Category Vietnam

My articles on other blogs

Col. General Wolfram Baron von Richthofen, 1942 (Bundesarchive Bild 101I-452-0985-36)

While there are 783 blog posts that I have made to the Mystics and Statistics blog, I do have seven other articles written on other sites, all in 2015 and 2016.

History News Network

  1. How Military Historians Are Using Quantitative Analysis — And You Can Too
  2. Did the Pentagon Learn from Vietnam?
  3. Did I Just Write the Largest History Book Ever?
  4. Are Russians Really Long-Suffering?
  5. What Are Historians Supposed to Make of Quotes Reported by the Discredited Historian and Holocaust Denier David Irving?

While I was writing this blog post a week ago, I noticed a message from nine months ago on the History New Network to this last article. It was from Dr. Andrew Arthy of Australia. Turns out he has a copy of the Wolfram von Richthofen’s notes from a discussion he had with Generaloberst Jeschonnek on 25 May 1943. So finally got confirmation that this was indeed a valid quote from David Iriving.

Small Wars Journal

  1. Airpower: Just Part of the Counterinsurgency Equation

Aberdeen Book Store

  1. Did I Just Write the Largest History Book Ever?

This is the complete article. The article with the History News Network was abbreviated.

An Administrative Weakness

Another post is response the comments to this blog post:

The Afghan Insurgents

The comment was “…the insurgents are one side of the coin and the other is the credibility of the government we are trying to create in Afghanistan…If the central government is seen as corrupt and self serving then this also inspires the insurgents and may in fact be the decisive factor….”

This immediately brought to mind David Galula’s construct, which was based upon four major points (see pages 210-211 of America’s Modern Wars):

  1. Insurgents need a cause
  2. A police and administrative weakness
  3. A non-hostile geographic environment
  4. Outside support in the middle to late states.

He specifically state that: “the first two are musts. The last is a help that may become a necessity.”

Now, the problem is that we never took the time to measure an “administrative weakness” or even define what it was. Nor did David Galula. Furthermore, there is also probably an “administrative weakness” or two on the guerilla side. If the culture of Iraq/Afghanistan/Vietnam make it difficult to create government structures and armed forces that are highly motivated, unified and not corrupted, well I suspect some of those same problems exist among the guerillas drawn from that same culture. Therefore, to measure this requires some way of defining what these “administrative weaknesses” are, but also quantifying them, and then determining how they affected both (or more) sides. Needless to say, this was not going to be done in the initial phase of our analysis. We were never funded to conduct follow-up analysis.

This is the problem with David Galula’s construct. There is no easy way to measure it or analyze it. Galula offers no definition of what an “administrative weakness” is. If he does not define it, then how do I define it for his “theory?”

One does note that Galula in his description of the Viet Cong in 1963 states that:

The insurgent has really no cause at all: he is exploiting the counterinsurgent’s weaknesses and mistakes….The insurgent’s program is simply: “Throw the rascals out.: If the “rascals” (whoever is in power in Saigon) amend their ways, the insurgents would lose his cause.

As I note on page 48 of my book:

This was a war that eventually resulted in over 2 million deaths and insurgent force in excess of 300,000. As it is, one could infer from Galula’s statement that he felt that the insurgency could be easily defeated since it was based upon “no real cause.”  We believe that this view has been proven incorrect by historical events.

Clearly identifying insurgent cause and administrative weakness was also a challenge for David Galula.

Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase III – part 2

U.S. Army troops in Hue, South Vietnam monitor the streets below during the Tet Offensive, 1968. [Bettmann/CORBIS]

Another part of our Phase III effort was to look at post-World War II cases. This is, by its nature, invariably one-sided data. Maybe at some point we will get the Chinese, North Koreans, Vietnamese, Syrians, etc. to open up their archives to us researchers, but, except for possibly Vietnam, I don’t think that is going to happen any time in the near future. So, we ended up building our post-World War II cases primarily from U.S. data.

We added 10 engagements from the Inchon/Seoul operation in 1950. For Vietnam we added  65 division-level urban engagements from the Tet Offensive in 1968 and 57 division-level non-urban engagements. We also added 56 battalion-level urban engagements from the Tet Offensive (all in Hue). We had 14 division-level urban engagements and 65 division-level non-urban engagements from various contingencies and conventional operations from 1944 to 2003. This included ELAS Insurgency, Arab-Isreali Wars, Panama, Mogadishu, the 1991 Gulf War and Baghdad in 2003. We also added 9 battalion-level urban cases, mostly from Beirut 1982-1984.

