• The Potsdam Conference, 1945, when President Truman boasted to Stalin that the USA had tested an atmoic bomb. This was the begginning of the COLD WAR
  • 1946 , The USSR wanted compensation for the high death toll of russian soldiers in WW2 and to create a buffer zone of communist states in eastern Europe. The USSR therefore claimed countries like, Latvia, Romania ect. and turned them into Satalite States in what was known as the Eastern Bloc; Churchill said that Europe had been divided by an 'Iron Curtain'
  • 1947, The Truman Doctrine, was announced which was the USA's pledge of money and military aid to help countries threatended by communist takeover. Thai Policy was called containment and dominated US foreign policiy for years to come. 
  • 1949, Chinease leader Mao Zedong declared china the People's Republic of China (communist). This followed in a civil war between communists and Nationalists; the nationalist leader, Chiang Kai-Shek, was forced to flee to the nearby island Taiwan. 
  • 1949, USSR tested their first Nuclear Bomb. USA, France, Belgium and Canada set up a defence organisation called NATO. The communists responded with the warsaw pact, a military alliance containing the Eastern Bloc countries. 
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  • Tension had been building between the USSR and the USA since 1945 beacause following WW2 an ideological rift emerged between the communist east and the capitalist west called the cold war. The USSR and the USA were both superpowers that wanted to control the world. America was trying to contain Communism by giving ai to countries under the Truman Doctrine. 
  • By 1949 tension wa high because China had fallen to communism closley followed by North Korea. In 1950 Stalin encouraged North Korea to invade the South.At the UN security council . America demanded troops to be sent to aid south korea. The USSR were unable to veto this as they had waled out in protest against the UN not negotiating communist china. 
  • In the early 1900's, Japan took over Korea, the country remained under japanease contol until the end of the second world war. The Japanease soldiers in North Korea surrendered to the Soviet forces while those in the south surrendered to the US. The country quickly becme divided. 
  • NORTH KOREA- Capital city, Pycongyang. Leader during 1950, Kim il Sung. Political system, COMMUNIST.
  • SOUTH KOREA-Capital city, Seoul. Leader during 1950, Syngman Rhee. Political system CAPITALIST 
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  • Resources- Both sides had comparable resources with both sides using air power, tanks, artillery ,mines and barbed wire. China and North Korea were supplied by the USSR (although painted with Chinease or Korean markings). One of the Soviet planes- the MiG-15 - was better than any UN plane. 16 member states of the UN sent troops to fight for South Korea. America provided by far the most (50% of armed forces,86% naval forces; 93% air forces). This amounted to 40,000 troops, 60 battleships and 300 aircraft and a spend of aroound $67 billion on the war. 
  • Ideology- To the People's Liberation Army of China , they were fighting off the 'imperialist Capitalist aggresors' who were threatening their own borders. To them it was an ideological conflict worth commiting to completlely. President Truman however, was accounatble to the US public in the context of the 1952 presidential election. He felt enough was enough and that even with communism remaining in North Korea , that he could still argue that he had succeeded in containing communism which was the main aim. He did not want to escalate conflict into nuclear war and sacked MacArthur when he suggested it.
  • Numbers- General MacArthur was convinced that China would not enter the war to help North Korea but he was wrong. In October 1950, 200,000 Chinease troops crossed the Yalu river to help reinforce North Korea. This meant that they could sustain heavy losses and keep fighting. It is estimated that around half a million Chinease soldiers were killed. 
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The war had a terrible impact on both North and South Korea.

  • There were over 1/2 a Million Casualties
  • The North did not win over the South and were unable to make them communist.
  • The war created many refugees for both sides. 
  • Most of Korea's agriculture was destroyed.
  • 1 in every 10 Korean people were killed as a result of the war. 1.3 Million korean people died in the war, including civilians

The communists benefited from the war. 

