Vietnam War

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  • Vietnam War 1 Nov 1955 – 30 Apr 1975
    • The French War 1946-54
      • Japan occupied Vietnam in 1940 following French defeat
        • The French officials collaborated with the Japanese
          • Vietnamese nationalists rose during this time
            • Roosevelt supported the nationalists as he was anti-colonial
              • The US tried to stop the French regaining Vietnam
                • Vietnam quoted the US when making its Declaration of Independence
      • France would not accept Vietnamese independence
        • France however was seen as holding the line of containment as the Cold War had started
          • Despite Ho Chi Min's affection for the US, he was now an enemy of them
          • As the French slid to defeat in 1950, the US provided logistical and economic support
            • The French withdrew in 1954 however despite this
      • In 1954 a Geneva peace settlement secured the creation of two states
        • It created the communist north state and democratic south
          • Unification proposals however never took place
          • The US committed itself to limited military assistance and training in South Vietnam
            • However John Dulles stated that if China assisted with an invasion of South Vietnam, the US would respond with nuclear weapons
              • John Dulles was the Secretary of State
            • Between 1955-1960, the US contributed to 60% of South Vietnam's budget
            • The army the US created however, was modelled to the US's and wasn't trained to deal with counter-insurgency
              • It also had no specialist training
    • Growing US commitment
      • In 1961 North Vietnam began to send low level military assistance to the National Liberation Front in South Vietnam
        • John F. Kennedy authorised the funding of an extra 20,000 soldiers in South Vietnam
          • He also began to send counter-insurgency advisers to South Vietnam
        • US intelligence estimated that the NLF was already 12,000 strong and in control of 58% of South Vietnam
          • The dispatch of a 400 US counter-insurgency team was the first breach of the Geneva peace settlement
            • By January 1962 there were 2,500 "advisers" in South Vietnam
              • June 1962: 5,500
              • Kennedy's death (November 1963): 16,000
    • Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969)
      • Whilst Kennedy was cautious, Johnson was more paranoid about communism
        • New Chief of Staff, General Taylor stated that "South Vietnam was the pivot of our world-wide confrontation"
          • He considered it as the first test of the US's commitment to containing communism
      • In 1965 Johnson sent US combat forces to Vietnam with considerable support from the public
        • By June 1965, the US had 82,000 soldiers stationed in Vietnam
          • General Westmoreland requested an additional 175,000 by the end of 1965 to support the South Vietnamese
          • Despite growing concerns from advisers and anti-war movement Johnson authorised the dispatch of 100,000 soldiers by the end of July 1965
            • He authorised the dispatch of a further 100,000 in 1966
      • Tonkin Gulf
        • In August 1965 DRV torpedo boats allegedly attacked two US destroyers
          • Johnson ordered retaliatory bombings of military targets in North Vietnam
          • Congress soon passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
            • This gave Johnson broad war making powers and US planes began bombing North Vietnamese targets
              • This was coined: Operation Rolling Thunder the following February
        • By November 1967 the number of American troops in Vietnam was numbering 500,000
          • Casualties however had reached 109,527 wounded
            • 15,058 killed
          • As the war stretched on soldiers became disillusioned as to why they were still in Vietnam
            • This was furthered by claims from Washington that the US were winning
          • The later years saw increased physical and psychological strains on soldiers
            • Mutinies, drug use and attacks by soldiers against officers became more common
      • The Tet Offensive 1968
        • By the end of 1967 Hanoi's communist leadership was growing impatient
          • They sought a decisive blow to force the US to give up hope of winning
            • On January 31st 1968, 70,000 Viet Cong soldiers invaded the south
              • They were led by General Vo Nguyen Giap
              • Though there was initial success, the US and South Vietnamese quickly responded
                • The Viet Cong were unable to hold onto taken targets for little more than two days
              • The attack targeted more than 100 towns and cities
              • Reports of the attacks stunned the US public
                • This was furthered by Westmoreland requesting an additional 200,000 troops
                • With Johnson's approval ratings dropping he halted bombings in the north
                  • He promised to use the remainder of his term to seek peace rather than re-election
                  • When Robert Kennedy announced his standings in the primaries Johnson decided not to stand for re-election
    • A country devestated
      • US policy sought a war of attrition rather than securing areas
        • In 1966 large areas of Vietnam had been designated "free fire" zones
          • All civilians were meant to be evacuated and only enemies were to remain
            • Heavy bombings from B-52 bombers made these areas uninhabitable
              • As a result, refugees poured in from these areas to safe zones
              • Even as the body count rose, DRV and Viet Cong soldiers continued to fight as they could easily reclaim these territories
                • Support from fellow communists also helped strengthen their air defences
      • Images of the war led to mass anti-war sentiment back in the US
        • In October 1967 there was a 35,000 strong protest outside the Pentegon
          • They argued that civilians were the main victims of the war
            • There were also arguments that the US were supporting a corrupt regime in Saigon
            • My Lai is perhaps the most horrifying example of this
              • 400 unarmed civilians were massacred after operatives hid in a village amongst civilians
              • This happened in March 1968
        • Kent State Shootings May 4th 1970
          • Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of anti-war demonstrators
            • 4 were killed and 9 were injured
              • This sparked nationwide student strikes which forces hundreds of universities and colleges to close
                • This symbolised the deep social and political divisions in the US
      • Peace talks
        • Nixon announced a programme of withdrawing troops from Vietnam
          • The US would continue artillery and aerial bombardments, but South Vietnam had control of ground operations
          • Nixon continued peace talks in 1968
            • These were secret talks conducted by the Secretary of State; Henry Kissinger in 1968
              • However he failed to find any common ground between the two nations
                • Nixon ordered a massive b-52 bombing of North Vietnam to break the deadlock
                  • Meanwhile he threatened to cut off economic support to South Vietnam if they failed to find an agreement
                • Negotiations resumed on January 8th 1973
                  • An agreement was initiated on January 23rd
                    • South Vietnam reluctantly signed on January 27th
                      • This allowed the US to withdraw from Vietnam and bring American POW's home
                        • However neither the north or south abided by the agreement and the war continued until 1975
                          • It resulted in a complete North Vietnam victory
                        • Unlike Korea, this wasn't ambiguous and the US was humiliated

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