The by using non-conventional tactics in combat; that

The Vietnam War ruined the lives of
thousands of families which may be seen as a direct result of successful
Vietcong tactics, according to official statistics, “Hundreds of thousands of
U.S. soldiers were wounded and traumatized, and tens of thousands lost their
lives” Friedrichs 131.1 Vietcong tactics were hence a very  important reason for determining the American
withdrawal from Vietnam as the Vietcong who were well experienced guerrilla fighters,
used effective non-conventional tactics to destabilize the US military. Nonetheless, although Vietcong tactics were
extremely important in causing the American withdrawal from Vietnam, the
failure of the American and South Vietnamese tactic should also be considered
as significant in explaining the withdrawal of the Americans from the war. The
troops had many inexperienced soldiers mainly the South Vietnamese who lacked ambition
and courage during the war. In addition to
Vietcong and American tactics, the negative opinion which came from the
American public, especially from the outraged educated youth, which was highlighted
by the influential media was also crucial in explaining the American withdrawal
and failure in Vietnam. Ultimately however, i do consider Vietcong tactics as the
most important reason for the retreat of the Americans from Vietnam as not only
did the Vietcong achieve their main goal of damaging American self-esteem, but
they were also successful in turning the American public opinion against the
war.

 Vietcong tactics are an extremely significant
reason for explaining the American withdrawal from Vietnam as the Vietcong were
successful in militarily demoralising their enemy by using non-conventional
tactics in combat; that American militants were not familiar with. This view is supported by George
Ball, a former US diplomat during the Vietnam War, who argued that, “no
one can assure you that we can beat the Viet Cong…no matter how many hundred
thousand white, foreign U.S. troops we deploy.”2 Tactics used by the Vietcong included Punji
Stake Traps (sharpened bamboo sticks covered in excrement) in which US soldiers
fell and cut open their feet, resulting in infections from faeces. These
tactics were very successful as they helped harm the enemy without the Vietcong
soldiers having to face the Americans head on. 3 It can therefore be seen that this method of
ambushing the opponent along with avoiding head on encounters was so successful
that in fact by 1967, it cost America “$400,000 to kill one Vietcong”.4
Some members of the
Vietcong also managed to work for the Americans in the day and at night they
would take part in VC activities. The view of General Bruce that American troops suffered from
enemy ambushes without even encountering the Vietcong soldiers who used hit and
run  guerrilla tactics is supported by
Pinard who argues that “the U.S. could not win a guerrilla conflict using
conventional tactics.”7 This justification for American failure in
Vietnam is fairly acceptable as it is true to say that the US military was
known for its successes in conventional wars with the use of modern tactics
such as in the two world wars and the Korean War which. On the contrary
however, the Vietcong were in fact going to war against the Americans on home
ground and in addition being adapted to the geographical landscape took advantage
of this  by taking the enemy by surprise
and planting booby traps on trails the Americans were expected to take.
Pinard’s  view is supported by Daniel
Ellsberg a military analyst who quotes in, “They had the advantage of knowing every ditch and dyke, every tree and blade of rice
and piece of cover, like it was their own backyard. Because it was their
backyard.” 8 For instance, the American forces
bombed VC supply routes so to avoid this the Vietcong made “dummy” routes to
trick the Americans including a 600-mile-long supply route crossing neighbouring
countries Laos and Cambodia known as the Ho Chi Minh trail. Ellsberg’s argument
however underplays the fact that the Americans were well equipped and better
off compared to the Vietcong with latest military equipment including Napalm
and the use of chemicals such as Agent Orange in the war effort against the
Vietnamese. It can however be argued that Ellsberg does provide an accurate and
convincing explanation of the position of the Vietcong as although the
Americans had the upper hand when it came to using up to date weapons this was
not highly effective especially when the Vietcong were experts in guerrilla
warfare, using underground weapon storages, hospitals and sleeping chambers to
avoid head on encounters with the Americans. Ellsberg’s view of the advantages possessed
by the Vietcong can therefore be linked to Pinard’s view that the Americans
would not be able to outplay the Vietcong using conventional war tactics in Vietnam.
Hence, this reason is of paramount importance for explaining the American
withdrawal from Vietnam, as the US military had failed to engineer an effective
way of dealing with the clever non conventional tactics used by the Vietcong.
In addition, other views on the significance of Vietcong tactics come from
American diplomat Robert
McNamara Former US secretary of defence who states in his 1995 memoir, “We underestimated the power of nationalism
to motivate a people (in this case, the Viet Cong) to fight and die for their
beliefs and values”.5 By contrast, Former Deputy Foreign Minister in
Vietnam, Colonel Ha Van Lau stated that “the US would inevitably be defeated in
South Vietnam…the Vietcong were winning every-where. Sic.”6  The way how diplomats from both sides
are mentioning the importance of Vietcong determination and dominance in defining
American withdrawal from Vietnam shows how both the sources are accurate and
trustworthy as the two are both presenting similar views regarding the
importance of Vietcong tactics in resulting in American failure in Vietnam.
This domination by the Vietcong cab be seen in the Tet Offensive, a head on
battle in which 700,000 Vietcong soldiers launched a surprise attack on 100
cities including US military bases in Vietnam. This shocked the American forces
especially after  the Vietcong  took control of Saigon’s main radio station
although they kept hold of it for only a few hours, this destroyed the
self-confidence of the Americans and shattered their morale.  As a result, it can be argued that the Vietcong
tactics were indeed a vital reason for the American withdrawal from Vietnam.