  • 1954, SEATO was formed and the USSR hated America making the communists closer. 
  • China gained respect from communist allies. 
  • USSR and Communist China got closer and China recieved military aid. 
  • 25  year trade ban between US and China was an advantage for the USSR.
  • North Korea seclined as above the state on China's border.
  • Friendship closer between Soviets and China.
  • North Korea remained as a buffer state. 
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In June 1940 France was defeated in WW2 by the Nazi's in under 6 weeks.They were occupied for the next 5 years. This was very embarassing for france. In september 1940 Japan invaded Indochina (vietnam). They ruled the area brutally and treated the vietnamease people savagely. As a result of this a new leader emerged , Ho Chi Minh. During WW2, Ho Chi Minh organised a resistence movement against the japanease. His soldiers were called the Viet Minh and used Guerilla Tactics. At the end of WW2 the Viet Minh controlled all of North Vietnam (Indochina). They wanted all of Vietnam to be united. At the end of WW2  the french were keen to regain their international prestige. They had lost all of their colonies and had been devestated by WW2. Indochina was rich in natural sources, such as rice and rubber. France wanted Indochina back and this deiriorated into war against Ho Chi Minh in 1946. In 1949 , China became communist and assisted Ho Chi Minh with the weapons. America feared Indochina would be the next country to fall communist and so they helped the french by giving them $500m a year. 

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The War of independence lasted from December 1946 until July 1954, with most of the fighting taking place in areas surrounding Hanoi. It ended with the French defeat at the Battle of Diem Bien Phu and French withdrawal from Vietnam after the Geneva Agreements.

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President Eisenhower started sending 'military advisors' to train ARVN. USA launched a propoganda war to persuade people in the South to him them against Ho Chi Minh. In 1963, President Kennedy sends more 'advisors' to vietnam. 1964, President Johnson is anxious about losing south vietnam to the vietcong but needs a reason to send troops in context of an election. 

Golf of Tonkin Incident 

  • 3rd August 1964: The USS Maddox was patrolling in the Gulf of Tonkin and torpedoed by 3 North Vietnamease ships. 
  • 4th August 1964: US ships Maddox and Turner Joy again entended the Gulf of Tonkin and another torpedo attack was launched by North Vietnam 
  • 5thh August 1964: President Johnson and congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution saying that this was an act of war and that they would retaliate by attacking North Vietnam on the ground. 
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Weapons and Uniform- 

  • VietCong soldiers don't wear a uniform so that US can't identify them as the energy. 
  • AK-47 Soviet assult rifle. It's reliable and accurate.
  • Carry a ration of rice and with them to live off of. 

Guerilla Warfare-

  • Troops didn't wear uniforms so they were hard to tell apart from civillians.
  • They had no base camp or head quarters.
  • They worked in small, well-armed groups and followed basic priciples such as when enemy attacks when enemies retreat and raid energy camps whenever you can.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail- 

  • A communication network that was used for supplies.
  • A certain trail from North to South Vietnam
  • The trail went straight through the jungle and therefore was uneasy to find. 
  • It was estimated tht 60 tonnes of supplies , weapons and equiptment went through the trial per day. 
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Punji Traps- 

  • The use of sharpened bamboo stakes that were hidden in shallow pots and covered with leaves
  • They could easily peirce through the soul of any shoe or army boost or even damage limbs
  • The VietCong would take this one step further and cover the sticks with animal excreetment in order to infect the wounds. 

Hanging onto the belts- 

  • Temporary camps that the VietCong set up along the Ho Chi Minh trail.
  • They helped launching surprise attacks on the Americans
  • VietCong stayed close to the Americans to ambush them, this was called 'hanging onto the belts' as they were always so close. 
  • They also relied on this tactic as a way of avoiding bombing attacks by US planes
  • 511 of US casualties were caused by VietCong ambushes,
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Tunnels - Cu Chi Tunnels

  • Made hanging onto the belts even easier
  • Gave the highest priority to a safe base. VietCong bases were built in underground bunkers. 
  • They were complex tunnel systems that streched for over 300 KM under jungles of Vietnam.
  • They were carefully designed and booby trapped to prevent US soldiers penetrating too deeply. 
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Hi-Tech Warfare

  • They fought a hi-tech war, using B52 bombers , artillery , helicopters , napalm and defoliants (Agent Orange). This killed many innocent civillians , and failed to stop the VietCong guerilla's. They used helicopters o transport platoons in and out of the jungle quickly and as air ambulances as well. 

