Could America Have Won The Vietnam War?

Many in America wonder if the United States could have won the Vietnam war but did not do it. The reasons America lost this War have been debated in the US press.

How Many Vietnamese Died In The Vie...
How Many Vietnamese Died In The Vietnam War?

America could not have won the Vietnam war as America never won the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people. The Americans had a hard time controlling the Vietnamese people in South Vietnam; many Southern Vietnamese were disillusioned with the South Vietnamese government. Ho Chi Minh, the leader of North Vietnam, fully understood that another foreign power could never fully control the Vietnamese heart and soul.

Was Vietnam The Unwinnable War?

Many U.S. historians believe that Vietnam was a war the United States could never win. After living and working in Vietnam for over ten years, I agree.

America could have forced its way into North Vietnam and tried to place the Vietnamese under the rule of the South Vietnamese; ruling Vietnam did not work for the French and would not work for the Americans. 

America may have had the military power, but America would have never won the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people.

Americans saw this in their rule of South Vietnam; even the Vietnamese supposedly on our side were not enthusiastic about the war effort. 

On the other hand, the North Vietnamese had thousands of people who believed in the war effort and were willing to die for their country.

Portrait of Ho Chi Minh, who is known as Uncle Ho.

I believe the Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, who is even still today affectionately called Uncle Ho, said this about the Vietnamese and their willingness to die for Vietnam:

“Our resistance will be long and painful, but whatever the sacrifices, however long the struggle, we shall fight to the end, until Vietnam is full independent and unified.”

Ho Chi Minh

America Could Not Have Won The Vietnamese Hearts

The biggest problem with the American involvement in the Vietnam war was that America could never win the Vietnamese people’s hearts, minds, and souls. Vietnamese people were invested in Vietnam becoming a free and independent country.

The Vietnamese had spent 1000 years under Chinese rule and almost 100 years under French law. Ho Chi Minh came and showed them that they could be free and independent people who could be in charge of their destiny in their own country.

Having spent a lot of time in Vietnam, I believe the heart and soul of the Vietnamese ensured that America could never win the war or control Vietnam long-term. They could have used their military might to invade North Vietnam, but they could not force the Vietnamese into submission.

The truth is that the fighting would have never stopped. Like the French that went before the U.S., the Vietnamese would have continued to fight.

Ho Chi Minh understood this fully. He knew that the numbers were against this tiny nation of Vietnam to go up against the mighty power of the American military. Still, he understood that Vietnam and the Vietnamese would never stop fighting.

Ho Chi Minh said this:

“You can kill ten of our men for every one we kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and we will win.”

Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh understood that most Vietnamese people wanted independence from all foreign powers and were willing to fight for that change.

Listen To Our Podcast About Why Could America Not Ever Win The Vietnam War? Below or by clicking here.

South Vietnamese Government Was Weak

One of the saddest tragedies of the Vietnam War was that the United States tried to prop up and back what was a very corrupt and weak government in South Vietnam. In other words, we were backing the wrong person, and Americans paid for that mistake with their lives.

Portrait of President Ngo Dinh Diem

The South Vietnamese government that was supposed to be on our side was corrupt and fraction-ridden. President Ngo Dinh Diem was weak and disliked; he was assassinated in 1963. Unlike Ho Chi Minh, President Ngo Dinh Diem could not inspire the nation.

The South Vietnamese leaders that followed after President Ngo Dinh Diem were just as bad as he was and even worse in some cases. They were unable to give their people a cause or reason to rise and fight for the cause of freedom for Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh and the Communists were far more successful in giving the Vietnamese people a reason why they would be willing to fight and die for Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh was considered a true patriot compared to the weak South Vietnamese leaders. In speaking about what drove him to fight his entire life for Vietnamese independence, he said:

“It was patriotism, not communism, that inspired me.”

