Vietnam War I. (7x foto)
Vietnam War II. (7x foto)
Vietnam War III. (6x foto)
Vietnam War IV. (7x foto)
Vietnam War V. (7x foto)
Vietnam War VI. (7x foto)

Vietnam War III.

Very few major engagements were fought without artillery support. American tactics in Vietnam relied on overwhelming firepower -- chiefly close air support and artillery -- to reduce friendly casualties while overcoming the enemy’s advantage in numbers. While fire support contributed significantly, it proved a two-edged sword. Although American firepower created staggering enemy casualties and limited his ability to mass maneuver forces, preparatory fires seldom neutralized the NVA positions. The dense jungle and the sharp relief of the hill attenuated the concentration of firepower, as did the enemy's weIl-prepared defenses.

The political challenge of the war stemmed from the belief of the rural Vietnamese that the Government of Vietnam will not stay long when it comes into an area, that the Government was indifferent to the people's welfare, that the low-level officials were tools of the local rich; and that the Government was excessively corrupt from top to bottom. The American search-and-destroy military operations didn't solve these problems, and were at best irrelevant to security in rural Vietnamese villages. At worst, indiscriminate aerial attacks and artillery fire exacted a toll on village allegiance to the Saigon government. When General Creighton Abrams took command of MACV in the spring of 1968 the focus of American ground operations turned to "strategic hamlets" with population security as its goal.

In 1965, US air strikes were ordered against North Vietnam. By late 1965, such air strikes became part and parcel to daily activities of those stationed in Vietnam. But US forces were not permitted to attack some targets for fear of Chinese retaliation. The perceived danger from Communist China influenced President Johnson's choice of means for ensuring the survival of a South Vietnam independent of the North. In 1950, when United Nations forces threatened to overrun North Korea, China had come to the aid of its Communist neighbor.

As the Vietnam War intensified in 1965 and 1966, so, too, did the Chinese commitment to the survival of North Vietnam. By the spring of the latter year, some 50,000 Chinese troops served in North Vietnam, a total that may have tripled before China began to withdraw its forces in 1968. Until President Johnson limited ROLLING THUNDER to southern North Vietnam, effective April 1, 1968, China gave refuge to North Vietnamese fighters when airfields in the North came under aerial attack, and reports surfaced of Chinese pilots flying North Vietnamese interceptors.

During this period of involvement, China made no secret of its sympathy for the Hanoi government; prudence therefore required that the Johnson administration consider the possibility of further Chinese intervention. Concern that China might react as it had fifteen years earlier in Korea argued powerfully for relying on air power rather than invasion to convince Hanoi to call off the war in the South. Having turned to air power, the Johnson administration chose to apply it in a gradually escalating fashion. President John F. Kennedy's recent success in compelling the Soviet Union to with draw bombers and ballistic missiles from Cuba bred confidence in the gradual application of force.

John F. Kennedy

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