The Rules Of Engagement In The Vietnam War

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The Rules of Engagement

Christine Myers

DeVry University HIST 415

Preston Kuscan, Professor

Fall 2014

“Rules of Engagement are directives issued by competent military authority that delineate the circumstances and limitations under which United States forces will initiate and/or continue combat engagement with other forces encountered.”(Pilsch 2002). When fighting battle you have to have a plan in place that protects not only the people fighting the war but civilians who otherwise would be safe if a battle were not being fought around them. ROE (Rules of Engagement) was created for just that. They were created to reduce the chance of friendly fire incidents and hurting or killing innocent people. It is international law regarding conduct of war and the protection of civilians. “ ROE are driven by three sets of considerations: policy, legal, and military.”( The only problem with ROE is when restrictions and rules cause conflict with commanders and the soldiers in combat. Restrictions from ROE and the restrictions of limited war left many dismayed and confused during the Vietnam War.

Limited War has two foundational principles: first, that a nuclear war with the Soviet Union had to be avoided at all costs, for it could never be won given the immense destructive power of the nuclear weaponry possessed by both sides; and, second, that the United States must contain Communism, which was spreading in the Third World. (Moss (2010) pg., 161).
“The commitment by the United States, to a policy of unlimited support of the RVN, short of actual combat forces, was subject to many restraining influences. Further, and of particular significance to the U.S. Army and Air Force, was the opinion of Mr. McNamara in December 1961, that the war in South Vietnam should be considered a ground war.” (

ROE starts at the top with the President, in this case President Lyndon B. Johnson. He receives informative information form the secretary and the general. They then devise a plan, and how they will attack the enemy. The general’s job is to come up with strategies to carry out the plan. In the case of the Vietnam War “Washington’s efforts to fight a limited war in Vietnam were also complicated by disputes among Johnson’s civilian and military advisors over how best to implement military strategy.” (Moss (2010) pg., 162).

“General William Westmoreland served as Commander of the Military Assistance Command-Vietnam (COMUSMACV). He held tactical command over the American war that began in the summer of 1965 He and his staff devised the strategy of attrition warfare.” (Moss (2010) pg., 163). Westmoreland was commander over the division commanders and kept them informed of the plans of attack.

The division commanders were in charge of taking the plans and strategies and to initiate training from the battalion commanders on down to the soldiers who would go out into the fields to fight the battle. “ROE are commanders' rules for the use of force. Operations personnel are principally responsible to ensure that the ROE further operational requirements. OPLAW JAs assist the commander to