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The American forces in Vietnam had trouble dealing with North Vietnamese troops and the Viet Cong for numerous reasons. These reasons include the North Vietnamese determination to never give up on the war, the South Vietnamese government’s reluctance to be allied with the United States and the tensions between these two governments. The longevity of the Vietnam War had psychological effects on American troops and the people back in the United States started to publicly oppose the war. The current strategies that the military was using at the time was not working for a place like Vietnam. Too many American soldiers were dying.
South Vietnamese and American tensions were high during the war. In the early years of the war, the South Vietnamese government’s leadership was inadequate, and that would cause disputes between the two states. The United States tried to train the Army of South Vietnam to defend themselves against the Viet Cong and the North. It was hard to get the South Vietnamese to be given advice on military tactics, as they had been fighting the North for a long time already. The training program sent Vietnamese soldiers and officers to schools in the Pacific. The U.S. also set up military training camps in South Vietnam, where recruits would be taught officer training and infantry tactics. The United States also provided aid and equipment to the Civil Guard and Self Defense Corps; these organizations would prove useful when fighting the Viet Cong. But even though the United States was helping South Vietnam militarily, the government of South Vietnam was in shambles. The central government and local governments out in rural areas were disconnected from each other. The central government has basically ignored the countryside, even though that there were more people in the countryside than urban areas. Efforts to help the rural areas were rejected in the South Vietnamese government. As a result of this, the Viet Cong easily recruited soldiers by propaganda and focusing on small towns and villages.
A reason why the Vietnam War was hard for the Americans to fight was because North Vietnam was absolutely determined not to give up on the war effort. The Americans and South Vietnamese armies were fighting a war of attrition, they were focusing on killing as many enemy soldiers as they possibly could. Gaining territory and defending it was a secondary objective. This was a reason that casualties were so high at the end of the war. North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were aided with supplies by the Chinese and Soviet Union, and they could easily gain back any lost territory since the American troops were not focused on holding positions. North Vietnam’s communist government completely focused on the war effort, using intimidation and fear to get support for the war. As Americans continued to bomb North Vietnam’s cities, it fueled animosity between the people of North Vietnam and outsiders. The communists will also fight a war of attrition on South Vietnam, making the war last longer and fuel hatred for Americans and South Vietnam.
Psychological and mental health also affected how soldiers would perform their duties during the war. When a soldier went on tour, they knew at what date they were expected to go back home. Most soldier’s motivation during the war was to stay alive until they got their leave. For the individual soldier, this was tolerable, but in a group it affected their ability to concentrate and coordinate as a team. After a soldiers first combat experience, they were more withdrawn to themselves and more reluctant to take part in offensive combat. As their tour of duty comes closer to an end, they were more focused on individually surviving and tried to limit their roles in combat. As the war marched on forward, North Vietnam used rural villagers and townsfolk as traps and shields. Some of these civilians even joined the Viet Cong or Northern Army. The communist forces using civilians lead the Americans to become suspicious of every single civilian they saw. Later in the war, soldiers begun to question why they were even fighting in Korea in the first place. They began to question the government on why they were still there and that the government’s statement that they were winning the war. Drug use became exceptionally popular during the Vietnam War. Drug addiction were high amongst veterans of the Vietnam War, especially to heroin. Heroin was cheap in South Vietnam, and it would ease stress of some soldiers. After the war was over, some veterans stopped using drugs, while others would indulge more to forget about Vietnam. As PTSD was not really known at the time, there was little treatment of these soldiers who found it difficult to reintegrate into society after their service was done.
Public opposition to the war affected how the government supported the forces in Vietnam. At this time in period, television was becoming popular, and the Vietnam War was broadcasted to the public. They saw what was happening in Vietnam, and they were not happy at all. People were questioning the government’s motives for the war, and saying that citizens were being targeted instead of actual combatants. The public did not want to send more troops to a war that they felt was unjustified. Protests started up everywhere in the United States. President Johnson stopped the bombings in North Vietnam and declared he was going to seek peace with North Vietnam. President Nixon withdrew some forces from Vietnam, but intensified air raids and bombings, and gave the South Vietnamese control over ground operations in Vietnam. As U.S. troops withdrew from the war, the soldiers left behind were bitter about the conditions they were in, and how little the government seemed to do for them. Thousands of American soldiers deserted and were discharged from the military. At least 100,000 Americans were accused of dodging the draft to go to war.
While American ground forces were in Vietnam, the primary objectives were to destroy enemy units, to clear out any occupied territory, and to secure and defend territory gained. The American troops did great work on these first two objectives, but the secure and defend objective was forgotten. The American forces focused on fighting a war of attrition, which meant that they would focus on causing the enemy as many casualties as possible. American leaders felt that this strategy was the best way to force the North out of the war and to end insurgency in the South. A drawback to this strategy was that it would put the South Vietnamese army on the backseat, and it will seriously increase the number of American casualties on the ground side. When the Americans implemented this strategy of attrition, the South Vietnamese were completely content to allow the American forces to do the majority of combat. Another problem was that the war did not seem to be fought for a just reason. At first, the United States was only giving aid and supplies to South Vietnam. They were not intending to join the war at first. It seems that every decision the United States made to aid South Vietnam just dug them in further in this conflict.
Overall, the Vietnam War was hard for America to fight. America and South Vietnam were not the greatest allies, the public support was not there, and the government did not seem to have their minds completely set focused on the war. North Vietnamese determination and the American strategy of attrition caused many casualties on both sides, and the conflict seemed to be going nowhere.
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