Day 4 - Cu Chi Tunnels and War Remnants 074

At the tail end of the 19th Century, France colonized Vietnam to establish its Indochina Empire. France held a firm grasp over the new colony until Japan overran the country in its period of massive expansion leading up to World War II. After World War II ended in 1945, delegates of the Geneva Convention gave the southern half of Vietnam back to France while the northern half was left in control of the anti-communist Chinese Nationalist Party. The Chinese withdrew from the country only a year later, and Ho Chi Minh of the Viet Minh took control. In an attempt to reestablish its old territorial claims, France announced intentions to reclaim the northern half shortly after the Chinese extracted. The Viet Minh were determined to retain power, and a bloody war lasted almost a decade until the French finally pulled out troops in 1954. Again, world leaders met in Geneva, and decided to split Vietnam into two countries. Ho Chi Minh and the communists would control North Vietnam, and capitalist Ngo Dinh Diem was soon appointed to rule South Vietnam. His government was brutal and corrupt, and was not prepared to defend itself from an eminent war with Northern forces bent on uniting the country under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh. In correlation with the Domino Theory, the United States became slowly more involved militarily in Vietnam to halt the spread of communism in Asia until full-blown warfare commenced.

As the United States committed vast amount of troops to the conflict, military leaders planned a conventional war based on conquering land. However, the guerrilla tactics employed by Northern forces rendered this strategy useless. The dense jungles of Vietnam posed an immense problem for US forces, as troops struggled to push through against soldiers familiar with the terrain. A series of extensive tunnels dug by the Viet Minh allowed for covert transportation across large amounts of the country. Many times, communist forces would emerge from a section previously thought secured by the US. With the aid of the tunnels and dense terrain, hit and run tactics were lethally effective. To further slow down the US advance, traps were set throughout the jungle. Balls of mud with razor sharp spikes sticking out were place in trees, and would swing down when triggered by a trip wire, and sharp bamboo spikes were placed at the bottom of covered holes. Often, the spikes were purposely covered with manure to infect US soldiers as well as impale them. Many other traps were utilized, but they all contributed to Vietnam’ s War of Attrition. Wounding a soldier not only took him off the front, but a few others who had to assist him. The Vietnamese used guerrilla tactics because they were severely outmanned and outmatched. The United States was the major superpower of the world, and Vietnam was an agricultural nation of farmers. A full frontal attack couldn’t be afforded, due to America’s superior manpower and training. Simple traps were effective, and easy to make for rural farmers with little military experience. Like most other countries that participate in Asymmetric Warfare, there was no other choice against a massively superior army.

 

Resources

  1. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/causes_vietnam_war.htm
  2. http://vietnamawbb.weebly.com/guerrilla-warfare-and-war-of-attrition.html
  3. http://www.pbs.org/battlefieldvietnam/guerrilla/
  4. http://www.50shadesofage.com/2013/07/10/vietnam-the-star-of-the-east/ (picture)
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