Vietnam: What is Guerrilla War?

Vietnam: What is Guerrilla War?

GCSE History Revision - Guerrilla WarfareGreat question, thanks for asking. In normal warfare, the sides organize their forces into large units, such as battalions, regiments etc. They take each other on at the front line, where the areas controlled by the two sides meet.

Guerrilla warfare is totally different. The guerrillas are organized into small groups, and are spread throughout the territory held by the enemy. They take advantage of the terrain and the fact that being in small groups makes them mobile to stay hidden from the enemy’s larger forces. If they are attacked, it is easier for them to retreat. Just as importantly, they can bide their time and attack the enemy when he least expected it.

Vietnam was a rural country, with lots of dense jungle terrain. The Viet Cong knew the terrain very well, while for the Americans it was unfamiliar. These were the perfect conditions for the Viet Cong to use guerrilla warfare to great effect. Here are the main tactics the Viet Cong used in their guerrilla warfare:

* Planting landmines and tripwire, and leaving deadly booby traps. The US soldiers had little idea of where they were hidden, and were continually caught out by them.

* Integrating with local communities. When American forces passed through villages and towns, they didn’t know if the peasants they met were peaceful, or whether they were Viet Cong forces waiting to launch a surprise attack.

* Maintaining jungle supply lines into Cambodia and Laos, from where they received weapons provided by Communist China and the Soviet Union. America would have to attack these other countries if it wanted to stop the supplies coming in.


The Viet Cong’s Tactics

GCSE History Revision - Viet Cong FlagThe US military really struggled against the Viet Cong (the name for the Communist forces in South Vietnam). If you think about how the US had the strongest military in the world (perhaps with the exception of the Soviet Union), this might seem surprising. The problem for the Americans was that they were drawn into fighting a type of warfare that they weren’t particularly well trained in: guerrilla war.

History GCSE Revision: Vietnam