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The US side: Strengths & Weaknesses
- The US had the most advanced war technology and was economically very powerful so they could invest heavily in the war
- They also had South Vietnamese soldiers on their side.
- The US had a powerful air force and could use it to deploy troop support, bombing and raids.
- The US had a very large army. Around 2.8 million Americans served in Vietnam, whereas 2 million were conscripted.
- The US were inexperienced and did not know much about guerilla or jungle warfare
- Nineteen was the average age of the army, meaning they were inexperienced and most were not even full combat troops but men who were drafted into the armed forces only to serve in Vietnam for one year.
- 43% died within the first 3 months of their tour of duty
- People found it hard to work together and work as a unit. Just as they learnt the necessary skills, their tour of duty ended
- Their was great hostility between officers and ordinary soldiers. The officers wanted good combat records to get a promotion whereas the soldiers just wanted to survive their one year tour of duty. This led to 'fragging' which was the killing of officers by their troops. Between 1970 and 1971, there were over 700 cases of 'fragging'.
- Some troops started drug abuse to see out their tour of duty, such as marijuana. In 1971, 5,000 men were treated for combat wounds compared to the 20,000 treated for drug abuse.
- Between 1966 and 1973 there were 503,000 cases of desertion in the US Army in Vietnam.
- The public of the USA were not prepared to let soldiers die. Their primary objective was to keep the body count down, whereas the Vietcong were prepared to put down lives for their cause.
- Few troops cared for their cause. They just wanted to go home (by reaching their 'date eligible for return overseas', known as DEROS).
- There was growing opposition to the war in the USA. It did not raise morale of the troops.
- The peasants of South Vietnam saw the USA as invaders and sided with the Vietcong.
- US bombing did not lower North Vietnamese morale.
North Vietnam (Viet Cong): Strengths and weaknesses
- A large supply of soldiers. North Vietnam used conscription to maintain the size of the army. Hanoi sent 100,000 troops to the south every year.
- They were fighting for communism and the reunification of Vietnam. This meant that many in North Vietnam volunteered to fight.
- They were prepared to accept a large body count as they were so dedicated to their cause. Between 500,000 and 900,000 died during the war.
- They knew the terrain and were skilled in guerilla warfare. They knew the jungle
- They won support from the peasants of south Vietnam and could hide with them. The US's 'Search and Destroy' scheme also made peasants support the VC and the NVA.
- The Soviet Union and China provided them with the necessary resources to fight the war. The Soviet Union gave 8000 anti aircraft guns and 200 anti aircraft missile sites. Between 1965 and 1968, an estimated $2billion+ was given by these two countries.
- Vietcong bases were heavily booby trapped and were very well hidden which would kill or wound enemy soldiers.
- Not everyone in North Vietnam supported the war. There was hostility between the north and south.
- They lacked the air power and military prowess of America.
- A lot of the time it seemed they were just running away.
- They could not beat America in a pinched fight and relied on the jungles and peasants.