Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

According to General Petraeus, the United States never lost a battle in Vietnam

with 20 comments

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.)

Written by unitedcats

August 5, 2010 at 8:06 am

Posted in History, Iraq, Politics, Propaganda, War, World

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20 Responses

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  1. Great article. There is always two sides to every war and the intellectual can overlook nationalistic propaganda and understand the atrocity happening on both sides.

    Maximus

    September 12, 2010 at 4:05 am

    • yeah um i researched operation line backer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Linebacker_II#Initial_phase . according to their article a total of 742 bombers were launched and 729 had completed their objectives. day 1 a loss of 7 bombers was total and that was the most lost in a single day. cite your sources.

      steve

      September 22, 2010 at 7:55 pm

      • I did site my source, it’s linked right in the article itself: Lost Battles of the Vietnam War.
        — Doug

        unitedcats

        September 23, 2010 at 2:36 am

      • Any academic in any decent universtiy will tell you that wikipedia is not a valid source, for all I know you wrote that article on wikipedia. Citing wikipedia as a source is wrong because you dont know who wrote it.

        Attila

        March 9, 2011 at 4:50 am

      • Hey,

        my other source is an encylopedia for the Vietnam war and it confirms my statement about operation linebacker. It’s not rocket science, with tactics and heavy weaponry the Vietnam war was a war of attrition. The only way we could loose is if we couldn’t bleed them dry. They lost 20x more soldiers then us but their population could support those losses. The only reason we lost is we were unwilling to commit wholey to the war and are only true reason for being there was to ensure Asia didn’t become a giant block of communism and to ensure we had tactical advantage in the area incase there was a war with china.

        Steve

        March 9, 2011 at 7:17 am

  2. […] Israel had the world’s fourth largest military. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The USA most certainly did lose some battles in Vietnam, although not any major ones (unless you count losing the war.) Israel’s military is […]

  3. i believe what the u.s. military say it is. why? because they studied everything they encountered and others encountered in the battlefields not to repeat again any mistake. If they said they did not loss, 95% i believe them because they made a thourough study on what were happen.

    Raz

    January 6, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    • and you dont think that the fact that they say they won every battle is merely governmental propagande to firstly try and instill fear into the rest of the world and therefore maintain military and political dominance and secondly to give potential american soldier confidence in themseleves when they fight making them even better soldiers

      Attila

      March 9, 2011 at 4:53 am

  4. Right, don’t we make enough mistakes on a daily bases let alone during wartime for us to relize that our politicians are bumbling idiots who do not serve our interests but our own?

    Steve

    March 9, 2011 at 7:20 am

  5. Eh, you have a few valid points but its not like the enemy we face in Afghanistan now is coming out to fight us. They hide and pull wile e coyote shit which 9 times out of 10 doesn’t work. Just saying we are sitting on bases doesn’t tell the whole story. We go off our bases quite often and yes we have a bunch of cool toys. However our cool toys kill lots of bad guys so I will keep my XM25. Drones give us the ability to see the battlefield better than ever before so if some asshole decides its funny to pop shots off from cover we can locate and kill him. Thats not hiding behind technology that is called being a smart warrior and using the tools given to be as effective as possible. So yes I guess we do have nice bases that are of so unbeatable and boo hoo we arn’t losing any pitched battles so the hippies can ‘call the troops home'(excuse me for being well prepared). Sorry its taking so long I am really trying to kill the bad guys and give these people peace and democracy(or whatever) but I really don’t feel the urge to throw my life away and the bad guys tend to not want to fight fair. I am willing to die if needed but I am not going to go charging at a dude with a machine gun because you think the war should end quicker and I should fight more like we used to…war evolved, if you don’t want to die its tricky. Will we lose a few soldiers or choppers? Yes its war but seriously man this military has more training, motivation, firepower, and logistical support than any other in the history of man. You are an old guy, you probably remember the 80’s, we basically remade the military then kicked Iraq’s ass in 91(4th largest army in the world at the time). I don’t want to hear that I think im invincible because hell no I don’t, I just know that I am backed up by the most powerful military force to ever walk this earth so excuse me if it gives me a little umph.

    Reach out and touch someone

    August 25, 2011 at 9:17 am

    • I don’t have a problem with the idea that we should use our technology so that our fighters have every possible advantage, the point of a war is to make the other guy die for his country, not our guys.My issue is the idea that if we can somehow kill enough “bad guys,” victory will be ours. That thinking was perfectly sound when we were fighting nation states with uniformed armies like Japan and Germany. As a counter insurgency strategy, it’s a recipe for failure for any number of reasons. I’m not dissing the American military, I’m just saying it is being asked to do the impossible for political reasons. They should be home defending the East Coast against hurricane Irene, not creating enemies in a pointless colonial war on the other side of the planet. — Doug

