hundred years longer than that. The populations of these emergent "three kys" held differing attitudes to occupations, government, religion, civil status, etc. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Nov 2010 at 06:48
When was it lost? Oh, about the time of the Japanese occupation.

When was it finally, really hopelessly lost? Oh, about the time Congress pulled the life support plug in the mid seventies.

A lot of people still have not forgiven congress for that. I'm just saying....


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Dec 2010 at 06:57
Houston, being the home of the largest Vietnamese contingent East of California, still rails at the thought that Vietnam was "lost"...essentially American political disarray led to a failure of will but, hey, if push comes to shove with regard to Chinese overbearing who is going to bet against Hanoi playing the American card!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote opuslola Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Apr 2011 at 22:29
Well, I'll be somewhat of a contrarian here, and suggest that it was a combination of the anti-war groups, in bed with the major press (news-papers and TV) who moved the general opinion to want out.

After the total distruction of the NVA during the so called Tet Offensive, the North was basically thru. But, did the USA really press the issue upon them after that point, the answer is no.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2011 at 01:27
Opus, in re your: "After the total distruction of the NVA during the so called Tet Offensive, the North was basically thru. But, did the USA really press the issue upon them after that point, the answer is no."

It really pays to do a little fact checking before you post. It was not the NVA that was heavily damaged in the Tet Offensive, it was the Viet Cong Main Force units and much of their infrastructure. These were forces and networks that had taken years to develop, and the largest portion of them were thrown away in the offensive. The NVA were able to pick up the slack, and indeed provided many fillers for rebuilding 'VC Main Force" units, while the North as a whole still retained the majority of its war-making capability. In those areas where the VC infrastructure had not risen up as part of the offensive, their cadres remained largely intact, though under pressure from the Phoenix program.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2011 at 01:32
For one last time, Vietnam was not "lost", it was abandoned!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2011 at 05:19
Flotsam, not jetsam?
 
Anybody who gives up in a war can be said to have 'abandoned' it. Notably that was an ominous view in Germany of the defeat in 1918
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2011 at 06:54
Incorrect juxtaposition, Gcle, and we all know that in the weird world of Henry Kissinger, the Provisional Revolutionary Government was the flotsam and General Thieu was the jetsam in the machinations of old Henry with Le Duc Tho.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote opuslola Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2011 at 08:28
Dear Lirelou, thanks for your answer. You do know that I value your opinion concerning events like this, but I would beg to differ with you concerning the NVA forces involved in the offensive.

Almost ever man that I knew that was involved in the battles, would confirm that upon close examination of the dead, there was a very large portion of which were pure NVA. Certainly the tank units, and artillery were commanded and manned by NVA.

I have heard various numbers mentioned concerning the number of tanks and artillery used during the Lightning War", and it seems it just had to be mostly NVA troops.

But, let's just look at some reported facts.

http://archive.glennbeck.com/realstory/10-24-06.shtml Written in 2006.

The above site says, "The Tet Offensive was a dramatic victory for the U.S. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong lost fifty-eight thousand troops in Tet's 2-month span. The U.S. lost a little over fifteen hundred. It was an unmitigated military success. This comparison isn't about violence or causalities.

What we need to learn from the Tet Offensive is how the enemy learned to sway public opinion. 1968 was an election year (like we're in now) and a critical point in the Viet Nam war...a time when the VC was painfully aware that they would never really defeat the United States on the battlefield. Our troops were too well trained and too well armed. Their only "success" came from sneak attacks and hit-and run ambushes. Hmmm...sound familiar?"

According to Wikipedia;

"By 1966-1967, however, after suffering massive casualties, stalemate on the battlefield, and destruction of the northern economy by U.S. aerial bombing, there was a dawning realization that, if current trends continued, Hanoi would eventually lack the resources necessary to affect the military situation in the South.[30] As a result, there were more strident calls by the moderates for negotiations and a revision of strategy. They felt that a return to guerrilla tactics was more appropriate since the U.S. could not be defeated conventionally. They also complained that the policy of rejecting negotiations was in error.[31] The Americans could only be worn down in a war of wills during a period of "fighting while talking." During 1967 things had become so bad on the battlefield that Lê Duẩn ordered Thanh to incorporate aspects of protracted guerrilla warfare into his strategy.[32]"

And as well the article states;

