The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H304: The Korean and Vietnam Wars

Arguably, the US was successful in achieving its desired end state in the Korean War: stopping the expansion of communism in Asia and preserving the existence of the Republic of Korea. Given this success, many US analysts in the early years of Vietnam did not see any serious problems with repeating that success in Vietnam. Was that a correct analysis? If so, then why didn’t the US repeat its success? If not, what were the significant differences between the two situations?


March 16, 2017 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Comparing Korea to Vietnam is like comparing apples to oranges. What we failed to understand about Vietnam was that despite our efforts to prevent the spread of Communism from North to South Vietnam, we could not overcome the desire of the people to make this shift in their style of government. In my opinion, no matter what we as a military did during the Vietnam War was never enough to break the will of the people in their desire for change. As we found out later, South Vietnam was not the first domino to fall during the spread of Communism but rather a revolution of the people that wanted a change. Therefore the comparison of Vietnam to Korea was an incorrect one that ultimately cost the U.S. over 50,000 lives.

    Comment by Justin Reddick | March 16, 2017

  2. The lack of continuity in end state was the reason for the failure in Vietnam. In addition, America left abruptly in the end and North Vietnam following the long-term view just waited for the Americans to leave. During the years of Vietnam there were multiple administrations with differing views of tactics. We started with an advisory role, then a military build-up, then ramp down, followed by what should have been advisory but the abrupt end. If this situation were to happen again there needs to be a clear end-state and plan to achieve it. With this in mind, the plan can change to achieve the end-state but as long as that stays the same it will be achieved.

    Comment by Jeffery Hoover | March 16, 2017

  3. I think changing end-states was common to both wars so perhaps not a significant difference in explaining why the analysis was incorrect. Truman initially subscribed to MacArthur’s “strategic offensive” approach to Korea..and even allowed him to cross the 38th parallel (which initially was not part of Truman’s approach to Korea)..the end-state changed after massive Chinese intervention and the US had to essentially “settle” for the 38th parallel resolution..only after MacArthur’s call for the complete surrender of the KPA went unheeded.

    The permanence of US resolve in Korea represents the major difference between the two in my opinion. The US maintains large troop numbers in Korea today to deter and defend against any North Korean aggression. Vietnam experienced a total withdrawal of forces which precipitated the failure there.

    Comment by Scott Harr | March 17, 2017

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