The Vietnam War: Reasons for Failure – Why the U.S. Lost


In the post-war era, Americans struggled to absorb the lessons of the military intervention. About the book:

As General Maxwell Taylor, one of the principal architects of the war, noted, “First, we didn’t know ourselves. We thought that we were going into another Korean War, but this was a different country. Secondly, we didn’t know our South Vietnamese allies… And we knew less about North Vietnam. Who was Ho Chi Minh? Nobody really knew. So, until we know the enemy and know our allies and know ourselves, we’d better keep out of this kind of dirty business. It’s very dangerous.”

Some have suggested that “the responsibility for the ultimate failure of this policy [America’s withdrawal from Vietnam] lies not with the men who fought, but with those in Congress…” Alternatively, the official history of the United States Army noted that “tactics have often seemed to exist apart from larger issues, strategies, and objectives. Yet in Vietnam the Army experienced tactical success and strategic failure… The…Vietnam War…legacy may be the lesson that unique historical, political, cultural, and social factors always impinge on the military…Success rests not only on military progress but on correctly analyzing the nature of the particular conflict, understanding the enemy’s strategy, and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of allies. A new humility and a new sophistication may form the best parts of a complex heritage left to the Army by the long, bitter war in Vietnam.”

U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote in a secret memo to President Gerald Ford that “in terms of military tactics, we cannot help draw the conclusion that our armed forces are not suited to this kind of war. Even the Special Forces who had been designed for it could not prevail.” Even Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara concluded that “the achievement of a military victory by U.S. forces in Vietnam was indeed a dangerous illusion.”

Doubts surfaced as to the effectiveness of large-scale, sustained bombing. As Army Chief of Staff Harold Keith Johnson noted, “if anything came out of Vietnam, it was that air power couldn’t do the job.” Even General William Westmoreland admitted that the bombing had been ineffective. As he remarked, “I still doubt that the North Vietnamese would have relented.”

The inability to bomb Hanoi to the bargaining table also illustrated another U.S. miscalculation. The North’s leadership was composed of hardened communists who had been fighting for independence for thirty years. They had defeated the French, and their tenacity as both nationalists and communists was formidable. Ho Chi Minh is quoted as saying, “You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours…But even at these odds you will lose and I will win.”

The Vietnam War called into question the U.S. Army doctrine. Marine Corps General Victor H. Krulak heavily criticised Westmoreland’s attrition strategy, calling it “wasteful of American lives… with small likelihood of a successful outcome.” In addition, doubts surfaced about the ability of the military to train foreign forces.

Between 1965 and 1975, the United States spent $111 billion on the war ($686 billion in FY2008 dollars). This resulted in a large federal budget deficit.

More than 3 million Americans served in the Vietnam War, some 1.5 million of whom actually saw combat in Vietnam. James E. Westheider wrote that “At the height of American involvement in 1968, for example, there were 543,000 American military personnel in Vietnam, but only 80,000 were considered combat troops.” Conscription in the United States had been controlled by the President since World War II, but ended in 1973.”

By war’s end, 58,220 American soldiers had been killed, more than 150,000 had been wounded, and at least 21,000 had been permanently disabled. According to Dale Kueter, “Sixty-one percent of those killed were age 21 or younger. Of those killed in combat, 86.3 percent were white, 12.5 percent were black and the remainder from other races.” The youngest American KIA in the war was PFC Dan Bullock, who had falsified his birth certificate and enlisted in the US Marines at age 14 and who was killed in combat at age 15. Approximately 830,000 Vietnam veterans suffered symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. An estimated 125,000 Americans fled to Canada to avoid the Vietnam draft, and approximately 50,000 American servicemen deserted. In 1977, United States President Jimmy Carter granted a full, complete and unconditional pardon to all Vietnam-era draft dodgers. The Vietnam War POW/MIA issue, concerning the fate of U.S. service personnel listed as missing in action, persisted for many years after the war’s conclusion.



  1. A political loss ! A fumble in and around the political platform throughout country and throughout the countries that had sworn allegiance to the United States of America!! Militarily, , and as firepower are concerned, of course the United States of America had a huge upper hand and an advantage in the likes in which the entire country,south and north had not seen outside the borders of Vietnam

  2. They where never in it to win it ,just pure population control ,or government holds seminars on population control, wars ,drugs,disease , and religion, are all part of there doctrine, in China they limit the numbers of children you can have,the USA they bump you off and make money at the same time.

  3. Defeat ? That war destroyed the Russian SAM system.
    If you don't know the reason for the war.
    Why are you talking shit ?

    The reason waa PAVNs battle order.
    PAVN :
    700,000 NVA
    330,000 PLA
    220,000 VC.
    There were more PLA in Vietnam than VC.
    The whole reason for the war.
    The excursion of the PLA into Sth East Asia.
    Otherwise no one would have cared.

