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Chopper Use in Vietnam Versus Afghanistan

by John Reed on November 10, 2011

There’s an interesting post that Carl Prine did over at our sister site, Line of Departure, a few months back. It’s all about how he hates the UH-1 Huey because, to him, it represented a lack of control over the ground situation during the Vietnam War. I’ve got to wonder how this compares to our current fight in Afghanistan.

(Somewhat fittingly, I’m writing this post as an Air Force UH-1N Huey from Andrews Air Force Base is thumping around flying circles over my neighborhood in Washington — as the Hueys do multiple times a day here.)

Here’s the meat of Prine’s post:

While the choppers could put U.S. Army LTC Harold Moore’s 1st Battalion of the 7th Cavalry at the door of the NVA, the enemy also could shoot back from prepared positions, killing scores of soldiers and turning reporter Joe Galloway into something of a grunt.

Moore and Galloway were saved not by helicopters scooting above LZ X-Ray but rather by U.S. Air Force B-52s dragooned to run tactical air support.  Their dumb bombs flattened the countryside, the NVA inched back into the jungle and 1st Cav eventually flew off for other engagements.

And then the jungle slowly returned over the craters.  And so did the NVA, never mind the doctrine that insisted airmobility’s technology and innovative divisional infrastructure  had turned the tide in Vietnam.

Ia Drang and the Hueys and Kinnard and the rest convinced the U.S. military that airmobility solved a strategic problem, which meant that its use might sort out every other messy thing in Southeast Asia, too.  In this regard, airmobility was like strategic bombing in World War II or the leap of faith we call “COIN” doctrine today, and the Huey became its very powerful symbol, something of an icon reminding the faithful of a patron saint.

Instead of curing all our strategic ills, however, the Huey and airmobility made everything worse.  As Bernard Fall would’ve been the first to tell Kinnard, the French already had learned in Algeria that the helicopter not only couldn’t beat the revolutionaries;  by buzzing off elsewhere it in fact ceded the strategic goal – the control of villages and those who lived in them – to the insurgency.

The Huey, you see, never really addressed the center of gravity in the war — the political infrastructure of a guerrilla enemy.  It flew over it.

“After all, when you come to think of it, the use of helicopters is a tacit admission that we don’t control the ground. And in the long run, it’s control of the ground that wins or loses wars”—that’s how an advisor to ARVN quoted in Malcolm W. Browne’s The New Face of War in 1968 put it.

And he was right.

Prine goes on to argue that the Heuy’s allowed commanders in Vietnam to observe the fighting from afar, isolating them from the tactical realities of the war:

Rather than ennobling generals, AirCav’s Hueys made the managerial caste of them even more detached from their troops, the war and reality.

As James William Gibson reminds us in The Perfect War:  Technowar in Vietnamit wasn’t uncommon for the highest ranking man on the ground during a pitched battle against the NVA to be a captain.

All the brass were micromanaging from the clouds.

One thing I wish Prine had done in his post was draw a line to the current fight in Afghanistan.

What do you guys think? There’s no doubt that the helo is an extremely useful and necessary tool of warfare. Still, we’ve often heard about the need to transport as many supplies as possible by air in Afghanistan in order to get logistics convoys off the roads where they can fall prey to IEDs and ambushes. Is Prine’s argument relevant to the battlefields of Afghanistan, or do our combat troops patrol and occupy the ground — and bleed heavily for it — enough to fully control it? There’s plenty of material out there to argue about this one, so go for it.

Here’s the original post.

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{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

HalP November 10, 2011 at 12:04 pm

This point here is strong:
The Huey, you see, never really addressed the center of gravity in the war — the political infrastructure of a guerrilla enemy. It flew over it.

— Our problem was we didn't have a corresponding ground-force capable enough (due to politics and other things) to effectively target the enemy where it hurt the most – which ultimately means that you HAVE to be prepared to go ALL THE WAY or get the heck outta Dodge PDQ.

