History B Unit 2 Vietnam


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Geneva Conference

agreed points

  • Vietnam temporarilaly divided along 17th parallel
  • North under control of Ho Chi Minh 
  • South under control of Diem

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US support

American support for Vietnam included:

  • £1.6 billion and other aid between 1954 and 1960
  • Sending advisors to 'prepare' for 1956 elections
  • Backing Diem's refusal of the 1956 election in case communists won
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US involvement during Kennedy years

  • The Viet Cong grew to 16000 members

The USA tried to counter by:

  • Sending more advisors- 1962= 11000 
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Guerilla Warfare

  • Vietcong knew they couldn't beat USA in open conflict
  • They would come out of hiding, would attack US equitment and personal and then retreated
  • Convinced South Vietnamese citizens that USA were foreign invaders
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Guerilla Tactics

Ideal in jungle conditions, vietcong able to:

  • Make booby traps
  • Carry out ambushes
  • Sabotage US bases and then disappear
  • almost impossible to detect VC in villages
  • Vietcong built tunnels underground to avoid air raids.
  • US troops often killed by booby troops
  • Vietcong had supporters in villages 
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US Tactics

Operation Rolling Thunder

  • Originally used after attack on US base, a massive bombing of North Vietnam
  • Designed to destroy roads, railways and VC bases especially Ho Chi Minh trail

Hearts and Minds

  • US spent money to help ordinary South Vietnamese people e.g. improving roads and schools.
  • Worked in towns and cities but VC had strong influence in rural areas.

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US tactics continued...

Search and Destroy

  • Used to flush out VC
  • Used helicopters to land near villages in hope that VC did not have time to arm themselves

Not easy because:

  • Hard to distinguish VC from civillians
  • US soldiers found conditions very difficult

Agent Orange/ Napalm

Agent Orange-

  • destroyed hundreds of thousands of herctares of jungle and crops
  • exposure caused cancers, birth defects, etc. both vietnamese and US troops affected 
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US tactics continued...


  • incendiary weapond which contained petrol, chemicals and burned skin to the bone.

But all these tactics

  • turned world opinion against USA
  • alienated more south vietnamese people
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My Lai massacre

  • US forces under command of William Calley entered village, they suspected it contained VC.
  • In a few hours between 300 and 500 unarmed civilians killed, most woman and children as men away working.
  • event was only known about when soldier gave account of it
  • turned american opinion against the war
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Media coverage of War

  • TV reported war fully in colour
  • was first television war
  • from start people opposed war
  • most call ups were black
  • others thought country was spending too much on the war
  • My Lai massacre led to more protest
  • Trial of William calley reinforced opposition
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Protest movement

  • Burning draft cards- (the thing that call ups received), was a criminal offense to burn them
  • Raiding draft board offices and burning records they had there
  • demonstrations and protests
  • war veterans held marches 
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Kent State University

  • Many university students opposed war
  • students held demonstrations on campus's 
  • went on strike at university
  • burned draft papers
  • disrupted transport
  • Kent state-
  • 1,000 protested
  • National guard called in
  • originally used tear gas then bullets
  • Four students killed and nine wounded 
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fulbright hearing

  • commitee tried to find a way for USA to end involvement in war
  • more and more inhuman actions uncovered
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Tet offensive

  • vietcong launched suprise attacks on 36 cities
  • at one point they held US embassy
  • in some respects was victory for USA but in long term had disastourous effect on attitudes of americans
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  • US wanted out of war
  • started to train south Vietnamese army to fight on its own using US supplies
  • 400,000 US troops pulled out during 1969-71 
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US bombing of the north, Laos and cambodia

  • 1970- US troops entered cambodia to destroy ho chi minh trail
  • Bombings caused destruction to ports, roads and railways and cities
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Paris peace conference


  • US armed forces would leave Vietnam
  • US prisoners to be relased by North Vietnam
  • Goverment of south vietnam continue in power but North allowed to stay in north controlled areas
  • elections held in future to determine whether vietnam would unite or not.
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fall of Saigon

  • In 1975 north attacked south
  • Major south cities fell to north including Saigon
  • Remaining US officials airlifted out from roof of US embassy
  • civillians had choice of accepting communists or fleeing
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reasons for US defeat

Viet Cong strenghts

  • Use of guerilla warfare and underground tunnels
  • gaining support from people of south vietnam
  • efficient supply line
  • assistance from China and the USSR
  • skillful propaganda

US weaknesses

  • tactics that lacked clear planning
  • uneunthusiastic troops
  • inability tp deal with guerilla warfare
  • alienating south vietnam
  • difficulty with conditions
  • wakness of the army of south vietnam
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