    What defeat this idiot is crapping on about is anyones guess.
    Saigon served its purpose by impaling PAVN for 15 years on one city. Destroying its ability to to expand into the Malay peninsula.

    How do Frosty know.
    The carrier force used in the Malay emergency. It wasn't British. Niether were the troops.

    The major battles of Vietnam.
    Operation Coburg. Battle of Coral Balmoral. Battle of Hat Dich. Battle of Binh Ba.

    We will easily do that again. We only needed one brigade to damage the communist cause beyond repair.

    And we will fucking do it again no problem and they know it.

  4. Perhaps the biggest reason: The USA had a bloated image of their self-worth. Americans duped themselves into believing that they defeated the Nazis, when really it was the Soviet Union.

  5. Choose between war by sadistic clans or peace to sadism and cruelty by clans in their wars about food and drugs, the invention of worldwar and holocaust by cruelty and sadism to animals and humanbeings as the torture of animals, and humanbeings is as the invention by scientists which will go on in torture of animals and even children, so beware "sluts", which want to escape war and violence, torture, brutality and sadism and organised violence and cruelty, will have no chance, "sluts" feeling empathy for the terrorised and tortured, will get tortured, chased and hunted to death, there is no empathy to expect by torturers of animals and humanbeings, by haters of all animals and humanbeings as are psychiatrists in their landgrabbery by torturing, beating, chasing hunting animals and humanbeings, this war and violence and sadistic cruelty fleeing animals and humanbeings, this "sluts" away.

  6. Banyak tentera usa mati macam binatang di dalam hutan veitnam akibat terkena jerangkap samar sebab mereka sama sekali tidak tahu pasal hutan….mereka cuma tahu buat filem lucah sahaja😂..tentera usa cuma berani bunuh orang awam & mengharap dengan senjata canggih mereka sahaja,kemudian sebarkan cerita palsu konon nya mereka menang padahal ribuan bekas tentera usa menganggap hutan veitnam adalah 'mimpi ngeri' yg mereka tidak akan lupa sampai mati..

  7. The US lost the Vietnam war because the N. Vietnamese and Viet Cong were better. They certainly had a better sense of purpose and fought better. The US has a hard time accepting that and prefers making excuses.

  8. The reason why America lost was because there was not enough 🇵🇷infantry men. 🇵🇷 volunteered the most soldiers and where willing and able to go to war. No need for a draft for 🇵🇷. The draft was for you vaginas in the mainland who aren’t 🇵🇷. PR won FIVE medal of honors, five distinguished service crosses, the second highest Army decoration, two navy crosses which is the second highest decoration of the Navy. Thousands of Purple Hearts, the most decorated soldier in Vietnam: Carlos Barreta, from Vega Baja 🇵🇷. 48,000 PR from the island served, that’s not even counting the stateside born PR’s. All from an island that is only 100×35 miles, with less than 4 million in population. The SpartaRicans in Vietnam WOOPING ass, while you Athenians in the states where getting chopped up and hung from trees by the Vietcong. Que VIVA PUERTO RICO THE MOST SERVED AND DECORATED ETHNIC GROUP IN ALL OF AMERICA…..BY LIGHT YEARS. So while all you haters talk shit…we all know who has the MAS GRANDES COHONES up in this bitch!!! 💪🏼🇵🇷💪🏼🇵🇷💪🏼🇵🇷🇺🇸

  9. Basically America was right to intervene in Vietnam. Because if we didn’t, the killing fields reality would have happened in 1955 and not 1975 and beyond.


  11. Dear all people around the world. I am a young Vietnamese, the next generation after the Vietnam War. I am the only son in a Viet Cong family but later graduated from The United Kingdom university. So, as a young generation, who have lived through the hard time of economic break down after the war and was educated both under the communist and capitalist system. Therefore, my point of view is pure and respectful to history, because history never lied. If anyone watched the series of document movies “The Vietnam War” 2017 by Ken Burns would may share the same feeling as myself. I have discovered my own understanding about my country ‘s war. And deep down I feel so sad and so sorry for all people had lost their lives including North & South Viet Nam and the American soldiers. In war, there is no victory but only left the scar of sadness and despair, grief and sorrow… I have great respect to the veterans from our country soldiers and the American soldiers. Buddhism had taught us vengeance only cause hatred, only love and compassion can make peace. These days, many people still debate and make argument about that war. But for me, I have seen very clearly all things were cause and effect, ego and individual conspiracy. And above all, patriotism is very complex, that makes everyone of us always loves our own country. I am also proud of my nation, a small country loving peace but accidentally had war within 2000 years with many giant invaders. But the Vietnam War is gone nearly 4 decades, and I am happy that today people keep coming to my country and has better understand about my country. Yes, somethings never be forgotten but they can be all forgiven if we let it go. If you watch the movie in the last episode, 15 minutes last part you could see after all, the humanity survives and still lives inside each of us. Both Viet Nam veterans and American veterans had stood together like brother in war even though they were former enemy. So, that made the light in the end of the tunnel finally bright, that is light of hope, forgiveness and love. Today, Vietnam and the US finally partnership in term of commercial and may be soon strategic partner. All those things are happening right now was a vision of Ho Chi Minh which be seen nearly century ago, when he first wrote a letter to president Truman. But unluckily things never went well as we expected. Ho Chi Minh is our great father and he is a nationalist. His legacy would want the future generation to be independence – freedom – happiness. So, I do hope that the young generation of Vietnam would carry out his vision to establish the new glory journey with the young American and other countries. It times let the past behind and look for the future. I am also thanking to the internet and social media nowadays could give people a general and true data about what was going on, why was that happening? And the hidden charms of Vietnam await you with full hospitality and kindness. Thanks everybody read my so long comment. God bless you all.

