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Old 02-06-2010, 09:17 PM
 
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Here's something I'd like some opinions on. In 1950, the USA was forced to deal with the fact that North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel and attempted to take over the entire Korean Peninsula. The United States poured its military forces into this conflict and eventually obtained a ceasefire with the North Koreans. The result today: A very prosperous nation known as South Korea is a member of the modern community of nations. Compared to other Asian countries, the people in South Korea enjoy a relatively high standard of living and some political freedom. In essence, the US won in Korean Conflict.

Contrast this with Vietnam. The United States poured its military forces in the Vietnamese conflict and fought for over a decade. We made a larger, longer, and more expensive effort than we did in Korea. The result? The North took over South Vietnam within a short period after we ended active military support. The US clearly lost in the Vietnam Conflict.

What were the differences in the two conflicts that lead to two utterly different results? I have some ideas, but I would like to hear yours.
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Old 02-06-2010, 09:39 PM
 
Location: North Beach, MD on the Chesapeake
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The South Koreans were our allies and had bought into the fight. Many South Viet Namese did not. As far as I can determine there was never an indigenous guerrilla movement in South Korea as there was in South Viet Nam with the Viet Cong, who started out fighting the French.
The Viet Nam War also started as an anti-colonial war against the French while the Koreans had not been colonized by Europeans, although the Japanese had conquered them in the early 1900s.
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Old 02-06-2010, 10:22 PM
 
Location: Houston, texas
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In korea, communist tried to defeat the us with sheer numbers. North korea could not defend themselves effectively, so china sent more than a million troops. Each side fought most of their battles on open ground. This gave america the strategic advantage because of its superior air power and more technologically advanced weapons.Battles tended to be quick and fierce, resulting in an effective campaign for the americans that drove the communist back to the original line of division.Vietnam on the other hand, resorted to guerilla warfare given its smaller fighting force and environment.The vietnamese had an expanded network of tunnels stretching more than 250 kilometers. Most of the tunnels were invincible to air strikes.The vietnamese turned the war into the peoples war.The chinese mainly fought the us in korea without much popular support of the people. In vietnam everyone joined the war effort.Americans had no way of telling between neutral civilians and the viet cong supporters.The timing and idealogical justifications for the wars also contributed to the differing moral support the us troops recieved.
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Old 02-06-2010, 10:41 PM
 
48,508 posts, read 88,602,322 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markg91359 View Post
Here's something I'd like some opinions on. In 1950, the USA was forced to deal with the fact that North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel and attempted to take over the entire Korean Peninsula. The United States poured its military forces into this conflict and eventually obtained a ceasefire with the North Koreans. The result today: A very prosperous nation known as South Korea is a member of the modern community of nations. Compared to other Asian countries, the people in South Korea enjoy a relatively high standard of living and some political freedom. In essence, the US won in Korean Conflict.

Contrast this with Vietnam. The United States poured its military forces in the Vietnamese conflict and fought for over a decade. We made a larger, longer, and more expensive effort than we did in Korea. The result? The North took over South Vietnam within a short period after we ended active military support. The US clearly lost in the Vietnam Conflict.

What were the differences in the two conflicts that lead to two utterly different results? I have some ideas, but I would like to hear yours.

You named them yourself. One a truce in which one nhation keep ties with the US. The other nation that loss and keep no ties. The only thing they now have going is that they allow travel into and out of vietnam and many relatives that live in the USA.
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Old 02-06-2010, 11:09 PM
 
Location: Iowa
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The guy we pushed to lead the South Vietnamese Army was Catholic, however most people in Vietnam are Budists. He did not have mass appeal like Ho Chi Minh did. Vietnam was tired of foreign occupation and desired independence, Ho Chi Minh kept up the pressure. You can't fight a war inching into it and expect your enemy won't be able to counter act all your moves. Bombing them into the stone age didn't work, only set them back about three weeks. The Jungle, the tunnels, the tactics, all were in the favor of Ho CHi Minh's army fighting on their terms when the timing was right. The GI's just wanted to get the hell outta there, they never re-enlisted and took their valuable experience home with them when their "tour" was over.
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Old 02-07-2010, 01:05 AM
 
