The USA and Vietnam: 1961 - 1963


  • The Kennedy administration
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President Kennedy

Kennedy's ideas and influences were shaped by...

  • Eisenhower's Domino theory
  • His Catholic upbringing
  • Senator McCarthy
  • The Red Scare
  • The theory of containment
  • Truman's "loss" of China
  • Events in World War II
  • Inherited policies
  • Belief that the Third World was the new Cold War battleground
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President Kennedy

Kennedy's policies were shaped by his...

  • Campaign rhetoric
  • Youth and inexperience
  • Advisors
  • Events
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Kennedy's advisors


  • Believed in commitment in Vietnam
  • Secretary of Defence
  • Dominated Kennedy's policy
  • A 'Hawk'
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Kennedy's advisors


  • Believed in commitment in Vietnam
  • Bad relationship with Kennedy
  • Secretary of State
  • 'Dove'
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Cuba and Laos

Bay of Pigs

  • Anti-Communist invasion of Cuba
  • Kennedy inherited this commitment
  • The US were humiliated with a defeat
  • Kennedy then had to prove himself in Vietnam
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Cuba and Laos

Neutralisation of Laos

  • Kennedy first sent advisors into Laos
  • A coalition government was formed
  • Communists were dishonest and allowed the Ho Chi Minh trail to pass into Laos
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Kennedy's involvement

  • More suited to US involvement than Cuba and Laos
  • Democracy seemed easier to achieve in Vietnam
  • Kennedy inherited policies from Truman and Eisenhower
  • US public supported increased involvement
  • Kennedy didn't want to loose Vietnam as Truman had lost China
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Kennedy's Solutions

  • Send more advisors to Vietnam (General Taylor was sent to evaluate and asked for ground troops)
  • Change tactics (Counter-insurgancy against Guerilla warfare)
  • Send more US weapons, helicopters and pilot advisors
  • Use of defoliants
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Military escalation

  • More helicopters deployed and seemed to have a positive effect
  • These soon lost their impact though as the VC shot em down
  • Disloyal ARVN warned off the VC
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The battle of Ap Bac

  • 2'000 ARVN troops with US advisors and machinery
  • 350 VC troops still managed to achieve victory
  • This triumph boosted morale amongst the VC

Reasons for VC victory

  • ARVN refused to fight
  • VC's strength and preparation was unexpected by ARVN and US
  • Diem didn't deploy correct ARVN units
  • US delayed the attack to allow their pilots to recover from New Year celebrations
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Ap Bac showed that...

  • Diem was incapable of winning the war
  • ARVN were unreliable and unable to win the war alone

After Ap Bac

  • French President Charles de Gaulle warned the US of a quagmire situation
  • McNamara claimed the US were winning
  • Fears arose that China would destabilise Laos
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Possible Solutions

  • US withdrawal
  • Political, social and economic reforms in Vietnam

Pursuing reforms

  • Diem refused to co operate
  • US Vice President Johnson was sent to persuade Diem
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Strategic Hamlets

  • Fortified villages to isolate villagers from Vietcong
  • A scheme run by Diem's brother, Nhu
  • The Vietnamese were discontent with these hamlets
    - They had to pay for the hamlets
    - The had to build the hamlets
    - Conditions within the hamlets were poor
  • The Vietcong used Strategic Hamlets to their advantage though
    - Hamlets were built too far away from the major cities
    - Discontent from the villagers was manipulated
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The Buddhist Crisis

  • Diem was Catholic and made it illegal to fly Buddhist flags
  • Buddhists protested and Diem sent soldiers to deal with these protests
  • 7 Buddhists were killed but protests still continued
  • The self immolation of Duc Quan made US headlines
  • The US public were shocked but Madame Nhu had no sympathy
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Ambassador to Vietnam

  • Ambassador Lodge
  • Task of improving relations with US press
  • Kennedy had a bad relation with Lodge
  • Lodge's appointment could have been revenge from Kennedy
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Opposition to Diem

  • Discontent villagers from Strategic Hamlets
  • Lack of faith from the US
  • He refused to cooperate
  • His regime was corrupt
  • The first lady, Madame Nhu, was also extremely unpopular
  • Diem Ignored any US advice
  • Ambassador Lodge leaked Diem's dealing to the US press to increase his unpopularity
  • Diem needed new policies
  • US reports could not agree on the success of Diem's reign
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Coup d'etat (Nov 2nd 1963)

  • US learnt of a coup to overthrow Diem through Ambassador Lodge
  • US would not initiate the coup but would not stop it either
  • Diem and brother Nhu were assassinated
  • Madame Nhu managed to escape
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The US

Impact of Kennedy's assassination

  • Uncertain whether Kennedy was planning to escalate involvement or withdraw
  • Robert Kennedy, Johnson & Rusk claimed he had no plans to withdraw
  • However, Kennedy had been reluctant to send in troops so it's likely that the Vietnam war would have been very different
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Barnaby Ellis


cheers, this could prove useful for a possible essay question :)

Cecily Snowball


Great slideshow. However, I thought Rusk was a Hawk?



Useful resource, but very basic, for ultimate help,it would be nice for explanation x

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