"According to General Trần Văn Trà, the new military head of COSVN, the offensive was to have three distinct phases: Phase I, scheduled to begin on 31 January, was to be a country-wide assault on the cities conducted primarily by Vietcong forces. Concurrently, a propaganda offensive to induce ARVN troops to desert and the South Vietnamese population to rise up against the government would be launched. If outright victory was not achieved, the battle might still lead to the creation of a coalition government and the withdrawal of the Americans. If the general offensive failed to achieve these purposes, followup operations would be conducted to wear down the enemy and lead to a negotiated settlement; Phase II was scheduled to begin on 5 May; and Phase III on 17 August.[51]

Preparations for the offensive were already underway. The logistical build-up began in mid-year, and by January 1968, 81,000 tons of supplies and 200,000 troops, including seven complete infantry regiments and 20 independent battalions made the trip south on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.[52] This logistical effort also involved re-arming the Viet Cong with new AK-47 assault rifles and B-40 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, which granted them superior firepower over their less well-armed ARVN opponents. To pave the way and to confuse the allies as to its intentions, Hanoi launched a diplomatic offensive. Foreign Minister Trinh announced on 30 December that Hanoi would rather than could open negotiations if the U.S. unconditionally ended Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing campaign against North Vietnam.[53] This announcement provoked a flurry of diplomatic activity (which amounted to nothing) during the last weeks of the year.

South Vietnamese and U.S. military intelligence estimated that communist forces in South Vietnam during January 1968 totaled 323,000 men, including 130,000 North Vietnamese regulars, 160,000 Viet Cong and members of the infrastructure, and 33,000 service and support troops. They were organized into nine divisions composed of 35 infantry and 20 artillery or anti-aircraft artillery regiments, which were, in turn, composed of 230 infantry and six sapper battalions.[54]"

So, if the above figures are in any way to be believed then approximately 48% of the forces involved in Tet, were from the NVA. And, you must be assured that in the command structure the figure was much higher.

But, I can only await your very accute response.





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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2011 at 14:46
Opus, you are counting everyone down South, to include those over the border in Cambodia, as engaged in the Tet Offensive. You have to look at the actual units who moved against the cities and towns. I realize that my experience in Nha Trang and Khanh Hoa province was merely a microcosm, but the sources I read listed largely VC Main Force and infrastructure units. Note how quickly the NVA was in taking up the slack, particularly in I Corps where they were the primary effort against Khe Sanh. But, that is not Tet. The Tet Offensive was mostloy VC Main Force units with some NVA. The reason that 1968 was as bad a year as it was in casualties was because with the destruction of those VC units, the NVA still had uncommitted units in Cambodia that could be used in subsequent offensives, or to refill VC units that had been decimated.

Where have I said it was not a success for U.S. Army? But, if it was an unmitigated military success, then that fact would have been plain to the millions of perfect idiot Americans who saw it otherwise. It's not enough to blame the Press. The Tet Offensive made the Vietnam War an issue in the 1968 election. Likewise, the U.S. casualties incurred in 1968 was one reason that the current sitting President decided not to run for reelection. And, it was one of the factors underlying Nixon's Vietnamization Program.

If you want to prove me wrong, give me the relevant orders of battle for Tet 1968 and show me superior numbers of NVA engaged in the cities versus the numbers of VC. Tet is not Khe Sanh. It was the countrywide offensive by VC forces against both the ARVNs and U.S. forces in the cities. Other fighting that occurred during Tet, which primarily involved NVA, were Khe Sanh,  Dak To, and Kham Duc,  but all of these fights were a continuation of NVA operations which were ongoing prior to, and independent of Tet 68.

To quote your own source:  "...Phase I, scheduled to begin on 31 January, was to be a country-wide assault on the cities conducted primarily by Vietcong forces. ... If the general offensive failed to achieve these purposes, followup operations would be conducted to wear down the enemy and lead to a negotiated settlement; Phase II was scheduled to begin on 5 May; and Phase III on 17 August."

Now, here's the U.S. Army Center for Military History's view. Notice the campaign dates:

"Tet Counteroffensive, 30 January 1968-1 April 1968. On 29 January 1968 the Allies began the Tet-lunar new year expecting the usual 36-hour peaceful holiday truce. Because of the threat of a large-scale attack and communist buildup around Khe Sanh, the cease fire order was issued in all areas over which the Allies were responsible with the exception of the I CTZ, south of the Demilitarized Zone.

