Small Wars Journal

Why Troops Avoid a Fight

Why Troops Avoid a Fight by Jeff Fuller, Washington Times

In April 1970, our brigade commander ordered each of his three line infantry battalions to deploy squad-sized ambushes along the border with Cambodia (which looked like an angel's wing on the map). This tactic would allow the brigade to completely block the infiltration of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) units from Cambodia into South Vietnam. Following the order, a squad-sized unit was hunkered down in ambush positions every 500 meters near the border in the brigade sector.

At this time, I was the battalion acting operations officer, having just given up command of a rifle company. The brigade commander's clever tactic was a complete flop. Several company-sized NVA units crossed through our lines over a couple days. Our young "shake-and-bake" squad leaders would call in the NVA movements, sometimes after they passed literally through their ambush sites so as to not alert the NVA soldiers. Not a single ambush was sprung by our troops.

The brigade commander and his staff lived in a compound in the Division Base Camp at Cu Chi. They were in an ivory tower of reports, radio traffic, map boards, and meals prepared and served by local Vietnamese in their officers' mess. So removed from the war, how could they have known this plan would fail completely? …

Read on.