“The Army and Vietnam” was published in 1986. It was written by Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. The book is about a devastating critique of the defeat of the US army in South Vietnam. Krepinevich attempts to explain how the US failed in an attempt to win the Vietnam War. The author wonders how the US army failed to emerge victorious during the war. He asks, “How could the army of the most powerful nation on Earth, materially supported on a scale unprecedented in history, equipped with the most sophisticated technology in an age when technology had assumed the role of a god of war, fail to emerge victorious against a numerically inferior force of lightly armed irregulars?”. The answer to this question becomes the central thesis in this book. According to the book, the US army failed to emerge victorious during the Vietnam War because of the failure to use counterinsurgency methods.
Krepinevich identifies the inability of the US Army to embrace a non-conventional war against insurgency as the cause for the defeat. According to the author, the US Army was entrenched in the previous Wars’ mind-sets where conventional strategies enabled them to win these wars. For example, through the conventional strategy, the army emerged successfully during the Second World War. However, the Vietnam conflict environment was different. What was needed is the counterinsurgency operation. Instead, the army relied on the army’s ‘concept’ with no success. Hoping to destroy the enemy, the army turned to the tactic of attrition. The army also thought that firepower and superior technology would defeat the enemy. However, the tactics were unsuccessful. This emphasizes the importance of counterinsurgency strategy in a war of insurgency.
I feel that this book does a good job of explaining why the US army failed to defeat the Viet Cong. The author explores how the US Army was not prepared to win in an insurgency war. He states that the army was not equipped with proper skills to effectively fight in a low-intensity conflict. In the ‘Army Concept’ section, the author provides a detailed explanation of the army’s traditional perception of how wars ought to be conducted in a conventional manner. The author also explains why this strategy failed to work. It is because a counterinsurgency technique was required.
Krepinevich also does a good job of explaining how the conservative culture of the army caused the defeat during the Vietnam War. It is clear how the unwillingness to change in the US Army contributed to the defeat. The Army failed even to follow the directions of the president. The author explores how the president called for changes in military operations to win the war. He says that the president identified the Vietnam War as another type of war, a war by guerrillas. This war required a new kind of strategy. However, soldiers were stuck with conventional tactics and dedicated less effort to counterinsurgency strategy. Instead, the army frustrated the counterinsurgency policy by assuming that winning a big war meant that little wars would be certainly won.
This book fills a gap in the literature on American military history, specifically on the US defeat in Vietnam. Most histories have focused on the political aspects of the war by explaining why the US Army was involved. For example, some histories claim that the US politicians committed limited resources during the war leading to the defeat. Others argue that the US needed support from the military, government, and people to properly execute the war. Krepinevich contributes to this literature by looking at how the US Army fought the war from the perspective of the army doctrine. The book focuses on the operations in Vietnam and how the operational approach hindered the US from fighting successfully. The book clarifies the aspects of the war that remains difficult to understand.
Overall, this book does a good job of contributing to the literature on American military history, specifically on the US Army defeat in Vietnam. It takes a unique perspective in explaining why the US was defeated. Through a thorough analysis of the role of the US Army in the war, Krepinevich shows with chilling persuasion how the army was not prepared to fight an insurgency war and lessons that can be applied in similar environments. However, the author took a rather technical approach making it sometimes difficult to understand. I think this book carries significant information for anyone trying to understand the US Army defeat in the Vietnam War especially on the Army concept and the Army defeat.
Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. was a career Army officer and a US Military Academy graduate. He spent 21 years serving as a leader for the US army making him qualified to write the book. His background also gives the information contained in this book, authority, and legitimacy. The book should not just be considered as an assessment of the Vietnam War. It should also serve as a warning for the future.
Bright, James. A Failure in Strategy: America and the Vietnam War 1965-1968.
Thesis. Marine Corps University, 2001, 1-57.
Daddis, Gregory. American Military Strategy in the Vietnam War, 1965– 1973. In Oxford Research Encyclopedias: American History, 2014, 1-35.
Krepinevich, Andrew F. Jr. The Army and Vietnam. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.
, Andrew Krepinevich Jr., The Army and Vietnam (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), 4.
 Krepinevich, The Army and Vietnam, 5.
 Krepinevich, 5.
 Ibid, 5.
 Ibid, 33.
 Gregory Daddis, American Military Strategy in the Vietnam War, 1965– 1973, In Oxford Research Encyclopedias: American History, (2014), 1.
 James Bright, A Failure in Strategy: America and the Vietnam War 1965-1968, Thesis. Studies. (Marine Corps University,(2001), 46.