Talk:Vietnam War/Archive 1

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Vietnam War, also known as the II Indochina War or United State War (in Vietnam), was a conflict which lasted from 1956 to 1975. It saw South Vietnam and a multinational task force led by the United States of America with support coming from Republic of Korea[1], Australia, Philiphinas, New Zeland, Thailand, Taiwan and Spain[2] and fighting and defeated by National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam, also known as Viet Cong, and North Vietnam.


North Vietnam and South Vietnam were parts of French Indochina. In 1957 they won their independence from the French Union after the Indochina War which culminated in the french defeat in the Battle of Diem Bien Phu.

In the late 50's, many new Asian countries won their independence from european colonial powers. At the same time the Cold War began and the United States didn't want to lose influence in the World.

In the 1954 Geneva Conference, both Vietnams summoned a referendum in July of 1956 to determine if the people of Vietnam wanted to reform into one country. Vgo Dinh Diem, president of South Vietnam, knew that to win that referendum would be very difficult because, and this is a key to understand this war for writers like Jonathan Schell, vietnam people wanted to be a one country[1].

As a result of War World II, when Nazi Germany wasn't contained early in its expansionistic political regime, a political class of citizens in the United States developed that was concerned that history could repeat itself, this time with the Soviet Union and the communism expansion[1]. It was the described as the Domino theory.

Military history

This war had four phases.

From 1956 to 1965 when fighting vitnamits against vietnaminits, but in 1959 died two firsth assesors from United States in Bien Hoa Base.

From 1965 to 1968 when South Vietnam Army (ARNV) and United States won in land and they recover area.

From 1968 to 1973 when the War was very unpopular in United States and in the rest of the World (speciali afther the Battle of Khe Sanh and the Tet Offensive).

From 1973 to 1975 when South Vietnam fought alone against NFL and principally North Vietnam Army (NVA).

"The conflict after Tet was between Hanoi and Saigon."

I can agree with this only if I accept the attritional concepts of William Childs Westmoreland, and of the concept, which certainly did fit a good deal of European history, that the defeat of the armies in the field will result in victory. One of the greater ironies of the war was that Westmoreland and McNamara seemed to believe that attrition would break the will of Asian Communist leadership, not themselves at risk, that, while they may not have been puppets of Mao, were steeped in his theories of protracted war. If Westmoreland knew about the Long March, he didn't understand it.

Let us assume that the B41 nuclear weapon, the largest yield ever developed by the U.S. at 25 MT, were somehow made fallout free — as a three-stage weapon, it was exceptionally dirty — and B52G's carefully dropped a pattern of them from the Sino-Vietnamese border to the DMZ, leaving the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and all its leadership as a glowing cloud. Further, as long as I'm dealing with a reductio ad absurdum, let me assume that the Politburo had called a convention and invited the entire National Liberation Front, who were in Hanoi hotels when they evaporated.

Given that, given the total absence of Marxists (other than perhaps devotees of Groucho) from the South, and somehow assuming not one Roentgen or Grey of radioactivity made it across the border, I contend that a revolutionary opposition -- perhaps Marxist, perhaps not -- would have risen aganist the Government of the Republic of Vietnam unless that government took steps to root out corruption and make itself something that was meaningful to the villagers. Perhaps there was some overlooked South Vietnamese officer who, under the right circumstances, could have had all the qualities of Ramon Magsaysay and none of his flaws -- speaking Vietnamese rather than Tagalog certainly would have been required.

To claim the war was between Hanoi and Saigon is to totally ignore the grievances of South Vietnamese against their national government. Did the Buddhist Crisis under Diem not suggest there were structural problems? Did the revolt of Montagnards, begging their U.S. Army Special Forces advisors to join them in killing Vietnamese officials, suggest there were problems? I hardly suggest that those Montagnards were Communists. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:31, 6 July 2008 (CDT)

Howard is being a bit hyperbolic--and the second map shows that the communists did not just cross the narrow DMZ, but rather used the very long Laos-Cambordia border region. SVN had many problems --especially corruption and poor morale--and indeed the thrust of the argument is they never overcame those problems and thus could not fight very well. The point the article makes is that the Communists in the South were controlled from hanoi, and were not an independent force; why Howard thinks otherwise is unclear, Perhaps he will cite his evidence regarding the independence of the NLF-Viet-Cong-PRG? The Buddhist monks were indeed independent and played a role in SVN politics, and do get mentioned; they did not play a military role as such. The Montagnards were not affiliated with the NLF or the Communists. Doubtless Howard wants a new article on Vietnamese internal politics. That is a good idea and I hope he writes it. Richard Jensen 21:47, 6 July 2008 (CDT)
Again, I suggest that "being a bit hyperbolic" is not the language of collegial collaboration. I hope that when I have corrected your errors on, for example, what happens to a helicopter when it loses power, it was not made personal, and was based on facts rather than subjectively applied adjectives.
Where did I ever say the Communists in the South were not controlled by Hanoi? What I did say, and seems to being ignored here in an insistence on dealing with only direct military action, is that the relationship, for example, between Diem and Buddhists did not endear the GVN or ARVN to the people of the village. As Mao put it, the guerilla swims among the people as the fish swims in the sea. If one's overall strategy of military and nonmilitary means dries up that sea of popular support, guerilla operations become far more difficult. Indeed, after Westmoreland was replaced by Abrams, there was a strong push to provide village security assistance with the "clear and hold" approach rather than "search and destroy" main Communist forces. If Richard is going to ignore internal politics in what, in many areas, was a village war, then the overall article may show the same understanding and success as did William Childs Westmoreland and Robert Strange McNamara.
Richard is misreading or misquoting me, as, for example, with Perhaps he will cite his evidence regarding the independence of the NLF-Viet-Cong-PRG?. I never said that. I said that the NLF, and even more so the anti-French elements, had some neutralists as figureheads. I have never suggested the VC were independent of the PAVN.
What I have said is such things as the Buddhist crisis increased support to the VC/PAVN, and interfered with village cooperation with the GVN. What I have said is that Montagnards revolted against South Vietnamese officials and Vietnamese Special Forces, not to join the Communists but for independence, or at least less exploitation. Those Montagnards, certainly some of the Rhade I knew, regarded the U.S. forces that worked closely with them as friends and extended family. A former manager of mine, an Army Engineer adopted into the Rhade tribe, treated his wedding ring and tribal bracelet with equal respect. Too many RVN and GVN personnel, however, treated the Montagnards as primitive inferiors. There certainly were cultural conflicts, such as the bathing customs of the Yao tribe, but failing to get villagers and hill people to support the ARVN was critical to the war. Howard C. Berkowitz 15:40, 7 July 2008 (CDT)
A hyperbolic argument is one that uses fantastic assumptions, as Howard did in speculating about nuclear weapons. That is not the way to understand history. The article already makes the point that internal politics in SVN weakened the government. (The text says for example, Its downfall came when it bungled the demands of organized Buddhist monks for a larger voice in political affairs. The multiple interest groups and centers of power in the nation had become alienated.) The history of Vietnam article will cover that issue in more depth, while this one focuses on the war.Richard Jensen 19:34, 7 July 2008 (CDT)


It now appears, Richard, that you have a grand design for various articles, but you have not engaged in discussion in the Military or History forums and gained consensus about them. For example, you speak here of the "history of Vietnam" article, versus this, the "Vietnam war" article, with apparent assumptions about what belongs in each. I had not been aware that it had been decided that the structure of this area of discussion would be two main articles, "Vietnam War" and "History of Vietnam", but with certain subjects for each being more equal than others, such as the "Vietnam War" emphasizing the conflict from the mid-sixties on, with rather little about the Viet Minh and other resistance to the French or Japanese? In your response above, I note that you do not actually respond to the issues of the Montagnard revolt or the Buddhist crisis and enter into discussion of how they affected ARVN combat efficiency, and how they indicated failures in the GVN approach to the war as a whole? Certainly in the early sixties, some of the sects and gangs, be they Cao Dai, Hao Hoa, or Binh Xuyen, as well as the merchant class of Cholon, had a great deal to do with the steady deterioration of the GVN. To ignore this conflict is rather like discussing the events from 1861 to 1865 with no reference to states' rights, agrarian vs. industrial culture and slavery vs. open immigration (with exploitation, perhaps best exemplified -- if one wants masterful hyperbole -- by Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles?)

Has it occurred that hyperbolic arguments may come from frustration in trying to discuss a subject and plans for articles, but serious suggestions are dismissed or minimized, often with an appeal to authority about "scholars" and "the way to understand history"? In your text, I find an overwhelming emphasis on the agreed imperialism of Hanoi, with little interest in considering the factors that made the GVN ineffective in countering aggression or drawing support to itself. You occasionally mention Westmoreland's failed strategy, but dismiss the problems of the GVN from the early sixties in developing popular support.

Whether or not certain things are "hyperbolic" or not, I keep encountering emotional and dramatic explanations of operations, weapons and tactics. "Sneering" comes to mind when considering the description of noisy helicopters that the NVA could see coming, yet that description ignores the tactics, as in Bong Son, to know the NVA would react in a certain manner, and exploit that expected behavior. You put the adjective "superb" on the AK-47, which, while a quite decent assault rifle, had advantages and disadvantages over other weapons, and, to be in proper context, to know that many of the Communists were armed with inferior Soviet-designed weapons including the SKS and PPS family (e.g.,PPSh-41).

In a collaborative environment, you might ask "would anyone care to write a section on infantry weapons, fire support, logistics, etc.", rather than throw out what reads as a breezy, often slangy draft, with some fairly blatant errors such as how a helicopter flies (and crash-lands), a confusion between artillery in general and what was used in airmobile operations, and other matters? I finally wrote separate articles on Ia Drang and Bong Son, because the sequence of events in the drafts online were confusing, and, again, occasionally seeming to turn to sneering at various militaries rather than understanding the specific lessons learned from each?

I appeal to the community to try to agree on scope, which articles are needed, and, as Larry mentioned, to accept gracefully that there can be disagreement on issues such as the dates and names of phases. Some of the sections of this article probably should be links to more detailed discusions, rather, in several case, oversimplification. Condescension is not the way to obtain collaboration. Howard C. Berkowitz 20:57, 7 July 2008 (CDT)

Grand design?? Howard has completely misread the role of CZ. CZ like all encyclopedias has an article on the country and its history, as well as articles on the wars and battles and leaders. Typically the political history appears not in the articles on wars and battles but in the articles on the country and its leaders. That was not a policy decision by me. Howard's new tone is quite a change from his intensely proprietary approach to the CIA article, where he erased all my contributions without discussions, and then added a series of poor quality CIA historical articles that were not well based. Howard as I have often acknowledged, is very good on weapons, and his edits have been very helpful in that regard. I'm glad he is starting on some battles, but I recommend he keep in mind some basics: his article on the Battle of Bong Son does not say when it happened, for example (I had to add that it was part of the Vietnam War). I tried putting proposed text on this page first and got a lot of sarcasm from Howard and no helpful suggestions regarding text. Howard's statement above that my text shows "little interest in considering the factors that made the GVN ineffective" is is not based on a careful reading of the text and footnotes. (for example he missed this passage: American observers reported that the Saigon regime lacked legitimacy in the villages. The GVN never generated spontaneous support or a sense of patriotism because it was too much like the French system: too autocratic, too urban, Catholic, aloof, corrupt, arrogant, inefficient, self-indulgent and predatory. The challenge was not to restore legitimacy but get it in the first place. By contrast, peasants at first found the NLF appeared to be honest, caring and basically like themselves. It had considerable support--it especially appealed to idealistic youth, and in any case was always feared by the villagers who knew the assassination squads would eliminate any dissent. Richard Jensen 21:24, 7 July 2008 (CDT)

Further comment

This badly needs copyediting. --Larry Sanger 10:02, 15 September 2007 (CDT)

Why the article was moved

The article above was moved by request of Richard Jensen, history editor, because it needs considerable work and probably cannot be improved, at least not in its present form. --Larry Sanger 13:10, 2 October 2007 (CDT)

Bibliography: Additions

Herr, Michael. Dispatches (London: Picador, 1977). Isn't this a relevant book? It's one of the great books, anyway. It's also a U.K. edition, because I live there.Jeffrey Scott Bernstein 04:00, 8 October 2007 (CDT)

yes, it's very well done. Richard Jensen 04:20, 8 October 2007 (CDT)

Opening paragraph

Needs and opening paragraph or two, in accordance with CZ:Article Mechanics, that gives the dates, casualty figures, outcome, etc.--basic facts about the war. --Larry Sanger 11:31, 8 October 2007 (CDT)

How about this for a start?

The Vietnam War, a military conflict in which the United States joined forces with the South Vietnamese Army against the Communist North Vietnamese, lasted from 1959 to 1975. The war cost the lives of over 58,000 Americans, with a further 304,000 wounded, and ended with the United States abandoning its goal to keep a divided Vietnam from reunifying under Communist control, which took place in 1975-1976.Jeffrey Scott Bernstein 11:53, 8 October 2007 (CDT)