Ho Chi Minh

The Vietnamese were inspired by Ho Chi Minh and his willingness to fight for Vietnam. Even today, Ho Chi Minh still holds the hearts of the Vietnamese people in his hands.

When you visit Vietnam, it is common to see posters and statues of Ho Chi Minh all over the country. Many essential offices will have a statue, bust, or photo of Ho Chi Minh in their office.

The Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh

As a sign of respect, many older men will wear their hair the same way Ho Chi Minh did with a goatee haircut. People will wait hours in line to see Ho Chi Minh, or Uncle Ho as they call him, lying in state in his mausoleum.

Vietnamese love to fly their national flag, and it can be common on most holidays that almost every house will have a Vietnamese fly flying.

After living in Vietnam and knowing the Vietnamese people, I feel like anyone who knows Vietnam understands that America could never have won the war. We may have had the military might, machinery and money, but we did not have the hearts and souls of the Vietnamese people.

And because of that, the Vietnamese war was a war that we could never have won as we would never have been able to control Vietnam. We could never fully control South Vietnam as there were so many Northern sympathizers in the South that we would never have been able to control North Vietnam.

I believe this is the sad reality of the Vietnam war. We were in a conflict that we could never really win.

It was again Ho Chi Minh who understood this best when he said:

“The Vietnamese people deeply love independence, freedom and peace. But in the face of United States aggression they have risen up, united as one man.”

Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh knew and understood that the Vietnamese would fight until the bitter end – or until they had their complete independence.

Vietnam Today After The War

I first traveled to Vietnam in the early 1990s, before the Americans had diplomatic relations with Vietnam. What amazed me then and continues to amaze me today is how I have rarely felt any animosity from any Vietnamese towards me as an American.

After all, the Vietnamese war was an extremely divisive and brutal war on both sides. I learned that the Vietnamese moved on and forgot the war and the terrible things that happened long before the Americans.

They did not forget their family, friends, and many loved ones who died, but they were ready even in the early 1990s to put the war behind them and move on. That is one reason why I love this quote by Ho Chi Minh so much, as it shows the true spirit of the Vietnamese people:

“Everything depends on the Americans. If they want to make war for 20 years then we will make war for 20 years. If they want to make peace, then we shall make peace and invite them to tea afterwards. ”

Ho Chi Minh

That is precisely what is happening today in Vietnam. Americans and other nationalities do not need to worry that the Vietnamese will not like them or hold the war against them – Vietnam has moved on past this war and now welcomes everyone to Vietnam.

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What Happened To The Hmong After The Vietnam War?

When the Vietnam War ended, the Hmong in Laos was in a terrible position; the Hmong fighters were enemies of the present Laotian government and considered “persona non gratis.” Some were forced into labor camps or kicked out of their home and lands. The Hmong made their way eventually to the Laotian – Thai border so they could try to get into the United States via Thailand.

By clicking here, you can discover What Happened To The Hmong After The Vietnam War?

What U.S Companies Profited During The Vietnam War?

During the Vietnam War, many companies profited from the Vietnam war. Some of these companies were going toward bankruptcy, but their involvement in the Vietnam war helped make them profitable. For many others, they earned millions of dollars each year in profits off the war that helped ensure they continued to be beneficial.

By clicking here, you can discover What U. S Companies Profited During The Vietnam War?

What Was The Main Reason For US Involvement In Vietnam?

The main reason for the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War was the belief in the Domino theory; the Domino theory was a principle used to describe the effects on the world if Vietnam fell to communism. If Vietnam became communist, then the rest of Asia, New Zealand, and even Australia would also eventually become communist. At the time, American leaders felt they were fighting for the survival of democracy throughout the world.

By clicking here, you can learn more by reading What Was The Main Reason For U.S. Involvement In Vietnam? 

Anita L Hummel

Hi, I live in Hanoi, Vietnam but spend time traveling the region. I love to share with you things I see and learn through my travels.

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Could America Have Won The Vietnam War?