Chapter IX: 
It is always difficult to draw up a list of lessons to be inferred from the experiences of any war. It is even more difficult, perhaps presumptive, to extrapolate the lessons of one war, and, invoking some rule of universality, correctly claim their relevance to another war-especially to one in the future. It is obvious that we do not readily learn from our own mistakes, and that we learn even less from the mistakes of others. For example, the penchant of the French for piecemeal use of armored units and how that practice worked to their disadvantage in Vietnam had been recorded. In addition, cautions against peacemeal use of armored units had been an important part of U.S. military doctrine since World War II. These words of caution came after a long and bitter struggle between a handful of American cavalrymen who saw in armored forces something more than support for dismounted infantry and American infantrymen who clung tenaciously to the idea that armored forces were merely support for infantry. But many American combat leaders, both young and old, never heeded the caution, despite the experiences of armored units in World War II. We went on to make the same mistakes again in Vietnam, with air cavalry, ground cavalry, mechanized infantry, tank battalions, and other units. We simply had not learned our lessons.
In Vietnam the cost to U.S. forces of committing armor piecemeal was not noticeably high, but on another battlefield, against a more powerful enemy-one that could capitalize on the mistake by destroying any fragmented force-the mistake could be fatal. Was it recognition that the enemy in Vietnam was unlikely to be able to destroy the fragmented forces that persuaded senior U.S. commanders to split their armored units? Or was it a serious mistake reflecting the failure of the military to learn from the past? Armor soldiers would argue for the latter-that it was a mistake, a typical and frequently repeated mistake in any war generally viewed by senior commanders as an infantry war. It was made in Korea, it was made in Vietnam. In the case of Vietnam, advice based on a considerable body . of experience was available from American officers who had served as advisers to South Vietnamese armored units early in the war. For a number of reasons this advice either was not offered to the right people or was not heeded by

senior officers able to influence policy and tactics in the employment of armor. We cannot afford to make this mistake again.
The second lesson of Vietnam has to do with finding the enemy, to which was closely tied possibly the most exciting development of the Vietnam era: the fielding of air cavalry. Although the problem exists to some extent in any war, in Vietnam the need to find the enemy before he could assemble and organize his forces was critical. Especially important in a future war will be an early knowledge of where the enemy has massed those weapons that will be vital to success in the battle. The special mobility of air cavalry will provide a badly needed means of reconnaissance and surveillance.
In the later stages of the war in Vietnam, when air cavalry was confronted with sophisticated enemy air defenses, it became apparent that the reconnaissance could still be performed if the commander was willing to pay the price of knocking out enemy air defenses. If information on the enemy is necessary, then the price must be paid. We must not dispense with air cavalry on the theory that it can only survive against an enemy possessing little or no air defense. The scouting mission-reconnaissance-is still critical. Air cavalry adds a new dimension to reconnaissance, one complementary to reconnaissance by ground scouts in armored cavalry units. That armored cavalry units in Vietnam were widely used as combat maneuver forces should not be allowed to obscure the fact that they are still a part of the central core of the reconnaissance team. The air cavalry-ground combination can give a much needed advantage to the force commander who uses it wisely.
In Vietnam there was considerable use of air cavalry troops and squadrons as divisional, corps, or field force troops; in some cases gunships from air cavalry were used for armed escort and scout helicopters for staff visits. These practices, while a boon to senior headquarters, did all too little for tactical commanders at brigade level and below. Only in the 11th Armored Cavalry were air and ground cavalry integrated into a single operational team under a brigade level commander. Colonel George S. Patton once said that the operation of the 11th Cavalry when he was in command really depended on the eyes of those nine warrant officers riding as scouts in his regimental air cavalry troop. The employment of integrated air and ground cavalry must be fully developed and expanded if we are to realize the full potential of the new reconnaissance team.
Third among the lessons taught by Vietnam is what can be done in area and route security, especially in an area traditionally considered the rear. In Vietnam of course there was no rear area; the

PICTURE - M48A3 TANK EXPLODES A 750-POUND BOMB SET UP AS A MINE. Turret was hurled from tank, which was blown out of its tracks.
M48A3 TANK EXPLODES A 750-POUND BOMB SET UP AS A MINE. Turret was hurled from tank, which was blown out of its tracks.
enemy was all around. Such a situation could be encountered in a fast-moving war. Usually the U.S. Army has used armored cavalry and other armored units for rear area security.
In the II Corps Tactical Zone for most of the war the 1st Battalion, 69th Armor, and 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry, acted as reaction forces. At one point in 1970 the 11th Cavalry in the III Corps Zone was daily clearing mines from and providing security for almost 100 miles of logistical resupply routes and farm-to-market roads. While for many reasons armored units are good at this work, the practice can be, and indeed was in Vietnam, a considerable drain on combat forces capable of accomplishing much more for their commander than clearing roads and protecting logistical units.
With limited combat forces at our disposal, it would seem far better to equip and train logistical units to protect themselves, and to furnish area security by providing military police or other units mounted in armored cars and firing weapons designed for the form of enemy resistance they can expect to encounter. In Vietnam some military police units were equipped with armored cars for this purpose, but the system was never widely used. Province chiefs late in the war had their own provincial reconnaissance units mounted in armored cars, and these essentially performed rear area and route security operations. From the standpoint of returns for manpower and equipment invested, it was a far more cost effective operation than assigning a tank, a mechanized infantry, or an armored cavalry unit the same task. The concept of furnishing protection for rear areas and resupply routes in part with the units

