Khe Sanh The Vietnam war was an important time for the United States in a whole but there were particular battles and events that highlighted their involvement. One of the most significant is the battle of Khe Sanh, The battle at Khe Sanh was the bloodiest of the Vietnam War and at the beginning there were fears that it might turn into an American Dien Bien Phu. Dien Bien Phu was when the French made some questionable decisions and paid the price for it. Khe Sanh began looking like that but the Americans were able to slip by with less carnage then what could have occurred. The battle of Khe Sanh is significant to American history because it was the biggest and most bloody battle fought in the Vietnam war. The strategies used by both sides United states and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) in the battle help make it one of the longest and most memorable battles in the war. The battle of Khe Sanh and the outcome along with the decision making of the generals in charge of both sides contribute to it being a significant battle.
The battle of Khe Sanh is a very significant battle in American history. First, the strategies used by both sides help the battle of Khe Sanh be one of the biggest and longest battles in the entire war. Americans thought they could use Khe Sanh as a patrol base to block the enemy. So they set a base up right in front of where the enemy wanted to get to. The base was near the Ho Chi Minh trail which was a main route the NVA used frequently, the Americans thought they could monitor the action on the road and collect information on the enemy. The strategic outpost was considered by the NVA as the gateway to the South, because it was right on the border. In defense of Khe Sanh the Americans used a method called find, fix, and finish the use of air power to observe and locate the enemy in the rough Vietnamese terrain, send in ground troops to fix them, and finally call in B-52s and other air power to finish the job. The NVA on the other hand used a unique style of fighting, guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which a small group of combatants, such as armed civilians, or irregulars, use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, hit and run tactics, and mobility to fight a larger and less mobile traditional military.
The United States were not prepared for this type of fighting and had to adjust. In the battle of Khe Sanh the NVA did not use there normal tactics they tried to take on the Americans in a full scale battle. After the battle the NVA never again attempted to defeat the Americans in a full scale battle, guerrilla tactics and tunnels were far more effective. The position of the base and strategies used by both sides contributed to the longest and most important battle of the war. Second, the battle of Khe Sanh was the longest battle in the Vietnam war due to the reluctance of the Americans to abandon the base. The battle started on January 21, 1968, with the NVA sneaking and setting up on the hills that surround the base. The Americans had men on some of the hills and they were driven off by the sheer force and numbers the NVA had. The United States had around 5,000 soldiers at the base but the number grew as the battler began and reinforcements were sent to support.
The NVA began to bomb the base from the hills with artillery fire, one of those shots scored a direct hit to the bases main weapons supply which put the Americans short on ammo to return fire. Both sides continued to use artillery in huge amounts, the Americans then started to work out where the NVA were located and proceeded to send in over 100,000 tons of bombs which were dropped by US aircraft and over 158,000 artillery rounds were fired in defense of the base. “in late January, General Westmoreland had warned that if the situation near the DMZ and at Khe Sanh worsened dramatically, nuclear or chemical weapons might have to be used.” (1) The situation never got that drastic and the idea was discarded soon after. The battle of Khe Sanh would have ended sooner if the base had not been able to get supplies which had to be flown in by helicopter or plane.
As soon as the aircraft landed on the runway at the base they were targeted by the NVA artillery. This made it hard to drop the supplies and keep moving so they would not get hit by the shells the NVA shot at them. The Americans used a most dramatic delivery system at Khe Sanh which was the Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System, in which supplies stacked on pallets were pulled out of the cargo bay of a low flying aircraft by means of an attached parachute. The pallet slid to a halt on the airstrip while the aircraft never had to actually land. This tactic worked well it gave the base the supplies it needed and also kept the planes out of harm’s way.
American commanders thought the defense of Khe Sanh was a success, but shortly after the battle was over the decision was made to dismantle the base and move out rather than risk similar battles in the future. The Americans could have pulled out sooner than when they did, they could have left as soon as it started going bad and saved many lives in doing so. Last, the significances and outcome of the battle of Khe Sanh is a major factor in making it the most important battle of the Vietnam war for the United States. The casualties at the battle were a huge difference having fewer than 200 Americans killed and around 10,000 North Vietnamese killed at Khe Sanh. The Americans killed way more NVA then the NVA killed Americans but both sides still claimed the battle as a victory.
The Americans won on the killing front and the NVA won by gaining their objective to push the Americans from the base of Khe Sahn. The NVA pressed the Americans hard so they would have no choice but to pull out and leave the base. The NVA got what they wanted, the access to south Vietnam. The United States did not particularly like the decision that General Westmoreland made to stay and defend the base, Westmoreland defended his decision to stay at Khe Sanh, and claimed the battle was a victory in that it prevented the enemy from gaining control over the northwest corner of South Vietnam and inflicted heavy losses on NVA forces. “For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn”.
(2) Obama’s mention of Khe Sanh was short, but it was noticed by lots of Americans some who fought in the war, some who protested against the war, and some who just remember that difficult time in American history. In conclusion, the battle of Khe Sanh was one of the most important and none battles of the Vietnam war. The strategies used by both sides help the battle of Khe Sanh be one of the biggest and longest battles in the entire war, and the battle of Khe Sanh was the longest battle in the Vietnam war due to the reluctance of the Americans to abandon the base, and finally the significances and outcome of the battle of Khe Sanh is a major factor in making it the most important battle of the Vietnam war for the United States. All these reasons make the Battle of Khe Sanh one of the most significant in American History.