The Fog of War

| January 23, 2017


This article from Cherries takes a look at the battle for the Ia Drang Valley, which was the subject of ‘We Were Soldiers Once and Young’, from the Vietnamese perspective.  The NVA thought they had won, and the US said otherwise.  Originally published in 2001.

For those of you who were in country, I am glad you made it back.

And for those who pretend you were there, just stop it.

Reposted with permission.

The Fog of War: The Vietnamese View of the Ia Drang Battle


Category: Historical, War Stories

Comments (13)

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  1. LiRight says:

    The battle was two years before my arrival in Nov ’67. While Tet was no picnic….battle for the Ia Drang Valley was epic.

  2. Atkron says:

    My Aunt Yvonne and my mom’s friend John Higman fell at LZ X-ray.

  3. That is a good read, and the first that I have seen that described the “other side”.

  4. Perry Gaskill says:

    In order to understand the strategic importance of the Ia Drang, it’s interesting to consider the larger geography of the place. Basically what you had in the central part of South Vietnam were a couple of north-south supply routes, QL-1 and the Ho Chi Minh Trail, used by opposite sides, and separated by a spine of mountains known as the Annamese Cordillera.

    One of the limited number of routes running from east to west was QL-19 which intersected with QL-1 on the coast in Qui Nhon, ran west to the mountain pass at An Khe, continued on past Pleiku, and crossed the Cambodian border just north of the Ia Drang River. From there, you could almost throw a baseball and hit the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In theory, control of QL-19 could have allowed the NVA to split South Vietnam in half.

    At least that’s the way it was explained to me by brighter minds than my own.

    I was never in the Ia Drang, but happened to be in Pleiku a couple of times in ’71 and still remember the really red dirt.

  5. Poetrooper says:

    Thanks, Ex-PH2, it is indeed a good read. However, in the conclusions where they are discussing possible reasons for the inflated casualty figures, they lay the blame on the troops for misreporting up to their commanders. Here is the comment I left on that topic:

    I was in a major battle seven months later where some of the same 1st Cav units at Ia Drang were involved. A SSGT E-6, I served at the battalion HQ level and during combat operations frequently operated the tactical radio net issuing orders from the colonel and taking sit-reps from the companies engaged in the fighting.

    After this battle, the colonel personally told me to contact each company and to count each NVA “aimed and fired at” as an NVA KIA BCC, that is, enemy soldier killed in action body count confirmed. Incredulous, I questioned that criteria and he responded, “You heard me, Sergeant!” I duly instructed the companies and that criteria obviously inflated the enemy KIA figure to almost 500 NVA , the number that was subsequently reported in the American press.

    That was my first exposure to the fact that the American people were being lied to by the U.S. Army and the Johnson administration. I never trusted any official accounts of the war after that and was one reason I left the Army the following year. I was not anti-war and never lost faith in my fellow soldiers but I had lost faith in their leaders. I am telling this now because those who think all the Fog of War comes from misreporting by the troops engaged need to know that some of it can come quite deliberately at the command level.

    Russ Vaughn
    SSGT E-6
    Battalion CBR NCO
    2d battalion, 327th Airborne Infantry
    101st Airborne Division
    Vietnam, 1965-66

  6. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    The first casualty of war is truth. In that regard, Vietnam was no different than any other war. When were the first Normandy Invasion casualties shown to Americans? What were the reports of Doolittle’s raid, that no damage had been done?

  7. Ex-PH2 says:

    I think the article shows clearly that both sides lied about the numbers and the body counts. On our side, I’d believe it came directly from LBJ via McNamara, and on the NVA side, from Ho Chi Minh via Vo Nguyen Giap.

    • Just An Old Dog says:

      Reading through it, it seems like the NVA at times were a lot more honest about the casualty count, although they constantly overestimated the effect they had on US units.
      Its interesting that they seemed to eventually admit the shortcomings of the commanders and censure them, but didn’t relieve or further punish them.

  8. Luddite4Change says:

    Always interesting to read the accounts from both sides of the battle field.

    An interesting “what if” from a propaganda/messaging standpoint. What if the 8/66 PAVN had captured significant numbers of the 2/7 Cav; rather than kill the wounded? How would that have played out? It’s much harder to claim victory if several platoons of your soldiers are photographed in custody, than if there are dead.