According to General Petraeus, the United States never lost a battle in Vietnam
And not just General Petraeus, it’s almost common knowledge that the USA never lost a battle in Vietnam. In fact, I know this is going to be hard to believe, I myself have been repeating this canard for years. And in a certain sense it’s true, in that the USA never lost a huge battle like Dien Bien Phu or Stalingrad in Vietnam. However, there were few, if any, battles during the Vietnam war that reached that kind of size, so it’s kind of misleading information. Worse, it’s been used to bolster the myth that the American soldier is invincible, and that we lost the war because of USA domestic politics and lack of will.
Here then, five Vietnam War battles that Hollywood won’t be making into movies anytime soon:
1. Iron Hand Air Strikes (13 August 1965): 76 American carrier aircraft launched low level attacks to seek and destroy North Vietnamese SAM sites. 5 aircraft shot down, 7 damaged, 3 pilots killed. SAM sites located and attacked: Zero.
2. Air Battle (23 august 1967): Nguyan Van Coc, the war’s greatest fighter ace, leads a few MIGs on an attack on a group of 40 American fighters and bombers. They shoot down 3 Phantom jet fighters and an F-105 fighter-bomber, 8 American aviators captured or killed. Vietnamese loses: Zero. (Yeah, I could see them making a movie about this in Vietnam.)
3. Operation Linebacker II, Day Three (20 December 1972): Eight out of 99 B-52s on a raid over Hanoi were shot down, 36 Americans killed or captured. This day’s raids unaccountably used the exact same timing and routes as the two previous days, it’s no wonder the Vietnamese were ready for them.
4. Attack on Firebase Mary Ann (28 march 1971): Viet Cong sappers launch a surprise attack on an American base, catching it by surprise and breaching its defences before the Americans could respond. 33 Americans were killed and 83 wounded, the deadliest attack on an American base during the war.
5. Battle of Two July (2 July 1967): A battalion of Marines went up a road looking for the enemy, they found them. Details are still a little vague on this one, but the US lost 53 known dead, 190 wounded, and 34 MIA.
I could go on, there’s fifteen more listed on this site. It’s depressing and even a bit morbid though, but it illustrates a number of important points that they don’t make in schools often enough. In fact not even sure they make them in schools at all.
First of all, governments lie. This is especially true when it comes to war. At lot of information about the lost battles of Vietnam is coming from survivors, not the government. And since then, the government has gone to ever more fabulous lengths to hide the true costs of war. In Vietnam reporters could go wherever they liked, it was one of the best reported on wars in history. Now we have “embedded” reporters telling us what the government wants us to hear. Yeah, that’s freedom of the press. Secondly, and more importantly, we have gone to great lengths to avoid casualties. Um, what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with that is you can’t win people’s hearts and minds while your forces sit inside fortified bases and travel around in giant armoured machines. And blowing up people with pilotless drones, often innocent people, can’t be making much of a positive impression either.
The main point, is that in Vietnam we were trying to refight World War Two. Hell, we dropped more bombs during the Vietnam War than were dropped by all of the participants in all of World War Two. It was an incredibly expensive war, and since our enemies weren’t making the same mistake, they ultimately outlasted us and won the war. And In Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s even worse. Rather than really examining what happened in Vietnam, our leaders have just “fixed” the “problems” that supposedly lost the Vietnam War. No draft, no reporters, keep American troops out of harm’s way at all times. Well, in the sense of avoiding internal dissent and opposition to the war, it’s worked like a charm. We could be in Afghanistan and Iraq forever without significant domestic opposition to the war, so we have to win sooner or later!
Well, no. First of all fighting this kind of “both arms tied behind our back” war is fabulously expensive, and unsustainable in the long run. Secondly, we’re not going to win … because we’re not really fighting. Our incredible firepower and massive amounts of military hardware has allowed us to station troops in both countries and keep them relatively safe from harm, but they don’t really control anything outside of their bases. And it hardly needs to be said, but if dropping more bombs than were dropped in World War Two didn’t win Vietnam, blowing people up with pilotless drones isn’t going to do the trick either. Our enemies know all they have to do is attack anyone who cooperates with us, and sooner or later we will leave. Because we sure as hell don’t have the stones to come out and actually fight.
Neither war, Iraq nor Afghanistan, is really a war at all in some senses. It’s a bizarre exercise to justify infinite defence spending and keep keep the Republicans and the Democrats in power, with no real long term strategy or goals. I mean, does anyone seriously believe that somehow Iraq and Afghanistan are going to magically turn into loyal secular allies like Japan and Germany did after World War Two? The two longest wars in US history, and the governments we put in power are two of the most corrupt and ineffective and unpopular governments on the planet. Staying in Iraq and Afghanistan forever is going to fix that?
In a very real sense, the people running the USA and our military have been living in a fantasy world since World War Two. And most Americans being raised in this fantasy bubble, think it’s normal. No, it’s not normal. And it’s not going to end well, wishing and hoping and giant military toys never won a war yet.
(The above image appears to be public domain under US copyright law, I’m claiming it as Fair Use nonetheless. It’s American soldiers advancing during Vietnam while the choppers above them pour machine gun fire into the tree line they are advancing toward. I chose it because it is an interesting image I thought. And it illustrates the incredible amount of spending that the American way of war has evolved into. I mean, just think what it must cost to run a bunch of helicopters like that, to capture some trees? Madness.)