North Vietnam

The US army had superior conventional weapons but they were ineffective against a country that was not industrialized and an army which employed guerrilla tactics and used the dense jungle as cover.


North Vietnamese soldiers were dedicated to fighting for independence and for communism. They were fiercely loyal to their leadership, which had already provided land reform in the north.

These soldiers were conscripted and served long tours of duty. As a result, the Vietcong became highly experienced and knowledgeable about American tactics.

Fighting on familiar ground

The Vietcong had an intricate knowledge of the terrain. They won the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese people by living in their villages and helping them with their everyday lives.

Their tunnel systems, booby-traps and jungle cover meant they were difficult to defeat and hard to find.

Foreign support

Prone soldiers engage an unseen enemy
US marines fight beside ARVN troops during the Tet Offensive

The North Vietnamese were supplied and supported by China and the Soviet Union. A total of $2 billion was given in aid to the fight against America between 1965-1968. This included 8,000 anti-aircraft guns and 200 anti-aircraft missile sites.

The Tet Offensive

The Tet Offensive was a huge coordinated attack on the south by the North Vietnamese Army on Vietnamese New Year in 1968.

Over 30 towns and cities were attacked by over 80,000 soldiers. This show of strength convinced many Americans that the war was ‘unwinnable’, especially after the capture of the US Embassy in Saigon.

In October 1969, one of the largest protests that America has ever seen was held in Washington, with 250,000 protesting against the war.