OK but too US-centric? I'll work on it some more. Richard Jensen 17:08, 8 October 2007 (CDT)
I have several concerns here, which, I suspect, may be coming out of Cold War thinking, where nationalism was rarely considered if there was any Communist involvement. When speaking of the division, should there not be at least some mention of Diem preventing the referendum on reunification, agreed upon in 1954 at the Geneva Conference, and scheduled for 1956? Somewhere in this area, if it doesn't exist, is when the North Vietnamese party decided on a military solution, with the formation of the 559 Transportation Group (i.e., May 1959), which set up the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
"Vietnam War" isn't the greatest of names, but "Second Indochina War" isn't greatly better. Again, come back to Cold War policy, where the U.S. supported the restoral of French colonial authority after the Japanese mission, ironically when Ho was asking the OSS mission under MAJ Archimedes Patti for a copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence to use as a model for declaring Vietnamese independence. See Archimedes L.A. Patti, Why Viet Nam?: Prelude to America's albatross,
"the United States abandoning its goals" -- this needs to be very carefully sourced, and can be challenged. For example, the most telling statement of goals inside the Johnson Administration was the memo from Assistant Secretary of Defense (International Security Affairs) McNaughton to SecDef McNamara, Also see COL H.R. McMaster's book, Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam
...said Howard C. Berkowitz (talk) (Please sign your talk page posts by simply adding four tildes, ~~~~.)
the 1956 elections were pretty much a red herring, and not very relevant to the military history. Neither North nor South wanted them--neither could tolerate a free election in their own territory. Richard Jensen 17:23, 12 May 2008 (CDT)
Diem certainly did not, although I've seen various analyses of Ho's position. I'm not suggesting the elections would have been terribly honest had they been held, but, if they were held, I suspect Ho would have won. He would have won from a combination of ruthlessness, ideology, but also being perceived as a Vietnamese nationalist, where Diem was perceived as a Catholic mandarin.
You make a point, though, that I think is relevant. The fact that neither side wanted a free election does not speak well to them as states that would not have had an insurgency. The North indeed was a police state, but it was more homogeneous a state than the South. I'm not suggesting a strict Confucian ethos, but there was a clear authority in the North. In the South, even after the VNQDD and KMT were insignificant, there still was Buddhist vs. Catholic, Hoa Hao, Cao Dai, mountain people vs. lowlanders, and, in general, no sense of national identity.
I compliment you, Sir, in the elegance of bringing the Red Herring Scare into a discussion in which Communism was a factor. Perhaps in another universe, Joe McCarthy was a fishmonger. It was with some metaphorical shock when I confronted the array of colors of herring at a Scandinavian buffet, there presumably being some political allegory therein. :-)
...said Howard C. Berkowitz (talk) (Please sign your talk page posts by simply adding four tildes, ~~~~.)
well to nibble a bit more: the 1956 election topic was raised by antiwar Americans years later to argue that NVN was really democratic because it would have won an election that was never held. The French agreed to this election, then left. SVN and the US rejected the Geneva accords, of course. Richard Jensen 03:11, 13 May 2008 (CDT)
I'd never dream of saying either Diem or Ho were democrats, which has never been a prerequisite for winning elections. I'm from New Jersey, where the motto was "vote early and often." NVN would have won, as Ho, at the least, tried to project an image of being of the people. Diem had a chance of winning only if Catholic loyalists voted. Howard C. Berkowitz 20:42, 30 June 2008 (CDT)
the point is that Communism would collapse if it allowed free elections, so they were not allowed. Richard Jensen 20:52, 30 June 2008 (CDT)
I have no doubt that Ho would have never permitted a second election had he won the first, but Communism in 1956 would no more have collapsed than did that of the Soviet Union. Ho would have made use of elections; Diem didn't want them, because he would certainly have lost the first and only election. Neither had clean hands. Howard C. Berkowitz 20:59, 30 June 2008 (CDT)
to allow democracy means to give up total rule by the party. No FIRST election is possible. Single elections did indeed overthrow Communism in Poland, USSR and Nicaragua (years later of course). Ho would like elections in the South, but not the North. Vice versa for Diem. The French, who inserted those terms, were long gone. Richard Jensen 21:20, 30 June 2008 (CDT)

Holding elections is not equivalent to allowing democracy

Your words above, I believe, were:

the 1956 election topic was raised by antiwar Americans years later to argue that NVN was really democratic because it would have won an election that was never held.

I don't see that saying, anywhere, that Ho would permit democracy, nor did I say that. What I did say, as did many other students of the period, is that Ho had the popularity to win an election over Diem.

Ho was capable of working in coalitions, and did so in the late 40s with the VNQDD, Vietnamese KMT, Cao Dai, etc. I do not disagree that his eventual goal, at which he'd probably succeeed, was to put his Lao Dong Party in control. He was, in no way, a democrat.

For tactical reasons, however, he had every reason to participate in elections were they held in 1956. Diem's 1955 or so election were hardly an exercise in Jeffersonian democracy with the integrity of the ballot held sacred.

The U.S. wanted an anticommunist client in the fifties; whether it was democratic was irrelevant to John Foster Dulles. Why should Southeast Asia be different than South America?

My personal opinion, which I know I cannot prove, is that had Ho been elected, he would have built a nationalistic Communist state, somewhat analogous to Yugoslavia under Tito. On Ho's death, however, while Vietnam certainly had its ethnic conflicts, they were not remotely on the scale of those in the Balkans, and I suspect Vietnam, much like other former Soviet clients, would move to a form of culturally appropriate democracy. Can't know, of course, and no, I don't think of kindly Uncle Ho, or even Nguyen Ai Quoc. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:56, 30 June 2008 (CDT)

Howard C. Berkowitz 21:56, 30 June 2008 (CDT)

what I am arguing is that free elections --with a chance of losing--were anathema to Ho. The profoundly violated his belief that his party represented the people. Democracy is still not on Hanoi's agenda in 2008. (Ho by the early 1960s was a symbol who had little real power.) Richard Jensen 17:50, 3 July 2008 (CDT)
And Diem's opinion about free elections, with a chance of losing, were different in what manner? My point is that no actor with any power was especially concerned with democracy. The U.S. wanted anticommunism, and freedoms were not especially part of it. Diem wouldn't have wanted an election that a Buddhist could have won.
there was a difference. LBJ demanded free elections (in the South only); Kennedy did not). Richard Jensen 18:34, 3 July 2008 (CDT)

Yes, he certainly put a great deal of force behind his demands. Ah, memories slipping away...I can't remember any being held. We all know, of course, that Johnson never told a lie, and never let his ego get the better of him.
Elections were in fact held in 1967 and Thieu won with 34% of the vote in a 9-man race. Time magazine said "To try to transplant democracy to Viet Nam in the year 1967 would seem a rash and reckless enterprise in the worst of places at the worst of times. Yet this year, South Viet Nam has promulgated a constitution written by a popularly elected Constituent Assembly. Voters in more than 4,000 villages and hamlets have gone to the polls to choose their own local officials. And last week the people of South Viet Nam chose a President, Nguyen Van Thieu, a Vice President, Nguyen Cao Ky, and 60 Senators in a free election that confounded the fledgling nation's friendly critics and its mortal enemies. In the U.S. and Viet Nam, by word and by bullet, it was an election conducted under fire." Time archives Sept 15 1967 Richard Jensen 21:27, 3 July 2008 (CDT)]
"Demanding" was one of the in-words of that period. I still chuckle at one of the campus protesters going up to a dean to deliver non-negotiable. That worthy confirmed, "Non-negotiable, correct?" "YES, imperialist stooge!" "Well, then we clearly have nothing to negotiate. Good day." 20:37, 3 July 2008 (CDT)
It's not whitewashing the North Vietnamese to state the reality that no one was making any particular effort to build a democracy. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:02, 3 July 2008 (CDT)

Weaknesses of South Vietnam?

Excuse me, where is the source for this section. It sounds as if, the person that wrote this part, is trying to avoid the fact that the US were responsible for betraying the South Vietnamese government after the Paris Peace Accord, and not supplying them with ammunition and military aid . I know ARVN officers personally, and they literally ran out of bullets on the frontline. Why would the ARVN sell (corruption) ammunition, when their lives depended on it. In fact, how many South Vietnamese soldiers died in the war? Over 1 million. Vietnamese people lacked Patriotism?! That is obsurd. The national anthem's lyrics alone would contest that. Third-world? South Vietnam was NOT third-world. during that time. I've got photos to prove this fact. I'm deleting this section. Ann Hoang 22:14, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

We don't delete sections. If you have some documented evidence otherwise let's please ADD it. Richard Jensen 22:36, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

You may want to read this: I will soon change the article to reflect this point of view, let me know if there are any objections. Ann Hoang 06:55, 1 May 2008 (CDT)

yes there are objections indeed. The article blames the US --wjen in fact the US had left Vietnam. The link at assumes the Saigon government was totally incompetent--Saigon refused to buy batterioes, Saigon refused to allow planes be cannibalized for spare parts. Saigon waited for American B-52 bombers instead of sending up its own planes. The article falsely assumes that the North was getting vast subsidies. It never tells what Saigon did with the billions of dollars of US aid it received. It says that only one or two brave units performed well. It does not even mention the vast air force the south had. Anyone serious about the South Vietnamese military has to do better and there are many books and articles listed at Vietnam War Bibliography. Richard Jensen 17:25, 1 May 2008 (CDT)

Your Bibliography is missing Robert K. Brigham's book Ann Hoang 07:34, 6 May 2008 (CDT)

thanks for catching that--I saw it at the Society for Military History meeting last year and meant to include it.Richard Jensen 08:36, 6 May 2008 (CDT)


people looking for online sources might want to start with Vietnam War Bibliography by Richard Jensen Richard Jensen 22:45, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

Baffling, in Washington and elsewhere

I will reiterate that the Johnson Administration leadership was baffled. Remember that serious U.S. involvement in the region began in 1959-1961 in Laos, and I suspect Simons and Heintges had a thought or two. They were in regular communications with people like Bernard Fall.

While I can't speak from personal knowledge until 1966 or so, the Pentagon Papers do give indications that there were people, outside top circles, that certainly understood some of the dynamics in the country. Lansdale was shunted aside, but Roger Hilsman, with WWII guerilla experience, did have some insights. Unfortunately, he was too low in the food chain.

By 1966, I was working with first the Center for Research in Social Systems at American University, and then the Human Resources Research Organization at George Washington University. CRESS (formerly the Special Operations Research Office) was doing some quite insightful studies of attitudes in the countryside; I watched analyses going back and forth to the Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg. Unfortunately, things that might be clear to a United States Army Special Forces major seemed to disappear somewhere before reaching McNamara's offices in Pentagon room 3E880. CIA was also producing serious analysis.

At HumRRO, while some of the research tools were awkward, our staff was sending Vietnamese-speaking analysts into villages. The MACV weekly Lessons Learned series spread useful knowledge within the command, but not above it, or apparently even in its senior headquarters.

Oh -- between the two jobs, I worked on tactical sensors and remote sensors for the McNamara line. The "people sniffer" actually worked, although it did result in quite a few water buffalo being bombed. The best sensor that came out of the Night Vision Laboratory, however, was rejected. It had a species of bedbug, exquisitely sensitive to human scent, glued to a microphone that would be dropped over the Ho Chi Minh trail. When porters passed, the excited bedbug would set off a transmitter, and call down bombs on its own position...brave bedbug. A general rejected the idea of using them, because he told the NWL that he refused to put any veteran in the position of answering "what did you do in the war, daddy" with "I was a bedbug wrangler."

McNamara and Johnson each brought their unique talents at bafflement to the situation. McNamara was convinced that the Lao Dong Party thought just as did his Harvard colleagues, and would realize, from a cost-effectiveness standpoint, they were beaten. He also developed a "signaling" system, "sending the message" that when the North Vietnamese set up S-75 Dvina/SA-2 GUIDELINE surface-to-air missile batteries, that the U.S. refrained from bombing the batteries "clearly" sent a message to the Politburo that it should reciprocate the retraint by not firing the missiles. Postwar interviews indicated that this had not even occurred to the North Vietnamese.

Johnson, meanwhile, chose to micromanage the bombing campaigns at his Tuesday lunches, which had no Air Force or Navy air warfare people in attendance, and only occasionally Max Taylor, a conventional land commander. No one there had any unconventional warfare experience, but they still seemed to feel qualified to tell whether a 500 or 750 pound bomb should be dropped on a given target. Given this hubris, given Johnson's ego, and given his Senate-bred belief everything was negotiable, why should it have been expected the Administration would make rational decisions.

Data were there; some passed across my desk. Unfortunately, it either never got to Robert Strange McNamara, or was rejected out of hand. How dare mere soldiers and area specialists tell statisticians, lawyers, and economists how things worked?

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";

But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,

The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,

O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Howard C. Berkowitz 20:38, 30 June 2008 (CDT)

yes but the army, navy, air force, CIA and Congress were also baffled, as was RAND and Harvard, so suggesting that it was only McNamara and LBJ is not true. The Kennedy's were baffled too, I might add, along with Ike. But they all agreed on containing Communist expansion--the alternatives were unthinkable at the time. Once containment was dropped by Nixon, entirely new approaches opened up (ie US-China and US-USSR deals squeezing out the North)Richard Jensen 21:25, 30 June 2008 (CDT)
Sorry, but I was seeing, at the time, Army Special Forces and other groups, military and intelligence. Aside from USAJFKSWC, there was good stuff coming out of 5SFG and Marine CAP. I didn't see MACV-SOG at the time, but that and other SACSA material that's come out shows some reasonability. As far as the Air Force, Edwin Lansdale immediately comes to mind, but I can also dig up some references online.
Where the Kennedys may themselves have been confused, McNamara could confuse at intercontinental ranges. LBJ preferred to deliver up-close-and-personal confusion, as when commanding staff audiences from the Presidential Porcelain Throne. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:45, 30 June 2008 (CDT)
"being there" doesn't quite do the job when we are talking about the highest levels. The point is that the chiefs of staff were all pretty baffled, as the Pentagon Papers show. CZ must avoid blaming everything on McNamara. The line of argument in the article is that the US was trapped because of multiple conflicting goals. Richard Jensen
Being there is relevant to knowing what was in the system. I agree completely that there were multiple goals. H.R. McMaster's interviews with Army Chief of Staff Harold Johnson are especially insightful -- Harold Johnson thought, at the time, he could do more from the inside, but, afterwards, regretted not resigning in protest. There was, indeed, a lot of JCS politics. Navy and Air Force weren't heavily involved, but the Marines, again, pushed from the inside.
There's probably better documentation, in the Pentagon Papers, of information about realities being rejected by the Office of the Secretary of Defense than any other key power center. CIA played political games but also made some good information available -- Adams' War of Numbers is a good source on this. MACV, unfortunately, was rather brilliant at self-delusion under Westmoreland; a fascinating what-if is if Abrams had gotten command earlier.
I would never blame everything on McNamara; I merely find him the greatest hypocrite and epitome of hubris. Johnson bears huge guilt, although he's more a figure out of classic tragedy when one looks at his domestic agenda. Rusk and McGeorge Bundy didn't exactly distinguish themselves. Taylor wanted every war to fit his model in The Uncertain Trumpet. Indeed, the only person that occasionally attended the Tuesday lunches and brought in any reality was George Ball. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:06, 30 June 2008 (CDT)

RJ draft next sections, for comment before insertion

Ground war 1965-68

Westmoreland's tactics worked.

Westmoreland's tactics killed many of the enemy, and caused to more indigenous units to fragment. Westmoreland's tactics, however, had little effect on the decisionmakers in Hanoi. Clausewitz 1, Westmoreland 0. Howard C. Berkowitz 13:51, 3 July 2008 (CDT)

With the US increasing the pace of search and destroy (and the ARVN avoiding combat), the NLF was systematically pushed back. "Search and Destroy" gave way after 1968 to new tactics.

The new tactics need to be explained, not just mentioned as an aside.Howard C. Berkowitz 13:51, 3 July 2008 (CDT)

As the Viet Cong dispersed into smaller and smaller units, so too did the US forces, until they were running platoon and even squad operations that blanketed far more of the countryside, chasing the fragmented enemy back into remote, uninhabited areas or out of SVN all together. Not only low-level NLF sympathizers but even Viet Cong officers and NLF political cadres started to surrender, accepting the generous resettlement terms offered by the GVN. At the end of 1964, only 42% of the South Vietnamese people lived in cities or villages that were securely under GVN control. (20% were in villages controlled by the NLF, and 37% were in contested zones.) At the end of 1967, 67% of the population was "secure," and only a few remote villages with less than 2% of the population were still ruled by the NLF. Hanoi seemed to believe that the rugged Central Highlands region, which contained a third of the area but only 7% of SVN's people, would make a good base for guerrilla warfare. The US Army "Special Forces" ("Green Berets") contested this strategy by systematically arming the Montagnard tribesmen against the Communists.

