|biketrailtours||Date: Saturday, 11 Oct 08, 17:40 | Message # 1|
|The Vietcong |
The Vietnamese Communists, or Vietcong, were the military branch of the National Liberation Front (NLF), and were commanded by the Central Office for South Vietnam, which was located near the Cambodian border. For arms, ammunition and special equipment, the Vietcong depended on the Ho Chi Minh trail. Other needs were met inside South Vietnam.
Main force Vietcong units were uniformed, full-time soldiers, and were used to launch large scale offensives over a wide area. Regional forces were also full-time, but operated only within their own districts. When necessary, small regional units would unite for large scale attacks. If enemy pressure became too great, they would break down into smaller units and scatter.
Unlike the main troops, who saw themselves as professional soldiers, local Vietcong groups tended to be far less confident. For the most part, recruits were young teenagers, and while many were motivated by idealism, others had been pressured or shamed into joining. They also harbored real doubts about their ability to fight heavily armed and well-trained American soldiers.
Initially, local guerrillas were given only a basic minimum of infantry training, but if they were recruited to a main force unit, they could receive up to a month of advanced instruction. Additionally, there were dozens of hidden centers all over South Vietnam for squad and platoon leader, weapons and radio training. To ensure that the guerrillas understood why they were fighting, all training courses included political instruction.
By the mid-1960s, most main force Vietcong troops were armed with Chinese versions of the Russian AK-47 submachine gun. They also used a range of effective Soviet and Chinese light and medium machine guns, and infrequently, heavy machine guns. In particular, heavy machine guns were valued for defense against American helicopters.
For destroying armored vehicles or bunkers, the Vietcong had highly effective rocket propelled grenades and recoilless rifles. Mortars were also available in large numbers and had the advantage of being very easy to transport.
Many weapons, including booby traps and mines, were homemade in villages. The materials ranged from scavenged tin can to discarded wire, but the most important ingredients were provided by the enemy. In a year, dud American bombs could leave more than 20,000 tons of explosives scattered around the Vietnamese countryside. After air-raids, volunteers retrieved the duds and the dangerous business of creating new weapons began.
Local forces also designed primitive weapons, some designed to frighten intruders, but others were extremely dangerous. "Punji traps" -- sharp spikes hidden in pits -- could easily disable an enemy soldier. Punjis were often deliberately contaminated to increase the risk of infection.