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Vietnam War what if?


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#21 Doug Kibbey

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 0732 AM

How would you reconcile the performance of the North Vietnamese soldier?  Same parents, same society, same people, same values.  Yet North Vietnam was able to organize successfully... with minimal foreign advisors.


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It seems you are asserting that the Northeners and the Southeners have no cultural differences. This is absurd. Certainly the "Southeners" produced some decent soldiers, but the corrupt society from whenc the young men sprang could not instill the sort of dicipline (often harsh, to be sure) that the North did. Organize? (the North)....Jeez, you surprized?...it was a totalitarian communist regime with a paranoid internal security apparatus.

BTW, I worked in the field with the ARVN, and apart from the Hăc Bao, found their leadership and it's effect on morale perfectly appalling.
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#22 Richard Lindquist

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 0757 AM

FDR had not planned to aid in returning Asian colonies to the French, Dutch, or Brits. Truman was faced with the possibility of France going commie in the late 40s and had to support her return to "glory" as a way of defusing the commie political movement in France (about 20% of the electorate as i recall).

Eisenhower was faced with the collapse of the French and the reality of commie advances in Asia. While there wasn't much choice but to go along with the Geneva Accords in 1954 (or bring in US troops), Ike thought that with continued MAAG support, South Vietnam could develop like South Korea as a bulwark against communism.

Then Maxwell Taylor sold JFK and RFK on the "Doctrine of Flexible Response" and the rest is history. Read David halberstam's "The Best and Brightest" for a good look at the Washington political scene and the descent into war.
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#23 DougRichards

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 0827 AM

Instead of spending all the money on military matters, look back to uncle Ho and his agreement with Uncle Sam of 1942 to fight the Japanese and rid the ancient kingdom of colonialism

or.

Become the sponsor of democracy and capitalism in both South and North Vietnam, encouraging eventual unification, instead of resisting the tide that would eventually lead to unification anyway.

Remember that the invasion of North Vietnam would bring a repeat of the invasion of North Korea, with a million or so Chinese troops rushing across the border.

If all else fails, calculate how much one year's worth of bombs that would be dropped on North Vietnam would cost - then get that same amount in greenbacks bundled in parcels about the right size for airdropping, and then drop those instead of bombs. It would cost the same, and may have a more beneficial result in terms of the war and the USA.

Otherwise, just nuke the lot and get it over and done with.

Edited by DougRichards, 22 September 2005 - 0833 AM.

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#24 larrikin

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 0832 AM

Instead of spending all the money on military matters, look back to uncle Ho and his agreement with Uncle Sam of 1942 to fight the Japanese and rid the ancient kingdom of colonialism

>snip<

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Which he did exactly none of. Uncle Ho's contribution to the war against the Japanese was exactly zero. What came out of it was that he got the weapons to use post-war against the French.
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#25 Rod

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 0854 AM

What were the chances that China would intervene a la Korea had US forces crossed the DMZ and began taking vast areas of North Vietnam?
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#26 Ol Paint

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 0855 AM

To echo what's been said before, we missed an opportunity to avert this disaster as far back as the Eisenhower and Truman administrations. 

  I don't believe that it was possible to "win" the Vietnam War once we decided that our objectives were to maintain the UN partition of the country into a North and South, rather than to unite the country under a single democratic government. 

  On the subject of the air war, earlier ACM training would've done less than a set of sensible rules of engagement to protect our aircrews.  The internal gun may not have been obsolete by the late '60s, but it should have been. 

  By the way, anyone have a good link that documents actual cases of gun kills in air combat from the '60s to present day?  Can't imagine there's very many.

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F-105s are credited with 27.5 kills in Vietnam, of which 24.5 were achieved with the cannon, alone. The others were Sidewinders.

Under the restriction of changing tactics/strategy of the war, but not the US involvement, I'd suggest making more utilization of BB and CA gunfire in North Vietnam (in conjunction with the historical air strikes), easing the ROE, eliminating the restrictions on bombing SAM sites under construction, airfields, ships in harbor, etc., and increased use of armor.

Douglas

[Edited for clarity.]

[2nd Edit: I count 15 cannon kills by A-1, F-4C/D, F-8, and F-100 on this list: http://www.csd.uwo.c...y/usvictor.html Some kills are unattributed.]

Edited by Ol Paint, 22 September 2005 - 0900 AM.

