Description: This paper discusses Sandia National Laboratories` development of new technologies for use in the Vietnam War - specifically the seismic sensors deployed to detect troop and vehicle movement - first along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and later in perimeter defense for American military encampments in South Vietnam. Although the sensor story is a small one, it is interesting because it dovetails nicely with our understanding of the war in Vietnam and its frustrations; of the creation of new technologies for war and American enthusiasm for that technology; and of a technological military and the organizational research and a m am development structure created to support it. Within the defense establishment, the sensors were proposed within the context of a larger concept - that of a barrier to prevent the infiltration of troops and supplies from North Vietnam to the South. All of the discussion of the best way to fight in Vietnam is couched in the perception that this was a different kind of war than America was used to fighting. The emphasis was on countering the problems posed by guerrilla/revolutionary warfare and eventually by the apparent constraints of being involved in a military action, not an outright war. The American response was to find the right technology to do the job - to control the war by applying a technological tincture to its wounds and to make the war familiar and fightable on American terms. And, when doubts were raised about the effectiveness of applying existing technologies (namely, the bombing of North Vietnam and Laos), the doubters turned to new technologies. The sensors that were developed for use in Vietnam were a direct product of this sort of thinking - on the part of the engineers at Sandia who created the sensors, the civilian scientific advisors who recommended ...
Date: December 31, 1996
Creator: Ullrich, R.
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