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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > Vietnam War

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Vietnam War The Battle for Vietnam. .

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  #1  
Old 10 Jan 13, 15:21
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If Nukes were Used in Vietnam...........

This is an interesting point. I remember reading 2 years ago about a commentary by a French soldier in the Indochina War.

The French soldiers stated that the VietMinh realied so much on unconventional methods of warfare that a using Nuclear Weapons in Vietnam as had been done on Hiroshima wouldn't have chaned the course of the Indochina War and would have been futile because there was no key location to hit. That the VietMinh operated through camaflouge and locations out of site like caves, forest,etc that Nukes were not going to be useful.

Note the above was not exactly how it was stated in the journal and is a paraphrase from my memory so I may have gotten the details wrong. But it went something like that.

I wish I had the link to the journal, its been over 2 years and I no longer can remember the site that had it and all attempts to look for it the journal was in vain. But if I found it I'll post it up here.

Still the French soldier brought up an intriguing point. The VietMinh was fighting in such a foreign method that trying to even use nukes was futile. From the journal, the soldier also said something like "Nukes would have been useless even in destroying supply lines because the VietMinh were so well concealed in the forest and did not rely on traditional Western methods of transportation like long convoys of jeeps,etc..." Note I may be wrong here but my memory conveys something like that.

So it makes me wonder. Would nuclear bombs have not been any use in Vietnam like the French soldier implies?

The French soldier genuinely believes that if France had nukes it would not have changed a thing.

I remember reading Johnson was even considering using Nukes in Khe Sanh.
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  #2  
Old 10 Jan 13, 21:48
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A really, REALLY bad idea! I mean a REALLY REALLY bad idea!!
I mean for the French AND us. It would not have helped the French a bit and could very well have triggered a nuclear world war for us. It would have been like trying to wipe out an anthill with a shotgun
We know now that China and North Vietnam had a secret mutual defense treaty, we know that China had 250K men in North Vietnam at the height of the Vietnm War (our part of it.) Its impossible to think that they would have allowed them to be wiped out without kicking off WWIII.
If our leaders considered the use of nukes and decided not to, it was one of their better decisions
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Old 10 Jan 13, 22:43
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First of all, the "unconventional war" that the Viet Minh used in Indochina was not much different from that used by the French Resistance in WWII. Like the French resistance, it ultimately relied upon conventional forces coming into France from outside, much like the Viet Minh relied upon regular forces and material fro China to win the First Indochina War, and forces from north Vietnam and material from outside Vietnam to win prevail in the Second.

We had tactical nukes that could have been used without triggering World War III. But I don't see that the political costs would have been worth it. Again, all American efforts were premised upon the RVN getting its act together, plus the North backing off of infiltration and subversion. A couple of tactical nukes in the north could have attained a drawdown on Hanoi's part, but would the South have been able to do what both the ROC and ROK did?Absent another Ngo Dien Diem, I am not convinced they could have.

Even if they had been able to do so, would it have been worth the political costs? That's the big question for the United States. And the best answer I can come up with is perhaps yes, perhaps no. Policy makers do not usually act upon 50/50 possibilities except n the most extreme circumstances.

As for mutual defense treaties, they did not prevent the Sino-Soviet hostilities of 1969, nor the Sino-Vietnamese crisis of 1979. We have one with Taiwan, and you can bet that it is only worth the paper it is printed onif a RPC-PRC conflict comes. When it does, we will then decide whether or not we will honor it.
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  #4  
Old 10 Jan 13, 23:13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lirelou View Post
First of all, the "unconventional war" that the Viet Minh used in Indochina was not much different from that used by the French Resistance in WWII. Like the French resistance, it ultimately relied upon conventional forces coming into France from outside, much like the Viet Minh relied upon regular forces and material fro China to win the First Indochina War, and forces from north Vietnam and material from outside Vietnam to win prevail in the Second.

We had tactical nukes that could have been used without triggering World War III. But I don't see that the political costs would have been worth it. Again, all American efforts were premised upon the RVN getting its act together, plus the North backing off of infiltration and subversion. A couple of tactical nukes in the north could have attained a drawdown on Hanoi's part, but would the South have been able to do what both the ROC and ROK did?Absent another Ngo Dien Diem, I am not convinced they could have.

Even if they had been able to do so, would it have been worth the political costs? That's the big question for the United States. And the best answer I can come up with is perhaps yes, perhaps no. Policy makers do not usually act upon 50/50 possibilities except n the most extreme circumstances.

