Vietnam Infantry Tactics
by Gordon L. Rottman, Osprey Publishing, 2011
With his previous service in the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam and subsequent airborne, long-range patrol and intelligence assignments in his 26 years in the U.S. Army, Gordon L. Rottman knows small unit light infantry tactics, which made up the principal combat activity of U.S., ARVN, allied, NVA and VC forces in Indochina. In Vietnam Infantry Tactics, No.186 in Osprey Publishing’s “Elite” series, Rottman addresses those tactics employed by the U.S. Army, U.S. Marines, Australian and New Zealand troops.
Organization, weapons, ambush and counter-ambush techniques, the vital role played by helicopters and the essential role played by artillery support are among the many aspects described. Underlying—or overlaying—all else is the terrain, which the author describes as never being impassable for either side, even though densely overgrown terrain could slow progress to 400- 500 yards per hour.
Early on in the book, the author makes the disclaimer that the basic combat techniques described are more guidelines than “doctrine” (a term that emerged from the war, but was not used during it). The nature of the small-unit actions in Vietnam required both sides to create constant variations on those fundamentals, the only rule being, as my old former Ranger first sergeant always told us, “Think flexible!” Rottman concludes that one of the Vietnam War’s most far-reaching military legacies was in small unit tactics—and that, as much as the post-Vietnam generation of U.S. military officers dreaded the prospect of becoming involved in another “guerrilla war” like Vietnam again, the current resumption of asymmetrical warfare has made the application of those lessons to the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan, for example, far more productive than “reinventing the wheel.”
Originally published in the October 2011 issue of Vietnam Magazine. To subscribe, click here.