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#27 swerve

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 0952 AM

F-105s are credited with 27.5 kills in Vietnam, of which 24.5 were achieved with the cannon, alone.  The others were Sidewinders.
<snip>

[2nd Edit:  I count 15 cannon kills by A-1, F-4C/D, F-8, and F-100 on this list:  http://www.csd.uwo.c...y/usvictor.html  Some kills are unattributed.]


I found a more recent version (dated 2002) somewhere, but I've lost the link. However, I saved it to a Word document. Quick skim gives 32 F-105 kills, all MiG-17, all but 3 cannon, from Apr 65 to Dec 67. Only 1 unattributed.
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#28 Old Tanker

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 1008 AM

Question ?

If we had stuck to the plan of ground troop removal leaving advisors and some air assets backed by financial aid how would that have played out ?

Remember the U.S. congress cut all aid to R.V.N. under Ford. Korea was just as f*'d up as RVN but over the years became a viable country.
Rhee(ROK pres.) was a dictator by any measurement. He was also againist any cease-fire as he wanted to rule the entire peninsula.
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#29 baboon6

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 1021 AM

How would you reconcile the performance of the North Vietnamese soldier?  Same parents, same society, same people, same values.  Yet North Vietnam was able to organize successfully... with minimal foreign advisors.

And according to Benard Fall's Hell in a Very Small Place depicting the battle of Bien Bien Phu, the best performing formations were mixed French-Vietnamese paratroopers who continued to volunteer jump into the Valley even after they knew the battle was lost.

The Vietnamese is a warlike culture. There've been plenty of practice with the Chinese for about 10,000 years. 

The US should have never committed troops to Vietnam. Should have stuck with the Strategic Hamlet program. Should have only provided military equipment assistance.

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I don't know how to reconcile the differences. Maybe because the Viet Minh/NVA were a genuine revolutionary movement- its soldiers (many of whom were conscripted) were not even paid until 1958! Discipline was tough, life was harsh, noone was in it for their own gain. Yes they were often brutal and I don't agree with their aims but they (at least the officers and commissars) really believed in what they were doing. Maybe because the ANV/ARVN officers were mainly recruited from a privileged Catholic minority who often despised their Buddhist peasant troops and would always be associated with the colonialists.

As regards the mixed French-Vietnamese units- all units of the Expeditionary Corps (except North and West African but including Foreign Legion) had significant amounts of Vietnamese troops by the early 1950s. This was both to make up the numbers and provide a cadre for the ANV. The paratroopers performed well because of their (mainly French) leadership, guys like Langlais and Bigeard, outstanding officers by anyone's standards, and tough training. In the 1960s-70s some SVN troops performed extremely well under direct US leadership (mainly in the various Special Forces programmes). There were SVN units who performed- such as the Airborne Division and Marines. The fact remains though that the leadership and training of the ARVN as a whole was corrupt and ineffective.

Probably the most effective local combatants for both the French and Americans were tribal irregulars- in the French case Lt Col Roger Trinquier's GCMA, and in the American case the CIDGs. Unfortunately both ended up being neglected in favour of conventional forces.

Edited by baboon6, 22 September 2005 - 1023 AM.

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#30 pi

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 1028 AM

Reuven Gal (Israel's top military psychologist) cites the Wehrmacht and the NVA as the standout examples of 20th century armies that were very good at developing cohesive units. They must have been doing something right.

Edited by pi, 22 September 2005 - 1029 AM.

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#31 larrikin

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 1038 AM

Reuven Gal (Israel's top military psychologist) cites the Wehrmacht and the NVA as the standout examples of 20th century armies that were very good at developing cohesive units.  They must have been doing something right.

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He should have looked at Aust Army units. Quite a number of them took over 60% casualties and remained combat effective, in both Wars. The 9th Div took 4,500 casualties during Alamein 1 & 2, that is more than the book strength of their combat bns, and yet still were the division that finally achieved the breakthrough.
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#32 Paul F Jungnitsch

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 1110 AM

The NVA had a system of checkpoints where the soldiers could move south but not north. Therefore the country was set up like a series of one way valves, keeping soldiers moving to the front. Whatever the losses and terrible conditions they faced, there was no choice but to tough it out.
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#33 Doug Kibbey

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 1115 AM

The NVA had a system of checkpoints where the soldiers could move south but not north. Therefore the country was set up like a series of one way valves, keeping soldiers moving to the front. Whatever the losses and terrible conditions they faced, there was no choice but to tough it out.

