History Vietnam

  • Created by: zuljupri
  • Created on: 28-04-17 18:23

Key Terms

Vietminh- A resistance movement formed by Ho Chi Minh in 1941 to fight against French and Japanese control. By 1945, it became communist and had taken control of North Vietnam.

ARVN- The South Vietnamese Army.

Vietnamisation- The principale that the South Vietnamese government would take over all civilian and military functions. Dependance on the USA would end and South Vietnam would stand on its own two feet.

Chemical Warfare- The use of chemicals to destroy the rainforests that gave Vietcong cover.

Vietcong- The National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam set up in 1960 to fight for Communism in South Vietnam.

Domino Theory- The American idea that if Vietnam turned communist, so would South East Asia

NVA- The North Vietnamese Army.

Operation Rolling Thunder- Concentrated bombing campaign on key strategic targets.

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Reasons for USA involvement

Support the French:

  • Vietnam declared independance on 2/7/1945.
  • The French tried to reimpose rule.
  • Americans gave $3bn between 1949-54.
  • In March 1954, the Vietminh destroyed the French Army.
  • The Geneva Agreement gave Vietnam independance- Communist North and Democratic South

Domino Theory:

  • President Eisenhower foriegn policy followed the Domino Theory.
  • China had turned communist in 1949.
  • Russia and America had engaged in a Cold War, which increased tension against communism.
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Reasons for USA involvement

Diem support:

  • Diem was a Vietnamese nationalist who was made the leader of South Vietnam.
  • The USA initially saw him as someone to stop Communism.
  • The US funded the Saigon Military Mission- 1000 military advisers to train the ARVN.
  • Tensions rised when Buddhist monks asked to fly Buddhist flags on 8 May 1963.
  • The Buddhists demonstrated after Diem refused and the ARVN attacked them.
  • After a buddhist monk burned himself - Diem was assassinated by CIA in November 1963.

Gulf of Tonkin:

  • In 1964, President Johnson was looking for an opportunity to become directly involved.
  • On 2 August 1964, in the Gulf of Tonkin, the USS Maddox fired on North VIetnamese torpedo boats who had come too close, thinking they were under attack.
  • However, Johnson told Congress that the North Vietnamese conducted deliberate attacks.
  • On 7 August 1964, Congress authorised him to escalate US involvement.
  • Johnson ordered bombing raids and sent more troops without a declaration of war by Congress
  • The Americans sent 2.8 million soldiers to Vietnam between 1964 - 1975.
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Operation Rolling Thunder

Operation Rolling Thunder:

  • It lasted between Februrary 1965 - November 1968.
  • In February 1965, the NLF destroyed a US helicoper base and 10 planes.
  • On 13 February, President Johnson launched Operation Rolling Thunder, a massive bombing campaign in North Vietnam.
  • Initially US bombers looked for identified targets.
  • After 1965, they simply looked for any target.
  • US planes used conventional bombs, chemicals like napalm and Agent Orange.
  • They also dropped cluster bombs, which burst mid-air spreading 600 shrapnel pellets.
  • The NLF fought back, using Soviet supplied, anti-aircraft guns, SAM guided missiles and MIG fighter planes.
  • In 3 years, Operation Rolling Thunder made 153,784 raids, dropped 864,000 tons of bombs, causing $370 million of damage and 90,000 casualties.
  • The USA lost 922 planes.
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Guerilla Tactics


  • The Vietcong recruited men and women who lived in South Vietnam.
  • They followed the Code of Conduct to win the support of the local people so they could hide.
  • They tried to persuade villagers to join them by targeting unpopular officials.


  • Direct combat with the Americans was avoided- soldiers were trained to fight in guerilla war
  • They would ambush on American/South Vietnamese patrol and kill/capture the men.
  • They would set booby traps and bombs on known routes of the enemy patrols.
  • They would then disappear into the countryside- using 'hit and run' tactics.


  • The main aim of Vietcong was to remain safe from a US attack.
  • They built a network tunnel system in which to live and hide in.
  • They had weapon stores, sleeping quarters and kitchen/hospitals.
  • The tunnels were strongly protected with booby traps, trip wires at entrances.
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Guerilla Tactics


  • The supplies of equipment and weapons could only come from North Vietnam.
  • The supply routes were often bombed by American planes and destroyed.
  • The communists developed a new secret supply route called the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
  • It was over 600 miles in length and 50 miles wide, running through Indo-China.
  • There were also dummy routes to confuse aerial photography of Americans.

