The Vietnam War

From the revolution against French rule to Détente.

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  • Created on: 27-02-12 18:54
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Vietnam divided
Before the Second World War, Vietnam had been a French colony. Post the world war. Ho Chi
Minh led Vietnamese nationalists and communists into a fight with the French. In 1954, France
decided to pull out of Vietnam. As a result, Vietnam was divided in 2; North Vietnam (ruled by
communists) and South Vietnam (ruled by anti-communist Ngo Dinh Diem).
In 1959, communists in the north decided to encourage a revolution in the south. Southern
communists, who had fled North, returned to fight. They were known as the Vietcong.
The USA began to give aid to South Vietnam in 1954. They did this on the basis of the "domino
theory", the idea that if one state was communists, the neighbouring ones would soon turn to
communism as well.
In November 1961, Kennedy began providing support for the army in the form of "military
advisers". He hoped that this would help Diem solve the problems with the communist rebels,
which it did not.
In 1955, the USA helped Ngo Dinh Diem to set up the Republic of South Vietnam.
o America supported him because he was bitterly anti-Communist and was prepared to
imprison or exile Communists.
o He belonged to the landlord class, treating peasants with contempt
o He was Christian, and showed little respect for most peasant's Buddhist religion, They
protested by lighting themselves on fire in the middle of streets.
o His regime was extremely corrupt: he appointed family members of other supporters
to positions of power and refused to hold elections
o he created `strategic hamlets' where communists were taken, separated from society
so they couldn't spread their beliefs but this back-fired as it made people sympathetic
towards communists and made Diem, as well as his political ideas, even more
o The USA supported his regime with around $1.6 billion in the 1950s.
o In 1963 the USA realized they could not support him anymore, he was EXTREMELY
unpopular. He was supposed to be taken away but he was mysteriously assassinated.
Gulf of Tonkin
American involvement in Vietnam increased dramatically after a clash at sea between North
Vietnam and the USA in August 1964. An American ship, travelling near the cost of North
Vietnam, was attacked by North Vietnamese ships. No serious damage was done. President
Johnson ordered the bombing of northern naval bases in retaliation.
Congress passed a resolution giving President Johnson the power to `take all necessary steps,
including the use of armed force' in order to protect South Vietnam. Johnson then increased
American involvement in the war.

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In July 1965, President Johnson agreed to send 180,000 American troops into Vietnam. This
increased over a period of 3 years until there were 540,000 American soldiers in Vietnam.
The fighting intensifies
Between 1965 and 1967 there was heavy fighting. American involvement was widely
criticised, there were even many people in the USA that were unhappy about it.
American tactics brought little success.…read more

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He tried to persuade China and The USSR to use their influence over North Vietnam. He
promised in return American help in other areas. The soviets and Chinese saw no
reason to try to help the USA over Vietnam.
My Lai
On 16 March 1968 American soldiers massacred the villagers of a place called My Lai. The
American officer, Lieutenant William Calley, was court-martialled for the murder of 109
civilians. This incident horrified many Americans.…read more


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