Having been, for a while, the programmer at George Washington University's HumRRO research center, doing the CONUS statistical analysis of the Hamlet Evaluation System, I think these percentages have to be explained, and some confidence level put on them. Howard C. Berkowitz 13:51, 3 July 2008 (CDT)

In 1967, the Saigon political scene stabilized, as the Buddhist and student protesters ran out of steam and General Nguyen Van Thieu, a competent, fiercely anti-Communist Catholic, became President. The NLF failed to disrupt the national legislative election of 1966, or the presidential elections of 1967, which consolidated Thieu-ARVN control over GVN. Thieu failed to eliminate the systematic politicization, corruption, time-serving and favoritism in the ARVN. Nervous about spies in ARVN, the MACV kept it at arms length and never exercised direct control. ARVN and MACV operated two different wars. MACV advisors did work closely with 900,000 local GVN officials in a well-organized pacification program called CORDS (Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development.) It stressed technical aid, local self government, and land distribution to peasant farmers. A majority of tenant farmers received title to their own land in one of the most successful transfer projects in any nation. On the other hand, hundreds of thousands of peasants entered squalid refugee camps when CORDS moved them out of villages that could not be protected. In the Phoenix Program (part of CORDS with a strong CIA component) GVN police identified and arrested (and sometimes killed) the NLF secret police agents engaged in assassination.

From the standpoint purely of prose, the preceding and following paragraphs seem somewhat contradictory. The paragraph above picks up metrics that remind me of a contemporary observation in the U.S. Army:
Twinkle twinkle little star
We are winning, yes we are
General Westmoreland told me true.
If you doubt him, who are you? McNamara says so too.
My recommendation is to be explicit that there were very mixed messages.Howard C. Berkowitz 13:51, 3 July 2008 (CDT)

The more the American soldiers worked in the hamlets, the more they came to despise the corruption, inefficiency and even cowardice of GVN and ARVN.

Even that is ambiguous. There were also some deeply respected ARVN officers, and the U.S. personnel were aware of them not having the appropriate connections and bribes to rise to the level appropriate to their talents. Howard C. Berkowitz 13:51, 3 July 2008 (CDT)

The basic problem was that despite the decline of the NLF, the GVN still failed to pick up popular support. Most peasants, refugees and townfolk remained alienated and skeptical. The superior motivation of the enemy troubled the Americans (especially in contrast with South Koreans, who fought fiercely for their independence.) "Why can't our Vietnamese do as well as Ho's?" Soldiers resented the peasants ("gooks") who seemed sullen, unappreciative, unpatriotic and untrustworthy. The Viet Cong resorted more and more to booby-traps that (during the whole war) killed about 4,000 Americans and injured perhaps 30,000 (and killed or injured many thousands of peasants.)

It became more and more likely that after an ambush or boobytrap angry GIs would take out their frustrations against the nearest "gooks." Vietnamese they perceived as potential enemies. MACV did not appreciate the danger that atrocities might be committed by Americans. In March 1968, just after the Tet offensive, one Army company massacred several hundred women and children at the hamlet of My Lai. The company captain

Battalion lieutenant colonel, Brigade colonel, Division major general, Field Force lieutenant general and MACV general were acquitted or not charged. I'm not saying they necessarily should be, but there is a very relevant comparison to the Yamashita doctrine, with the tabi being on the other foot, as it were. (For the record, I believe Yamashita was innocent of the Phillipine charges, demonstrably tried to prevent atrocities, but committed the mortal sin of having beaten MacArthur).Howard C. Berkowitz 13:51, 3 July 2008 (CDT)

was acquitted but platoon commander Lt. William Calley (a junior college dropout who was rushed through OCS) was sentenced to life imprisonment by a 1971 court martial. He was released in 1975. The case became a focus of national guilt and self-doubt, with antiwar leaders alleging there were many atrocities that had been successfully covered up.

Tet 1968

Order needs to change.
Hanoi made a decision to demonstrate the impotence of the GVN in the cities, with a multi-pronged campaign beginning at Khe Sanh, attracting the attention of US decisionmakers, with LBJ having his own model of the base in the White House basement. When there were multiple urban attacks during Tet, with great civilian casualties, even though the indigenous Viet Cong were largely destroyed, there was no reason for the urban population to believe the GVN could provide security. (See Insurgency#Political rhetoric, myths and models, with special attention to security. "Magic Diamond" diagrams, before and after Tet, could be illustrative. Howard C. Berkowitz 14:01, 3 July 2008 (CDT)

The climactic moment of the war came in February 1968 during the truce usually observed during the "Tet" holiday season. Hanoi made an all-out bid for victory, and was decisively defeated. It was in desperate shape, defeated on the battlefields and pushed out of most of the villages it once controlled. Rolling Thunder had destroyed dreams of socialist industrialization in the North and ruined practically the entire economy above the level of the rice paddies.

Aside from the Lao Dong cadre, who had such a dream? Howard C. Berkowitz 14:01, 3 July 2008 (CDT)
The rulers in Hanoi had the dream, says Nicholas Tarling, The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia p. 163 Richard Jensen 17:31, 3 July 2008 (CDT)
And they realized it. The NLF might have had objections, but I was simply not seeing huge village security in the actual MACV field reporting. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:54, 3 July 2008 (CDT)

The "tail" of the PAVN had grown as its teeth receded, for the bombing had made resupply extraordinarily difficult. The solution was one last all-out effort, aimed especially at a new target, the GVN bureaus and ARVN complexes in the cities. The Politburo theorized that the GVN was a hollow shell held together only by American firepower. They truly believed the proletariat in the cities would rise up and throw off the puppets once the tocsin was sounded; indeed, the very legitimacy of their enterprise hinged on the premise that the people of South Vietnam hated their government and really wanted Communist control. As a preliminary diversion, PAVN sent two of its divisions to surround an isolated Marine outpost at Khe Sanh, near the border. Johnson personally took control of the defense. When the media back home warned darkly of another disaster like Dien Bien Phu, LBJ made his generals swear they would never surrender Khe Sanh. They committed 5% of their ground strength to the outpost (about 6,000 men) and held another 15-20% in reserve just in case. The enemy was blasted with 22,000 airstrikes and massive artillery bombardments. When the siege was lifted, the Marines had lost 205 killed, the PAVN probably 10,000.

Hoping that Khe Sanh had tied down Westmoreland, the PAVN and Viet Cong struck on January 31, throwing 100,000 regular and militia troops against 36 of 44 provincial capitals and 5 of 6 major cities. They avoided American strongholds and targeted GVN government offices and ARVN installations. The ARVN recoiled in shock, then fought bravely and fiercely. American television viewers watched in utter disbelief as MPs fought to recapture the courtyard of the embassy in Saigon, which had been seized by 15 Viet Cong sappers. The harshest fighting came in the old imperial capital of Hue. The city fell to the PAVN, which immediately set out to identify and execute thousands of government supporters among the civilian population. The allies fought back fiercely, with all the firepower at their command (including the big guns of naval ships in the harbor). House to house fighting recaptured Hue on February 24. Five thousand enemy bodies were recovered (the US lost 216 dead, and ARVN 384). Nationwide, the enemy lost tens of thousands killed, and many more who were wounded or totally demoralized. US lost 1,100 dead, ARVN 2,300. The people of South Vietnam did not rise up; the NLF tocsin fell on deaf ears. However, the pacification program temporarily collapsed in half the country, and a half million more people became refugees. Despite the enormous damage done to the GVN at all levels, the NLF was in even worse shape, and it never recovered.

Neither recovered. The continuing attrition eventually left the Lao Dong as having all the Monopoly money.

Tet was designed to demonstrate its popularity and legitimacy, and it had failed totally.

Disagree. It fit nicely with Marighella's model of showing the inability of a central government to provide security.
But the central government DID provide the security, hence the failure. Richard Jensen 17:31, 3 July 2008 (CDT)
Remembering the rows of bodies in shallow graves in Hue, hands wired behind their backs, there were huge failures of the RVN government to provide security -- especially if the appropriate bribes were not paid. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:54, 3 July 2008 (CDT)

More than half the Communist soldiers in the South were killed in 1968; many others deserted to the GVN. B-52 carpet bombing in the "Iron Triangle" near Saigon destroyed the vast underground tunnel complex and terrorized the surviving Viet Cong. By sending its main force into the cities during Tet, the NLF left a vacuum in the countryside that GVN and US pacification agents could fill.

But did they? I'm reminded of the comment after Arnhem, "my country cannot afford another Montgomery victory."Howard C. Berkowitz 14:01, 3 July 2008 (CDT)
I think they did.
By tunnel complex that was destroyed, are you referring to Cu Chi? The same Cu Chi that is a grim set of tourist attractions today?
It would help if your airpower terminology was a little more precise than "carpet bombing". Are you saying that the B-52's had Combat Skyspot radar coordinates to bomb? If they didn't have specific coordinates, their standard load, the 750 pound Mark 117 bomb, did not have a great deal of earth-penetrating capability. I'd like to see some documentation of the specific ordnance loadouts, including fuze types, that supposedly wiped out tunnel complexes.
With some of the sensors and "brilliant" fuzes available today for, probably, laser-guided bombs, you might be able to hit some of the tunnels consistently. At the time -- and part of my work was on personnel sensors -- the most reliable way to clear a tunnel was to send a small, flexible, and very brave man into it, armed with a handgun. Directly observed artillery fire also could help, but the B-52 had no way of sensing the tunnels and the B-52s of the time could not use laser-guided bombs.
For example, the 25th Infantry Division was plagued by enemy bunkers near the highway between Cu Chi and Saigon. Fires from the bunkers prevented free movement between the two locations. Numerous attempts to reduce the bunkers with artillery, air strikes, and infantry assaults were unsuccessful. An 8-inch howitzer delivering assault fire (i.e., direct fire) finally eliminated the bunkers.
— MG David Ewing Ott, Field Artillery 1954-1973, Department of the Army

By the end of 1968 GVN had pulled itself together and restored its authority in every province.

Authority as in "it was safe for the province chief, without a large security detail, to sleep in any hamlet?" Howard C. Berkowitz 14:01, 3 July 2008 (CDT)
much better than that. we simply do not have reports of NLF control after 1968. By 1969 "Saigon forces were able to sustain the pressure on the revolutionary forces and dramatically expand their control over both population and territory." Elliott The Vietnamese War: (2002) p. 1128 Richard Jensen 17:31, 3 July 2008 (CDT)
"We"? Not what I was seeing coming across my desk at HumRRO, for example, in the Lessons Learned series from Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MAC-V). I hope they are archived somewhere; at the time, they were CONFIDENTIAL but with accelerated declassification in three years. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:54, 3 July 2008 (CDT)

Indeed, for the first time GVN found itself in control of more than 90% of the population. "The Tet objectives were beyond our strength," concluded Tran Van Tra, the commander of Vietcong forces in the South. "They were based on the subjective desires of the people who made the plan. Hence our losses were large, in material and manpower, and we were not able to retain the gains we had already made."[3] [draft by Richard Jensen 22:11, 30 June 2008 (CDT)]

Please sign all of your remarks, so that others may follow the exchange properly. --Larry Sanger 14:23, 3 July 2008 (CDT)

Scope of article -- too broad or not broad enough?

I understand, although I do not agree, with the original point that the article was U.S.-centric. Nevertheless, the article, at present, is more of a Post-WWII History of Vietnam than a Vietnam War article.

In my opinion, a U.S. oriented war article should go back no farther than 1954 (see CIA activities in Vietnam#Vietnam 1954 for the first, even covert, operation to affect the situation on the ground. The Patti mission belongs in an article perhaps on "Post-WWII Military History of Vietnam", although, just as the Hukbalahap were anti-Japanese Communists, so were the Viet Minh an anti-Japanese group that then became anti-French.

Again not necessarily in the same article, it is quite appropriate to have article(s) that deal with the French colonial period, the US embargo on Japan as a result of Japanese activities in Indochina, and enough background to give an accurate picture of the ...ahem...glowing affection of Vietnamese for China, as demonstrated by the Two Trung Ladies among others. Howard C. Berkowitz 13:34, 3 July 2008 (CDT)


As a definition of the Vietnam War, I respecfully submit that "the successful effort of the Communist Party of Vietnam, led by Ho Chi Minh, to take control of Vietnam" is poor. The efforts of the Communist Party are only the efforts of one party to the war. That is one main outcome of the war, but the outcome does not define the war itself, does it? --Larry Sanger 14:26, 3 July 2008 (CDT)

OK I rephrased the lede (and also removed some small details that are belong in the main text, as well as some editorial commentary that is out of place.)
Surely there isn't only one perspective. At the least, unless this is the article on the American Perspective on the Southeast Asian War Games, 1945-1975, one might suggest:
  • Lao Dong party
  • NLF non-Lao Dong, while they were around
  • Catholic-identified South
  • Buddhist-identified South
  • Southern nationalists, if any
I can accept not having details (but preferably links) in the main article for the Cao Dai, Hoa Hao, even Binh Nguyen, and, if one is going back into the fifties and forties, the VNQDD, Vietnamese Kuomintang, etc. Perhaps the merchants of Cholon?
There's also third country reactions. Please see CIA activities in Vietnam, especially the 1965 NIE. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:21, 3 July 2008 (CDT)
yes CZ can desire this material but the sources are extremely limited. Nobody gets into the Hanoi archives. Eventually that will change (as it did in Moscow in 1991) Richard Jensen 18:36, 3 July 2008 (CDT)
In my list of non-American interest groups above, only one was based in Hanoi. Are you suggesting that only Hanoi is important, and Buddhist relations with Diem should be ignored? Might there have been a bit more countryside support of the GVN had there been less tolerance of corruption?
Even with Hanoi, there were FBIS and JPRS analyses of trends in Nhan Dan, as well as some reasonable declassified documents. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:43, 3 July 2008 (CDT)

Marines vs. Army/Westmoreland vs. Taylor

The note about Marine vs. Army relationships really should be a signed article elaborating on some of the personalities involved, or, at the least, substantial sourcing from both Army and Marine viewpoints.

Walt and Cushman, for example, should be cited along with Westmoreland. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:38, 3 July 2008 (CDT)

CZ is stating the debate, not taking sides. The main source here is Marine General Victor Krulak, ch 13 of his memoirs on the conflict First to Fight pp 195-204 online; the same point is made by many others, like "The Army and Vietnam," Andrew F. Krepinevich notes (p 175) that the Marines were "never able to sell the idea of CAPS." Kinnard, War Managers" discusses the tension on p 60-1, online Richard Jensen 23:21, 3 July 2008 (CDT)

The start of the Vietnam War

See [1] and, ignoring the credibility of the source and merely looking at the (more or less factual) options they present, it seems to me that 1955 and 1959 are just as reasonable as years for the beginning of the war(s) called "the Vietnam War." The idea that a war that is properly called "the Vietnam War" got started in 1945 is controversial, that is, it is one perspective that others who use the phrase "the Vietnam War" evidently disagree with. Britannica, for instance, has it at 1954 or 1955. So, to present it as CZ's official perspective is precisely to violate our Neutrality Policy. Indeed, one indicator that we are not quite living up to our ideals of neutrality in this case is that there is not a single mention of other commonly-mentioned names for this (these) war(s): the First and Second Indochina Wars. Even if for the historians that is old-fashioned nomenclature (and is it?), it is important that we say that much.

