Max Hastings’s excellent history, Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, discusses one revealing engagement that took place between American and North Vietnamese forces in late March of 1971. This action—a ferocious assault on a remote firebase named Mary Ann—merits further reflection, I think, and we will give it its due here.Continue reading
Veterans of the Vietnam War have strong opinions of the fighting qualities of their adversaries. Some of them are open in their admiration for the enemy; other less so, even to the point of contempt. Some veterans consider them to be masters of deception, discipline, and skill; others scorn such talk as propaganda fueled by a hostile press and an ignorant public. The truth may be somewhere between these extremes. The VC and NVA may not have been the supermen legend made them out to be, but it cannot be denied that they won the war. Clearly they must have been doing something right.
Vo Nguyen Giap (1911-2013) was the architect of the Vietnamese victory in the “Second Indo-China War” (called in the United States the “Vietnam War”), which took place from 1960 to 1975. He must also be credited with winning the “First Indo-China War,” which was waged against the French from 1946 to 1954. He proved to be a master of both conventional and guerrilla tactics, and displayed an incredible single-mindedness and foresight in pursuing his objectives to ultimate victory.