The Vietnam War

Guerrilla Warfare and Attrition Warfare

Vietcong Gurrilla Fighters
                Guerrilla warfare is a very unconventional style of warfare; it refers to small conflicts where groups of stealthy combatants use the element of surprise to eliminate the opponent. This tactic was widely used by the North Vietnamese Communists, also called the Vietcong. During some ambushes the Vietcong guerrilla fighters would sneak up on unaware U.S. troops, attack them, and leave before risking capture.  The Vietcong would also pose as citizens or farmers then, when least expected, they would surprise attack U.S. troops using arms provided by Ho Chi Minh. Ho Chi Minh was a Vietnamese Marxist revolutionary leader and also the president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. He ordered an elaborate 200 mile long tunnel system to be dug to aid the guerrilla fighters in their ability to move from place to place undetected by U.S. infantry.

                By about 1965 Vietcong soldiers had access to Chinese versions of the AK-47; they also had heavy, medium, and light machine guns. The heavy machine guns were mainly used as anti-aircraft weapons, most effective against U.S. helicopters. Other weapons such as land mines, and booby traps were hand crafted in North Vietnamese villages. The Vietcong also got aid from an unexpected source: they would scavenge the country side for unexploded American bombs and land mines and use the explosives in bombs of their own. In one year approximately 20,000 tons of explosives could be found in unexploded or dud American bombs.

                When America entered the war they planned on winning using traditional methods, meaning that the war would be won by conquering land. However, the U.S. troops weren’t used to the jungle terrain and General Westmoreland realized that the only way the war could be won was through a method of attrition. This means that a war isn’t won by who has more land, but won instead by whomever eliminates more opposing troops. American troops were actually very successful in using this method; they killed over two times as many soldiers as they lost. However this style of warfare enraged many peace groups in America because it targeted civilians as well.  Many riots and protests sparked throughout the United States.