Of course, it was not the Huey's fault, it would be invaluable asset either way, but if you rely on a tool or a vehicle or single weapon to win your wars for you, then be prepared for the painful consequences. Has anyone ever 'won' or 'defeated' an enemy or insurgency/guerilla force simply through air power and mobility? Or by a single weapon?
No. Everyone had boots on the ground.

The Huey, like all other vehicles, weapons, and tools, was meant to expand our capabilites and effectiveness. It was not a blank check to skirt the rules of war that cannot be altered. As long as we remember that it doesn't matter how many helo's we use.

But I'm no expert.


jrexilius November 10, 2011 at 5:22 pm

A decisive difference in outcomes probably shouldn't be considered the thing that one it, I agree, but our recent air campaign in Libya (not mobility yes, but air) was a critical factor to how that turned out.

The first Iraq war was another demonstrator.

But it's not a silver bullet that will win all conflicts.


JEFF November 10, 2011 at 12:31 pm

While I agree that going airmobile takes away actually controlling territory I don't think you can actually control territory in a place like Afghanistan, especially with such limited numbers of ground forces. What does it really mean to control territory if your opponent doesn't wear a uniform and lives with people you think are friendly. I know nobody wants to do this but I feel the only you way defeat the enemy in this situation is by total way, destroying the will of the enemy and anybody that supports the enemy and you can't stop because a line on a map tells you that mountain is somebody else's country. You gotta do like what Sherman did in his March to the Sea, what firebombings of Tokyo did in WWII….you must destroy their will to wage war. I don't think we'll ever do that again, it looks too ugly for the average person to watch on the nightly news or on a website.


JE McKellar November 10, 2011 at 5:04 pm

But neither Sherman's March or the firebombing was that effective. The ACW only ended when the national structure of the CSA (Richmond, the Army, and Jefferson Davis) was neutralized, antagonizing the civilian population just prolonged Reconstruction. Likewise, firebombing Japan did little to help end WWII, it was the crippling and humiliation of the Japanese war machine by the USN that upset the political balance within the Japanese government, allowing the Emperor to regain control from the militarists and sue for peace (once the atomic blasts gave him a suitable pretext). War is politics by other means, and devastating the whole of the civilian population is truly inept politics.


jrexilius November 10, 2011 at 5:30 pm

The Soviets attempted that same said strategy in Afghanistan and again in Chechnya and it didn't work for them.

However, I think you underestimate Sherman's march and fire bombing of Tokyo as they were part of "one-two punch" effects and it is pretty hard to say that the other half would have succeeded without them. I'm pretty sure without the fire bombing and atom bombs the straight naval victories would have taken _a lot_ longer to reach the same political point.


Matt November 10, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Great debate. Obviously the type of conflict seems to be the overriding and most critical factor. Any occupational/transitional mission, vietnam, korea, afghan, iraq will require significant on the ground presence from the outset to solve the 'hearts and minds' issue. The US failed to have enough boots on the ground from the outset to educate what the bombs were meant to do. They assumed that the 91 gulf war would be indicative of how easy success would be…which does bring the point that airpower and helicopter mobility can have a monumental impact on the right type of conflicts, which is why we will be seeing armed unmanned helicopters in the very near future because they solve almost all you need for a defensive position be it pirates, or rougue countries trying to occupy another. Just some random thoughts.


mpower6428 November 10, 2011 at 2:45 pm

i like "Pooles" argument in regards to this. (paraphrasing) the new general on the battle field is/has been the "squad leader". although our armed forces have not figured that out until maybe…. now…?
academy educated officers may not like to admit it but, they've been reduced to "facilitators", "rear ech enablers" of trigger pullers and their respected/motivated buddy's who lead them.

and they cant get out of that roll despite their pay grade. even if they pick up a rifle and hump with the grunts… they must still respect the chain of command, up or down.


Lance November 10, 2011 at 2:55 pm

The main problem in Vietnam like now in Afghanistan is that Washington DC wont let the GIs win the war. Like a invasion of North Vietnam or even killing Ho Chi Mien and other top party leaders in Hanoi would have severely damaged the NVA's war effort that it and possible collapse it. But Washington think tanks and the President didn't want to hurt possible reelection chances so they just played and played in the south till we gave up over the whole thing. Same in Afghanistan it would take a major invasion of tribal regions of Pakistan to destroy the Taliban but President Obama will never do that so were wasting time there and losing good men in the end for nothing.


mpower6428 November 10, 2011 at 6:56 pm

"a major invasion of the tribal areas in pakistan"… you first.


