No Sure Victory: Measuring U.S. Army Effectiveness and Progress in the Vietnam War

No Sure Victory: Measuring U.S. Army Effectiveness and Progress in the Vietnam War

No Sure Victory: Measuring U.S. Army Effectiveness and Progress in the Vietnam War

No Sure Victory: Measuring U.S. Army Effectiveness and Progress in the Vietnam War


Conventional wisdom holds that the US Army in Vietnam, thrust into an unconventional war where occupying terrain was a meaningless measure of success, depended on body counts as its sole measure of military progress. In No Sure Victory, Army officer and historian Gregory Daddis looks far deeper into the Army's techniques for measuring military success and presents a much more complicated-and disturbing-account of the American misadventure in Indochina.

Daddis shows how the US Army, which confronted an unfamiliar enemy and an even more unfamiliar form of warfare, adopted a massive, and eventually unmanageable, system of measurements and formulas to track the progress of military operations that ranged from pacification efforts to search-and-destroy missions. The Army's monthly "Measurement of Progress" reports covered innumerable aspects of the fighting in Vietnam-force ratios, Vietcong/North Vietnamese Army incidents, tactical air sorties, weapons losses, security of base areas and roads, population control, area control, and hamlet defenses. Concentrating more on data collection and less on data analysis, these indiscriminate attempts to gauge success may actually have hindered the army's ability to evaluate the true outcome of the fight at hand--a roadblock that Daddis believes significantly contributed to the many failures that American forces suffered in Vietnam.

Filled with incisive analysis and rich historical detail,No Sure Victoryis not only a valuable case study in unconventional warfare, but a cautionary tale that offers important perspectives on how to measure performance in current and future armed conflict. Given America's ongoing counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan,No Sure Victoryprovides valuable historical perspective on how to measure--and mismeasure--military success.


“Then, no matter what we do in the military field there is no sure victory?”


“That's right. We have been too optimistic.”

—Secretary Of Defense ROBERT S. MCNAMARA

White House Meeting, December 18, 1965

ON JUNE 6, 1944, American, British, and Canadian forces launched their amphibious invasion against Hitler's Atlantic Wall. Determined to secure a foothold on French soil, Allied soldiers labored through the English Channel's surf, only to be met by mines, obstacles, and the covering fire of German defenders. One American combat engineer in the Easy Red sector of Omaha Beach articulated the fears of many Allied commanders fretting the lack of progress on the 1st Infantry Division assault beaches. “We were really just pinned down and couldn't really see anyone to shoot at. Around ten o'clock things looked hopeless on our part of the beach.” By mid-day, Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley, the U.S. First Army's commander, was becoming increasingly alarmed over stagnating conditions on the beachheads. Fragmentary reports from Leonard T. Gerow's V Corps created added confusion. Bradley recalled that as the Omaha landings fell “hours and hours behind schedule” the Allied command faced an “imminent crisis” about whether and how to deploy follow-up forces. Throughout the day, Bradley and his officers agonized over potential German counterattacks.

On the beaches, small groups of infantrymen struggled to make their way inland under withering German fire. Carnage was everywhere. A lieutenant in the U.S. 29th Infantry Division estimated that for every 100 yards of beach, 35 to 50 corpses lay slumped on the sand. Despite the damage they suffered, the Americans slowly but . . .

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