Vietcong Guerrilla tactics, 1964–1968

Vietcong Guerrilla tactics, 1964–1968

Vietminh Directives:

(1) Not to do what is likely to damage the land and crops or spoil the houses and belongings of the people.

(2) Not to insist on buying or borrowing what the people are not willing to sell or lend.

(3) Never to break our word.

(4) Not to do or speak what is likely to make people believe that we hold them in contempt.

(5) To help them in their daily work (harvesting, fetching firewood carrying water, sewing, etc.)

(6) In spare time, to tell amusing, simple, and short stories useful to the Resistance, but not to betray secrets.

(7) Whenever possible to buy commodities for those who live far from the market.

(8) To teach the population the national script and elementary hygiene.

These directives of the Vietminh offer an insight into the way that they approached Guerilla warfare. A key part of their tactics was to do as little as possible to upset the local population. There is a clear policy of trying to help villagers, to get them ‘on side’ so that the Vietminh can work in the area more effectively. Why was this neccessary? A guerilla campaign relies on reMyning hidden, often behind enemy lines, for much of the time. Working with the local population helps to make sure that they will be less likely to give the US forces information about the whereabouts of the enemy and means that tunnels and depots can be built close to villages.

Methods used by the Vietcong:

In Southern Vietnam the Vietcong operated in small cells of 8-10 men. These units would dig tunnels in and around towns and villages from where they could launch attacks. These tunnels had booby trapped entrances and often were sufficient in size to house bomb making factories, conference rooms and large stores. The largest of these tunnel systems were Iron Triangle and Cu Chi. The Cu Chi tunnel system contained over 200 miles of tunnel and was only 20 miles away from the South Vietnamese capital city, Saigon.

By laying out minefields the Vietcong made patrolling incredibly difficult for US forces as they would have to slowly clear a way through difficult terrain. This made the patrols easier targets for the Vietcong and resulted in some 10,000 US personnel having limbs severed by bombs. The Vietcong also made use of mines laid by US and Australian Forces! In 1967 the Australian Forces constructed a barrier and minefield some 11 kilometres long in an attempt to stop regular units of the NLF attacking from North Vietnam. The Vietcong, with the help of sympathetic local peasants, lifted many of these mines and relaid them on patrol routes, or in the case of M16 mines, they laid them close to roads and shot at them as patrols walked past – similar to moder day uses of roadside bombs.

These tunnel systems were regularly resupplied from North Vietnam. The Ho Chi Minh trail was a series of routes along the Vietnamese borders with Cambodia and Laos. It ran through dense jungle and was particularly difficult for US forces to patrol. In places the series of supply routes was 80 kilometres wide and in ttal the route ran for over 1000km in length. It is thought that some 40,000 people were involved in Myntaining the supply routes.

Battlefield Vietnam: Guerilla Tactics. Part of a larger exhibition about the war in Vietnam from PBS.

An Australian experience of Vietcong minefields.

Guerilla Tactics, from the Spartacus encyclopedia.

History Learning Site. Article about the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Conflicts in Asia, 1950-1975
Theory behind Guerrilla WarfareVietcong TacticsOperation Rolling Thunder, Agent Orange and Napalm
Mai Lai MassacreTrial of Lieutenant CalleyMedia Coverage of the Vietnam War
Anti-Vietnam War Protests in the United StatesKent State University Protest, 1970Fullbright Hearings, 1971
Tet OffensiveLaos and CambodiaParis Peace Conference: End of the Vietnam War
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