      unitedcats

      August 25, 2011 at 6:26 pm

      • I figure it like this. As a soldier my job is to defend my nation and uphold its ideals on the battlefield. If I have to fight the battles for someone else to help them gain freedom to choose I believe that is right. Would I die for nothing? No. But for freedom I would give my life, freedom for any man. We are fighting for the idea of a free world. Is it too good to be true and are their catches? Always, but as the warrior I remain pure to the idea and to what my country stands for. I agree that the invincible mantra of our army is ridiculous but it is really hard to beat us. Soldiers can’t do alot when fighting weather and I will leave clean up to national guard and PMOs, I would rather not violate Posse Comitatus over something that we can fix without using regular army. Killing the bad guys is usually a good way to win a war, but we need to also kill the idea with a better one. It is a hard fight but if someone stepped up politically we would be right there like we always are. Guarding our country and standing up when needed. We just need someone to have better ideas on the social side. The problem isn’t with the soldiers it is with the Washington redtape that gridlocks our ability to change the battlefield from the cliff tops and valleys to the classrooms. It sounds preachy but you have to walk the walk and talk the talk to be the good guy. You cannot pussyfoot around while innocents die because you are scared and you most certainly cannot try to take advantage of people for your own gains. If they attain freedom we shouldn’t build a base there unless they ask.

        Reach out and touch someone

        August 30, 2011 at 7:01 pm

      • How about you get off your ass and defend the east coast from hurricanes, or better yet, pick up a rifle and come defend freedom. Help your fellow man. It’s bull shit you sit there and say we sit on nice big bases and don’t run missions, don’t control anything, and don’t lose soldiers. So how about you come over here to Afghanistan and run missions with me and my guys, and then say we aren’t in harm’s way. How many IED’s have you cleared out of the road? Better yet, how many have you been hit by? How many rpgs or bullets have ripped through your vic? How many friends have you watched bleed out and die? To this day I have ran over 300 missions. As an Engineer, changing and shaping this country, I am constantly in harm’s way. Also tell the near 6,000 servicemen and women and their families that soldiers aren’t dying over here. This isn’t the 1700’s where brigades of soldiers are lining up and turkey shooting each other. War evolves. Enemies evolve, weapons evolve and so do our tactics. We are ensuring success. You don’t know the enemy we are fighting. It’s a different time, and war will always be changing. Also saying we hide behind our big fancy machines and not interacting with the people is bull shit. How many missions have you ran over here? You sit there behind your computer and mouth off about how we are fighting, or lack there of, and that’s what is wrong with America. All you bleeding heart liberals that think you are experts on the war. I see Afghan locals on a daily basis, and have even built roads, bridges, culverts, cops, fobs, and ops with them. How dare you say we don’t have the balls to fight! Get your fat old ass over here, and then maybe you will quit mouthing soldiers. I don’t appreciate it! Yeah you got freedom of speech, by the blood of my fellow soldiers, but until you have physically been here, shut the fuck up! I don’t know who you think you are, but you are a disgrace to America, and every soldier that has lost his life to the defense of our great nation. Sitting here, on your computer mouthing soldiers. Come find me and mouth that shit! I’ll show you how the American Soldier fights!

        Joshua Poff

        August 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm

      • Also, our tactics over here, are not simply “kill more bad guys”. You know nothing of a COIN operation. Especially with your post above. We are not being asked to do that impossible. I don’t know a single soldier around me that doesn’t feel as I do. We are here for a purpose. A good reason. We are not failing, well except like Vietnam, the loss of the support of the American people that are too fucking selfish and lazy to come fight the people that threaten our freedoms.

        Joshua Poff

        August 27, 2012 at 3:19 pm

  6. I like how the author says “we’re not really fighting, we’re not going to win, we are fighting the enemy with pilot-less drones.” when I have a strong feeling he isn’t in Afghanistan… If the author has a complaint against too few casualties I know several recruiters who would happily help him into a combat zone :)

    zacattack

    November 9, 2011 at 11:29 am

    • I already served my country thank you, and continue to serve it by protesting our bloated military budget and our pointless (counter-productive even) wars abroad. —Doug

      unitedcats

      November 9, 2011 at 11:39 am

  7. Doug,

    You have some valid points, But it is hard to take you seriously when the photo use chose to use actually shows South Vietnamese troops (ARVN) on the ground with American choppers lifting off. And they don’t appear to be firing. This photo was taken pre-1966 I believe. I was drafted and put in Army intelligence. And to show you how a intelligent a 19 year-old kid is……….. myself and two other guys in my outfit volunteered to be helicopter door-gunners, because we felt guilty having such a gravy job when others were dying! I was there in 66-67.

    gunner

    March 1, 2012 at 3:50 am

    • Oops, while I don’t claim to be writing historical treatises, I do try to avoid really egregious errors. And clearly ARVN troops don’t illustrate the post accurately. I’ll replace it with a more representative photo. Thanks!

      unitedcats

      March 1, 2012 at 3:47 pm

  8. outstanding reading.
    I liked it very much, and your ‘darkworld’ is very similar to the world I write about in my fiction.

    Judge yourself… come in my site and take a look to my episodes. I would really appreciate your comments, the positives as well as the negative ones.

    b regards

    ps: freeware image stolen! ;)

    ramboyearone

    March 16, 2012 at 6:45 am

  9. […] had some interesting comments made by a certain Joshua on an old post. Interesting might not be quite the word, but close enough. As the persons in question took the […]


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