To add it all up this was:

                                                 Urban       Non-urban

Phase I (ETO)                              46              91

Phase II (Kharkov/Kursk)             51              65

Phase III (Manila/PTO)                53              41

Post-WWII – Division-level           89            123

Post-WWII – Battalion-level          65               0

                                                   ——-         ——

Total cases                                 304           319

This is a lot of cases for comparisons.

Just to show how they match up (from page 28 of the report):

Attackers in Division-Level Engagements:


PTO Kor Tet Oth ETO EF (Ger Atk) EF (Sov Atk)
Avg Str/day 12,099 28,304 6,294 10,903 34,601 17,080 17,001
Avg Cas 78 30 94 254 178 86 371
Avg Cas/day 78 30 39 59 169 86 371
Avg % Loss/day 0.63 0.71 0.78 0.56 0.50 0.49 1.95
Wgt % Loss/day 0.65 0.71 0.62 0.54 0.49 0.50 2.18



PTO Tet Oth ETO EF (Ger Atk) EF (Sov Atk)
Avg Str/day 17,445 13,232 18,991 21,060 27,083 27,044
Avg Cas 663 44 377 469 276 761
Avg Cas/day 221 22 191 237 206 653
Avg % Loss/day 0.83 0.19 1.56 1.09 1.00 2.39
Wgt % Loss/day 1.27 0.17 1.01 1.13 0.76 2.41

I will pick up more on the Phase III effort in a subsequent posting (a part 3 to this series). These charts are also on page 238 of War by Numbers.


P.S. The blog the image was taken from (it is a collection of pictures taken from the fighting in Hue):


Isolating the Guerilla

The Vietnam was significant in that it was third bloodiest war in U.S. military history (58,000 U.S. killed) and the U.S. Army choose to learn no lessons from it !!! This last point is discussed in my book America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam.

In 1965 Trevor Dupuy’s HERO (Historical Evaluation Research Organization) conducted a three-volume study called “Isolating the Guerilla.” It was an interesting survey of 19 insurgencies that included on its research team 26 experts. This included General Geoffrey Lord Bourne (British Army, ret.), Andrew C. Janos, Peter Paret, among others.

These guys:,_Baron_Bourne


The first volume of the study, although developed from historical sources, was classified after it was completed. How does one classify a study that was developed from unclassified sources?

As such, the first volume of the study was in the classified safe at DMSI when I was there. I was aware of the study, but had never taken the time to look at it. DMSI went out of business in the early 1990s and all the classified material there was destroyed. The Dupuy Institute did not have a copy of this volume of the study.

In 2004 we did our casualty and duration estimate for Iraq. It was based upon a survey of 28 insurgencies. We then expanded that work to do an analysis based upon 89 insurgencies. This was done independently of our past work back in 1965, which I had never seen. This is detailed in my book America’s Modern Wars.

As this work was being completed I was contacted by a Lt. Colonel Michael F. Trevett in 2008. It turns out he had an unclassified copy of the study. He found it in the Ft. Huachuca library. It was declassified in 2004 and was also in DTIC. So, I finally got a copy of a study after we had almost completed our work on insurgencies. In retrospect, it would have been useful to have from the start. Again, another case of disappearing studies.

In 2011, Michael F. Trevett published the study as a book called Isolating the Guerrilla. The book is the study, with many of the appendices and supporting data removed at the request of the publisher. It was a self-publishing effort that was paid by Michael out of his personal/family funds. He has since left the Army. I did write the foreword to the book.

What can I say about this case? We did a study on insurgencies in 1965 that had some relevance to the wars we entered in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. It remained classified and buried in a library in Ft. Huachuca, Arizona and at DTIC. It was de-classified in 2004 and came back to light in 2008. This was through the effort of a single motivated Lt. Colonel who was willing to take the time and his own personal money to make it happen.

Captured Records: Vietnam

There is a file of captured records for the Vietnam War. The Viet Cong, having political officers and a command structure, actually did keep records. The North Vietnamese Army also kept records. During the course of the war, some of these records were captured and are in a file at the National Archives. I don’t know of anyone who has used them. I did glance at the file, and there was no finders guide and nothing was translated. There did not appear to be much order to the file. I would have needed someone fluent in Vietnamese to help me (which is actually easy to find in Northern Virginia…for example General Nguyen Ngoc Loan ended up owning a Pizza restaurant in Springfield, VA).