Vietninh Code of Conduct:

1. Be Polite

2. Be Fair

3. Return anything borrowed.

4. Do not damage crops

5. Do not flirt with women.

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US Response to Guerilla Tactics

Hearts and Minds:

  • The USA invested in South Vietnam to improve living conditions.
  • Peasants' farming was improved with drainage ditches..
  • Communications was improved by building roads, canals, bridges.
  • Clinics and schools were built in cities, refugees given homes, democracy was encouraged
  • It had success in towns and cities, but didn't work in rural Vietcong areas.

Search and Destroy:

  • Helicopters from US bases carried small numbers of troops for surprise attacks on Vietcong.
  • The use of fast helicopters gave them little warning of an attack
  • Every village was searched, and if there was any sign of Vietcong presence, it was destroyed
  • Brutal interrogation took place on Vietcong suspects.
  • American troops tortured and murdered some of the villagers.
  • However, American soldiers suffered from panic attacks and nightmares.

Operation Rolling Thunder: (card 4)

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Chemical Warfare

Agent Orange and Napalm:

  • Agent Orange was one fo the 'rainbow herbicides' developed in the USA in the 1960s.
  • It was used in 1966 to destroy leaves and destroy the rainforest soil, leaving bare trees.
  • The chemical also causes dangerous side-effects to humans such as cancer.
  • Napalm was first used in 1965 to attack enemy positions.
  • Human contact with napalm brought severe burning of the skin (girl photo).
  • Chemical warfare continued until 1970.


  • It is estimated that 500,000 Vietnamese children were born with birth defects linked to chemical poisoning.
  • It had a great impact in the USA and across the world as human horrors became apparent.
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My Lai Massacre


  • In January 1968, the North Vietnamese had launched the Tet Offensive.
  • During the offensive, the 48th VC Battalion had retreated to the village of Son My in Pinkville.
  • Charlie Company of 23rd Infantry Division was ordered to press foward aggressively in Son My
  • They believed the 48th VC Battalion was hiding there, and were assured that most of the village population were Vietcong/Vietcong sympathisers and that civilians were at the market.
  • They were ordered to burn houses, kill livestock, destroy crops and close wells.


  • At 8am on 16 March 1968, the first platoon led by Lieutenant Calley attacked My Lai 4.
  • When the Americans met no opposition, they went beserk, burning houses + killing civilians.
  • They killed innocent men, women and children, ****** women and mutilating victims.
  • An American investigation into the massacre put the death rate at 347 innocent civilians being murdered.
  • 70-80 were killed in a ditch.
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My Lai Massacre


  • Officially the operation at My Lai was a success. USA troops had killed 90 VC fighters.
  • The My Lai massacre was witnessed by an American helicopter pilot, Hugh Thompson
  • He tried to persuade Calley to stop the killings.
  • Thompson personally rescued a number of villagers.
  • He reported the killings but it was dismissed as an exaggeration.
  • In April 1969, it was reported as a victory, with 128 VC dead and 22 civilians killed 'inadvertantly'.

Calley Conviction and Pardon:

  • In November 1969, a year after the masscre, the American press got hold of the true story.
  • Lieutenant Calley was the only soldier to be convicted.
  • In 1971, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for personally killing 22 villagers.
  • After serving just 3.5 years, President Nixon pardoned him.
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Effects of media for anti-war movement

Initial Response to the War:

  • The American media was initially supportive of the war. In 1962, the war was described as a remarkable US military effort by Time magazine. In 1961, Time had idolised American soldiers.
  • In 1965, Robin Moore wrote a novel- 'The Green Berets', glamorising soldiers who were there to help the Vietnamese. In 1968 a film of the novel was made in cooperation with government.
  • In February, a journalist John Wheeler wrote an article called 'Life in the V Ring', describing the fears and bitterness of soldiers.
  • TV Presenter Walter Cronkite made a 'We are Mixed in Stalemate' broadcast.


  • Americans were starting to face up to the reality of the war.
  • Walter Cronkite's broadcast summed up the growing mood of defeatism.
  • It brought the Americans to a sense of reality.
  • The way the war was being portrayed was the way "Vietnam ought to be not the way it was".
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Effects of media for anti-war movement

Political Opponents:

  • By 1967, a national movement against the war had developed.
  • Opposition came from a variety of political points of view.
  • Socialists and radicalists sympathised with the struggle of Vietnam to become independant.
  • Pacifists were against the war on moral and religious views.
  • Others felt Vietnam wasn't worth the lives of young American soldiers.


