Vietnam Leadership Essay

Submitted By joshoverbeck
Words: 903
Pages: 4

Leadership Essay
For better or worse, Vietnam is the most prominent historical example of American counterinsurgency in the modern era. At the beginning of 1968 the reigning commander of US forces was General William Westmoreland. The consensus strategy at the time focused on using US Army’s superior conventional firepower against the less equipped Army of North Vietnam and their communist allies. Westmoreland had concentrated on a buildup of American forces; eventually peaking at approximately 544,000 by 1969 in response to his continued demands for more troops. This massive force was used in large sweeps he called "search and destroy" operations. The measure of success was to be judged by the number of enemies killed on the field of battle. A high body count, it was assumed, would ultimately lead to an American victory as the enemy would lose their will to fight and cease aggressions with South Vietnam. He vastly underestimated the enemy’s resolve though as the enemy proved ready and willing to continue fighting regardless of their staggering losses. His war of attrition, search and destroy tactics, and emphasis on body count did nothing to affect the war in the hamlets and villages of South Vietnam, where the enemy's covert infrastructure was left free to dominate the rural population. Westmoreland’s failure would lead to his command being turned over to the Deputy Commander, General Creighton Abrams.
Gen Abrams graduated from West Point in the historic class of 1936 and went on to serve with the 1st cavalry division, eventually becoming a tank commander by 1940. During World War II, Abrams became known as one of the most skilled tank commanders in the US Army. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in September 1942 and in September 1943 he was given command of the 37th Tank Regiment. His regiment is known for leading the sweep of General George Patton's Third Army across Europe. Patton was even quoted in Time magazine as saying "I'm supposed to be the best tank commander in the Army, but I have one peer — Abe Abrams. He's the world champion.” In December 1944 his forces broke through German lines to relieve the defenders of Bastogne. After serving in a variety of important staff positions as well as late in the Korean War; Gen Abrams eventually succeeded Westmoreland as commander of US forces in South Vietnam. Upon taking command, Gen Abrams made a parallel shift in the war effort, from that of an enemy centric driven by high casualties, to a more population centric approach. Westmoreland embodied the traditional approach: a hard-nosed, conventionalist who used search-and-destroy tactics that focused on the enemy. Abrams favored counterinsurgent methods, focused on winning the hearts and minds of the population. His idea of a “clear and hold” strategy correctly identified the population as the center of gravity, not the enemy. Abrams's approach focused on the protection and buildup of the regions of South Vietnam and its people. The tactics involved the use of US troops clearing an area of insurgents or guerrilla fighters, and then keeping the region secure will build up trust amongst the people. Additionally, it would require that US troops would have to be divided up and live among the people in order to win over the hearts and minds of the population. The clear and hold method coupled with the new policy by the administration in the United States, began to show real promise in securing the region. This new policy, dubbed “Vietnamization” aimed at the pacification of Vietnam. The Secretary of…