Bombing: Operation rolling thunder

  • In February 1965 the USA launched operation rolling thunder. For the next three years, giant B52 bombers poured millions of tonnes of high explosive bombs onto North Vietnamease cities, army bases, and supply roads. As the war progressed, the targets were expanded to more towns and cities in both N and S vietnam, as well as suspected VietCong bases in Laos and Cambodia. 
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  • Napalm was a mixture of a gelling agent (a sticky substance) and either petrol or a similar fuel. It would burn through anything it landed on, so it was very effective for destroying the thick jungle. However it would also burn through the skin, muscle and bone, and caused terrible injuries to civillians. 
  • Most infamously Agent Orange and Napalm. Agent orange was a highly toxic weed killer that was used to destroy the jungle  so that Americans could see VietCong trails, tunnel entrances and bases from the air. Another weed killer, Agent Blue, was used to destroy crops so that the VietCong would not have enough fuel. It was soon found that these 2 chemicals caused cancer, and pregant women who had come into contract with them were likely to give birth to children with chromosomal dissorders. 
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Search and Destroy or 'Zippo Raids' 

  • Search and destroy patrols of  US soldiers and south vietnamease forces (ARVN) went out looking for 'Charlie' ,(as they called the VietCong') via helicopter then supported by air and artillery when attacked. But the patrols were very visible, and easy to ambush. This demoralised the soldiers , who realised they were being used just as bait . This led to atrocities such as, 'Zippo Raids' to burn villages , and the unprovoked My Lai massacre of peacful villages at in 198. This made the US troops and ARVN soldiers even more unpopular in south vietnam. 
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  • GI's served a 1 year Tour of Duty. Most had never been abroad before let alone into jungle terrain. 

Young and Poor

  • Most were young (average was 19) and came from small town with low social status


  • This was the first war with integrated units BUT black soldiers made up 41% of soldiers and 50% of those were on the front line.


  • Morale wasn't always high. There were 500,000 incidences of desertation. 'Fragging' was intentionally killing superior officers. Drug usuage was associated with the american army. 
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  • To create a popular uprising and drive the Americans out of South Vietnam. The Vietcong blew a hole into the wall around Saigon and shot down the American guards. Many political bildings were attacked by the VietCong in Saigon. 84,000 North Vietnamease and VietCong troops had attacked the cities and towns of Saigon. More than 100 Towns , Cities and Military bases were blown. 
  • The US forces encountered many when they retreive Hve from the VietCong. These were forces such as; 

- Communist Forces

- Fighting in Urban Areas

-  Man Power

  • However, US forces won back everything but many civillians lost their lives. 
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My Lai Massacre

  • The Charlie Company massacred old  men, women and children. US troops open fired on unarmed civillians. 3 guns were located and 3477504 people were killed in total. They were looking for suspected VietCong following the Tet Offensive. 
  • US command had told troops all ordinary people would be at the market and therefore anyone left was with the VietCong. They were convinced that women were booby-trapped, their company had previously lost many men (28) to this fate. Drug usuage. Charllie Company were poorly trained. 
  • As a huge success- 128 VietCong were killed BUT some who had witnessed the massacre began to speak out. Journalist Seamour Hersh traced down the story and published it in November of 1969. Calley was being hidden by the US army. 
  • Only one general was put on trial and acquired. Only one soldier who had taken part in the events (from 25 tried) was commited - William Calley served 3 1/2 years in house arrest. 
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Nixon's Policies

  • Vietnamisation- was a policy of the Richard Nixon Administration to end US involvement in the Vietnam war through a propognda to "expand , equip, and train" South Vietnamease forces and assign to them an ever-increasing comabt role, at the time steadily reducing the number of US combat troops. 
  • Nixon's stratergy was to build up the South Vietnamease army (ARVN) to such a high level that it could carry on the war without the help of the US troops. Nixon organised vast sums of money to be spent on the best planes, tanks, machine guns and rifles. Around 600 helicopters were provided and US officers were sent out to train the vastly expanded ARVN. Within months , around half of the adult South Vietnamease population had signed up. 

Invasion of Laos and Cambodia

  • April 1970- Nixon ordered the invasion of troops into Cambodia (needed 150,000 more troops).
  • Nixon decided to bomb Laos and Cambodia because he wanted to destroy the Ho Chi Minh trail and the VietCong bases there. 
  • Cambodia,1969, bombing failed to destory bases so April 1970, Nixon ordered ivasion of 
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troops into Cambodia. 

  • Local population in Cambodia thought that they were about to be invaded by the US so more joined the communist organisation the Kmer Rouge. 