  • Showed the anti-war movement was supported by a variety of people.
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Effects of media for anti-war movement

The draft/conscription:

  • An early form of protest was draft card burning, some in public.
  • Men were conscripted into the army by recieving draft cards from one of 4000 draft boards.
  • By the end of 1969, there were 34,000 draft dodgers wanted by police. Many went to Canada.
  • In May 1968, protestors burned their draft cards in a draft board office in Catonsville, Maryland
  • In Milaukee, protestors burned 10,000 files.
  • In 1966, Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted.
  • In 1967, Martin Luther King declared the war immoral on social grounds.
  • Black Americans were more likely to be sent on active duty and twice as likely to be killed.


  • 600,000 young men evaded drafting, including Bill Clinton and George W Bush.
  • 170,000 Americans recieved 'official' conscientious objector status.
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Effects of media for anti-war movement

Great Society Programme failure:

  • President Johnson won the 1964 election with a promise for a 'Great Society' programme.
  • The poor, blacks would recieve decent welfare payments and decent housing.
  • The war was costing over $20bn a year, so the government couldn't afford both.
  • Johnson decided to put aside the Great Society programme.


  • Americans felt that the war was a waste of money.
  • They thought the money should have been spent on the Great Society Programme.
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Effects of media for anti-war movement

Revelations of Atrocities/Tactics:

  • In 1968, the CIA set up Operation Phoenix, which identified and arrested any VC suspects.
  • The CIA set a target of 3000 suspects to be neutralised each month. Torture was used.
  • Between 1968-71, American soldiers captured and imprisoned 28,000 VC suspects.
  • 20,000 were assassinated, and 17,000 defected.
  • The programme was very controversial, because many were not VC soldiers.
  • In April 1970, President Nixon announced US troops had entered neutral Cambodia, claiming it was the only way to destroy Communist Vietcong.
  • Chemical warfare resulted in an estimated 500,000 children being born with birth defects.


  • Operation Phoenix was criticised as a terrorist campaign of assassination.
  • Critics argued that the programme proved the war was a crime.
  • The My Lai Massacre divided USA, with 49% refusing to believe the massacre report.
  • The American public started to wonder whether the soldiers commiting these atrocities were still the 'good guys'.
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Effects of media for anti-war movement

Revelations of Atrocities/Tactics:

  • In 1968, the CIA set up Operation Phoenix, which identified and arrested any VC suspects.
  • The CIA set a target of 3000 suspects to be neutralised each month. Torture was used.
  • Between 1968-71, American soldiers captured and imprisoned 28,000 VC suspects.
  • 20,000 were assassinated, and 17,000 defected.
  • The programme was very controversial, because many were not VC soldiers.
  • In April 1970, President Nixon announced US troops had entered neutral Cambodia, claiming it was the only way to destroy Communist Vietcong.
  • Chemical warfare resulted in an estimated 500,000 children being born with birth defects.


  • Operation Phoenix was criticised as a terrorist campaign of assassination.
  • Critics argued that the programme proved the war was a crime.
  • The My Lai Massacre divided USA, with 49% refusing to believe the massacre report.
  • The American public started to wonder whether the soldiers commiting these atrocities were still the 'good guys'.
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Effects of media for anti-war movement

Actions of Politicians:

  • In March 1968, Johnson said he wouldn't stand for re-election, blaming the war.
  • In March 1968, the Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara resigned from politics, publically saying Operation Rolling Thunder was not working.
  • Wiiliam Fullbright was chair of the Senate Foriegn Affairs Committee, and in 1971, the committee considered proposals and advice to end the war in Vietnam, where 22 people gave evidence, including John Kerry representing Vietnam Veterans Against War.
  • In 1968, Democratic Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy campaigned on an anti-war platform.


  • Huge protest marches against the war took place in between 1969-1971.
  • As many as 500,000 took part in a march in April 1971 in Washington.
  • The Fullbright Hearings produced further protest against the Vietnam War.
  • It created a huge effect as it was an official part of US public record in Vietnam.
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Effects of media for anti-war movement

TV and Media Coverage:

  • Vietnam was called the first 'media war' and the first war 'fought on TV'.
  • TV and media reported on the war as they saw it and wasn't always favourable to US forces.
  • Every night, news bulletins and TV footage brought details of the war.
  • Despite this on 25% of reports contained images of dead bodies, and before 1968, most news reports were pro-American.
  • TV reporting only started becoming hostile after public opinion began to turn against war.


