As an avid fan of military history, I would agree, but with stipulations.

Vietnam was the first truly modern military we fielded, where we didn’t show up late to the game with old toys.

If you look at WWII, other than the M1 Garand, much of our early WWII weapons were lagging behind German military technology.  Arguably, even the Garand wasn’t as good as it could have been because the Army wanted to use up its stash of 30 cal from WWI so we didn’t get a higher capacity, intermediate cartridge M1 like Garand wanted.

There was a large isolationist push going into WWII, and so our military developed lagged behind.

Once we committed to the war, we went in balls to the wall and caught up quick.

Vietnam was different.

Because of the Cold War, America was committed to maintaining a well trained and equipped standing army.

It had its hiccups, but what we fielded in Vietnam was incredibly well prepared.

But Vietnam was also a turning point.

The Military Industrial Complex was born from WWII any by Vietnam was in full swing.

Vietnam marked the first time career officers rose through the ranks alongside military contractors.  It was also the first war that combined the military with a strategic intelligence community (CIA and DIA).

Lastly, it was the first war shown on nightly American TV.

Consequently, it was the first war in which the interests were more than generals achieving tactical victories and defeating the enemy.

While our troops on the ground may have been outperforming the Viet Cong tactically, the war was undermined politically and by officers who has post military careers in the MIC private sector.

That cancer in our military began in Vietnam and has metastasized since then and is now killing our military from the inside.


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By J. Kb

22 thoughts on “The US army of Vietnam was a turning point”
  1. It was also the first ‘war’ run remotely and controlled by the bean counters. McNamara et al were approving individual strikes and tactical maneuvers based on KIA rates and body counts (which is why they would put Army/Marines on a hill at dawn, then pull them back at dusk to do the same thing the next day).

  2. My father served during the Vietnam war. He was very bitter about it. As a naval officer he talked about how the RoE were so sickening. I remember him showing me a picture of a bridge that had been bombed. For political reasons, only half of the bridge could be bombed and it cost lives to be that precise.

    He talked, years later when he could legally do so, of his ship coming into range of the MIGs the North was flying and watching the MIGs keep moving away and ground just before they were within range.

    His ship didn’t fire a single SA during their tour but while on tour no MIGs flew.

    I think he was the person that explained to me how our troops didn’t lose battles but often gave back the ground they captured shortly after capturing it.

    It wasn’t until years later I learned just how well we actually did in Vietnam in spite of the people at the top trying to lose.

  3. “Best Army”?!?

    McNamara’s Hundred Thousand would like to have a word with you.

    Then we’ll bring up the race riots and abysmal race relations on posts from ’67-’79, and the rampant drug use in the ranks for decades afterwards, that had to be cleansed with a blowtorch before we had anything like a professional military again.

    It literally took 20 years, until the mid-1980s, to un f**k the Army and all the services after what Vietnam did to them.

    The Army (or armed forces) of the VN era were probably our second sorriest, beaten out only by the ragamuffin collection of summer soldiers at the beginning of our War For Independence.

    No one who saw the military in general, or the Army in particular, from ’66-’80 in person would ever put them on a list, except of “places not to be”. Everywhere outside of ‘Nam, the force was hollowed, as was widely acknowledged within and without the service, and a paper tiger, and while we wasted blood and treasure in rice paddies, the Soviets built tank armies by the division.

    You can make a case for certain units at certain places living up to the glory of more hallowed eras, but only someone who’s forgotten “fragging”, units openly mutinying in the field, 30-60% of combat unit rosters on dope, officers and NCOs having to wear sidearms 24/7, and worse, would ever look fondly on that era, save from either total ignorance of what was what, or nostalgia eclipsing the hard reality of the situation on the ground.

    If it wasn’t for a very thin hard core of WWII-era officers and NCOs holding the line, the entire lash-up would have slipped into the swamp of history, like the XVII, XVIII, and XIX Legions of Rome, destroyed in the Teutoberg Forest debacle, never to be reformed or rebuilt again.

      1. Uh huh.
        And your CNO’s kid from that era was so proud of the family business he joined the Marines instead. Right back at ya, Squiddly. ;p

        Receiving friendly fire, returning same with a smile.

        How many articles would you like to peruse from inside every military service house organ, cataloguing the abysmal quality of the manpower of the era? The chiefs and WOs whose service bridged that era still have nightmares about the horribilis annos from ’65-’75, and the legacy and service-wide malfunctions it took them another decade-plus to weed out and overcome.

        You want to talk about the 4th string DC pick-up crews that saved Forrestal, Enterprise, and even Liberty, from burning and sinking? ROWYBS. They were legendary.

        But you don’t have enough haze gray paint to cover up the monumental problems with drug abuse and atrocious discipline of the average service members in every service, and the skyrocketing number of NJPs and courts martial during that era. It was a national topic and a running sore for years.