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Not to mention 3 man cels, political officers with pistols, and potentially dire consequences to their families. And that was not always enough. KCS ("Kit Carson Scouts") that "chieu hoi'd and we worked had a common profile: young, fed up, missed families, were convinced they'd die before they ever went home, lousy conditions, inept leaders at unit level insensitive to casualties, etc.

Love of the cause did not feature promininetly in their service.
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#34 Old Tanker

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 1117 AM

The NVA had a system of checkpoints where the soldiers could move south but not north. Therefore the country was set up like a series of one way valves, keeping soldiers moving to the front. Whatever the losses and terrible conditions they faced, there was no choice but to tough it out.

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I read a book called 'Inside the NVA' it's a good read. All was based on the three count unit , 3 men , three 3 x 3 teams and so on. One thing the NVA spent the vast majority of it's time in a military bivouac situation and very liitle time in actual combat operations.
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#35 tankerwanabe

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 1128 AM

It seems you are asserting that the Northeners and the Southeners have no cultural differences. This is absurd. Certainly the "Southeners" produced some decent soldiers, but the corrupt society from whenc the young men sprang could not instill the sort of dicipline (often harsh, to be sure) that the North did. Organize? (the North)....Jeez, you surprized?...it was a totalitarian communist regime with a paranoid internal security apparatus.

BTW, I worked in the field with the ARVN, and apart from the Hăc Bao, found their leadership and it's effect on morale perfectly appalling.

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The culture of Vietnamese Notherners and Southerners are nearly identical. What ever difference they had could not explain the difference in how they performed in combat nor organization. Most South Vietnamese formations were led by Northern-born Vietnamese officers.

Albeit we can label Northern organization as totalitarian communism with paranoid internal security, it was still highly effective. This is evidence in their perfomance.

So we have an effective Northern Vietnamese military. And we have an ineffective South Vietnamese military to which were led by Northern-born/raise officers. Therefore, culture can not explain the ineffectiveness of the South Vietnamese military.

With culture out, there is only two resonable explanations. The South Vietnamese military was not as ineffective as we believe. Or in the alternative, It was ineffective but for a reason other than culture.

It's my opinion that we perpetuated poor Southern leadership. Many South Vietnamese generals after the fall of the Diem administration were on our CIA payroll (Source - Former Ambassador Nolting). It's likely that we paid them for their loyalty rather than their effectiveness.

It's rather difficult to criticize the ARVN when we employed their generals.
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#36 Old Tanker

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 1135 AM

It's rather difficult to criticize the ARVN when we employed their generals.

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Somebody already posted the RVN leadrship was Christian/ Francophiles and the general peasantry was Buddist. That fact was a major contributing factor in how things went. Something akin to the Sunni-Shia situation in Iraq today.

During the VN war it was common to see Buddist monks setting themselves on-fire for thr TV cameras. This was to protest the Francophile/Christian leadership in power. This situation led to a three way conflict as in Iraq today.
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#37 Richard Lindquist

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 1137 AM

Here is a bit of "arm chair soldiering" that i did after my first tour there.

HCM Trail (requires violation of Laos "neutrality" in 1966-67).

1. Keep SOF/LRRP surveillance of the HCM trail through Laos.

2. Periodically insert a brigade-sized airmobile force onto the trail to set up defenses and aggressively patrol.

3. After the NVA laboriously assemble by foot marches (while being pounded by the air farce) enough force to threaten the air-mobile brigade, you pull it out (via helicopter) and insert another brigade two hundred miles up or down the trail.

4. You drive them ragged running up and down the trail with enough force to eliminate the roadblocks.

DMZ:

1. Switch a goodly chunk of the massive engineer construction oplant from building base camps to construction of a huge paved road along the DMZ with wide open swaths of right-of-way.

2. Agressively patrol this road with an ACR or a Mmech Brigade.


Just tossing out some REMF thoughts....
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#38 tankerwanabe

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 1143 AM

I don't know how to reconcile the differences. Maybe because the Viet Minh/NVA were a genuine revolutionary movement- its soldiers (many of whom were conscripted) were not even paid until 1958! Discipline was tough, life was harsh, noone was in it for their own gain. Yes they were often brutal and I don't agree with their aims but they (at least the officers and commissars) really believed in what they were doing. Maybe because the ANV/ARVN officers were mainly recruited from a privileged Catholic minority who often despised their Buddhist peasant troops and would always be associated with the colonialists.