  12. If everyone had the time to watch Ken Burns "Vietnam" all the answers are in it, including interviews with Viet Song commanders never before allowed to speak. Or you can simply read The Pentagon Papers, we were lied to by the government Generals telling Johnson ("Things are not going well" )Johnson going on TV telling everyone it was.

  13. I like how they actually think they won WW2. The most puffed up bullies with no cred. Useless fighters. Got flogged in Nam. Got flogged in Iraq Afganistan and Korea.

  14. In video "RR7522A VIETNAM SAIGON THE COMMUNISTS TAKEOVER" on the same topic (, at 04:17 the Saigon Regime's soldier says "Everybody is happy!" with another face smiling broadly next to him.

    # How true, at least for (I'd estimate) 99.9% of the Vietnamese people!

    # Prime Minister of Australia Mr Gough Whitlam was among the few westerners who voiced the OBVIOUS TRUTH (in contrast to many other who knew this truth but chose not to say it, or worse even colluded with the rich and powerful US Government to wage an extremely barbaric invading conquering immoral unjust war on the Vietnamese people in an attempt to impose a new colonialism [after the failure of the French's old colonialism] on Vietnam)

    # Mr Gough Whitlam said (I saw it on the internet some years ago, but sorry I did not write down any info; it was in one of the interviews he gave; I just remember him saying so) "THE VIETNAMESE SIMPLY WANTED THEIR INDEPENDENCE."

    # That's why they kept on fighting the almighty US war machine against all odds, with tremendous sacrifice and suffering, and unbelievable hardship and difficulties; that's why they resolutely fought off the expansionist Deng XiaoPing – Mao ZeDong's Chinese invasion combined with the genocidal Khmer Rouge's Pol Pot attacks (supported by the vengeful US Administration)

    If you don't speak Vietnamese, maybe the English interpretation below helps.

    # Vietnamese saying: Giặc đến nhà, đàn bà cũng đánh! English: Enemy arriving to your home; women too fight!

    # To better understand Vietnamese women, look up for "Trưng sisters", "Lady Triệu (Triệu Thị Trinh)", “Võ Thị Sáu”, “Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai”, “Lê Thị Hồng Gấm”, “Đặng Thùy Trâm”, “Nguyễn Thị Út (Út Tịch)”, "Tạ Thị Kiều", "Nguyễn Thị Định", "Bùi Thị Xuân", …

    # Poem by Tố Hữu:

    O du kích nhỏ giương cao súng

    Thằng Mỹ lênh khênh bước cúi đầu

    Ra thế! To gan hơn béo bụng

    Anh hùng đâu cứ phải mày râu!

    # My attempt at English translation:

    Petite militia girl raising high her gun

    Towering American guy stoopingly walking, his head bent

    So! Big liver (courage) better than fatty stomach (big body)

    Heroes not having to be reserved just for men.

    # There was a happy ending to the "Petite militia girl and the towering American guy" photo: They (Nguyễn Thị Kim Lai, 17 years old at the time the photo was taken on 20-09-1965, and American ex-pilot William Andrew Robinson, aged 22 then) met up again 30 years later, but this time as FRIENDS when Robinson came to visit Kim Lai at her home in Hà Tĩnh province in Central Vietnam (

  15. "Vietnam, America's longest war, its most costly war…" Right there is the reason for the 'war'. The longer it is the more costly it is, and here 'cost' is profit for corporations. This war was an exercise in wealth transfer, from US taxpayers to private corporations, both US and Japanese. Japanese because the Japanese 'economic miracle' of the 10960s was financed by the Vietnam 'War', with the Japanese zaibatsu supplying the US military with enormous quantities of equipment and materials throughout the conflict. It's interesting to note that the Japanese economy boomed during the VW period, but became stagnant within five years of the end of the conflict. This is not a coincidence. This is causal.

  16. US army actually coward..they brave when their air strike demolished everything..when they see no movement from their enemy side, they show off and pretend they are very brave..actually they are coward..


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