There is a way to get around this without having yet another largely pointless, protracted debate about what the facts are, or what proper usage is. Please let's not have such a debate unless absolutely necessary. In fact, it is what one should normally do in this sort of case: simply present all the facts about how "the Vietnam War" (and other names) are used--the facts about the whole variety of opinions and usages. Of course, if there is one usage that is now in the ascendancy among professional historians, that is the usage we should lead with, and which we should label as such. I can imagine a useful section of the article--perhaps the second section after the intro--in which the question, "When did the Vietnam War start?" is explicitly addressed. After all, naming of historical events can be an extremely touchy subject ;-) and so it is very important that we lay out the various opinions and how they are treated by experts as well as other interested parties. That, along with a bit of qualification in the beginning of the article, might be all that is needed.

What we should not permit is that we state exactly one version of the facts when other reasonably credible sources disagree. I trust that we can all agree with this principle... --Larry Sanger 22:35, 3 July 2008 (CDT)

I addressed the name issue in the lede, linking it to the dating issue, with citations. English-language sources are at least 10-1 in favor of "Vietnam War" Richard Jensen 23:11, 3 July 2008 (CDT)

Is anyone other than Howard and Richard reading this? Richard has done some (thank you, Richard), but I don't expect him to do much more. If you'll do some research about what names have been given to the war(s), and summarize it in a new section as I suggested, I do think that that would help a great deal. --Larry Sanger 17:47, 4 July 2008 (CDT)

address name issue, add NVN details in 1963

RJ, reasonably enough, indicates that historians, whom, alas, are not here en masse, are by no means unanimous about nomenclature, such as First vs. Second Indochina wars. If external groups of specialists have no consensus, it seems appropriate to try to form a CZ consensus and standard.

I find that "first" and "second" really are inadequate, if one is trying to look at a region variously called Vietnam, Indochina, or its separate domains such as Annam and Cochinchina. At the very least, there are periods involving:

  1. Pre-French colonialization, establishing some significant traditions, literally over centuries, regarding Vietnamese relations with China. I say these are significant based on some of the fairly bizarre assumptions by U.S. policymakers that China would somehow turn North Vietnam into a proxy.
  2. French colonization up to the Japanese invasion
  3. World War II, with nationalist guerillas operating against the Japanese, French, or both, as well as playing their own factional games--rather like the Gaullists vs. the Communists in the French Resistance
  4. A period that might work as 1945-1954, or even split further. There were Vietnamese nationalists trying to get rid of the French, some of whom certainly were Communists, and some were not. The U.S. involvement up to the entry of the Saigon Military Mission (cover name for CIA mission under Lansdale in 1954) was largely limited to the OSS Patti mission in the late forties. It may be useful to split this period into the beginnings of Maoist Phase II/III warfare against the French.
  5. 1954-1956, from the Geneva accords to the recognition that the referendum wasn't going to happen.
  6. 1956-1959, a period of exploration of groups especially in the South, consolidation in the North and of Diem's government, and ending with the NVN decision in May 1959 to form the 559 Transportation Group, build the Ho Chi Minh trail, and start serious support of Southern proxies
  7. 1959-1961/2 -- various ways to structure this period, depending if one stays purely with Vietnam, or looks at the early U.S. activity in Laos under Heintges, Simons, etc.
  8. 1962-1964: Increasing U.S. advisory and combat support, perhaps centered around the Battle of Ap Bac, up either to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident or perhaps the beginning of US-supported covert action against the North (e.g., OPPLAN 34A MAROPS)
  9. 1964-1972: overt U.S. involvement
  10. 1972-1975: Attempts at developing a viable GVN, terminated by conventional military attack by the PAVM.

If there's mo CZ consensus about periods and wars, I don't see how any serious collaborative work can be done, with various people marching to different drummers. Howard C. Berkowitz 01:30, 4 July 2008 (CDT)

yes there is a consensus. The great majority of historians use "Vietnam war" and only a handful prefer Indochina War (some use both--but give priority to Vietnam war). I found only one university press book that used "Indochina War" in its title. In terms of scholarly articles I found only 64 that use "Indochina war" in the title, versus 1117 articles that use "Vietnam War." Thus 94% to 6% is pretty conclusive. Richard Jensen 02:27, 4 July 2008 (CDT)
We will disagree about this, but I am somewhat less impressed with an academic consensus than what I see in professional military writing, especially when you say the article, or parts of it, were written from an American perspective. During the active war, many of the MACV people weren't especially conversant with the pre-US involvement, although the work from Special Forces officers did reflect it -- and treated the Viet Minh as less than a simple name change.
There has been substantial NSA and USAF declassificaton, and North Vietnamese communications intercepts and prisoner interviews also draw some distinct lines. One is in May 1959, which is the source of the designation for the 559th Transportation Group, the PAVN group that built and ran the Ho Chi Minh trail. The strategic decision to go to a major proxy/outside support was not casually taken by the Politburo, who regarded it as a fundamental change in the war.
I suppose I tend not to give automatic credibility to sweeping statements of what historians believe, a group who seem amazingly consistent compared with most specialty groups. There is a reason, I believe, that there are History and Military Workgroups, and, speaking as a Military editor, I see nothing like the unanimity about "one Vietnam war". It isn't used in the Pentagon Papers. It isn't especially used in Nhan Dan. It isn't reflected by the sequence of military policies chose by the North. US policy certainly didn't reflect it, especially when the U.S. emphasis in 1959-1961 saw Laos as the key area of operations, not Vietnam; compare the covert operator and advisor commitments in both areas.
Just to name a few sources, I don't find an assumption of one continuous war with Bernard Fall, Douglas Pike, the Vietnam Studies series from the Department of the Army, and National Intelligence Estimates.Howard C. Berkowitz 11:23, 4 July 2008 (CDT)
Bernard Fall died 41 years ago, the Pentagon Papers were completed 40 years ago; likewise the Army's Vietnam studies were written in the 1960s. They are not good testimony regarding the ideas of 2008. Historians read all those primary sources and MANY MORE more sources as well. For example, we now have thousands of oral histories from multiple sides. We have access to many of the Soviet documents and nearly all the US documents from the era, and a few Chinese documents, which the people at the time only guessed about. We in 2008 know a great deal about what happened in Thailand and Indonesia and Malaya and Cambodia, and we do not have to speculate. Speculations in 1965 about the future, say in the NIE, are interesting, but they were mostly incorrect, as we now know, and so cannot be relied upon. As for "Indochina war" it is the favorite French term for their part of the war, which ended in 1954. The involvement of the North, the South and the US was continuous at least from 1950 to 1975. Richard Jensen 17:40, 4 July 2008 (CDT)
I truly hope what I am about to write is taken as within the bounds of CZ courtesy, although it may be fairly blunt. I make some of these statements not because I am looking for a fight, but because I'm trying to find a collaborative approach, in CZ, that works in military history -- one that doesn't seem to exist consistently right now.
Were these words to be "heard" aloud, I'd be inclined to put them in the dulcet tones of the sheriff in Cool Hand Luke, saying "what we got here is a failure to com-MUN-i-cate."
Some might say your observations above are better ideas, and some might say they are revisionism. They fairly clearly are dismissive of any citations I am bringing to the table. From my perspective, what is important is what the people making the decisions at the time thought, not people retrospectively looking at them and ascribing motivations they did not have. LBJ, in various interviews, referred to "that pissant, Ho." For a work such as McMaster's, examining internal real decisionmaking in an administration that consciously lied to the American public to further political goals of the Johnson administration, patterns that emerge about top-level decisionmaking in this country are absolutely relevant to the political process today.
In other words, I have yet to be convinced that "the ideas of 2008" are a serious way to better understand decisionmaking that affects the United States, as well as the way the U.S. approaches the decisionmaking of other cultures, than are to look at the declassified contemporary thinking. There's a proverb you might have encountered about flies and vinegar; perhaps I might find myself more receptive to your sweeping statements about "what historians say" if they were phrased in a manner that suggested that other than an academic historian could possibly have any insight into the topic. Thinking in terms of current interactions with professionals in other fields, I find it somewhat ironic that it is far easier to discuss the choices in medication on which my life depends, with physicians willing to listen to ideas based in current literature, than it is for me to make a statement and told I can't possibly understand because I'm not a doctoral-level historian. Funny how I can figure out the clinicopathological correlations of the renin-angiotensin system with having a doctorate in medicine.
You might say that I am reading the current literature in medicine. That is correct. I am reading current research trials and molecular pharmacology, and, sometimes drawing my own conclusions. If your suggestions were that I go to available primary sources about Southeast Asia, read them, and draw conclusions, that might be analogous. Your suggestions, though, tend to be simply that I am wrong because your assumptions about titles of historians' research use a different terminology -- in other words, the secondary and tertiary interpretation, as filtered through your individual viewpoint, citing journals apparently not available outside academia — as opposed to declassified military and intelligence documents.
Unfortunately, it appears that the academic historical community does not make as much material available directly than in medicine or computer science. In other learned disciplines, there isn't an overwhelming need to have JSTOR and Questia and other subscriptions; there are abundant sources of research. The medical tradition is not dead where one can ask an author for a copy of a journal article not otherwise available, and get it in hard copy or PDF. Of course, in looking at historical intelligence documents and such, I can get the NIEs about Southeast Asia, and often the oral histories. I'd certainly appreciate more links to material that supports your conclusion, rather than what are clearly your opinions, and what appears a barely veiled contempt with those who do not have full academic credentials in your field.
There appears to be a meta-problem here that doesn't seem to happen in other areas even of CZ: that rather than an attempt to collaborate and help mutual understanding, there is a pattern of telling other people "you're wrong and I'm right, and you don't have the training or access to understand why." In some details, that may well be correct, but, for example, I'm willing to help a collaborator understand the cognitive process of analyzing military reports, or, when a technology is important as is the IADS and its radar and other components in the Battle of Britain, I'm willing to discuss rather than focus on putdowns. When then-employer was acquired by Orbital Sciences, and we needed to collaborate, the rocket scientists did not say the communications engineers could not understand rocket science. Instead, we looked for ways to establish ways to communicate. We communications engineers are funny that way. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:16, 4 July 2008 (CDT)
My point is that we cannot look at 1% of the materials. Historians systematically track down the sources and and using lots more material (by a factor of maybe 50), AND they vet their books and articles and papers against each other. I would say there are several hundred historians doing serious work on the Vietnam war ( lists 1799 books from university presses that discuss the Vietnam war). In recent years scholars have expanded the scope of their work to include many oral histories, and to get access to many archives from UK, Russia and China, Australia, etc. Their findings are reported in the main books and articles, and I've made an effort to list a few of them here. I have a much longer guide to the historiography online that I have maintained for some years now. CZ is an encyclopedia that should reflect the current scholarship and is not the place for the original research that Howard seems to be proposing and sometimes attempting. That fails the reliability test taht is central to CZ's mission. [As for example his proposal yesterday: "If external groups of specialists have no consensus, it seems appropriate to try to form a CZ consensus and standard." ] We have to have external reliability for CZ--that means everything has to be based on the best scholarship. It is very difficult to work through the primary sources without knowing the scholarly literature. It takes 5-8 years to train history PhD's how to do this kind of work. (Non-PhD's also work on Vietnam and they typically have years of field experience in Vietnam, and conduct hundreds of new interviews. )Richard Jensen 18:40, 4 July 2008 (CDT)
I agree that we disagree, and this may need to go to Larry and the editorial council. I disagree that CZ must be reflective only of the current formal academic scholarship. If that were the case, it could simply be handed over to university presses or departments and there would be no place for knowledgeable people that don't precisely fit the academic mold.
In this case, I feel especially strongly, because national security policy, including the best available guidance for intelligent readers to judge the intelligence process, cannot wait on academic consensus. Since the relevant analytic sections of CIA, DIA, INR et al. are not exclusively populated by history PhD's, the national security policy of the United States, and of other major countries, is not being run by the rules of historians. That is a reality, and it is badly misleading to assume decisions by political leaders — and I speak here of leaders not trying to advance domestic partisan agendas — have to comply with the model of academic historians.
Let's try a hypothetical example. Relatively few of the key decisionmakers of the Johnson Administration were trained as historians. McNamara's key staff were an assortment of statisticians, economists, and attorneys. If they had all been historians, and Lyndon Johnson a historian rather than a trained elementary schoolteacher (IIRC), would there have been no problems in Southeast Asia?
Now, let me turn to an example of someone I thoroughly respect, who happens to have a PhD in history, but does not operate purely from a historical model: H.R. McMaster. His dissertation, published as Dereliction of Duty is readable and wise. Yet monographs and staff reports he and his counterparts have written do not always follow historical methodology, or wait for the appropriate archives to become available. I believe that CZ should represent the best synthesis of reasonably objective knowledge, identifying areas where there is dispute, and put out an informed, cross-checked material. It is not, however, a replacement for academic journals. Indeed, some of the subjects that are relevant to the current discussion may not be the focus of academic historians, but, if one did pick an academic discipline with very strong non-academic professional foundations, one might look at system engineering.
I think of myself as an engineer first, and one of the things engineers do is work without complete information, in situations where something still has to be done. We try to express when we don't know something, or when we work our best estimate. Sometimes, we are overruled for pure managerial or political reasons, the sort that killed seven fine people on the Challenger. We try, however, not to guess and project for purposes of narrative. If I didn't know what happens to a helicopter when it loses power, I wouldn't write about it. When I have written about that condition, I've been careful to mention that it will autorotate if several conditions apply: there is adequate altitude to build up rotor speed, the transmission and rotor hardware are intact (the fastener that holds the rotor on the shaft is called the "Jesus Nut", apropos of the only thing that might help if it comes off), and the pilot is qualified and able to handle an autorotation. Oh, it's also very good, when autorotating or even making an emergency landing under power, that there's a clear spot to land. Howard C. Berkowitz 19:03, 6 July 2008 (CDT)
Engineers do greatwork in describing weapons. When it comes to people, they can get out of their element pretty quickly. There is in fact no "engineering viewpoint" on the war. What historians do is read a great deal of material and debate with each other; they seek out the best sources and in terms of oral histories with informants create new sources, which in turn get carefully evaluated and debated. What we are missing here is a clear statement 1-2-3-4 from Howard on what additions or changes he wants to make to the article. Richard Jensen 19:44, 6 July 2008 (CDT)
Richard, when it comes to dealing with people, may I most gently suggest this is a place you might not want to go?
I didn't say there was an engineering viewpoint on the war, and I challenge you to find such. The main engineering points I made are:
  • Stay away from describing weapons and tactics unless you
    • Understand how they work
    • Are prepared to put appropriate caveats on what is not known, or the dependencies that are assumed for a given result, rather than making what come across as sweeping generalizations.
  • It has been given to me to have the perspectives of working on both combat systems and medical/emergency systems. Both have to work within the parameters of what information and techniques are available, in one case to kill and in the other to save. There may not be the luxury of waiting for archives to open and new interviews to be available. There may be the need to make the best analysis available with what is known, and not condescend to people who need the analysis to make some decisions under uncertainty.
Now, I shall give you an answer that deliberately is under time pressure for a response. It is one that I am more than willing to discuss and examine, but I am not willing to examine when addressed with condescension about how "scholars" do things and, not having your union card, not be capable of serious analysis appropriate for a high-quality online encyclopedia.
In this complex case, it is completely unrealistic to try to have a single article dealing with a unified history of the "Vietnam War", whatever that may be. There is certainly room to start on a unifying article regarding Southeast Asia, as, for example, twenty centuries of conflict between the Vietnamese and Chinese influenced behavior in a way to which the Johnson Administration was oblivious.
It is reasonable to have an article on the gradual French dimunition of authority from 1945 to 1954. It is reasonable to examine separately the dynamics of the French, Japanese, and other colonial powers, certainly going to the Japanese invasion of Indochina in the 1940s, and, in passing, tying that to the U.S. embargoes on Japan that may have been entirely appropriate, but justified, to Japanese decisionmakers, invading much of Asia and attacking the United States.
It is reasonable to examine the patterns of covert activity, with multiple actors, from 1954 to 1964, especially as the later activities set up LBJ's rationale for demanding the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and Congress rushing to give him a blank check when there was no real urgency.
It is reasonable to look at the Americanization of war in the South, with the strategic concepts used by the Johnson Administration, the somewhat autonomous OSD and CIA, the relatively impotent JCS, and the special operations community's approach contrasted with that of Westmoreland's.
It is reasonable to look at the dynamics of the RVN government, which we do have the information to understand well, and, even if we cannot see completely into the motivations of the Lao Dong leadership, we can certainly explore why the Republic of Vietnam was unable to present a viable alternative. I rather like historical comparison, recognizing each situation is unique, and there are valuable parallels to be drawn between Magsaysay and Diem. I'll accept that is original synthesis as opposed to original research, and it's what strategic intelligence analysts do.
Is that food for thought, while I return to writing about the epiphanies of Harold K. Johnson? Howard C. Berkowitz 20:45, 6 July 2008 (CDT)