Location: San Diego CA
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Good reply by Soupson1. Korea was mostly conventional World War II warfare that American armed forces excelled at and brought to bear on the Koreans and Chinese who used the same tactics but at a lesser skill level. The United States continued conventional warfare against the North Vietnamese who didn't play by the rules and incorporated both conventional and guerrilla fighting styles. To some extent we still seem to be caught up in a conventional war mindset in the current conflict with terrorists.
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Old 02-07-2010, 10:11 AM
 
Location: Fairfield, CT
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markg91359 View Post
Here's something I'd like some opinions on. In 1950, the USA was forced to deal with the fact that North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel and attempted to take over the entire Korean Peninsula. The United States poured its military forces into this conflict and eventually obtained a ceasefire with the North Koreans. The result today: A very prosperous nation known as South Korea is a member of the modern community of nations. Compared to other Asian countries, the people in South Korea enjoy a relatively high standard of living and some political freedom. In essence, the US won in Korean Conflict.

Contrast this with Vietnam. The United States poured its military forces in the Vietnamese conflict and fought for over a decade. We made a larger, longer, and more expensive effort than we did in Korea. The result? The North took over South Vietnam within a short period after we ended active military support. The US clearly lost in the Vietnam Conflict.

What were the differences in the two conflicts that lead to two utterly different results? I have some ideas, but I would like to hear yours.
Geography. The South Koreans are on a peninsula, and had a short border to defend, where they could concentrate their forces. South Vietnam had a very long border to defend with North Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and the North Vietnamese infiltrated through all three countries.
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Old 02-07-2010, 01:43 PM
 
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The wars were very different as was the internal situation. In Korea the US fought a largely conventional war, not very different than World War II five years before. The South Korean population was commited to the US and its own governmenment before the war and remained so.

In Vietnam, the conflict was only conventional for brief periods, notably in the Tet Offensive. There were no lines, the most difficult task the US had was finding the enemy. Because there was no strategic objectives as such (other than the people, a vision largely ignored by Westmoreland) the campaign was one of attrition. The US philosophy was not to militarily defeat the NLF or eliminate their forces in Vietnam (which was essentially impossible given the balance of forces) but to convince NV that the war was unwinable by killing enemy units.

The Vietnamese government was corrupt, had limited support from its public, and was largely a creation of the US. Vietnam, unlike the situation in Korea was largely a civil war between different elements of the population. It should be noted this changed signficantly after Tet as many of the Viet Cong units were destroyed and NLF attrocities angered much of the population. By 1971 the war was largely a conventional conflict between North Vietnam and South Vietnam - a situation not all that different than Korea. But by then the US has essentially left except for air support and money.

The weapons in Vietnam, particularly late in the war were very different than Korea and helped (along with the terrain and irregular warfare) dictated very different tactics.
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Old 02-07-2010, 03:25 PM
 
Location: down south
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markg91359 View Post
Here's something I'd like some opinions on. In 1950, the USA was forced to deal with the fact that North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel and attempted to take over the entire Korean Peninsula. The United States poured its military forces into this conflict and eventually obtained a ceasefire with the North Koreans. The result today: A very prosperous nation known as South Korea is a member of the modern community of nations. Compared to other Asian countries, the people in South Korea enjoy a relatively high standard of living and some political freedom. In essence, the US won in Korean Conflict.

Contrast this with Vietnam. The United States poured its military forces in the Vietnamese conflict and fought for over a decade. We made a larger, longer, and more expensive effort than we did in Korea. The result? The North took over South Vietnam within a short period after we ended active military support. The US clearly lost in the Vietnam Conflict.