Matt November 13, 2011 at 12:32 am

I agree with you on Vietnam, as the VC were supported by clear benifactors. The military shouldve been allowed to fight the enemy, lines on a map and hippies be damned. In Afganistan, we already have drone strikes in Pakastan and throwing more US boots on the ground would only raise casualties and the Taliban (with the help of the Pakistan ISI) can always keep moving back ahead of a mass US force into Pakistan. Does America follow them with a land invasion of Pakistan as well?


DODAVATAR November 10, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Warfare with "rules" is a recipe for defeat. There is no "honorable" war, and concerns for collateral damage and civilian casualties only increases the American body count and lengthens the war to a point where defeat of simply giving up is the only option. The Taliban will never be defeated unless the tactics of Alexander the Great is used. Remove the population from the disputed area and re-populate with "friendlies" Removing can be accomplished by genocide (a harsh word, but it works) not gently re-locating the desert religion tribes elsewhere. Wars are won by waging "Total War" waged by Union Generals to save the Union. Think World War II. Destroy the enemy, totally or don't attempt to wage war.


mpower6428 November 10, 2011 at 4:05 pm

yea well…. alexander DID fight in afghanistan and he couldnt wait to get out. its not the people per say, its the geography and how that effects the people who live there. simplistic solutions to complicated problems summed up in short paragraphs serve nobody. and are boring to boot.


itfunk November 11, 2011 at 4:58 am

Not even Bin Laden dreamed of America on a genocidal rampage. Our defeat would be not only faster but more complete.


blight November 11, 2011 at 8:30 am

If the enemy can't defeat you on the battlefield but can defeat your soul and mind, then he lives forever, now he doesn't he?


Thomas L. Nielsen November 11, 2011 at 11:02 am

"Removing can be accomplished by genocide (a harsh word, but it works)" – not just harsh, but ugly as hell. And it "works"? By what criteria? And before answering that one, you might want to talk the whole "genocide works" idea over with the Nazis, Pol Pot, Idi Amin and Joe Stalin.

As for the practicalities of this "Endlösung" of yours, do you suggest Zyklon B, or will good oldfashiond carbon monoxide do? Or are you personally going to put a bullet into every man, woman and child?

Genocide is nothing more or less than mass murder. Or are you suggesting that genocide is OK if it's you doing it?

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen


Tom Fitz November 10, 2011 at 3:18 pm

The main problem is making the right choice at the outset. We should not have fought some of the wars we've waged, and with one exception the outcomes reflected that (we were just lucky to get out of the War of 1812 with our national sovereignty intact).

I believe Mr Skinner's placement of blame for our tragedy in Vietnam is correct.


WJS November 10, 2011 at 3:42 pm

"A Question of Command" by Mark Moyar has some very interesting points regarding Vietnam and counterinsurgency in general. Check it out. I learned something. I'm too young to really have any firsthand insight into Vietnam one way or the other so my only resource is books and the people who experienced it. I do think that not enough responsibility is given to the civilian administration at the time and the American congress in letting South Vietnam get swallowed by the north.


mpower6428 November 10, 2011 at 4:14 pm

the "civilian administration" republican or democrat, johnson or nixon finally figured out that macnamara (the whizkid) and westmoreland (the boyscout from hell) had ,and always would have, only one answer…. MORE MORE MORE.

the grown-ups prevailed, it was a good thing.


Crenshaw November 10, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Almost half the helicopters used in the Viet Nam War were destroyed (5,086 out of 11,827).

A staggering loss rate, sustainable only by a very wealthy nation in a very limited war… and in a relatively benign environment (no enemy air-to-air threat against the U.S. choppers, and reasonably safe main operating bases & supply lines).

