US tactics in Vietnam


Feb 1965 Operation Rolling Thunder begun. This involved dropping bombs on cities and towns in the North and South of Vietnam, The Ho Chi Minh Trail, Laos and Cambodia.

It was partially successful

Disrupted North Vietnamese supply lines, enabled strikes without ground troops, at led the North Vietnamese to negotiate.

BUT… It only slowed down the Viet Cong, and was very expensive in terms of money and resources – 14,000 US and South Vietnamese aircraft shot down + Time calculated that it cost $400,000 to kill one Viet Cong fighter.

Chemical Weapons – Agent Orange + Napalm

‘Agent Orange’ and Napalm were used to clear the jungles. Napalm burned through skin to the bone, and ‘Agent Orange’, a toxic weed killer, was used extensively.

Search and Destroy

General Westmoreland developed the policy of Search and Destroy. From heavily defended bases in the South US and S.Vietnamese troops launched attacks on remote Viet Cong bases. Body counts were recorded.

Search and Destroy was unpopular because…

  • The raids were not always on Viet Cong bases, and many civilians were killed – My Lai.
  • Many US troops walked into traps set for them.
  • Very high casualty rate.       For every Viet Cong weapon captured there was a body count of 6.
  • It pushed civilians towards supporting the Viet Cong.


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