I recently finished reading End of the Line. It’s a novel written by a war correspondent at the Vietnam war, recounting the events at Khe Sanh. It was nice to finally read an account of this famous war from a non-American view point. The American view would lead you to believe America showed its might and dominated the North Vietnamese troops (even though they lost the war). One of the most surprising things I read about in this book was regarding all the bombing preformed by the Americans.

American troops were out of their league in Vietnam. They basically wanted to show the might of their firepower but that’s hard to do when you can’t even see your enemy. So American’s resorted to using B-52’s to drop bombs anywhere and everywhere. Bombs, tear gas, napalm anything and everything was used to flush out and destroy the enemy. American troops would go out on recon missions and as soon as they spotted some North Vietnamese troops, they would call in air strikes.

General Westmorland, commander of the American forces said in a statement after the war that the B52’s were very successful in shutting down the enemy, and played key roles in the war. The book also offers testimonials from North Vietnamese leaders stateing that they knew the flight paths, take off times, and targets of the B52’s well in advanced and therefore could easily avoid being annihilated and also set up anti-aircraft weapons and shoot down these seemingly menacing B-52’s.

General Vo Nguyen Giap, commander of the North Vietnamese has got to be one of the most brilliant military leaders ever. One thing I found interesting was his view about war in general. He believed that if the citizens were not behind a country’s decision to go to war, then the country had no purpose to go to war. To win a war, the people have to be in support of it. Giap knew American citizens wouldn’t stand for the Vietnam war so he prolonged it as much as he could resorting to guerrilla tactics. All the bombing and destruction of land didn’t help either. President Johnson finally had to withdraw American troops because of growing political pressure from American citizens. Giap also fought the war by doing whatever he needed to, whereas American troops were basically guided by political issues, hence General Westmorland stating the “effectiveness” of the B-52 bombers. Now I know war itself is useless, but being that as it may, you still have to respect the brilliance of Giap.

I especially liked one of his statements towards the end of the book:

“..Khe Sanh [was a piece of land that General Westmorland viewed as being extremely important to the North Vietnamese, and was crucial for Americans to defend this land] wasn’t that important to us. Or it was only as important to the extent that it was important to the Americans…Because look at the usual paradox that you will always find with the Americans: as long as they stayed in Khe Sanh to defend their prestige, they said Khe Sanh was important; when they abandoned Khe Sanh, they said Khe Sanh had never been important. Besides, don’t you think we won at Khe Sanh? I say yes”

I also say yes.

PS: Just for the record, I’m not anti-American. I just find the Vietnam war to be very interesting because of the fact that U.S. lost. After reading this book, I realize why there are very few movies based on this war; because America lost. For any one interested in movies about the Vietnam war, I recommend watching Platoon or Apocalypse Now. Excellent movies that really bring forth the horror and savagery of this war.