It does clearly indicate how vulnerable helicopters are in combat operations. Helicopters would not survive an equally matched opponent in a full-scale war.


blight November 11, 2011 at 8:39 am

I've wondered how those numbers were computed. Does that include the helicopters "lost" when the RVN folded up, or just those that were shot down? If the latter, it shows you how pervasive the insurgency was in the countryside.

Ten years of war in Vietnam (1965-1975) would be less than 3650 days. Losing 5k helicopters is at least one per day.


mpower6428 November 10, 2011 at 6:30 pm

just say "vietnam" and every monday morning quarterback from here to next sunday feels the need to solve a long lost war with their junior varsity explinations and accusations.

its striking how many people now-a-days have absolutely no idea what we were dealing with as concerns the Vietnam War. the cold war, geopolitics the very nature of our enemy seem to have no effect on the armchair generals.

ima let all you idiots in on a little secret… "hippies" didnt lose the vietnam war

our officer corps. was out-thought and out-fought period.

the UH-1 was a revolutionary machine, the capabilities of a "jeep of the sky" were squandered by "ring-bearers" who couldnt see past a WarsawPact assault in central europe using strategy and tactics suited ONLY for that narrow theater. it was their only reference and they couldnt get out of the box.


major.rod November 11, 2011 at 2:50 am

mpower – "just say "vietnam" and every monday morning quarterback from here to next sunday feels the need to solve a long lost war with their junior varsity explinations and accusations."

Boy, didn't you describe yourself to a "T". Seems you have a grudge against officers (very common and popular among those that never read let alone lived the NCO creed). I don't disagree there were issues of command but considering the political inability to address NVA supply lines in nuetral countries or take the war into the North there isn't much anyone could have done to "win.

Instead of busting officers just tell us how squad leaders could have won the war alone. Should be very entertaining.

I have the greatest respect for the NCO corps. I had the privlege of serving next to some real heroes in my Infantry career Your disdain for all officers and "ring bearers" (BTW, the correct term is "ring knockers") just demonstrates your sense of inferiority and desire to bash what you could never become.


blight November 11, 2011 at 8:35 am

The real issue was our inability to take out the supply chain in Laos and Cambodia. 500k troops wasn't enough to hold all of South Vietnam and push into border countries?

In principal, the United States should have taken the lead with cross-border raids before Rolling Thunder and Linebacker; both of which were meant to pressure the North Vietnamese (belonging to old Douhet thinking) into conceding.

At some point, an invasion of North Vietnam should have been in the cards. I understand the risks of the PLA intervening, but our abundance of caution turned Saigon into Ho Chi Minh city.


TMB November 11, 2011 at 10:22 pm

With regards to Laos and Cambodia, they were technically neutral in the conflict. I'm pretty sure our raids into those countries were illegal. Since we weren't in a declared war with the North, our hands were tied. The sad fact of the matter was that when we eventually crossed the border in force we inflicted quite a bit of damage to the North's supply lines and staging areas. Unless we were to occupy those areas long term though, the North would've just recovered and it would have been a constant seesaw effect. Ho Chi Minh knew the North was safe from invasion so he could fight indefinitely. Sounds a lot like the Pakistan border doesn't it?


blight November 13, 2011 at 12:15 pm

They were illegal. As was North Vietnamese infiltration.

We made slight progress with co-opting the locals to help us out-the Hmong paid for their loyalty to the United States, for example. I don't know if we were able to recruit ethnic groups in Cambodia to do what the Hmong tried to do.

mpower6428 November 12, 2011 at 3:46 am

we HAD 500k troops in country (1968) when westmoreland and macnamara asked for another 250k…. just to hold it.

read some and then get back…. please.


blight November 13, 2011 at 12:18 pm

543k "troops", divided between American combat forces and the support forces required to support American combat troops and the entire ARVN and VNAF.
There's a reason why they needed more. America tapped out though, because butcher's bills aren't supposed to climb without end.

blight November 10, 2011 at 7:09 pm

We tried the whole control the border thing, which led us to penny-packeting units along the AfPak border in vulnerable, hard to cross-support outposts. And since troop counts were low, they were quite small outposts. Wasn't Wanat just a platoon-plus?

