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

Saturday, April 15, 2006


This is coolbert.

I think most impartial observers would generally agree that the U.S. had a small, limited number of successes when fighting the Vietnam War. A war that of course ended on an unfavorable note for the U.S. military.

As I have said before, many senior career U.S. military officers opposed the war from the get go. They may have not expressed this to their civilian authorities, but inwardly they saw Vietnam as being a no-win situation.

And felt this was so on a number of grounds.

Such as:

* Don't get involved in a ground war in Asia. [your enemy has such an abundance of manpower, that you just cannot kill enough of the enemy. What is lost is easily replaced.]

* American military advantages such as firepower, mobility, etc., are negated by the terrain, weather, and the nature of the enemy in Vietnam.

The "experts" felt that the American military was not able to utilize it's resources that gave it an advantage in conventional warfare. Specifically, armor. Tanks.

Tanks and armor were just not felt to be suitable for Vietnam. This was the impression. More a hindrance than an asset.

And a lot of this impression was later found to be lacking. Primarily from the performance of the Armored Cavalry the U.S. Army fielded. This was the ACAV.

ACAV WAS one of the American success stories of the war. Performed in a manner unexpected. But was not fielded in time or in the numbers to make a big difference. But WAS effective. Unexpectedly so.

The ACAV was a combination of tanks [M48] and armored personnel carriers [M113]. The latter strengthened by increased firepower and protection. ACAV was the correct and proper combination of infantry, armor, artillery, helicopter gunfire [a combined arms unit], that worked in an amazing manner. Units that the enemy did NOT have a counter for.

That this could be so and was so seemed to register as a surprise among the top planners. Top planners who impressions of Vietnam as being NOT tank country were mostly the result of French armor after-action-reports from the First Indo-China War.

"Their [the French] experience also influenced the thinking of American military commanders and staffs when the U.S. Army eventually set about deciding how many and what kinds of forces to send to Vietnam."

American commanders did not initially send armor to Vietnam as the French experience had been negative in this regard.

It seems the French employed armor in Vietnam much as they did in World War Two [WW2]. Dispersed. NOT able to function as independent units capable of independent action. NOT concentrated as operating as ONE. This WAS a mistake the French made in WW2 AND a mistake in Vietnam too.

"Armored units were fragmented; many small remote posts had as few as two or three armored vehicles." [in the French experience.]

"Since armored units were generally assigned to support dismounted infantry, their speed and ability to act independently, an important part of any armored unit's contribution to the battle team, were never used." [in the French experience.]

"Combined with the misconceptions of the French armored experience, this reasoning caused most planners to conclude that Vietnam was no place for armor of any kind, especially tanks."

These perceptions proved to be instrumental in negating the positive role that ACAV in increased number could have had from the start of large-scale American involvement in Vietnam. But this was not to be. Serious positives were not even a matter for consideration, or so it seemed. Units that WERE ALREADY MECHANIZED, became mere foot troops as Vietnam was said to be NOT conducive to MECH WARFARE.

"But this study was not completed until almost two years after the arrival of the first Army ground combat units. During those two years many of the units were sent to Vietnam without their tanks and armored personnel carriers. Some units were even converted from mechanized infantry to infantry before deployment. The earlier studies had provided the overriding rationale for the decisions of 1965 and 1966."

[we are talking about a study as to the feasibility of using armor in Vietnam done by the U.S. Army. TWO YEARS after large scale American involvement had begun!!]

It was realized that armor and the ACAV concept WOULD work in Vietnam ONLY after a point where the American public had already soured on the war and wanted OUT!!




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