        Say what you want about WWII and Korea sailors, but they never had to piss-test the entire ship’s company for drug use every time they made a port call until after the VN era.

        Facts is facts, no matter how embarrassing and uncomfortable they may be.

  4. WW2 hardware is an interesting discussion. The Germans could build big, heavy tanks because they were all shipped by rail. All US tanks had to fit in ships and were limited by the weight capacity of the shipyard cranes. Hence, we wound up with a medium tank that was inferior to the heavy German tanks is a one-in-one battle, but the Sherman was much more mechanically reliable, faster, and more fuel efficient. Patton used their speed and efficiency to great effect.

    US artillery was great. The 50 cal machine gun was great. Yes, the Germans had very advanced small arms, but they were so complex and expensive that they were limited in numbers, to the point that most German soldiers were still carrying bolt action rifles.

    As for Vietnam, McNamara and LBJ kept us from winning outright. Nixon bombed them to the peace table, and then the democrats gave away the peace after he resigned. Ugh. But the Vietnam war was but one battle in the greater Cold War, so it’s more of an example of losing the battle but winning the greater war.

    1. Oh don’t remind me… I just had *that* conversation on FB – people claiming the Sherman was a shitty tank and was an “infantry support tank” because it could not got toe to toe against a Tiger or Panther. Dafuq? NO tank could go toe to toe against a Tiger until the IS2 and even that one barely and as flawed as the Tiger.
      By that standard every German Panzer IV and every T34 was an “infantry sipport tank” -.-

      1. Of course, for the most part our Shermans weren’t facing Tigers and Panthers, because German industry couldn’t produce sufficient numbers.

        The thing most Wheraboos tend to forget is that all the Wunderwaffe was for the most part a mix of vaporware and beta versions, all in very limited production. During the last year or so of the war, most of the Wehrmacht was using obsolete or captured equipment (itself often obsolete).

        1. Interestingly enough it’s not Wheraboos – it’s just Sherman-haters 😀

          The Germans used captured equipment before they even participated in WW2, that had nothing to do with the last year. I would argue that in the last year they used *less* captured equipment because the foreign factories were no longer under their control (for french or czech stuff) and they couldn’t rely on captured stuff for spare parts.

          I think it was The Chieftain that pointed out, that the US encountered only 1, maybe 2, operational Tigers in france. Most Tiger encounters were by the Canadians and Brits. The US called everything a Tiger that gave them trouble just like the Germans called every KV1 a T34 ^^

      2. I understand. In war, logistics rule. Better to equip a large army primarily with one above-average battle rifle (M1 Garland) than to build a small number of many different advanced guns while under equipping the rest (the German army).

        The Sherman was fast, fuel efficient, easy to repair, and reliable, which are important factors for an army that’s on the offensive, fighting across an ocean and far from undamaged deep-water ports. Big, heavy, slow, troublesome, and VERY powerful tanks can be helpful when fighting on the defensive on home ground.

        And tank-to-tank battles were less common than many think. I assume that artillery, aircraft, and ground troops accounted for most German tank kills.

        1. The ability of a Sherman crew to egress very quickly following a Life Changing Event because Oh Bugger, The Tank Is On Fire* is another plus.
          Anyone who has ever tried to egress a Jagdpanzer 38 from the driver’s position can attest to that- I have.

          *stealing from the Chieftian’s Hatch channel here

    1. More like ‘we won the war, and then the politicians decided we lost and went into the negotiations as such.’

  5. Remember the North Vietnamese Easter Offensive in 1973? The ARVN bent, but did not break. The US supported them with USAF and Naval Air, and destroyed the NVA in the field. Two years later, the Democrat Congress decided the Evil South Vietnamese did not deserve any funding or support. Gerald Ford went to Congress to BEG for permission to support the Vietnamese and was turned down.

    The Democrats gave Southeast Asia away. The Genocide in Cambodia was inevitable after that.

  6. I thought that the Vietnam War was the worst the Democrat Party controlled Congress could ever do to lose a war. Then President Joe Biden happened to Afghanistan. At leasrt we successfully extracted US citizens from Vietnam.

    You do realize we will lose the next major war we fight? I only pray it does not go nuclear.

      1. Yes, as will our friends. If you want to think about a worst case scenario, consider red China conquering Taiwan. Remember that about 50% of all electronic chips is made there, and essentially all the high end chips that are the essential ingredients of computers and smartphones.
        Taiwan very badly needs a dose of the Swiss approach to national defense.

  7. The first war where the media lied to America, Walter Cronkite pretended to report the news while fronting an anti American agenda. The first war where the democrat party attacked America to advance their hold on power, coordinating and driving an anti war movement to destroy the Republicans in an effort to secure one party rule. The went so far as to declare the republican party dead after Removing Nixon and winning the next election.

Only one rule: Don't be a dick.

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