Soldiering The Green Machine War

How Well Trained were the NVA during the Vietnam War?


He appeared to be well trained. He was aggressive. He was equipped with automatic weapons and plenty of ammunition. He carried 3 – 5 Chinese potato masher hand grenades.

He was an expert at camouflage and used every bit of cover and concealment to perfection.

He was a deadly shot. In caring for my man who had been killed and wounded, I was struck by the great number who had been shot in the head and upper part of the body-particularly in the head. He definitely aimed for the leaders-the men who were shouting, pointing, talking on radios. He also aimed for the men carrying radios. He also appeared to concentrate on men wearing insignia of rank-particularly NCO with stripes on their arms.

When attacking, the PAVN units confronting us used mass assault tactics preceded in some cases by light mortar and anti-tank rocket fire. He also used encircling maneuvers with 50-70 men groups. He employed his machine guns extremely well and thoroughly understood the value of grazing fire. At night, he infiltrated small numbers up to the friendly positions. These enemy set up on top of grassy anthills, in trees, and good close in firing positions. He was expert at probing our defensive perimeter at night and went to great efforts to try to force friendly into firing

He fought to the death. When wounded, he continued fighting with his small arms and grenades. He appeared fanatical when wounded and had to be approached with extreme care

He also appeared fanatical in his extreme efforts to recover bodies of his dead and wounded and their equipment.

A favorite tactic of the PAVN enemy we faced seemed to be an aggressive small unit encircling maneuver. Another was a rapid assault by 6-10 PAVN on 2 or 3 friendly.

(Note : I left out a few irrelevant parts like his food of rice and fish sauce, his green uniform, pitch helmet and how he used B40 anti tank weapon)

As the US military learned about their tactics, so did the NVA. He learned so well that his force would be decimated by superior fire power from the US force, if he was caught on the open ground. As a result he developed a maneuver, which could be called as “ Hill trap maneuver. Hamburger Hill, anyone? Basically, he fortified a fixed location in order to lure the US force into a battle.

Lt Gen William R. Peers, commander of 4th Division, later wrote in After Action Report Battle of Dak to

“The enemy had prepared the battlefield well. Nearly every key terrain feature was heavily fortified with elaborate bunker and trench complexes. He had moved quantities of supplies and ammunition into the area. He was prepared to stay. Enemy fighting positions were characterized by extensive preparation against the effects of artillery and air.”

It became evident the NVA had been preparing the battle for some time. Expanded trails, roads and well constructed defensive positions with over head cover, and signs of usage of draft animals all pointed to undeniable facts the enemy had lured the Allied forces onto the ground of their choosing.

The enemy used the tactic of pinning down assaulting American force from bunkers then attacked with another unit to the rear or flanks. The enemy had learnt to close on, hug, the American perimeter to keep from being destroyed by artillery and aerial bombing.

Brigadier General Leo H. Schweiter of 173rd Airborne Brigade wrote his observations in After Action Report Battle Hill 875

During the Battle of DAK TO, the 173d Airborne Brigade was opposed by large determined NVA units which were exceptionally well equipped and supplied. The enemy continued to elect to choose the time and place in which decisive engagements would be fought. Only when and where the tactical situation, terrain, battlefield preparation and relative strengths of opposing forces favored enemy action were significant contacts initiated.

The NVA presses the attack in contacts apparently attempting to hug the US forces to avoid the US artillery and air support. Air and artillery are of great value as blocking fires, but can be used as close in support only at a high risk to friendly forces.

Enemy Fortifications and Tactics: The NVA utilized reinforcing trenches and tunnels to their bunkers which provided protection from direct fires. Their bunkers had extensive overhead covers (5-8 feet) allowing them to display determined resistance to air and artillery preparation fires, and enabling them to survive and put up a strong defense after bombardment. The NVA will also attack from these fortified positions.

The NVA used tree positions to their advantage even when pressing the attack. The use of this technique gives them the capability of preventing resupply or evacuation mission from being flown by placing automatic weapons fire on the LZ from trees.

The NVA demonstrated a tactic designed to encircle a portion of a unit with the objective of defeating it in detail. When a friendly unit encountered a fortified position it could expect a sharp assault from the flanks or rear. The NVA continually probed friendly flanks or rear elements in an attempt to exploit this tactic. Upon discovery, enemy flanking forces would break contact if it appeared that their attack would be unsuccessful. In addition, this tactic allowed the NVA to “hug” friendly forces, thus practically nullifying the effect of heavier fire power provided by artillery and TAC Air.

The NVA soldiers were camouflaged very effectively over their entire body and were often very difficult to see unless moving, especially in the heavy undergrowth.

So in the conclusion: sorry for another long post. However I think we can put the myth of “the NVA could only throw endless human wave attacks” to rest.

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