Colin F. Jones

THE CONFLICT IN VIETNAM: Part 1

THE CONFLICT IN VIETNAM

The world had never before focused so widely upon a ‘limited’ military conflict such as was waged in South Vietnam, probably due to its accessibility to the mass media. People who were not directly involved in the war became aware of the stark realities of battlefield horror as they watched selected segments on their television sets.

The Media concerned themselves mostly with film of the ‘innocent victims’ of war, of the dead and dying, and many stories and articles which followed, concentrated on the brave efforts of in field reporters risking their lives to reveal the terrible repercussions of military conflict, on civilians.

Certain segments had great impact on the viewer. One in particular shown on Television was the execution of an unarmed bound Viet Cong prisoner who was shot through the head by South Vietnamese Police chief, Brigadier General Nguyen Ngog Loan. This helped to stimulate the belief that the US was supporting a corrupt government. Little was mentioned about the fact that the prisoner, a Viet Cong Officer, had previously ordered the murder of one of Loans most trusted friends and his entire family, of both women and children.

The basis of Communism from a military point of view is prolonged warfare. Mao’s reasoning, that countries with legislative systems cannot survive a war of attrition, such as is conducted by a Guerrilla army, either financially or psychologically, inspired leaders of the Viet Cong to commit massive human and material resources to military conflict, which were in fact sustained despite the correspondingly massive losses in Vietnam.

Despite all that Western nations knew about Guerrilla type warfare, in particular the USA, little had been done to prepare military forces for this type of warfare. This either indicated a serious misunderstanding of the threat of Communism or a desired intention to refrain from committing troops directly to such operations. The conflict in South Vietnam demanded massive commitment of military forces, but not in a protective role for the protective role is a defensive one. The Viet Cong had no such commitments, their main role being one of offence.

A massive commitment to defence requires twice as many men to wage war and provides increased targets for the enemy.

Despite the superior weaponry and dominant control of the sky’s over Vietnam the Americans were not equipped to handle the type of warfare in which they were engaged.

Studies of the conflict in Borneo, undertaken by British forces, reveals that they (the British) were better prepared, and in a forgotten war, which they won, set standards for western armies to follow in Guerrilla type conflicts.

But the Americans failed to acquire, or act upon the same knowledge in the Vietnam conflict, even though such valuable training manuals were available through the British experience.

President John Kennedy recognised the nations defence policies to an extent by increasing conventional weapons. He ordered US Military advisors to Vietnam in 1961-62, when the threat to Thailand and South Vietnam was indicated. He also sent advisors to Laos. His government was most critical of the treatment handed out to the Buddhists by Ngo Dinh Diem’s government. Kennedy in fact established many indicators that it was not his intention to commit American troops to the defence of what was a corrupt regime.

Australian soldiers had served in Malaysia and Borneo with the British and to an extent were more suitably prepared for the Vietnam conflict, though of cause they were in much less numbers and were not involved in the major conflicts along the Cambodian border, as were the Americans.

MAO TSETUNG

The Russian Bolsheviks under Lenin and Trotsky first conceived the role of the Guerrilla. However it was Mao Tsetung who first applied a systemised doctrine of offensive Guerrilla strategy. In this type of strategy, the Guerrilla forces reach far beyond the original defensive functions of their conception. Mao had devoted his life to the evolution of a military doctrine that would enable inferior military forces of an unindustrialised nation, to establish an aggressive, expansionist, political strategy, despite opposition from materially superior forces of other nations.

Mao was born in 1893 of Hunanese peasant stock and was trained in the Chinese classics later acquiring a modern education. He travelled widely as a young man, particularly in central China. He was one of the founders of the Chinese communist party and he organised peasant and industrial unions sponsored by the Kuomintang in the 1920’s.

During 1924-26 he directed the peasant section of the party. When the Kuomintang and Communists split in 1927 he led the disastrous autumn crop uprising in Hunnan province and was forced out of the central committee of the party. From then until 1931 Mao, Chu, Tch and others worked in the Chinese hinterlands establishing rural soviets and building the Red Army. In 1931 he was elected Chairman of the Soviet Republic of China.

After withstanding many military campaigns launched by Chiang Kai Shek, Mao led the Red army on a long march, (1934-35), 6000 miles from Kiangsi province, north to Yenan in Shensi province. Mao continued the civil war with Chiang Kai Shek and the Kuonintang despite fighting the Japanese during the second Chino-Japanese war. In 1949 the communists had taken over almost all of mainland China and Mao was made Chairman of the central government council of the newly established Peoples Republic of China. In 1954 he was re-elected to this position of power. He became the leading communist figure in the world, particularly after the death of Stalin in 1953, one of its most prominent theoreticians his ideas on active revolutionary struggle and guerrilla warfare being particularly influential.

Liu Shao-Chi replaced Mao as Chairman of the government council in 1959, but Mao retained his chairmanship of the communist party thus remaining the chief policy planner of the government.

HO CHI MIN

Ho Chi Min was born in 1890 and was the president of the Republic of North Vietnam. He fled his native Annam when he was 19 and went to France where he helped to found the French communist party. From 1925 to 1927 he lived in the USSR. He subsequently became a comiturn leader in Shanghai, China and founded the communist party in Vietnam in 1930.

Between 1930 and 1945 he returned to Indo-China and organised the Vietnamese independent movement, (Viet Minh) and rallied a Guerrilla army that fought the Japanese in World War II. In September 1945 he proclaimed the Republic of Vietnam, but late in 1946 differences with the French led to open warfare, which lasted to the summer of 1954, culminating in the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu.

The rigorously disciplined Viet Minh organisation was a striking contrast to the Vietnam disunity.

After the Geneva conference in 1954 that established the independence of North Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh became the first President.