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Vietnam Primer

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© Copyright 1996-2005
by David H. Hackworth
All Rights Reserved

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
George Santayana Whitefish

Vietnam Primer

The VIETNAM PRIMER is now available for shipping in a new updated edition, which includes two chapters of STEEL MY SOLDIERS' HEARTS.

This little book is a distillation of the lessons learned in hundreds of jungle fights fought in Vietnam.

It's not whiz-bang video game stuff, but bottom-line tricks of the trade that are as old as war itself.

You won't find any magic formulas for future irregular fights within these pages, but you will find descriptions of mistakes and how to avoid them as well as tricks and techniques that were learned the hard way which can be adapted to Iraq, Afghanistan and other hot spots--including, should it ever become necessary, the streets of your city.

Praise for the VIETNAM PRIMER:

"…an operational analysis that may help American soldiers live longer and perform better in combat."
General Harold K. Johnson,
U.S. Army, Ret.

"An essential read…for civilians and soldiers alike who want to understand unconventional warfare…(it) is an easily accessible, no-nonsense guide to proven low-tech tactics that, if followed, will both win battles and save lives."
Lt. General Hank Emerson,
U.S. Army, Ret.

All profits from the
sale of the

First 1000
will go to the
Soldiers For The Truth Foundation

Order Your Copy Today!

We’ve received many bulk orders for the primer from combat units. New SOP: 10 copies or more $11.00 a pop. This special price includes shipping.

In a battle, fought on 3 October 1993, Major Generals Thomas Montgomery and William Garrison's lack of war-fighting skills caused 18 American warriors to be killed, 100 more to be wounded and our nation to be humiliated.

Garrison and Montgomery made every basic error in the book, beginning with not understanding the enemy. They had bad intelligence, were overly dependent on firepower and technology and were arrogant. Nor did they bother to put a go-to-hell-plan in place in case the shit hit the fan. They made the identical blunders that were made in Vietnam over and over for eight bloody years.

Their mistakes were ones that good generals should never make, and because of them, great soldiers paid a terrible price. Besides the big picture stuff they screwed up, they also blew it on simple tactical techniques such as conducting seven raids using exactly the same drill while their the enemy watched and learned their modus operandi.

On the seventh raid, conducted on a hot Sunday afternoon, disaster struck and some of the best warriors America had were thrown into a death grinder. Just as in Vietnam, the enemy worked out our pattern, set up a counter operation, patiently waited for Special Ops warriors to throw their punch and then creamed our good warriors.

As is so often the case in battle, brave men down on the ground and up in the air saved a repeat of another Custer's last stand. But the entire massacre could have been avoided had the generals, both Vietnam veterans, remembered what went down in South East Asia three decades before. Unfortunately, they as most generals - - past and present -- suffered from CRS (Can't Remember Shit.)

After this disaster, we were chased from Somalia, just as we were from Vietnam thirty years before, once again, by mostly barefooted guerrillas, armed mainly with light infantry weapons because American military leaders did dumb things.

The mistakes made in Somalia have convinced me that little was learned from America's 25 year long Vietnam experience. And I fear that there will be more Mogadishu's, more dumb U.S. Army generals and sadly more blood spilled needlessly as we march down a bloody trail into Century XXI.

I believe the majority of the fights our forces will get into over the next thirty years will be Low Intensity Conflicts (LIC) , the irregular kind of dirty little shoot outs such as were fought in the 15th Century, in our Indian wars and most recently in Vietnam and Somalia. But most of these fights will be fought in cities.

This little book is a distillation of the lessons learned in hundreds of jungle fights fought in Vietnam. It's not computer hacker stuff, but mainly common soldier knowledge that is as old as war itself. You won't find any magic formulas for future irregular fights within these pages, but they do describe mistakes, how to avoid them and outline tricks and techniques that were learned the hard way.

War seldom changes. Technology has just made things happen faster and made the violence meaner. But down where the rubber hits the dirt, it's not very different then it was in the 1700s, when Indians were hunting the early settlers, and the early settlers were hunting the Indians.

With this in mind, here are a few tips for when operating in such an environment:
  • Never use trails.
  • Always take it for granted that the enemy's watching.
  • Always have a go-to-hell plan.
  • Never assume anything.
  • Always expect the unexpected.
  • Talk to the Grunts, they always have the best feel for what's going down.
  • Keep operations sledgehammer simple and remember: if it can be fucked up, it will be.
  • Train your force like a good football coach. Teamwork is the key and this is done by relentlessly repeating squad drills over and over until they are executed automatically and flawlessly. Then do them again!
  • And remember, squads who live by the basics of their trade make great Armies; Armies don't make great squads. And these squads must be perfectly trained in the basic fundamentals of the killing trade.
  • And most importantly, NEVER, NEVER be in a hurry.

Lastly, I predict that most of future LIC combat will be in urban areas which is the toughest and most costly way of fighting. This type of fight is an infantryman's and tanker's nightmare and requires special skills and training as both the recent American disaster in Mogadishu and the Russian experience in Grozny proved. Only well trained teams have a chance of making it through this most dangerous of all modes of combat. Prepare well and execute with extreme caution.

Sun Tzu, an ancient Chinese general/philosopher, wrote THE ART OF WAR more than 2,500 years ago. I strongly urge you to buy it, read it a dozen times and then carry it in your pack next to the PRIMER. They go together like chopsticks and rice and passages of both should be read daily.

Good luck, good hunting and always look after your warriors.