Pointing the finger at helicopters doesn't change the facts on the ground: what if we moved from place to place by truck and APC? Does it make it any better that we came by ground vehicles?

We didn't control the villages, nor did we control the countryside. That's the real deliverable.


Hunter78 November 10, 2011 at 8:16 pm

This is incredible. Blaming a good weapon for the incompetence of those running the war is idiotic. In VN the US lost because it had nothing of value to offer the people. US leaders at that time had a love affair with right-wing dictators. They were not an attractive alternative to the nationalistic appeal of Ho Chi Min's movement.

Today? Do you think the corruption of Karzai's companions is more attractive than a movement that insists on moral rectitude? The Taliban will return to power.

In both cases the wonderful weapons are really irrelevant. You are not going to defeat a people on their own soil, unless you want to kill them all. What you can do is offer those people a better alternative.


thrust November 12, 2011 at 6:13 am

What about what the US has done to advance the cause of women and children in Afghanistan? Isn't Karzai preferable to the very literal evils of the Taliban, in this and many other respects? I submit the present war in Afghanistan is fully justified on moral grounds, and should be perpetuated if only to keep the Taliban in check….there is no effective moral counter to this argument, and if America will not take responsibility for it, who will?


TMB November 12, 2011 at 10:39 am

What we think about the Taliban is irrelevant. We don't live there. Ultimately it's up to the Afghan public. Remember that the Taliban started as a response to rampant lawlessness during their civil war. The Taliban might be puritanical tyrants, but within their own rules the country was pretty calm and a fair number of Afghans think about the mid 1990s as the good old days. Karzai himself can't be relied on to decide which side he's on. He's stated on more than one occasion he prefers the Taliban and Pakistan to us.


blight November 13, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Bush Jr tried to sell the war as improvement on womens rights. However, womens rights in the Middle East itself was…an oversight we were willing to make for OPEC's sake.

Over the eight years of Bush II, people on both sides of the ideological spectrum are waking up to the ideological duplicity that we have lived with and are trying to stick it to future presidents. Bush Jr will be the last president to be able to live with realpolitik.


danf November 10, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Afghanistan is a tragic waste of lives and resources. Looking at it from afar, one would have to conclude it was designed to ensure the drastic reduction of future strategic capabilities for the US in the future. This view fits with Obamas views as he laid out in "Dreams From My Father".

Nation building and counter-insurgency is a loser for the US Military. If problems cannot be solved directly by killing and destruction, then the military should not be involved. It is not the right tool.

As far as air-mobility goes, it seems to me it is simple arithmetic. 100k people in Afghanistan means maybe 10k rifleman, to "control" how many 1000's of square miles ? The military cannot do this job. We have to look at Afghanistan and keep drawing larger and larger circles. At some point the problem that is inside the circle will no longer be asymetric. We will then have identified our objective, the destruction of the society inside that circle. In this case it is probably Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

its perfectly reasonable to conclude that we don't want to take on that burden. It is however, a task the military would be capable and suited to doing. It would be suited to the Military's and the nations particular talents. Not occupation of those nations, but their utter destruction.

What holds us back is not the difficulty of the task, but our own unwillingness to accept the moral responsibility for killing multi-millions. Maybe thats admirable and maybe not. But where it leads the west is to the impossible situation it finds itself in afghanistan today.

As I observe the last 10 years of warfare, my conclusion is that our current society will never be capable of making decisive war, because we will never be capable of bringing ourselves to ruthlessly kill millions. It therefore makes little sense to maintain such a large standing combat force or to engage in these inconclusive but bankrupting actions (such as iraq and afghanistan). As it is, our leaders are more willing to see our own soldiers killed than conduct war decisively.


Steve February 21, 2013 at 2:03 pm

As much as I hate to admit it (because of the truth to it) I agree with most of your post, especially the last paragraph.

I have always said that the only thing worse than fighting a war is losing one and as a corollary "Never fight a war you cannot possibly win."

