Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why did American forces withdraw from Vietnam in 1973?

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Why did American forces withdraw from Vietnam in 17?


There are several reasons for American withdrawal from Vietnam in 17 and I shall be discussing these in relation to American defeat and communist success. In this essay, I will be discussing American involvement in Vietnam and the differences in tactics between the American and Communist tactics. I shall also be exploring the communists success, the South Vietnamese government and the American homefront, and examining why it took so long for America to get out of the war. The first issue to be explored is America and its tactics.


One reason for Americas withdrawal was that their tactics were inappropriate and brutal, their technology was advanced and could create new fighting weapons to cause mass destruction. One of their tactics was to bomb,bomb,bomb. They believed that bombing could destroy the economy and morale of the communists. Between 16 and 170, America dropped an average of 100,000 tonnes of bombs a month on South Vietnam. The Americans used mother bombs, napalm and white phosphorus and agent orange, all of which were extremely destructive. In 168, the CIA introduced a system code named operation Phoenix. Tens of thousands of Vietcong (VC) were sought out and interrogated. The VC were tortured and killed. Another American tactic was the policy of strategic hamlets, peasants were moved away from their homes and their villages were burned down. The aim of this was to prevent them from talking to the V.C, however, this created more opposition for America and did nothing to help to win the hearts and minds of the people, something the communists worked hard to do.


To sum up, American tactics contributed to the withdrawal of American forces because they were so brutal and alienated civilians and caused just as much destruction to innocent Vietnamese people as to the V.C, for example, agent orange used to kill crops not only cut off the food supply for the V.C, but also that of the civilians. Because, the VC and civilians dressed alike, the Americans couldnt tell who was friend or fo and this led to many civilians being killed as well as giving the Americans a false impression of how successful they were at killing VC. Their strategic hamlet policy, brutal massacres and continuous bombing did not help to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people, for whom they were fighting, and often led civilians to become communist themselves, as one marine recalling an innocent where American forces were putting their strategic hamlet policy into action said, if they werent pro- Vietcong before we got there, they sure as hell were by the time we left (American soldier)This source is quite reliable as it is from an American soldier, admitting to their inappropriate treatment of civilians. If this source was biased, the marine would perhaps be trying to defend their actions but as he is freely admitting it, this suggests the source is reliable.


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The communists worked hard to win the hearts and minds of the people whereas the Americans almost seemed to go out of their way not to. This key difference between American and Communist tactics is what helped the communists to gain their success. Their ability to win the hearts and minds of the people greatly increased their success. The South Vietnamese peasants were extremely important to the communists as they were used to supply sufficient food for the them, they were also used to provide information, shelter and to trick Americans. The Ho Chi Min trail also played a key role in the communists success. The trail was An intricate network of jungle trails, paths, and roads leading from the panhandle of northern Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia into the border provinces of southern Vietnam. It was used as a supply route from the pesantry to the communists.The communists worked hard to win over the peasantry, offering them fair distribution of land. Troops had to abide by rules to keep the relationship between themselves and the peasants good, for example, they werent allowed to steal food. However, now and then they would kill peasants, just to make the point that they could. This mixture of ruthlessness and good behaviour gained the V.C the support of the peasants that was necessary in guerrilla warfare. Whilst the Communists succeeded to win the hearts and minds of their people, The Americans found this much more difficult, partly due to the huge difference in their ways of life. Because of this they viewed the peasants as almost subhuman and treated them with brutal force, further pushing the Vietnamese people away, towards communism.


Apart from their inappropriate tactics and not winning the hearts and minds of the people, the morale of American troops was an important factor concerning the lack of success. The American forces short term of service of 1 year, meant there was not sufficient time to become an efficient soldier, it also meant that new recruits were coming in all the time which created a lack of team work. Troops would also count down the days and so towards the end, soldiers were not effective as they wanted to play it safe. There was much disunity within American forces between blacks and whites and different units. Disunity between troops and officers was also a problem and fragging was not uncommon. Between 10 and 171, there were 750 fraggings. The American troops were mentally unprepared and drug abuse became a big problem. In 170, an estimated 58% of American troops smoked pot and % were on heroin. These factors all lowered morale within the troops which had an effect on the soldiers performance and contributed to America being unsuccessful which in turn, led to their withdrawal in 17. Whilst the low morale of the Americans hindered their success, Communist determination helped to gain theirs. The Americans were impressed by the V.C who were inspired by communism and nationalism An example of communism is explained in Vivienne Sanders The USA and Vietnam 145-75 One American general was impressed by some besieged communists in a bunker who didnt even give up after their eardrums had burst from the concussion [from American fire power]... and blood was pouring out of their noses. It was this determination that gained success for the V.C and also shows their refusal to be beaten. This can also be seen in a quote from Giape, We were not strong enough to drive out half a million American troops, but that was not our aim. Our intention was to break the will of the American government to continue the war. This strategy was an important factor in American defeat as American strategy never took determination into account. However, they were determined to stop the spread of communism, even more so after 154, as north Vietnam was communist and in two years, Ho Chi Minh (leader of the Vietnamese nationalists/communists) was expected to win election for the whole of Vietnam.


