How Vietnam War Affected America

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The United States’ war with Vietnam was undoubtedly “a different kind of war”. Guerilla tactics and a largely jungle environment throughout the theatre of Vietnam made this a supremely unique conflict in the annals of American military history. Faced with this type of unique enemy and terrain, the American Armed Forces undoubtedly had to evolve and adapt their tactics accordingly. One element that is particularly extraordinary and exclusive to the Vietnam War is the development of highly organized scout-sniper training. Prior to the Vietnam War, the United States had zero trained snipers. By the time the War had ended, trained American snipers had killed more than 13,000 enemy soldiers. The impact of these efforts must be examined on a number of levels. First, one must examine what lead to the necessity of development of a sniper-training program in Vietnam. Next, the nature of this training itself and the results it produced, followed by outstanding examples of individuals involved in this modern practice and the financial and economic impact their success had on the Vietnam War. Well-trained snipers played a miniscule role from a United States perspective in World War II. The United States Marine Corps did establish two sniper training schools during World War II, one in California and one in North Carolina. However, these training camps were largely flying by the seat of their pants, no official training manuals or procedures existed at this time, not to mention the fact that the camps were quickly abandoned after the War was over. Only the USSR and China would employ sniper-training programs after the War. To this note, what little attention and development was paid to the practice of sniping was out of fear of it factoring in some capacity during the Cold War. While the purpose of this writing is very much to highlight the fact that the practice of professional sniping rose to prominence during the Vietnam War, it is important to note that the first American progress in the realm of sniping came in perhaps an even more surprising place.

While the United States perpetually had one eye on the Soviets throughout the Cold War, they suddenly found themselves involved in another conflict in the summer of 1950, the Korean War. Korea was a bit of an uncharted territory for United States armed forces. The Koreans were fully backed by the Chinese in the conflict and American troops were unfamiliar with the nature or tactics of either of these forces. With this unfamiliarity came unexpected methods of warfare; the most jarring of these was undoubtedly the use of highly skilled snipers. These snipers made life extremely difficult for US and NATO troops. As one famous story goes, an American commanding officer looking to scope out enemy lines had the binoculars shot out from his hands. A commander noting the event said “It’s a hell of a situation when the C.O. can’t even take a look at the terrain without getting shot at. Something has got to be done about those goddamn snipers.”

Even with key skilled marksmen in place, challenges would still exist in the creation of an effective sniper -raining program. As no training professionals had preceded them, Russell and Land would undoubtedly go through a trial and error process in creating this program. The men had no previously dedicated range area, little to no training equipment, and little actual idea as to how to set up an effective training program. What Russell and Land lacked here, they would make up for in foresight and ambition. The men would do the most practical and effective thing they knew to do, take to the field and being the practice of sniping themselves. Within a couple of months Captain Jim Land had received his orders from the 1st Marine division: I want you to organize a sniper unit within the First Division. Captain Russell in the third division started training snipers last year. I want mine to be the best in the Marine Corps. I want them killing VC...
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