Dresden, the Ruhr Valley, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Sherman's March and Grant's Grand Army of the Potomac trading life for life until bleeding the Army of Virginia dry – out of room – out of supplies – out of fighters – out of time – out of hope. THAT is DEFEATING an enemy nation. We no longer have the will to do that. Now that could change if NYC, LA or DC disappear in a flash, but what then?


jamesb November 10, 2011 at 9:59 pm

One the Best piece's I've read in this place……



tiger November 11, 2011 at 12:27 am

Geography And The IED make the Chopper the tool that it is. With no highways, rail or river systems how else to we cover any distance in Afghanistan?


Infidel4LIFE November 11, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Its the only way to go. How many wanna drive on a road full of IED's? Route clearance is a dangerous way to make a living. Those guys have my respect for real. Ya gotta love 'em..


itfunk November 11, 2011 at 5:15 am

The helicopter provides the illusion of winning a war that's being lost on the ground. That is highly prized by our casualty adverse military.


1 para Reg November 11, 2011 at 8:40 am

to blame the helos for the tactical ineptness of the officers is folly. An example of helos used effectively is the Rhodesian light infantry's Fireforce tactic during the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia bush war.


Plt Sergeant Chee November 11, 2011 at 10:30 am

I deployed with the First Air Cavalry from Benning in 1965. Evidently, our civilian chain of command had already negotiated a loss of the Vietnam War with Communist China, Russia and North Vietnam. Think about it, Our troops could not cross the DMZ to engage the NVA. The NVA, however could and did swarm troops into South
Vietnam to link up with and support the Viet Cong. North Vietnam did not use their
air power in the south–and our air-power was micro-managed by LBJ in Wash.
After 33-months in Vietnam I realized, finally, that victory against communist Russia and China had been negotiated away –our efforts betrayed. A military victory, over N. Vietnam alone, could have been achieved by the end of 1966; however, the USSR,
China and the USA settled for a sustained struggle of American v communist will.
Ho Chi Minh had the moral high-ground; his intent to reunite N & S Vietnam gave heart to his people– while the morale of the South Vietnamese and U.S. troops was
undermined by NO CLEAR OBJECTIVE; despite the obvious air-power advantage.
IMHO, air power only wins wars when politics are left out of the cockpits.


Tippy November 11, 2011 at 11:23 am

I get the impression that the US is trying to fight the war in Afg. on the cheap, with minimal support and minimal helicopters. We had thousands of helos in Vietnam, who can tell me how many helos we have in Afg.?


blight November 11, 2011 at 12:05 pm

We also had 500k troops in Vietnam, many of which were drafted. Most of the professional army was kept in Europe for use against the Soviets.


mhe November 13, 2011 at 11:32 am

a crap load!


Infidel4LIFE November 11, 2011 at 1:33 pm

How do you kill an enemy who lies his head across the border from you in Pakistan? Thats why i say there is no military solution. The Paki's are our "frenemies" and its damn frustrating. Air-Assault still works its a shame the enemy lives in Pakistan.


Mastro November 11, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Pakistan is really not a country- not the way we think of them.

The Islamabad guys have let those tribes in the mountains do their own thing since day one- and make hoary side deals with them when they can.


blight November 13, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Pakistan is "small government". "Let the people decide", as they say in a different country…


Steve W November 12, 2011 at 8:29 am

I bet every soldier who was blown up in his Humvee wishes he rode instead in a Huey. Hell they would probably even settle for a H34.


blight November 12, 2011 at 10:29 am

Indeed. Maybe Carl might write an article of how the Humvee in Iraq symbolized defeat and the tacit admission that we didn't "control the ground", though he would have to edit his spiel about flying over it to say "temporarily driving over it".

