What tactics did the Vietnamese use in the Vietnam War? Lesson objectives To be able to define the different strategies used by the Vietnamese in the Vietnam War. To be able to link tactics with the reasons why they were used. How were the Vietnamese troops divided? To the USA all Vietnamese opposition were communist and they called the Vietcong [VC], which was a term of abuse. However the Vietcong included three main groups – Vietminh National Liberation Front [NLF] North Vietnamese Army [NVA] What was the Ho Chi Minh Trail? The Ho Chi Minh trail was a supply line which kept the Communists fighting in South Vietnam supplied with weapons and food. The trail ran from North to South Vietnam through neighbouring Laos and Cambodia hidden by jungle and dense terrain. There could be as many as ten different routes between each point of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. If one route was bombed then another could be used. Despite repeated bombing, the US failed to completely block the trail. What were guerrilla tactics? Ho Chi Minh decided on the use of guerrilla tactics to fight the USA. The key principles of guerrilla tactics are – Retreat when the enemy attacks. Raid when the enemy camps. Attack when the enemy tires. Pursue when the enemy retreats. The aim of these tactics was to wear down the enemy and wreck their morale Why were guerrilla tactics used by the Vietnamese? Ho Chi Minh has seen these tactics work for Communists fighting in Vietnam and China against a much stronger opponent. Support from the peasants in South Vietnam. This was essential as the peasants were expected to hide VC fighters. In return, VC fighters were expected to treat the peasants with courtesy and help them farm their crops. Knowledge and understanding of the South Vietnamese jungles. The Vietcong was no match for face to face open combat with the US troops. How did the VC use booby traps as part of their guerrilla campaign? Booby traps were extremely important in the VC’s strategy and accounted for 11% of US casualties in Vietnam. Booby traps were cheap and easy to make. Traps included sharpened bamboo sticks , hidden in shallow pits, which could easily pierce a boot and foot. Sometimes they were smeared with human or animal excrement to infect the wound. Mines were more sophisticated. The ‘Bouncing Betty’ would be triggered off by a soldier stepping on it. The mine fired a metre into the air before exploding in front of the man walking behind designed to explode at the height of the genitals. How did the VC hide from the US troops? The VC were almost impossible for the US troops to identify. They did not have uniforms or base camps. They worked in small groups and were hard to distinguish from the peasantry. The VC would attack and then disappear into the jungle. The Vietnam War was one of small scale combat rather than big battles. This is shown by the fact that 51% of US troops killed in the war were killed with small arms fire. How did the VC hide from the US troops? The VC were scared of US bombing raids – napalm, defoliants and cluster bombings raids were a constant feature of the war. In an attempt to hide from these bombings the VC dug deep tunnel networks and used them as air raid shelters. These tunnel networks were selfcontained and had everything soldiers needed to exist underground. Some networks ran for hundreds of miles – underneath Saigon there were 320 miles of tunnels. The tunnel networks were protected by booby traps and were narrowly dug to fit the slimmer Vietnamese.