Search And Destroy Vietnam Essay

Essay about Why the U.S. Withdrew Its Forces from Vietnam in 1973

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Why the U.S. Withdrew Its Forces from Vietnam in 1973

The USA’s involvement in Vietnam started in 1954, for a few reasons. Firstly, the Americans were, as always, concerned with the spread of communism. They wanted to stop communism spreading through south-east Asia. They were worried that if one country were to fall to a communist leader, so would neighbouring countries. This was known as the Domino Theory. These reasons for joining the war in Vietnam and the fact that the United States did not want to appear weak were the main reasons that the USA withdrew forces from Vietnam so late, as it took from 1968 when peace talks were made with North Vietnam until 1973 when the majority of soldiers…show more content…

Events such as this along with many others, such as My Lai, search and destroy missions, and the use of chemical warfare by the USA, were all exposed by media coverage. This and the change in public opinions about the war were the most significant reasons for the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. The Vietnam War was the first to ever have full media coverage due to the improvement in technology. People were able to see exactly how awful this was really was, not only for their own soldiers but for the north-Vietnamese especially. The coverage was particularly one-sided, showing how awfully the US army was behaving. The US public were becoming unnerved by the actions of their young soldiers, who were being seen to destroy homes, set fires to areas, and massacre villages. The terrible use of napalm bombs was exposed and an extremely famous and shocking photo was published showing a young girl covered in napalm jelly. The public were also shocked when witnessing the execution of a Vietcong suspect in 1968, live on television. These examples of the media coverage show how the USA could have been led to believe that American troops were doing awful things and that the war should be ended. This one-sided media coverage led to actions being taken by the public to force the

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For other uses, see Search and destroy (disambiguation).

Search and Destroy, Seek and Destroy, or even simply S&D, refers to a militarystrategy that became a large component of the Malayan Emergency and the Vietnam War. The idea was to insert ground forces into hostile territory, search out the enemy, destroy them, and withdraw immediately afterward. The strategy was the result of a new technology, the helicopter, which resulted in a new form of warfare, the fielding of air cavalry,[1] and was thought to be ideally suited to counter-guerrillajungle warfare. The complementary conventional strategy, which entailed attacking and conquering an enemy position, then fortifying and holding it indefinitely, was known as "clear and hold" or "clear and secure." In theory, since the traditional methods of "taking ground" could not be used in this war, a war of attrition would be used, eliminating the enemy by the use of "searching" for them, then "destroying" them, and the "body count" would be the measuring tool to determine the success of the strategy of "search and destroy."


The British conducted search and destroy operations in effort to flush out communist insurgents in the jungles during the early years of the Malayan Emergency. The Ferret Force, which was formed in 1948, became an important intelligence provider to the British military. The objective was to contact with native locals and intelligence as to the whereabouts of communist insurgents. With the information the captured persons provided, British troops would use search and destroy as a tactic in effort to flush out the insurgents. Once the communist guerrillas had been flushed out by search and destroy missions, they would be harried by denial of food and medical supplies, perhaps by surrendered enemy personnel willing to cooperate with the British, and eventually induced to surrender, tempted into betrayal, or killed off by a precise military strike, usually an ambush.

In the end, many British officials suspected that the search and destroy didn't work out well because the way it was conducted was in a brutalized way. British troops often set fire to villages accused of supporting the insurgents, detaining thousands of suspected collaborators, and in order to deny the insurgents cover. British units that discovered civilians providing assistance to insurgents were to detain and interrogate them to discover the location of insurgent camps. Insurgents had numerous advantages over British forces; they lived in closer proximity to villagers, they sometimes had relatives or close friends in the village, and they were not afraid to threaten violence or torture and murder village leaders as an example to the others, forcing them to assist them with food and information. British forces thus faced a dual threat: the insurgents and the silent network in villages who, willingly or unwillingly, supported them. While the insurgents rarely sought out contact with British forces, they did use terrorist tactics to intimidate civilians and elicit material support. British troops often described the terror of jungle patrols; in addition to watching out for insurgent fighters, they had to navigate difficult terrain and avoid dangerous animals and insects. Many patrols would stay in the jungle for days, even weeks, without encountering the enemy and then, in a brief moment, insurgents would ambush them. British forces, unable to distinguish from friend to foe, had to adjust to the constant risk of an insurgent attack. These instances led to the infamous incident at Batang Kali where 24 unarmed villagers were killed by British troops.[2][3]


Search and destroy became an offensive tool, crucial to GeneralWilliam Westmoreland’s second phase during the Vietnam War. In his three phase strategy, the first consisted of slowing down the Viet Cong; the second was to resume the offensive and destroy the enemy; the third was to restore the area under South Vietnamese government control. The Zippo missions were mainly assigned to the second phase around 1966 and 1967, along with “Clear and Secure” operations.

Search and destroy missions entailed sending out platoons, companies, or larger detachments of US troops from a fortified position to locate and destroy Vietcong or NVA units in the countryside. These missions most commonly involved hiking out into the "boonies" and setting an ambush in the brush, near a suspected VC trail. The ambush typically involved the use of fixed Claymore antipersonnel mines, crossing lines of small arms fire, mortar support, and possibly additional artillery support called in via radio from a nearby firebase.

In February 1967, some of the largest Zippo missions were conducted in the Iron Triangle, located between Saigon and Routes 13 and 25. The area consisted of a mass centre of Viet Cong logistics and headquarters, with some of the most high-ranking NLF officials stationed there. The offensive began with Operation Junction City, where the American units assigned had destroyed hundreds of tons of rice, killed 720 guerrillas, and captured 213 prisoners. However, number of defenders in the Iron Triangle area was thought to be over 10,000. The offensive failed to destroy the NLF's headquarters or capture any high-ranking officers, therefore having little effect toward Hanoi's plan. Both Search and Destroy and Clearing missions stretched into the third phase beginning in 1968. The number of missions mounted, especially after the U.S. was hit by General Vo Nguyen Giap’s Tet offensive attack of 1968. As the war grew more aggressive, so did the missions, to the point where there was lack of distinction between Search and Destroy, and Clear and Secure operations.

Search and destroy missions had many flaws. First, there was lack of distinction between “clearing” and search and destroy missions. Thus “clearing” missions, which were less aggressive, eventually morphed into a more violent and brutal form of tactic just as search and destroy missions were. With the lack of distinction between “clearing” and search and destroy missions, pacification was not pushed. Guenter Lewey, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, argued that the generals and war planners severely underestimated the enemy’s abilities to match and exceed U.S. forces.[4] Large numbers of Viet Cong troops would be killed or captured, but they were quickly replaced. Although enemy forces were initially pushed out of certain territories, as soon as the American forces left the areas, they simply returned with more reinforcements and weapons.

The effectiveness of the missions is also doubtful. In one of the first Search and Destroy missions northwest of Dau Tieng, named Operation Attleboro, a U.S. report states that 115 U.S. soldiers were killed, while the North Vietnamese lost 1,062. In Operation Junction City, the report also states that 282 U.S. soldiers were killed while the Viet Cong lost 1,728 guerrillas. These figures, however, should be considered in light of the methods by which they were obtained. The estimates were almost exclusively gathered by indirect means: sensor readings, sightings of secondary explosions, reports of defectors or POWs, and inference or extrapolation.[5]


Further reading[edit]

US soldiers search Vietnamese homes for Vietcong guerrillas.

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