  • US had supported the ARVN attack of Laos but they were beaten back. 
  • North Vienamease launched a major attack on South Vietnam in 1972
  • Increase of support for the Communists within Laos. 
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  • Many had been scarred by the war and felt lied to by the government. 75,000 Americans were severely disabled as a result of serving in Vietnam (amputation in the lower extremeties was 300% higher than in WW2). 30% of American soldiers that served experience Post Traumatic Stress Dissorder (PTSD). 
  • Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) formed in 1967. Ron Kovic was a notable campaigner. They marched to raise awareness of what was really happening there. Some threw away medals. 


  • Many were linked to the hippy movement: they rejected the 'American Dream' and 'dropped out' of society. They were pacifists believing war was wrong due to the impact of the war on civillians- 1 million Vietnamease people were killed during the war. They were often inspired by anti-war songs such as those by Bob Dylan and John Lennon. 
  • An organisation called SDS (Student for a Democratic Society) began organising tech-ins (debates) criticising the war. They organised huge anti-war marhces. Some students pupblically dodged conscription. 
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Civil Rights Leaders

  • They viewed Vietnam as a racist war and rejected racial inequality in the army, pointing out that the casualty rate was higher amongst black recruits who were often sent to fight in the most dangerous areas. Black soldiers made up 41% of soldiers and 50% of those fought on the front line. 
  • Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr led marches. Boxer Muhammed Ali refused to fight when called up. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison but this was overturned and he recieved a 3 year ban instead and a fine of $10,000. 

General US public

  • Press coverage of events such as the Tet Offensive and My Lai Massacre showed that the claims that America was winning the war were untrue. (In fact 12% of US soldiers were killled or injured). Photographs such as the one of a civillian being shot at point blank range created bad publicity. The war cost in total $140 billion and resulted in rising public debt, income tax and inflation at home. 
  • After the Tet Offensive in 1968 66% of voters thought that the US should withdraw as the war was too costly, in lives and money. In November 1969 the largest anti-war protest in history happened in Washington DC, attended by 500,000 people. 
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  • Students across the USA began to organise protests against the Vietnam war. On many occasions, thses protests ended in violence. 
  • On Thursday April 30th 1970, President Nixon made a speech on national television and radio in order to announce that US troops had invaded Cambodia. This new prompted protests that took place a day later at colleges and universities across America. Students at Kent State University, Ohio demonstrated. Over the course of the weekend, there were clashes between the protesters and the police. 
  • The mayor of Kent appealed to the Ohio State govenor for help, who sent around 1000 national guardsman to help stop further disturbances. Monday may 4th  at around noon, 3000 people had gathered at the university- around 1500 demonstrators and 1500 bystanders who had gone to watch. 61-67 shots were quickly fired on students leaving 9 injured and 4 killed. 
  • News of the shootings shocked the nation. Hundereds of universities and collegeds closed across the country as students refused to attend school. 
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A peace agreement was finally made in 1973:

1) US troops had 60 days to withdraw all of their forces and their bases.

2) Release all prisoners of war within 60 days.

3) South Vietnam would decide their own political settlement through elections.

Nixon pleged $1 billion military support for South Vietnam if North Vietnam violted the agreement

The Watergate Scandal

  • Was when an organisation called CKAAP were caught bugging the democratic party offices. Nixon was accused of a cover up which was proved by tapes of conversations at the Whitehouse. This destroyed his credibility as a President and resigned from the office in 1974, one year after the Paris Peace Accords. 
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Nixon resigned from the office in 1974 a year after the Paris Peace Accords because of Watergate. Congress had no faith in vice principal Gerald Ford and would not support continuing financial aid ($300m) to South Vietnam whose government they had no faith in. In December 1974, the North Vietnamease, believing the Americans to be distracted by the watergate scandal back home, launched a major offensive against South Vietnam. The capital ,Saigon, fell in April 1975. The communists had won. 

The Impact of Watergate on Vietnam

The Watergate scandal largely impacted the war in a negative way as it allowed North Vietnam an opportunity to invade the South. Pushing Saigon to fall and the communists to win. 

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Environmental Impacts.

  • The war destroyed 5.4 million acres of forest and the animals and plants living there.

Political Impacts

Economic Impacts

  • $170 billion was spent resulting in public debt

Impact on US troops

  • Around 100,000 Vietnam-American babies were born as a result of prostitution
  • Many Americans became drug addicts

Impact on Vietnamease people and Society

  • Around 11 million S.V people were now refugees and napalm left civillians with horrific burns
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