We may have sent 500k personnel to Vietnam, but how many were driving in convoys out to ARVN bases or not on the pointy end? Numbers are a means to an end-keeping the enemy out of the cities and villages. If you throw troops into FOBs and FOBs only you've already lost.


john November 12, 2011 at 8:53 pm

I would rather be on the ground. Using my own two feet. If not that give me a humvee, and im a hrst master and airborn. My fellow marines and me always made the most progress when we moved by foot and worked with the locals


mhe November 13, 2011 at 11:31 am

first of all if you all who commented have ever operated in afghanistan you would realize that you have to have air. medevacs are 20 minutes (any longer the hundreds of amputees would have died), the IED threat is huge and if everyone were on the ground driving around, count on billions and billions more in money spent on ruined equipment and even worse- KIA/WIA. we conducted helo raids for 8 months one deployment and if we didnt have that we wouldnt have effects. plus the area that we were in we couldnt get ground resupply, we needed helo or CDS drops. thats how it works. forget about talking to the village elders. trust me it is a lost cause. the whole thing is a lost cause. we have handed over billions in cash and they squander it, steal it, keep it and leave to pakistan or somewhere else. that is where karzai is going. i dont think you all understand how uneducated and stupid afghanis are. they are all selfish, stupid, inbread, drug addicted woudned assholes. we should seriously pull the hell out of there. we will achieve nothing. pull back, observe and drone strike there asses! for all of you who disagree, well then you have a false reality. i was in the helmand and am going back to the helmand!


eddyjames1952 November 13, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Kill them all is the only way to win a war.You can bomb them back to the beginning of a stone age, but once you start with the "Feel good,politically correct" rebuilding of their primitive societies your war is lost.

The only way is for the enemy to have bed wetting nightmares of the thought of you returning to finish the job once and for all.There is a lot to say for the way Genghis Khan and the Romans pacified an area.

The way we do it is to shoot up an area and then give them a few billion dollars to be our friends.What a joke when they can drop their weapon and immediately become a non target. Miranda rights? They have the right to die or be in a POW camp until hell freezes over.


1stSGT November 13, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Your comparing 40 years of technology. The helicopter was a force multiplier in Viet nam. Giving us vertical lift to re-position troops quickly and removed wounded quickly. The L & O (Logistics and Ordinance bird stood buy at Battalion to re supply quickly enemy unit that came in contact. The terrain was forested jungle (except where Orange took of the third canopy) so flying low was good defense exposing the helicopter for minimum time.
The threat to the helicopter has increased. Now the RPG has a surface to air war head. MANPADS make the helicopter a sitting duck. The terrain of Viet Nam is mountainous. An Infantryman dream. We dont have large forces to engage like NVA regiments to cut off. Instead the IED is responsible for over 50% of the fatalities.
Vertial lift has its place and its restrictions. m Using B 52's was not the method of operation for protecting helicopters. It was used on troop concentrations and H & I purposes


FLY ARMY November 14, 2011 at 10:37 am

Apaches are racking up more kills in Afghaniland than any other military asset. Insergent wars have to be fought with surgical units, SF, UAV/UAS, and air.
Ground troops skirmish the theater to a standstill, victories are won by the surgical strike units. Just my thoughts
-CWO US Army


Wayne Morgan (CW4 Ret) November 23, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Army Aviation is an extension of the concept of using vehicles to deliver troops – who can take and hold ground – to where they need to be. They provide commanders with the means to move troops rapidly from place to place over longer distances than possible by ground transport. But it’s up to the Commander to correctly conceptualize and plan military operations making the best use of available resources; there is no “magic bullet” that will save a poor battle plan and no one piece of equipment that will overcome faulty doctrine.


wts January 2, 2012 at 4:33 pm

I wonder about the bigger question: how does the US stabilize or defend a country that does not or cannot defend itself? Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan are all poor, corrupt and politically divided to the point of civil war. South Korea (eventually), and Great Britain needed our help but were certainly motivated to do their part with US help, and did not face internal civil war. We were able to reform Germany and Japan because we organized a large scale occupation of unified nations that never devolved into ethnic war or insurgency.


Tyler Jackson April 24, 2012 at 1:02 pm

the objective is to gain support of the local population…..if you are removed from them and never engage them in conversion they wont support you. if you fly over them, or drive by them then you never engage them……insurgency is less about shooting and more about talking…….however lets not lose sight of the advantages these give us…….you will have to engage the insurgents eventually and when that happens……your going to want your helo's…..however the example in the text from Ia Drang illustrates two conventional forces against each other….and not an insurgency… part of our collective issue is that we still dont understand insurgencies…….other wise a better comparison would have been made…..


