Exploring the Reasons for United States' Withdrawal from Vietnam
America withdrew its last troops from Vietnam in 1973 but troop
numbers were being reduced since 1969 after the election of President
Nixon on a pledge of "Peace with honour".
Eight years earlier in 1965 president Johnson had committed the nation
to war with general support from the population who had come to fear
communism. America was committed to Truman's policy of "Containment"
of communism thereby hoping to prevent the 'domino effect' whereby
America feared that if Vietnam became a communist country, other
neighbouring countries would follow suit. They entered the war as the
world's richest and most technologically advanced nation with an army
that had been victorious in all previous campaigns. Their weaponry was
advanced and far superior to the limited resources of the Vietcong
whose soldiers were made up in part of untrained peasants and farmers.
When America withdrew its last troops from Vietnam in 1973 it was not
as a victorious conqueror but as a humiliated and divided nation. I
have attempted to set out below the reasons for the US withdrawal from
Vietnam in 1973.
Despite its huge technological superiority, America failed to overcome
the Vietcong army. This was due to a combination of American weakness
and Vietcong strengths.
The US army found itself fighting an enemy it seldom saw. Dense jungle
with swamps prevented the use of tanks and high-tech weaponry
committing the army to foot patrols while the Vietcong enemy employed
'guerrilla' tactics to confront the US troops. Guerrilla tactics is a
system whereby a smaller number of soldiers can harass larger forces
at their leisure, making use of camouflage, concealment and
unconventional tactics such as booby traps. The Vietcong soldiers
built elaborate underground tunnel systems both for concealment and to
protect them from US bombing. These elaborate tunnel systems served as
weapon stores and living accommodation as well as providing hospital
facilities. The tunnels were booby trapped to kill any American
soldiers who entered them. The Vietcong constructed these complex
booby traps along jungle tracks to maim and kill US soldiers. They
included concealed pits with sharp stakes tipped with poison or human
excrement, as well as land mines and grenades attached to trip wires.
The American army constantly suffered casualties from these booby
traps without seeing or confronting the enemy.
Due to the dense vegetation, there was often a sense of being
surrounded. With no traditional "front line" it was impossible to know
which area or village was controlled by the enemy. The terrain was
hostile to the American soldiers who had to march through rice fields
in the oppressive heat and rain, attacked by insects and leeches. Some
Vietcong soldiers were...