names of war as used in titles of articles

it seems that the French prefer the title "Indochina war" because in the first half of the 20th century they called the place Indochina and they called their war (1946-54) the Indochina war. A few writers outside France use the term. An ABC-CLIO search over most major history and political science scholarly journals finds n=64 articles with "Indochina war" in the title. Of these 27 are in French, 32 are in English, and 5 in other languages. The term "Vietnam war" appears in the title of 1027 articles in English and 20 in French. So the French prefer "Indochina war" by 27 to 20, and the English language press prefers "Vietnam war" by 1027-32. I think that answers Larry's question. PS there is a new book on Chinese Military Strategy in the Third Indochina War: The Last Maoist War (2007) by Edward C. O'Dowd, dealing with the war between China and Vietnam that started in 1979. Richard Jensen 19:01, 4 July 2008 (CDT)
Let's assume that for the History Workgroup. There is a Military Workgroup, and not all historical conventions are necessarily used by the professional military, or vice versa. What about, for example, the National Technical Information Service? The Strategic Studies Institute and Center for Army Lessons Learned? And no, simply finding titles isn't enough, until it is determined that, for example, a CALL report thesis from the School of Advanced Military Studies with "Vietnam War" in the title gives detail to the end of Groupement Mobile No. 100, or "Indochina War" covers things like LZ X-Ray. I certainly do not remember MACV reports referring to the Indochina war, just "it's the only war we've got".
The earlier intelligence community reports don't mention Vietnam for things that happened in 1954, such as NIE 63-54: "Consequences Within Indochina of the Fall of Dien Bien Phu."
I'll reiterate that even for your ABC-CLIO search, the title alone doesn't say what the article is about unless there is enough in an abstract to reveal the dates covered. Howard C. Berkowitz 19:27, 4 July 2008 (CDT)
To take up Howard's suggestions: I looked at the military literature and 95% prefers "Vietnam war" rather than "Indochina war." Specifically, I searched the Combined Arms Research Library Digital Library, which includes Command and General Staff College (CGSC) MMAS thesis and School of Advanced Military Studies Monographs. I found 87 monographs using "Vietnam war" in their abstract and only 3 using "Indochina war" (plus one that used both terms in the abstract.) As for dating there is little or no disagreement that a war broke out in 1946 and ended in 1954, and that a war broke out in the late 1950s and ended in 1975. Most historians group them together, since 3 of the 4 parties (North, South, US, France) remained the same. The French left in 1954 and had always called the region Indochina; today articles in French split on use of "Indochina war" or "Vietnam war." About 5% of the studies in English seem to prefer "Indochina war." That is a minority view and it is already included in the opening of the article. Richard Jensen 20:31, 4 July 2008 (CDT)
I am rapidly regarding this as an exercise in futility, but I will try yet again. If I write about the Groupement de Commandos Mixtes Aéroportés, Groupement Mobile No. 100, or Dien Bien Phu, I intend to write about them under the heading "Indochina War". If I write about the Battle of Ap Bac, the Marine Combined Action Platoons, IGLOO WHITE or the nephelometric ammonia-detecting "people sniffer" on which I worked, the changes in ARC LIGHT doctrine with and without COMBAT SKYSPOT, or the Paris Peace Talks, I will write about them under the heading "Vietnam War".
GCMA and GM100 died in Indochina, not Vietnam. Of course there would be more articles about "Vietnam War" in U.S. Army current monographs, because the Vietnam War is the one in which the U.S. Army fought. Strangely, when U.S. Army Special Forces, or their support organizations such as CRESS where I worked, wrote about French experiences, they referred to them as part of the Indochina War.
If "most historians" want to oversimplify, more power to them. Richard and I are not going to agree on this, and I will continue to write about things during Vietnam under Vietnam war, and other things under the appropriate period. Or were the Trung Sisters part of the Vietnam War, when they committed suicide in 43 AD rather than be captured by the Chinese against whom they were fighting?
Is it possible to agree to disagree and get on with the substantive issues? Believe me, Richard, you will have plenty to argue about regarding some of your interpretations of the motivations of the United States and the Republic of Vietnam. Howard C. Berkowitz 20:57, 4 July 2008 (CDT)
OK, Howard, I think we should be asking Richard the simple questions: (1) Richard, when do you think the war properly called the Vietnam War started? (2) Are you claiming that there is 90%+ agreement about that among historians? (3) Finally, do you believe that the CZ article titled Vietnam War should unequivocally assert that the Vietnam War began when you say it began, or are you open to an explanation of different views about this? --Larry Sanger 21:09, 4 July 2008 (CDT)
My reading of how historians handle the dates is presented in the opening lede: most use 1946 to 1975, in two phases. Exactly when the US got involved is a different issue (it depends on whether military aid is meant (large scale $$ aid started 1954), political commitment (probably 1950), soldiers who advised and helped direct combat (1955, a few hundred but 1963 16,000) or combat action (1965).) Am I "open to an explanation of different views about this?" yes indeed, so let's hear them. Richard Jensen
I think you're already explaining to me what the different views are. But now I have another question: is there actually broad agreement that the war, prior to the U.S. getting involved, was called the Vietnam War? I am asking here about the meaning of the name, not whether historians think there was one war. I know that they think there was one war (in two phases). I am unclear on to what extent they say the phase prior to U.S. involvement is properly called "the Vietnam War" too. --Larry Sanger 22:13, 4 July 2008 (CDT)
The term "Vietnam war" was widely used in the US media in 1962. Senator McGovern was talking about it.. The first use I've seen is The Nation - Sep 13, 1952: "The Vietnam war, which has cost. 30,000 French lives. and more money than all the Marshall Plan aid ... The distant origins of the Vietnam war are found ...etc" Also NY Times Oct 24, 1953: "Such are the principal weapons which are indispensable to assure the victorious end of the Vietnam war". Richard Jensen 22:48, 4 July 2008 (CDT)

Moving toward a practical resolution of the "when did it start?" question

Richard, you somehow have gotten the notion that I think we should use the title "Indochina War." I think no such thing. I think we should represent the full range of views about how the war is described. The question I raised is what year the war properly called "the Vietnam War" began. It is that question on which I insist there is, in fact, a range of (credible) opinion.

Also, you say, "everything has to be based on the best scholarship." Well, who could disagree with that? But from this platitude, you infer that other legitimate views (e.g., those expressed by the Britannica), that are perhaps regarded as quaint or long since superseded by historians, should not be mentioned except perhaps to be quickly dismissed. Is that right? If so, well, I understand your views on such matters, and repeating them will not advance your case; we understand your views not only on the substantive question but also on the extent of the consensus and the difficulty of history as a subject, and so forth. Those aren't the sort of things we are (interminably) disagreeing about. We are (repeatedly) disagreeing about what the neutrality policy requires, or perhaps whether we should have a neutrality policy. I assert that we do have such a policy, and that it requires that we lay out the full breadth of understanding of a subject. If you disagree with this, I'm afraid you already know what I'm going to say. I don't mean to be peremptory, but you know full well that we've had exactly similar discussions in the past, and I'm simply not interested in having a re-run of the same.

I agree with Howard: there is no consensus, when his sources, as well as Britannica and other encyclopedias and credible sources, put the start of the Vietnam War in 1954, 1955, or 1959, and when "the great majority of historians" according to Richard put it in the mid-1940s. But this doesn't mean that we cannot collaborate or even that we have to argue. Precisely the purpose of the neutrality policy is to outline the basic ground rules in which people who disagree can work together: their mission is to relate the facts that are well-agreed, and where names and accounts differ, you describe all of them, attributing them to their sources. (Which could involve saying, for example, "the vast majority of historians use the name this way..." If that's true, we should say so.) Collaboration is indeed impossible if you think that an article must express "the consensus view" of a topic, when in fact there is no real consensus.

But the first step toward crafting an article that describes the various views is to recognize that there are, in fact, various views. It does not do much good to pretend there are no other views, or to dismiss them with evident contempt.

Let's please stop debating the issue of whether there is a bona fide consensus: there isn't one. Let's also please stop debating the issue of whether historians march in lockstep on this issue: let's suppose Richard is right, and they do. (What will happen--I ask myself--when Richard disagrees with the mainstream historians? Is that even possible? I have to wonder.) This means that to resolve this issue in line with our neutrality policy, we must solve the following practical problem: what is the best way to describe the variety of views about the meaning of "the Vietnam War" in a way that does justice to the various views, and resolves immediate puzzlement on the part of many of our readers who will be very surprised to learn that the Vietnam War began in 1945 or 6 instead of 1959 as he probably read in school (or remembers)? This is the only proper way to reinsert the worms into the can I opened (again, about when the war began), and it is the framework in which I request that we work. This practical problem can't be solved by more of the same sort of frankly tiresome debate.

So let's put an end to this particular discussion. The next step is to fully characterize the range of reasonably credible, published, edited views about the start of the Vietnam War. Looking forward to it.  ;-) --Larry Sanger 19:18, 4 July 2008 (CDT)

I'm just your typical college-educated CZ reader with an interest in history, also of a certain age, of course, so not *exactly* 100% the sort of CZ reader that Prof. Jensen is always saying CZ articles are written for (college undergraduates), but to *me*, and I would think for many other people (not of course the "serious historians" of whom we hear often), the situation is 100% crystal clear:
  • The French fought the "Indochinese War" or, since I speak French, la "Guerre en Indochine," which lasted approximately until 1954. I never even *once* in my lifetime have thought of it any other way.
  • Once the Americans became involved in it, it became the "Vietnamese War", or, I suppose "Vietnam War", take your pick. I remember *vividly* visiting Tahiti on one of my initial visits before I moved there in 1964, picking up the most recent Pacific edition of Newsweek, and seeing a statement by the Editor-in-Chief along the lines of "This week we are starting a new section in the magazine called 'The War in Vietnam'. It will continue until the issue is resolved." That, sadly, was around 1962, and the issue wasn't resolved until 1975....
This discussion is similar to that of a couple of weeks ago about the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Campaign -- maybe they're one single, united thing to "serious historians", but they can be, and are, two separate things to the rest of us. Hayford Peirce 22:38, 4 July 2008 (CDT)

As LBJ said, "Come, let us reason together"

I apologize for trying to clean up from an edit conflict, but, on looking at some changes, I found things that concerned me as far as inaccuracy and, indeed, technical accuracy.

Really not trying to harp, but there was some text I corrected earlier about helicopters versus fixed wing jet, and about infantry weapons such as the AK-47 vs. M-16, the M-79 grenade launcher, etc. Certain technical details were flatly wrong. Now, if either a jet or helicopter loses power near the ground, it's in serious trouble. A jet crew often can eject.

As long as the rotor and transmission of a helicopter are intact, and the helicopter has some altitude, the assertion that a helicopter glides like a brick while a jet presumably does something else is reversed. In a power-loss situation, helicopter pilots are trained to "autorotate" the aircraft. Essentially, one lets the rotor spin freely, and, by so doing, it gives some lift and gives some control back to the pilot. Lots of things can go wrong, but a good pilot may manage what is at least a controlled crash. If a Vietnam area jet such as an F-4 or F-100 lost engines, ejection was the only option.

M-79s did not, as suggested, put down a mini-barrage. A M-79 is a single-shot 40mm grenade launcher, which cannot fire continuously. Various automatic grenade launchers firing the same ammunition were used experimentally on river patrol boats in South Vietnam, and now, the Mark 19 and its successors such as the Mark 47 do what was attributed to the M-79.

A number of points, such as the reason for the problem with Agent Orange, had no detail, but certainly a lot of what appeared to be judgments neither signed nor sourced.

Can we at least try to get the nonpolitical and name-unrelated technical points correct?

Howard C. Berkowitz 23:04, 4 July 2008 (CDT)

thanks! -- Howard knows a lot more about weapons than I do and I appreciate those edits. Richard Jensen 23:35, 4 July 2008 (CDT)

A Parallel to Consider

I would really like to get the naming issue behind us, as there are enough controversies in the decisions during the more recent fighting. Probably in another article, there are some lessons in how a peace can grow and regimes can be participants in a world community.

The point has been made that one term should cover roughly 1945-1975, as most of the participants stayed the same; clearly France did not have a significant continuing role. There are the complications that a number of relevant activities took place outside the boundaries of "Vietnam".