As for mutual defense treaties, they did not prevent the Sino-Soviet hostilities of 1969, nor the Sino-Vietnamese crisis of 1979. We have one with Taiwan, and you can bet that it is only worth the paper it is printed onif a RPC-PRC conflict comes. When it does, we will then decide whether or not we will honor it.
Do you know if the French wanted the Americans to use nuclear weapons at Dien Bien Phu?

Below is an article about Dien Bien Phu and American assistance.

From the link below.

"
A “Misunderstanding”

In his book Eisenhower: Soldier and President, Ambrose recounted the situation this way:
“On the morning of April 5, Dulles called Eisenhower to inform him that the French had told [the US ambassador to Paris] that their impression was that Operation Vulture had been agreed to and hinted that they expected two or three atomic bombs to be used against the Viet Minh. Eisenhower told Dulles to tell the French ... that they must have misunderstood Radford.”

Clearly, Eisenhower saw an air attack as a distinct possibility, but was he ready to use tactical nuclear weapons? On this point, Eisenhower never showed his hand. His longtime aide, Army Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster, recalled in a 1967 interview that the President simply “never told anybody whether he would or not.”

http://www.airforce-magazine.com/Mag.../0804dien.aspx
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Old 10 Jan 13, 23:23
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I don't recall enough viable targets to risk using a nuke.

Hanoi, Haiphong, or 4/5 areas when PAVN was massing for Easter Offensive?

Some of those areas would have involved nuking other countries too.

Just doesn't seem like a good idea...
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Old 15 Jan 13, 17:05
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Quote:
Originally Posted by exlrrp View Post
A really, REALLY bad idea! I mean a REALLY REALLY bad idea!!
I mean for the French AND us. It would not have helped the French a bit and could very well have triggered a nuclear world war for us. It would have been like trying to wipe out an anthill with a shotgun
We know now that China and North Vietnam had a secret mutual defense treaty, we know that China had 250K men in North Vietnam at the height of the Vietnm War (our part of it.) Its impossible to think that they would have allowed them to be wiped out without kicking off WWIII.
If our leaders considered the use of nukes and decided not to, it was one of their better decisions
We had nuclear weapons in theater for almost from the outset of the war. In fact, even, the USS Tecumseh (SSBN 628), a Lafayette Class Boomer Boat, armed with 16 Polaris missiles (MRV Warheads - 3 Model W-58, 200kt each) was awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for service in Vietnam - and MACV took a hard look at using tactical nukes at Khe Sahn, which caused a certain amount of political turmoil here in the states.
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Old 15 Jan 13, 17:24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pisces Adonis View Post
The French soldiers stated that the VietMinh realied so much on unconventional methods of warfare that a using Nuclear Weapons in Vietnam as had been done on Hiroshima wouldn't have chaned the course of the Indochina War and would have been futile because there was no key location to hit.
1. Hanoi.

2. Haiphong
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Old 15 Jan 13, 19:46
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1. Hanoi.

2. Haiphong
It's not as easy as that. The entire world was at war in Japan. But in Hanoi, many countries friendly to us had embassies there. Killing a lot of European diplomats would not have won any new friends for us. And of course, all this is beside the threat of triggering nuclear war. Suppose a nuclear blast would result in the Soviets massing forces along the "Iron Curtain." Who would we send to stop them? Virtually all our "ready reserve" designed to be just such a reinforcement force was already in Vietnam. Look at all the dissent in the US just over the Nixon administration's Linebacker operation in 1972, done with conventional bombs and yet still not the kind of all-out city bombing we did in WWII.
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Old 15 Jan 13, 20:07
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"Easy" isn't the issue under discussion. The OP stated that there were no suitable centralized targets, which is entirely incorrect.

As to the issues you mention, those are largely wrong as well. Very few people understand the utility of tactical nuclear battlefield weapons, having only ever seen the movie and television full-scale versions.

Furthermore, we didn't even have to deploy a nuke. All we had to do was inform the North Vietnamese government that we had placed a nuclear mine in Haiphong harbor and they would have been forced to honor the threat, whether it was really there or not.

We could have won the war in Viet Nam; our politicians deliberately chose not to, fielding an array of excuses for their actions designed to place the blame on other nations and how they might have reacted.

