The Vietnam War: Three Life Lessons Learned

Photo by Tom Fisk

There are, indeed, no winners or losers in a war. War ushers out the best and worst in humanity. 

As we watch a mini T.V. series about the Vietnam War, it is a masterpiece. If you like History or War documentaries, a Vietnam war mini-series is one suggestion to add to your watch list. From the Vietnam War, there are plenty of valuable lessons to be learned that are worthwhile sharing.

Three Life Lessons From The Vietnam War

1. Fight smart. During the war, the United States had over 0.5 million troops, the most advanced tanks, APCs (armored personnel carriers), transport and attack helicopters, fitter jets, and an impeccable navy that outnumbered the NVA and Vietcong considerably. But the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) was patient; they picked the battles they wanted to fight; they waited for the troops to spread too thin before starting attacks; they dug in mountains months before and fortified their defenses. Then, they patiently waited until the arrival of the Americans; that was the case in both fights in Hill 1388 and Hill 818. It is essential to understand your strengths and weaknesses and plan accordingly to achieve victory.

2. Learn from your mistakes. If you are a war movie fanatic, it is somehow inevitable that you have watched the movie “We were soldiers,” which represents the first major battle between the American Infantry and the NVA.  

Even though NVA lost the battle, they learned a valuable lesson from the said battle: if you want to beat Americans, you have to get hold of their belts and kill them. The Vietcong and NVA should get closer to the American troops undetected to ensure they could utilize their fire superiority to be ineffective. After the first successful operation, the U.S. army commenced various raids like the one in Ia Drang Valley. All ended in miserable fiascos due to the lessons learned in Ia Drang Valley by the NVA. As they say, it is not about how hard you can hit. It is about how solidly you can get hit and continue charging forward.

3. To succeed, dedication to winning is a must. Significant common grounds for the U.S. and Vietnamese forces were their desire to win and their willingness to sacrifice. For the Vietcong and NVA, it was their motherland, and they were much prepared to offer their lives to victory during later parts of the war; most of the U.S. troops it was led by the love of the country.

During the war effort, NVA used a slender trail to provide logistics and troops towards the south and bring the wounded back to the North, known as the Ho-Chi-Minh trail, which was consistently bombed by the U.S. air force to stop the logistics and troops flow. However, the North Vietnamese people were determined after an airstrike to repair the road quickly to sustain the traffic moving, then the same place was hit again. They restored the road repeatedly, which was vital for the war effort unless that commitment North could have very quickly fallen. 

Grey Feathers’ book on Actual Operations during the Vietnam War is a window proof of this specific war scene. The story is about the 3rd Battalion, 12th Infantry, 4th Division serving in the Republic of South Vietnam from 1967-1970. The story is derived from operation reports, battle scenes, magazine articles, interviews, and experience incurred in battle conditions. The book describes the events and shows how unselfish and brave the unit responded to overcome enemy advances. It also shows the difficulties of decision-making under fire. The pressures of battle forced quick decisions and movements. Each man earned their grey feather, which was a symbol of each being brave in adverse conditions. They all watch each other’s back and ensure that all hostilities are met honorably and with force.

Final Thoughts

As has been said, there has never been a noble war except in history books and propaganda movies. It is a dirty, cruel, bloody, costly mistake in every case, as it was in this war that would end so savagely. But brave soldiers can often be selfless, noble, and honorable. They do not fight for a flag, a president, or mom and pineapple pie. When it comes down to it, they fight hard and die for each other, which is reason enough for them and all of us.

War is a crime as it brings devastation and distraction to this world. Yes, there are no winners or losers in a war since war brings out the worst and best in humanity. The essential thing is to learn your lesson from the past and move forward, bearing in mind that we should try to avoid war at all costs.

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