Now, look elsewhere in the world. Conflict, ranging from warm to hot war, took place in a region that involves the boundaries of more than one political entity. Most of the participants stayed the same, although some were in the background of particular flareups. We have, however, no push to make one "Iraq War" article out of the Iran-Iraq War, Gulf War, and Iraq War, to say nothing of the overthrow of Mossadegh in 1952 Operation Ajax or the Iranian Islamic Revolution with a more blurred starting date (probably the flight of the Shah) and the related U.S. embassy hostage taking.

So, I'm a little confused why two conflicts, one perhaps from 1952 (or earlier) to the present and one from 1945 (or earlier) to 1975, which have a good deal of commonality in continuing actors, geographic boundaries extending beyond any one nation, etc., are so different, in that one has to have a single all-encompassing name and one is acceptable to split into multiple wars and incidents. Howard C. Berkowitz 10:11, 5 July 2008 (CDT)

I think we've solved that problem by defining the war from the perspective of the Vietnamese people. The war was all about tehm, after all. For them it started in late 1946 and ended in April 1975, with a short "intermission". France left in 1954; the US entered in 1950. (The US entered WW1 and WW2 later than other countries). This approach gives an international emphasis that comports well with the recent historiography.Richard Jensen 22:49, 5 July 2008 (CDT)
Returning to the article at hand, I've tried to make some changes to improve readability and make more clear that many of the issues of terminology and of motivation were not unanimous. To begin, the introduction was terribly long, and still needs flow editing. Part of its problem is addressing too many topics. Names and dates for the conflict are important to understand, but even they reasonably form a section rather than part of the lead. As I read through the discussion of naming, I suddenly found myself in the midst of the Tet Offensive, and wondered what that important topic had to do with naming. The introduction sometimes seemed to attack a "sellout", but then would, seemingly as an afterthought, mention there were other views--many formed well before 1964.
I would encourage others to look at the flow of the introductory sections, and try to work out the necesssary and sufficient parts of the true lead.
Hamilton Howze was a fine man and soldier, but not to balance his opinion on "victory" with the views of equally honored soldiers is, perhaps, less than neutral.
I also tried to tone down some terminology with emotional import. "Colonialism" was the term that the 19th century French, and other contemporary parties, used, not "imperialism", which falls into the trap of presentism. I've avoided the terms "scholars" and "historians", as if they are the only individuals entitled to opinions in the matters.Howard C. Berkowitz 10:59, 5 July 2008 (CDT)

Editorial question: use of footnotes

It has been my practice to restrict the use of <ref>****</ref> to bibliographic notes, and perhaps very brief explanations of terms of art. When the matter is substantive, such as when various types of U.S. military assistance started, I would rather see that in the body of the text. Indeed, a timeline, early in the intro, is critical material that quite possibly should be emphasized with a bulleted list, or, as I did in SIGINT history articles, with actual graphic timelines.

The time material I put in was made into a footnote, and I propose to revert it. Thoughts? Howard C. Berkowitz 17:14, 5 July 2008 (CDT)

I agree that usually substantive material should usually go into the text--unless it breaks the flow too much, in which case the footnote is more appropriate. A timeline is rather textbookish but I have no objections to a good one. I also revised the lede pargraphs slightly, giving more useful section titles.Richard Jensen 17:18, 5 July 2008 (CDT)
Since one of the things at issue are various definitions of the start of "the/a war", it strikes me that actual deployments, some of which are little known, help refine that specific understanding. Few people realize, for example, that the first American killed in combat was doing signals intelligence, or that there was combat in Laos well before Vietnam.
I have the immediate timeline of grocery shopping, but I'll get to it later tonight. Let me look at the section titles -- the actual wording of the titles, I suspect, is less important than it was to break up long blocks of text. As a general design rule for dynamic hyperdocuments, perhaps as opposed to monographs read online, I try to have sections/subsections readable without scrolling. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:38, 5 July 2008 (CDT)
The timeline can go on a subpage. Let's keep this artcle as a narrative in all-one-piece. It is not finished yet--I have a lot more to add esp 1966-75. Richard Jensen 18:25, 5 July 2008 (CDT)
From the standpoint of one that does not believe that calling it all "Vietnam War" is reasonable, I think having the timeline prominently in the beginning demonstrates that there were distinct phases.
Narratives work to an extent, as long as one stays very aware of the human factors of long reading. Subpages could work for things that were not decisive, such as infantry weapons -- mobility was far more important than whether troops carried M-16s, M-14s, M-1s, or Krag-Jorgensons. There is an extensive literature on the evolution of forward controllers for airstrikes being brought in closer than had been believed possible by the Army and Air Force, although the Marines had been doing so for some time. I have an article on special reconnaissance, in which the radios of six-man teams observing the Ho Chi Minh Trail killed more than most infantry skirmishes. Howard C. Berkowitz 19:00, 5 July 2008 (CDT)
example of timeline for signals intelligence events
I wanted to add an example of a timeline graphic that I used to combine several sets of declassified documents relating to signals intelligence in Southeast Asia. The specifics are too detailed for this general article, and indeed there is a second such graphic for an additional period. Nevertheless, when I put in a timeline, I do so because I believe it to be important. If I had believed it appropriate to relegate to a footnote or subpage, I would have done so. Bulleted lists or tables are other ways to present this information. It is not my desire to get into a revert war, but I think this is essential information in establishing an alternate viewpoint than yours -- that there are substantive reasons to refer to other than "Vietnam War", and to use dates, for subperiods, other than 1945-1975. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:16, 5 July 2008 (CDT)
we should discuss the proposed timeline here. While Howard knows a lot more about weapons than anyone here, I am sure he will appreciate help on the broader issues. As for "alternative viewpoints" he has not clearly specified them. He has not told us when he thinks the war started or ended, for example. The article specifies 1946 as the start of the war, not 1945 as he seems to suggest. There is a detailed and useful timeline from PBS online here. Richard Jensen 22:24, 5 July 2008 (CDT)
All right. I do not agree there was a single war, any more than because there was a Korean War, a Hungarian Revolution, and other flareups, the Cold War was one combat action. I would not have started this as one article as a "war", but a more general contextual article that includes the pre-1945 anticolonialist and anti-Japanese activity, an Indochinese revolution from approximately 1947 (I want to check some specifics in Patti's book) to 1954, a Second Indochinese/First Vietnamese War from 1962 to 1975, although I might split that after the U.S. withdrawal in 1972. In the broad article, I'd then deal with covert operations including the 1954 Saigon Military Mission attempt to set up stay-behind networks in the North (see CIA Activities in Vietnam), the 1959-1961 Heintges operations in Laos before they were acknowledged, the CINCPAC OPPLAN 34A activities and other covert combat not under MACV control, etc.
Yes, I believe the broader issues are important, and a great deal of covert action -- from all sides -- have not been covered. The relationship of the Viet Minh to the Japanese occupation has not been covered, and, indeed, the Viet Minh seems indistinguishable at present from the NLF/VC.
I have given a list of key dates, which you took to a footnote. Perhaps they may be worth reviewing. Indeed, if one thinks of "broader issues", while I agree the Northerners were intent only on power, I fail to see adequate emphasis on Diem's persecution of majority Buddhists, although I must say he had direct feedback from his universe that there was South Vietnamese opposition that had nothing to do with Communists. There is no real emphasis on the reaction, in the U.S., to the Buddhist crises of 1962-1963, which, had they continued, might have pressured Kennedy or Johnson to get out much earlier. The irony of Kennedy's shock that Diem and Nhu were killed does show a certain lack of understanding; I doubt the possibility was lost on Conein or Bunker.
Indeed, the article overemphasizes U.S. politics and gives rather scant coverage to the political complexity of the South, which was more than mere corruption, and more than communist vs. anticommunists. The Montagnard suppression and revolt are quite relevant, and one can dig up situations where U.S. Army Special Forces, as well as advisors, were the only thing keeping Vietnamese Special Forces from being killed, in a traditional slow manner, by the infuriated hill people (I worked for some time with a retired lieutenant colonel, who was immensely proud of having been adopted into the Rhade). Howard C. Berkowitz 23:13, 5 July 2008 (CDT)
This article does not pretend to be a history of Vietnam, which would include much more on internal politics, as well as economics and social history, for both North and South As for US politics, it only covers information of direct relevance to the conduct of the war. One problem is there is no access to the archives in Vietnam (not even for the Vietnamese historians)...when those open up we'll be able to tell a lot more. From the Vietnamese perspective there was one war, 1946-75, with a brief intermission (which had plenty of assassinations but no combat). I think that the US, China and USSR treated it as one war as well. (France was different & ignored the area after it left.) Richard Jensen 23:37, 5 July 2008 (CDT)
To me, however, it seems US-centric more than a history of the war, even from the RVN side. Unfortunately, I think most of my North Vietnamese books are still packed, but I'll see what I can find online. I disagree that it is impossible to get useful information without the archives being opened. Certainly, that will help enormously, but I was directly involved in the US OSINT effort that obtained useful political trends and strategic insights through analyzing, over time, patterns and changes in Nhan Dan, the Lao Dong party journal. My work was more with some of the snake-eaters than the straight-legs, but I can't say they didn't have real insights. More's the pity that when accurate information didn't fit McNamara's software, the information was thrown out to maintain the integrity of the software -- and I am a programmer, although not of some of the OSD/Systems Analysis analytic logic that seemed constructed of the exhaust of a male bovine.
Now, I freely admit I haven't seen your material on the final 1975 disastrous strategy of "Light at the top, heavy at the bottom", but if that is covered, there were some ARVN units that made epic stands, as well as others that knew naught but panicked flight.
If you have Schwarzkopf's autobiography, It Doesn't Take a Hero, look at his account of ARVN COL Ngo Quang Truong (pp. 122-131), an officer who showed that the ARVN could produce as fine a leader as any army in the world — and did not have the political connections to rise higher. Later (pp. 125-127), his concerns over the American treatment of LTC Kha, what he saw as a dangerous Americanization of the war, and the shock of what happened to Kha are all anecdotal, but informative if one is trying to get a sense of the interpersonal dynamics between the US and RVN.
I'm sure there were lots of braveand patrioic ARVN majors and colonels like Ngo Quang Truong. And indeed some good generals including Ngo Quang Truong, who became a Lt General. Sheehan says Truong was "one of the rare fighting generals of the ARVN ("Bright Shining Lie" p 764). However, Truong commanded two divisions against the invasion of 1972, but one of them panicked and fell apart [says Karnow p 655]. Bad sign. Not many divisions commanded did well in 1975, however (Truong evacuated Hue and Danang). As for NVN, historians have been working hard on the issue and have numeous books and articles: on my website I list the ones I think most revealing. Problem is we have hundreds of thousands of pages from the US archives, and near zero from Hanoi's. (Their official historians have been forced to use sources like the reports of Hungarian diplomats!) I have been trying to added material from various Communist sources. Richard Jensen 01:15, 6 July 2008 (CDT)

Helicopters and weaponry in general

I question if this article is really the place to be discussing some of these issues, given the amount of politicomilitary issues still outstanding, and that the weapons and tactics are already being discussed in substantial articles such as air assault.

It is a bit misleading to emphasize "unarmed" with respect to UH-1D helicopters. Weapons systems engineers sometimes get a bit nuanced in speaking of "slicks" versus "armed" helicopters versus "attack" helicopters. Unless a helicopter was marked with a red cross -- not all medical evacuation helicopters were, especially Air Rescue Service combat rescue birds -- it would be the more the rule than the exception that they didn't have one or two 7.62mm M-60 light machine guns in door mounts, fired as a secondary mission by crew chiefs, etc. These were viewed as self-defense weapons, and carried limited ammunition.

An "armed" UH-1 helicopter still had door guns, but with more ammunition, possibly dedicated gunner, and occasionally these would be .50 caliber M2 rather than 7.62mm M60. The "armed" UH-1 still could carry troops -- but also might have the smaller M178 2.75" rocket pods, and, for a given mission, might or might not carry troops vice more ammunition. In general, an armed helicopter could be used, on a mission-by-mission basis, for troop lift, light fire support, or some mixture.

An "attack" helicopter, such as the AH-1G in Vietnam, was purpose-built for maximum fire effectiveness and, while it might be able to squeeze in a few troops, or more likely a helicopter crew being rescued, did not just have door guns. It was apt to have a chin turret with two 7.62mm rotating barrel 7.62 mm miniguns, two 40mm automatic grenade launchers, or one of each. Some had 20mm autocannon in turrets. It was more likely to carry the M200 launchers for 19 of the 2.75" rockets, rather than 7-round M-178s. There were many field modifications. Current attack helicopters also fire guided missiles, typically of an antitank type that can be used against buildings, but also light antiaircraft missiles such as the Stinger.

The Russians never liked the pure attack configuration, and their Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters have heavy armament, but still have a troop compartment. Helicopters can do amazing things with enough pressure and creative crew. For example, the current U.S. AH-64 Apache is a purpose-built attack helicopter with a seat for a pilot and a seat for a gunner, but when another crew went down and was likely to meet with some very nasty people, someone came up with the idea of opening the ammunition supply doors on the side of the fuselage, using them as crude seats with rescued personnel desperately hanging on outside the helicopter. That still-desperate measure is now a standard, so there are 3 seat belts on the ammunition doors on both sides.

There are whole articles that can be written on the improvisations to helicopters, for purposes ranging from battlefield illumination to electronic warfare in Vietnam. There are also a wide range of helicopter tactics from Vietnam, such as white, red, pink and blue teams, when to pair UH-1's with OH-6's, etc.

As I've mentioned, I am still evolving the air assault article, which I've realized needs to go beyond helicopter mobility alone. I'll probably branch off some parachute articles, something on tilt-rotor aircraft, and perhaps additional types of helicopters including special operations.

If we can't decide how many wars there were and when they were fought, figuring out the modifications, official and unofficial, to helicopters is more like cleaning the Augean stables. There are those that claim helicopters are simply so ugly that the earth rejects them and makes them fly, and others that refer to them as a collection of spare parts in close formation. Others regarded them as guardian angels.

I really must see if I can get a friend to CZ. While he's finishing his doctorate in East Asian studies, he teaches undergraduate history. The odd thing is that he's an Air Force Special Operations retired senior master sergeant Parajumper, who utterly confuses stereotypes by being extremely politically liberal. Another friend, an Army staff sergeant (combat engineer) who is back on his third tour in Iraq, is the best Byzantine historian I know. I wouldn't sell short some alternate credentials, and I also wouldn't say things to them about weapons or electronics about which I wasn't very, very confident. Howard C. Berkowitz 04:01, 6 July 2008 (CDT)

I look forward to the articles on air assault and helicopters. Richard Jensen 05:25, 6 July 2008 (CDT)
Air assault has a good deal of material already there, although I'm moving some things around and creating subarticles, such as attack helicopter, armed helicopter, eventually V-22 Osprey, and various articles on specific air assault operations, the latter going into more detail than is appropriate in a "foo War" or "Battle of bar" article. Somewhere, I'm going to need to go into considerable detail about the complex process of refueling and rearming air assault aircraft, with the inherent problem that the Forward Arming and Refueling Points would ideally be ahead of the attack -- not a good thing for FARP security.
The FARP and related issues were not especially problems in Vietnam, because the operational distances were shorter than in the Middle East. In the Gulf War, for example, there was a complex dance of moving flexible fuel tanks ("blivets") to the next point where the main force would go, yet keeping that point enough behind the front line to be protected. While the exact FARP situation depends on aircraft, weather, and a number of other factors, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), in Desert Storm, moved in 98-mile jumps, that being the practical distance that H-47 Chinook medium helicopters could carry the fuel blivets and ammunition. Of course, once each FARP was set up, the planning immediately moved to the next, with contingency plans for enemy action against any individual FARPs in the chain.Howard C. Berkowitz 12:18, 6 July 2008 (CDT)

Ia Drang and Bong Son

The section on Ia Drang in the current article doesn't quite follow the actual flow of events; it is not obvious it was a month-long action, about which I've started Battle of the Ia Drang, as well as a more general article on air assault. Both sides learned from Ia Drang, and the Battle of Bong Son, fought slightly afterwards, exploited things learned about PAVN reaction to airmobile forces. Please let me try to help out the sequences. I've just re-read several of the detailed after-action reports.