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HalP November 10, 2011 at 12:18 pm

You raise s good point – they are content to wait a few years to get their victory. They've been fighting over 1,000 years, something that is not appreciated and ignored in the West.


Thunder350 November 10, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Not sure where your going with your last sentence. Most in the US (And other western nations). Believe in the words of a man who lived long ago. Heck, most were founded on those words.


chaos0xomega November 10, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Hes not blaming the Huey for anything, he is using it as a representative symbol of something that is/was problematic for the US. And I highly doubt that airmobile assaults into hot lz's is the best way to engage an opponent with the lowest number of casualties. As the insurgents in Afghanaland have proven time and time again its not difficult to shoot down a helo by any means, on the occasions that we have lost helo's we've also seen some of the highest casualty rates of the war.


John Moore November 10, 2011 at 8:00 pm

My respect that must takes &%$ loads of courage landing under fire.


blight November 10, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Byron, if I recall correctly you served in the Blackhorse? You must've had an interesting time in RVN.


Jack Macy November 10, 2011 at 9:50 pm

I'm with you. I also flew into hot LZ's on the Huey with the 101ST around Firebase Ripcord in 1970. We could get in there quick before the NVA new we were coming. Can you imagine trying to chop your way thru the jungle getting to where you needed to be every time. The NVA could hear you a mile off and no doubt be sitting & waiting on you. The element of surprise saved a lot of lives no doubt in that respect. Sometimes we also had to walk out to get to a safer place to blow an LZ.
"one of the draftees"


Tad November 10, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Well a brand new generation is just blowing it again.


Guest November 10, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Agreed. American public is extremely squeamish. We spend more time pissing locals off than winning their trust. Insurgents operate with the support (willing or otherwise) of the local population. If we don't win that local support, it won't matter if the American public supports the war or not.


Carl Weber November 11, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Unfortunately in Vietnam "The Corps," did not learn and therefore never implemented the concept of FID or Foreign Internal Defense. Since you cannot hold an area that you have cleared without a certain amount of forces staying put. The marines did not have enough men to hold what they cleared and did not train-up the local men to take over.

Army SF ODA's did a good job with FID well before the marines (late 50's early 60's) but the Green Berets were few in number and were pushed by the BIG Army into doing more direct action missions vs. UW/FID.


blight November 10, 2011 at 11:03 pm

I've always been confused by that. There is this myth that every Afghan has a gun in their house, and the Taliban can still walk in at night and kill at will.

Our ability to be mobile and respond "quickly" ignores the point that we are /responding/. We aren't fighting them off as we come, as others have noted. Even an Afghan Army is trained to respond, and not to fight in the first place.

Indiginous militias, especially those belonging to the oppressed ethnic groups will at least cement our positions in Hazara and Tajik areas. Holding the Pashtun areas will be challenging, because most of the Taliban are Pashtun, and they share ethnic/clan ties. How do you beat that as an outsider?

When you kill an Afghan, aren't they sworn to avenge their death? We're kind of boned if we have to kill every Afghan who is honor-bound to avenge a death, no matter how it happens.

If we can't even control the American border, how do we teach Afghanistan to keep the Haqqanis, the Taliban and Al Qaeda out? The best we can do is hold the Pashtun areas, keep the Taliban from leaving night letters and killing people until the ANA can do so and pull out?


Infidel4LIFE November 11, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Nation building and all the $ that goes w/ it is a waste here. This place has almost no infrastructure. How do you get projects to work if you cannot provide security?


jamFRIDGE November 11, 2011 at 6:56 am

You say squeemish, yet look at our entertainment today. I think it’s because the media drilled into their minds that if Americans are dying, they shouldn’t be there.


blight November 11, 2011 at 8:29 am

That's entertainment for a niche of the population. The vast majority are generally isolationist and deluded by the Cold War "win" that world peace need not be be bought with blood anymore.


kim November 11, 2011 at 10:01 am

I think that applies to all major beliefs.


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