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Failure to Prepare: The Inability of Security Force Assistance to Win in Vietnam

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Technical Report,26 Jun 2017,24 May 2018

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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This monograph is a structured focused analysis of Operation Lam Son 719 that explores the failed attempt at security force assistance to South Vietnam. The operation took place between January and March, 1971 and resulted in over 1,900 killed and 7,700 wounded mainly South Vietnamese. The US Army lost over eighty-two helicopters in support of the operation. In the end, the operation was a minor success and not worth the cost in blood, treasure or political capital. Expanding the war into Laos created significant political turmoil in the United States, which in turn increased the rate of troop withdrawals from Vietnam. For the United States, the war was ending and combat troops were gone in 1973. Promised continued support from President Nixon, the South Vietnamese would continue to fight a losing battle until 1975. Much of the blame for the mixed result of Operation Lam Son 719 is placed on the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces leadership, the limited time the operation was planned, and low morale, but this study demonstrates that the assistance approach Military Assistance Command Vietnam took was also a significant cause. Security force assistance did not help South Vietnam from losing the war it merely prolonged it.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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