What were the differences in the two conflicts that lead to two utterly different results? I have some ideas, but I would like to hear yours.
Because Korean war was essentially amalgamation of civil war, US attempts to push back Communism expansion and Chinese war against US military advancing toward its border. It's a civil war means that there was a red line that both Koreans would not allow the other side to cross, but both sides also had their supporters among the population and land to develop from in the absence of armed conflicts, in another word, both side had something to lose, something to gain and something to keep, which created incentive to resort to war to grab what you want, but also incentive to settle with status quo once it's clear you can't get what you want via force.




For the US, the primary objective was to protect South Korea; For the Chinese, the primary objective was to protect North Korea. There was really no point for either side to fight to death over the unification of Korea. They got involved in the war primarily to protect their own geopolitical interest, not to help North Korea or South Korea realize their dream of unification. Sure, both side overreached, the US didn't heed Chinese warning against crossing the 38th parallel, as a result, Chinese forces intervened and pushed the US back. Chinese didn't realize they overran their supply line after they pushed US back deep into South Korea and occupied Seoul, they got pushed back too. At that moment, both sides realized that it's not worth the price to keep fighting over something that really didn't concern their strategic objective, sure, it's nice to have total victory, but it's also smart to reach an settlement with what you had (which was good enough for both sides.) Hence the eventual negotiation and ceasefire. Since Chinese and the US forces were the main fighting force, whatever gripe South and North Korea had against an settlement would not fundamentally derail the negotiating process after the two big boys decided to stop. And they also realized it's not in their interests to keep fighting. So they accepted it. (Nonetheless, the less than satisfactory result of Korean War, from North Korean perspective, forever sowed mistrust and schism between China&Soviet Union and North Korea, Kim believed he was betrayed by China&Soviet Union, which led him to eventually develop the "self-reliance" theory.)





Vietnam war, on the other hand, was not seen by Vietnamese as a civil war, it's essentially a continuation of struggle against French colonialism. It's different form Korean War in nature (if Korean war were Japanese forces fighting against North Korea, the legitimacy of whatever Korean government siding with the Japanese would be fatally weakened.). It's a zero-sum game with Vietnamese forces not willing to settle for anything but full unification under their terms.(and despite large sum of aid from Soviet Union and China, Ho Chi Minh was his own man, not anybody's pawn and it's his forces that did the most fighting. And he would be the man deciding if or when to stop fighting and settle for less, not outside powers.) For the US, this time was no different from Korean war strategically, it's still a war to prevent against spread of Communism influence. Only this time, there was no corresponding great power on the other side to plot out a compromise, so the US had to strive for win or leave in disarray, it couldn't win so it left in defeat. It's as simple as that, I don't think the nature of battle field tactics is determining factor here. It's conventional warfare for Korean war, but if the nature of the opposing sides changed, even if the US could defeat North Korea in conventional warfare, unconventional warfare would have commenced the second the US declared "mission accomplished".




Fundamentally, it's about politics, for Korea war, there was room for the US to compromise that wouldn't leave the US in a position to have to choose between total victory and total loss. For Vietnam war, there was no such room, so the US fought as hard as politics allowed, but eventually had to concede.
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Old 02-07-2010, 06:17 PM
 
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Vietnam war, on the other hand, was not seen by Vietnamese as a civil war,
Respectfully I think you get that exactly wrong. The conflict in Vietnam was overwhelmingly a civil war between communist and supporters of the US (commonly catholic) at least as late as 68. In contrast, while there were communist sympathisers in S Korea this was rare and irregular warfare was uncommon during the Korean war. It was essentially a conventional conflict, Vietnam an asymetric war among pro and anti communist forces that sucked in other states.

China did not intervene to protect N Korea per se. They intervened because they believed the US would not stop at the Yalu river, but would continue on into China. US support for the nationalist in the Chinese civil war and bellicose statements by people like McCarthur reinforced this view. Mao had little sympathy with N Korea (or for that matter the Soviet Union which had done little to assist him until very late in the day).
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