** EDS NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT ** South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, fires his pistol, shoots, executes into the head of suspected Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem (also known as Bay Lop) on a Saigon street Feb. 1, 1968, early in the Tet Offensive. (AP Photo/Eddie Adams)

In the mid-1990s I did meet with Americans who had worked with the Vietnamese in trying to locate missing U.S. servicemen. They stated that the Vietnamese were very open and interested in researching and discussing the war. They felt that they would be receptive to a joint research project on Vietnam and would be willing to open their archives for us. As we had had access to the Soviet military archives since 1993, this looked like a fairly attractive next adventure for us. Unfortunately, we could not get anyone interested in funding research on insurgencies at that time. It was not something that U.S. had researched or analyzed since 1973.

Needless to say, after we got involved in insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, I again floated the idea to the Army of doing a joint research project on Vietnam. They listened to me a little longer, but in the end, there was really no interest in analyzing the insurgency in Vietnam. I am not sure why. It has the virtue of being one of the few insurgencies where the insurgents kept good records. This would allow us to do analysis based upon two-sided data. There was certainly something that could be learned from this.

Of course, one of the problems with studying Vietnam is that U.S. Army record keeping at that time was grossly substandard. It was the poorest quality records from the U.S. Army that I had ever observed. The files from most of the units were very scant. Sometimes it was difficult to even determine the units strength and losses. Some divisions were missing almost all of their files (like the 82nd Airborne). For the 1st Brigade, 5th Mechanized Division on the DMZ, we could not determine the tank strength of the unit. There was no periodic strength and loss reports for armor. For the assault helicopter battalion my father commanded, there was only a battalion newspaper and few other files. You could not tell what aircraft the unit had, nor their status or strength. It was embarrassing.

We did actually flag this problem to the active duty army of the time and they ended up giving us a contract to examine the state of current U.S, army record keeping, which is  discussed in this post:

U.S. Army Record Keeping

Anyhow, this is an extended discussion of captured records originally inspired by this post:

The Sad Story Of The Captured Iraqi DESERT STORM Documents


McMaster vs Spector on Vietnam

Lt. General H. R. McMaster, the U.S. National Security Advisor, wrote a doctoral dissertation on Vietnam that was published in 1997 as Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Lies That Led to Vietnam. Ronald Spector, former Marine, Vietnam vet, and historian just published this interesting article:  What McMaster Gets Wrong About Vietnam

What caught my interest was the discussion by Spector, very brief, that the Vietnamese had something to do with the Vietnam war. Not an earthshaking statement, but certainly a deserved poke at the more American-centric view of the war.

In my book, America’s Modern Wars, I do have a chapter called “The Other Side” (Chapter 18). As I note in the intro to that chapter (page 224):

Warfare is always a struggle between at least two sides. Yet, the theoretical study of insurgencies always seems to be written primarily from the standpoint of one side, the counterinsurgents. We therefore briefly looked at what the other side was saying to see if there were any theoretical constructs that were proposed or supported by them. They obviously knew as much about insurgencies as the counterinsurgents.

We then examined the writings and interview transcripts of eight practitioners of insurgency and ended up trying to summarize their thoughts in one barely “easy-to-read” table (pages 228-229), the same as we did for ten counterinsurgent theorists (pages 187-201). The conclusion to this discussion was (pages 235-236):

The review of the insurgents shows an entirely different focus as to what is important in an insurgency than one gets from reading the “classical” counterinsurgent theorists. In the end, the insurgent is primarily focused on the cause. The military aspects of the insurgency seem to be secondary concerns…..On the other hand, the majority of the insurgents we reviewed actually won or managed a favorable results from their war in the long run (this certainly applies to Grivas and Itote). Perhaps their focus on the political cause, with the military aspects secondary, is an indication of the correct priorities. 

I do have a chapter on Vietnam in the book also (Chapter 22).

Status of Books

War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat: For some reason, does not have a Kindle edition available at the moment (I recall that they did). I have talked to the publisher and they are looking into it. The paperback edition is for sale on and of course, University of Nebraska Press. I have heard that some people overseas have gotten copies, but other people are having a problem. I also have the publisher looking into that. There is one 5-star review of the book on I don’t know the reviewer (meaning it is not a planted review).

Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka: The book has been selling at a consistent rate this year, and at that rate, it will be out of stock in the second half of 2018. If you are thinking about getting it, you probably don’t want to tarry too long. There are currently no plans for a re-print.

America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam: I do consider this the most significant of my three books, and of course, it is the one with the worse sales. I guess the study and analysis of insurgencies is passé, as we have done such a great job of winning these type of wars.