Author Topic: The Computer That Predicted the U.S. Would Win the Vietnam War  (Read 1607 times)

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Offline daftandbarmy

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The Computer That Predicted the U.S. Would Win the Vietnam War

A cautionary tale about the dangers of big data

“There’s the old apocryphal story that in 1967, they went to the basement of the Pentagon, when the mainframe computers took up the whole basement, and they put on the old punch cards everything you could quantify. Numbers of ships, numbers of tanks, numbers of helicopters, artillery, machine gun, ammo—everything you could quantify,” says James Willbanks, the chair of military history at U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. “They put it in the hopper and said, ‘When will we win in Vietnam?’ They went away on Friday and the thing ground away all weekend. [They] came back on Monday and there was one card in the output tray. And it said, 'You won in 1965.’”

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/10/the-computer-that-predicted-the-us-would-win-the-vietnam-war/542046/
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

Offline Old Sweat

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Re: The Computer That Predicted the U.S. Would Win the Vietnam War
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2017, 09:33:31 »
The Computer That Predicted the U.S. Would Win the Vietnam War

A cautionary tale about the dangers of big data

“There’s the old apocryphal story that in 1967, they went to the basement of the Pentagon, when the mainframe computers took up the whole basement, and they put on the old punch cards everything you could quantify. Numbers of ships, numbers of tanks, numbers of helicopters, artillery, machine gun, ammo—everything you could quantify,” says James Willbanks, the chair of military history at U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. “They put it in the hopper and said, ‘When will we win in Vietnam?’ They went away on Friday and the thing ground away all weekend. [They] came back on Monday and there was one card in the output tray. And it said, 'You won in 1965.’”

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/10/the-computer-that-predicted-the-us-would-win-the-vietnam-war/542046/

In 1982 I was on a liaison posting to the US Army when Argentina invaded the Falklands and the Brits sallied forth. A retired officer employed in one of the local operational research shops confided in me that they had run a number of simulations and the Brits lost every one. After I asked him how they factored in the "Nelson touch" and opined that the Brits had a habit of not loosing this kind of war, he offered to bet me a case of Scotch on the outcome and I have been kicking my butt ever since for not taking the bet.

GIGO

Offline Tango2Bravo

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Re: The Computer That Predicted the U.S. Would Win the Vietnam War
« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2017, 10:14:04 »
When you read the article you see that its a myth. Like many myths, though, it does tell a useful cautionary tale. The problem with the Hamlet Control Index noted in the article is, however, completely true and looks similar to many "We are Winning" slides I have seen in recent history.
Well-trained, older Panzer crews are the decisive factor for success...It is preferable to start off with fewer Panzers than to set out with young crews who lack combat experience.

 - Verbal report of Gen Balck 1943

Online Colin P

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Re: The Computer That Predicted the U.S. Would Win the Vietnam War
« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2017, 10:23:22 »
When you listen to the North Vietnamese  interviews post war, the US did win, NV was on it's knees and the Tet offensive was their "battle of the bulge". Had a momentary effect, but basically drained what little resources they had. The problem was that the purpose of the war was not clear, basically morphing from "helping the French" to "stopping Communism". I suspect the KGB with it's societal disruption strategy in the US , helped by some boneheaded moves by the US did more to help NV , then any military operation the NV could have mounted. Someone in the US should have stopped the "draft exemptions". Basically saying "this is everyone war" and that would have removed a lot of the leverage the anti-war side had. Also by expanding the bombing to take out all of the docks and government structures would have brought the NV to their knees faster. The Peace treaty was a godspend to the NV, they had no choice but to accept. The US should have never pulled out it's army. So the US won the war and lost the peace.   
« Last Edit: October 05, 2017, 12:32:44 by Colin P »

Offline Tango2Bravo

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Re: The Computer That Predicted the U.S. Would Win the Vietnam War
« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2017, 11:55:10 »
My point is that there was no computer that predicted that the US would win the Vietnam War. Its a nice story though.
Well-trained, older Panzer crews are the decisive factor for success...It is preferable to start off with fewer Panzers than to set out with young crews who lack combat experience.

 - Verbal report of Gen Balck 1943