Weapons used in Vietnam War
Written by Tim Nash
History of War - Vietnam War
Stemming from the tensions, alliances and expansion of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States of America, the Vietnam War was fought between the North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, against the South fuelled by the US and its allies in Southeast Asia in a lengthy conflict (1959 -1975). This conflict was home to virtually every type of individual Weapon used in the Vietnam War imaginable, from crude firearms manufactured in jungle workshops to ultra-sophisticated, hi-tech pieces complete with silencers and scopes. Some of them were of the most devastating the world has ever seen.
Weapons from the previous wars dating back as far as World War I constituted a tangible part of the firepower of the North, especially in the early days. Others mainly armed and supplied by their communist allies were AK-47 assault rifles, various other rifles, machine guns, heavy machine guns, sub machine guns, rocket launchers, mortars, handguns, jet fighters, helicopters, tanks, landmines and booby traps. A large quantity of crude handguns and rifles were manufactured in Vietnam itself, notably anti-personnel explosives or a pistol modelled on the US M1911-A1 .45 calibre pistol. On the other side, American forces in Vietnam employed a vast array of handguns, a range of rifles, anti-tank weapons, rocket launchers, grenade launchers, machine guns, sub machine guns, handguns, mortars, howitzers, jet fighters, helicopters, gun ships, bombs and tanks. Some of these weapons dated from World War II.
Being the most advanced industrial nation, the US had been able to make full use of the latest military technologies against North Vietnam forces. B-52 bombers dropped 8 million tons of bombs on Vietnam between 1965 and 1973, three times the amount dropped on the entire World War II, roughly 300 tons over each Vietnamese then. As well as explosive bombs, a considerable number of incendiary devices were dropped and were one of the core Weapons used in the Vietnam War, of which most infamous was napalm, once attached to skin causing 5th degree burn. Anti-personel bombs were also employed: each pineapple bom containing 250 metal pellets, which would be spewed over the land and hit anything on the ground. The metal later was replaced by plastic, as revealed later, to maim the population rather then kill them, which would take more humanpower to look after serious injures.
The US also experimented with chemical weapons in the Vietnam war. The Agent Blue was sprayed on crops to deny foot to Northern military forces but it was the civilian population who suffered most from the poor rice harvests that followed the spraying. The Agent Orange had been used as an attempt to defoliate certain areas in which Northern forces were hidding. It turned out to destroy not only trees but also caused chromosomal damage in human. And during the war, about 10% of Vietnam was intensively sprayed with 72 million litres of chemicals, of which 66% was Agent Orange.
Northern forces finally won this conflict but at at a terrible human cost. One Vietnamese in every ten had been a casualty of war—nearly a million and a half killed, three million wounded. 56,869 US troops were killed and another 153,329 were seriously wounded. And the long-term psychological damage to the three million soldiers who fought in the Vietnam war and the resulting social problems are still being counted. Further Reading: Map of Vietnam War, Vietnam War Facts.