How might they have reacted? With horror, revulsion, and then fear and withdrawal. No one would have wanted to antagonize a nation as powerful as America that had just deployed nuclear weapons in the field, and that included the Soviet Union and China, which had no nuclear weapons of their own at the time.


The truth is, nuclear weapons ARE the ultimate solution in combat when properly employed. For example, the North Vietnamese depended on industry, electrical power and communications, all of which are totally vulnerable to nuclear EMP. One weapon, detonated as much as 100 miles above North Vietnam, would have destroyed every electrical circuit in every machine and device in the nation, totally and permanently.

One small tactical device - weighing eighty pounds and carried by a single soldier - along the Hoi Chi Minh Trail would have rendered the area impassable by human beings for years, and would have instilled permanent terror in the NVA troops. We deployed these devices in Korea in the 60's to prevent mass troop movements through the Korean mountain passes, intending to use them as command detonated mines, and trained a cadre of special troops to carry them and deploy them on foot, undetected.

Or, a single neutron weapon would have killed every single NVA on the whole Trail without destroying a single object and without leaving any residual radiation. We had those, too, for use against massed Soviet tank formations.

We are a very long ways from the crude weapons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
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Old 15 Jan 13, 21:08
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No one would have wanted to antagonize a nation as powerful as America that had just deployed nuclear weapons in the field, and that included the Soviet Union and China, which had no nuclear weapons of their own at the time.
The Soviets had had a large nuclear arsenal since the early 1950s. The Chinese had their own nuclear weapons from 1964.


Philip
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Old 15 Jan 13, 22:45
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One of the main selling points in reorganizing the US Army from Pentomic to ROAD organized Divisions starting in 1963 was the realization by the Army that wars of the future could run the entire range of combat from insurgency to nuclear war. The Army needed to be able to appropriately respond to any threat that was presented. This new policy was called 'flexible response.'

What this means is that the Army was fully prepared to entire into the conflict in Vietnam and win the war without the use of nukes. That was the policy.

I'm not sure if the US Navy and the USAF went through their own version of realigning their forces to allow for a 'flexible response' over an all out nuclear response to any perceived threat, but I'm sure they did. It was the policy favoured by the Kennedy White House while it was in power.

Frankly, I cannot think of anything that occurred during the war that would have necessitated the escalation of the American response up to the use of nuclear weapons. Remember that it was South Vietnam's war to win or lose, not the Americans. Would the RVN have even allowed the use of such weapons on its soil? Or even in the North? They would have had to live with the consequences, not the US. I can't see any of the Saigon governments ever allowing that to happen.

In short, the US was fighting a non-nuclear war right from the start, and the RVN would not have allowed the US to escalate it to that level even if Washington had made that decision.

Cheers,
Dan.
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Old 16 Jan 13, 00:03
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I agree Dan. Just can't wrap my head around any justification to use a nuke on the north and certainly not near any bordering country.

Unsure about USAF policy but never heard of any USN policy to use a nuke. ASW training stressed the use of ASROC/conventional torpedos and the use of a nuke tip was never mentioned--even though we carried a couple.

Only fathomable reason I can think of to nuke Hanoi was in '72 to say hello to Jane Fonda.
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Old 16 Jan 13, 07:38
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The type of war being fought in Vietnam was not suitable to using tactical nukes. They would have created hot zones that would be as dangerous to us as they would be to the enemy. Likewise, using a nuke on Hanoi of Hipong would have been far too dangerous to foreign embassies personnel both friendly and neutral.

The closest thing used that had the same effect to a tactical nuke was the carpet bombing by B-52s on suspected enemy bases. Even then, since most those bombings were planned months in advance, the enemy had plenty of warning to pack up and leave the area. The resulting search and destroy missions into those areas found little but bomb craters and chewed up jungle.
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Old 16 Jan 13, 08:51
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First, there is no such thing as a 'tactical' nuclear weapon. Those designated as such were still weapons of mass destruction and labeling them as 'tactical' was delusional.

Second, there would be no point in using nuclear weapons in Vietnam (or anywhere else for that matter) because all you get is an irradiated ash heap of no use to anyone.

Sincerely,
M
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Old 16 Jan 13, 09:48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilipLaos View Post
The Soviets had had a large nuclear arsenal since the early 1950s. The Chinese had their own nuclear weapons from 1964.


Philip
Chinese lacked reliable delivery systems. Soviets knew what MAD was all about if they launched.

Fact is, we could have employed nukes successfully, and that is the thrust of the argument.
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