stationed in the area and in part with a military police type of unit equipped for this purpose needs full exploration and development.
Fourth among the lessons the Vietnam War offers us is the proof that we still need to find better ways of dealing with land mines. Because of the nature of the war, the enemy was able to do great damage with random mines, some of which were relatively simple. Historically, antiarmor land mines have been a persistent and vexing problem for which no really satisfactory solution has ever been found. Our failure to solve the problem of mines laid in patterns has been aggravated by our similar failure to cope with random mining tactics. We must capitalize, therefore, on the experience the U.S. Army gained in dealing with enemy random mining techniques in Vietnam. We must work out a system for using random mines against armor ourselves. And, finally, since random mining can be used against us again, we should develop equipment for swift search and elimination of such land mines. Since World War II almost nothing has been done in this field. The mine rollers sent to Vietnam were not as effective as some 1945 equipment.
The body of experience in logistical support for armored units in Vietnam has useful lessons in maintenance, supply, and battlefield recovery. Maintenance units tended to operate well to the rear. Considerable pressure was required in many cases to persuade them

that they could and should operate teams as far forward as squadron and battalion, making repairs on the site at company, troop, and battery level. The alternative was a long haul of damaged equipment back to a maintenance camp and a long haul of repaired equipment back to the unit-a very expensive procedure. At one point, the 11th Armored Cavalry was hauling its damaged Sheridans nearly 150 kilometers round trip. The fact that such a situation existed calls for some reexamination of traditional direct and general support relationships. Some way must be found to provide better security for rear area support units and the routes to and from their customers. Otherwise the customer pays the price to secure the rear and the routes. This cannot go on. Perhaps we have too many intermediate levels of maintenance to operate effectively any longer. Whether or not this is true, we need to find out.
U.S. Army logistical policy calls for area support by maintenance and supply units. In short, support units provided maintenance and supply so long as the using unit was in the geographic area the supporting unit was assigned to support. When the unit moved to another area, its support then came from a unit charged with support in the new area. The problem is that the parts supply system functions on equipment densities and spare parts usage rates. There is not now, and never has been, any satisfactory way to transfer along with the customer unit its experience factors and supply stocks, built up in the supporting unit on the basis of the customer usage factors. The result-in the eyes of the using unit-was that support broke down completely when the unit moved to a new area. At best the spare parts supply system was capable of filling no more than 50 to 60 percent of unit demands; the remaining 40 to 50 percent were filled by cannibalization of machines no longer useful in combat and by going outside the normal supply system-in other words by scrounging parts. On a battlefield in mobile warfare, even this system breaks down. Armored units must have immediately available direct support maintenance and supply as well as adequate backup. In any event, the maintenance and supply methods are in need of close scrutiny and change.
The supply vehicle fleet provided for American armored units in Vietnam was generally unsuited to its tasks. In a country with few and poor secondary roads, it was necessary to replace wheeled cargo carriers with full-tracked cargo vehicles-M548's. These vehicles were essential to the operations of armored units in wide areas along the borders; the Cambodian expedition, for example, could not have been undertaken without them. They were not, however, provided in sufficient numbers in Vietnam and their maintenance reliability was suspect.

Armored units have always been plagued with the problems of whether their supply fleet should be capable of operating on roads or cross-country, or bath. In an attempt to design vehicles that would do both, neither capability was provided satisfactorily. In forward areas, especially in countries with limited road nets, tracked resupply vehicles at unit level are essential. On the other hand, somewhere there must be a vehicle fleet which can move large volumes of supplies quickly over roads-even if those roads are secondary by some standards. This is primarily an organizational and equipment problem. However, the M548 was the last of its kind; therefore the U.S. Army needs to look seriously at the tracked cross-country resupply capability in forward areas, as well as the long-haul fleet that ]packs it up.
Recovery of damaged or inoperative vehicles has always been a difficult problem for armored units, and so it was in Vietnam. In respect to both number and reliability of vehicles used, the recovery system was inadequate. The M578 and the M88-the bulk of the recovery fleet-were in short supply for cavalry units, and the M578 was not well designed for its job. The 11th Armored Cavalry attacked into Cambodia with its organic recovery fleet bolstered by almost a dozen M88's borrowed for the occasion out of depot stocks. For almost two weeks, regimental maintenance operations lived on the guts and staying power of these vehicles and their crews.

Recovery of damaged armored vehicles is both an organizational and a doctrinal problem. Normally unit recovery equipment evacuated vehicles to a collecting point where the vehicles were picked up by support units that moved along behind the forward elements. With support units immobilized far to the rear, the burden of battlefield recovery fell to the fighting units-a situation quite likely to recur on a battlefield in the future. There is, therefore, a need for better recovery equipment and more of it at unit level, and a close look at how the 
Army intends to recover and evacuate disabled vehicles in future wars.
Much useful experience was gained in the Vietnam War. We have seen that the combined arms team is essential and that fighting with troops mounted is advantageous. It is also plain that the American advisers to the South Vietnamese Army were important but that their preparation for the tasks that confronted them was poor. All these experiences and many more must be carefully analyzed.
As we look to the future it is essential not only that we know the lessons of Vietnam, but that we understand them as well. Understanding them, in their correct context, and relating that to the future will take more time and space than we have had available for this monograph. But it must be done. We can no more turn our backs on our experiences in Vietnam than we can take those experiences, relate them directly to our next battlefield, and so in the end get ready to fight better the war we have just left behind. The wisdom to learn from experience, without merely getting better prepared to relive that experience, is not easily won. But win it we must. We owe it to ourselves and our country. More however, we owe it to the brave men who went, helped us learn the lessons, and paid the price of learning. They left us a large legacy larger perhaps than we deserve.

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