During the war with America, the slogan in North Vietnam was "Prepare for the Worst." General Vo Nguyen Giap, commander of the North Vietnamese Army, feared U.S. forces would use the Khe Sanh Combat base as a jumping off point to invade his country. Giap considered the entire population to be his army. Every man, woman and child was expected to resist the American forces if they invaded.
North Vietnam fielded the fourth largest army in the world which was well equipped with Russian and Chinese equipment. In their book, Inside the VC and the NVA, Michael Lanning and Dan Cragg described the communist's tactical doctrine as "the four fasts and one slow." This meant fast advance, fast assault, fast clearance of the battle field, and fast withdrawal -- all based on slow preparation.
Eastern doctrine stressed patience and perseverance, tactics were ruthless and often extremely brutal, with a single-minded focus on achieving the objectives. One particularly effective tactic was to set ambushes with wounded or dead Americans as bait. This tactic took advantage of the Marine policy of trying to retrieve their dead and wounded.
It has been said that war is a genetic trait in the Vietnamese people. Their history is one of continual conflict. Their land has been occupied by many foreign armies.
During the 13 century, Mongol hordes led by Kublai Khan, occupied the abandoned Vietnamese city of Hanoi only to retreat in the face of an abundance of tropical diseases. An important concept in NVA doctrine, stressed by Tran Hung Dao the Vietnamese commander, was the importance of not trying to defend "prestige positions."
General Vo Nguyen Giap, commander of the NVA during the war with America, was strongly influenced by Dao's strategy, and he also had the determined support of the North Vietnamese people.
In Dao's book, Summary of Military Strategy we find a basic Vietnamese tactic:
When the enemy is away from home for a long time and produces no victories, and families learn of their dead, then the enemy population becomes dissatisfied....Time is always in our favor. Our climate, mountains, and jungles discourages the enemy.
According to the North Vietnamese, Khe Sanh was too costly for the U.S. so it was abandoned. Naturally the NVA claimed victory, and this claim seems to be logical under the circumstances.
Nguyen Thanh Le said, "The withdrawal was the gravest tactical and strategic defeat for the U.S. in the war."
He said the Americans, "were forced to retreat" from the base.
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erected by Vietnamese
at Khe Sanh site