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PBS Newshour: Book Examines Vietnam War from Viet Cong's Point of View



On the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, Ray Suarez talks to retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. James Zumwalt about his new book on the Vietnam War, as seen through the eyes of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong veterans.

RAY SUAREZ: So, give us some examples of the kind of techniques and tactics the North Vietnamese used successfully against a much-better-armed, much-better-equipped enemy.

LT. COL. JAMES ZUMWALT: Well, one that stands out in my mind is the -- what they did along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail, as you know, was a logistical supply line that brought men and materiel from the north down to the south. Obviously, they had to cross rivers at certain points. And the only way you cross a river is with a bridge. They would build bridges for the specific purpose of having as a target -- having a target that we would go after.

They -- what they would do then is, upstream or downstream of that bridge, they would come up with very clever ways of hiding bridges. Well, how do you hide a bridge? One is a concept known as a submarine bridge, where they actually built a bridge platform underneath the low watermark.

And, for those who served in Vietnam, they know that the -- the water is basically brown, so you cannot see from the air if there was anything under the water. But these submarine bridges were very effectively used.

As convoys would cross them, they would have guides standing on either side of the bridge platform guiding them as to where the edges of the platform were. These existed for the duration of the war, and we never knew about them...

LT. COL. JAMES ZUMWALT: This was a people who, again, going back to their DNA, would not tolerate being invaded.

Could we have won the war? We had the military power, and we never lost a battle in Vietnam. We -- if we committed ground forces in the North, we could have driven them out of the cities, but all that would have done was delayed the inevitable, which was that they would keep eating away and eating away, and drawing the war out for as long as it took for us to get out. Rest of Transcript.

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