The North Vietnamese (Viet Minh) army, which on paper lost everything to the United States (US) which wanted to take control of South Vietnam, was actually able to beat its opponents back.
Vietnam at that time was divided into two, namely North and South according to the Geneva Agreement after France lost the First Indochina War in July 1954.
At that time Vietnam was promised to have voters to unite them two years later, but the reality was nothing.
A year later Ngo Dinh Diem emerged as leader of South Vietnam supported by the US, while Ho Chi Minh continued to lead the communist state in North Vietnam.
Hanoi strategists admit that they never imagined they could finish off the US, even though in front of their enemies they said otherwise.
As communist propagandists put it, “The party-driven mass force” proved to be far more effective than the conventional military force brought in by the “Uncle Sam’s Country” armies.
The supreme commander of Vietnam’s military forces Vo Nguyen Giap at the time said the US was superior to its troops, but they did not understand its own strengths and weaknesses, which were different from Hanoi’s forces.
In this war that took place from November 1955 to April 30, 1975, Vietnam adopted the Dau Tranh strategy.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Douglas Pike explains, Dau Tranh is a tactic of using “people as a weapon of war”.
“The mystique that surrounds it includes the organization, mobilization and motivation of people. Violence is also needed but that is not the goal,” he said as quoted in the November 18, 2017 edition of the Daily Beast.
The aim of this strategy is to seize power by paralyzing society in special ways, namely assassination, propaganda, and guerrilla warfare combined with conventional military operations.
Summarized from BBC, Vietnam used PEG (Peasants, Enemy, Guerilla) acronym tactics against the US.
Peasants (farmers) were “recruited” by the Vietcong soldiers after behaving well to them, sometimes to the point of helping them in the fields.
Because, the Vietcong need food, protection, and shelter from farmers.
Vietcong itself is an acronym for Vietnam Cong-san or communist Vietnam, the term used by the US for the National Liberation Front (NLF) which was formed with the support of North Vietnam.
Enemy (the enemy) was Vietcong’s way of indoctrinating farmers that their fields would be reclaimed by the US and South Vietnam.
The peasants were instilled with the understanding that the Americans were colonizers like the French, but with more money and better weapons.
The Americans were there to rob the Vietnamese people of land and freedom.
Then they called South Vietnamese politicians and generals as puppets of the US and did not care about the welfare of the people.
The third strategy is Guerilla (guerrilla). The Vietcong always made sure they chose a battlefield that could be won.
Its weapons included spears, swords and explosives taken from US soldiers to ambush patrols. Traps were made of bamboo spikes, mines, grenades and bullets.
Vietcong does not wear uniforms and cannot be found in certain locations.
They had tunnels to escape into the forest, and their units were so small that if caught they couldn’t be tortured to get information about other soldiers.
All these strategies were combined with the resentment of those who had long been colonized.
The seeds of Vietnamese hatred of the colonialists have been planted since the French colonial period in 1887.
On the other hand, the regime in South Vietnam, which is inhabited by political elites, is attached to corruption and intrigue, and is not familiar with the peasants to solve various problems.
In addition to farmers, communist forces also include transport workers, building workers, soldiers, Vietcong agents working at the U.S. and South Vietnamese Army bases.
The course of the war By continuing to expand the Ho Chi Minh line as a main supply and support force from North Vietnam to the battlefields in the south, and deploying large numbers of troops in Cambodia and Laos, the Viet Minh succeeded in isolating the US in the battlefield in 1965-1968.
There was no other way to defeat the Vietcong in the South unless their supplies could be closed from the North.
The US Navy and Air Force briefly cut the route, but the number of troops and weaponry Vietcong brought to the South continued to increase almost every month from 1965-1967.
The climax was the Tet Offensive on January 31, 1968.
Every city big, small, and many major military installations in South Vietnam were attacked simultaneously by Vietcong which became a major disaster for Hanoi.
No less than 45,000 people died in this attack.
But the crucial aim of this attack was not to seize or defend territory.
Rather, the attack was aimed at destroying the mental state of the American public and its administration by exposing the failure of US strategy.
After 1968 Hanoi did not engage its regular forces in major combat, and almost entirely returned to guerrilla action by small units for about 2 years.
U.S. ground forces began to retreat in large numbers in mid-1969.
President Richard Nixon at the time expanded the war to Laos and Cambodia, killing tens of thousands of people but did not dampen Hanoi’s intention to continue the war until its final goal was achieved.
Two North Vietnamese leaders, Le Duan and Le Duc Tho, who were among the two toughest negotiators in diplomatic history, finally reached an agreement with the US and enemy forces agreed to withdraw all troops from Vietnam in March 1973.
Meanwhile units from North Vietnam were allowed to stay in South Vietnam.
Nixon then resigned in disgrace on August 9, 1974, and his successor, Gerald R Ford, was reluctant to continue Nixon’s promise to help South Vietnam with the strength of the US Air Force.
The war ended on April 30, 1975 with Operation Frequent Wind, to evacuate more than 7,000 US and Vietnamese civilians whose presence was “at risk” in various areas of Saigon.
They were transported by helicopter.
That day around 8 am the last US troops to lift their legs from Saigon and end the Vietnam and Vietcong wars finally took control of Saigon.
A few days earlier Major Harry G Summers of the US Army said to his opponent in North Vietnam, “You know you never beat us on the battlefield.”
Colonel Tu of the Vietnam People’s Army replied, “Maybe so, but maybe not.” (*)
This article was published on Kompas.com by title “The War Story: Dau Tranh’s Secret Tactics That Silenced the US in the Vietnam War”