“Best turn it into a bigger war…I’m afraid you really ought to send more troops to the South…Don’t be afraid of U.S. intervention, at most it’s no worse than having another Korean War. The Chinese army is prepared, and if America takes the risk of attacking North Vietnam, the Chinese army will march in at once. Our troops want a war now.” 
-- Mao speaking to the North Vietnamese in 1964
So why did the powerful modern nations of France and the United States lose two wars in Vietnam to a third rate military power like North Vietnam? This is the logical question that many historians have asked and attempted to answer since the Second Vietnam War ended in April 1975 with the fall of Saigon to North Vietnamese tanks. Some historians have stressed the support of the Communist party and its leadership, others point to the support of the Vietnamese people, and still other historians explain the North Vietnamese victory as an effect of the post-colonial nationalism wave that swept through Asia after the Second World War. However, few historians, with the possible exception of Qiang Zhai, among others, attribute the victory of the Vietnamese Communists in both Vietnam Wars to the considerable support provided by the communist colossus of the north, the People’s Republic of China.  This Chinese military support, to include equipment, advisors and planning assistance, provided from 1949-1975, would prove in both the First and Second Indochina Wars to be decisive.
This substantial military support would give the People‘s Army of Vietnam an edge to resist Western forces and eventually subjugate the Republic of South Vietnam. This support, for various reasons, has never really been acknowledged by most popular histories of the conflict. This is perhaps due to the fact that such acknowledgement of the massive Chinese military support provided challenges many cherished myths of Vietnamese Communist military brilliance and the “heroic struggle” against overwhelming western imperialists. Two recent histories bear this out. Case in point A Military History of China, edited by David A. Graff makes no mention of Chinese support for Vietnam while Bruce A. Elleman’s Modern Chinese Warfare, 1795-1989, dismisses Chinese support in a mere two sentences.  However, unless this decisive Chinese support is properly understood by students of both Vietnam wars the answer to the question of why North Vietnam won will remain incomplete and misunderstood. This paper will attempt to outline the Chinese communist support in both wars and explain exactly why this support was so decisive.
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General William C. Westmoreland