  • Much less was reported on the atrocities commited by the enemy.
  • The image interpreted was North Vietnam was an underdeveloped nation resisting the power of USA.
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Effects of media for anti-war movement

Protest Movements:

  • Initially Americans supported the war because of patriotic duty and the Domino Theory.
  • However, rich draft dodgers increased resentment against the war.
  • Anti-war slogans started to appear, and many burnt draft papers in public.
  • In August 1968, 10,000 protested at the Democratic Party Convention in Chicago.
  • In November 1968, 35,000 people protested outside the White House.
  • In 1971, war veterans led an anti-war march of 500,000.


Americans believing war was a mistake:

  • 1965 - 24%.
  • 1966 - 37%
  • 1967- 41%
  • 1968- 53%
  • 1969- 58%
  • 1970- 56%
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Effects of media for anti-war movement

Student Peace Movement:

  • In 1965, a student group called the Vietnam Day Committee organised a 36 hour 'teach in', against the war at the University of California, attended by 30,000 students.
  • In November 1965, Norman Morrison set himself on fire under the office window of US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.
  • In October 1970, 100,000 protestors marched to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.
  • Police attacked and there were 647 arrests.

Increased Violence:

  • In 1969, an unemployed draftsman, Sam Melville planted bombs in office buildings in protest.
  • In response to the Kent shootings, 100,000 demonstraters marched in Washington and 4 million students went on National Student Strike.
  • Protestors set fire to 30 Reserve Officers Training Corps buildings
  • In August 1970, a van filled with 907kg of ammonium nitrate was blown up at University of Wisconsin- Madison.
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Kent State University Shooting


  • On 2 May 1970, over 1000 students demonstrated at Kent State University, damaging buildings
  • On 4 May, more demonstrations took place.
  • The Governer of Ohio called the National Guard.
  • At first they fired tear gas, and then shot dead 4 innocent students, wounding 9 other students.


  • The Kent event shocked USA. It went against the right to protest.
  • It led to further protests, strikes in universities and in major cities in USA.
  • It also led to protests around the world.
  • It made the US Nixon government realise that victory in Vietnam could never be achieved with so much opposition in the USA.
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Tet Offensive


  • US Forces were optimistic of winning the war, with the ARVN in control of the cities.
  • Over 100,000 Vietcong were killed in 1967, and they were experiencing blanket bombing.
  • By the end of 1967, the war was in a stalemate.
  • The communist forces couldn't match the American firepower.
  • On the other hand, American forces didn't have enough men to pursue the VC in the jungle.
  • The North Vietnamse believed that USA would never win the war, and hoped the local South Vietnamese would support them and help overthrow the Saigon government.

Suprise Attack:

  • The attack was a surprise because half of the ARVN was on leave for the Tet holiday.
  • Also, for the first time, the VC had abandoned guerilla warfare and took the USA on in a series of conventional battles.
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Tet Offensive


  • On 31 January 1968, 70,000 VC launched a huge attack on 100 towns/cities in South Vietnam
  • The VIetcong had limited success, for example a 15 man suicide squad captured the American embassy in Saigon and held out for 6 hours. They also captured the main town Hue for 25 days
  • The Vietcong executed 300 civilians, with their crimes being linked to South Vietnam
  • The real figure is more likely to 350 civilians, and 75% of the town's houses were destroyed.


  • The VC suffered heavy losses. The NLF lost 45,000 fighters for little gain.
  • American deaths was 1500 and the ARVN lost 3000 soldiers.
  • The offensive destroyed the best fighters the VC had, and wiped out the NLF in South Vietnam.
  • In April 1969, the North Vietnamese issued Directive 55: "never again are we going to risk our entire military force"
  • The offensive led to 70,000 homes destroyed, 627,000 refugees and 14,000 civilian deaths
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Tet Offensive

Effects in USA:

  • Johnson decided not to stand for re-election after losing the public confidence
  • Congress refused the request of General Westmoreland for another 200,000 troops.
  • Walter Cronkite, a resepcted TV journalist influenced millions of Americans when he said during live TV during the Saigon seige "what the hell is going on".

Credibility gap: the difference between what American military said and what people believed.

