What tactics did the Vietnamese use in the Vietnam War?

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
How were the Vietnamese troops
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 –
National Liberation Front
North Vietnamese Army
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 –
Raid when the enemy camps.
Attack when the enemy tires.
Pursue when the enemy
The aim of these tactics was to
wear down the enemy and wreck
their morale
Why were guerrilla tactics used by the
Ho Chi Minh has seen these tactics work
for Communists fighting in Vietnam and
China against a much stronger
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
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
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.

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