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Grab Their Belts to Fight Them: The Viet Cong's Big-Unit War Against the U.S., 1965-1966 [Kindle Edition]

Warren K. Wilkins
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In 1965, despite pronounced disadvantages in firepower and mobility, the Communist Vietnamese endeavored to crush South Vietnam and expel the American military with a strategy for a quick and decisive victory predicated not on guerrilla but big-unit war. Warren Wilkins chronicles the formation, development, and participation of the Viet Cong in the opening phase of the big-unit war and shows how the failure of that strategy profoundly influenced the decision to launch the Tet Offensive. Unlike most books on the war, this one provides an authentic account from the Communist perspective, with the author drawing on memoirs, unit histories, and battlefield studies to reconstruct the formation and deployment of major military units, battles and campaigns, and the strategic debates that informed the big unit war.

Published in cooperation with the Association of the United States Army

Editorial Reviews


"Grab Their Belts to Fight Them portrays the VC as a more complex organism than previously understood, and Wilkins's account of VC big-unit warfare between 1965 and 1966 is a necessary addition to the literature if we wish to keep learning from the Vietnam War. If nothing else, this assessment of VC fighting highlights the fact that, with the right strategic direction, seemingly unconventional armies are quite capable of fighting in a more conventional manner, whether or not they wear pajamas." -- Air & Space Power Journal

About the Author

Warren Wilkins is a Fellow at the Center for Threat Awareness and a contributor to the Center's online journal, Threats Watch.He also contributes to Vietnam Magazine.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1919 KB
  • Print Length: 314 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (June 2, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0052LJBKM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #925,988 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Although a student of military history, I normally do not find myself motivated to buy books on the Vietnam conflict. Perhaps I have let myself become a little too influenced by Francis Ford Coppola, perhaps not. I just never found that conflict very interesting. I decided to buy "Grab Their Belts to Fight Them" (which actually refers to a statement made of the South Vietnamese Army as the author explains) primarily because it focused on the Viet Cong - and I do have a significant interest in books that narrate battles from the perspective of "the other side of the hill." Too many historians tend to focus on the experiences of their fellow countrymen and neglect foreign language sources - probably because they cannot read the language in question or are not comfortable with narrating both sides. I am not sure which, but Warren Wilkins does not fall into either category. He is comfortable with Vietnamese sources and uses them extensively. He is also one of the few historians to make full use of G-2 (intelligence) records which often give a fascinating view into the actions of the enemy (in this case the VC). That said, he also goes into great detail when recounting how the Americans fought against the Viet Cong. Hollywood, to perhaps no one's surprise - has it all wrong. The US soldiers and Marines that fought against the VC "big units" can certainly hold up their heads in pride. I marvelled both at the Viet Cong's willingness to enter battle against uncertain odds and the ability of the Americans to fight well regardless of whether or not they had sufficient fire support. Both sides performed to the best of their respective abilities. Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grab this Book and Read It September 10, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Warren Wilkens has done students of history and Vietnam veterans like me a huge service by researching and writing this book. Just when you think you've read everything you need to read about a conflict, along comes a book like Grab Their Belts to Fight Them. As a Platoon Commander with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in Vietnam, I experienced the engagements like the ones Wilkens describes up close and personal. Only decades later have I come to understand how the Main Force Viet Cong and NVA troops lived and fought. Red Plateau, written by an NVA soldier was a window into the tactics and daily life of a unit that had infiltrated from North Vietnam. Wilkens goes further down the road by providing many startling insights into the military strategy and tactics of the COSVN (Central Office of South Vietnam)Military Committee and of individual commanders. He also confirms what some supporters of the North Vietnamese assault on South Vietnam deny; that the "civil war" is a fiction. From the late 1950's North Vietnam planned and executed an insidious, subterfuge: the infiltration of well-trained and heavily armed North Vietnamese Army units into South Vietnam in order to destroy American armed forces and the "Puppet" South Vietnamese government. It is fascinating to read the memoirs and post-battle comments by communist commanders who participated in the engagements. Of particular note is their tendency to outright lie about the outcome of some battles. Where whole regiments were decimated by U.S. Army or U.S.Marines (Operation Starlight is a good example)the unit commanders reported victories. Read more ›
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars VC on the offensive December 4, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Now here is a long-overdue look at the VC offensive that had begun in 1964 and gathered steam as the American commitment expanded in 1965-66. Contrary to the popular view of the NLF as a guerrilla force, Wilkins depicts them as they were when the American war expanded - main force regiments and battalions conducting conventional operations that had decimated the ARVN during the previous year. This highly-detailed analysis of VC operations against newly-arrived US units fully corroborates Phillip Davidson's view that the only way to understand the war was to view how it was being fought during any one of its particular phases.

Wilkins makes excellent use of recently revealed documents and journal articles that depict, in great detail, the political manueverings in Hanoi and the debates within the politburo over domestic and international policy and possible strategies to defeat the US before a larger commitment was made and thereby cause the collapse of the Saigon government. This information sheds new light on communist motives and deflates the old myth of solidarity in the North Vietnamese political and military command structure.

The author gives a thorough description of the creation and background of the NLF units, thier commanders, armament, and experience. He then proceeds to depict operations conducted by them against various American units in diverse locations (from the Ia Drang Valley to Masher-White Wing to III Corps). As might be expected, the NLF (basically a light infantry force) did not fare well against heavily applied American organic firepower and air support.

This work is well researched, heavily detailed, and well written. Having met Warren at the AUSA shindig in DC, I found him to be an intelligent and committed young man who will undoubtedly continue to contribute to a fuller understanding of the war in Southeast Asia. I can hardly wait for his new work on the battle of Dak To.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Seriously Flawed
This book is seriously flawed. The author ignores some very important details:

-The role of the political officers in the hierarchy of the Viet Cong and the NVA. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Old Soldier
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading in understanding the Vietnam war
Rare insight into the strategy and thinking of the North Vietnamese policy makers and military commanders; also for their fears of what the U.S. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Charles Roberts
4.0 out of 5 stars Grab Their Belts
An interesting book that gave reasoning from the PAVN/VC side of certain battles. I was looking for just that information when I bought the book and was satisfied that it was what... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Al J. Conetto
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard to get into
This book is good, but a little hard to get into. It is of an era where my husband served and I bought it for him. He picks it up and reads a little at a time.
Published 19 months ago by Jane
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding reading for a military historian, or someone who had...
Mr. Wilkins has done Vietnam historians a great doing his research on manuscripts and other resources in the Vietnamese language, he has ferreted out many things that... Read more
Published on February 18, 2013 by Robert H. Sholly
4.0 out of 5 stars From a Different Angle
The book is a bit light on examples from the communist side. What is here is good though and it shows that the US was inflicting tremendous casualties on the communist units. Read more
Published on February 10, 2013 by Mad Russian
5.0 out of 5 stars Shining A Light On The VC
This book was very well written and enlightening as well. Chances are your perception of the Viet Cong will change dramatically. Read more
Published on December 29, 2011 by Martin Svensson
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