Determined enemy assaults began in the northern and Central provinces before daylight on 30 January and in Saigon and the Mekong Delta regions that night. Some 84,000 VC and North Vietnamese attacked or fired upon 36 of 44 provincial capitals, 5 of 6 autonomous cities, 64 of 242 district capitals and 50 hamlets. In addition, the enemy raided a number of military installations including almost every airfield. The actual fighting lasted three days; however Saigon and Hue were under more intense and sustained attack.

The attack in Saigon began with a sapper assault against the U.S. Embassy. Other assaults were directed against the Presidential Palace, the compound of the Vietnamese Joint General Staff, and nearby Ton San Nhut air base.

At Hue, eight enemy battalions infiltrated the city and fought the three U.S. Marine Corps, three U.S. Army and eleven South Vietnamese battalions defending it. The fight to expel the enemy lasted a month. American and South Vietnamese units lost over 500 killed, while VC and North Vietnamese battle deaths may have been somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000.

Heavy fighting also occurred in two remote regions: around the Special Forces camp at Dak To in the central highlands and around the U.S. Marines Corps base at Khe Sanh. In both areas, the allies defeated attempts to dislodge them. Finally, with the arrival of more U.S. Army troops under the new XXIV Corps headquarters to reinforce the marines in the northern province, Khe Sanh was abandoned.

Tet proved a major military defeat for the communists. It had failed to spawn either an uprising or appreciable support among the South Vietnamese. On the other hand, the U.S. public became discouraged and support for the war was seriously eroded. U.S. strength in South Vietnam totaled more than 500,000 by early 1968. In addition, there were 61,000 other allied troops and 600,000 South Vietnamese.

The Tet Offensive also dealt a visibly severe setback to the pacification program, as a result of the intense fighting needed to root out VC elements that clung to fortified positions inside the towns. For example, in the densely populated delta there had been approximately 14,000 refugees in January; after Tet some 170,000 were homeless. The requirement to assist these persons seriously inhibited national recovery efforts."

Wouldn't it just be easier to admit that your earlier statement in re the "NVA" being totally destroyed during the Tet Offensive was a mere shot from the hip, and that you stand corrected.





Edited by lirelou - 09 Apr 2011 at 14:48
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2011 at 20:07
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

Incorrect juxtaposition, Gcle, and we all know that in the weird world of Henry Kissinger, the Provisional Revolutionary Government was the flotsam and General Thieu was the jetsam in the machinations of old Henry with Le Duc Tho.
 
Actually I realised some time later that I had written that the wrong way around. I should have said 'Jetsam not flotsam'.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote opuslola Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Apr 2011 at 07:13
A lot of my sources are ancedotal, and as such not a part of the official record. Just how many NVA tank units were a part of the insurrection, for instance? Do you think that NV would invest the heavy cost of such equipment to men who would have had little chance to be counted upon, even after some crash courses in NV?

But, I will not discount nor dismiss your words above.

But, for the purpose of this specific thread, I will stand by my premise that the "Tet" offensive, and the related stand upon the mountain top, was the "Goose that laid/layed the rotten Egg!"

Thanks

Edited by opuslola - 10 Apr 2011 at 07:25
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Apr 2011 at 07:59
Opus, your source is Glen Beck, that is enough to dismiss your argument even if it contained some truths.
 
Here is what the professionals wrote about Vietnam in general:
 
 
 
 
Its pretty dry military stuff but will suffice none the less.
 
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Edited by Al Jassas - 10 Apr 2011 at 08:03
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Captain Vancouver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Apr 2011 at 10:34
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

Flotsam, not jetsam?
 
Anybody who gives up in a war can be said to have 'abandoned' it. Notably that was an ominous view in Germany of the defeat in 1918
 
I fear you are wasting your energy gcle, as there are some, even at this historical distance, who cannot bring themselves to give up their grip on history, and let it float away under it own buoyancy.
 
After over a million killed, and an air campaign that can be described as nothing short of furious, no aims were achieved, and the US was forced to negociate a undesirable document to allow for a reasonably face-saving withdrawal. This has all the elements of a loss. But admitting this is out of step with the overall paradigm many still have of the world.
 
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