I did bring the AK-47 down from "superb"; it was a fine assault rifle, but neither it nor the M-16 were critical in the outcome of the war. Again, I've just done a first cut at an M-16 article and will do one on the AK-47; each had good and bad features. Were I to pick personal weapons for jungle combat today, where my own delicate skin was on the line, my first choice would be a combined night vision device/laser designator-rangefinder/radio, but, for a firearm, I'd probably take an M4 with M203 grenade launcher attachment; the M4 is an evolved M16. Were I in city fighting, I might want a shotgun, and if I were in open territory without air or heavy weapons support, an M-14 would do nicely.

Again, please reduce the dramatic adjectives about pieces of hardware. There were ways in which helicopters could give the PAVN a very nasty surprise, but the tactics took time to learn. Nevertheless, killing PAVN was a way to win the battles and do little about the war.

I do hold, incidentally, with the Army theory that as soon as they looked at Westmoreland as a plebe at West Point, they knew he was going to be a general because he looked like Central Casting's idea of a general (as opposed to the squeaky-voiced George S. Patton).Howard C. Berkowitz 22:06, 6 July 2008 (CDT)

Timeline subpage

This article is a perfect candidate for a timeline subpage. Please consult with me if you have difficulty implementing the timeline template; instructions are at the CZ:Howto page. --Robert W King 17:52, 6 July 2008 (CDT)

All considerations about disagreements or lack thereof aside, I totally agree, Robert. I say, if anyone wants to do it, dive in and do it. If there are any issues of controversy that come up, let 'em come up, and we'll deal with 'em as necessary. --Larry Sanger 21:03, 6 July 2008 (CDT)
If the basic timing elements, such as whether there was one or more wars (or significant periods), and what the name of these wars/periods should be, had reached consensus, I agree that a timeline could perfectly well go into a subpage. Since, however, there emphatically is not a consensus, I believe the timeline should be in the very beginning of the article(s), until the article(s)' structure becomes consistent with the timeline.
Since we seem to have hot disagreement about dates and naming, I do not think it wise to move something that critical out of the very center of the article, which in turn drives both the article outline and the talk page. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:43, 6 July 2008 (CDT)
there is no "hot disagreement." Howard still has not told what his dates and names are.Richard Jensen 19:40, 6 July 2008 (CDT)
See post of 01:30, 4 July 2008 (CDT). I think there's room for refining names and dates there, and I haven't really touched pre-1945 matters. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:11, 6 July 2008 (CDT)
Howard can put his dates in a timeline on a subpage, where they will be subjectto careful editing. The periods seem to be entirely arbitrary and leaves out the main events such as Dien Bien Phu, Tet, Vietnamization, Linebacker, Easter Offensive, and 1973 peace. Richard Jensen 22:19, 6 July 2008 (CDT)
Well, now that you mention leaving things out, perhaps I can ask for some clarifications. I'll copy the lead with some boldfacing for questions.
The Vietnam War was a mid-20th century struggle between the Communist Party of Vietnam, on the one hand, and South Vietnam, the United States and, depending on when the war is thought to have begun, France. It is usually spoken of in English-speaking circles began in 1954 or 1959 and ended in 1975.[1] Nevertheless, the following article follows a common usage by historians, to cover a two-part conflict that began in 1945 and ended in 1975. From the perspective of the Vietnamese, the war was the military effort of the Communist Party of Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh to defeat France (1946-54), and the same party, now in control of North Vietnam, to overthrow the government of South Vietnam (1958-75) and take control of the whole country, in the face of military intervention by the United States (1964-72).
Which Vietnamese? Bao Dai? The leadership of the VNQDD or Hoa Hao? Le Duan? Madame Nhu? Thich Tri Quang? Nguyen Cao Ky?
May I again remind you, gently, about your comment about engineers having trouble with people? I said, in my July 4 post, that the list was a working one and meant for discussion. Your post of 22:19, 6 July 2008 (CDT), could equally well have invited me to put a list in a sandbox or subpage, where we could, in a collaborative manner, discuss it. "Carefully edit it", "totally arbitrary", and similar phrases are ones we puir benighted engineers tend to use in what we call "Full Contact Design Reviews", rather than brainstorming.
Yes, they were arbitrary. There are very specific points that can be brought in, such as the Politburo's decision to create the 559th Transportation Group in May 1959 (i.e., 5-59). That was the unit specifically charged with building and operating the Ho Chi Minh trail, although there were other groups created, for example, for coastal junk transport. I have a good deal of material about this in SIGINT from 1945 to 1989; rather recently declassified communications intelligence shows not only the schedule and location, but the evolution of PAVN logistics.
I have a couple of graphic timelines in that SIGINT article, nothing too wonderful but a jumping-off point. When I first looked at the timeline rendering tool, did I interpret correctly that it doesn't go to a granularity finer than years, and doesn't do well with overlapping periods? Howard C. Berkowitz 22:32, 6 July 2008 (CDT)

Invasion and the Fall of the South

I don't wan't to leap in and get into edit conflicts, but I have problems with both specific details and what seems excessively florid language.

In March, 1975, Hanoi used most of its 700,000 soldiers to invade the South again, in conventional fashion with marching armies spearheaded by 600 Russian-built tanks and 400 pieces of heavy artillery.
Artillery. I don't think the PAVN had anything heavier than 155mm; I'd be surprised if they had 130mm gun-howitzers.
Instead of crawling along jungle trails they used roads they had built since the truce. ARVN, with 1.1 million soldiers, still had a 2-1 advantage in combat soldiers and 3-1 in artillery, but it misused its resources badly.
Crawling doesn't work well on trails. Pushing a bicycle used to carry cargo worked better, and there were obviously enough trucks for the BLACK CROW ignition sensor on AC-130s to busily be targeting them.
... Of the 314 M-14 and M-48 ARVN tanks assigned to the Highlands, only three made it through to the coast.
Could that, perhaps, be a M-41 tank, rather than an M-14? ARVN had M-41 light tanks, which were easy meat to T-54's, and M-48's, which had a reasonable chance against a T-54. One rarely, however, fights tank-on-tank.
Perhaps it might be worth mentioning that whatever Nixon had promised Thieu, there is a little part of Article I of the Constitution that deals with who has the war-making authority. Seriously, through much of this text, I do not get a flavor of neutrality, but of how the U.S. did not infinitely protect RVN. Right. It didn't. It wasn't required to do so. There was little geopolitical reason to do so. How many carrier task groups did you want to sail off the South and start taking on the PAVN? If not that, precisely what was the US going to do to stop the invasion? Was Thailand going to offer air bases?
If there was no binding U.S. commitment, and if you can't come up with a reasonable scenario of how the U.S. could have intervened, the innuendoes about promises to Thieu are non-neutral. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:47, 6 July 2008 (CDT)
President Thieu released written assurances dated 1973 from President Nixon that the U.S. would intervene militarily if North Vietnam violated the truce agreement.
And where, physically, was Thieu when he released these? Had he been "not so much conquered as abandoned by the dispirited and disorganized ARVN" and languished in a Communist prison camp? Yes. Congress had refused funds. Ford said no military action. Why, other than perhaps for ideological reasons, are you belaboring what happened? Howard C. Berkowitz 22:47, 6 July 2008 (CDT)
what artillery exactly did the PAVN have? I don't know. Yes, it was M41 tanks, not M-14 (my typo). "crawling" just means going slow. Thieu released the documents while still president; he clearly relied on Nixon's written promise to bolster ARVN morale, so it is an important part of the story. The text makes clear the promise was inoperative in 1975. "innuendo" as a word is an unfortunate choice, it has its own innuendo attached Richard Jensen 23:03, 6 July 2008 (CDT)

My edits to the opening paragraph

As I explained above, we absolutely must acknowledge the fact that many people understand the Vietnam War to have started in 1955 or 1959. Still, I propose that, without more evidence to the contrary, we trust Richard's expert judgment that historians for the most part use "Vietnam War" to mean a conflict that began in 1945, and therefore that the page should concern the two-part conflict that spanned from 1945 to 1975. Nevertheless, as Editor-in-Chief, I am requesting that, whatever edits you make to that opening paragraph (go to town on it!), you retain the (perfectly correct) information that most English speakers (maybe not most historians) who use the name "Vietnam War," and have some idea what they mean, use it to mean something that started in 1955 or 1959 (etc.). Also, please do not reinsert the dates, 1945-1975, in the first sentence. Since we do not assert any one view about when the war started, we should not mislead readers into thinking that CZ's official view is that those are the dates of the war. I declare that that is not CZ's official view, and that CZ lacks an official view on this, as on any number of other controversial issues. I also, as I have explained above, utterly reject any notion that there is no controversy, which I know is what Richard is going to want to say. Sorry, Richard, but yes there is.

Can someone please rewrite the definition so that it respects our neutrality policy and reflects the latter decisions? --Larry Sanger 21:27, 6 July 2008 (CDT)

See how my attempt at a neutral definition works? Feel free to make any changes. D. Matt Innis 08:52, 9 July 2008 (CDT)
Good start. Some of my objections are moot if there is a single article, but I draw attention to the email from the French producer to Richard; there are people -- it's not a matter of what language they speak, but more cultural, see the First Indochinese War as 1945-1954. It was followed by a period of political maneuvering from 1954 to 1959, when North Vietnam made a verifiable decision to invade.
Your phrasing about the U.S. becoming involved well after 1959 is good, since it avoids the kind of American-centric thinking that suggests World War II started in 1941.
I do believe there should be at least a nod to "Japan invaded in 1941, and there were attempts to drive them out. Some of these attempts were nationalist in general and also were directed at the French."
In the spirit of consensus, I'm willing to defer anti-French (and even anti-Chinese) activity prior to 1941 to a general history of Vietnam article. In a spirit of collaboration, I would get out the section about "historians" -- it comes across as condescending to anyone who is not an academic historian, and, certainly, non-historians like Cardinal Spellman would probably consider 1945-1975 one period, because they look at the overall struggle as communist vs. non-communist and see no other factors. Thinking about it, I can't stress the last strongly enough: if one's assumption is this was totally about communism rather than involving some nationalism, 1945-1975 makes sense, but if one looks at Vietnamese politics and who had control in what locations, it's not one continuous war. It's debatable if the struggle between Diem and Buddhists (or other sects/faction) constituted a civil war.Howard C. Berkowitz 10:40, 9 July 2008 (CDT)
the Communists of course treat it as one continuous war against outsiders ("imperialists") , and they did win after all. The Japanese were gone by mid 1945, replaced by the Chinese who in turn were gone by 1946. All were important events in national history but this article is about the war itself. For the multiple Vietnamese perspectives at the grass roots level over many years I recommend Elliott, The Vietnamese War (2007). Richard Jensen 11:48, 9 July 2008 (CDT)
We continue to disagree that things can be relevant to the war itself only if they are cast in Communist vs. anticommunist terms. The revolt of the Montagnards against Vietnamese Special Forces was not especially in Communist terms, but could have been quite operationally significant.
Now, if one only views the war in terms of the defeat of one military force by another, I suppose the mere populace is irrelevant. If, however, someone with knowledge of guerilla warfare observes that the support of VC guerillas does, in part, depend on the relations between the villages and the GVN, such a person might well be consistent with an Abrams, not a Westmoreland, who saw a need to reach the populace for support. If one observes that the pattern of coup vs. counter-coup did not exactly help the RVN senior officers stay focused on the war, that is yet another reason to suggest it is not communist vs. anticommunist alone. If one looks at competent leaders ousted because they tried to reduce graft, that is not communist vs. anticommunists.
Posing everything as "the war" and "against the communists" reminds me of the way elephants make love: everything is at a high level, the grassroots suffer, and there are no results for at least two years. Howard C. Berkowitz 12:01, 9 July 2008 (CDT)
as for Abrahms versus Westmoreland, it's unclear what Howard's point is. Abrams in fact did take over in 1968. So both generals had their opportunity.Richard Jensen 20:41, 9 July 2008 (CDT)

Small world

Interest in the Vietnam war in France indeed--I just received this email from a movie producer in Paris: "Dear mister Jensen, We are doing a film about the Ho chi minh trail for the french television histoire and we would like to have the historical point of view of this period of the vietnam war. Is it possible for you to do an interview about it... Best regards -- laurent TRUCHOT I pointed him to our CZ article. He notes, In France we call "Vietnam war" the period between 1965 and 1973 and in our film it is about the period 1968 to 1973 on the Ho chi minh trail between North vietnam and South vietnam on the Laos border ."Indochine War" in france is the war 1953-1954 finishing with the Dien bien phu battle" Richard Jensen 06:46, 7 July 2008 (CDT)

Article length

While this certainly isn't the longest article in CZ, the editing software is not, inappropriately, nagging about size. My sense is that there are some relatively straightforward things that can be done to reduce its size, either creating subarticles (e.g., origins of the war) or, in some cases, linking to more general articles such as air assault or various weapons. In the more general articles, there may be a reason to put some Vietnam-specific text into the other article.

In other cases, another article (e.g., Battle of the Ia Drang, Battle of Bong Son) goes into depth, and we have duplicate coverage in Vietnam War. Obviously, if we just link to the other article, more than one qualified person should review to be sure coverage remains complete.

My general sense is that details of military technology do not belong in the current article. That B-52's were used over North Vietnam as part of Operation LINEBACKER II to force the North Vietnamese to the negotiating table certainly belongs here, as a political and historical matter. The changes in flight patterns and electronic attack used to neutralize Soviet S-75 Dvina surface-to-air missiles (NATO reporting designation SA-2 GUIDELINE), however, don't belong in this article -- there are details of what was done and why that would interest people that are interested in missile guidance and electronic warfare, but they are no more unique to North Vietnam as for different aircraft countering the SA-2 in the Middle East or the Balkans.