As regards the mixed French-Vietnamese units- all units of the Expeditionary Corps (except North and West African but including Foreign Legion) had significant amounts of Vietnamese troops by the early 1950s. This was both to make up the numbers and provide a cadre for the ANV. The paratroopers performed well because of their (mainly French) leadership, guys like Langlais and Bigeard, outstanding officers by anyone's standards, and tough training. In the 1960s-70s some SVN troops performed extremely well under direct US leadership (mainly in the various Special Forces programmes). There were SVN units who performed- such as the Airborne Division and Marines. The fact remains though that the leadership and training of the ARVN as a whole was corrupt and ineffective.

Probably the most effective local combatants for both the French and Americans were tribal irregulars- in the French case Lt Col Roger Trinquier's GCMA, and in the American case the CIDGs. Unfortunately both ended up being neglected in favour of conventional forces.

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You can read my reasoning (and ramblings and mumblings) in my response to Doug's post.

It's was my conclusion that we picked the wrong Vietnamese leadership. We should have picked more capable South Vietnamese generals and avoided the "yes sir!" generals.

Yes, we would have lost some control. Capable men do have a tendency to be terribly stubborn and have independent thought especially when controlled by a foreign government. But there was more to gain in the placing of more capable men in the best positions. It's a delicate balancing act.

So cliche, but we allowed our polical aims to lose this war.
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#39 Doug Kibbey

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 1144 AM

=tankerwanabe,Thu 22 Sep 2005 1628]
"The culture of Vietnamese Notherners and Southerners are nearly identical. "

Nonsense


"Albeit we can label Northern organization as totalitarian communism with paranoid internal security, it was still highly effective. This is evidence in their perfomance."

You missed my point. It was precisely because of those characteristics that the units has good cohesion and was highly effective. Trust me, you don't need to advise me that it was highly effective.


"So we have an effective Northern Vietnamese military. And we have an ineffective South Vietnamese military to which were led by Northern-born/raise officers. Therefore, culture can not explain the ineffectiveness of the South Vietnamese military."


Why...because you said so? I find that very uncompelling. Since you are ill-informed as to point one, you conclusion is flawed. Further, where, exaclty, does you information come from that most ARVN officers were Northern born/raised?


"With culture out, there is only two resonable explanations. The South Vietnamese military was not as ineffective as we believe. Or in the alternative, It was ineffective but for a reason other than culture. "

Culture is not "out". And the South Vietnamese military was largely ineffective, contributed to largely by corruption and total lack of committment (or much reason) until for some units, things got really desperate in '72...for example.


"It's my opinion that we perpetuated poor Southern leadership. Many South Vietnamese generals after the fall of the Diem administration were on our CIA payroll (Source - Former Ambassador Nolting). It's likely that we paid them for their loyalty rather than their effectiveness. "


Well, we didn't create them, per se, but we certainly perpetuated them. Short of establishing a U.S. Miltary governorship, we did kinda' have to appease the SV gov't, unfortunately.


'It's rather difficult to criticize the ARVN when we employed their generals."


Not for me, I worked with them in the field. You? BTW, leadership is not a property necessary only for generals.

Edited by Doug Kibbey, 22 September 2005 - 1146 AM.

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#40 tankerwanabe

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 1149 AM

Here is a bit of "arm chair soldiering" that i did after my first tour there.

HCM Trail (requires violation of Laos "neutrality" in 1966-67).

1.  Keep SOF/LRRP surveillance of the HCM trail through Laos.

2.  Periodically insert a brigade-sized airmobile force onto the trail to set up defenses and aggressively patrol.

3.  After the NVA laboriously assemble by foot marches (while being pounded by the air farce) enough force to threaten the air-mobile brigade, you pull it out (via helicopter) and insert another brigade two hundred miles up or down the trail.

4.  You drive them ragged  running up and down the trail with enough force to eliminate the roadblocks.

DMZ:

1.  Switch a goodly chunk of the massive engineer construction oplant from building base camps to construction of a huge paved road along the DMZ with wide open swaths of right-of-way.

2.  Agressively patrol this road with an ACR or a Mmech Brigade.
Just tossing out some REMF thoughts....

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Ok, back to military talk after my political ramblings.

I'd invade the north right after Linebacker. The former prermier of N. Vietnam later stated after the war that the bombing of Hanoi was so effective that they'd probably surrender had they been invaded after the bombings.

How? I'll leave it to the armchair generals to plan Overlord II.
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