Vietman War, U.S MIlitary, Search and destroy


On August 7, 1964 both houses of Congress approved the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, placing congressional support behind the president in repelling "any armed attack against the forces of the United States." The president was also empowered to take, upon request from any nation in Southeast Asia, "all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist {that nation} in the defense of its freedom." This allowed the U.S. to circumvent the Geneva Accords of 1954, which had severely limited the U.S. troop contingent in South Vietnam and prevented any offensive military campaigns. Less than a year after passage of the resolution, General William Westmoreland, commander of the U.S. forces in Vietnam, began to execute the "search-and-destroy" tactic, which was designed to "locate the enemy; try to bring him to battle, and either destroy him or force his surrender. "2 In conjunction with heavy air and artillery support, the United States conducted thousands of search-and-destroy missions, killing over one million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers, while losing 58,000 American lives. Although the disparity in these numbers might seem to indicate the success of the tactic used, the ultimate loss of the war proved its futility. The ineffectiveness of search-and-destroy was apparent as early as 1965, when Westmoreland noted that despite U.S. efforts, enemy strength continued to rise.3 Search-and-destroy' s failure to achieve the desired strategic results has prompted a post-war debate that attempts to find the parties responsible for the inception and execution of this tactic.