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Standard Vietnam War narratives often argue that the U.S. Army lost the war because it failed to learn and adapt to the conditions of an unconventional conflict. Based on a reappraisal of learning processes rather than on the outcome of the war, this essay argues that as an organization, the U.S. Army did learn and adapt in Vietnam; however, that learning was not sufficient, in itself, to preserve a South Vietnam in the throes of a powerful nationalist upheaval. A reexamination of the Army's strategic approach, operational experiences, and organizational changes reveals that significant learning did occur during the Vietnam War despite the conflict's final result.


This article was originally published in Journal of Military History, volume 77, issue 1, in 2013.

Peer Reviewed



Society for Military History



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