Monday, June 20, 2011

Vietnam -- the enemy profile

As my good friend, LTC Craig Geis (retired) has point out, the enemy came into our rocket, mini gun and grenade launcher sights at various levels of professionalism, training and expertise.

But the most dangerous enemy were the civilians who lived just outside the gates. These were men, women and children either sympathetic towards the Viet Cong's purpose or who were forced into performing various activities from compromising our initiatives to simply becoming suicide bombers.

By day, this kind of enemy would smile at you and perform a wide variety of tasks at Camp Eagle.  At night, they'd cut your throat from ear to ear without blinking an eye.

Now, that's not to say that all Vietnamese were bad guys or bad people. They weren't.  We, too, had soldiers who played both sides.

Indeed, some of our own soldiers did a really good job of injuring and/or killing fellow soldiers.
Anytime you have a situation where both sides have enough time on their hands to play out all the various game plan possibilities, opportunists are going to exploit all of them.

In previous posts, I've pointed out that this wasn't a war or a conflict and, therefore, you couldn't pin a win or loss to it. If you stick a pencil in the middle of a bunch of hungry termites, would you say the pencil lost the war to the termites?

You might if you had the IQ of the pencil eraser. What a mature conclusion would be is that your experiment with a bunch of hungry termites was a success because the pencil wood was, indeed, eaten by the wood eating termites.

Did anyone ever see the movie the Green Berets? They did, essentially, the same thing. Put themselves in the middle of a a bunch of Charlie Cong, let themselves get over run and then blew the crap out of them.

We did the same thing -- it wasn't a movie but real -- when we evacuated fire base Ripcord.

Hard to tell exactly how many enemy you killed when there wasn't enough pieces of them left to count.

A pencil can't win against termites if it were made out of wood and was not able to fight back against the termites. One is alive -- the termites -- and the other is made from dead trees -- the pencil.

On the other hand, it could if it was filled with nytro glycerin and blew the termites into kingdom come. Perhaps, too, if we made the pencil out of plastic, it wouldn't have been of interest to the termites at all.

So, if we weren't there at all, none of the 500,000 names would have been on a wall and I would have nothing to talk about.

So, you stick a unit like the 101st Airborne Division (Air Mobile) in the middle of an environment where American soldiers were the pencil and all others were the termites, what kind of conclusion can you derive from that?

I'm hoping that you will come to the same conclusion most of us who served in Vietnam came to. We simply had no business being there in the first place. But because we were, America lost a lot of men to a bunch of termites whose only mindset was to kill us at all costs.

I just realized that termites are killed with pesticides.  And we sprayed allot of foliage with Agent Orange.  And like the pencil, we weren't in Vietnam with a sufficient size force to go toe to toe with the Viet Cong or anyone else who wanted to kill us.

In fact, the truth is, neither were the South Vietnam soldiers. And if the South Vietnamese soldiers were at the level of forces equal to the North Vietnamese and fought like them, it would stand to reason that we would have been more protected by them,  would have been able to learn from them -- since they should have been the jungle warfare experts -- and we would have had a better time at not being the pencil and more time being focused on applying our newest technology against their North Vietnam enemy hot spots.

Unfortunately, the South Vietnam soldiers weren't at that level of training or skill.
Simply put, the South Vietnamese army was suffering from identity issues and was relying on outside help -- such as the French and American advisers. They simply weren't aggressive enough or capable enough to stand on their own without outside support.

You can't teach an Army to win when they have their tail tucked b etween their legs.

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