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New tanks and armored vehicles tracked down enemy forces

While widely viewed as a guerrilla war, the conflict in Vietnam was really a combination of guerrillas and light infantry trading shots in the bush, supersonic aircraft clashing over the North, and occasions for conventional warfare. Much of Indochina’s mountainous and heavily forested terrain did not lend itself well to armored warfare, but it did have enough roads and open country for tanks, self-propelled guns and armored personnel carriers to come into play. Tanks seldom engaged other tanks, but their guns could crack enemy bunkers or use beehive rounds (steel darts) to devastate enemy infantry.

A latecomer in using armor, the North Vietnamese Army initially fared poorly. Its PT-76 amphibious light tanks were no match for the opposition, while its T-54s fell to better-trained South Vietnamese using M41s, M48s or M72 light anti-tank weapons. The NVA’s painful lessons from failed offensives in 1968 and 1972 bore fruit in the final 1975 offensive: Saigon fell, not to a horde of guerrillas, but to an armored column crashing through the gates of the Presidential Palace.