Thoughts? Subarticles also might help localize controversies. Howard C. Berkowitz 00:21, 10 July 2008 (CDT)

I started with some flow editing, breaking up large blocks of text with subheadings, and especially breaking up the huge first-level heading for the "U.S. War". Within that context, I put a first-level heading for technology, equipment and techniques, which I propose to move to a separate article. That article will still link to more specific articles on weapons, techniques of mobility and medical support, etc. It will also give a place to cover some things not fully addressed at present, such as the "McNamara Line" of remote viewing sensors to detect infiltration.
Is there disagreement that such a section can move out, with, of course, appropriate wikilinks from the main article?
Again, this is a first pass. There were sections where activities in 1962-3 would rather quickly get to things in Cambodia in the seventies, but then the next section would be back to 1963. Sometimes, it indeed is very necessary to discuss a subject other than chronologically, but things are more readable if that is done when necessary, and when key ideas are discussed without digression.
Constructive sections are extremely welcome. I have been writing separate articles on certain of the technologies, such as air assault, and shorter items such as the M-16 rifle. Air assault absolutely needs to be mentioned in the effect that it had, but the details of air assault methods should be in the main article only when directly relevant to the flow of events. In like manner, the M-16 vs. AK-47 controversy will certainly account for much beer in military bull sessions, but individual infantry weapons did not decide the war.

Howard C. Berkowitz 17:50, 10 July 2008 (CDT)

Flow and the Strategic Hamlet Program

The first reference "strategic hamlet" program is in the section Weak Diem regime , saying it collapsed but without defining it, other than as a Diem policy. There is a bit more description in the section NLF as shadow government, which gives clues as to how the NLF exploited it, but not really how it worked.

I have commented out, but not deleted, some unsourced, unsigned text in that section, which addresses the state of mind and motivation of the ARVN. If the inability to protect villagers was indeed due to this reason, it is a critical factor. There needs to be continuity of that idea with the attempts to defend in place, such as the Regional Force (RF) and Popular Force (PF), and perhaps the Civilian Irregular Defense Guard (CIDG) advised by United States Army Special Forces and also the Marine Combined Action Platoon effort.

To the NLF section, I added some description of the landlord relationship when it worked well (Samson's exact text is available through JSTOR, to which I don't yet have access).

Structurally, the strategic hamlet, and land issues in general, probably should have come up much earlier in the article, starting with changes in land policy when Diem gained power, and then discussing when, how and why the strategic hamlet program was created. At this point, however, I don't want to be restructuring the article, so if others can look at the changes and the commented-out text (i.e., use edit mode), perhaps we can discuss how the land and shadow government issues would best be presented. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:23, 12 July 2008 (CDT)

Rethinking length, perspective, logical spinoffs

Some time ago, I commented out (near the intro):

<!--Commented out "this article is primarily from a U.S. perspective." If it continues to be so, retitle it "U.S. perspective on the Vietnam war.-->

I think that remains a correct observation. Today, I did switch the order of the second and third major headings, "Origins" and "U.S. perspective", as it is illogical to talk about the U.S. perspective before discussing how the situation came to be.

This is one of the longest articles on CZ. There is no question that CZ need to cover the effects of the Vietnam War on U.S. politics. There is, I contend, a significant question whether extensive coverage of U.S. decisionmaking, public opinion, and politics belongs in an article titled Vietnam War.

IMHO, the thrust of the Vietnam War article should be what happened in Vietnam, with wikilinks to the motivations of outside powers, and on the effect their involvement had on their internal decisionmaking. This comment is not unique to the U.S. A number of issue related to support of North Vietnam are intertwined with the Sino-Soviet tension. What about the roles of other nations that sent significant support, including combat troops, to the South? Canadian relations are complex here, including both Canada's role on the International Control Commission and its relations with the U.S. -- and with U.S. citizens who protested the war.

My suggestion would be to start articles on some of these other international aspects, find material in this article that was more an issue of domestic policy outside Viet Nam, and move that material to those articles, wikilinking back and forth so nothing is lost.

Some of the military details are sufficiently technical that they may belong in other articles. For example, I've done a technology and perspective article on air assault, which lead to specific articles about the technology, tactics, and conclusions to be drawn from the Battle of the Ia Drang and the Battle of Bong Son. Other such articles need to be written, as on the Battle of Ap Bac, the gradual bombing campaign against the North Operation ROLLING THUNDER and the intensifications such as Operation LINEBACKER II, a closely linked pair (I think) between the Battle of Khe Sanh and the Tet Offensive, MACV-SOG and OPPLAN 34A and other covert operations, the Tunnels of Cu Chi, and many other topics that justified books devoted to them.

This article is too long to be readily maintainable. In some parts, there is a good deal of opinion, not necessarily an unfair statement of one side, but stating assumptions as fact without any balance on alternative assumptions.

Sometimes, we see ourselves best through the eyes of others. I was playing Washington tourguide for a Swedish friend. After we saw the Lincoln Monument, and then went to the Vietnam Wall, she commented how appropriate it was to have them so close. Puzzled, I asked her to explain, and she said "were those not the two times your country had the greatest conflict over a war?"

The effect of Vietnam on U.S. politics deserves thorough coverage of its own. The war proper deserves its own coverage, and that cannot be separated from the positions of North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the Viet Cong.

Howard C. Berkowitz 09:42, 22 August 2008 (CDT)

Here's a rough draft of a start, specifically dealing with the period before any significant troop involvement:
Vietnam, war, and the United States. Howard C. Berkowitz 11:23, 22 August 2008 (CDT)
Again, I'm interested in making this a more maintainable article. As I reread parts, however, I find a substantial number of emotionally laden words, and attribution of motives to those who opposed the war even on geostrategic principles. I'd ask CZ readers to look at the section "Antiwar movement", and judge if that approaches a neutral presentation. Its first sentence about "radical students", I'm afraid, is indicative of the flavor that follows.
Hindsight is always wonderful, but, even at the time, the McNamara-McNaughton "gradual escalation" strategy seemed to violate some rather basic military principles. Not all antiwar opinion was based on radical sympathies, but on a judgment that the civilian leadership of the United States were disconnected to military realities. I'd like to see this article be less partisan, but, to even approach that, it has to be smaller and more maintainable. It should be easy enough to pull out sections on weaponry and put them in articles where they can be discussed on their merits, rather than in a political context. Howard C. Berkowitz 00:52, 25 August 2008 (CDT)
I'd really like suggestions, but I'm continuing to try to get this into maintainable form. One starting point was to put in a brief timeline, in the main article introduction, which makes the "Summary" section redundant in such a large article. There is some unique content in the summary, and I'm moving it to the main body of the article.
There is far too much partisanship in the material, and I've tried to reduce it, starting with minimal things such as substituting less emotionally charged adjectives. As I mentioned above, some sections such as "Antiwar movement" make sweepingly partisan statements from a single perspective, and apparently reading the overall American mind at a time of wide divergence. Wherever possible, I intend to move U.S. domestic politics to the appropriate Vietnam, war, and the United States article. It is relevant to this that Johnson, McNamara, Nixon, or Kissinger made policy decisions; where either domestic U.S. politics, or the revised geostrategic view under Nixon and Kissinger, are not specific to Vietnam and, at best, deserve cursory mention here. Howard C. Berkowitz 13:07, 26 August 2008 (CDT)

Momyer reference

I thought I'd seen this online, perhaps at the National Security Archive. In general, most references are to sale versions, but DTIC does list it. When I try to download the DTIC PDF, I get an Acrobat Reader message that the document is unreadable.

Anyone have any luck?


 first = William W. | last = Momyer
 title=The Vietnamese Air Force, 1951 - 1975: An Analysis of Its Role in Combat
  year =  1985
  url = 

Howard C. Berkowitz 06:03, 25 August 2008 (CDT)

Attempting to get content consistent with title

When George Pickett was interviewed about the Battle of Gettysburg, he was asked why the Confederacy lost. Was it Longstreet's lack of enthusiasm? Stuart's failure to provide reconnaissance?

Pickett, an honest man, scratched his head, and commended "I always thought the Yankees had something to do with it."

This article is titled "Vietnam War", but it has sections such as "Lyndon Johnson's War". Having lived through the war, I always thought the Vietnamese, of all factions, had something to do with it.

I am deleting little content about American opinion and politics, but I am moving it to a more appropriately titled article, Vietnam, war, and the United States. There is a pragmatic reason: this is a very long article, and there is so much about the U.S. that it obscures understanding what happened in Vietnam. In some cases, however, I am deleting text that seems both redundant and polemic about U.S. interests.

At the moment, I haven't yet touched "Lyndon Johnson's War", but I would urge others to collaborate and try to get the focus back to the Vietnamese. Certainly, Johnson's concerns with the Great Society, and with the overall geopolitical containment policy, are valuable material, but is this the place for them?

Howard C. Berkowitz 13:27, 4 September 2008 (CDT)

Thoughts on reorganization

While there is certainly a need for background, it seems that the most basic requirement for a historical article about a war is to be able to know the events that transpired. Rather than do a massive offline rewrite, I'm going to start putting in chronological headings, and then both moving objective events currently there, and adding material.

One might get the impression that the only military force fighting the VC and NVA was the United States, and external allies of the U.S. For good or bad, the South Vietnamese, were involved a bit more heavily that is apparent. Material on South Vietnamese, as well as joint operations, is welcome.

Perhaps some authors would like to take on particular battles or campaigns. As I've packing and unpacking, my copy of A Bright and Shining Lie fell apart, so if anyone would like to take on the Battle of Ap Bac, and its broader context in terms of the issues of the ARVN of the time, that would be welcome. We also need to get in some material about the 1963 Buddhist crisis, the overthrow of Diem, and the changes in South Vietnamese activity afterwards. There is some decent material at The Other Place, developed with some good collaboration in the Military History Project. I wrote some, but I'm going to contact one contributor there, who is Vietnamese and has a well-balanced perspective, and see if he would cooperate with importing some of his main work. Howard C. Berkowitz 15:05, 8 September 2008 (CDT)

Subarticles and continued edits

I've been doing some copy and substantive editing, creating subarticles, etc., recognizing that this article is both huge and could be improved. Please excuse me for putting a version of the list below on the main page, but I wanted it there for reference -- and also to link to some subarticles that, at least, have started. All article names are open to change by consensus, other than the detailed level dealing with specific operations.

Tentative lists of subarticles to spin out

Obviously, any collaboration is welcome. At this point, I've edited up to early 1964, with some miscellaneous touchup afterward. Collaboration and improvement before 1964, of course, is more than welcome. While I've been working on pre-colonial history in my sandbox, there must be people much more qualified than I to write that; being able to read Vietnamese and French beyond my read-a-dinner-menu skills would be immensely helpful.

Apropos of the early legends of origins, I have completely lost track of which dragon married which prince (or princess) and which eggs hatched out the first leaders. I'm not even sure if there might have been more than one dragon! Howard C. Berkowitz 11:25, 19 September 2008 (CDT)

Help on sourcing claims in results of Westmoreland's attritional strategy

I moved the section below out of the main article, as there was no sourcing for the numbers and types of engagements. I added the casualty figures from U.S. Army medical documents, which contradicted narrative claims that mines and boobytraps were the primary source of injuries.

The types of engagements, who initiated them, etc., varied over time, but I have no idea of the source, timings, etc, of the material below:Howard C. Berkowitz 12:52, 29 September 2008 (CDT)

The results of Westmoreland's attritional strategy

Statistics on the frequency of combat, and the sources of death and wounding for each side, is, unfortunately, readily available only for U.S. sources. A total of 30,600 soldiers died.

Contrary to some sources, the majority of deaths were not caused by mines and boobytraps, but by small arms in direct combat between U.S. and enemy units, or from sniper fire.

Comparative percentage sources of deaths in three wars[4]
Cause Second World War Korean War Vietnam War
Small arms 32 33 51
Fragments (artillery & bombs) 53 59 36
Booby traps, mines[5] 3 4 11
Punji stakes 0 0 0
Other 12 4 2

Of nonfatal wounds, the percentages differed:

Comparative percentage sources of non-fatal wounds in three wars[4]
Cause Second World War Korean War Vietnam War
Small arms 20 27 16
Fragments (artillery & bombs) 62 61 65
Booby traps, mines 4 4 15
Punji stakes 0 0 2
Other 14 2 2

Needs explanation and sourcing The war was fought out in the other one percent, and most of the time combat was initiated by Communist forces. The "hot landing zone" (enemy attacking choppers as they landed) accounted for 13% of the fights. American platoons on patrol were hit by ambush in 23% of the engagements, and their camps were hit by rocket or grenade attacks in 30%. In 27% of the battles the Americans took the initiative, including 9% ambushes, 5% planned attacks on known positions, and 13% attacks on unsuspected enemy positions. In 7% of the engagements both sides were surprised as they stumbled upon each other in the jungle.

By the end of the war, 30,600 soldiers and 12,900 Marines had been killed in combat, together with 1,400 sailors and Navy pilots, and 1,000 Air Force fliers. As is classic guerilla doctrine, when units with heavier power arrived, the weaker force dispersed. By American standards, they could not win, they could scarcely replace their losses, yet they kept trudging down the Ho Chi Minh Trail day after day. Given that the current government of Vietnam is directly descended from the same government that Westmoreland claimed he would defeat by attrition, his analysis was demonstrated to be incorrect. His deputy and immediate successor, GEN Creighton Abrams, changed strategies when he took command of MACV, to a broader strategy that put as much emphasis on securing and building the countryside as it did killing the main force.

With more aggressive pursuit, including airmobile operations (see also Vietnam War Ground Technology, Westmoreland's tactics worked in terms of defeating the threat of larger enemy units (i.e., battalion or larger) to South Vietnam.

The Viet Cong dispersed into smaller and smaller units, and so too did the US forces, until they were running platoon and even squad operations that blanketed far more of the countryside, chasing the fragmented enemy back into remote, uninhabited areas or out of the South altogether. Not only low-level NLF sympathizers but even Viet Cong officers and NLF political cadres started to surrender, accepting the resettlement terms offered by the GVN. At the end of 1964, the Pentagon estimated that only 42% of the South Vietnamese people lived in cities or villages that were securely under GVN control. (20% were in villages controlled by the NLF, and 37% were in contested zones.) At the end of 1967, 67% of the population was "secure," and only a few remote villages with less than 2% of the population were still ruled by the NLF.
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Shell, Jonathan, En primera líena, Galaxia Gutenberg, Barcelona, 1988, ISBN 84-8109-600-8
  2. Ministerio de Defensa of Spain,, last visit 2007/12/9
  3. Quoted in Robert D. Schulzinger, Time for War: The United States and Vietnam, 1941-1975 (1997) p. 261 online
  4. 4.0 4.1 Neel, Spurgeon (1981), Vietnam Studies: Medical Support of the U.S. Army in Vietnam 1965-1970, Table 6, p. 54
  5. Human Rights Watch, IV. Mine Warfare in Vietnam, IN ITS OWN WORDS: The U.S. Army and Antipersonnel Mines in the Korean and Vietnam Wars