USA Kennedy and Vietnam 1961-63

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  • About Kennedy
    • became US President in 1961 and agreed with domino theory
    • Kennedy and Vietnam 1961-63
      • US Concerns leading to Diem's overthrow
        • he believed that the VC were being beaten but in January 1963, the ARVN lost the Battle of Ap Bac, even though it had US air support and five times as many sliders as the VC
        • US media reported the battle as a defeat, despite government attempts to present in positively
          • Kennedy worried about the negative publicity of Diem's leadership
        • on 6th May, Diem's government troops fired on a Buddhist procession, killing nine, which added to Diem's unpopularity among the Vietnamese
        • on 11th June, a Buddhist monk burned himself to death in protest about Diem's government
          • this generated worldwide publicity
        • Kennedy put pressure on Diem's government to make peace with the Buddhists, but Diem continued to persecute them
        • Kennedy did not want to publicly dispose Diem, despite knowing how unpopular he was
          • he made it obvious that he had withdrawn all support for his leadership, knowing it could never be democratic
      • The Strategic Hamlet Program 1962
        • Diem and the USA built new villages to house locals away from the VC, so they could not be recruited to fight
        • the aim was to provide security for the villagers and create support for the government
        • the ARVN forcibly removed and relocated villagers
          • villagers did not want to leave their ancestral homes
        • hamlets were also supposed to have schools and medical centres
        • there was not enough food or basic provisions in some of the new villages and many villagers starved to death
        • the program made Diem and the USA more unpopular in South Vietnam
    • wanted to avoid direct military action in Vietnam
    • recognised that the Vietcong were gaining ground
    • sent more advisers to the South (16000 more by late 1963)
    • authorised the use of chemical sprays (e.g. Agent Orange) to kill crops and jungle areas where the VC were hiding from 1961
      • Operation Ranch Hand
    • changed tactics to searching for VC fighters not just trying to draw them into battle
  • Kennedy felt the US government had a responsibility to help protect the new South Vietnam government from the spread of communism
    • he considered greater US military involvement in Vietnam but wanted to help build a democracy there
    • he wanted the new government to persuade the population to support its aims rather than use repression

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