Vietnam Vietnam: The War We Should Have Won Essay written by Chris Styduhar The Vietnam War is one of the most disgraceful periods in American history. Not only did the greatest superpower in the world get bested by an almost third-world nation, but we lost badly. Perhaps this war could have been won, or even prevented in the first place. The United States could have and should have won this war, with a combination of better weapons usage, better tactics, and better support from their home country. Before the War Even years before the war, Vietnam was a hotly disputed territory.
Many countries had taken Vietnam over, and after World War II, Vietnam was in the hands of France. Obviously, the Vietnamese wanted their own country, and their long history of being a colony prompted the oppressed people to fight for their independence in the French-Indochina war. 7 Ho Chi Min, a leader of the Communist party, organized the Vietnamese independence movement, Viet Minh. Asking for support from America first, Ho Chi Min did not want to have to turn to communist support for the freedom of his people. Since the United States viewed helping Ho gain his independence from France as a move against their own allies, they declined. It was only after Russia and China offered to help that Ho adopted communist ideals and wanted to make all of Vietnam communist.
The Vietnam war started simply because Ho Chi Min and his communist supporters wanted South Vietnam to become communist after the South split off in 1954 to become its own democratic nation. The United States saw this as a threat to democracy, and using the Domino theory, successfully threw the U.S. into the one of the worst wars it has ever seen. If only the United States had looked past its petty alliances and helped another country gain its independence like we had gained ours so many years ago, this war would have been completely avoided. Unfortunately for the families of over 64,000 soldiers, it wasn’t.
Beginnings of a Nightmare As early as 1954, the United States started sending financial and military aid to South Vietnam, hoping to stop the spread of communism. The flow of ‘military advisors’ from 700 to over 14,000 1 built up steadily through John Kennedy’s presidency, and after he was assassinated, Lyndon B. Johnson escalated the war to the point of no return. Johnson used the ludicrous domino theory to justify the military buildup in Vietnam. American people were so scared of communism by McCarthyism in the 1950’s, that they were willing to do anything to stop communism where it started. The people of the United States let Johnson build up a huge force in Vietnam, and he was also almost unanimously backed by congress.
By the end of the war, Johnson was so ashamed that he didn’t even try to run for reelection. If the American populous would have stopped and thought about what they were getting themselves into and not jumped gung-ho into a frivolous war, their representatives wouldn’t have felt so pressured to back Johnson. In 1964, the event every war-hungry Commie-killer was waiting for happened. In the Gulf of Tonkin, several VC torpedo boats reportedly fired on a U.S. vessel.
6 Even though the American ship sustained no damages, Johnson drafted the ‘Gulf of Tonkin Resolution’, which authorized him to use any force necessary to beat back the North Vietnamese. Congress never declared war or even directly authorized troops, but Johnson twisted enough words around to have his own little executive war. Early in the War At first, Johnson limited the conflict to an air war, hoping to pound away and demoralize the VC into submission. He used planes such as the B-52 bomber and the F-4 Phantom to try to win the war as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the United States’ air power had many shortcomings.
The F-4 Phantom was the latest and greatest piece of technology out there during Vietnam. Manufactured by McDonnell-Douglas, this plane was capable of multiple roles, as a dogfighter, bomber, recon, and support aircraft. However, the F-4 had its share of problems. First, the engineers who designed it neglected to mount any type of gun on the F-4A through the F-4D, thinking that the Phantom’s frightening compliment of missiles could take out any enemy threat. They were wrong.
Not having a gun made the dogfighting role of the Phantom extremely hard, because the AIM-9 and AIM-7 missiles were not as effective at closer ranges against the enemy MiGs. Only after almost 2 years was the F-4E Phantom fitted with a 6-barrell gatling gun. 4 Also, many pilots were poorly trained, only having 6 weeks of training as opposed to the customary 1-year. These excitement-hungry flyboys, these air cowboys had a voracious appetite for combat, but were ever-cognizant of the end of their tour of duty. The B-52 Stratofortress was the largest bomber ever produced at that time. It could deliver its massive 60,000lb payload up to almost halfway around the world, and could do it at an altitude that VC MiGs couldn’t even reach.
4 There were, also, shortcomings in the use of the B-52 also. During World War II, the allies could depend on decimating the industry of their enemy, thus destroying its fighting power. As will be explained later, the VC didn’t rely on industry and big guns, but guerrilla tactics and small arms. The U.S. also believed by bombing the living hell out of the population centers and by using napalm, the enemy would be demoralized and surrender. Both of these hypotheses proved to be direly wrong.
By bombing industry, the U.S. just wasted billions of dollars and precious time and manpower for nothing. Also, the bombing of population centers rallied the enemy and brought the North Vietnamese closer together, instead of its actual goal. Napalm was also another mistake. By using a flammable jelly to literally burn up all of North Vietnam, the U.S. not only killed more civilians than soldiers, but also raised several ethical questions.
Napalm coated anything it came within reach of, and burned continuously for up to a week. Doctors who treated napalm victims said their wounds would still glow green with heat at night, while the patients writhed in pain. Also, many international scientists and influential people around the world protested the use of napalm very adamantly. Yet another type of bomb was dropped by the B-52s, this one containing a large amount of the defoliating gas, Agent Orange. Hundreds of millions of acres of jungle were destroyed and even more fields and rice paddies were poisoned because of Agent Orange. South Vietnamese farmers complained about the detrimental effect Agent Orange had on their rice paddies, and its use flooded camps and cities with refugees from outlying areas where entire crops were destroyed.
Agent Orange was supposed to eliminate the VC’s advantageous hiding places, but it only turned the people we were fighting for against us even more. Even more so, Agent Orange cause countless birth defects and deadly illnesses in returning vets. Thousands of soldiers came back with reoccurring sicknesses, and even cancer. 6 The use of Agent Orange was perhaps one of the largest mistakes made in Vietnam. By simply thinking ahead, weighing the consequences of using weapons such as napalm and Agent Orange, the U.S. quite possibly could have won the Vietnam War comple …