Chapter XVI: 
This monograph demonstrates that Vietnam was a war of innovations. The contestants, the equipment, the arena, and the rules of engagement were different from previous wars. In the beginning, there was a great variety of recently developed hardware but a general lack of doctrine concerning insurgency-type operations. Improved equipment was rushed through the development phase, and successful ideas originated in the field. Some of the innovations described in the preceding chapters are peculiar to the Vietnam situation, while others represent more significant advances that can be used in future conflicts.
Many of the major innovations in Vietnam were time-sensitive, that is, they were effective only for a given period of time. This period could best be measured as the time required for the enemy to figure out what the Americans were doing and to develop effective countermeasures. Sound innovations lasted for long periods of time, and some are as valid today as when they were conceived. Others were useful for days or weeks or for a few months only. The enemy soon punished the commander who followed set patterns or precise procedures. The innovative leader usually met with success.
The widespread use of the helicopter was the most significant advance of the Vietnam War. Combined with a new air-assault concept, it led to the refinement of the airmobile division that proved to be an unqualified success, incorporating all the advantages that the helicopter provided. It is .difficult to exaggerate the capabilities of the airmobile team in Vietnam; the team represented the most revolutionary change in warfare since the blitzkrieg. However, airmobile tactics may also be time-sensitive, and the helicopter has problems with respect to future application.
Improvements in communications paralleled or even exceeded the progress made in mobility. Not since before the Civil War has a brigade commander been able to see and talk to all his platoon leaders. The division commander had an abundance of hot lines, secure voice radios, and instant communications up the chain of command, down to every tactical unit, and across to other services or allies. Compared

the EE-8 and SCR-300 of Korea, communication equipment in Vietnam was a technological miracle of infinite value to the commander.
Firepower progressed along with mobility and communications. The infantry soldier had a greater variety of more powerful weapons than ever before. Artillery and armor pieces were more mobile and more effective. Aerial fire support increased many times, and much of it was available from among the Army's own resources. Furthermore, the role of firepower expanded from one of softening the enemy in preparation for the final infantry assault to one of entirely eliminating enemy resistance.
The sensors, target acquisition equipment, and night observation devices, combined with the automatic data processing equipment, represent a major advance in military systems management at the battalion level and higher. Development of such equipment has progressed rapidly within the U.S. Army. As a result, there is high expectation for improved intelligence-gathering methods and a more efficient use of combat power. The G-2 and G-3 (intelligence and operations assistant chiefs of staff) will not only be in the same tent in the future, they will also use the same computer.
In the field of tactics, the age-old principles did not change. U.S. forces conducted a huge mobile defense for over five years. They fought off the invader from fixed bases; however, in doing so they used almost purely offensive tactics. An intelligence network superior to anything known in previous wars and great tactical mobility allowed the U.S. forces to pre-empt most of the enemy's meticulously rehearsed plans. The riverine. operations, the ambushes, logistic support of armored formations by air, and the saturation patrolling demonstrated that the commander at every level was equal to the task of outthinking the enemy.
Contact with the enemy was normally made by battalions or smaller units in contrast to the larger unit operations of World War II and Korea. In Vietnam, U.S. infantry on the ground had the mission of finding the enemy by means of saturation patrolling and never-ending reconnaissance in force, guided by a whole new world of intelligence-gathering sensors and air cavalry. Having found the enemy, invariably at less than 100 yards range, the infantry commander called forth overwhelming reinforcement and firepower. The main attack was wherever and whenever the enemy could be found.
The air cavalry, armored cavalry, tanks, and mechanized infantry all proved their versatility and effectiveness in low-intensity warfare against an unsophisticated enemy. The battles reported throughout the monograph show these forces seeking out and destroying the enemy at close quarters. The U.S. armored vehicles and armed helicopters, dedicated to the offensive, were well suited to overwhelming the enemy's hidden light infantry.

The adaptation of U.S. forces to the countrywide battlefield evolved through a process of trial and error. Not since the American Revolution has a theater of operations been occupied with friendly and enemy military forces in the same general areas simultaneously. Success was not clear-cut; control of the population was often in doubt; victory or defeat lay at the grass-roots level after the maneuver battalions had done their work. Thus, there were two wars going on: the purely military battle against the enemy's main force and the pacification operation. The two were completely entwined, however, and the commander at every level fought in both.
Pacification was an unprecedented addition to the commander's mission. Although it was basically a civilian endeavor, the military played a vital and continuous part because the restoration of security in the countryside was a prerequisite to pacification. Furthermore, the local Vietnamese administration was often almost wholly military in character and was dependent upon the Americans for necessary skills and equipment. Winning the war meant winning the hearts and minds of the people, and all friendly forces participated in this effort.
Vietnamization of the war, which later received a great deal of publicity, actually started with the first advisers and progressed through increasing U.S. -Vietnamese co-operation. It was always the goal of U.S. forces to leave behind in Vietnam an indigenous force able to defend itself. Specific units from each country were paired up, not only to insure co-ordination but also to provide cross-training. Vietnamization took its place alongside pacification and military operations as a primary mission of the U.S. commander.
There was one area, however, where American ingenuity failed: countermine warfare. Considering the magnitude of the enemy's effort in mines and booby traps, U.S. experts failed to find the answer to the problem of how to counter them. Another aspect of the war in Vietnam which many tactical commanders would revise was the large base camp. Because of the size to which these camps grew, they detracted far too much effort from the primary combat mission.
Finally, the question might be asked: Has the U.S. Army been successful in Vietnam? Certainly the United States has not been victorious in the traditional sense. But in 1965 ARVN units were being beaten in every quarter of the country. The South Vietnamese government had lost control of most of the countryside. Total defeat was imminent. By the early 1970s most of the major U.S. Army formations had come to Vietnam, made their contribution, and been withdrawn. As a result, the ARVN has become one of the most powerful military forces in the Free World, and the Republic of Vietnam now controls the majority of its people. (Chart 3) The U.S. Army in Vietnam carried on its traditions of ingenuity, imagination, and flexibility. It kept pace with the hectic technological progress of today's


world and demonstrated the American soldiers' ability to outthink the enemy. It showed its sophistication in materiel advances, its strength of will in guerrilla warfare, and its compassion in pacification.

page created 15 December 2001

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