why was the vietnam war so difficult
There were 58,209 American deaths in the Vietnam war. 10,875 of them were not combat related. 1,207 died of drowning or suffocation
482 died of illness. 118 died of Malaria. 42 died from having a stroke. 22 died of Hepatitis. 382 committed suicide. Some came down with illness from exposure to Agent Orange. 1,326 died from misadventure. "A few were lucky enough to be stationed at a tropical posting and received jungle training before being sent to Vietnam" ( The Westheider, ". numerous miseries of jungle warfare: the heat, the humidity, the leeches and mosquitoes, and the darkness and claustrophobic environment created by thick, triple-canopy jungle" ( Westheider, "In a tropical or semitropical environment of triple-canopy forests, swamps, marshes, or densely forested mountains, tanks, aircraft, and even artillery are of little use" (Chambers, 354). Most soldiers in Vietnam were not adequately trained to even be there. They were fighting in the jungle- a place with dense foliage and swampland. The terrain in Vietnam was unfamiliar to the American soldiers. The swampy jungles they trudged through were infested with mosquitos that were carrying Malaria- a deadly disease.
The jungle was so dense that soldiers were not able to fight as they are used to; they had to learn jungle warfare. The US also used Agent Orange- a herbicide- to remove foliage so it would make it easier to navigate in the dense jungle. But, when one was exposed to contaminated Agent Orange, it can cause severe health issues. The chemical that most affected people was Dioxin- "arguably the most toxic chemical ever found" (Campbell). When food was contaminated with Agent Orange that contained this chemical, it was basically poison. Exposure to it can cause long-term health problems such as cancer. Even though it may have made walking through the dense jungle easier, it caused many people to die or become ill. Recently, Seaholm had a guest come in- Coach Spice - a Vietnam veteran. He spoke about his experience in Vietnam and mentioned one important thing- Punji traps. He described them as such: a hole dug into the ground with sharpened bamboo sticks at the bottom. They would be covered with leaves or branches so that they blended in so well with the surrounding ground that they were just about invisible. Coach Spice was a helicopter door gunner- somebody who would sit in the open door of a helicopter and shoot down the enemy.
During the Vietnam war, helicopters were the main source of transportation. Tanks were basically useless when it came to Vietnam's landscape which was composed of jungle, deltas, rice paddies, and hills. He told a story of how once he was picking up a squad and was about to leave when he saw that one person was left behind- injured. He unhooked himself and then ran towards the man who was just emerging from the woods, picking him up, and bringing him back to the helicopter. If he had not gotten up and saved him, that man would've died right then and there. Although Coach Spice didn't need to worry about this since he was in the air, soldiers fighting on the ground had to worry about ambushes. The Vietnamese would hide in the trees, the dense foliage, anything that would camouflage them (which was easy to do due to the jungle), and then when they saw American soldiers walking through, they would attack them while they were off their guard. David Lee, a Vietnam war veteran, said that a mountain, Nui Ba Din, was 3200 feet rising high rising all alone in an area that was otherwise flat. He also mentioned that "the jungle prevented us from seeing the enemy and the swamps where every step required you to pull one leg out of 3ft of mud and slide about 3 inches forward while the other leg sank in 3 ft of mud. " Jeff Butler served in Vietnam and was stationed at Can Tho Army Airfield.
He said that "the rain forest prevented military units from traditional maneuvering. ". Although civilians joined the Vietcong which made identification of enemies difficult, this alone was only one factor that made the ground war difficult. PThe United States sent plenty of ground troops -- but these were young conscripts, not professional troops, who were fighting an offensive war, as opposed to the Vietcong, who were fighting for their homes. PThe United States also possessed superior military technology, and completely controlled the airspace over the country. Although the bombings inflicted by the United States did widespread damage, they did not stop the Vietcong from fighting. PHad they been on their own, the US certainly would have overrun the country, but the fact that China backed the North Vietnamese, sending an endless supply of men and materiel caused the US to eventually lose the war.
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