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On the contrary, it can be argued that in fact the weaknesses
of the South Vietnamese regime was also a significant reason for the withdrawal
of the Americans from Vietnam as the South Vietnamese were unable to tactically
prevent the  spread of Vietcong influence
throughout Vietnam and were hence extremely unpopular even amongst their own
people. This exacerbated issues related to the weaknesses of American tactics.
It may be argued that because of the harsh attitude of South Vietnamese officials,
many civilians began to show sympathy towards the Vietcong. This became even
more prominent after contentious issues such as the execution of a Vietcong
soldier by the Chief of Police in Saigon in 1968 as shown in the photograph
(Appendix One). The Journalist who captured this photograph stated that “the
general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera.”1
This shows that the photograph was successful in considerably reducing any support
left for the South Vietnamese Officials as Eddie Adams had exposed the Police
Chief to the public. This view is consistent with other accounts that also
inform us of how civilians saw the South Vietnamese police as their enemy due
to their relationship with the cruel Diem regime. This view of
the unpopularity of the South Vietnamese is supported by Gardner who stated “the
contradiction between the Diem regime and the population in the South… would
lead inevitably to its defeat at the hands of the forces of the Vietnamese
revolution.” Gardner is accurate to highlight the division between the people
and the government which would ultimately lead to the failure of the regime, this
can be clearly seen in the photograph in Appendix One. On top of the rising unpopularity
the South Vietnamese also faced several tactical and geographic disadvantages
when facing the Vietcong. This is reinforced by Peter Braestrup an American
journalist who served as a correspondent in Vietnam who referring to the
position of the Vietcong argues that, “with that six-hundred-mile frontier
where the Communists had a free shot at South Vietnam, a safe place to retreat
to, and a secure supply line on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, there was no way the
South could hold. The geography was against them”. Hence it is correct to
say that the South Vietnamese were geographically  disadvantaged compared to the Vietcong in the
north who were settled in well-concealed areas which were impenetrable by South
Vietnamese and American ground forces. In addition, The jungle canopy also allowed
North Vietnam to constantly supply the Viet Cong with reinforcements and supplies
along the Ho Chi Minh Trail that could not be detected by air forces.

1 Adams
E., Time Magazine: Adams writing about the photograph he took in 1968, 1998

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