  • In 1968, the US military was very suspicious of American media, believing they were turning public opinion against the war.
  • General Westmoreland said in 1967 he could "see the light of victory at the end of the tunnel"
  • In August 1967, an opinion poll showed 46% thought the war was a mistake, compared to 44% who thought it was right.
  • This was just after President Johnson announced a tax increase to pay for the war.
  • The war cost Americans $20bn a year.
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End of Vietnam War

President Nixon:

  • Nixon continued peace talks with the aim of independant South Vietnam free from communism.
  • North Vietnam wanted a reunited Vietnam free from American influence.
  • They also didn't want the South Vietnamese to be represented at the peace talks in Paris.
  • Nixon had won the election with a pledge to 'de-Americanize' the war.
  • Despite this peace talks showed no progress.
  • North Vietnam insisted that the communist National Liberation Front should form a new government in South Vietnam. The USA wanted elections to take place.
  • Nguyen Van Thieu had been president of South Vietnam since 1967.
  • He was suspicious that Nixon would dump him to be able to to reach an agreement.
  • North Vietnam didn't want Thieu to be part of any new government.
  • In August 1969, secret peace talks began without Thieu.
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End of Vietnam War

US pressure on North Vietnam:

  • USA continued to put pressure on North VIetnam by continiung with the bombings.
  • Nixon hoped this would force North Vietnam to take the peace talks seriously.
  • North Vietnam was still supplying the VC with weapons along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
  • In 1970, Nixon ordered the invasion of Cambodia with the objective of destroying the trail.
  • Bombing raids continued with the aim of keeping pressure on Vietnam while troops leaving.
  • In May 1972, NVA used Soviet tanks and artillery to try to invade South Vietnam.
  • In response, Nixon ordered a massive air attack - Operation Linebacker.
  • Using B52 bombers, they strategically targeted roads, railways, ports and storage depots.
  • At Christmas 1972, a massive bombing campaign lasting 11 days dropped 200,000 bombs.
  • The US administration also invented the 'Madman Theory', suggesting that Nixon was mentally unstable and could use nuclear weapons against North Vietnam.
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End of Vietnam War

Vietnamisation: the South Vietnamese government would take over all civilian and military functions. Dependance on US would end and South Vietnam would 'stand on its own two feet'

  • Nixon had promised to bring troops home, and from 1969 he ordered a gradual withdrawal.
  • As the ARVN expanded, US forces left Vietnam: 25,000 in 1969, 150,000 in 1970 and by 1971, 450,000 troops had left in total. The decision was unpopular with commanders.
  • Initially Vietnamisation worked, with little Communist activity between 1968-1971.
  • By October 1972, the US National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger had worked out a settlement with the chief negotiator for North Vietnam, Le Duc Tho.
  • However, Nguyen Van Thieu rejected them, thinking that the terms would leave the South at the mercy of North Vietnam. This resulted in Le Duc Tho stopping further negotiations.
  • On 18 December 1972, Nixon ordered another massive bombing campaign on North Vietnam.
  • This forced them to re-open negotiations, and Nixon told Thieu that if he didn't sign the agreement, then USA would sign without them. Thieu gave in.
  • The Paris Peace Agreement was signed on 27 January 1973.
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End of Vietnam War

Effects of American Withdrawal:

  • By April 1973, all US troops had left Vietnam.
  • In return North Vietnam released 600 prisoners of war- USA claim it was far more than this.
  • In 1974, fighting between North and South Vietnam started again, with no US military help.
  • Congress had passed laws to prevent more US bombings.
  • North Vietnam carried out a 'three-pronged' attack on all 3 countries of Indo-China.
  • This divided South Vietnamese and ARVN forces, and major cities fell to communists.
  • Hue and Danang were taken with little resistance as South Vietnamese soldiers fled.
  • Refugees from North Vietnam fled southwards, called the 'Convoy of Tears'
  • By the end of April 1975, communists had taken over the capital- Saigon.
  • Many citizens tried to escape, moving further south, by air if they were rich or by sea in a boat.
  • The remaining US officials were airlifted by helicopter from the US embassy roof.
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Paris Peace Agreement 1973

Terms of the settlement:

A ceasefire across all of Indo-China.

American troops would withdraw from Vietnam within 60 days of the ceasefire.

American prisoners of war would be released - there were 700.

Elections were held in South Vietnam to choose a new government.

Each side would stay only in those areas it controlled when the ceasefire started.

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