The Americans were not impressed by the South Vietnamese government or its Prime Minister Diem. The South Vietnamese government was unstable, unrepresentative, inefficient and corrupt. The South Vietnamese government made matters worse for the Americans in that they didnt have the support of many civilians. This was because they were a catholic government but most of the population were Buddhist. Only 5% of the ARVN leadership were Buddhist. The Saigon government seemed to be there to protect its own existence and not that of the civilians. They also lacked leadership, something which was a strong point for the communists and helped them to win the war. The ARVN (South Vietnamese army) contributed to the defeat of America. They were unco-operative and inefficient, the Americans described their tactics as search and avoid. American troops would often be unwilling to use ARVN assistance because they despised them and felt uneasy fighting along side them, this would effect their fighting ability. The ARVN also suffered low morale which led to a weak performance, therefore further aiding Americas defeat.


The collapse of the home front in America had a significant effect on the lack of success of America. When Johnson became president in 16 he and his advisors were confident that America could win in Vietnam. However by the time Johnsons presidency was coming to an end, most of his advisors believed that the war was unwinnable. This lowered the confidence of troops, they wouldnt want to risk their lives fighting a war which was supposedly unwinnable. Johnson and the other American presidents showed very little understanding of the situation in Vietnam.


In January 168, the Tet offensive was launched by the north, its purpose was to cause the Saigon government to collapse or at the least to demonstrate such strength that America would give up. However, this didnt happen and it turned out to be a battle lost by both sides. The Tet offensive damaged the VCs claim to be a liberation force. US intelligence had failed to notice clear warnings and so their confidence was shaken.


The media also influenced the outcome of the war. Vietnam was the first televised war. In August 165 Johnson was informed that increasing numbers of reporters in Saigon were thoroughly sour and poisonous in their reporting. The impact of the media lowered the morale of troops, limiting their fighting effectiveness.


Another reason for America being unsuccessful in the war was the lack of public support, partly rising as an effect from the media. In 167 there were thousands of protest marches in American cities against the war. This lack of public support further hindered their confidence and success. The cost of the war is also an important factor and was starting to cause concern for the Americans, it was so high that Johnson didnt go to congress to get more money, as this would cause increased taxes which would cause further opposition amongst American people.


American forces finally withdrew from Vietnam in 17 but it took a long time for them to get out of the war. The main reason for this was because although Nixon (president at the time) wanted to end the war, he wanted to do it without America or himself loosing face. He wanted it to seem as though America was withdrawing from Vietnam of its own accord, having achieved its objectives. For this, the Communists would have to be persuaded to accept the continued existence of the South Vietnamese government and Nixon used great military and diplomatic pressure to achieve this end. Nixon used Vietnamisation which involved using more South Vietnamese troops to defeat the South. The Vietcong conducted a guerrilla warfare campaign, the jungle was ideal for this but was a disadvantage to the Americans. Along with their underground tunnel systems, the jungle was very effective for hiding, the Americans used their tactic Search and destroy to try and combat this. Another of Nixons tactics was the madman theory, Nixon wanted the north Vietnamese to think he was obsessed about communism and that he was difficult to retain when he was angry, he wanted them to believe he was a madman


To conclude, the main reason for the withdraw of American forces was their innapropriate tactics compared to those of the communists. The media also played a big part in their defeat, it was the first television war and this clearly had an effect on there success, lowering the morale and confidence of American people as well as that of the American forces. America was clearly not prepared for war and they went the wrong way about it, using brutality and force rather than trying to win the hearts and minds of the people. The Communists played a major part in determining the outcome of the war. Their determination, tactics and ingenuity greatly contributed to the defeat of America.





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