Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

This is coolbert: That declassified document previously classified SECRET from the military history department to the Chief of Staff [Army (?)] concerning the siege at Khe Sanh (KS) is most informative and show the role that military historians fulfill is not just a recording of events. Military historians evaluate current operations with an eye to what transpired in the past. Make recommendations based upon their evaluations. This is "after action reporting" on a much more macro scale. I must say that in my opinion this report was very well done. Whoever actually wrote the report knew what they were doing.

The historians mention that most fortresses fall to siege. They attribute this to three reasons. One is a lack of initiative on the part of the besieged. Second is supply problems. Third is a sense of futility on the part of the defenders brought about by demoralization. All three factors played a major role at Dien Bien Phu.

The historians arrive at some definite conclusions regarding historical sieges and the situation as it exsited at KS. According to the historians, offensive action by an overland relieving force is the best method historically to defeat the investing force [North Vietnamese Army]. Also the much greater U.S. superior firepower can be negated to a degree by the enemy using bunkers, tunnels, dispersion, concealment, and hugging tactics [the latter would seem to be the best way to defeat the Arc Light bombers].

There were obvious concerns about the current course of action being taken at the time by the U.S. forces. The historians seem to be aware that the enemy was "willing to pay a heavy price" [one of the verities of De Puy] to overrun the garrison at Khe Sanh. That they would take enormous casualties in the process would have been a calculation that they would have made in advance and taken into account in their preparations for the siege. The historians make a most pertinent declaration. "Withdrawal is strategically, politically, or psychologically unacceptable." Very well put.

The final recommendation of the historians is to employ offensive action by an outside force against the enemy force besieging KS. This indeed was done [1st Air Cavalry led an airmobile operation that did relieve the Marine garrison].



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